From a very young age William B. Morse had two enduring passions: his family and his business. That passion has lived on in Morse’s descendants for four generations. His lumber business, which he founded in the mid-1800’s as William B. Morse & Co. continues to this day, now run by Morse’s great-grandsons. The longevity and vibrancy of this company speaks volumes to the strong work ethic and enduring love within the Morse family.
At the age of 18, William Morse left his family’s homestead in Sodus and headed west to find his fortune. And find it he did. His first job was with Judge Otis Turner’s lumber company in Rochester. For the next 60-plus years, Morse dedicated himself to the lumber business. His close friend from Sodus, Stephen Hollister, soon joined him and the two young men forged a business and personal relationship that endured through Hollister’s retirement in 1893, until Morse’s death in 1904.
William Morse married Sodus native Frances Case when he was 45. Over the next 15 years they had eight children—seven sons and one daughter. Five of the Morse sons never married, living in the family home throughout their adult lives. While this may have been convenient and the custom at the time, perhaps it also illustrated the abundant warmth and affection in the Morse home. After Morse’s death, his wife and their five single sons moved from West Main St. to the East Ave. area. Shortly afterwards the two married sons and their families moved to houses close to the East Ave. home. At various times, all seven of the Morse sons were involved with running the family business.
Clearly, hard work and dedication to family has run throughout the Morse family since William Morse left Sodus for Rochester. Not only has Morse Lumber maintained its position as a strong member of the lumber community, it has sought to grow and innovate, meeting the needs of its consumers. There seems little chance of the Morse entrepreneurial legacy waning, as the Morse Lumber Company has two locations in the Rochester area and countless loyal customers.
Even in death the Morse family remains close. The primary Morse lot in Mt. Hope Cemetery is the final resting place for William and Frances, four of their five single sons and both married sons and their wives. Directly next to the Morse lot is the Hollister lot where Morse’s longtime friend and partner, Stephen Hollister, is buried, along with Hollister’s wife Hattie. William and Frances Morse’s daughter, her husband, the fifth single son and several other Morse family members lie close by in a second Morse lot.
The distance from Wayne County to Monroe County is relatively short, by modern standards. But, the impact on the greater Rochester business community of William Morse’s trek in 1842 has been immense. His vision and success live on in his family and in the company he formed and nurtured over 150 years ago.
Wendy L. Heffer