Morse had been commissioned in 1825 to paint a portrait of Gilbert duMotier, marquis de Lafayette, in Washington. While Morse was painting, a messenger on horseback delivered a letter from Morse’s father that read one line, “Your dear wife is convalescent.”
Morse rushed to his home in New Haven, Conn., leaving that portrait unfinished. By the time he arrived, his wife had passed away. Morse was heartbroken that he had been unaware of his wife’s failing health and her lonely death, and as a result left painting to pursue a means of more rapid long-distance communication.
In the 1830s, Morse was visiting the relatives in Cherry Valley, as he worked in an upstairs bedroom over the kitchen on his invention, the telegraph. Morse completed rough drafts on the necessary apparatus upon which the telegraph was modeled. Morse teamed up with Amos Swan and together they perfected Morse Code.
Morse gave his first public presentation in 1838, but it wasn’t until 1843 that Congress funded $30,000 to construct an experimental telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. In 1844, the first news dispatched by electric telegraph was that the Whig party had nominated Henry Clay for president.
Inventions at Cherry Valley’s Morse House weren’t limited to Cousin Samuel. Many years later Harold Morse had an inventive strength, although it wasn’t as famous as the telegraph. Harold developed a water motor, a forerunner to a turbine that was hooked up to a dynamo and developed sufficient electricity for a light bulb in the kitchen. It was invented in the same room over the kitchen where Samuel had worked on his telegraph plans.
A special thanks goes to Susan Murray-Miller, Cherry Valley Historian for assistance on this article.
On Monday: Area students take aim with marbles in a 1948 tournament in Oneonta.
City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.