Tag Archives: Mary Bassett Morgan

Charles Morgan and Two Ironies of Place

Jesse Morgan left five children behind when he took off for California in 1849. One was my great-grandmother, Hariett (Hattie) Morgan (Stout), whose mother Mary was Jesse’s second wife. The other four, including the eldest Charles Morgan, were from his first marriage. It seemed only fair that I tell what I know about these other children of Jesse Morgan before I finish his story.

What Happened to Jesse Morgan’s First Four Children?

My mother thought that both sons had gone to live with relatives, but I discovered that although that was the case with the oldest son, Charles, the second son, Carlos, working on a farm in Holmes County in 1850.

The two girls, however, did live in Killbuck, and would have been part of the family drama of Jesse’s comings and goings. My mother passed on stories from my grandmother that indicated that the two daughters were close to their half-sister Hattie and made the long trip from Colorado to visit her. Jesse’s children with Mary Pelton were:

  • Charles (June 20 1830-February 11, 1916)
  • Carlos (1832-1899)
  • Louisa ( October 1833-1909)
  • Malvina (April 1835-1917)
  • A fifth child, a son named John, died as an infant in Killbuck, Ohio when Jesse’s first wife also died about 1838.

What I Learned about Charles Morgan

From knowing almost nothing about the oldest child, Charles Morgan (Charley), I have gained a very complete picture of his life, as he moved frequently, married, farmed and became a Civil War soldier and outlived all his immediate family.  The nagging question I have about all four of these children is how much contact Jesse had with them after his first wife died. I found an intriguing coincidence in Charles history that hints they may have been in touch.

Little Charles Morgan “Orphaned”

Charles was born in Chautauqua New York  and was only eight years old when his mother died. He had to make the journey from Ohio back to Chautauqua County New York where he lived with his maternal grandparents Ruel and Lucy Pelton. Charles went to school in Sherman, New York through the eighth grade. Public high schools were not common then, and the family probably did not feel a high school education at a private academy was necessary for a boy who was fated to be a farmer.

His grandparents were aging, and by 1850 they had moved in with their son, also named Charles. They took young Charles (now 20) with them. There he shared the household with his aunt and uncle and their two young children until he married the 19-year-old Miranda Leach in 1859.

Irony #1: Charles Morgan Starts His Own Family and Moves to Illinois

I do not have the exact marriage date of Charles and Miranda, but their daughter Vavian was born in October 1859, probably at home.  Charles and Miranda were living with Miranda’s mother, Mary Leach when the 1860 census taker came around in June, 1860. There is no mention in later censuses of the first daughter Vavian, so I have to assume that she died in childhood.

In 1862, Charles and Miranda moved to Coral in McHenry County, Illinois, where they had a second daugther, Vietta.  This move intrigues me, as I mentioned earlier.  Jesse Morgan purchased property in Crystal Lake, McHenry County some time before 1845. The property  that he bought and then sold to his friend “Doc” Woods in 1847 also lies in McHenry County.  Coral, Charles home, an unincorprated community, lies just sixteen miles east of Crystal Lake. Could Jesse have given that land he bought in the 1840s (which I am still trying to track down) to his son Charles at some time before Jesse’s death? Or had they been in touch either when Jesse was traveling or by letter, so that Charles knew about Jesse’s high regard for the farmland of northern Illinois?

Charles Morgan Goes to War

At 34, barely settled into his new home in Illinois, Charles leaves his 24-year-old wife and their toddler daughter to join the Union Army.  The 95th Illinois Regiment, largely made up of McHenry County men, had already been through some tough fighting and probably used a two-month furlough period to recruit reinforcements from home.  Charles joined the Infantry as a private on October 3, 1864. If you want to know about the action he might have seen–and there was a lot for the 95th Regiment, you can see the Illinois Adjutant General’s Report here.

The army gave Charles an honorable discharge just eight months later, on June 12, 1865, just two months before the regiment was disbanded. He returned to his home in Coral, Illinois but the 1880 census reports he was sick on the day of the census.  His daughter, Vietta, 18, was still living at home, but in 1884 she married Frank Wood and by 1887 they had moved to Fern Valley, Iowa.

Charles Morgan Moves to Iowa

Charles and his wife Miranda moved to Fern Valley along with Vietta and her husband. Miranda died in 1893, and 1895 and 1900 census reports show Charles living with Vietta and her six children. A picture of Vietta from a family tree on Ancestry.com shows that although she dressed impressively (love the hat!), she was definitely not the looker in the family.

Vietta Morgan

Vietta Morgan, daughter of Charles Morgan. Photo from Ancestry tree of mives 2680

At 74, Charles married a second time– to a woman named Ida. The 1905 Iowa census and the 1910 Federal census shows them together, however Ida was no longer living in 1915. So Charles was two times a widow at 80 or so. For the first time, he is listed as Charley on the census instead of Charles. (Thanks to the 1910 census, I know that Ida was born in Ohio in 1844–14 years after Charles–and she had six living children.  All those children had left home by the time Ida married Charles.) I know very little about Ida (like her maiden name or first married name), but I do know that she and Charles were fated to be married less than ten years.

Charles Takes a Second Wife and Becomes a Double Widower

Not only did Charles’  second wife die between 1910 and 1915, but his younger sister Louisa died in 1909 and his only daughter moved to Turlock, California in 1910. After Vietta moved to California, she died there in 1911 when she was only 48 years old. Four serious blows to Charles Morgan in less than six years.

Irony #2: Charles Morgan Goes to California at the End of Life

Although Charles filled out the Iowa Census card in 1915 stating that he had been living in Iowa for 28 years, and was a retired farmer, Civil War veteran and widower at the age of 84, he apparently decided to join his son-in-law and grandchildren in California soon after he filled out that information. He had almost no one else. The man who had been virtually orphaned at eight had outlived his brother and one of his sisters, two wives and two daughters and his remaining sister was ailing in Colorado.  He had only grandchildren left for family.

He died in Modesto, California on February 11, 1916. His grave is marked by a stone honoring his service in the Union Army. Ironically, Charles Morgan is buried less than 75 miles away from where his father had been shot and killed 66 years before.

Charles Morgan

Charles Mogan’s gravestone in Modesto California. Photo by Bette Locke at Find a Grave.

The next child of Jesse Morgan I sketch is Carlos Morgan, Jesse’s second son- his westward trek and his beautiful wife.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jessie Morgan and Mary Bassett Morgan.
  • Jessie Morgan with his first wife Mary Pelton is the father of
  • Charles Morgan

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census 1840 (Sherman, Chautauqua, New York), 1850 (Sherman, Chautauqua, New York), 1860 (Mina, Chautaqua, New York), 1870 (Coral, McHenry, Illinois), 1880 (Coral, McHenry, Illinois), 1900 (Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa), 1910 (Fern Valley Palo, Iowa)

Iowa State Census 1905 (Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa), 1915 (Rodman, Palo Alto, Iowa)

California, Death Index, 1905-1939, Ancestry.com, 2013, Surnames L-R, pg 7622  Charles Morgan

James Morgan and his Descendants, North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com 2016.

U.S. Find a Grave, Chas. Morgan,

National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Data Base

National Park Service 95th Regiment Illinois Infantry

Illinois Adjutant General Report on 95th Regiment

Jesse Feels “Almost Like Flying” from Palmyra

Have you read Jesse Morgan’s earlier letters to his wife? If you read the first letter, you may remember his enthusiasm for describing the land and his trip. Do you recall his admonition to Mary?

“Don’t let any trouble annoy your feelings but keep up a buoyant spirit.”

That was back in 1843. It looks like my great-great grandfather could use a little of his own advice as he writes to Mary from Palmyra, New York during August 1847.

Palmyra was the home of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon).  Coincidentally, Joseph Smith was born the same year as Jesse Morgan–1805.  A Mormon publishing house thrived in Palmyra, and the Book of the Mormon was firsts published there. By 1847 when we know that Jesse visited Palmyra, Joseph Smith had been gone for several years, having migrated west, first to Kirkland Ohio and then on to Nauvoo, Illinois. However, the Mormon headquarters in Kirtland Ohio was still active when Jesse moved to Ohio. The majority of Smith’s followers had moved on to Illinois by the time that Jesse started making forays into Illinois. Jesse seems to be always following the Mormons. Particularly in the next stage of his life.

But now he has stopped at Palmyra, along the Erie Canal. Perhaps the contact with the Mormon religion during this low period of Jesse’s life had an influence on later events. (You’ll just have to keep reading future posts to find out the significance.)

If you compare the writing on this letter to that on previous letters, two things are immediately obvious. It is not the carefully formed script he used earlier, and instead of firmly straight lines across the page, the lines dip downward. A graphologist will tell you that downward slanting lines denote pessimism.  (You can’t fool us, Jesse!)  Only in his signature, does he at least try to regain his strong sense of self importance and optimism.

The Letter

Jesse writes from Palmyra

Jesse Morgan’s letter to his wife, Mary, August 1 1847 from Palmyra, NY

Jesse writes from Palmyra NY

Bottom of 1st page of Jesse Morgan’s letter to his wife, Mary, August 1 1847 from Palmyra, NY

Jesse's letter form Palmyra

Jesse’s signature on letter August 1847

The Transcription

Palmyra [New York] Aug 1st 1847

Dear Wife

I improve the present opportunity to write you a few lines which I should have done two weeks ago to inform you that I am alive and tolerably well at present.

I had a long and tedious journey down this time owning to the warm weather and one of my horses got sick, and I got him in a bad season, just at the commencement of haying and harvesting and but for wanting to buy, the sudden change in the market of Wheat has produced a stagnation of business at present.

As soon as haying and harvest is over which will be next 6 weeks the fall work will commence and the boats on the canal will begin to do business again and it is _______horses will be in some demand then. I have sold but one since I came down that I made $25.00.

I am now living cheap. I buy my hay from $5.00 per ton and stable room found on a farm just in the edge of Palmyra and have gone to work for the man at $1.00 per day and the privalege[sic] of taking care of my horses. I have lost some time. I got poisoned almost as bad as I was last fall. My horses consume about  ___[10 lbs] per day which is 25 cents and I make $1.00 so I gain .75 cents. I find no grain, you can hardly imagine how bad I want to see home when I think about it I feel all most like flying but mean to hold on a little while yet. I want to do well this time if I can but I am well satisfied that I shall not do as well as I did the second time I was down. I think I shall be at home in a two weeks.

Receive these few lines with together with my warmest affection for you

from your affectionate husband

Jesse Morgan

Mary Morgan

Thoughts on the Letter

I have very few comments to make on this letter from Palmyra.  His remark that he should have written two weeks ago, indicates to me that he has been away at least a month. Possibly  he continues a trip he wrote about in April and June.

One thing slightly puzzles me–his references to going “down” when he is going to Palmyra in northern New York.  Since we do have the usage of “down East” for Maine, I wonder if East was “down” and West was “up” in the way that now North is “up” and South is “down”? Perhaps one of my astute readers can clarify?

Say what you may about Jesse’s odd, meandering way of life, and his long absences, he was not afraid to work hard. He will do whatever is necessary to survive.  I am particularly touched by “..you can hardly imagine how bad I want to see home when I think about it I feel all most like flying but mean to hold on a little while yet.”

However, I can’t help but feel even sorrier for Mary.  Back home in Killbuck, she takes care of her own daughter and one of Jesse’s, without a regular source of income. She has no certainty about when her husband will resurface. What a pity that we do not have a record of how Mary is getting along with her end of “living cheap, ” while Jesse is suffering in Palmyra.

Coming Next

Jesse continues to travel, but with greater success.  He purchases land, indicating that he must have had success in selling horses.

Jesse Morgan–Steamboat Travelling Man 1847


Drawing of the Samuel Ward  steamboat that Jesse sailed on from Buffalo to Detroit on its maiden voyage.

Jesse Morgan, my 2nd great grandfather, continues to travel by steamboat on Lake Erie and the canals. The last four letters from her second husband Jesse Morgan that Mary Bassett Platt Morgan kept  may well have been the last she ever received from him.  I have read and re-read these letters trying to determine if Jesse is on one long trip, stretching from March through August, or if the traveling man was going home in between some of the letters.

At any rate, the one-year teacher certification seems to have been set aside. That certificate was valid through November 1846, and unless Mary did not bother to keep the renewal certificate, that was the end of his official teaching career.  The first letter of 1847, written in April, says he has been on the road for a month–certainly well before the school year is over.

The letter is written on both sides of rather thin paper, so the photocopy shows a lot of bleed through. Additionally, some of the first page got cut off on the right side when it was copied.

The Travelling Man Goes Both East and West Again

It appears that when Jesse left Ohio at the end of March, he headed East, because he then took a steamboat at Buffalo to Detroit when he could not get one to Toledo, his intended target.  He wanted to get to Toledo so he could take the canal into Indiana, since he has heard that he can buy cheap horses somewhere south of Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne is only about 103 miles south of Toledo Ohio, probably two days journey for him by land.


Mary Is Surprised By a Letter from Detroit

This letter was in an envelope postmarked Detroit April 30 to Mrs. Mary Morgan, Killbuck, Holmes Co., Ohio with a 5 cent red stamp.

 Detroit April 28th 1847

Dear Wife

                                                           You may perhaps be a little surprised at receiving a letter from me dated at Detroit. It was my intentions to have gone to Toledo but could not get a boat in Buffalo that was going to that place so I took one for this, and tomorrow morning I take one from this place to Toledo.

It costs nothing to travel on the Lake [Lake Erie] now. Only $1.00 from Buffalo to Detroit and 25 ct back to Toledo. This is the effects of oppose (?)[opposition—i.e. competition?]

You must understand that I have sold as I informed you I intended to do as soon as I could in my first letter. [That first letter is missing from the collection.] My horses did not please me and I thought best to get rid of them at small proffit [sic] and buy again. I am now going to take the canal at Toledo and go to Indiana. South of Fort Wayne from the best information the horses are cheaper and plentyful (sic) there.

I think I had better do this than to come home and I hope you will agree with me. I have made $38.00 and it is one month this day since I left home (over my expenses). This is not bad considering the means I had to do with. [Meaning he had few or bad horses?] The demand East is good yet.

I did intend to have written to you from Buffalo but could not get my breath after friessing(sic)  on the__________ until the steamboat started. I came up on an entire new boat we had a pleasant time but rather cold. It was with some difficulty we got out of Buffalo for the Ice. It was more than one mile before we could see the water.

I am well and hope this may find you the same. I should like to see you but will try make up for lost time when I get home. Give Harriet a kiss or two for me and try to get along as well as you can. I wish you to write to me as soon as you received this. Direct it to Akron, Summit County, Ohio.

This next letter I shall write to Doc Woods [a year ago, Jesse had cautioned Mary not to “let Mrs. Woods know everything.” . ] and know you can hear whear I am.

Your affectionate husband

                                                                                   Jesse Morgan

Mary Morgan

Apparently  Jesse hopes to go from Ft. Wayne back into Ohio and then head for Akron, in the northwestern part of the state, and quite close to home. Perhaps he was going back East from Akron before going home, because–horse trading.  It seems he counts on buying cheaper horses in Indiana, and returning eastward to sell them, since he mentions that the market is still good in the East.

If Mary is worrying about Jesse while he is traveling, the information about ice on the lake must have been unsettling.  Conditions on the Great Lakes are so dangerous to the steamboat in the winter that all shipping closes down.  Jesse is traveling in March and April, and reports there is still ice covering the lake a mile out from shore. Shipwrecks were frequent, and mostly weather related.

A Brand New Steamboat

I particularly treasure the details he mentions, like the ice on the lake and how cold the trip was. Because he says he was on a brand new ship, we can trace the name and description of the ship he traveled on to Detroit.The brand new ship could have been the Sam Ward, which launched out of Detroit to Buffalo in 1847 and ran back and forth to Detroit.


New Steamboat announced.

Letter Writing Protocol

All the letters that Mary Bassett Platt Morgan saved have a few things in common. People, in order to get their money’s worth for their postage, strove to fill both sides of a piece of paper, except for space to write an address when the letter was folded.  (Jesse, however, frequently writes one-sided letters)

The signature ordinarily is on the right bottom of the page, and the name of the recipient is on the left bottom of the page. Jesse makes those signatures very fancy, sometimes underlining them. I this letter written in August 1847 from Palmyra New York, Jesse outdoes himself.

Jesse Morgan siganture

Jesse’s signature on letter August 1847–the last one

These 19th century letters seem obsessed with the health of the sender and the recipient. Sure, we still say, “How are you?” in greeting–but I get the sense that health was a major concern. People in this age did not expect to be healthy and live long lives. Thus ill health was an ever-present concern.

Here’s a humorous “guide” to 19th century letter writing.

A more serious view of letter writing.

Coming Next

When Jesse writes his  next letter in June 1847, it is a bit rushed because he has had an unsettling experience. It appears that he may have been home between trips.

When I relate his later letters, you will learn who this “Doc” Woods is that is mentioned so frequently, and see what I learned about his business in Illinois.