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Central Florida History


CitrusLAND Series: 12 Central Floridians

Part Two of this March Edition of 12 Central Floridians spoke of a Chicago scale dealer and native of Vermont, Charles Hosmer MORSE. This distinguished individual is well known to Central Florida history, particularly Winter Park. There was however yet another fascinating New Englander named Charles H. Morse, a man who likewise influenced early CitrusLAND around the same time as that of Charles Hosmer Morse.

Charles Henry MORSE was born in Massachusetts in 1818, 12 years prior to the birth of the Chicago scale dealer Morse in Vermont. Charles Henry Morse, toward the end of his working career, served as an “important clerk in the Pension Office” in Washington, DC.

As mentioned in Part Two, Trustee Charles Hosmer Morse, on June 30, 1884, represented himself and partners Knowles and Fairbanks in acquiring nearly 10,000 acres in remote West Orange County. Their land surrounded Lake Hancock, then extended west into modern day Lake County. Numerous other investors purchased acreage in this very same vicinity, two of which were Frances E. Hewlett and Eugene P. Mallory, both “of Washington, D. C.” Acreage acquired by Charles Hosmer Morse adjoined and encircled that of Hewlett and Mallory.

During the 1880’s, the Tavares, Apopka & Gulf Railroad decided to revise its track alignment. Rather than heading to the Gulf of Mexico from Clermont, Florida, as first planned, the railroad instead mapped a new southeasterly course, heading into Orange County, passing north of Johns Lake, then turning south, toward Osceola County.

Along this new railway path the TA&GRR would pass alongside the western shore of Lake Hancock, crossing lands owned by Morse, Hewlett and Mallory, on its southerly trek toward Hamilton DISSTON’S new town of Kissimmee.

Who then, you might ask, were the two Washington D C investors Frances E. Hewlett and Eugene P. Mallory?

Frances E. Hewlett was a young English gal working as a Pension Clerk, along with Eugene P. Mallory, in Washington, DC. Both were cohorts of “an important clerk in the “Pension Office,” Charles Henry Morse.

Following our nation’s Civil War, the “Pension Office” was assigned the huge task of providing for Veterans and survivors of the American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War, and the Civil War. The organization of this benefits office had been assigned to Montgomery MEIGS, Army Quartermaster during the Civil War.

The Army Quartermaster is charged with providing troops with everything and anything needed on the battlefield – a daunting task to say the least. MEIGS carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion, and was then asked to take on the Pensions Office. Serving in the War as Assistant Quartermaster was Charles H. Morse.

Until his death in 1882, Charles H. Morse was an “important clerk” at the Pension Office following his War service as Assistant Quartermaster, but there is still much more to this remarkable man’s life story. Morse had also worked alongside Senator Henry Wilson in publishing the ‘Boston Republican’ newspaper from 1848 to 1851.

Senator Henry Wilson, the Boston Republican Newspaper, and associate Charles Henry Morse were fierce advocates in abolishing slavery - long before the Civil War, and long before Abraham Lincoln popularized the issue. Senator Wilson and Charles H. Morse were working early on to free our Nation of slavery.

A stroke lead to the death of Charles Henry Morse in 1882, preventing the man from himself being a player in the massive 1884 land grab playing out in America’sParadise. But cohorts Frances E. Hewlett and Eugene P. Mallory did participate in helping to rebuild a war-torn South, in America’s Paradise, in a nation free of slavery.

Plans for the Lake Hancock land grab in West Orange County faltered. The Tavares, Apopka & Gulf Railroad never extended its line further south than Ocoee, and a remote wilderness in West Orange County remained just that well into the next Century. But Central Florida stories have an intriguing way of interacting with one another.

Washington DC Clerk Frances E. Hewlett resigned her Pension Office position in 1890, to marry her boss, James Madison Alden, the Secretary to U. S. Navy Rear Admiral David D. Porter. Five years later, James M. Alden retired, and by 1895, the couple had purchased land to the south of Orlando, acreage once owned by Francis W. EPPES, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson.

A renowned Artist, James M. Alden painted a legendary oak tree that was then standing on his property. The tree, just across a lake from historic Fort Gatlin, was the Council Oak, said to be the location where American Indians first met with the Army to discuss peace. And nearby, in Lake Gem, Alden’s U. S. Navy would soon construct a $1 million research facility.

Central Florida’s fascinating story – truly America’s Amazing History! Two men – each named Charles H. Morse, had a profound influence on 19th Century Central Florida. Our March Edition will conclude Monday, March 30, 2015, by taking a look at CitrusLAND today as it was shaped by the MORSE family factor.
Author’s Note: The U. S. Navy, Pension Clerks Charles H. Morse, Frances E. Hewlett, and Eugene P. Mallory, are all featured in their true-life roles in my Central Florida History-Mystery Novel: THE RUTLAND MULE MATTER(Based on a True Story). Visit MULE Page for details by clicking on the book title.

Also: to view a map showing the TA&GRR planned route visit my RAILROADS Page. 


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