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Ephraim W. Morse family papers
MSS 0689  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Ephraim W. Morse family papers (1838 - 1907) document the private and public life of an important San Diego pioneer, businessman, merchant, and civic leader. In 1849, Morse sailed around Cape Horn with other Gold Rush pioneers. By 1850, disillusioned with gold mining, he moved to San Diego. He held many civic positions in the new city including city trustee, public administrator, county treasurer, and secretary of the board of trade. In the 1860s, he voted for the land grant sale to Alonzo Horton that created modern San Diego, initiated the idea for a large urban park, and was a tireless promoter of a San Diego transcontinental railroad terminus. In the 1850s-1860s, he owned a series of stores in both the old and new town locations. He speculated in real estate, was an express and insurance agent, notary public, and a lawyer. The papers include family and general correspondence, documenting the concerns of 19th-century life both in New England and California. Also documented are the personal, business, and political lives and intrigues of San Diego's founding families, Californios, and Native Americans, as well as those only passing through. The collection contains correspondence with Alonzo Horton, Judge James Robinson, Joseph Judson Ames, Thomas Rylan Darnall, and Thomas Whaley, and son Edward Morse. Included are biographical materials, from Morse's childhood to the settlement of his San Diego estate. The San Diego civic materials include election materials, subscriptions for various civic enterprises, county statistics, and newspaper clippings from the period of the 1850s-1860s.
Background
Ephraim Weed Morse was born on October 16, 1823, in West Amesbury, Massachusetts, the only son of New England farmers and apple growers, John and Hannah (nee Weed) Morse. He attended Newburyport High School (1838-1841) where he learned bookkeeping. Leaving New England and a teaching position, at age twenty-six, Morse joined the Gold Rush to northern California. He quickly became sick and disenchanted with his prospects so, in April of 1850, he ventured to the tiny settlement of San Diego, population approximately 800.
Extent
4.00 linear feet (9 archive boxes and 6 oversize folders)
Restrictions
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Availability
Collection is open for research.