Dana H. and Mary Morse Family Letters, MSA

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1 Dana H. and Mary Morse Family Letters, MSA Introduction This collection consists of letters written to Dana H. Morse by his older brother, Charles Nelson, and younger sister, Ellen, between 1860 and Also included are letters written to his daughter, Mary Morse Mason, while she was living in Boston, 1903 to The letters were given to the Vermont Historical Society by Margaret Mason Dwinell in The collection is housed in three document storage boxes and occupies approximately 1.5 linear feet of shelf space. Biographical Notes Dana Holley Morse ( ) was the fourth child of Ira Morse ( ) and Loretta Jones Morse ( ). Although his parents had nine children, only three lived past infancy: Dana, his older brother Charles Nelson ( ), and his younger sister Ellen E. ( ). Dana Morse s parents, Ira and Loretta Morse were originally from Randolph and Bethel, Vermont, respectively, and owned a family farm in the area. In 1860, Dana Morse went to California, evidently as part of the gold rush, and remained there until his sister Ellen died at age eleven in The collection contains letters written to Dana Morse by his siblings in Vermont during this period. His brother, Charles N. Morse, was involved in running the family farm at the time. Before going west, Dana Morse had found work teaching school and writing for a local newspaper called The Echo. Later in life, he was very active in the Grange, acting as General Deputy of the Vermont State Grange. Dana and his wife, Emma, did a lot of travelling around Vermont while organizing local Granges and installing officers. Emma Morse helped by installing lady officers. Dana Morse also served as a representative in the state legislature and was on the Vermont Board of Agriculture. When he was in the legislature, Dana took a room in Montpelier, Vermont, and he and Emma often lived there during the week, though the sessions did not take up many months of the year. Dana Morse married Emma Thayer ( ), daughter of Ephraim Thayer ( ) and Abigail Spear Thayer ( ) in Randolph, Vermont on April 27, The couple had three children, Cassius Morse ( ), Belle Morse Vaughan ( ), and Mary Morse Mason ( ). Belle Morse married Arthur Vaughan and her sister, Mary, married Edward Howe Mason. In the early 1900s, Mary Morse moved to Boston where she attended secretarial before finding a job. Letters written to her by her mother, Emma Thayer Morse, date from Mary s time in Boston, ca

2 Dana and Mary Morse Family Letters 2 Scope and Content This collection consists of two series of letters written to Dana H. Morse. One set of letters was written to Dana Morse by his older brother, Charles, and younger sister, Ellen, between 1860 and 1863, describing local events back in Vermont to Dana who had gone west to California. Another set of letters to Dana was written by friends and other relatives. This set, dating from January through May, 1862 includes letters written after Dana s return to Vermont, and contains several letters written by two Civil War soldiers. The second series of letters in the collection were written to Dana Morse s daughter, Mary Morse Mason, by her mother, Emma Morse, while Mary was attending secretarial school in Boston, ca All the letters describe events in the Braintree, Bethel, Randolph, Royalton areas either in the 1860s or early 1900s. Once Dana Morse moved to California in 1860, he appears to have received regular letters from his siblings, Charles and Ellen Morse. Although his responses are not part of this collection, his siblings correspondence documents conditions in Vermont from 1860 to News of farm life, marriages, deaths, fires, hard times as wartime prices fell, and other local concerns characterize Charles and Ellen s letters. In general, Charles Morse discusses the weather, farm projects, the price of crops, the price of oxen and horses and other day-to-day realities in his letters to Dana. The letters from Charles and Ellen also reflect their impressions of Dana Morse s experiences and attitudes. Charles Morse consistently speaks well of Dana in his letters, referring to his goodness, judgment, and interest in history, as well as frequently consulting with him about financial matters. At one point, Charles Morse writes, I am glad to hear that you cling to the Old Stars and Stripes. I did not know I thought so much of them until they fell at Fort Sumter. No, by the God, I did not. Some of Charles Morse s other letters also express his opinions on the Civil War. On 4 December 1861, he writes about the need to punish the South and about the inabilities of the blacks. Later, he tells Dana of his fears that the arrest of Mason and Slidell will bring Britain into the war and that France will aid Britain. Ellen Morse begs Dana not to go to war. Ellen Morse s death of diphtheria in 1862 appears to have caused Dana Morse to return to Vermont. Charles Morse wrote Dana a letter on 19 May 1862 with the news of Ellen s death, which apparently devastated the brothers. Charles Morse also got diphtheria and became too weak to keep up with the farm work but wrote telling Dana not to return on his account. However, Dana Morse does return. Once he is back in Vermont, Dana receives a number more letters in 1862 and 1863 from friends in the war, including some from Camp Vermont (near Alexandria), Fairfax Station, Union Mills, and Manassas. He also gets letters from friends still in California. Others also wrote letters to Dana while he was out west. These were primarily written by cousins, friends, and some former classmates from West Randolph, Vermont, and comment on a variety of subjects from local events to war news to questions about the chances of making a good living in California.

3 Dana and Mary Morse Family Letters 3 The early letters to California were sent via Panama. One letter from 8 May 1861 speaks of Dana Morse s response coming by the overland route, as the Pony Express was in operation by that time, contains the comment, I hope you will not try that route again. Similarly, on 26 May 1861, another letter notes the arrival of a missive as one month from the time of writing and goes on to state, I see you get the war news very exact and much quicker by that little Pony Express than the Old Steamers can carry them. Letters written by Dana s siblings, Charles and Ellen, were transcribed by Margaret Dwinell in preparation for publication. A typescript of this transcription may be found in folder 5. There is also Morse family genealogical information as well as a number of articles Dana Morse wrote for a local paper known as The Echo in the collection. Some subjects of Dana s writing include his support of the temperance movement and capital punishment. He also writes about change as a good and necessary thing, the virtue in farm versus city living, keeping virtuous and his belief in there being no need to acquire more land in Canada or Cuba as that would mean war and unnecessary expenses given that U.S. lands are not crowded. Letters from Emma Morse (Dana Morse s wife) to their daughter Mary make up the rest of the collection and run from 1903 to 1905, when Mary was a student in Boston at Bryant and Stratton Commercial School. Later letters also date from after she has finished school and found employment in an office in Boston. The bulk of these letters discuss the weather, food and clothing as well as household chores such as ironing and washing. Emma Morse s letters to Mary also convey something of the nature and issues of farm life throughout the year. Topics include when crops are planted and harvested, problems getting and keeping hired hands, weather interfering with planting or harvesting, and saving labor by use of a hay fork (e.g. The hay fork has taken the place of several men. Great invention. ). Births, marriages, deaths, and local gossip are also reported in these letters. This was also the period when cars began to appear on the roads, and often scared the horses and oxen as some of Emma s comments suggest. For example, she writes, an auto came steaming down behind us. Well, I screamed and they stopped and we got out of the way. darn those things anyway. I wish they had no right in this state on one occasion. Other times cars are mentioned, always in the same light, include the following: on our way home we met two autos; Say, Papa saw an auto on the street last Sunday. I for one wish they had a street of their own like the railroad cars, then we would know where to find them; and There is not much pleasure in riding now that auto is around, and you never know when you are to meet them. Emma Morse s letters also questioned the high tuition for Mary, $50.40! Emma also worried about Mary taking a job in an office with one man present and a number of letters show worry about what her male employer might be like. She did not approve of

4 Dana and Mary Morse Family Letters 4 Mary having to work a full day on Saturday and Sunday and Sunday especially bothering her (She was a Christian Scientist). There are also a few notes from Dana to his daughter in the collection but most of these letters are from Emma. There are typed transcripts of the letters written to Mary by Emma Morse in the collection. The original of a few are missing, Nov. 1, 1903, Nov. 12, 1903, Jan. 22, 1904, Feb. 16, 1904, Apr. 7, 1904, Aug. 18, 1904, Aug. 21, 1904, Jan. 30, 1905, March 22, 1905, and April 7, 1905, and there are no transcripts for Jan. 22 and June 8, Related Materials Some of the letters written to Dana Morse by his brother and sister have been published and the book is available in the VHS Library: Letters to Dane November July 1862 written by Charles Nelson Morse and Ellen Morse, compiled and edited by James M. Dwinell, first printing October (Available in the VHS library at 920 M835L) Inventory I. Letters to Dana MSA 612:1 Morse family genealogy 2 Dana newspaper articles letters from Charles and Ellen letters from Charles and Ellen 5 Transcriptions of letters from Charles and Ellen, Other letters to Dana in California, Nov June Other letters to Dana in California, July 1861-Dec Other letters to Dana in California, Jan May Other letters to Dana in Vermont, Aug May Three Congressional speeches 11 Miscellaneous II :Letters to Mary MSA 613:1 Transcripts Letters to Mary Transcripts- Jan-Apr Letters to Mary Jan.-April Transcripts- May-July Letters to Mary May-July Transcripts- August-October Letters to Mary August-October 1904 MSA 614:1 Transcripts November-December Letters to Mary November-December 1904

5 Dana and Mary Morse Family Letters 5 3 Transcripts-January-February Letters to Mary-January-February Transcripts-March-April Letters to Mary-March-April Letters to Mary- undated or not transcribed 8 Other letters to Mary Ethan W. Bisbee September 2011 MorseDanaFamily.doc

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