This park, as well as the adjacent Morris Avenue, gets its name from the famed Bronx landowners, the Morris family. In 1670 brothers Richard (c.1616-1669) and Lewis Morris (c.1601-1691) bought the southwestern Bronx property now known as Morrisania. It remained in the family until 1840s when Gouverneur Morris sold portions for the expansion of a railroad and creation of the Morrisania Village, which was settled in 1848. Morrisania Village was annexed by New York City in 1874. Richard Morris’s son, Lewis Morris, served as the first governor of New Jersey; Morris County, New Jersey, is named for him. Lewis Morris’s grandchildren Staats Long, Lewis, and Gouverneur all became statesmen in their own right.
Staats Long Morris (1728-1806) served as a British officer and later in the English Parliament. He died a resident of England. His brother, Yale-educated Lewis Morris (1726-1798), who had the reputation of possessing a moral character and fine study habits, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He earned the rank of major-general in the Westchester militia and also served in the Continental Congress (1775-1777). He worked on a committee with George Washington to develop means of supplying the colonies with military supplies. Lewis was also appointed to persuade western Native Americans to cooperate with the Americans rather than the British. In 1783, Lewis sent a letter to the Continental Congress recommending that Morrisania be made capital of the United States. The suggestion went unconsidered. Lewis served frequently in the state legislature and died at his estate in Morrissania.
Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), the most remembered of the Morrises, graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1768. He served in the New York Provincial Congress (1775-1777), the Continental Congress (1778-1779) and as a delegate in the Constitutional Convention (1787). At the Constitutional Convention, he developed a reputation as one of the most outspoken delegates. He argued in favor of a more centralized government, going so far as to recommend that the president serve a life-term and have the power to nominate senators. Nonetheless, it was he who constructed much of the language used in the final draft of the Constitution. Lawyers, judges, and citizens alike have debated and interpreted his words, since the document was written more than 200 years ago.
Morris advocated the decimal currency system that, with some modifications by Thomas Jefferson, formed the system of dollars and cents we use today. Morris was appointed Minister to France in 1792 and opposed the French Revolution against the monarchy, trying to aid in Louis XVI’s escape. Morris was invited by his friend Alexander Hamilton to author some of the Federalist Papers, but declined. The U.S. Constitution’s primary author is buried at St. Ann’s church in the Bronx.
Parks acquired Morris Garden on December 19, 1997, though it was not named until February 11, 1998. The garden features two pieces of play equipment, two large tree pits, concrete stairs, and game tables.