Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mr. Morse and John Q...

It's probably evident from many of my posts,that I have a real love of history,and especially for the history of wherever I happen to find myself living at the time.

The Partner,who has lived right here in O-Town for sixty years,has proven to be a valuable resource when it comes to enhancing my appreciation for the color and flavor of the area.

During a recent conversation at his kitchen table,he asked me if I would like to take a look at some documents he'd retrieved from an old house he was remodeling over 30 years ago,most of which were over 100 years old!..Count me in!
He brought out a ragged shoe box,and set it on the table for me to peruse at my leisure.

It soon became apparent that I was looking at pretty much all of the paperwork that several generations of the family Morse sought to keep secure.
There were deeds to several pieces of property in Kansas..A lovely stock certificate from 1906.. well as an invoice for carpeting from 'Thos. Bicknell..Undertaker and dealer in Furniture and Carpets' (Don't you just love the entrepreneurial spirit),dated July,1894.

I loved this letter from a debtor to Mr. Morse in 1903..
'Dear Sir..I have delayed writing to you thinking each week would put money in my hands to pay your note,but so far it has not been so..I had a good crop of oranges,but prices realized were very low,and it seemed impossible to meet it..If you can let it go another year,I shall surely give it early attention,and pay it in full'.

I was enjoying my little voyeuristic look into this life past,however mundane,when I unfolded this!
'The United States of America..To all to whom these Presents shall come,Greeting'..Lord he'p me,that kind of talk makes me a little wet.
I did a quick search for the date..April 1st,1825!

Apparently,Grand Patriarch Morse had purchased some public land in 'The Detroit Michigan Territory' from the U.S. government.
Reading on,the document proceeded to lay out the specific boundaries,that the purchase price had been paid in full...Like that.

Then I came to the line which read,'In testimony thereof,I,..John Quincy Adams'...HOLY CRAP!
And there it was,in the lower right corner,in his own hand.

I have no doubts about it's provenance,given the wealth of the Morse family documentation contained in that unassuming shoe box.
Still,..I lickity-split on over to the interweaves to do a little research.
I found three samples of this very sort of transaction,the best of which,dated 1828,is pictured below,and offered up for sale at $1350.00.

I tried really hard to convince The Partner that this should be preserved in a more suitable fashion,but for reasons that are unfathomable to me,he wasn't very receptive to the idea.
So for now,a lovely and historic piece of Americana lies dormant,in a shoe box,in a closet in O-Town..



At 1:24 PM , Blogger sageweb said...

Holy cow..that stuff is great..Maybe is you told the Partner that Rush Limbaugh told you to tell him to preserve it better.

At 1:50 PM , Blogger jan said...

You have to wonder how many treasures lie in shoe boxes across the world.

At 2:35 PM , Blogger billy pilgrim said...


handwriting has become a lost art in the digital world. our loss.

At 5:32 PM , Blogger Sling said...

Sage- Brilliant!..I could e-mail Rush with my request for him to announce it on his show:
'Dear incredible asshole,..I need a favor'.. ;)

Jan- Oh,you just know they're out there,waiting to be set free.

Billy P.- The handwriting,and calligraphy are some of the most appealing things about old documents for sure..My own cursive is illegible,but I have a fair hand with a calligraphy pen.

At 8:08 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Wow! Holy crap, that's cool! :) I'm excited for you!! :)

At 8:11 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Also, the Partner REALLY needs to preserve it better. But you already knew that. Don't give up on trying to convince him! :)

At 4:39 AM , Blogger Jim Cooke said...

It is a beautiful document; when such items enter a repository they are often never seen or appreciated again. They join other similar archival pieces in a file box, I like the fact that your friend has it and, consequently, more people may get to have the thrill you experienced upon seeing and touching it. The early paper with its rag content was meant to last. If you check the date on the document -- you could match it with JQA's journal which is on-line at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Find out what else Adams was up to on the day he signed it.

At 10:31 AM , Blogger rosemary said...

Holy Schmoley......he has a real piece of American history. Given that our history is relatively small as compared to oh, Rome for instance, and also given that we turned Williamsberg into an amusement park I think.....maybe you should smack some sense into the partners head and get him to preserve these documents or donate them to someplace like the Smithsonian. There I go....acting like a grandmother.

At 1:33 PM , Blogger booda baby said...

Maybe it would be more persuasive to tell him he could dump it into an archival treatment. It sounds like so much wooooork to conserve old documents.

When I worked in the title company, it was always a treat to unearth the handwritten legal descriptions of plots of land; all those tedious details in the most beautiful and error free handwriting.

Sigh. What a joy for you.

At 3:55 PM , Blogger Random Thinker said...

What an unexpected thrill to come across something like that. Detroit territory huh? Maybe the Morse family owned the very land I'm sitting on right now. I wonder if he cut that orange farmer some slack.

At 5:03 PM , Blogger Sling said...

Miss HP- it was an exciting moment,to hold in my hands a document that John Q. held some 185years ago!..I'm such a nerd.

Jim Cooke- Thank you so much for stopping by,and thanks for the website!..I've thought about it,and I think you make an excellent point about keeping it available for folks like me to enjoy..The quality of parchment(?) was durable,no doubt.
My suggestion to The Partner was that he at least frame it in some kind of archival frame.

Rosemary- You just made me think about the last time I was in Germany,in 1974..We were all excited about celebrating our bi-centennial in 1976,and I was standing in a cathedral in Nurnburg that was built in 1100 AD..Nearly 400 years before Columbus!..I thought at the time,that there were outhouses in Europe older than the U.S. :)

Booda Babe- I really would like to see it properly framed,and mounted on his wall,(out of direct sunlight,of course)..I plan on making my best,'You're the custodian of history..Think of your Grandchildren!' argument next time we meet.

Thinker- It was thrilling indeed!
That IOU letter was my next favorite..An earnest request for a loan extension,that I choose to believe was accepted in the spirit in which it was written.
Oh,..I did the math,and you owe The Partner $2,637,863.54 in back property taxes.
..We'll take an IOU.

At 7:08 AM , Blogger Lorraine said...


At 7:33 AM , Blogger secret agent woman said...

Cool beans.

In the little town I grew up in, the undertaker was also a furniture re-upholsterer, which I always found a little sinister.

At 11:38 AM , Blogger Mom said...

WOW! what a wonderful treasure box! I get goose bumps just thinking about holding a paper actually signed by John Quincey Adams. Just amazing.

At 2:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it

At 11:23 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Dude, you are not a nerd! That is awesome! :)

Or I'm just a nerd, too... :)

At 1:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm new around here, seems like a cool place though. I'll be around a bit, more of a lurker than a poster though :)
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At 8:00 PM , Blogger Sling said...

Rainey- Memorably so!

Secret Agent Woman- It occurs to me that maybe coffin making would be a recession proof trade to get into.

Mom- I was thinking while I was holding it,that he must have held it in much the same way as he prepared to sign it..Way cool!

Anonymous- Yep..The trick is to suck 'em in,before you bore them to tears.

Miss HP- Then I'm in good company!
Hey,..we could get t-shirts! ;)

Anonylurk- Hang out as much as you like..

At 9:23 PM , Blogger Middle Child said...

Wow - history is a bit of a passion for me and I know what a thrill this would have been to find. I am the family historian and one day I will get it all down - its in boxes and ring binders, and the dry dates don't hide the real people from me - luckily I listened to the old people and I have a fair picture... no famous names but time and place.

Its a wise person who looks into history I think - sadly few pollies ever do - hence they don't learn from the mistakes of the past

At 2:23 PM , Blogger YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

oh should be sold to or donated to someone that will perserve it in the way it should be..sigh*

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