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                       John Frederick Morse, an original petitioner of Sacramento Lodge, was born on December 27, 1815 in the town of Essex, Chittendeden County, Vermont, the son of Elijah Morgan Morse and Hannah Curtiss Morgan (Morse). On October 14, 1843 he married Rebecca L. Canmore of Norwalk, Connecticut. The marriage took place in New York. By this marriage they had a daughter, Emma. He graduated in Medicine from the University of the City of New York in 1844, and soon after was engaged in the practice of medicine and surgery in Brooklyn. When a young man, he joined the Independent Order of Oddfellows and was active in charitable work and was a charter member of the famous old Plymouth Church which he assisted in establishing in 1846. In 1849, because of ill health he gave up his practice temporarily and on February 22, 1849, at the age of 33, he sailed from New York for Panama on the bark, Begota. From Panama he obtained passage on the ship Alexander von Humboldt and after experiencing many hardships arrived in Sacramento and thence to Coloma where for a time he tried mining, but soon returned to Sacramento where he again practiced his profession. He found plenty to do as sickness was prevalent and he gave generously of his services to those who could not afford to pay. He was one of the foremost in establishing the "Oddfellows Relief Association of Sacramento." Dr. Morse, with Dr. Jacob D. B. Stillman, leased a building constructed by Priest, Lee & Co. on the corner of 3rd and K Streets, and there in the Fall of 1849 a hospital was established. In December of 1849 a hospital was also established by the Oddfellows and Masons in the southeast corner of Sutter's Fort and Dr. Morse was Secretary of its Board of Trustees. He was the first to inaugurate a system of health insurance in California. On October 25, 1850, Dr. Morse entered in partnership with James B. Mitchell in a business in which Mitchell was a notary public and Morse an auctioneer. Contemplating the establishment of a daily newspaper, a committee called on Dr. Morse to persuade him to purchase an interest in the office and to become its editor. Although Dr. Morse refused to invest in the project, he accepted the position of Editor on a salary basis and on March 19, 1851, the first copy of the Sacramento Union was distributed. He edited the paper until May 4, 1852, when he retired to again practice his profession; this time with Dr. Thomas M. Logan and Dr. Septer Patrick. Patrick, however soon withdrew and Morse and Logan opened an office in a building at K and 3rd Streets, owned by Logan. The building was destroyed by the fire of November 2, 1852. During this same fire, his wife who had joined him in 1851 with their daughter Emma, was removed to the Steamer, Comanche, enroute to San Francisco. On board the vessel, on November 4, she gave birth to a son, John Francis and died a few minutes before the ship's arrival at San Francisco. The son died in Sacramento four years later. Shortly after the fire, Logan and Morse opened offices at Hotel de France but on December 11, 1852, each opened his own office, Morse locating on the second floor of Stanford and Bros. Building on K Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. In April 1853, Dr. Morse became associated with Dr. J. S. Trowbridge for a brief period and soon after maintained his own office in Sacramento. In July, 1863, he entered into partnership with Dr. William R. Cluness for a short time. Dr. Morse remarried in Sacramento on January 16, 1854, his second wife being Miss Caroline F. Loney, daughter of N. M. Loney of Belfast, Maine. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Joseph A. Benton, pastor of the Congregational Church in Sacramento. At Sacramento, on September 12, 1857, his wife gave birth to John Frederick  Morse, Jr., who followed in his father's footsteps and became a prominent surgeon of San Francisco and a member of Excelsior Lodge No. 166, F. & A. M. On September 19, 1863, Dr. Morse and his family moved to San Francisco, where Dr. Morse accepted the chair of Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine in the medical department of the University of the Pacific, the first medical school in California. Here he remained until October 1864 when he became a member of the original faculty of Toland Medical College which was subsequently absorbed by the medical department of the University of California. He remained as Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine and Clinical Medicine and Diagnosis until 1870. In 1874 he affiliated with the newly organized medical faculty of the University of the Pacific, a forerunner of the Stanford Medical School as Professor Emeritus in Medicine. In addition to his duties as instructor, he enjoyed an extensive and successful private practice until he was forced by ill health to retire. In 1874, he took ship for Australia believing that his health would be benefited by the voyage but at Honolulu, his condition became worse and he was forced to return to San Francisco, arriving a few days before his death which occurred there on December 30, 1874, three days before his 59th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Caroline, and by one son John Frederick Morse, Jr., and four daughters, Emma, Nellie, Caroline and Henrietta. The funeral service was conducted on January 3, 1875, under the auspices of the Masons and Oddfellows and was one of the largest ever witnessed in San Francisco. His remains were buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in San Mateo County. Dr. Morse was a man of great public spirit and did much to promote the interests of the communities in which he lived. He assisted in establishing a Mercantile Library Association in Sacramento. He was one of the original stockholders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company and in 1862 he was a member of its board of directors. He was a member of the Society of California Pioneers, and as a representative of that society delivered a speech in the ceremony of breaking ground for the railroad in Sacramento, January 8, 1863. When the Sacramento Medico-Chirurgical Society was formed on May 8, 1850 Dr. Morse was its first vice president and orator. On April 30, 1855, the Sacramento Medical Society was organized with Dr. Morse as its 2nd vice-president. He was associated with James Lloyd Lafayette Warren in establishing the California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences, a weekly magazine, the first agricultural paper on the Pacific Coast. Its first number appeared January 5, 1854. Morse served as editor until February 16, 1854. In March 1854, Dr. Morse with S. Colville issued the first and only number of a monthly magazine called Illustrative Historical Sketches of California with a minute history of the Sacramento Valley. No second issue ever appeared. In October 1853, he did however submit a sketch of the History of Sacramento, to S. Colville, who published it in his Sacramento City Directory of that year. It was the first history of Sacramento ever published and was reprinted in 1945 by the Sacramento Book Collectors Club, with a Historical Note on the Life of Dr. Morse by Caroline Wenzel, at the time, Head of the California section of the State Library. Dr. Morse was instrumental in finding the State Agricultural Society which incorporated on May 13, 1854, and he was a life member of that Society. He was an active member of the Sacramento Society of California Pioneers, serving as director in 1854-1855, Vice President 1855-1856 and President 1857-1859. In 1862 he was appointed by Governor Stanford as one of the trustees of the California State Library and was elected to that office by the California Legislature on January 27, 1863, serving until the latter part of 1864. He was vice president of the California Prison Commission organized November 27, 1865, and served as president during the year 1867. Dr. Morse was very active in both the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Masonic Fraternity. As an Oddfellow, he was initiated in Atlantic Lodge No. 50 at Brooklyn, New York in 1844, passing through the chairs of that Lodge in 1846, and was returned as representative to the Grand Lodge of New York in August 1846. In 1851, he withdrew from the eastern Lodge and joined Sacramento Lodge No. 2. He was one of the petitioners for a charter for the Grand Lodge I. O. O. F. of California and represented his Lodge at the organization and first session of that body in 1854. In 1869 he was commissioned by Grand Sire Farnsworth as Deputy Grand Sire, with authority to institute the order in Germany and Switzerland and although taken prisoner in the existing war between France and Prussia, he succeeded in establishing the order in both of these jurisdictions. Dr. Morse was initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason in Tehama Lodge No. 3 on January 19, 1852, passed to the degree of Fellowcraft on February 16, 1852, and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on March 15, 1852. He was serving as Treasurer of Tehama Lodge No. 3, when he became one of the original petitioners of Sacramento Lodge. After assisting in organizing our Lodge, he dimitted on August 4, 1854, and was Senior Warden of Tehama Lodge No. 3, and Master of that Lodge the following year. In 1856, he was Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Masons in California. In 1865, he dimitted from Tehama Lodge No. 3 of Sacramento and affiliated with Excelsior Lodge No. 166 of San Francisco. Just before he started on his last voyage, he dimitted from Excelsior Lodge No. 166, and died before he could use his dimit certificate.





Transcribed by Sally Kaleta.

Proofread by Betty Vickroy.

2007 Sally Kaleta.





Sacramento County