George E. Morrow

While most University of Illinois students and alumni recognize the iconic Morrow Plots, few people know much about George E. Morrow himself.

From 1877 until 1894, Morrow served as the first Dean of the College of Agriculture. During these seventeen years, research in the Morrow Plots composed only a fraction of his work. In fact, Manly Miles, George Morrow’s predecessor, started the experimental field before Morrow arrived in Champaign. While leading the College of Agriculture, Morrow’s name became associated with the corn fields.

George Morrow
George Morrow, 1890

Throughout the 1880s, enrollment in the College of Agriculture dwindled. When farmers stopped sending their children to Champaign, Morrow decided to send lectures to them. He organized a set of institutes addressing topics important to farmers. For example, the 1893 lecture series in northern Illinois focused on dairy farming, while the 1894 program in southern Illinois concentrated on horticulture.

While farmers’ sons made up the intended audience for the institutes, Morrow responded “Why not?” to a young woman interested in attending (1893). Morrow also encouraged Miss Ada Worman to attend the College of Agriculture in January of 1894. He sent a letter and course packet explaining that while, “We have never had a woman student in agriculture proper…If you think any of these courses will be helpful to you, we will be glad to see you here and to do the best we can for you,” (Morrow, 1894).  Morrow balanced reaching the masses with remaining accessible to individuals through his institutes and individual letters.


On May 24, 1894, Morrow received a letter with a box of specimens enclosed. Morrow identified the specimens as Pyralis costalila, more commonly known as the ________. 

  1. clover hay worm
  2. army worm
  3. horse fly
  4. deer tick


Born the youngest of nine children on October 19, 1840, Morrow grew up on the family farm. Although not known for being a serious student, Morrow did well in school. However, Morrow enlisted in the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry rather than attending college.

While serving during the Civil War,  Morrow developed a knack for writing. He sold stories to newspapers in Cincinnati and New York. Later, Morrow discovered his passion for agricultural journalism while studying law at the University of Michigan. After graduating in 1866, Morrow wrote for agricultural journals and quickly became well known for his work on livestock. Entering academia, Morrow briefly worked at the Iowa Agricultural College before coming to the College of Agriculture in Champaign.

Following his stint at the University of Illinois, Morrow was elected president of the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1895 to 1899. However, Morrow spent the end of his life in Paxton, Illinois, before passing away on March 26, 1900.

Paralleling his enduring interest in agricultural education, it makes sense for Morrow’s name to be linked with the continuity of the Morrow Plots. Overall, Morrow’s dedication to teaching agriculture through turbulent times makes the continuation of agriculture education at the present day College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences a testament to his work.

-Morrow Plots, east of the Undergraduate Library, on Gregory Drive. These experimental plots were named after George Morrow after he added to them and promoted them for agricultural research.
Mumford House, located on the South Quad by the Bell Tower, the Mumford House is where Morrow lived while he was serving as the Dean of the College of Agriculture.


Hunt, T. F., “George Epsy Morrow,” Illinois Agriculturalist, pp. 1-16, George Epsy Morrow File, Record Series 8/1/51, Box 3, University of Illinois Archives.

Morrow, George E. to Ada Worman, January 12. (1894). Letterbooks, 1888-1904; Record Series 8/1/1, Box 2, Volume 6, University of Illinois Archives.

Morrow, George E. to E. A. Gaston. (1893, November 29. Letterbooks, 1888-1904; Record Series 8/1/1, Box 2, Volume 6, University of Illinois Archives.

Portrait of George Morrow. (1890). Faculty, Staff and Student Portraits, 1933-, Record Series 39/2/22, Box 47. University of Illinois Archives.

Solberg, W. (1968). The University of Illinois 1867-1894. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.


Contributors: Jensen Rehn