Mark Morse

Mark Morse’s Pasteboard Box Factory is well remembered by other residents. Mr. Morse grew up and learned carpenter’s trade on old homestead in Gray. He recalls stories told him by his grandfather, a Revolutionary War Veteran.

A WONDERFUL man is Mark Morse, who but recently has celebrated his 95th birthday in his home at 57 First Avenue, Auburn. Mr. Morse has for many years been a familiar figure in that city where he has come and gone during a long stretch of years, and but few men have been better known than he. He was born in the town of Gray in 1828, or three years before the death of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St. Helena. From old Revolutionary stock he had descended and was familiar with the history of that struggle.

He was the son of Thomas and Sally Sawyer Morse of New Gloucester, who were among the old-timers of that place. His advantages were limited as a boy, and his education was only that of the common schools of those days. On the farm of his father, he remained until he was 38 years old, and could this parent have had his way he would still be there as it was the desire of his father that he should remain and have the farm. To this his mother objected as she felt that her son could have better advantages to go out into the world for himself, and very happily this proved to be the case. 

Mr. Morse is from long-lived stock. His sister, Mrs. Ara Cushman, died but two years ago at an advanced age, and all of his family have lived beyond the allotted age of man. Another sister, Sarah Jane L. Morse, died at 92 years of age thus leaving Mr. Morse the last of the family.

Always of a mechanical turn of mind, Mr. Morse learned the trade of a carpenter while yet on the farm, and when first coming to Auburn he built the Methodist church in Mechanic Falls, which was a fine sample of his skill. He built many private houses in the city including his home on First Avenue where he now resides. He rebuilt and renovated his old home in East Gray where his boyhood days were passed, now owned and occupied by his son Joshua R. Morse and family. Altho not a regular contractor he could build a house from the foundation up and when finished it was in perfect shape. 

The late Ara Cushman appreciated his mechanical ability and soon employed him as a box maker in his Auburn shoe shop. After making wooden boxes for n time he-started a factory of his own, making pasteboard boxes, which then became the style for packing shoes. At first, he used the upper story of his home at 57 First avenue for the purpose, where he made the boxes for the Cushman firm. This place was soon outgrown, and he moved into a building on Railroad Avenue where his business greatly increased.

His factory was well equipped with machinery, and he gave employment to many hands. In the expansion of his business, he took on making cigar boxes and this proved to a profitable venture as he had a large clientele. He was an enterprising character, and his business grew to large proportions. Not only did he manage his own factory, but he did much work for others including the setting up the machinery in the Androscoggin mill. Odd jobs for friends were always taken and his work was always faithfully done. He might be called a universal genius as he was a fine painter as well as mechanic.

One of the boasts of Mr. Morse was his devotion to the republican party to which he was strongly attached. He had rocked the cradle of that party from infancy and to its policies he has remained true to the present day. Always a great reader, he became well informed on all public matters and took a deep interest in all the great reforms of his day, including the anti-slavery movement and temperance. His principal authority was the Lewiston Journal, and this he has read from its first issue. Fine print never bothered him, as he has always been able to read without glasses and can still do so at 95 years of age. This may be called something remarkable, and a power possessed by few.

Mr. Morse has been married three times. His first wife was Susan B. Littlefield of Foxcroft and to this union two children were born. These are Joshua R. Morse of East Gray and Alfred W. Morse of Cisco, Utah. The mother of these children died in 1859. The youngest son Joshua was but two years old when his mother died.

Some two years later, Mr. Morse married Miss Emily Fuller of Lawrence, Mass., where the couple lived for a few years. Two children came to this union, both of whom died young. The girl, Bertha, died at ten years of age and the boy, Edward, died at six years. The mother of these children died in December of 1898.

The third wife of Mr. Morse was Mrs. Finelia Y. Russell of Turner, who is still living and the caretaker of her husband. This marriage was in 1900. There are but two grandchildren, Edward Morse, who lives on the old home place in East Gray, and Julia C. Morse who was named for Mrs. Ara Cushman.

Mr. Morse has never been a member of any church, but his preference is the Auburn Methodist, where he has mostly attended. He has been too much of a home body to join any of the fraternal organizations. He has always preferred to spend his evenings at home and with his books and papers. The past year has seen a rapid decline in his physical powers and for several months he has been confined to his room. A friend, Samuel Ham, comes to shave him every Sunday morning and to hop in any way that may be wanted.

Years ago, Mr. Morse joined the American Legion of Honor, and lost $1200 in the operation as the association later went down and disbanded. Altho not a soldier, he is an honorary member of Burnside Post Always. Always a strong advocate of temperance, yet he never joined the Prohibition party as he was too firmly grounded in republicanism. He took great pride in his family connections and frequently visited the grave of his grandfather, the old Revolutionary soldier who is buried in the Gray cemetery.

A nephew, Major Ara Cushman, Jr., won his spurs in the great World War. The late Charles L. Cushman of Auburn was another nephew whom he valued very highly. It will be recalled that this gentleman died on his way to England some six or eight years ago. In his younger days, Mr. Morse frequently visited his old home in East Gray, a place for which he always held the most tender memories.

Mr. Morse has always been a most hospitable and delightful companion. He loved to talk of the old days and of the men and women who were still remembered. He could easily recall those whom he had known 90 years ago and even describe some of their peculiarities. Those matters nave now mostly passed from his mind, and he can but dimly recall the scenes of the past.

And what a wonderful panorama it has been thru which he has passed! While sitting on the knee of his grandfather he has listened to the tales of the Revolution and the sufferings of the men at Valley Forge. He heard of the great battles of Napoleon Bonaparte while their recollection had not dimmed but were still fresh in the minds of men. He lived in an age before stoves were known and the big fireplace and brick oven were the only methods of cooking. He has seen these cities grow from a few scattered houses to their present size. All the mighty inventions now in use were unknown to his boyhood days.

Yes! a mighty panorama has been unfolded during his long span of life and the end is not yet. True his eye has grown dim, but now and then it still lights with a flash as memory recalls some scene of the past. It may be said that he has lived in two ages and passed thru the civilizations and is now a connecting link between the present and the past. In his old ago he is tenderly cared for by his wife and friends and is gently gliding down the hillside of life surrounded with all the comforts that has been made possible by industry and economy and the devotion of family friends.

~L.C. Bateman
Lewiston Sun-Journal
23 Jun 1923; page 20