Biography of Hosace Eli Morse


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HORACE ELI MORSE, who for more than forty years has been a successful practicing lawyer at Clayton, was born in that part of the town of Watertown commonly known as Dry Hill, on August 24, 1831. He was the son of Hiram and Adeline (Rogers) Morse and the eldest of their five children. His young life was spent on the farm, at work and attending district school until about fifteen years old, when he was given two terms in a select school and also several terms in the old Jefferson County Institute. In the mean time, and duringthe succeeding three years, Mr. Morse when not attending the institute, taught district school, and is remembered as a very successful teacher. When nineteen years old he began reading law under the direction of Clark & Calvin, of Watertown, spending only a few months in the office each year, and otherwise devoting himself to school teaching for a maintenance, for the aspiring young student was determined both to educate and support himself. In this laudable zeal his efforts were rewarded, and at the Oswego General Term of the Supreme Court in April, 1854, he was admitted to practice. He remained about six months in Clark & Calvin’s office, performing several important duties, and in November following, at the suggestion of Mr. Calvin, he went to Clayton to begin active practice.

When Mr. Morse arrived at the hotel in Clayton one of the justices of the peace of the town was holding an examination of a prisoner charged with arson, and he was immediately employed by the complainant to assist in conducting the prosecution. The prisoner was discharged for lack of evidence, but the occasion was fortunate for the young lawyer, and the friendly relation then established more than forty years ago has never been severed. Mr. Morse has been an ardent advocate of reforms and progressive measures that called for considerable expenditures of money, but which ultimately resulted in great and lasting benefit to the town and village. The greatest oppo. sition to these measures was on account of their expense, but the old love of a liberal education for the youth impelled Horace E. Morse to persist in his undertaking until the end sought by him and his associates was finally accomplished; and the superiority of the Clayton Academic School among the educational institutions of the county has been his and their reward.

In addition to his interest in matters pertaining to the schools, Mr. Morse has been an active factor in almost every enterprise having for its end the welfare of the town, both industrial and political. In 1855 he was elected town superintendent of schools and held the office until it was abolished by law. In the fall of 1869 he was elected school commissioner for the Third district of the county, and served three years. In 1884 and '85 he was supervisor of the town, and in February, 1887, he was appointed by President Cleveland to the office of collector of customs at the port of Cape Vincent, In this position he served four years, living for the time at the Cape, leaving his law matters in charge of his son, George E. Morse, also an attorney at Clayton.

In 1891 Mr. Morse returned to Clayton and resumed practice. He has always been a firm and consistent Democrat, and has taken an active interest in politics since the time he attained his majority. As an earnest party adherent, he has occasionally been drawn into candidacy for county offices where it was hoped personal and professional popularity might turn the scale of doubtful contest, for the principles he has advocated and upheld have always been those of the minority party in the county.

On April 8, 1858, Horace E. Morse married with Helen Eddy Estes, daughter of Aaron Eddy, of Clayton. Of this marriage seven children were born, but the destroyer has invaded the household and taken four of them away. The children now living are George E. Morse, a practicing lawyer at Clayton and deputy customs collector at that port; Horace W. Morse, cashier of the First National Bank of Clayton, and Florence Alice Morse, also of Clayton.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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