J. Morris Rea
John Rea 1895 sketch

Full name

Joseph Morris Rea

Alternative names

J.M. Rea, J. Moris Rea, J. Morris Rea

Presence at Shimer


Presence on Earth



University of Chicago 1867


Seminary period alum


Grundy Center, IA

J. Morris Rea was a student at Shimer College in the Seminary period, from his family's arrival in Mount Carroll in 1854 until 1863. He subsequently attended the first University of Chicago, graduating from the scientific course in 1867, and in 1869 he became a member of the Illinois bar.

Rea moved to Grundy Center, Iowa, in 1870, and began to practice law there, initially in a partnership with his brother-in-law Francis Garner Moffett. The following year he became the county superintendent of schools and served for two years. In 1893 he was elected to the state senate of Iowa as a Republican, serving one term before dying in 1895.

On October 4, 1870, Rea & Moffett acquired the Grundy County Atlas from its founder Lorenzo Tracy, and ran it until 1876, when they sold it to R.L. Rowe and Charles Keiter.

Shimer connectionsEdit



  • by Iowa Historical Society
  • by Iowa Legislature
  • in Journal of the Iowa General Assembly, 1896, pp. 100ff:
    Senator Sargent presented resolution on the death of Hon. J. Morris Rea and asked their reading.
    Whereas, The Hon. J. Morris Rea, of Grundy county, has met the inevitable fate of all men and passed from life unto death at his home in Grundy Center, August 25, 1895.
    Whereas, He was a member of the Senate of Iowa from the Thirty-eighth district including Black Hawk and Grundy counties, in the Twenty-fifth General Assembly, and would, had he lived, been a member of the Twenty-sixth General Assembly; therefore, be it
    Resolved, That in the death of Senator Rea we feel that a man of great public usefulness has been called hence from the active duties of life, and we do sincerely mourn his loss. That his death is one especially to be deplored in view of his honorable connection with the Senate of Iowa, and the lasting impression he made during his service in the Twenty-fifth General Assembly by his wise and conservative action as a legislator.
    Resolved, That in the life of Senator Rea, pure, blameless and Christian-like, and in the practice of his profession as a lawyer he has left an example to be emulated by young and old, and one which in this hour of bereavement must be a great gratification to his family and friends, and the members of this Senate do, with most profound feeling, join them in lamenting his death.
    Resolved, That the Secretary of this Senate forward a properly engrossed copy of these resolutions to the family of Senator Rea, and that they be entered on the record of the Senate.
    E. M. Sargent. • W. B. Perrin.
    J. L. Carney.
    In moving the adoption of the resolutions
    of the Thirty-eighth district, spoke as follows:
    To chronicle the death of a friend is one of the saddest of duties; and as a friend few men have been more highly esteemed by those who knew them well, or better deserved the name than the late Senator from the Thirty-eighth district, Hon. J. Morris Rea.
    His death, which occurred on the 25th of last August, was most sudden and unexpected. Although he had been in bad health for several years, he had so bravely and patiently fought against the encroachments of his disease that few, if any, of his friends were aware that his condition was critical, and only four days before his death did he at last yield to the compulsion of the inevitable and exchange his office and business for his deathbed. Such was the courage of the man that he not only concealed his condition from his friends and from his own family, but he forced himself daily to attend to business and to mingle with his fellow citizens and quietly to go the round of his customary duties, while every day he was setting his affairs in order and listening for the dread summons which he alone knew was coming so soon. When it came he met and answered it as bravely and patiently as he had lived.
    The record of J. Morris Rea's life is like that of many another citizen of Iowa. Born in the east, in Chester county, Pennsylvania, March 1, 1846, he early migrated to the West to grow up with the country and become a resident of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, in 1854. Having attended school at that place for nine years, he entered Chicago University, and graduated from that institution in 1867 and immediately thereafter began the study of law in the office of C. B. Smith, of Mt. Carroll.
    Having been admitted to the bar in Illinois, he migrated to Iowa and settled at Grundy Center in 1870 to practice his profession. Together with his law partner, he edited and published the Grundy County Atlas for six years. During a large part of this time Mr. Rea was county superintendent of schools. Becoming thus identified with law, journalism and education in the young county in which he had settled, he formed a wide acquaintance and earned an enviable popularity which increased with years. Mr. Rea was married to Ann S. Cook in 1878 and shortly after gave up his work as editor and county superintendent and confined his energies to the practice of law. He soon established his reputation as the leading attorney of Grundy county. To the end of his life, however, he retained his interest in public schools and was for many years a member and president of the city board of education. He was also deeply interested in every enterprise of benevolence and public good and was an active and prominent member of the Baptist church and a consistent Christian, nor did his interest in questions affecting the common weal stop within the circle of his denomination or community, but upon every issue in which justice and right in state or nation were concerned he held firm convictions and was steadfast and honest in maintaining them. As a lawyer, Mr. Rea was able, careful and courteous, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his clients and associates; while in the wider circles of society he was known as a most agreeable, entertaining and cultured gentleman. He was an active politician with a wide knowledge of public men and affairs, always faithful to his friends and just to his opponents He held the office of county attorney for a number of years In 1886 Mr. Rea received the republican nomination for judge in the Tenth district As evidencing his extreme popularity, it may be mentioned that at every Senatorial convention since 1879 he was supported by his county for the republican nomination. In 1893 he was nominated and elected to the Senate from the Thirty-eighth district and in the Twenty-fifth General Assembly he gave abundant evidence of his splendid mental and legal abilities, his quick, strong grasp of public questions, and his faithfulness and diligence in performance of duty. Having served half his term of office with distinction and credit to himself and his constituents apparently a long career of honor and usefulness was open before him; but the hopes and desires of his friends and his own ambitions were alike destroyed by the rapid advance of the disease which ended his life and public service at the untimely age of 49.
    In the death of Senator Rea it may be truly said that his family mourns a kind and loving husband and father, and his community a modest, unassuming, public spirited, influential, Christian man; while his district loses an able and diligent representative; the Senate an efficient and painstaking member, and his state and nation a scholarly, devoted and patriotic citizen.
    of the Twenty-eighth district, in seconding the motion, spoke as follows:
    Mr. President—We are gathered In obedience to a time honored custom to reflect for a brief period upon the mystery of death, to enshrine the memory of a worthy citizen and Senator of Iowa. These resolutions, which are never referred to a committee, upon which a negative vote is never cast, have arrested the attention of this body, and in the presence of the memory of a departed servant of the people, we by universal consent extol his virtues and lament his death.
    I did not have the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with Senator Rea, but I know him as a just, upright, conscientious man. Residing in the county adjoining his on the south, I occasionally had the privilege of meeting him, either in the court room or elsewhere, and always found him the same earnest, sincere and candid man. While he was not noted as an orator or advocate, he was recognized everywhere as a wise and faithful member of the bar, a man devoted to the interests of his client, and always fair and candid with the court. No higher encomium can be given any man than that he performed duty as it was presented to him, and assuredly this praise is due our departed brother. We, as the members of this organized Senate, have begun this session with high hopes doubtless of advancing the best interests of the state, of aiding in our own development and mental growth. This is but the successor of former Senates of Iowa, many of the members of which have joined the great majority, and others are standing on the brink of the dark river. They have performed well their work, and aided in the formation of a state government, second to none on the American continent. In this complex machinery of federal and state control, proud Iowa moves serenely, guided by the wise laws enacted by Legislatures, which have numbered in their ranks some of the wisest of the nation's wise men. Their foresight taught them that this portion of the great Mississippi valley, between the father of waters and his great tributary on the west, was sure in the fullness of time to become densely populated; to be covered with the works of man; to be the birth-place of men of letters, of art, of science, whose fame should go out over the whole land. They, therefore, by the enactment of a constitution and laws suitable for the control and development of an intelligent people have laid well the foundation for the enduring structure of state government, which is and will be for generations yet unborn the joy and pride of the people of the State of Iowa.
    These laws of the state have been slowly added to, changed, modified and amended, by successive Legislatures, and as it became apparent that a new codification was necessary, Senator Rea was elected to a General Assembly, which, by general and universal consent was expected to adopt some plan, or put in force some agency whereby there should be evolved from the apparent confusion a beautiful and symmetrical whole. That step was taken in the appointment of, and definition of the powers of a Code Commission, and doubtless Senator Rea looked forward hopefully to the meeting of this General Assembly, when he would be able to join in the completion of that great work, which, as we approach it, almost startles us by its immensity. That satisfaction was denied him, and ho has been called higher. We must perform the responsible and pressing duties devolving upon us without the aid of his wise, conservative and conscientious counsel. His life work is done. To him has come the great change which awaits all men.
    In closing, nothing that I could say would be more fitting than a quotation from the classic oration, which it was my privilege to hear Senator Ingalls deliver on a like occasion in the United States Senate, when he said: "In the democracy of the dead all men at last are equal. There is neither rank nor station, nor prerogative in the republic of the grave. At this fatal threshold the philosopher ceases to be wise, and the song of the poet is silent. Dives relinquishes his millions and Lazarus his rags. The poor man is as rich as the richest and the rich man is as poor as the pauper. The creditor loses his usury and the debtor is acquitted of his obligation. There the proud man surrenders his dignities, the politician his honors, the worldling his pleasures; the invalid needs no physician, and the laborer rests from unrequited toil. Here at last is nature's final decree in equity. The wrongs of time are redressed, injustice is expiated, the irony of fate is refuted, the unequal distribution of wealth, honor, capacity, pleasure and opportunity, which make life so cruel and inexplicable, ceases in the realm of death. The strongest there has no supremacy and the weakest needs no defense. The mightiest captain succumbs to that invincible adversary, who disarms alike the victor and the vanquished."
    of the Forty-fourth district, spoke as follows:
    Mr. President—It is fitting that the Senate turn from its legislative duties and devote the hour to paying a tribute of respect to the memory of those who have been called from our number to the land of eternal rest.
    I believe that these memorial ceremonies will not only be a mournful satisfaction to the friends of those whose memories we revere, as well as of advantage to ourselves, but will be productive of good to the state. To dwell upon the characteristics of the noble dead, and to recall their virtues and estimable qualities, chastens the mind and arouses desires for right living and worthy actions. Besides, all must be impressed with the thought that life is of brief duration and of a transitory nature, and we are admonished to work while it is yet day, knowing that the night cometh in which no man can work.
    Only a few short months ago—how very short they now seem—those of us who were members of the Twenty-fifth General Assembly, walked, talked and labored together with Hon J. Morris Rea. We remember him as a gentleman, courteous, affable and considerate of the rights of others; painstaking and conscientious in the discharge of every duty, as one who fully appreciated the responsibility that had been imposed upon him and met the requirements of the trust confidently and manfully.
    We remember how faithfully and efficiently he labored as a member of that body. We know that the wisdom of his counsel and his well-directed efforts assisted largely in the deliberations of the Senate, and that the product of his mature thoughts are crystallized in the statutes of the state; so that being dead he yet speaketh, and will continue to be heard as long as our commonwealth shall exist. Did I say our brother is dead? Though we cannot see his beloved form, we may not grasp his cordial hand: we do not hear the familiar tone of his voice, we look to the seat that he was wont to fill with honor and dignity, but our brother is not there. Still we cannot feel that he is dead. Nay, to us, our brother is not dead. He lives, thank God! He abides in our memories as clearly as when we last bade him farewell in the flesh. He is with us to-day; he communes with us, counsels with us, and will be our dear friend and close companion forever.
    The lesson imparted by a good life, is to us like a volume from a favorite author, we peruse it with pleasure, we treasure its words in our hearts, we keep it near us on our table or library shelf, we often refer to it, until by becoming familiar with its pages and cherishing its words it becomes incorporated into our being, influences our thoughts and controls our actions.
    By relatives and friends the mortal form is dearly cherished, they learn to love the casket and gaze upon it until in a measure they become unmindful of the precious jewel that it contains, and it often happens, that when the case that has become the idol of their admiration is shrouded and covered with the clods of the valley, they feel in the bitterness of their bereavement that all is lost and become forgetful of the rich heritage that is bequeathed them in the record of an honorable life and of the promise of immortal existence, and the felicity that awaits the soul beyond the grave.
    Senator Rea as his life among us indicated, was a believer in the doctrines taught by Jesus of Nazareth, and while here could with the poet say:
    Here in the body pent,
    Absent from Him I roam.
    Yet nightly pitch my morning tent,
    A day's march nearer home.
    The weary march is o'er, the tabernacle of flesh has been consigned to its final resting place, but the bright, genial, noble spirit that occupied it is at home at rest.
    We may be thankful that it has been our privilege to know J. Morris Rea, and to have enjoyed for a period social and official relations with one in mind so pure, in motives so high—one so conscientious in the discharge of every obligation.
    As we resume the duties of the session the hallowed influences of this hour will follow us in our labors, the memory of the good and noble lives which we here contemplate will rest as a gracious benison to harmonize our actions, to dull the sting of envy and curb the spirit of self-seeking and unbridled ambition, guiding all to labor earnestly for the interests of our entire people and the welfare of our beloved state.


Note: Part or all of this article is being groomed for possible export to Wikipedia.

Joseph Morris Rea (1846–1895), often known simply as J. Morris Rea, was an Iowa attorney and politician. He served in the Iowa State Senate from 1893 to 1895.

Early life and educationEdit

Joseph Morris Rea was born to George and Ann Rea on March 1, 1846, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After living for a time in North Coventry Township,[1] the family moved west to Mount Carroll, Illinois in 1854.[2]

Rea studied at the Mount Carroll Seminary, later known as Shimer College, from his family's arrival in Mount Carroll in 1854 until 1863. His classmates at the small school included future Illinois politicians H.H.C. Miller and Virgil Ferguson, and future Iowa Speaker of the House William H. Redman.[3]

Rea subsequently attended the Old University of Chicago, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in 1867.[4]

After graduating from the University of Chicago, Rea read law in the office of C.B. Smith in Mount Carroll.[5] In 1869, he completed his studies and became a member of the Illinois bar.

Political careerEdit

Rea moved from Illinois to Grundy Center, Iowa, in 1870. He went into practice with his brother-in-law, Francis Garner Moffett. The two also purchased the county's only newspaper, the Grundy County Atlas, running it for the next six years, Moffett serving as local editor and Rea as political editor.[6] The Atlas, later succeeded by the Republican, was the only newspaper serving Grundy County. In 1876, they sold the paper to Rea's fellow Mount Carroll Seminary alumnus Charles Keiter.[7]

In 1871, Rea was elected the Grundy County superintendent of schools and served for two years.[8] Later, he also served for some time on the Grundy Center school board, including a stint as its president.[2][8]

In 1875, Rea married Ann Raymond.[9] They had two children, George and Ralph.[9]

A lifelong Republican, Rea was presented as the preferred choice of the Grundy County Republican Party for senate at every election from 1879 to 1893.[2] Rea also served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1884.[9]

In 1893, Rea was elected to the state senate of Iowa as a Republican, representing the 38th district, which comprised the counties of Grundy and Black Hawk.[9][10] He served in the 25th Iowa General Assembly in 1894, but died before reaching the second half of his senatorial term.

In addition to his political work, Rea was a director of the Grundy County National Bank,[9] which he had helped to organize.[6] He was also a member of the Knights Templar Masons,[6] who presided at his funeral.[2] He was a lifelong member of the Baptist church.[2]

Rea died at his home in Grundy Center on August 25, 1895.[10] He had been diagnosed some time previously with Bright's disease.[2]

Works citedEdit


  1. 1850 United States Census, 1850; North Coventry, Chester, Pennsylvania; roll M432_765, page 174A, . Retrieved on 2013-06-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Senator J.M. Rea: Grundy County's Leading Attorney Called Home". Grundy County Republican: p. 5. 1895-08-20. 
  3. H.H.C. Miller (1893-06). "Letters". The Oread of Mount Carroll Seminary (Shimer College): pp. 16-17. 
  4. University of Chicago (1906). Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago, 1861-1906. p. 62. 
  5. Iowa General Assembly 1896, p. 101.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Portrait and Biographical Record 1894, p. 502.
  7. Iowa State Reporter: p. 4. 1876-02-09. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Iowa General Assembly 1896, p. 102.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Iowa Historical Society, p. 1.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Iowa General Assembly 1896, p. 100.

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