Friday, June 5, 2020

Ellis Morse, one of Madison County's Early Leaders.

Exchange Hotel
Certainly one of the most notable members of Eaton’s Morse family was Ellis Morse.  Ellis, born in 1789 in Natick, Mass. was the eldest son of Eunice Bigelow and Joseph Morse, came with the family from Sherborn as a very young boy.  He helped his father build the early mills and houses and completed the families fine Stone Mansion on Route 26, when his father died at an early age. As a young man, after his father's death in Massachusetts, Ellis brought his father's corpse home to Eaton in a ox cart.

Though a “Tee-totaller” throughout his life, he ran one of the largest distillery businesses in central New York.  In its “hey day,” 350 bushels of grain were distilled every day.  (Ellis had learned distilling by working at his father’s distillery as a boy.)

Ellis, in his efforts to bring prosperity to Eaton, also paid for and was in charge of building the first plank road (now Rt. 26).  This road became the known as the Skaneateles Turnpike.  Other endeavors included the building of the Exchange Hotel and many of the businesses in the downtown Eaton area.

His father, Joseph, had played an important role in bringing the County Court House to Morrisville and had been in charge of building the first court house, Ellis upon “it’s” razing was in charge of building the second county court house.  Curiously, when the building also burned, Ellis Morse’s son, George Ellis, was in charge of building the third, which stands today and is now called Madison Hall.

Morse House
Ellis Morse, who received his education from the first teacher of the area, Dr. James Pratt, also financed a private academy in Eaton, in an effort to improve the community.  One of its notable teachers was Reverend Eels, who later went on to Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ellis was also a strong supported of the church and the Theological Seminary that is today's Colgate.

Few men had the impact on young Madison County that Ellis Morse did, and few had children who in some cases eclipsed their father’s fame and greatness.  Among his children were Civil War hero and Judge- Colonel Henry Bagg Morse, missionary to Siam, Reverend Andrew Bigelow Morse, New York Assemblyman Gardner Morse, Alfred Morse (who was killed at the Battle of Cedar Creek), and Walter Morse, who was a member of the firm of Wood, Taber and Morse.

Ellis was a high-masonic leader who  served as a Quarter Master in the 65th Regiment in 1820.  He is buried with his large family in the Historic Eaton Cemetery.


  1. Thank you Mary for your continued love of Eaton's history, and my family history, Morse/Mott.

  2. Golly, Mary, I never knew the museum had all these pictures of what used to be the interior! Oh that the house could be restored!

  3. Thank you Mary! What an interesting story and video of my ancestors. I purchased 'Images of America, Eaton' that you wrote. Great reading. Morse/Frances Morse Pratt/Frances Eunice "Fannie" Pratt Anderson/and so on. I hope I get to Eaton someday. :-) Kim