Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Talented Tuesday - Evangelist Joseph Morrell

Evangeliste Joseph Van Morrell

I found the following story in the museum in Grand Fall, New Brunswick. It was written by Anita B. Lagace of Grand Falls. My sisters in law remember her as the stereotypical old maid with her hair always pulled back neatly in a bun. She ran the first library in Grand Falls, also a little general store. 

Evangeliste Van Morrell was Thomas T Vasseur's godfather.

Grand Falls 1896-1974
by Anita B. Lagace

Exerpt, 1904

"The mid-summer horse races at Grand Falls were set for August 12, 13. Van Morrell easily persuaded the committee that his wire walking exhibition at the chasm would draw a crowd to town for the races.

So the mighty feat was on. A lone human being would walk 400 feet of wire across the brow of Grand Falls, 100 feat . . . the maelstrom below. August 12 was overcast. The clouds had not kept the race fans away. At 2:25 PM, Van Morrell was making a last minute test of his rigging. AT 2:30 the Perth band struck up. With three probing steps the lone wire walker was in his stride. This was the private world of Van Morrell, where other men did not enter. This was a world of roaring water and jagged rock the . . . beckoned downward. 

Halfway across, the performer's knees began to buckle, his body began to bend at the waist. A moment more and his balancing pole had touched the wire at right angles, and Van Morrell rose in a perfect head-stand halfway across the gorge. For twenty minutes he held the crowd with his usual acrobatics, then leisurely completed his crossing.

Most of those who had come to the races spent the afternoon at the gorge, marveling at the feat they had seen. At the height of the suspense, some thoughtful soul passed the hat. The princely sum of forty-five cents was received by Van Morrell. (Fred Phillips, Atlantic Advocate)

In the Vasseur family collection of old photos, I found this photograph of Van Morrell walking the tightwalk from the schoolhouse - a different day and locale, but still in Grand Falls.

I found the following at Find a Grave.

Evangelist Joseph Morrell
Birth: Mar. 10, 1867
Death: 1939

Evangelist Joseph Morrell
Aerialist. Born Evangelist Joseph Van Morrell in Bangor, Maine, the son of French Canadian parents. He practiced the art of tightrope walking, making his mark on August 12, 1904. As part of a two-day festival held at The Sporting Park overlooking the upper basin of the Grand Falls, he volunteered to give a demonstration of his skills. He oversaw the installation of a 400 foot wire across the river and then, carrying a 20 foot pipe for balance, he began across the wire. After one false start he began again, executing a headstand at the center of the wire before a completing a successful traverse. A display of his feat can be seen at the Grand Falls Museum in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. (bio by: Iola)

Northview Cemetery
Evangelist Joseph MorrellWayne County
Michigan, USA

Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: LML
Record added: Mar 16, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7266416

Cemetery Photo


  1. Evangilist Morrell was my grandfather. I am so thrilled to see website about him. I found it especially interesting to see that someone actually went to his unmarked grave and took a picture. I had taken my mother, his youngest daughter, to his grave just days prior to her unexpected death. She said as we were leaving the cemetary " I'll see you soon Papa" as if she know.

    1. Jan, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I was excited when I found it. When we'd gather at my inlaws in Grand Falls, his name always came up. There is now a zip line across the gorge in Grand Falls.

  2. Well I was told he was my grandfather... Are you my sister... My biological Dad is Maurice Morrel...I was told that I had an older sister but she died...I am really confused now?