Captain Morse House // 1840

John Osborn Morse was born in 1803 in Edgartown. He was the second of eight children born to Uriah Morse and Prudence Fisher Morse. His father ran the small ferry from the foot of Morse Street to Chappaquiddick Island. As John Morse grew older, he began working as a whaler on various ships, sometimes gone for years at a time. After his first trip, he was hired as Captain of the Hector, a whaling ship which sailed out of New Bedford. Captain Morse took a break from whaling to establish a wharf on land he purchased and construct a massive Greek Revival home to overlook it. When news hit Edgartown of the gold found in California, it stirred the islanders’ imagination. In 1849, several ships sailed from Martha’s Vineyard to California, one commissioned by Captain Morse. The Vineyard Mining Company, led by Morse, brought roughly 50 passionate and hopeful Americans across the country by boat to California with some onboard writing journals of the trip. The boat arrived in San Francisco and discharged its crew in April of 1850 after a harrowing passage around Cape Horn and visits to several South American ports. After being in California for less than a year, Captain Morse decided to take go for a short whaling cruise. He died on this trip, reportedly getting “dropsy” off the coast of Colombia before succumbing in Peru in 1851.

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