While God used Samuel Morris in amazing ways, his story is filled with other extraordinary people of faith. Below are just a few of the individuals who were instrumental in Morris' life.
Who was Stephen Merritt and why did Samuel Morris travel across two continents and the Atlantic Ocean to find him? He was an affluent New Yorker who, at the time Morris met him, was serving as the pastor of the St. James Methodist Episcopal Church in Manhattan. It was his past, however, that caused Morris to leave Africa and travel several thousand miles to ask him about the Holy Spirit. Merritt had formerly served as secretary to Bishop William Taylor LINK and his African Missions. Lizzie Macneil, a young missionary who was preparing to leave for Liberia, had been encouraged and mentored by Merritt for her upcoming service.
Shortly after arriving in Africa, MacNeil met Samuel Morris. His thirst to learn about the Holy Spirit exhausted her of all she could offer. MacNeil suggested that he travel to America to receive further instruction from Stephen Merritt. "I will see him," Morris' simply replied, before heading for the shore to begin his journey for the Spirit-filled life.
Upon meeting Merritt, Morris called out, "I have come from Africa to talk to you about the Holy Spirit." Merritt took the boy in and exclaimed to his wife that Morris was "An Angel in Ebony." At Merritt's church, Morris ministered to a packed congregation and it was resolved that he would be sent to Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he could be trained to minister to his own people. Three days later he boarded a train for Fort Wayne. Nearly ten thousand conversions took place between then and the time Merritt retired from the pastorate—many of which might not have occurred apart from the influence of the young African who was so deeply committed to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Stephen Merritt died on January 29, 1917.
Henry O'Neil: The First Fruit of Morris' Ministry
He came from Africa, was baptized with an American name, traveled to the States in search of education and eventually found himself at Taylor University. Although this may sound like the story of Samuel Morris, it is actually the tale of Henry O'Neil, a young Liberian who has been referred to as the "first fruit" of Morris' ministry. Henry O'Neil wrote Samuel Morris a letter on April 18th, 1893.
Reade's Recollection of O'Neil
In the biography Samuel Morris (Prince Kaboo), Thaddeus Reade details the story of how Samuel Morris' friend, Henry O'Neil, came to America.
Why Samuel Morris Almost Quit Taylor
"One day [Morris] came to me and said: 'Mr. Reade, may I quit school and go to work?' 'Why Sammy,' said I, 'are you dissatisfied with this school?' 'O, no.' he answered, 'I love the school very much, but I want to work and get money to bring Henry O'Neil to this country.' 'Who is this Henry O'Neil?' I asked. 'Oh,' said Sammy, 'he my brother in the Lord. I led him to Jesus in Africa. He good boy; he better boy than Sammy; he walk close to God. I want him to come here and get an education.' 'Well, Sammy,' said I, 'if he ought to come to America, the Lord will open the way. Talk to your Father about it.' Almost immediately he retired to his room to pray.'
President Reade Inquires About Henry O'Neil
"That evening I wrote a letter to Mrs. Drake, of Illinois, who with her noble husband, had been a missionary in Africa, until her husband died and was buried in that far off land. Henry O'Neil had been in their employ, and I wrote to know if anything could be done to bring Henry to this country. The next morning Sammy came into my office and his face was beaming with joy. 'Mr. Reade,' he said, 'I very happy this morning. Father tell me Henry shall come.'"
Henry O'Neil's Journey Begins
"In a few days from this time I received a letter from Mrs. Drake, saying that measures were already on foot to bring Henry over. In a few months he came, and after spending some time under the tutorage of Miss Abrams, of St. Louis, and perhaps a year at another institution of learning, he went back to Africa to preach to his people."
O'Neil Arrives at Taylor
Nearly a decade after Morris' death, his dream of having Henry O'Neil come to Taylor would be fulfilled. After returning from Africa, O'Neil arrived on Upland's campus in August of 1904.
A Letter to Morris
Less than a month before Morris' death, O'Neil wrote to Samuel discussing his own struggle with sickness and his faith in the Lord. This letter is the only known correspondence to Samuel Morris in existence.
Thaddeus Reade remains a key figure in the history of Taylor University. He was born in New York in 1846 and, at the age of 15, started as a circuit rider in northwestern Ohio. He graduated with highest honors from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1869. Reade met his wife Ella (Dodge) at the university, and in 1870 he was hired as principle of The Fairfield Union Academy, with his wife also working there as a teacher.
Reade's presidency of Taylor University began in 1891, while the school was still located in Fort Wayne, Ind. Under his initiative the school moved to Upland in 1893. Reade played a vital role in maintaining the financial stability of the school during those crucial years by personally funding all operations of the University. Reade was known as a loving, yet firm, man with a wonderful sense of humor.
In 1896, Reade published the book Samuel Morris (Prince Kaboo), a detailed biography of Morris' incredible tale. Funds raised from the book not only provided Taylor the means necessary to remain open, but also aided several hundred international students in gaining an education at Taylor the following years.
Reade said, "In writing this [biography of Morris] my only desire is that the people may know what wonders our God can do when He finds a willing, obedient, confiding subject through whom and in whom to work." Reade's book has since been republished several times, most recently in 1979.
Thaddeus Reade died July 25, 1902, at his sister's home, which was located where Swallow Robin Hall stands today. His grave is located on Taylor's campus on the east side of Vayhinger Loop across from Helena Memorial Hall.