History series: Teacher explains importance of Morton history

Nathan Domenighini
Third graders from Lincoln Elementary school follow along with Jan Powers, left, who explains the history of Morton on a tour she provides to students.

Jan Powers recognizes the importance of Morton’s history. The fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary school has long been interested in the village’s history.

Powers is concerned, however, that this town’s history could be lost if it is not carried on from generation to generation. So, she has made a point to take children on tours throughout the village to point out much of Morton’s early history.

It is a tradition once carried out by former teacher Ruthie Roth, wife of former Morton Mayor Don Roth. The two have long promoted the village’s history through tours and publications.

Powers maintains that without knowledge of Morton’s history, the growing town could lose interest in its roots and break away from the culture that has long existed.

“It all goes back to tradition,” Powers said. “We need a good foundation of our roots and where we came from.”

She grabbed the interest of a group of third graders who carried orange booklets loaded with information on Morton’s history. The students took notes as they toured the village with Powers narrating on various topics.

“How many of the kids even know why they are called the Morton Potters,” Powers asked. “That’s why I do this, so they understand where things came from. I want to make it pertinent to their lives, too.”

To Powers, it is important to continue this tradition of history education as long as possible.

“Unless you cast those stories down from generation to generation, that history gets lost,” she said.

Powers said due to the growth of Morton, there are a number of residents who have no knowledge of the village’s past.

“I think the older generation has a good feel for it. But, middle-aged residents maybe are the weakest in their knowledge of the history of Morton,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone took the time. I think some of it has gotten lost along the wayside,” she added.

Powers has researched much of what the Roths collected over the years. She has gathered resources from a variety of sources that helped her build a curriculum used during the history tours. Much of the information can be researched at Morton Public Library today.

“I’ve always been into history,” Powers said. “I learned a lot by teaching it.”

Powers credits the Roths for embracing the village’s history and sharing it with generations to come.

Most influential

Powers considers Morton’s pottery history as one of the most influential parts of the village. It is, as many know, why the high school teams are called the Potters.

But, she adds that it was much more than just the fact that pottery making was a strong industry in the village. Powers said the pottery was used to lay tile so construction could continue on Morton’s once swampy land.

“Pottery is kind of what really started our town,” she said.

Culturally, Powers said the morals and values of Morton’s early settlers still exist today.

“Our ancestors that came over were very religious, very frugal and conservative people,” she said. “That stays today. We’re still very conservative. We have so many churches. I think we still have that reputation.

“That whole culture is still a big part of just how Morton is today,” Powers said. “We have a lot of pride in our town. We have a really good work ethic. I think that’s a lot of what makes Morton Morton.”