Morton, John (1781-1864) (DNB00)

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MORTON, JOHN (1781–1864), agriculturist, born on 17 July 1781 at Ceres, Fifeshire, was the second son of Robert Morton, by his wife Kate Pitcairn. He was educated at the parish school till the family removed to Flisk. His first farm was 'Wester,' or 'Little Kinnear,' at Kilmany, Fifeshire. While there Morton employed his 'leisure periods' in walking repeatedly over most of the counties of England, noting their geology and farm practice. His notes were afterwards published in his book 'On Soils.' In 1810 he removed to Dulverton, Somerset, where he remained till 1818, when he was appointed agent to Lord Ducie's Gloucestershire estates. Here he projected and conducted the 'Whitfield Example Farm,' and established the 'Uley Agricultural Machine Factory.' He invented the 'Uley cultivator' and other agricultural appliances. In 1852 he resigned his charge and retired to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, where he died on 26 July 1864. He married, on 15 Jan. 1812, Jean, sister of Dr. Thomas Chalmers [q.v.]

His work 'On the Nature and Property of Soils,' 8vo, London, 1838, 3rd edit. 1842, 4th edit. 1843, was the first attempt to connect the character of the soil with the geological formation beneath, and thus to give a scientific basis to the work of the land valuer. Shortly after its publication he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society. In conjunction with his friend J. Trimmer, the geologist [q. v.], he wrote 'An Attempt to Estimate the Effects of Protecting Duties on the Profits of Agriculture,' 8vo, London, 1845, advocating the repeal of the corn laws from the agricultural point of view. He also published A 'Report on the . . . Whitfield Farm,' 12mo, London, 1840.

His son, John Chalmers Morton (1821–1888), born on 1 July 1821, was educated at the Merchistoun Castle School, Edinburgh, under his uncle, Charles Chalmers. He afterwards attended some of the university lectures, took the first prize for mathematics, and was a student in David Low's agricultural classes [see Low, David]. In 1838 he went to assist his father on the Whitfield Example Farm, and shortly after joined the newly formed Royal Agricultural Society. He accepted the offer of the editorship of the 'Agricultural Gazette' on its foundation in 1844; this connection brought him to London, and continued till his death. When Low retired in 1854 from his chair at Edinburgh, Morton conducted the classes till the appointment of Professor Wilson. He was inspector under the land commissioners, and also served for six years (1868–74) with Dr. Frankland and Sir W. Denison on the royal commission for inquiry into the pollution of rivers. Morton died at his Harrow residence on 3 May 1888. He married in 1854 Miss Clarence Cooper Hayward of Frocester Court, Gloucestershire. A son, Mr. E. J. C. Morton, was elected M.P. for Devonport in 1892.

Morton edited and brought out: 1. 'A Cyclopædia of Agriculture' in 1855. 2. 'Morton's New Farmer's Almanac,' 12mo and 8vo, London, 1856–70. Continued as 'Morton's Almanac for Farmers and Landowners,' 1871, &c. 3. 'Handbook of Dairy Husbandry,' 8vo, London, 1860. 4. 'Handbook of Farm Labour,' 8vo, London, 1861; new edit. 1868. 5. 'The Prince Consort's Farms,' 4to, London, 1863. 6. 'An Abstract of the Agricultural Holdings . . . Act, 1875,' for Bayldon's 'Art of Valuing Rents,' &c. 9th edit. 8vo, London, 1876. He also edited 'Arthur Young's Farmer's Calendar,' 21st edit. 8vo, London, 1861-2, which he reissued as the 'Farmer's Calendar' in 1870; 6th edit. 1884; and the 'Handbooks of the Farm' Series, 7 vols. 1881-4, contributing to the series 'Diary of the Farm,' 'Equipment of the Farm,' and 'Soil of the Farm.' For a time he helped to edit the 'Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society,' and contributed largely to its pages, as well as to the 'Journal of the Society of Arts.'

[Information kindly supplied by J. Morton, Earl of Ducie's Office, Manchester; Gardeners' Chron. and Agricultural Gazette, 4 Oct. 1873, with portrait; Agricultural Gazette, 30 July 1864 and 7 May 1888, p. 428, with portrait; Journ. Royal Agricultural Soc. 2nd ser. xxiv. 691; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

B. B. W.