LEWIS HENRY MORGAN was born near the village of Aurora, New York, November 21, 1818. The subject of this sketch is eight generations in lineal descent on his father's side from James Morgan, who settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1646; and on his mother's side from John Steele, who settled in Newton, now Cambridge, in 1641; beginning with these, seven generations of his ancestors have lived and died in New England.
In 1840, at the age of twenty-one, young Morgan graduated at Union College, and was engaged in the study of law until 1844. During this time he occasionally wrote articles for the "Knickerbocker" and other periodicals. On his return to Aurora from college he was induced to join a secret society composed of young men of that place. This trivial circumstance had a great influence on his future career. The society was organized for no definite purpose, and failed to interest young Morgan, who at once looked about for some method of expanding the society and extending its influence; and finally, under his management, a new society was organized and styled "The Grand Order of the Iroquois." The plan was to model it somewhat after the pattern of Indian tribes, and to extend the organization over all the territory occupied by the Iroquois, and to have a group of branch societies for each area occupied by an Iroquois tribe, or nation, as they were then called, and these larger divisions divided into chapters as Indian nations were divided into gentes—so-called tribes.
In order that this new organization might be properly formed on the plan of the ancient Iroquois confederacy, young Morgan went among the Indians of New York for the purpose of studying their social organization and government. In this he soon became deeply interested, as did many of the originators of "The Grand Order of the Iroquois." A number of the gentlemen who took part in the organization of the society have since risen to important positions in American society, as a mention of the following names will demonstrate: Rev. Isaac N. Hurd; Henry Haight, afterward Governor of California; the late General Albert J. Myer, Chief of the Signal Service; Hon, George Barker, Justice of the Supreme Court of New York; the late Judge Charles P. Avery, of Oswego; the late Hon. Charles Billinghurst, member of Congress from Wisconsin; Rev. Anson J. Upton, President of the Auburn Theological Seminary; Charles T. Porter, of Philadelphia; Hon. Theodore Pomeroy, of Auburn; William Allen, of Auburn; C. White, of Aurora; the late Frederick De Lano, of Rochester; the late Alexander Mann, of Rochester; Hon.