Names Index
Portrait Index

  HON. GARDNER MORSE was born in the town of Eaton, March 26, 1826. His father and grandfather were natives of Massachusetts. The Morse family are of English origin, the earliest record of them dating to 1635, when three brothers of that name came to America; and in April of that year one of them, Samuel Morse, settled in Massachusetts, near the Charles River. He was the ancestor of our subject's family. About 1796 the grandfather of Gardner, Jo seph Morse, came to Madison County, New York, his brother Benjamin having preceded him the year before, There were three brothers--Benjamin, Hezekiah, and Joseph --who cut their way through the wilderness, encountering innumerable dangers, but finally reached the vicinity of the town of Eaton in Madison County, where they took up farms. Joseph settled on a place near Hamilton known as the Burchard farm, and erected the first frame house, and also put up the first mill, this being in the year 1800. The brothers lived to be quite aged, with the exception of Joseph, who died at the age of fifty-four years. His wife was Eunice Bigelow, whom he married in 1788 at Templeton, Mass. Their family consisted of eight children--Ellis, Eunice, Joseph, Lucy, Sophia, Calvin, Bigelow, and Alpheus. All reached maturity, but are now deceased. Alpheus Morse, the youngest son, was a man of much enterprise, and was for many years an extensive dealer in cattle and wool, and later a manufacturer of woollen goods. He was foremost in promoting all enterprises for the public good. Late in life he was unfortunate, and lost all his property. He spent his last years with a daughter in Homer. Joseph Morse and his wife were devoted members of the Presbyterian church, living up to its teachings, and taking their greatest comfort in reading the Scripture; for in those days of early pioneer life it was difficult and well-nigh impossible for a minister to penetrate into the forests.
  Ellis Morse, the father of our subject, was but six years old when he came to the town of Eaton; and here he grew up and was educated. The first school-house in the town was located where the cemetery now stands; and the second one was built on the Hamilton road, farther east. One of his intimate friends and schoolmates was Charles Finney. The teacher was Dr. James Pratt; and the studies were spelling, arithmetic, and the Bible. Wild turkeys and game of all kinds abounded, and the young men were expert hunters. The Oneida Indians were numerous in those days, visiting amicably in the village, and often sleeping around the Morse fireside. In these primitive homes all contributed their share in the work of the farm; and the mother, besides the household drudgery, had to spin and weave the homespun that clothed the family. Ellis Morse was a general farmer, an extensive cattle-dealer, and an active man in his neighborhood, being engaged in many pursuits. The turnpike road from Hamilton to Skaneateles was built by him; and he also conducted the largest distillery at Eaton, which he started about the year 1825, and continued until 1857. The capacity of this still was at first six bushels a day, but was soon increased to three hundred and fifty bushels. At his death he owned one thousand acres of land. He was twice married, first to Miss Lora Ayer, who was born in Connecticut, July 2, 1792, and who died at the age of thirty-nine. His second wife was Miss Adaline Bagg, who was born in September, 1808.
  Ellis Morse died in 1869, at the age of eighty years. His family consisted of eleven children, namely: George E., born in 1820; Jane M., born in 1823; Jenette, born in 1824, and died in 1852; Gardner, our subject, born in 1825; Martha, born in 1828, and died in 1890; Andrew, born in 1830; Adaline, in 1834; Walter, in 1835; Henry B., born in 1836, and died in 1874; Alfred A., born in 1839, died November 24, 1864, on the battlefield of Cedar Creek; and Hartwell, who was born in 1843. Seven of these are living. George, the eldest, was educated in the district school and took an academical course. He engaged in farming at the age of twenty-one years, and now owns three hundred and sixty acres of land and a dairy of forty-five cows. In 1841 he married Miss Belinda Fitch, who was born in the town of Eaton in 1820, and died in 1879. To them was born one son, George Percy, in 1857. George Morse has been an active member (and is now President) of the Board of Trustees of the cemetery at Eaton. He is a Republican in politics, and has been Supervisor for four years. He is a member of the Baptist church.
  Two of the brothers of Hon. Gardner Morse, Henry B. and Alfred A., distinguished themselves in the Civil War. Henry was Captain of Company D, One Hundred and Fourteenth New York Volunteer Infantry, and was brevetted Major-General. He enlisted in 1862, and, although badly wounded in two engagements, remained on duty until the end of the war. When peace was declared, he went to Syracuse, N.Y., and entered the office of Messrs. Pratt & Mitchell, where he studied law, going from there to Arkansas. He was Probate Judge of Pulaski County, and later Circuit Judge. He was also Associate Justice on the Supreme Bench of the State. Alfred was also a member of Company D, of the One Hundred and Fourteenth New York Volunteer Infantry, enlisting in 1863. He was at the time a theological student in Hamilton College, New York, but at his country's call shouldered his musket, and gave up his life on the bloody field of Cedar Creek, aged only twenty-four years.
  Hon. Gardner Morse was reared in the town and village of Eaton, and finished his education at the academy here. He engaged in business with his father, both in the distillery and dealing in cattle, they working together until the latter's death, in 1869, when the property was divided. He then settled on the farm which he now owns, building on it a saw and grist mill. In 1852 he married Caroline L. Putnam, who was born in Oneida County in 1830, daughter of Daniel and Clarinda Putnam. Mr. Morse was one of the leading spirits in the building of the Midland Railroad. He has taken an active part in the politics of Madison County. He served as Member of Assembly in the year 1866, for four years was Justice of the Peace, is Railroad Commissioner for the town of Eaton, was District Clerk for twenty-seven years continuously, and in 1885 was elected County Treasurer. He has uniformly supported the Republican party, and has represented its principles faithfully in the many offices he has filled. He is a gentleman of culture and intelligence, being especially well informed, and a competent authority on the history of his county. He is an enterprising citizen, having done much toward the prosperity of his town; and his friends and citizens earnestly hope he will be spared to them for many more years of usefulness.

1999- All rights reserved.