Samuel Morris Story
Over 130 years ago, in a small Liberian village in West Africa, Samuel Morris was born Prince Kaboo, the eldest son of a Kru tribal chieftain. While still a child, a neighboring clan defeated his people and demanded Kaboo's father pay a hefty ransom for his son's return.
The conquering chief subjected Kaboo to terrible treatment and cruel labor. During one of many intense whippings, Kaboo said he saw a bright light and heard a voice from Heaven telling him to flee. Kaboo recalled the rope binding him fell to the ground; he gathered his strength and ran into the jungle.
Traveling at night and hiding in the hollow of trees by day, Kaboo navigated blindly through a jungle dominated by jungle law. Eventually he arrived at Monrovia, the one civilized city with thousands of Liberians under governmental law. There, a young boy invited Kaboo to church where Miss Knolls, a missionary and graduate of Taylor University (then known as Fort Wayne College), spoke on the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Kaboo immediately saw similarities between his story and Paul’s. Shortly afterward, he accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized under the name of Samuel Morris in honor of the missionary’s benefactor.
Faith to move a mountain
Morris spent the next two years painting houses in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. He became a zealous member of the Christian community and displayed a fervent desire to learn about the Holy Spirit. Lizzie MacNeil encouraged him to travel to America and seek the instruction of her mentor, Stephen Merritt, former secretary to Bishop William Taylor. With no money or means of transportation, Morris began his journey on foot.
From Liberia to New York
Sleeping on the beach at the Robertsport harbor, Morris waited several days before finding passage on a ship in exchange for work. The journey was difficult; Morris was often beaten and assigned to the most dangerous tasks. However, by the time the ship docked in New York in September 1891, the captain and most of the crew had accepted Christ because of Morris' witness.
Once he arrived in America, Stephen Merritt warmly received Morris. He contacted Thaddeus Reade, then president of Taylor University, and requested to enroll Morris at the school. Due to Taylor's financial debt, Reade personally started a fund for Morris. Reade’s effort would later be known as the "Faith Fund."
The "Angel in Ebony" at Taylor University
In December 1891, Morris arrived on Taylor's campus (then in Fort Wayne, Ind.). When asked by Reade which room he wanted, Morris replied, "If there is a room nobody wants, give that to me." Morris' faith had such a profound impact on the Fort Wayne community he was frequently invited to speak at local churches. At night, he could be heard in his room praying, which he simply called "talking to my Father."
President Reade once said, "Samuel Morris was a divinely sent messenger of God to Taylor University. He thought he was coming over here to prepare himself for his mission to his people, but his coming was to prepare Taylor University for her mission to the whole world. All who met him were impressed with his sublime, yet simple faith in God."
On May 12, 1893, Samuel Morris died after contracting a severe cold. His death inspired his fellow students to serve as missionaries to Africa on his behalf, fulfilling his dream of one day returning to minister to his own people. Hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Fort Wayne as Samuel Morris' body was carried to Berry Street Methodist Church.
Lindley Baldwin, author of Samuel Morris, writes, "The burial ceremony in Lindenwood cemetery, his last earthly resting place, was attended by a multitude such had never before accompanied there." Morris' untimely passing prevented him from participating at the laying of the cornerstone at Taylor's new Upland campus, where he was scheduled to speak and sing.