Burton G. Morss

Retyped from Beers "History of Greene County" by Annette Campbell



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 Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
 
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."
 
wpe1.gif (173916 bytes)Burton 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 old.
 
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 York.
 
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 successfully.

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