What Clues are in the Newspaper?

The sons of George Frederick Morse. Center back is my great great grandfather, Edward Babe Morse.

Another month has flown by since the last time I posted! That’s the hard thing about working a full time job… it takes away from my genealogy time. I really can’t complain since I do appreciate having my engineering career and the challenges it presents, but I would like to have some brain power left over to work on my genealogy research. I have been continuing my efforts to be better at documenting my research and the mining documents for clues along the way. Easier said than done when you work at something on a sporadic basis. Although in reality it means that I should set up these systems so that I can make progress and not redo research on a regular basis.

I have been pondering my recent trip to Michigan City, Indiana and the clues that I found in the newspapers. I also made a point to “snail mail” my finds to my great uncle to see if he had any recollections that might corroborate the finds. He’s our oldest generation and luckily he is interested and willing to share in the genealogy research. I look forward to whatever he shares! In the meantime, there are a couple clues that I need to work through.

Here’s the first obituary that I am looking at. I’d like to go through and note “facts” that I’d like to find evidence. This is for my great-great grandfather, George Frederick Morse.

Wednesday, February 10, 1892

A Sudden Death.

Geo. Frederick Morse, residing on
North Franklin street across the harbor,
was taken sick about 10 o’clock yester-
day forenoon with neuralgia of the
lungs and heart. He grew worse rapid-
ly and died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
He had been in good health up to the
hour above mentioned and his death
was therefore very sudden and unex-
pected.  He was 39 years of age and
was a robust, healthy looking man. He
leaves a widow and seven children, the
oldest of whom is but 17. His mother,
two brothers and two sisters reside in
this city. Mr. Morse was for many
years a sailor on the lakes but of late
years has been following the occupation
of ship-carpenter. This winter he has
been engaged at assisting in the im-
provements being made on the barge
A. R. Colborn.  The funeral will be
held at 10 o’clock tomorrow forenoon
from the residence. Rev. W. F. Switz-
will officiate.1

First thoughts:

  • Where would North Franklin street across the harbor be in relation to present day Michigan City?
  • Do I have all 7 of his children?
  • Which brothers and sisters of George were living in Michigan City?
  • Where were they living in relation to George?
  • What is known about the barge the A. R. Colborn?
  • What denomination is Rev. W. F. Switz?

Most of these questions could be answered by looking at the city directory for that time period. I’m hopeful that I’ll find out more about other nearby relatives. I’ll also look at the 1900 US Federal Census to see if I can find out more about them. I also plan to look at a map of the area for that time period. A review of the information that I have reveals that I only have 6 children in the family.  I also noticed that I have two of the children born within a month of each other… so obviously something is WRONG there. I need to get that sorted out! Yet another result of my failing to document in a careful way when I first began my research. Lessons learned!

What made me most curious was looking at the ship he had been working on. There is a very cool website called the Great lakes Maritime Database and in it I was able to find a listing for the A.R. Colborn.  According to the database listing it was built in 1882 in Saugatuck, Michigan at the Ralph C. Brittian Shipyard. It was 129.9’ in length and could hold 300,000 feet of lumber. The history and notes was really quite interesting and I’m repeating it here:

“1882, Apr 18 Launched; built for Muskegon, MI – Michigan City, IN, Lake Michigan lumber trade.
1882, Sep 8 Burned Off South Haven, MI, Lake Michigan; rebuilt at Saugatuck, MI.
1883, Apr 28 Rerigged with additional mast.
1884, Nov 21 Ashore, St. Joseph, MI, Lake Michigan.
1887 – 88, Winter To receive new boiler.
1888, Mar 3 Owned Theodore Lutz, St. Joseph, MI, et al.
1890, Aug 5 Owned George G. Oliver, Michigan City, IN, et al.
1890, Sep 19 Grounded Sturgeon Bay, Lake Michigan; repaired.
1892 Reboilered; 8′ x 12′ firebox boiler, 125# steam by Johnson Brothers, Ferrysburg, MI.
1896 Engine rebuilt, Michigan City.
1902, Feb 11 Owned Marine Navagation Co., Michigan City.
1904, Apr 18 Rebuilt, 129.9 x 27.7 x 9.5′, 251.48 gross / 154.14 net tons.
1904, Aug 12 Collided with & sunk by propellers C.A. BLACK & LILLIE, St. Clair Flats Ship Canal; raised & repaired.
1910, Feb 18 Owned John M. Campbell, Michigan City.
1910, Nov 21 Owned Douglass Transportation Co., St. Clair, MI.
1922, Apr 28 Abandoned.”2

The photo of the A.R. Colborn
The photo of the A.R. Colborn from the website Wrecksite.eu

Since George F. Morse would have been working on it before 1892, I can’t help but think that when the ship was grounded in Sturgeon Bay and needed repairs that was when he might have worked on it. I was able to find a photograph of the ship through a simple Google images search. Isn’t it amazing what is at our fingertips? Do you have any sailors in your family’s history? You might see for yourself if you have the names of any of the ships and see what is on Google. I know it’s been a fun topic to research for me!








  1. “The Evening News, Michigan City, Indiana”. Dated: 10 Feb 1892. Microfilm found at Michigan City Public Library on 24 July 2017. Story on George Frederick Morse on p. 2, c. 2.
  2. “COLBORN, A.R.; 1882; Steambarge; US106071.” http://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tbnms1ic/x-36692.179599/0036692_019_f_colbornar.tif. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed: September 21, 2017.

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