Retyped from Beers "History of Greene County" by
Asa Morss, the founder of the family, was from Massachusetts. He
married Hannah Austin of Dracut, Massachusetts. Mr. Morss soon removed to
Lisbon New Hampshire. They had a family of fourteen children; 1. Foster,
father of Burton G. 2. Asa, who died in childhood. 3. Benjamin,
who came to Windham about the same time that Foster married Mrs. Berry. They
had five children, Asa, Benjamin, Jr., Eliza Ann, Samuel and Gilman. 4.
Farnham, who married Mehitable Blanchard of Milford, Massachusetts. Their
children were: Enos, Foster, Lucy, Rachel, Persis, Trachey, Mary Ann. 5.
Patience, who married David Perry. Their children were: David, Jr., Priscilla,
Bradley, Sarah Jane, Jacob, Aaron, Julia, and Hannah. 6. Asa 2nd, who
married a Miss Hubbard of Old Haverhill, Massachusetts, and had two children:
Caroline and Alice. 7. Aaron, who married Polly Davis. Their children
were Betsey, Lucy, Frances, Percy and Elizabeth. 8. Harmon, who had two
children. 9. Hannah, who married Ebenezer Morris, and had three children,
Henry, Luther Titus, and Alice. 10. Mary, who married Enos Sumner of
Lowell, Massachusetts, and had four children: Mary, Harriet, Hannah and
Belinda. 11. Stephen, who had three children, Abigail, Bartlett, and Abi.
12. Caleb, who died at 20 years of age, unmarried. 13. Phebe, who
married 1st, a Mr. Hamlet. Their children were Asa, Mary Jane, Harris F., and
two who died young. Her 2nd marriage was to a Mr. Currier.
14. Nathan, who married a daughter of Springer Berry of Plymouth, Indiana; of
his children, Austin lived in Alliance, Ohio; Eliza married a Dr. John
Thompson of Lisbon, New Hampshire.
Foster, the eldest son and child of Asa Morss, was born in 1774, and died in
February 1835. He was three times married. By his first marriage he had two
sons, Lyman and Horace, who came with their father, or soon after to Windham.
Lyman succeeded his father in the management of their first tannery, at the
foot of the hill, west of the Episcopal rectory, and built the house yet
standing on the opposite side of the turnpike road, occupied many years as a
tavern. He afterward in the employ of Burton G. Morss, in his tannery at
Horace died at his father's house, east of Ashland village, after the large
tannery at Red Falls or Federal City had been built, and a year or two after
the burning of the tannery on White or West Hollow Brook, near Ashland
village. Foster Morss' second wife was Lois Gilbert. They had two sons,
Austin, who died at Geneva, N.Y.; and Burton G., our subject; and a daughter
Elizabeth, who married Austin Strong, and removed to Woodbourn, Sullivan
county, New York, about 1855.
Austin Morss was a Presbyterian clergyman, and preached the last sermon in the
old Windham church from the text, "Your fathers---where are they."
G. was born in Windham, April 15th 1810, on the place now owned by N. Snow,
east of Ashland village and where Foster lived while engaged in his tannery
and grist-mill on White Brook. His mother died when Burton G. was two weeks
Foster Morss' third wife was Roxana (Kirtland) Butler, a sister of Daniel
Kirtland, the father of Burton G.'s first wife, Caroline Kirtland, who
was born August 28th, 1810, and died April 17th 1880, date of marriage 1834.
The children of Foster and Roxana Morss were: John B. (thrown from a sulky and
killed), George L., Dwight F., Daniel K., and William P.E.
Burton G. attended school at the White school-house, near Ashland village,
where he afterward taught one winter. He also attended school one year at
Lexington. At the age of 17 he attended the select school at Durham one
winter; at Greenville Academy the following winter; and at Ballston Spa,
Saratoga, the next winter. He also attended school one winter in the Reynolds
district, Windham, doing chores on a farm belonging to his father. As his
brother, Austin, was in school, there was no one to share with Burton the
responsibilities naturally devolving upon a son. He drove teams, worked
in the tannery, and acquired a practical knowledge of his father's extensive
business. In the first tannery, the vats were not under cover, the bark-mill
was worked by horse power, and a stone wheel, also turned by horse power, was
used for milling the hides. For about 12 years after Foster Morss built
the tannery on White Brook, it was worked by Lyman Morss, who lost his life by
being scalded in a vat at Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He was a just and upright
man. Foster Morss built his second tannery about 1820. This was
conducted upon the new system of tanning. It furnished employment to about
fifty men, and had a capacity of 40,000 hides yearly. Loring Andrews,
afterward a millionaire of New York city, served an apprenticeship at this
tannery, and with his earnings laid the foundation of his immense fortune.
This tannery was burned about 1826---a total loss. About 1829 Foster
Morss built a tannery at Red Falls. The building is still standing but
devoted to other purposes. This, as well as the one on White Brook was
run by water power. It had a capacity of about 50,000 hides per annum. It was
conducted by Foster Morss until the spring of 1831, then for about two years
by Horace and Burton G., then for one year by Horace and Stephen Steel as
partners, then by Foster and Burton G. Morss for one year, or until Foster
Morss' death in 1835, after which it was conducted by Burton G. Morss until it
was closed in 1849.
Haskell Curtis, a single man, was killed by getting caught in the bark mill.
Lyman Morss was scalded to death in a tanning vat at Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
A third man was killed in the grist-mill at Red Falls, by being caught in the
smaller shaft. Mr. Morss sold out his business in Carbondale to his half
brothers, George L. and D. F. Morss, in 1842. He had a foundry at Red Falls
for casting rough irons, employing eight to ten moulders, pattern workers,
lathe men and a forman. The machinery for the Gilboa cotton-mill was made
here, and soon after, he constructed the machinery for his own mill. The
cotton factory commenced operations in the winter of 1848-9. The building is
110X50 feet, and three stories high. He also built several commodious tenant
houses near the factory. The buildings cost about $20,000, and the machinery
about $50,000. The dam was 32 feet fall, and cost about $6,000.
Because of the difficulty in procuring transportation on the Hudson, at the
time when cotton for his factory was required, Mr. Morss chartered and loaded
a steamboat with cotton in December 1848, so late that he could not get it run
at owner's risk. The cotton-mill contained 70 looms (for weaving yard wide
sheeting), and facilities for making cotton yarns, warps, wicking, twines, and
batts, and employed 40 females and 30 males. The power was supplied by two
turbine water-wheels, replacing a 30 foot overshot wheel. The
cotton-mill was kept in operation until 1880, when the machinery being much
worn, and the water power becoming unreliable, the business was discontinued.
The water power and buildings are now used for the manufacture of carriages,
sleighs, and wagons. About 1840, Mr. Morss built a grist-mill on the
site of a shingle factory, succeeding an earlier gristmill, which had been
burned. Mr. Morss has a grist-mill at Ledgedale, Pennsylvania; has built
and twice rebuilt his mill at Hobart, in Delaware county, New York; has built
11 saw-mills; and has burned several kilns of brick. His foundry was
burned, loss $11,000; was rebuilt, and used for casting plows and other
agricultural implements. He owns about 3,000 acres of land in New York,
devoted to stock and dairy interests, about 15,000 acres of wild land.
He has 200 acres of wild land in Delaware county, New York. He has about 200
cows, and 200 head of other cattle. His farms are under his own
supervision. It requires about 50 men and 20 teams, to do the work on these
farms. Mr. Morss was elected supervisor of the town of Prattsville, in 1869,
and reelected consecutively for nine years, filling the office with credit to
himself and to the satisfaction of the town. In 1875 he was elected a
member of the State Legislature, and took his seat in January 1876. During the
session he served on three committees.
The public school building at Red Falls was built about 30 years ago at his
own expense. In the great freshet of 1869 he lost $100,000. It swept away
everything at Red Falls, Gilboa, Schenevas, and Hobart. He lost two tanneries,
grist-mill, and foundry, by fire. His total losses, by fire and water,
amounted to $153,000. December 11th 1880, he married his second wife, Mrs.
Nellie Chase, widow of Prof. E. B. Chase of Paterson, New Jersey. Mrs. Morss
is a daughter of Richard and Philinda (Craven) Dutcher, of Rochester, New
The children of Burton G. and Caroline (Kirtland) Morss are: Arabella, wife of
Rev. Anson F. Munn of Kingston; Leonidas W., now engaged in the tanning
business at Ledgedale, Pennsylvania; Foster, died in infancy; Rosaline A.,
wife of Colonel Thomas H. Tremper, of Kingston; Foster 2nd, a civil engineer
of New Haven, Connecticut; Julia S., died at 8 years of age;
Burton G. Jr., at home. His eldest and youngest sons both have
second wives, but no children. Mr. Morss has always contributed his full
share and often much more to the improvement of his town and locality. He
donated a handsome parcel of land for the enlargement of the old Windham
Presbyterian church cemetery at East Ashland.
To his robust health and consequent powers of endurance, to his constant
personal supervision of his entire business, and to his judgment in the
selection of his subordinates and employees, Mr. Morss is chiefly indebted
for his success. He is the architect of his own fortunes---a self-made
man in that sense. His fortune was not inherited but acquired. He appears to
have entered into his business with a resolve to rely wholly upon himself, to
allow no difficulties or discouragements to deter him from prosecuting his
matured plans, and therefore has carried on his enterprises, persistently and
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