Backstory and Context
Morton John Elrod, born on April 26, 1863 in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, had a lifelong fascination with education. He acquired a Bachelor of Sciences at Simpson College in Des Moines, Iowa and a Masters degree at Wesleyan Illinois University, also in the field of science, before returning to Iowa to teach. While in Des Moines, Elrod met his wife, Emma; they married on May 31st, 1888 and had two children together, although one died at birth. (The surviving child, Mary, born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1889, followed in her father's footsteps by earning a degree in biology. Also like her father, she worked for the University of Montana, in her case as the Dean of Women, as well as a proponent for Greek Life on campus, with a particular affection for Kappa Kappa Gamma.)
In 1889, the Elrods moved to Missoula, Montana, where Morton J. Elrod became a professor of biology and ecology at the University of Montana, then known as Montana State University. Elrod enjoyed sharing his knowledge with those who lived in the state, but did not understand the scientific aspects of Montana. Elrod’s main academic focus in studies was protozoology, the study of “animal-like” protozoa. He made frequent trips to Glacier National Park and documented the ecosystems there. One of Elrod's most famous books, Following Old Trails, educated readers about the importance of science and life in ecological systems.
Elrod helped to establish the Flathead Lake Biological Station in Polson, Montana. Initially, the facility was open only to male scientists, but it eventually was opened to all. Boys and girls from coast to coast came to Flathead Lake to learn about the ecological wonders of Montana. The Flathead Lake Biological Station became one of the most famous ecological expedition centers of the 20th century and is still in operation today.
Dennison, George M . Montana’s Naturalist Pioneer: Morton J. Elrod. Norman, Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, 2016.
Elrod, Morton John . "Following Old Trails." The Daily Missoulian (Missoula, MT) December 14th 1913., Advertisements Page 2, Image. 14 Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Elrod, Morton J . "The University of Montana Biological Station and Its Work." Science, vol. 20, no. 502 (August 12, 1904), pp. 205 - 212.
Iowa Department of Public Health; Des Moines, Iowa; Series Title: Iowa Marriage Records, 1880–1922. Ancestry.com.
Morton J. Elrod Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. University of Montana Biological Station: Flathead Lake, Notes on Protozoa of Flathead (A. Bray). Series V, Box 33, Folder 6.
Williams, R.S. "The Biological Station of the University of Montana." Science, vol. 13, no. 335 (1901), pp. 873 - 874.
93.2057, "Elrod on Wildhorse Island" 1911 Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. Archival Photographs from the University of Montana, Montana Memory Project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll27/id/3863
84.0216. "Morton John Elrod in the Mission Mountains", 1905, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. Archival Photographs from the University of Montana, Montana Memory Project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll27/id/53
84.0197. "Morton J. Elrod", 1940. Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. Archival Photographs from the University of Montana, Montana Memory Project, https://mtmemory.org/digital/collection/p16013coll27/id/3863