Oliver Morse, the father of Milton Stratton Morse, and a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, was first a carpenter, then a farmer. He married Waitstill Stratton, of Foxboro, where their son, Milton Stratton, was born, December 25th, 1799. When very young his father removed to Wrentham, Massachusetts, the scene of Milton’s earliest connection with cotton manufacturing. He began work in a small factory, his first task being that of picking cotton and placing it on the cards, which labor was continued for two years. He was then apprenticed to the blacksmith’s trade, but the terms of the contract not being complied with, he returned home at the age of thirteen, his father having removed his family to Attleboro, while he sought employment at Pawtucket. The lad remained at home about a year, engaged in braiding straw and picking cotton by hand for firms in Pawtucket. He next worked for Zeba Kent, in his mill at Seekonk and on his farm, often going to the woods with two yoke of oxen and a horse to load ship timber destined for the shipyards at Warwick, Rhode Island.
Early in 1815 his father removed to a farm. in East Providence, where his son assisted him for a year, subsequently living with his uncle at Foxboro. At the end of a year he entered a cotton mill at Attleboro, and was speedily made overseer of the card room. In this room was a pair of mules, and by their aid he learned mule spinning. A year and a half later he removed -to East Wrentham, near the Foxboro line, and assumed charge of the carding and spinning in Blake’s factory for about two years. After a brief interval spent in farming he assumed charge of the mule spinning in a mill at Walpole, remained at this point one year, and then became superintendent of Elisha Sherman’s factory at Foxboro, where warps were manufactured by contract for firms in Pawtucket. After spending a year at Foxboro he assumed charge of a mill in North Attleboro, devoted to the manufacture of cotton sewing thread. Though this business, being in competition with that of Coates and other English manufacturers, was regarded as a difficult one, Mr. Morse resolved to teach inexperienced operatives to perform it-a policy which he carried out with such success that a half century ago he was able to make, from Sea Island cotton, yarns of No. 130, or one hundred and thirty skeins to the pound.
After an engagement of one year with the Manville Company at Cumberland, Rhode Island, he assumed charge for a brief time of the carding room of a mill at Central Falls, in the same state, and a few months later formed a copartnership with Avery Gilmore, under the firm name of Morse & Gilmore, for the manufacture of cotton goods. Hiring a small mill at Central Falls, they effected a contract with Crawford Allen, of Providence, to stock the mill and sell the goods on commission. They soon established a profitable business, which continued for three years, when Mr. Morse sold his interest. During this period he was also engaged for a year in running the Lefavor mill at Pawtucket. In 1832 he took the Lyman mill at Woonsocket, ran it by contract for Crawford Allen, and removed with his family to that town. In 1833, in connection with Mr. Allen, he purchased the Abbott Run mills at Cumberland, and transferring his residence to Valley Falls, assumed charge of the property, repaired the old and put in much new machinery. He continued in the ownership of this property, his half interest having been increased by the addition of a fourth interest. In 1842 and 1843 he ran by contract a mill at Valley Falls owned by Mr. Allen, and also one owned by Henry Marchant, of Providence. The latter contract, which was for three years, was broker by the owner of the mills on finding that Mr. Morse was making the mills profitable.
In 1843, in connection with Mr. Allen, Mr. Morse operated the Arkwright Mills, at Cranston, Rhode Island, of which he assumed the superintendence. In this relation he continued for eleven years. In 1844 the machinery was removed from the Valley Falls mills to a brick mill then recently built at Putnam, Connecticut, and owned by Mr. George C. Nightingale, of Providence, and in 18,57 machinery was brought from a factory at Greenville, Rhode Island, to the present stone mill belonging to Mr. Nightingale. These mills were successfully operated by Mr. Morse under contract. In 1848 the large stone mill known as the Morse mill was built and operated by M. S. Morse, G. C. Nightingale and S. Dorr, Jr., of Providence, the mill and village around it having grown up in a single year. In 1562 My. Morse, with his brother Alfred, purchased a cotton factory at Holden and one at Farnumsville, both in Massachusetts. He later disposed of the latter and became sole owner of the former interest. Messrs. Morse & Nightingale erected in 1872 the Powhatan mill, at the privilege above that which furnishes power for the mills owned by them at Putnam.
Mr. Morse married on the 30th of September, 1824, Susanna Blake, of Wrentham, Mass. Of their four children, the eldest, Stillman F., was drowned at Valley Falls in his thirteenth year. The surviving children are: George M., born at Central Falls August 25th, 1830; Fanny B., born at Valley Falls October 3d, 1834, and married to Andrew J. Crossman, of Providence, and Susan A., born at Valley Falls August 24th, 1838, and married to Henry A. Munroe, also of Providence. Although Mr. Morse lived to reach the border of four score years, he continued in the active supervision of his affairs until his death on the 17th of May, 1877, the result of an injury received three days previously.
Mr. Morse was much interested in the political events of his day, and willingly co-operated in the various projects which resulted in benefit to the state and country. He, however, never aspired to office, being always engrossed in the care of his important business. His untiring ambition, accompanied with sound judgment, led to success as a business manager. During a period of forty years he never failed to meet his obligations or fulfill all financial contracts. Socially he was approachable to the most humble individual in his employ, and on his decease more than a thousand employes felt the loss of a benefactor and friend.