Past Treasure of the Month – October 2015
During the month of October, Rosenberg Library remembers Galveston native Jean Scrimgeour Morgan (1868 – 1938), an outstanding community leader and a prolific painter at the turn of the 20th century. The Library exhibited several examples of Mrs. Morgan’s art as well as her artist’s supplies from the late 1800s. These items were donated by her son, William Manning Morgan, who also established the Morgan Memorial Room at Rosenberg Library. The Library’s permanent collection includes more than 100 original drawings, sketches, and paintings by Jean Scrimgeour Morgan, one of the most accomplished female artists in Galveston during her lifetime.
Early Life in Galveston
by Jean S. Morgan, late 19th century.
Jean Coventree Scrimgeour was born in Galveston just a few years after the Civil War. Her father, William Scrimgeour, was a well-known ship captain. Originally from New York, Captain Scrimgeour left home at a young age to pursue a life of adventure on the high seas. After sailing around the world not once, but three times, he settled in the port city of Galveston in 1857. He joined the Confederate cause during the Civil War and served as lieutenant of the gunboat General Rusk. In 1864, he married Josephine Mason at Lynchburg, Texas. The couple returned to Galveston where Captain Scrimgeour took command of the Confederate blockade-runner Alice which cruised between the ports of Galveston, New Orleans, Key West, and Havana. He was later captured and held as a prisoner of war in Boston until the end of the war.
He eventually returned to Galveston where he joined the Morgan Steamship Lines and served as a bar pilot for thirty years. William and Josephine Morgan had three children — Charles, William, and Jean. The family lived in an elegant residence at 810 Postoffice in the East End.
A Blossoming Artist
used by Jean S. Morgan.
Born into a prominent family, Jean Scrimgeour Morgan had the privilege of obtaining an education. She attended the Galveston Female Institute, a leading school for young ladies in Galveston during the 1880s. Pupils at the institute received instruction in music and fine arts in addition to science, arithmetic, and literature. After graduating from Galveston Female Institute, Mrs. Morgan enrolled at the Art Students League of New York, an innovative art school which attracted scores of men and women who went on to become internationally famous artists. Mrs. Morgan was said to have been taught by J. Carroll Beckwith and William Merritt Chase, two of the most acclaimed American painters of the day. It was at the Art Students League that Jean Morgan began to paint using oils and watercolors, mediums which she continued to work with in later years.
After her training in New York was complete, she returned to Galveston and married a local banker, George D. Morgan, in 1890. The following year, their only child — William Manning Morgan — was born. Despite taking on additional responsibilities as a wife and mother, Mrs. Morgan continued to study art under the tutelage of local instructor, Maria Cage Kimball. Mrs. Kimball operated a studio at 2033 Market Street and was instrumental in establishing an appreciation for arts and culture on the island during the late 19th century.
by Jean S. Morgan, 1895.
Charitable Work in the City
After the catastrophic hurricane of 1900, Jean Morgan’s commitment to community service took precedence over her artistic pursuits. She helped create the Women’s Health Protective Association, an organization whose members cleared storm debris, reburied victims, replanted trees, and worked to improve sanitation. She also became active with the Galveston Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Texas Anti-Tuberculosis Association. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, public health and nursing services became her charitable priorities. She was instrumental in establishing clinics on both the east and west ends of the island where low-income women could receive proper pre- and post-natal care for themselves and their babies. From early childhood until her death in 1938, she was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church.