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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Eldridge Morse, editor of The Northern Star
newspaper of Snohomish

(Snohomish picnic, 1880s)
Courtesy of the Seattle P-I. Caption: "This picnic photograph was taken by G.D. Horton, a well-known Seattle photographer who traveled the area in a wooden boat equipped with a small cabin and darkroom. His wife is seated in the left corner. The date is in dispute, but it is thought to have been taken in 1885 or around 1890 near the banks of the Snohomish River. The man in the right corner with the goatee is Lot Wilbur, a Snohomish druggist. Directly behind him is Eldridge Morse, a lawyer, historian and newspaper publisher who traveled the area and learned a number of Indian languages."

Born April 14, 1847, in Wallingford, Connecticut
Died on Jan. 6, 1914, in Snohomish.

      Ed. note: This story about Eldridge Morse Jr. of Snohomish City is the result of both serendipity and the generosity of other professionals and descendants that have the been hallmarks of our research project for the past 13 years. In order to understand the frontier experience of the pioneers who settled Skagit valley, we need to know about the earliest pioneers who carved homes and villages out of the dense forest that blanketed the hundreds of miles around Puget sound and Washington's river systems. Morse is one of the most important of that small group of early pioneers because he was both a yeoman farmer and an intellectual who recorded his experiences and disseminated his writings widely. We started this section two years ago with the material that was most accessible outside of his journals, which are at the Bancroft Library in California. We are always pleasantly surprised when a descendant of a family reads our stories and responds. We were especially pleased when Morse's great-great-granddaughter, Ms. Hathaway, wrote us and sent us copies of several key documents. We are also in debt to Margaret Riddle of the Northwest Room of the Everett Public Library, who directed us to the microfilm there of Morse's short-lived The Northern Star newspaper along with the wonderful stories written over the past 25 years by historian David Dilgard. And then she directed us to the Blackman Museum in Snohomish, which is a treasure trove for information. There we met Ann Tuohy and it is because of her generosity that we are overhauling this story for the second time and splitting it into three parts with more to follow. This first part is a biography of Morse. We have fleshed out our original version with quotations from Morse's autobiography that he wrote at age 45 in 1892. Ann mailed us a copy of it and when we opened the envelope, it was like Christmas all over again. Thank you all for your assistance and we hope that others will share any copies of any documents or photos that they may have.

Eldridge Morse, editor of the The Northern Star
newspaper of Snohomish
By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2003
      Eldridge Morse Jr. was a Jeffersonian democrat that old Tom would have loved to meet. When he arrived at old Snohomish City in 1872, he was probably the best educated of the men living there. He learned many of the natural sciences while in the corps of engineers for the U.S. Army, then obtained an education in law and read voraciously from the time he was a child. His training and self discipline would serve him and us well as he traveled widely in Washington territory and recorded his experiences and empirical data longhand in notebooks and then disseminated the information to both readers of his own newspapers and other papers and books in the territory and officials in the federal government.
      Morse was born on April 14, 1847, in the town of Wallingford, New Haven county, Connecticut. His great-great-grandfather, John Moss, was born in England in 1604, emigrated to the U.S. in about 1636. He died in the village in 1707 at age 103. The family originated in France where, in the early ninth century, Sir Hugo De Mors served as a famous knight for Emperor Charlemagne in his war in Spain against the Saracens, the pre-Islamic nomads who were threatening to take over much of southern Europe. The image of De Mors, or "of death," derived from a shield, which was painted with his honorary coat of arms, "a raw head and bloody bone s, surrounded by a chaplet of flowers." The empress awarded Hugo for his prowess in battle and also provided a Latin motto that claimed he was as sweet as the flowers to his friends but as terrible as death to his enemies. A descendant was a Norman baron who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. Over the centuries the name evolved into Moss as the family settled at Wallingford on the river Thames. John Moss was a member of a Puritan company that emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1636. As a member of the New Haven Company of Theophilus Eaton and Rev. John Davenport, he settled in New Haven when Connecticut broke away from Massachusetts in 1639. Morse, who became a friend and chronicler of Northwest Indians, recalls the ironic early experience of the Moss family in the colonies:

      His son, Joseph Moss, was the first to break down the stockade and set fire to the central stronghold of the Narrangansett Indians in the struggle which destroyed them forever as a tribe. From that time to the revolution the Moss family were farmers, soldiers or magistrates, as occasion might require. Branches of [the] family settled in other portions of Connecticut. Great numbers settled in Vermont just prior to the American revolution. Like the rest of the Moss family, the early Green mountain pioneers were celebrated for "loud talking." When they were felling timber and clearing off the mountainsides, the Indians attributed supernatural powers to them, because they would "throw their voices" so as to talk with each other from one to two miles away. Samuel F.B. Morse, of telegraph fame, is a distant relative of the writer, representing a branch of the Wallingford, Mass., family. With the opening of the nineteenth century, for some reason unknown to the writer, the Moss family almost universally changed their name from Moss to Morse.
      We note here that Bob Moss of the Morse Family Society disputes that relationship with Samuel. From our own research, we have found no connection with between the two families. Bob Moss's family tree also shows that Joseph was not John Moss's son, but was instead his nephew. Morse claimed that the original John Moss was the judge of the Wallingford, Connecticut, district for more than 60 years, administering the old Connecticut "blue laws." John Moss may well have been judge for part or all of the time but the original book of the History of Wallingford does not record it. Bob Moss's research indicates that John Moss was a "deputy in the General Court of New Haven Colony" and then in Hartford, starting in 1664 until after the turn of the century. Eldridge was certainly correct that John Moss died in Wallingford in 1707, which was recorded in the same book and is backed up by the family tree. In fact, the book document that shows John as one of the original signatories on the 1669 deed to the plantation of the ancient town of Wallingford, on the banks of the Quinnipiac river, 14 miles from New Haven. He was a town father and the 37th member of the First Church of Christ, which did not take kindly to "Quakers, Ranters, or such like," who were to be committed to prison, or sent out of the colony. No individual could "unnecessarily entertain or speak more or less with them," on penalty of five pounds. The town company of Wallingford made a profit from the start, shipping pipe staves and other goods to the West Indies and various markets, and John became one of the landed gentry.
      Morse's paternal grandfather spelled his name Benajah Moss. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he was the youngest boy at 16, and when all his elder brothers volunteered for the Continental Army, it was Benajah's responsibility to stay home and manage the old family farm near Wallingford that had been handed down through the generations. As was the custom of the time in landed families, he hired a substitute to fight in his place and paid him a monthly stipend throughout the seven years of war. When the proxy soldier came home lame from the war, Benajah provided for the man for the rest of his life. His character was often praised as he kept a stopover place for travelers from New York to Boston and he became a captain of the local uniformed militia cavalry. He married Abigail Charles in 1637 and they had two girls and eleven sons. He outfitted seven of the sons and provided horses and sabers for them so that all eight members of the family could regularly ride and drill with the troops. Bob Moss's family tree shows that some children kept the Moss name and others took the Morse spelling
      Captain Moss died before Eldridge Jr. was born but his example was not lost on young Eldridge Jr. Eldridge Morse Sr. was the youngest of the ten boys who survived to adulthood. The elder Eldridge was the youngest of the ten boys who survived to adulthood. One boy died in a haying accident and many of the older brothers scattered to the winds. Tragedy struck the family when one of the brothers went to the west Indies on a trading expedition and returned with yellow fever and it was passed on disastrously from one brother to another. After six weeks, six of the brothers were dead. The oldest surviving brother was named Elkanah and he moved to Mahoning county, Ohio — then the frontier, where he became a very successful owner of a largest corn-broom factory and Morse writes that he was nominated to be governor of the state. Elkanah, who was 30 years older than Eldridge Morse Sr., set off overland for California in 1852 by wagon. He was soon felled by cholera, a common killer in those wagon trains and was buried near Fort Laramie. Twenty years before that, Eldridge Sr. moved to Ohio to sell brooms for Elkanah and covered a 500-mile region by horseback along with boarding the first steamboat that ever went to the headwaters of the Yellowstone. Eldridge Sr.'s had a final grand adventure during the early 1830s, when he and his cousin Kirtland hired Indians to help them float two large scows full of groceries, provisions and 3,000 barrels of whiskey down the Ohio river and up the Mississippi to what was then the outpost town of St. Louis, Missouri. Eldridge Jr. recalls the story handed down to him:

      When near the mouth of Iowa river a fierce storm arose, the water rushed into their boats, so that by running ashore the boats rested on the bottom in shoal water as the water filled them full. They ran planks and were preparing to unload and bail out their boats, when they heard an Indian warwhoop, then another and another. Soon they were surrounded with all the Sac and Fox Indians. Black Hawk had been taken prisoner, these Indians driven across the river, and the war was about over. Keokuk was their leader. There were several thousand warriors, and these two white men and four half-breeds were really their prisoners, with 3,000 barrels of whiskey. They must act quickly. Stepping up to Keokuk, they told their story and proposed to exchange whiskey for furs, a small amount each day, until their stock should be exhausted. Pleased at their cool boldness, terms were agreed on. For six weeks they were among these Indians. Each night a war dance was held in their honor, and enough extra whiskey donated to make things pleasant. Runners to Rock Island brought down solders and a small steamer. After many dangers, [my father and cousin] got away with a year's supply of Indian furs in exchange for their whiskey. At Rock Island they were offered $25,000, [but] expecting to realize three times that sum at Galena, they went forward. When nearly there, a sudden storm swamped both scows in very deep water, in midchannel. They saved less than $100 worth of fur.
      Eldridge Sr. then helped survey the townsite of Dubuque, Iowa, and drifted over to the galena mines at the town of the same name in Illinois. From there, he traveled alone and afoot with only a bag of corn for food, until he reached Green Bay. With his brother's Elkanah's help, he gained passage to Detroit, from where he had left a year before. Settling down for the first time, he established a warehouse and commission-merchant business and courted Angeline A. Smith, from the Lake Champlain area of New York. He married her in 1835 and they had two girls while living there. Doubtless, his son's stories are shrouded in legend and myth, but they illustrate the hardy nature of the family and their determined nature. Writer Richard S. Wheeler made Elkanah a hero in his book, Skye's West. The family stories are also studded with the stories of Eldridge Sr.'s prowess at wrestling. He and his older twin brothers were said to have taken on all comers in the Lakes area and were rarely felled, often using their matches to attract customers. Shortly after Democrat Martin Van Buren was inaugurated president in 1837, the first major national financial panic set in and the warehouse business failed. The resulting depression lasted for three years and Eldridge Sr. decided to return to the old family farm in Connecticut to raise his family.
      Captain Benajah Morse had died and Eldridge Sr. was willed the main house along with 70 acres. While farming the estate, he also began experimenting with the manufacture of Britannia ware and silver-plated goods, the industry that soon dominated local business. Although he did not share in the resulting fortune, the Meriden Britannia company and Rogers Bros. soon excelled in the area and the Hall-Elton silver-plate factory in Wallingford manufactured their product in a factory built by Eldridge Sr. By the time that Eldridge Jr. was born in 18427, his father had gone into the nursery and fruit business, so we can see how the son came by his botanical knowledge. Eldridge Jr. was the sixth child of Eldridge Angeline. His father was an avid reader, largely self taught, and he made sure that his son received a good basic education while also working on their fruit and vegetable farm, which prepared him for his lifelong agricultural pursuits. The family had all been Jeffersonian Democrats in politics, but Eldridge Sr. was a Henry Clay Whig and was an active supporter of William Henry Harrison in the "log cabin and hard cider campaign of 1840." As Eldridge Jr. recalls, "In 1860, he and five other grey-haired, bald-headed old men formed arm in arm and marched up to the polls and put in their ballots for Bell and Everett, the sole survivors of the old Whig party of Wallingford." But of course, by then, Abraham Lincoln, had led most of the old Whigs into the new Republican party.

The civil war starts Eldridge Morse Jr. on his permanent move West
      Eldridge Jr. did not share the physical stature and wrestling prowess of his father and uncles. He described himself as being 5 feet, seven inches tall and weighing 165 pounds, the smallest of the boys in the family. His two older brothers enlisted in the Union Army for the Civil War and Eldridge, wishing for travel, was determined to follow them. In 1863 his brother Elk, for Elkanah, advised him to enlist in the U.S. regular engineer troops if he was determined to enlist. Elk served for four years in a Special Forces-type unit of the 7th Connecticut volunteers who were armed with Spencer breech-loading repeating rifles. After his brother came home for a brief furlough, Eldridge followed Elk and enlisted in New York City for a three-year hitch at age 17. He mustered on Bedloe's island, New York, (now home of the Statue of Liberty) on April 6, 1865, and then drilled at Arlington Heights "while Grant and Sherman's armies were being reviewed, paid off and discharged." His obituary states that he was present at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union, but this seems doubtful, especially since he does not mention it in his 1892 memories.
      His company D of the 10th U.S. Engineers Battalion had a famous history. They were recruited in 1846 at the beginning of the Mexican War by then Second Lieutenant George B. McClellan, who reported to then Capt. Robert E. Lee and later commanded them himself. It was a unit that was both a cut above the regular army in their intelligence and engineer training, but was also expected to be a model of drill and discipline for cadets and regular army enlistees whom they trained. Before the Civil War, they fought in the Mormon War and some of them were assigned to Steilacoom on Puget Sound, just as McClellan was assigned here as a captain in 1855 to explore future railroad routes. Morse recalled the role of the unit in helping make Lincoln's first inauguration possible. Rebel conspirators had arranged to seize the capital and prevent the official count of electoral ballots in 1861, with the plan of holding Washington City hostage until Maryland and Virginia would rise and capture the city for Confederate forces. To thwart this plan, the company of 150 specially-trained engineers was ordered from West Point to the capitol just before Christmas 1860. The engineers drilled the federal forces in the city under the command of Col. Charles Pomeroy Stone, thwarted the conspirators and, with the help of the Massachusetts militia, held off all the rebel attacks. Stone went on capture Alexandria, Virginia, in April that year, and then came under suspicion of treason after the Ball's Bluff fiasco in October. Although some of his fellow officers wanted him for their commands, he was never trusted again and mustered out in 1864, eventually becoming chief of the general staff of the Khedive of Egypt and then a pasha. When he finally returned to the U.S., he became the chief engineer for the Statue of Liberty.

Early Washington territory connections
      Before Eldridge enlisted, Connecticut Senator and Capt. Joseph Hawley commanded a unit that contained Eldridge's brother Elkanah and at least two future important Washington state pioneers. Eldridge's rambling writing style in his memoir. He wrote that one of his sisters married J.B. Northrop and then he wrote about Washington pioneer James Northup in the same paragraph and mangled both the spelling of his name as Northrup and his relationship to the story. Those were two different men. Morse wrote that James Northup was the famed early Seattle journalist. [Robley] James Northup was actually born in 1871, the son of Benson Leonidas Northup, who was the soldier who served with Elkanah Morse and became the famed journalist.
      After the war, Benson Leonidas Northup became a newspaper publisher in Sioux City, Iowa. He then moved to South Dakota and in 1870 he married Florell Eleanor Curtis, whose brothers, Will and Frank, would become homesteaders on the eastern shore of Lake Washington across from Seattle. In 1875, Benson moved to Seattle to work as a printer and, like many others, rowed across Lake Washington and staked a claim on the eastern shore. A highway there is named for his family. In the 20th century, his name was long misspelled as Northup and Eldridge Morse also misspells it in his memoir. Mary Ellen Piro, a researcher at the Eastside Heritage Center, helped us clear this all up. The center resulted from a merger of the Bellevue Historical Society and the Marymoor Museum of Eastside History in 2001. She explains that the Northup family lived near the tip of Yarrow Bay (also called Northup's Bay); they had a boat landing called Northup Landing and a small community known as Northup sprang up at the tip of the bay. Mary Ellen also noted that Benson L. Northup was the publisher of Seattle's first city directory in 1876. That led us to the Northup family website. That site helped us sort out the facts altogether. When Benson first arrived in Seattle, he worked as a printer for David Higgins, publisher of the Intelligencer newspaper. A year later, he leased the printing department and published the directory. In October 1878, Benson and Kirk C. Ward, the compiler of the directory information, started a Seattle daily paper, the Post. Benson sold out his interest to Ward, and then Ward merged the Post with Higgins's Intelligencer to become the Post-Intelligencer that we know today. Benson went on to become an early Seattle city councilman and to teach in north Seattle, where he became the vice-principal at the Denny School. After that, Benson went into the nursery business, which was felled by the 1893 Depression, and then moved to the Clearwater river area on the Olympic Peninsula. How ironic, Mary Ellen notes, that someone whose livelihood depended on facts and accuracy should have in death (in 1926), his own name misspelled. The original error happened in the 1930's when a county road engineer misspelled the name of the family whom the county was honoring with the highway, and two generations of the family fought for more than 35 years before the highway name was finally corrected in 1972 or 1973. Other authors keep attributing the homestead and highway honor to Benson's son James (Benson's father was also named James) but we can just chip away at errors one at a time.
      The other key Washington pioneer was Thomas T Minor, who was a hospital steward for the regiment. He rose quickly in the ranks to become a Captain, completed his medical studies and became a doctor and in 1868 he was assigned to Port Townsend. There he met Dr. George Calhoun and became a partner in Calhoun's hospital there, buying it out from Calhoun in 1870. Minor drowned on a duck-hunting trip near Whidbey island in December 1869 along with G. Morris Haller. Morris Haller was the son of the famous Gen. Granville Haller, who formerly commanded Fort Townsend and was a town father of Edison, and Morris founded Haller City, which was an early competing city with Arlington, north of Snohomish on the Stillaguamish river. These connections never seem to cease in our research. Minor moved to Washington Territory before Morse, and possibly influenced his move.

Off to California via the Isthmus of Panama
      Another person who could have influenced Morse's eventual move to Washington territory was his best friend among the recruits, J.S. Brown, who became one of the first legislators in the state of Washington from his base in Spokane. Brown will be featured in Chapter Two of this story, but we are unsure of his influence because they did not meet again, face to face, between 1868-1910. After two years posting at the fort of Willet's Point, New York, Morse and Brown and the rest of Co. D. was assigned in September 1867 to Fort Point at the Golden Gate of San Francisco. They traveled by boat via the isthmus of Panama. In Morse's 1892 memoir, he describes in detail the crossing of the isthmus. He was able to study the lay of the land because he was assigned to carry the binoculars and gear of the unit commander, Col. S.M. Mansfield, whose father was killed in battle while commanding the U.S. XII Corps at Antietam. Morse describes how the troops traveled with 800 other passengers via railroad, 17 miles by wagon and then across Lake Nicaragua on a sidewheel steamer. They enjoyed a bonanza of fruit from natives near the landings. Since they were crossing at the end of the dry season, the San Juan river, which formed the outlet to the lake, was very low; he describes the depth being about that of the Skagit river. They had to get out six times and walk around rapids, and then traveled the final 20 miles by scow.
      Back at Willet's Point, Morse had been assigned to the library at the post and his early ambition formed to qualify himself in science, especially geology, mineralogy and chemistry, so he could acquit himself as an explorer and scientific writer. When he arrived at Fort Point, the engineer officers — many of whom stood highest in their classes at West Point, quickly sized up Morse's abilities and assisted him both with his books and studies when he was assigned to the post on Yerba Buena island in San Francisco Bay. He was also given the chance to take odd jobs in his spare time, so when he was ready to muster out in April 1868, he had a total of $1,500, including a bounty given near the close of the war. At this point, he was torn between several alternatives. He could reenlist for three years and, with his savings from both terms, could pay for a thorough college training in the classics and science. Or he could go east to Virginia City, Nevada, when miners could reap high wages. But he decided instead to heed his mother's earnest request that he return home by the Panama route and help her while both she and his father were in an invalid state.

Family rift leads Morse back home, then to Iowa and practicing law
      Nothing prepared him for the shock and disappointment he would feel when he returned home.
      The old place, which had never been out of the Morse family since 1638 had been sold only three days before. My people wished me to stop and prepare for Yale College, but I felt fooled and stayed at home only for a few days.
That was the last time he would ever see the original home of John Moss. We have found no record that he ever returned, even when his father died in 1870. His mother was a widow for more than two decades. He soon moved to Albia, Iowa, to join his elder, unnamed sister. We discovered that she was married to John W.H. Griffin, a bank cashier and clerk to the district court of Monroe county. Morse said that he soon became a book agent, school teacher and law student in Albia. He paid particular attention to one of his students, Martha A. "Mollie" Turner. He was admitted to the bar at Albia in April 1869 and began to practice law.
      In the fall of 1870, he entered the senior class of the law school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, along with some other significant students. John B. Allen, who would later be a U.S. Senator from Washington state, quit before graduation and moved to Olympia where he practiced law. Judge Thomas Burke, who would become one of the city fathers of Seattle, and a key figure in both the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern railroads, enrolled soon after Morse did. The money Morse earned during his army service equipped him well and he returned to Albia and set up a practice of his own. Meanwhile, Miss Turner graduated from school and they married in Albia on April 26, 1871. Their first child, Edward Coke Morse was born a year later on April 1, 1872.

Back to the West Coast: Snohomish, Washington Territory, 1872
By some he was considered an impractical dreamer, yet if he had possessed the financial means to carry out the plans he formulated when the Star was established, in my humble opinion he would later have been generally recognized as one of the state's greatest and best men, and Snohomish would have been one of the great educational and scientific centers of the West. —Clayton H. Packard, 1914

      In the summer of 1872 he decided to move West again, taking his wife and baby by Union Pacific and Central Pacific train to San Francisco on September 1. He said that he arrived on the West Coast during the excitement of the second murder trial of Laura D. Fair, so that places him in The City sometime between Sept. 9-30. Fair was a cause celebre of suffragists. She had been married three times and was a widow of the third when she and her mother opened a boarding house in Virginia City. There she met and was wooed by Attorney Alexander P. L. Crittenden, who represented himself as being single. He moved to San Francisco in 1866 and became one of the most influential members of the bar and a noted politician. On Nov. 3, 1870, he and his family were returning across the bay from Oakland on the steamboat El Capitan when Ms. Fair stalked him and shot him mortally in front of his wife and family. Her trial in 1871 ended in a guilty verdict and a sentence for her to be hanged, the first woman such sentenced in the state. While Morse boarded there, her second trial ended in an acquittal on the grounds of insanity after her defense team constructed an argument about her "female malady," i.e., that she suffered maniacal attacks due to delayed menstruation during the year before the killing. During the Victorian era mental illness in women was often linked to the menstrual cycle. Morse noted that, after her acquittal, she and her mother stayed at the same hotel where he was staying.
      The Morse family then boarded the bark Tidal Wave, for the final leg of their trip to Port Madison, then a thriving timber mill city near Winslow on Bainbridge island. Eldridge crossed the Sound on the steamer Ruby to Seattle, where they lived for a few months and where he met the early Snohomish county pioneer E.C. Ferguson. Ferguson urged Morse to settle at Snohomish City, 30 miles north on the river of the same name, where there was a logging camp and a frontier trading post. Originally called Cadyville, the little village attracted Emory C. Ferguson in March 1860. He built a cottage on the river bank, just east of what is now Avenue A, and then opened the famous Blue Eagle Saloon in November 1864. He proved up on his homestead in February 1871 and then filed the plat for Snohomish City the following June. Only three families lived there by the time the Morses arrived, but Mollie fit in right away after Eldridge moved her and the baby to the village on Oct. 26, 1872. After filing a homestead claim on a farm later known as the McLaughlin place, Morse notes that he soon launched into farming, gardening, organizing various literary and public societies and work connected with the various county offices, but he does not specifically mention practicing law. At that time, 20 years before the birth of the town of Everett, Snohomish county was still very much the frontier and a great forest wilderness enveloped the young city.
      Morse's first major contribution to regional history occurred on Jan. 15, 1876, when he launched a newspaper that he called the The Northern Star, the first newspaper in Snohomish county. Although almost all sources refer to the paper as Northern Star, Morse purposely appended "the" as part of the title on the masthead. Produced just a few yards away from a dense forest, the Star filled eight pages every week with reports of villages throughout the Northwest as well as Snohomish county, focusing on the Nooksack, Skagit, Snohomish and Stillaguamish river valleys. He often toured Skagit county, interviewing everyone from city officials to loggers and farmers and offering his serial stories to local newspapers besides printing them in his own paper. Many of his detailed reports were included in the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties. But those first months of the paper were also sad; Mollie died on March 10, 1876. In her obituary the next day, Eldridge noted that his wife was born in Ohio on Dec. 1, 1851, which made her 19 when they married. While still a toddler, she was moved with her family to Wapello county, Iowa, in 1854, and they moved again in 1861 to Monroe county, where her parents still lived at the time of her death. He recalled that they first met in 1868 when she was in one of his classes. Starting in the summer of 1869, while Morse applied himself to law, Mollie also began teaching, noted for her knowledge of history, poetry and the sciences, and she attended Burlington High School in Iowa for advanced studies in history and natural sciences. So we can see how she was the ideal companion and collaborator for Morse in his own endeavors. In the obituary Morse explains that soon after they arrived, she fell ill to an unmentioned disease that sapped her strength entirely. Doctors could not cure her and she was largely bedridden for the last two to three years of her life. You can read the heartbreaking obituary in Chapter Two of our story. One line of the story is especially intriguing. "Her little boy, to whom she was fondly attached, she consigned to her husband and sister's care. We have never seen her sister's name mentioned but Ann Tuohy discovered that she was Mary E. Turner, who married Hiram York, another Snohomish County pioneer.

Morse and Folsom introduce culture in the forest
(Folsom tombstone)
In 2001, Company C, 4th United States Regular Infantry of the Washington Civil War Association reenactors re-sat Dr. A.C. Folsom's headstone in the GAR Cemetery at Snohomish in a special ceremony. See their website about their annual Honor Their Memory program.

      One of those doctors who cared for Mollie was Dr. A.C. Folsom. Folsom arrived in Snohomish a month after Morse set up shop and he often doctored the pioneers gratis. During Morse's tours around the Puget sound in the first few months, Folsom held down the fort at the newspaper and also served as a mentor to the young editor. In the spring of 1876, Folsom wrote in the Star that he was leaving the paper and returning to his profession, but a year later, he was back on the masthead as associate editor. Folsom was a nephew of Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, a U.S. senator, Secretary of the Treasury for Lincoln and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Folsom was also related to Captain Joseph L. Folsom, who designed the Presidio of San Francisco before the Gold Rush and went on to make a killing in California investments. The doctor's academic pedigree was even more impressive than Morse's, having been schooled at Philips-Exeter Academy and then at Harvard, where he received his medical degree and studied with both scientists and naturalists.
      Folsom was older and had traveled and worked in many areas of the country. He served as an Army surgeon with Robert E. Lee in New Orleans at the end of the Mexican-American War and afterwards in California and Arizona. After eight years, he resigned his commission and returned to Harvard for graduate studies, earning the highest degree, diploma ad eundem, there after immersing himself in three advanced lines of study. After that, he traveled in Europe and returned to California, where he worked for the new U.S. Secret Service, sailing to Panama. We have not yet found a story about why he gave up a very promising career and moved out the very corner of his world, but it must be a fascinating tale.
      Folsom and Morse formed quite a team in the frontier town, sharing their cultural experience as settlers began clearing the forest around them. Well educated in the liberal arts, Morse helped form the Snohomish Atheneum [sometimes always spelled Athenaeum] in 1876, the first literary and scientific society in the Northwest outside of Seattle, along with a museum in the same building at Avenue D and First street. Morse explained the society's mission in the June 10, 1876, issue of The Northern Star, four days after the cornerstone was laid. That date counters some sources that dated the Athaneum to 1873 but perhaps the society predated the building itself. Mollie's obituary notes that the Atheneum was one of the few activities she was able to enjoy during her invalid period. Folsom was Morse's partner in the Atheneum along with pioneers Emory C. Ferguson and W.H. Ward. Morse also helped organize the Snohomish County Agricultural Society two years later. Morse raised thousands of dollars for public purposes during those tough times and by the late 1870s, the museum and the scientific library of the Atheneum were considered the best in the territory. Both institutions failed during the Depression of the mid-1870s, which Morse said cut the "public spirit" of the town. Herbert Hunt and Floyd C. Kaylor outline Morse's initial agricultural work in their 1917 history, Washington West of the Cascades:

      The Snohomish County Agricultural Society and its first fair, in 1875, owed their existence largely to The Northern Star, whose editor realized that agricultural development gave stability to a community, and in 1877 suggested the advisability of importing a large number of dairy cows from east of the mountains. He urged the settlers to do this and then establish a milk condensery and fruit cannery — no doubt the first time any Washington newspaper ever mentioned what is today one of its chief industries — the dairy cow and the milk condensery.

(Snohomish City)
      This view of Snohomish City is circa 1890 and shows how the city was carved out of a dense forest along the Snohomish river. For more photos of early Snohomish county, go to this wonderful website for the digital collection of the Northwest Room of the Everett Public Library.

Morse becomes the premier writer of his region
      Morse knew nothing of the printing art when he began The Northern Star, but he learned how to set type and work a primitive press. Probably the most noted aspect of the paper was that he resisted the impulse to ridicule and abuse opponents and fellow editors on his pages, which was a very common practice at the time. While reading the issues of The Northern Star on microfilm at the Everett Public Library, the only exception we could find to that rule occurred on April 9, 1877, when Morse reprinted especially nasty criticism from one of his fellow editors named C.B. Bagley, who published the Puget Sound Courier in Olympia:
      The last Snohomish Star imitates a comet in the length of its tale. The caudal [taillike] appendage is equally nebulous with that of a comet. If good sense was as abundant with friend Morse as energy and perseverance he would not so frequently write himself down an ass. —Courier
Morse answered in that manner of editors who did not take kindly to upstarts:
      The above is from the Olympia Courier. We have only to add that C.B. Bagley, a son of Seattle's "D.B." is editor and proprietor. Dogs often bay at the moon, but this snappish puppy is barking at a Star which its watery brain and half-opened eyes have magnified into a comet. It is natural for young whelps to whine when the old hounds are being lashed for dirty tricks. This is not the Courier's scene but if there are any more of this assine-canine family whose chops are wattering for a chance to dip their muzzles in this stew, they can come right along one at a time or the whole pack at once, keepers and all; we have enough left for a full meal for them all with plenty of pickled rods for their desert.
We do not know if Bagley responded but if we can find microfilm of his newspaper, we will check. We have seen only one copy of the newspaper, from 1878 [see this Journal website], and in that issue, Bagley quotes Morse and the Star. That was Clarence Bagley, who was actually four years older than Morse and who would become the author of the famous multi-volume History of King County in 1929. Bagley's father was Parson Daniel Bagley, who was one of the prime movers behind the Territorial University, which evolved into the University of Washington in Seattle. Thus we see in the same issue another note from another newspaper, details of which we have not been able to trace, except that the editor was a "Mr. Gunn:"
      The Snohomish Star complains of trouble in getting its papers to its subscribers, and of an effort to injure it by certain clergy, of which one of the University fame is the head and front. we do not know true these statements may be, but a few kicks at the parson will do not great harm anyhow. —Transcript
      Many frontier newspapers devoted a very small ratio of its pages to local news and discussion in amongst canned stories of the nation and the world that were weeks old or were identical to stories printed in many other newspapers. Morse explained in his first issue of Jan. 15, 1876:
      I shall endeavor to make The Northern Star represent fully the interests of the Snohomish and afford aid in the development of all the praiseworthy enterprises of this community. I do not intend to use "Patent Insides" or "Outsides" for the paper; feeling that I have already sufficient support raised to get along with out such aid, and prefering to make my own selections from ample means at my command.
Many other weekly newspapers bought "Outsides" that were printed in large cities and supplied wholesale to small, local newspapers. Morse filled his eight weekly broadsheet pages scientific articles, religious discussions, intellectual contests, political observation and, most important of all to us, the notes of his travels around the Sound and Washington territory. When he could afford to do so, a few months after the launch, he then supplied telegraphic national news.
      Living and working in a frontier town with a small son must have been quite a challenge. Within a year after Mollie's death, Morse married again, in 1877, this time to Fannie Oliver. We find her name along with Dr. Folsom's as associate editors on the masthead of the The Northern Star in the spring of 1877. She soon gave birth to a child named Melvin Oliver, on Nov. 2, 1877, in Snohomish City. We have long been mystified as to why Eldridge never mentioned this son and why he is not mentioned in obituaries and we wondered indeed if Melvin really was his son. She soon gave birth to a child named Melvin Oliver, on Nov. 2, 1877, in Snohomish City. We have long been mystified as to why Eldridge never mentioned this son and we wondered indeed if Melvin was his son. Ann Tuohy once again did the research and answered the question. For an undocumented reason, Eldridge and Fanny soon divorced and Fanny took the boy with her back to the home of her parents, Henry and Alvira Oliver, in Centerville, before it was named Stanwood. They were still there for the June 1880 census along with Fanny's sister, who was also divorced, and the boy's name was listed as Melvin Morse. Henry Oliver was a justice of the piece and paid one of the highest tax bills in the county in 1888 so he must have been a substantial landowner. He settled near the Stillaguamish river in the early 1870s. We suspect that considerable rancor developed from the divorce because Melvin was not listed as a survivor or mentioned in any of the Morse stories. Perhaps Fanny married again and moved. There are two conflicting notes about what happened to Melvin. One source said that he died young at age 15 in the state of Michigan. Ann Tuohy found another unattributed note that he died in a hunting accident in 1900. We hope that other descendants can help us fill in that gap.
      Morse suspended publication of The Northern Star on May 3, 1879, and returned to his profession as a lawyer, but he continued writing. He compiled the results of his many trips around the sound and provided an amazing 3,500 pages of manuscript in 24 volumes to Hubert Howe Bancroft for the latter's comprehensive series of books about the pioneer days of the West Coast. The notes were published in 1890 as part of Bancroft's Volume 31, The History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, along with comparable notes from his fellow scribe, Amos Bowman, who led the development of the town of Ship Harbor on Fidalgo island into the city of Anacortes. Bancroft has been elevated to Godly status for this works, but we found in our research about him that much of what was included in the books was written by others, maybe including Morse. This note is from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature:

      He adopted the method of the business man who has a task too large for his own efforts. He employed assistants to prepare statements of the facts for large sections of the proposed history. Originally he seems to have intended to use these statements as the basis of a narrative from his own hand; but as the work progressed he came to use them with slight changes. We have his own word that the assistants were capable investigators and there is independent evidence to show that some of them deserved his confidence. But his failure to give credit leaves us in a state of doubt concerning the value of any particular part. Bancroft considered himself the author of the work. We must look upon him as the director of a useful enterprise, but it is not possible to consider him its author.
      After the Star suspended publication, Snohomish was without a newspaper until The Eye was launched in Snohomish in January 1882 and Morse again contributed articles. This new newspaper was published by Clayton H. Packard, whose father had moved to Snohomish in the early 1870s and started a general store. Clayton worked as an apprentice for Morse during the first year of the Star. The Eye continued until 1897 when Clayton decided to try his luck in the Klondike. We are especially grateful for Morse's accounts in both newspapers about the removal of the log jams on the Skagit river near Mount Vernon from the mid-1870s to the mid-'80s and especially for the accounts we have found that have been overlooked before. A prime example of the latter is from the magazine that he launched in 1883 called Morse's Monthly. The magazine died after that first issue but in it he tells the best story we have about Alvin H. Williamson [his initials are A.R. in different records], the first white settler on the upper Skagit river — next door to the future town of Lyman. Williamson came from Puyallup in 1872, fresh from growing and picking hops with the legendary settler Ezra Meeker. This is an example of the details Morse recorded about the earliest upper Skagit river settlement:
      We had learned some two years before that at this place [Williamson's hop ranch west of Lyman] near the South Fork of the Nootsack, which was less than ten miles north of the Skagit river; while all existing maps made the distance between these rivers over twenty-five miles. Mr. Williamson said he had been through a mountain pass, over a dim Indian trail, so that, from where he stood, he could see the Nootsack [actually now spelled Nooksack] river flowing at the foot of a high bluff on which he was standing. He thought it was seven or eight miles from his place to where he reached the edge of the bluff. He lived over a mile north of the Skagit river, so that by his estimate it could not exceed nine miles from river to river.
      We could find no one who had ever been through to settlements or who could tell us how far it was down the Nootsack to where white people lived. None but Indians had ever been through, and as it was hop-picking time, they were unwilling to go either as guides or as companions. Taking over ten days food, a piece of cotton cloth 6 by 9 feet for a tent, a hunting knife and a small revolver, but no blankets, so as to go as light as possible, we started alone in the rain about noon on a Thursday, and that evening we not only reached the Nooksack, but traveled down it a mile or more before it became time to camp.
      After reaching the summit of the Williamson Pass, the rain ceased and when we were down by the Nooksack river we found no evidences of it having there for several days. All day Friday we traveled down this mountain valley without seeing any traces of men having ever been there, except some old blazes on trees, which looked as if white men had made them many years ago, and they seemed to be continuous from the settlements on the Skagit to those on the Nootsack.

      After finishing his work with Bancroft, Morse went back to his law practice from 1883-87, arguing most of the legal cases in the county versus S.H. Piles, who became a U.S. senator from Washington after the turn of the century. In the 1880s, Morse began writing a series of articles on the marshlands and river deltas of the county along with the history and resources of the Sound in general. One of his articles is said to have attracted the attention of Henry Hewitt Jr. and led him to choose the site for the new town of Everett in the early 1890s. The founders of the town asked Morse to expand on the article to write the application for $20,000 for harbor improvements on Gardner Bay. By that time, Morse had retired from his practice of law and his good friend Folsom died in 1885. His 1892 memoir surprisingly includes few details about those first 13 years in Snohomish. But he did write in detail about the period from 1885 on:
      Since 1885 I have traveled but little. The most I have written since then has appeared in the Snohomish Eye, the Tacoma Ledger and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Since 1875, I have traveled fully 70,000 miles in the state of Washington afoot or in an open boat, gathering information. I have perhaps 70,000 pages of manuscript thus gathered. Ten years ago I knew three-fourths of the people of western Washington. Less than ten percent of the information in my possession has ever been in print.
      In 1885 I dropped almost everything else for farming and market gardening. I now have 150 acres, mostly choice river-bottom land which I am fitting for a dairy ranch [and] the raising of fruit and vegetables. My home is on Snohomish river, some three or four miles south of Snohomish City. For years I have hoped to be able to write something of permanent value on the relation of history to science, or rather to write history from the scientific standpoint. Therefore it was of great value to me to know the real position of science on the leading questions of literature, history and science. Nowhere else could this be so well studied as in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Therefore I [am] determined to master the knowledge found there. But to read the work understandingly presupposes a university education [and] an extensive knowledge of languages, history and science.
      The farmer and day laborer laments his lack of knowledge. He says he would have secured an education, had he had time for study, but unkind fortune has denied him all opportunities for study. There are many exceptions, but what most of them lack is not time or opportunity, but taste for books and ability to learn. The business or professional man has the least chance to study, outside of his business or profession, of any class of men. Their work tires them mentally so that they need mental rest, not more study. The farmer or mechanic works physically ten hours, then study and reading rest his body more than idleness. Some seven or eight years ago, I found I could not use information gathered to good advantage. I did not desire law practice. I determined on farming and gardening, with study or recreation, my first work being to master such knowledge as would fit me for studying the Encyclopedia Britannia. . . .
      I have noted, as far as possible, all the contradictions, errors and point of criticism, so that I have made my own the knowledge they contain. While traveling over the country, gathering Indian legends, old settlers' stories, statistics, etc., I usually carried some volume of standard literature appropriate to the matter in hand, which I would, at leisure intervals, be studying at the same time. Thus once, when camping in the snow on the summit of Natchez Pass, Idaho, I had a volume on mountain climbing, telling about celebrated ascents in the snow, of high volcanic peaks. I read, by campfire light this work there until midnight. Under such surroundings its descriptions would seem intensely real. One would feel strongly in sympathy with the actors in such enterprises. At the present rate of farm improvement, my place, before long, will furnish me means to resume my literary enterprises and still carry on my scheme of farm development, the growth of fruit, vegetables and fine stock.

      After nearly eight years as a bachelor, Eldridge married his third wife, Alice Matthews, in 1887. They had five children together — births ranging from 1889 to 1896, including two boys born during the nationwide Depression of 1893-96. During this period, Morse returned to his first love, agriculture and by 1892, he had a very valuable farm on the Snohomish river delta. The Depression led to very hard times in the front towns, however, and he lost his spread, piece by piece, because he could not scrape together the small amounts of cash needed to pay taxes and satisfy mortgages. Morse was still alive when the 1906 Illustrated History book was published, and by then he had five small children. His first wife had died, he divorced his second and his third wife also died in 1900. He supported the children from the proceeds of his vegetable garden and rentals from his real estate, which he had rebuilt by 1906 to a point where his holdings were larger than they were before the Depression.
      In his 60s — as Morse noted above, he returned to his voluminous reading. When younger he had devoured hundreds of military histories, medical textbooks and a broad array of works on engineering, theology, geology and science. By the 1890s, visitors found him making copious notes on books such as Chambers Cyclopedia and Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, as well as dense reference material like government reports and geological surveys. His memory was keen well into his '70s and his writing about Snohomish and Skagit counties and the Puget sound are a great legacy for us to explore. The 1906 Illustrated History is crammed with facts and figures from his records. In that book, you will often see him referred to as "our peripatetic Star reporter." We hope that a reader or one of his descendants will be able to tell us the disposition of his notes, especially those he compiled for Bancroft.
      From his undated obituary in 1914, we learn that his Atheneum had survived various fires and was still standing, then known as the Cathcart building. It was later used as a theater. He was honored at his funeral by Post 10 of the Grand Army of the Republic, which he had helped found. At the time of his death he had a farm near Snohomish and a house in town. Edward C. Morse, Eldridge's eldest son by his first wife, survived his father; in 1914, he was then a mining engineer at Republic, Washington. Eldridge was also survived by five children with his third wife: a daughter, Mrs. C.H. (Belle) Matthews of Markham, and four sons, John in Seattle, and Arthur, Harley and Roland all living at Snohomish. Bob Moss provided details of Harley's life. Born Oct. 19, 1893, he married Ermina Ruby Overman on July 2, 1924, in Everett. Harley died in 1953 in Sumner and Ermina died in the same place in 1972. They had seven children, including their first, Alfred Morse Kenton, who was born in 1925 and died on April 28, 1991, in Tacoma. Eldridge died on Jan. 6, 1914. We hope that Morse and Folsom descendants who read this story can supply more information about their families. [Ed. note: thanks to biographer Will Johnson, we learned that the Cathcart Building was named for Isaac Cathcart, an Irish immigrant who settled in Snohomish City in 1873 and erected what became known as the Cathcart Opera House, possibly the same building as mentioned above. Later in life he became known as eccentric character and a town north of Snohomish on the Northern Pacific route was named for him, later renamed Clearview.]

      Continue on for documents about Eldridge Morse and family, including: obituaries for Morse and first and third wives; and the story of how Eldridge and his old Civil War buddy, J.B. Brown, met again after 42 years.

Links, background reading and sources

      See this Journal website for a timeline of local, state, national and international events for years of the pioneer period.
      Search the entire Journal site.

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