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Guide to the Ephraim W. Morse Papers MS 144
MS 144  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Comments
  • Arrangement
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Archival Materials

  • Title: Ephraim W. Morse Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 144
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 5.0 Linear feet (10 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1853-1905
    Abstract: This collection consists of correspondence, business papers, and personal papers of Ephraim W. Morse. It covers many of his business and civic activities in San Diego, California in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
    creator: Morse, Ephraim W.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research. Detailed inventory of correspondence (Series I) is available at the San Diego History Center Library.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Preferred Citation

    Ephraim W. Morse Papers, MS 144, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Samantha Mills on October 10, 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Letterpress books contain fragile tissue paper; some pages are faint and illegible.
    Text blocks of the Daybooks and Account Ledgers are partially detached from their bindings.
    Some pages of the mining diary are ink spattered and difficult to read.


    Material added to collection from Document Files Collection: Ephraim W. Morse file, Bills of Lading file, and Buildings file.
    Detailed inventory of correspondence (Series I) is available at the San Diego History Center Library.


    This collection is arranged into five series:
    Series I: Correspondence
    Series II: Letterpress Books
    Series III: Business Papers
    Series IV: Civic Activities
    Series V: Personal Papers
    Series I is arranged chronologically and Series II-V are arranged by subject.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Ephraim W. Morse was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts on October 16, 1823. He arrived in San Diego, California in 1850, after a short stint gold panning in San Francisco. His first business venture was the operation of a general store, supplied through his San Francisco business associates Daniel Breed and A.J. Chase. He quickly expanded his businesses to include sheep ranching, beekeeping, copper mining, and law. In the late 1860s Morse partnered with Alonzo Horton in the field of real estate speculation, and their persistent promotion of the area fueled the growth of the City of San Diego and its move to New Town.
    Morse’s first wife was Lydia Gray, whom he brought to San Diego in 1851. They had one son, Edward W., who was sent to live with relatives in Massachusetts after Lydia’s death in 1856. In 1866 Morse married San Diego’s first schoolteacher, Mary Chase Walker.
    In addition to running his businesses, Morse served as Associate Justice of the Court of Sessions, Secretary of the Board of Trade, County Treasurer, and City Trustee. He promoted and helped organize the San Diego Flume Company, the first railroad to San Diego, the First Bank of San Diego, the Public Library, construction of the San Diego Wharf, the fortifications at Ballast Point, and a resolution to set aside land for what became Balboa Park. Morse remained active in the San Diego community until his death in 1906.

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists of correspondence, business papers, and personal papers of Ephraim W. Morse. Correspondence is from Morse's business partners, clients, and employees. There are also twelve large letterpress books containing mostly legible copies of Morse’s outgoing letters. Business papers include real estate paperwork, ledgers for Morse’s general stores, and notes and expenditures related to his mining and honey businesses. Additionally there are documents included on Morse’s involvement in several lawsuits and estate settlements. Documents related to Morse’s civic appointments include financial documents and a ledger of court expenses collected during his service as San Diego City Treasurer. Personal papers include Morse's personal finances and his involvement in local associations such as the San Diego Benevolent Association and San Diego Lodge No. 35, for which he was treasurer in both.

    Related Archival Materials

    Microfilm copy of Morse correspondence and some account books (circa 1850-1889) from California State Archives is available for access in SDHC Library (9 rolls of microfilm).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Anti-Monopoly League.
    Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company.
    Barnes, G. W.
    Bidleman, J. B.
    Breed, D. C.
    Breed, D. N.
    Brown, Nathan W.
    Burleson, C. J.
    Chase, A. J.
    Cissa, J. C.
    Coltman, John
    Corbet, J. E.
    Crosthwaite, Philip
    Cuaig, J.
    Culver, C. B.
    Doyle, John
    Doyle, R. D.
    Fitzgerald, Edward H.
    Gould, Mary
    Gould, O. W.
    Grant & Colfax Club.
    Hayes, Benjamin, 1815-1877
    Horton, Alonzo E., 1813-1909
    Howell, S. E.
    Howell, W. C.
    Keighler, William
    Lovett, E.
    Lowry, L.
    McKee, D. B.
    Morgan, Mary Clark
    Morgan, Rufus, 1846-1880
    Morse, Ephraim W.
    Morse, Lydia
    Morse, Mary Chase
    Pierce, James M.
    Rose, Louis
    San Diego Benevolent Society.
    San Diego Lodge No. 35 F.&A.M..
    Smith, Alex
    Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
    Stearns, Abel
    Stewart, W. W.
    Taggart, C. P.
    Texas Pacific Railroad.
    Vettigar, William
    Whaley, Thomas, 1823-1890
    Winder, W. A.
    Account books
    Actions and defenses
    Ballast Point Site (Calif.)
    Bee culture
    Copper mines and mining
    Delfina mine
    Executors and administrators
    General stores
    Gold mines and mining
    Iron mines and mining
    Jesus Maria mine
    Oak Glen apiary
    Oriflamme mine
    Promissory notes
    Real property
    Receipts (Acknowledgements)
    San Antonio copper mine
    San Diego (Calif.)
    San Francisco (Calif.)
    Woodglen apiary