top of page

Rev. George Nash Morton

Rev. George Nash Morton  (Loosely translated from Portuguese)

A Presbyterian pioneer in Campinas and founder of the International College During the first ten years of the Presbyterian work in Brazil (1859-1868), all missionaries were sent by the Northern Presbyterian Church of the United States. It was only in 1869 that the first workers of the Southern Church arrived: George N. Morton and Edward Lane. The Southern Church (CPSU) was created just eight years earlier, in 1861. Its Foreign Missions Committee was based in the city of Nashville, in the State of Tennessee. After the civil war in the United States (1861-1865), many southern families of that country emigrated to Brazil, most of them settled in the region of Santa Bárbara, in the interior of São Paulo. This was the reason for the choice of Campinas, located 35 kilometers from the American colony, to be the first headquarters of the mission. The choice of Brazil as a missionary field of the CPSU was due to a suggestion by the well-known theologian Dr. Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898). The two pioneers mentioned above were part of the first group of graduates of the Union Theological Seminary (attached to the Hampden-

Sydney, Virginia) after the Civil War.

George N. Morton was from an old aristocratic family in the State of Virginia, of Charlotte County. He was born in Marshall County, Mississippi, on April 14, 1841. He studied at the Hampden-Sydney College (1857-1860), where he received degrees bachelor's and master of arts. Shortly after, he enlisted in the Confederate army with the post of lieutenant. After the Civil War, he studied at Union Theological Seminary (1865-1868). Two fourteen members of his class, four chose a missionary career and two of them came to Brazil. Morton was licensed on May 1 and ordered on August 15 of 1868 by the Roanoke Presbytery. In the same month, he came to recognize Brazil, returning to his country in November. He was responsible for the final choice of Campinas as the headquarters of the mission.

Morton married on May 11, 1869, with Mary Elizabeth Wilson Brown (born on January 17, 1847). On June 22, the couple Morton and colleague Edward Lane embarked in Baltimore for Brazil, arriving here on August 17. After a brief stay in Rio de Janeiro, arrived in Campinas in early September. On 10 July 1870, the two workers founded the Presbyterian Church of that city. Right after his arrival, Morton became friends with George W. Chamberlain, the pastor of the São Paulo, with whom he made several missionary trips and changed the pulpit many times. Morton would baptize two sons of his colleague: Pierce (05-05-1872) and Helen (01-04-1877). On January 13, 1872, Revs. Morton, Lane, James R. Baird, William C. Emerson, and two priests founded the old Presbytery of São Paulo, with two churches, Campinas and Hopewell (Santa Barbara). Morton was elected moderator. An important fruit of your work was the young Eduardo Carlos Pereira, the future minister, grammarian, and founder of the Independent Presbyterian Church.


As a teacher in Campinas, Eduardo heard several preached by Morton and talked to him about religious issues. When moving to São Paulo, was recommended by Morton to Chamberlain, who received it by profession of faith (07-03-1875) and convinced him to embrace the ministry. In addition to pastor and evangelist, Rev. Morton possessed great culture and was a notable educator. In his first year in Campinas, he and Lane started a night school that reached almost thirty students. The idea was to win converts through education. Soon, the missionaries conceived a more ambitious project: a high-level educator, who became known as the International College or Institute of Campinas. In 1871 Lane was the United States and obtained approval and resources for the project. One journalist Gazeta de Campinas a series of articles on the proposed college and on December 8 the missionaries presented their plan to a group of outstanding citizens, a big interest. The minutes of the meeting were published in full in the local newspaper and The MissionaryIn 1872 land was acquired and the college was formally initiated in 1873. From 1872 to 1874, four new workers came to collaborate: Nannie Henderson, Mary Videau Kirk, William LeConte and John W. Dabney. Rev. Morton wanted to remain involved with evangelization, but ended up teaching and eventually took over the direction of the school. At the end of 1874, the Committee of Foreign Missions sent to Campinas Dr. John Leighton Wilson, who studied the situation and supported the project, despite the enormous made. Enrollment grew continuously until 1878, when the number of both sexes, Brazilians and Americans, reached almost 200. The academic level was of the which attracted students from some of the most important families in the province.

So a series of adverse factors, especially economic and administrative, produced a crisis that resulted in Morton's removal from school and mission. On November 14, 1879, Morton published in the São  Paulo farewells of Campinas. On January 7, 1880, he opened a college in São Paulo particular, the Morton College, located next to the Church of Consolation, for which half of the faculty and student body of the International College. He dreamed of turning him into a higher school of philosophy and letters. In a series of articles, the Province of Rangel Pestana exposed the public to the educator's grand plans. This college became young people who came to stand out in the society of Júlio César Ferreira Mesquita (1862-1927), Carlos de Campos (1866-1927), and Manuel Lopes de Oliveira Filho (1872-1938). Among others, Rev. Francis JC Schneider and the future pastor João Ribeiro de Carvalho Braga. In a valuable article that wrote in 1916, entitled "The International College and its Founders," Rev. Erasmus Braga said that one of the most remote and vivid memories of his childhood was a reception and worship to which he was present at Morton College around 1880 or 1881 when he was only three or four years old! He spoke of the pleasure he felt when his father took him to the Consolation farm where the remarkable school had been beautifully installed.

Still, in 1880 and in the same newspaper already mentioned, Morton fought a controversy with Dr. Luiz Pereira Barreto on positivism, a philosophical current that attracted many intellectuals of the time. The articles of both authors were assembled in a booklet the same year under the title Positivism and Theology. Though distant from missionary work, Morton never silenced his religious principles. Although successful in appearance educationally, he experienced financial losses with his college, getting quite indebted With this, he had to close his school, returning definitively to the United States in 1882. In the year that Morton ended his career in Brazil, The Evangelical Press published an article from his collection: "The Jews: Their Sufferings past and present "(Supplement of April 1882). It is regrettable that due to the problems, the evangelistic and educational work of this talented ceased so prematurely.

In his homeland, Morton devoted himself to teaching and other activities in the cities of Passaic Bridge (New Jersey) and Dobbs Ferry (New York) from 1886 to 1903. He was exonerated at his own request, uncensored, on April 14, 1904, by the Presbytery of Roanoke. Mary Brown Morton died in New York at the age of 76 on August 17, 1923, and Professor Morton at age 84 on December 14, 1925. They had ten children, almost all born in Brazil (Campinas and São Paulo): George Harman LeGrand (1870-1944), Margaret Wilson (1871-1944), David Holmes (1875-1946), Susan Ann (1876- 1962), Emily LeGrand (1877-1957), William Stewart (1879-1935), Mary Brown (1881-1964), John Carrington (1882-1883), Bell (1883-1907) and Samuel (1887-1932). Several of them were baptized by colleague George W. Chamberlain. In the article cited above, Erasmo Braga highlighted the extraordinary qualities of Morton as an educator. When Morton passed away, the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, owned by of his former student Júlio Mesquita, hailed him as having been the prototype of the educator. J. C. Alves de Lima, in his book Memories of Men and Things of My Time (1926), also made a beautiful tribute to the great pedagogue. He notes that Morton helped to form the generation that came to assume the leadership of the country in the republican regime. He was a friend of Prudente de Morais, Campos Sales, Francisco Glicério, and other notable ones. When already old man, Morton went to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York for a dinner in honor of a Brazilian admiral. Alves de Lima says: "There was a silence for a moment deep, but, as if listening to the voice of command, the officer in charge stood up and with the greatest enthusiasm drank the health of the old friend of Brazil. "


• Lessa, Annaes , 50, 73, 75, 93, 98, 133, 146, 180a (photo), 183-85.

• Ferreira, History of IPB , I: 109-111, 214.

• Erasmo Braga, "The International College and Its Founders: Early Education

North American in Brazil, " Journal of the Center of Sciences, Letters and Arts , Campinas

(30-09-1916), 42-47.

• GN Morton, Farewell from Campinas, Province of São Paulo (14-11-1879).

• GN Morton, articles on Morton College, Province of São Paulo (January 1880).

• GN Morton and LP Barreto, polemic on positivism, Province of São Paulo

(February 1880).

• Letter from Dr. JC Alves de Lima with information about Morton, Diario Popular (10-


• JC Alves de Lima, Memories of Men and Things of My Time (Rio, 1926), 56-59.

• The General Catalog of Trustees, Officers, Professors, and Alumni of Union

Theological Seminary in Virginia, 1807-1924 .

• Bear, Mission to Brazil , 10-17.

• McIntire, Portrait , 7 / 2-34.

• Ribeiro, Protestantism and Brazilian Culture , 199-221.

• Marcus Levy Albino Bencostta. Go for Every World: The Province of São Paulo as

Field of Presbyterian Mission, 1869-1892 . Campinas: Unicamp, 1996.

• "Descendants of W. Brown": [].

• "Morton Family Photo": []

bottom of page