Biography of Thomas B. Morton
Merced County, CA Biographies





THOMAS B. MORTON
The birth of Thomas B. Morton occurred in Ireland on June 30, 1862, and as a babe in arms he was brought to this country, and reared and educated in Akron, Ohio. From May, 1876, to 1882, he was a cowboy in Montana, rode the range and saw many stirring scenes in those early days, and was a member of the Law and Order League. Some of the old brands he worked under were Circle S, 7 Bar 7, T C P, and S & K. C. M. Russell, then known as "Kid Russell," now a resident of Pasadena, the famous painter of western scenes, wild cattle and horses and cowboys, was his partner and friend in his cowboy days in Montana. One of the first pictures he made was while he was a member of the S & K outfit, when he cut a piece of canvas from a tent and with charcoal drew a picture of cowboy life. This was sent to the S & K outfit and later used as a brand.

Mr. Morton recalls the hanging of a number of cattle thieves; the last to be strung up was Con Murphy, who was hanged near Helena, Montana. When he was a cowboy he wore his hair long and curly, the fashion those days for the men of the plains. Later, he was teaming and freighting to and from Helena from 1884 to 1891. In 1892 he came to San Francisco and worked for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, digging ditches at $1.75 for a day of twelve hours. In 1896 he went to Chicago and worked on a drainage canal. Returning to the Pacific Coast in 1897, he became superintendent of construction for the Great Northern Railway in Washington, in the building and excavating of the Cascade tunnel, which took three years to complete. The tunnel was three miles and 1785 feet long, the longest tunnel in the world at that time. One thousand men were employed at each end, and all records were broken in its construction. In 1900 he went to San Francisco and entered the employ of the California Construction Co., general contractors. He worked for them in various places, at tunnel construction in Kern County, in San Diego, and in Honolulu, deepening the harbor and building government coal docks.

Coming to Los Banos in 1907, Mr. Morton took up the automobile industry. The only car he owned before coming to Los Banos was a 1903 Reo. In 1912 he engaged in the garage business when there were only two autos in Los Banos. He sold the first Ford car on the West Side of the valley and had the only auto agency from Tracy to Fresno. He has sold the Reo, Studebaker and Haynes cars, and now has the agency of the Oakland. The first auto repair shop in the valley was under a spreading pine tree on the Pacheco Pass road, and was operated by Mace Roberts and Bill Knight; and with the aid of the subject of this sketch many a disabled car was repaired on that spot.

In 1911, Thomas B. Morton was married to Minnie Cavala, born on her father's ranch in Badger Flat, Merced County. Her father was a native of Italy and came to California in the early days. The old Cavala home ranch is still in the possession of the family. Mr. Morton is a member of Mountain Brow Lodge of Odd Fellows of Los Banos.

From:
History of Merced County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by John Outcalt
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1925


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