GREENSBURG – It always amazes me how many people who were born in Decatur County went on to become someone that many people knew about at one time or another. I couldn’t find much about these two men, but if anyone knows more please let us know.

John Goodnow was born in Greensburg on June 29, 1858, just one year before Greensburg was incorporated. His father, Lt. Col. James Goodnow, fought for the North in the 12th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. When it came time to go off to college, John enrolled in the University of Minnesota and continued living in Minneapolis, taking part in the politics of the day. But he had impressed people, although there was the usual jealous persons, too.

Goodnow was nominated for the position of the United States Counsul General in Shanghai, China by President William McKinley. In 1895 and 1896, Goodnow worked hard for William McKinley and served as president of the Republican State League.

The Senate approved the nomination in spite of some opposition from other Republicans. He was doing his job in Shanghai until 1905, when he was accused of misconduct by Third Assistant Secretary of State H.H.D. Peirce, who had completed his report about the alleged misconduct and charges against Consul General Goodnow at Shanghai. When the verdict came it was in favor of the Goodnow.

Peirce had been named Third Assistant Secretary of State by President Theodore Roosevelt from November, 1901 until June, 1906. That same year, in 1906, Goodnow resigned as Counsul General and became an advisor to the Chinese government. He died the next year in 1907 while in Spain and was buried in Malaga, Spain. He was only 49 years old.

John Hamilton Morgan was born in Greensburg Aug. 8, 1842, and served as sergeant in the Union Army in the 123rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. After the war, he attended Eastman’s Commercial College in New York. After graduation, he traveled to Salt Lake City on business and decided to permanently relocate there.

In 1867, Morgan established the Morgan Commercial College in Salt Lake City, where he found an interest in business education. He increased the enrollment several times. The college provided a number of innovations including Utah’s first free public library and the first school run by a non-Mormon. The college taught many students that would later rise to prominence in Utah, including Heber J. Grant, Orson F. Whitney, Matthias F. Cowley, and J. Golden Kimball. The college lasted until 1874, when it closed due to intense competition from the University of Deseret (which later became the University of Utah). Although the University of Deseret was founded in 1850, it had been put in a 16-year hiatus until Morgan’s success inspired its comeback.

On Nov. 26, 1867, Morgan joined the LDS Church. and on Oct. 24, 1868, he married one of his former students, Helen Melvina Groesbeck. After the college closed in 1874, Morgan served as a missionary in the Southern States Mission from 1875 to 1877, returning to the mission again in 1878 to become the mission president. During his term as mission president he was involved with attempts to help the Catawba tribe move to the west to be with the rest of the Saints.

Later, Morgan got involved in Utah politics and served a term as a representative to the Utah Territorial Legislature as a Republican in 1883. Morgan died unexpectedly from typhoid-malaria. He had three wives. He was arrested on polygamy charges while visiting one of his wives in Colorado. One of his widows, Mary Ann Linton (Morgan) was remarried to David King Udall, who was a representative to the Arizona Territorial Legislature and the founder of the Udall political family which includes Mo and Stewart. Older readers will remember them. And they were born in Decatur County, Indiana.

Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at

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