The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Fall 1994, Volume 40, Number 4
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Letters Written from San Diego County, 1879-1880

by Rufus Morgan, North Carolina Apiarist and Photographer

Edited by Stephen E. Massengill and Robert M. Topkins
North Carolina Division of Archives and History

Images from the Article

Rufus Morgan, son of Samuel Wilson Morgan (1804-1862) and Esther Jane Robinson Morgan (1818-1876), was born in Virginia on May 5, 1846. His parents were natives of Virginia, but his paternal grandfather, Capt. Samuel Morgan (b. 1770) was from South Carolina. In 1861 Rufus Morgan moved with his family to Warrenton, North Carolina, and his father died there the following year. Rufus apparently continued to reside for a time in Warrenton with his mother and two siblings before joining the Confederate army late in the war. After being captured by Union forces and imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, young Morgan reportedly escaped and returned to Warrenton near the end of the conflict.

After the war, Rufus Morgan taught himself the nascent photographic trade and became an itinerant photographer. By early 1869 he had opened a studio in New Bern, North Carolina, where he specialized in the creation of stereoscopic and landscape views. By the early 1870s Morgan had begun traveling again with his camera. Throughout that decade he spent time in various towns and cities in North Carolina and published a number of the photographic scenes he had captured. On November 11, 1873, Morgan married Mary Devereux Clarke (1854-1931), only daughter of a prominent North Carolina family. Mary Devereux Clarke's parents were Col. William J. Clarke (1819-1886), veteran of the Mexican War, former Confederate officer, attorney, and judge, and Mary Bayard Devereux Clark (1827-1886), a renowned poet and author.

Following their wedding, the couple resided in various North Carolina cities, where Morgan continued to pursue his chosen profession of photography and acquired a reputation for the excellent quality of his work. In spite of his fine reputation, Morgan apparently began to realize that the photographic trade would not generate enough income to support himself and his wife. In April 1875, he traveled to the town of Hickory in the western part of the state to investigate the prospect of starting a new career in beekeeping and fruit growing in that region. Increasingly fascinated by commercial beekeeping, he experimented with a certain type of beehive in 1875 and applied for a patent on the device. The following year he sold his photographic equipment and returned to Hickory to visit his ailing mother. By the spring of 1876 Morgan had entered the beekeeping business in the western North Carolina town of Old Fort, while at the same time remaining active as an itinerant photographer. In 1876 and 1877 he sold bees, as well as his "combination hive," in Old Fort.

About March 1878, Morgan moved his business to the eastern North Carolina city of Goldsboro, where he continued to sell beekeeping equipment and take and sell photographs. In the summer of that year he began inquiring into the prospect of traveling to California to engage full time in commercial beekeeping. By the fall of 1878, a year of inordinately large yields of honey in the Golden State, he had become convinced that prospects for the production and sale of honey were bright there and began making arrangements to relocate to the San Diego area.

In January 1879, Morgan left his expectant wife and three-year-old daughter, Mary Bayard Morgan (1875-1959), and traveled by train through Chicago to San Francisco and from there by ship to San Diego. In a letter of introduction written on Morgan's behalf, New Bern merchant Jonathan Havens described the North Carolinian (undoubtedly with some hyperbole) as "an Apiarist, and . . . standard authority throughout the United States, on the subject of Bees." In San Diego County Morgan entered into a business partnership with Ephraim W. Morse, a prosperous local business and civic leader. Under the terms of the agreement -- "profit & expenses to be borne equally" -- Morgan took charge of Morse's apiary (known as Glen Oak or Oak Glen) near a place named Bernardo,1 some thirty miles northeast of San Diego, and Morse agreed to provide the financial resources necessary to encourage the enterprise. Morgan proudly boasted of the firm of "Morgan & Morse."

Morgan entered upon his duties with enthusiasm. He took charge of an apiary with 400 stands of hives and subsequently began writing an "Apiarian" column for the San Diego News. Because of unusually wet weather, the honey crop for the 1879 season was a virtual failure. Morgan, seemingly unfazed, began planning for a better year in 1880, but before his plans could materialize he died unexpectedly on April 5, 1880, after having eaten a meal of poisonous mushrooms. Before he died, Morgan expressed to friends in California his request to be placed in a plain wooden coffin and interred in a nearby canyon, in order to save his family the expense of shipping his body cross-country to North Carolina.

As soon as Rufus Morgan arrived in San Diego in mid-January 1879, he began writing periodic letters to his expectant wife, who resided at varying intervals either at the home of her parents in New Bern or with her husband's married sister, Alice Person, near the town of Franklinton, North Carolina. Reproduced below are varying portions of fifty-two of the fifty-seven letters Morgan is known to have written to his wife and members of his wife's family between January 24, 1879, and April 4, 1880 (the day before his death). In his letters, Morgan, who described himself as "a pretty shrewd observer," provides a unique snapshot of San Diego County, California, in that fifteen-month period, as viewed by a provincial North Carolinian seeing the area for the first time. Morgan describes in detail the county's topography, climate, agriculture, wildlife, business conditions, and people and frequently contrasts those subjects with their North Carolina counterparts. (Excluded from the selected letters are Morgan's numerous references to his and his wife's precarious financial situation, his constantly evolving aspirations to bring his wife and other family members to California, and purely personal comments concerning members of his wife's family.)

The letters also reflect a transition in Rufus Morgan's thinking from unabashed optimism to a more realistic weighing of his situation as the year 1879 unfolded. Morgan began the year virtually certain of his long-term prospects but subsequently found himself compelled to borrow money from E. W. Morse and to raise chickens and even to make and attempt to sell "mottos" he had made from dried ferns as ways of earning needed money to send to his wife in North Carolina. Morgan to the very end of his life expressed the hope to be reunited with his wife and family. On the day before his death, he wrote to his wife, imploring her to write to a steamship company in New York "right off" and "and see what will be the cost of your & children's passage. . . ." Tragically, Rufus Morgan's death at the age of thirty-three prevented him from ever seeing his son, Samuel W. Morgan, who was born in New Bern, North Carolina, in July 1879. Morgan's daughter, Mary Bayard Morgan, only about four years old when her father died, subsequently became an accomplished photographer in her own right.

According to family tradition, Mary Clarke Morgan received Rufus Morgan's last letter and a separate notification of his death in the same day's mail. She is said to have read her husband's letter first, then fell in a dead faint upon reading the news of his demise. Mary C. Woodson, whose letter of April 5, 1880, informed Mary Morgan of the tragedy, wrote to Mary Morgan's mother, Mary Bayard Clarke, on May 9, expressing shock and dismay at E. W. Morse's failure to dispatch a telegram bearing the sad news. In addition, Mrs. Woodson castigated Morse for what appears to have been an outright absence of compensation for Morgan's "unceasing care and hard work," as well as monetary outlays Morgan made on behalf of the partnership. For his part, Morse wrote to Mary Morgan on April 7, 1880, to express his condolences but offered virtually nothing in the way of compensation, instead informing her that Rufus had borrowed from him a total of $125. He offered to return to Mary all of her husband's earthly possessions: a gold watch chain, two gold studs, a few books, a trunk, some clothing, and a quantity of pressed ferns and fern work.2

The Morgan letters are presently in the possession of Mary Moulton Barden of New Bern, granddaughter of Mary Devereux Clarke and her second husband, George Moulton. The editors express their deep appreciation to Mrs. Barden for her generosity in allowing them to transcribe, edit, and publish the letters, as well as for her kind assistance with research connected with the publication project.

 

The Letters

Jan. 24, 1879 -- San Diego, Cal.

Dear little Wife,

Your old man has at last found time to sit down and write you a letter, and you see he has taken a good big sheet of paper to write on. Of course I have seen but little yet and what I write are simply impressions to be either confirmed or the opposite, but you know I am a pretty shrewd observer and if what I say to you proves not exactly the truth, why, you will find it very near it. What has struck me more forcibly than any thing else is the extreme politeness of these western people; it is not a polish, we have more of that than they do, but somehow they make an impression on me of a real desire on their part to furnish all the information they have. I noticed it as soon as I left Chicago in the railroad conductors and employees -- You ask a conductor a question and he seems to take pleasure in giving all the information he has. I heard more profanity at the New Berne depot the morning I left than all the rest of the time of my entire trip.

My trip was altogether devoid of interesting incidents and the country was covered with snow & I passed all the best scenery in the night time, and I know of nothing that would be of interest to you until my arrival here; even the the [sic] trip down the coast was like sailing over a "summer sea" for smoothness, but very cold and raw, so much so that I had to wear my overcoat all the time, and the people say it is just so in summer. The coast is lined with mountains, bare of timber & in a great many places they run down & break off in perpendicular bluffs right into the sea. All the towns I saw after leaving San Francisco are beautifully placed, much more so than I expected -- and Santa Barbara especially looks like a picture of places we hear of in Europe, with immense mountains right at its back. And there is one thing strange in this -- that none of these impressed you as large, though I knew they were -- this impression of size did not seem to disappoint me at all -- but I had a feeling that they might be larger and yet I would not be surprised, though I was then looking at peaks that rose precipitably from 7000 to 8000 feet high -- Every one here is crying out hard times and complaining, but I can see that they are very prosperous, much more so than we; even in this town which is usually considered a very dull one.

I dined today with Mr Morse3 and found every thing very pleasant -- Mrs M.4 is a plain body but kindly & evidently well educated. Every one here seems to be plain -- no style at all, but not rough. On Mr M.'s porch, all along the top of it and clear across is an ivy geranium in full bloom, in his garden he has bananas nearly ripe & some oranges. Flowers, and especially geraniums (even pelargoniums) grow with a luxuriance that is all one could wish -- this wherever they have water -- but the country around is brown and sere now, looking more like a desert than any thing else, but they say that in six weeks it will be a carpet of flowers & until July the most beautiful place on earth -- after that it will be sere and yellow again -- But they also say this, that in gardens where moisture is supplied flowers do not burn up at all in the summer but are green and luxuriant all the time.

The honey prospect is good and I will be able to get all the bees I wish on shares but I will not be able to make as much honey as I expected to, for you see I will have to divide profits -- but as the business is even better than I anticipated before I came, that can be put up with for one season. I have had lots of offers -- a dozen men are eager to secure my services, but I will be in no hurry to tie to any one. Have also offered me all the money I will need in case I wish to purchase of course to divide profits with they [sic] parties offering. Mr Morse intended to take me out into the country to day but could not, will go to-morrow or next day & will write you as soon as I get back. Dr Woodson5 has been in to see me & will take me on almost my own terms but some how I dont fancy him much & hardly think I will go in with him. I can even now see that business integrity is a rare thing here and my letters have done me an immense amount of good. I believe I can gain here very easily an influential standing and be somebody -- And a home here, it seems to me ought to make one happy if its possible in this world. To sum up -- I have more than met my expectations in every thing, connected with climate here, the town, my prospects in it & the honey resources of this county. The people are much plainer than I expected to find them here -- no style in the sense we use -- that is, if I succeed even moderately, we will be able to live in as good style as any one, so far as I can see. I have been literally welcomed with open arms. It is as I expected with the bees, I will have to be 35 or 40 miles off in the mts, but as I will have an assistant and plenty of work you know it will not be bad, especially when I think that I am working for such a dear little wife and baby (& Sam?).6 But there is also this advantage. I will have [a] full six months to do nothing in & stay with you.

Mr Morse takes his wife out to see the mountains and stays seven & eight days, camping out -- wont we have a good time at it? I can see one thing we must not have too many babys! The honey business is a big thing here, bigger than I had any idea of -- I know in five years from now I will be making $5000 pr year! -- Fortunes are made at it here & all are doing well at it. Plain farmers talk of raising $1500 to $2000 worth of honey just as we talk of making 8 & 10 bales of cotton. I wont write any more to night for fear I will write out -- Good night good little wife & love to Mammy in law & kiss baby. . . . R.M.

 


Jan 30 -- 79 --San Diego, Cal. -- Thursday Night

Dear Wife and Baby,

I left here as I wrote you last Sunday morning and only returned to night about dark. I found three letters from you and one from Will.7 Your letters were the next best thing to seeing you and baby, and I do hope that you take my leaving as cheerful as you say, as it would lighten my mind by half if I knew you were cheerfully awaiting my return. You know September will soon be around and then farewell to care!

Mr Morse & I went out in a top buggy and I believe carried me everywhere -- to many apiaries & all received me most cordially -- in fact if you could see the attention shown me by the best men in the place you would feel very much flattered, and would fully realized [sic] that we will be somebody here. The country looks very barren as all the hills are nearly devoid of timber, only covered with brush and shrubs, but the dwellings -- mostly about like ours at Old Fort are all placed in the prettiest little nooks and vallies imaginable, and around each are generally arranged hives, from 10 to 200 -- pretty much on benches like they do in the country with us. I visited many houses and all the people look poorly dressed, but I find its the style here -- as I am sure all were well to-do & making money -- but strange to say, never mind how poorly they might appear in dress, you would always discover that you were talking to what would pass with us for a gentleman & educated at that! -- they all impress you that way. We were at a Dr Marshall's8 who came here four years ago without a cent -- now he has a beautiful farm, wagon, two horses, nice house, etc, and made it all on bees! It seems as if it is impossible to realize that money can be made so easy but this man really knew nothing of the business & passed through a most disastrous year. T'would do Tom's heart good to see the abundance of game of all kinds every where.8 You can see flocks of geese on wheatfields 2000 strong -- rabbits (3 kinds) every where, there are our kind & some twice so large with tremendous ears, that are called mule rabbits, flocks of quail in large numbers -- these are beautiful, like our quail (partridge) in size & habits but nearer a dove in color, with a black crest like this [RICK: ARTWORK GOES HERE] of a single feather. I killed eleven at three shots -- could have continued until I had a hundred if I wished. Then there are other birds our mocking bird among them, and the brightest plumaged humming birds imaginable! Every thing is new to me, birds & plants, but have seen nothing very tremendous yet, except the hill and plains.

Mr Morse's apiary I have agreed to take & is 35 miles from town up a ravine in a very picturesque place, about such a place as one at the first tunnel at Old Fort would be, only the mountains rise more precipitably here than there. Its a first rate location and he gave me at once my own hives. I am to own the business & share half the running expenses of it & have half the honey. He is to furnish without cost to me every thing that is of the value of an investment, such as hives tanks extractor etc and if at the end of the season I wish to continue the business he is to let me have 200 hives with bees and honey at $1.50 pr hive. I have 150 stands in the Harbison hive to start with & exp to increase them to 500 -- will transfer them to simplicity hives at once.9 Now dont you think that is a good opening for your trifling husband? I cant make less than $600 above expenses this season & the honey crop is already assured. I had a hard fight of it to get him to go to the expense of buying hives for transferring, but I gained my point and to morrow we go to the mill to order 500 hives. I have carte blanch to order every thing I want! There is a good house on the place -- ranches they are called here -- about like ours was at Old Fort & my assistant is a good cook, whom we employ during the honey season only. You ought to see the chickens they have here -- are so large fat & healthy looking -- it is certainly a fine fowl country. In a word, I am more than pleased so far, and feel sure we have a certainty of a happy home here and all the comforts that we'll need. Its a much better honey country than I expected -- every shrub and bush and sprig of grass, if you ask the name of it, they will say -- "thats one of our best honey plants" -- "it blooms so & so" -- naming some month & they all bear honey. But heres the drawback that, though I will make three times the amt of honey I expected the price is only 4 cts -- but is just as ready sale at that as our cotton at 7¢ -- I am satisfied myself at the price & can make money at it, but every body is grumbling. The bee vail came and is nice. We have to pay for a double story simplicity -- hive 1.00 -- including frames, but not naild. Am real homesick to see my little wife and baby, I have'nt seen a pretty woman or child since I saw them -- but I will be all right as soon as I get to work. Next Thursday is the day set apart for the annual meeting of the bee men & I am going to stay here until then to see what I shall see.

You must direct your letters to Bernardo, San Diego Co Cal -- in the future as that will be the name of my office. Its five miles from my ranche but I will try and write to you at least twice a week. You will like [it] here I am sure -- we will be in our glory as regards flowers and fruit -- it really seems as if they grew by magic, they all look so luxuriant & thick! Mrs Morse has actual trees of pelargoniums as high as my head and the calla lillies are simply tremendous in size of stalk and leaf, but I dont see that the flower is any different than with us, but as for oranges etc -- there are few large ones in this section as every thing seems comparatively new & trees have not had time to grow large. Almonds dont do well, nor apples & peaches. Apricots bear full, strawberries & most all else ditto. A good house can be rented here for $7 to $8 pr month & everything is much cheaper than I thought for -- my board at a good hotel is only $1 pr day? Dont have the blues but keep loving your husband & he will soon be back with pocket full of rocks, & dont let baby forget me -- Love to all --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sat Night Feb 1 79 -- San Diego Cal.

Dear Mary,

Have been quite busy today attending to making or rather sawing out of 450 hive, double story simplicity. The way they do business here is a mistery to me -- now the party I buy my hives of charges me $1.00 each for the double story hive, frames & all, & the same would cost me in Goldsboro 1.25 each -- this every thing ready to nail -- I to do that -- when here they pay $35 pr 1000 ft for lumber -- there only $10. --

Here " " $3. pr day for help -- " " $1.25

" expenses of Engine pr day $10.00 -- " " $1.50 What make[s] it so I can see & these men are more prosperous than ours! -- Wood here $8 pr cord -- there $2.50!

And so it is in boarding -- I am at a hotel, that is better than Patterson's in appearance & as good as you could wish in table -- fully up to the best in New Berne and they charge only $1.00 pr day -- and a single lodging 25¢ -- a single meal 25¢, and the proprietor is evidently prosperous, and yet he pays $80 -- pr month for his cook & to two real nice girls -- as lady like as any one $20 pr month & board!

What impresses me very much so far is that their moral status is higher here than with us. Mr Morse says that he never feels unsafe if he sleeps with all his doors unlocked -- that there is absolutely no danger in so doing.

So far as I can see, I will be able to run my business this season without expending a cent except for blankets and a few personal comforts that do not amt. to much; -- Dont you see from that, that I am going to get along! In every thing I write you, you may depend on my not glossing over any thing disagreeable -- as in all I will let you know the truth. . . . You may cast care to the winds now -- for I am sure now of a competency and though for this year I will have to divide profits with Mr Morse, next year I will be all right.

There is only one drawback that I can see for our perfect contentment and that is, its impossible to hire servants here often -- though they are not needed as with us, for water goes all over the house, & the wood is never sold here except cut ready for the stoves! Every one gets their washing done by Chinese -- one "Chi Lung" charge[s] me 10¢ each for mine with no charge for socks, handkerchiefs or collars! I inclose a piece of linen which was my bill, guess you cant read it!

The distances are very deceptive here -- you travel some 4 or 5 miles & it dont seem more than 1 or 2 -- In passing a field that you think is 40 or 50 acres you are surprised to find it contains more than ten times as much!

The 2d bee veil came to hand all right -- Good little Wife! A sight of you and baby would do me so much good to night! -- but I am satisfied -- as I know now the future contains so much more happiness for us all than we could ever hoped to have in N.C. Take good care of Sam & be as cheerful as you can, for everything is just as hopeful here as I anticipated, and to tell you the truth a little more so. I sent you 1/2 doz views which will give you a good idea of the country both coast and interior -- very luxuriant where there's water -- very barren & desert where none! Good night Darling Wife

Rufus Morgan

 


Tuesday Night [ca. February 6, 1879] -- San Diego

Dear Mary --

Its still raining, so that I have nothing to do but read a little and look out of the window a little. Every thing now looks lovely for a splendid bee season -- . . . Love to all & a kiss for baby -- California dont seem near so far as it used to -- but to you I suppose it seems further then ever! --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

The stereo views I send you send up to Sister -- give them to her or if you wish it make her return them to you

 


Feb 9, 1879--Oak Glen Apiary.

Dear Mary,

Here I am at last settled at "home" -- or at least it feels something like one, as I am fixed very comfortably and boss of the ranche -- every thing is a ranche here. Mr Smith, Mr Morse's tenant for 4 years is my Assistant & a very fair one and a good cook10 -- I have nothing to do with that. Arrived here Friday night at nine oclock and yester day commenced to clean up, as every thing is in a mess. Have already obtained from scraps 1 1/2 barrels of honey and over 50 lbs of wax -- all real nice comb, so that there was no trouble at all in separating the wax from it. The house here is just about like ours at Old Fort, with no division down stairs & no kitchen -- I am up stairs fixed about like Tom was at Old Fort. The honey house is large and roomy about 20 yds off. If I only had you now at S. Diego to go to see occasionally I would be all right -- Your pictures and baby's do look so natural -- it's next to having you with me. The more I see of things the better I like them, especially the honey prospects. Raw hands go into here and make more money than our farmers do off cotton. This year and next will be hard on me, for besides dividing with Mr Morse -- I will next year have to start to housekeeping but as you are always so willing to economize it will all work out. I cant fail to make by Sept 1st $800 or $1000 as my share this year above expense -- so Mr M. & I figure -- if it comes out so, you see what a future we have. Every thing is growing greener and flowers gradually coming out and the bee making just a little honey -- but as this season is a month later than usual, there wont be much doing until about March 1st You used to talk about my destroying things & being so careless, if you could only see here, you['d] think I was a model for neatness -- there are enough ruined section boxes to last us for stove wood a month -- fully $75 worth I am sure.

From a good spring, just across the canyon about 300 yds we have water conveyed in an iron pipe to the door and the surplus irrigates the garden, from which I gathered tomatoes today.

Have a full supply of nice raisins on hand, dried by my assistant -- enough to eat them all spring whenever we'll wish to do. I would not think of letting you live in the country here as the neighbors are too far apart & scarcely any of them married -- many live with squaws they say, though I have not seen any such, but mostly they cook, wash, & clean up for themselves -- but in town its just like it is with us. So far I have seen nothing to indicate a loose woman except a few dirty indians and I believe there are no white ones in the country. So many single men make marrying easy and offers a sure home to any disappointed or poverty struck woman. Sunday is not observed here but very little and but little stock taken in religion, but beyond that, they are just as peaceable & good people as I ever met -- Have not seen a single drunken or noisy person since I landed. Keep up heart, your husband is going to make lots of money.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Feb 15th -- 1879 --Oak Glen -- Bernardo Cal

 

Dear Mary --

. . . The country gets lovelier and lovelier every day --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

Enclosed find white sage leaves -- Ireoganum or Buckwheat Greasewood -- & -- all honey plants --

 


Sunday, Feb 23 1879 --Oak Glen Apiary, Bernardo -- Cal

Dear Mary --

. . . As soon as I get fixed I am going to raising chickens too -- there is a great deal of money in it here -- you get 25 to 30¢ pr lbs for turkeys 25 to 40¢ pr dozen for eggs & the chickens never die from cholera & dont require feeding. You throw corn down to our chickens here & it will lay there a day or so untouched. Every morning I am up & eating breakfast by lamp light & work all day & at night do not feel at all worn out! How do you account for it? You know up at Old Fort, most any hard work tired me out! When you come you may have a horse as you can buy them as low as $10 -- !

Bees are doing finely so far -- sent in my first barrel of honey last week and have about three more on hand. Mr. Smith my assistant is an old Georgian and cooks & washes up things, so that I do nothing but work and wear dirty clothes

My place gets prettier to me [e]very day and just now the mountain sides are turning white with the mountain lilac. I have found a root that is called mock orange and looks like a gourd vine, just the thing to burn in my smoker, it never goes out & you cant make it blaze. It grows very large, as large as a stove pipe hat and down about four feet in the ground before you get to it.I notice a dearth of pollen here and the bee keepers all complain that the bees wont breed until late in the spring -- well as soon as I noticed that they were bringing in honey & no pollen and yet there was a scarcity of brood, I offered them some flour -- you ought to have seen them swarm over it -- fully as bad as you ever saw them swarm over honey at O.F. They take up 5 lbs a day now and would take up 10 if I were to give it to them. I look upon it as a big thing. . . . The squirrels are a great nuisance here -- and as I write there is a badger scratching a hole under the house. The tale we heard about so many insects here is all humbug. They say there are a great many flies in summer, but there are none now -- no fleas, at least not as many as we have -- no red bugs -- and the only pest I hear of are ticks & in 4 or 5 miles walk you get about a dozen, all large ones! -- not near as many as at home. Only one poisonous snake -- the rattlesnake & no one that I can hear of was ever been known to be bitten by one -- though they are quite common in some places. They have a horned toad, which is the ugliest little thing you ever saw -- just like a lizard but spikes all over his body like a coat of mail! When I get fixed I am going to try and acclimate the canary bird -- am sure it can be done. . . . Good night little wife --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


March 3d 1879 --(8 1/2 P.M) -- Oak Glen Apiary

Dear Wife -- We have here a standard dish, just what hominy is at Dr K's11-- its a bean, always boiled like our peas -- well, I've just finished cleaning and washing some for to morrow's meals; whilst my man goes to the postoffice -- we rarely have time to go in day light, but I could'nt write to you, because I had to write to Mr Morse a long letter & if he waited for yours t'would take too long in the night. T'is spring here every day, nothing that could be desired in way of climate -- Mary B. could play out of doors all day at any time since I've been here -- down in S.D. though at this season the air is heavy & at times raw -- but not here. We have over our door a beautiful Australian Pea vine three years old and now in full bloom, but every night I sleep under three blankets. Have already had three liberal offers for next year -- one a guarantee of $50 pr month and 1/2 of the crop besides! You will be delighted with the climate, but the honey and poultry business is the only thing that I can see any money in. I send you a poor specimen of our quail heads, if you will send me some glass eyes for them -- Frank13 can get 1/2 dozen for 10¢ -- I will send you 1/2 dozen, nicely done up & one or two other kinds. . . .

Your bee veils are the only ones I ever had, that would keep out bees entirely -- but have not had any of them badly stirred up yet. The thinnest honey here is thicker than any you ever saw, so thick that you go to wash out a vessel that's had honey in it, it seems like getting tar off! At this time of the year I would always have you out here with me as it's so pleasant -- Mrs Morse and Mr M. take long tramps together, like we did to Hickory Nut Gap,14 only they carry a mattrass along and when night comes, sleep out in the open air! -- He says we will go with our wives next fall! I like him very much and think we will stay to-gether some time, though as yet nothing beyond this year is talked of. You need winter clothes here 360 days in the year, so they say, but I find my old photograph ones just to come in right. Hope baby's cough is not serious -- healthy children -- all I have seen -- Dr Woodson has three very pretty chubby little little [sic] ones, and the women dont seem to tan in this climate like they do with us. . . .

Tuesday night -- This will go off to-morrow evening -- Have just finished supper, had butter, beans, bread (Graham), and honey. Have coffee for breakfast and dinner -- I can't drink it at night, as I go to bed so early after supper that it makes me restless & so I've quit having it -- take honey in it instead of sugar, and am beginning to like it as well -- Think it will cost me about 20¢ a day to live here as I do now. If you and I can only fix it so as not to hire a servant here, we are all right, though a chinese would suit you & only cost $20 pr month. . . .While writing to you, I can hear quail all round the house calling, in a very low note -- more like the croak of a frog than any thing else. Orange trees are about to bloom, though we have only three or four small ones here. Am still busy transferring bees, manage to get 10 hives a day through. . . .

. . . Good night --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


March 12 1879 -- 8. P.M. --Oak Glen Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

Mr & Mrs Morse came out Sunday and staid until this morning & I enjoyed their visit very much. Mrs M. did all the cooking & we lived very nicely -- did not know there was such a contrast between men & women's work. She is very plain, about what you would imagine Mrs Green to have been twenty years ago.15 The[y] are both very full of your coming out -- Mrs M. says next year Mr M. is coming out during honey time and to help & that you and she will do the cooking and running to town for supplies -- as they have a nice one horse turn out. . . . You ask me what to wear here -- just bring what you would carry to Old Fort -- provided there were no hot days there. You will need here light winter or heavy summer clothing -- its the same thing here all the year -- days warm and pleasant -- nights cool & we have to have a fire. Its worth living here for the climate alone.

Every thing is higher here than there, but not much -- except labor -- that is very high -- servants $15 to $25 pr month. Laborers $30 to $40 pr month -- but every thing else is reasonable. You cant bring but a 100 lb trunk -- all over they charge you 20¢ per lb! -- So you must get a lighter trunk and send all over 100 lbs by freight -- & it will take it 6 weeks to get here. Dont bring any furniture but what you are attached to & what you freight, put up in not too large boxes & put it up strongly. If you want the carriage to come, all right, put it in a box, wheels off, & pack it full of something else.

. . . You are going to be happier here than you ever were in your like [sic] before -- no one is sickly in this climate, except on the coast they complain of heavy damp air, like Beaufort, which gives many colds.16

. . . Do you want any more ferns? -- can get as many as you wish. . . .

Good night little Wife --
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday, March 16, 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

. . . There is now every prospect of Mr Morse and I going into [business] very largely next [year] -- but as yet not much has been said about it. Have bought me a Chinese hat & like it very much and it is just the thing for hot weather.

. . . Mr Morse and his wife will in all probability come out & take charge of one or two apiaries next year -- at least he says so, and she would like nothing better. They seem to be as nice people as one would care to work with -- accommodating & have plenty of money -- He is City Treasurer & Director in Bank, etc -- & if [is] one of the oldest settlers & no child with them.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday March 23d 1879 --Oak Glen

 

Dear Mary

. . . I find I am fully appreciated here and any time is too much taken up with visitors -- all very friendly and seem to think I am a marvel of bee knowledge -- My comb foundation works elegantly and is a great assistance, they will build it out in 48 hours -- Mr M. & I are going into the business largely next year I expect -- as large as I wish to if at all. You would take a great deal of pleasure in helping us out in our plans if you were only here.

Aft
Rufus Morgan

"Blue Ceonothus [sic]" -- Large bush -- very abundant & as pretty a flower as I ever saw. Do flowers get there so you can tell any thing about them?

 


March 28 1879 --Bernardo, Cal.

 

Dear Mary --

All quiet -- only a hot east wind is blowing -- very unusual at this season & every one has the blues -- but it wont hurt if we can get an inch more of rain & last year there fell 3 inches in April & year before 4. It takes 8 inches to make a crop & we have had six and a half. . . .

R.M.

 


April 2 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary. I killed yesterday within a stones throw of the door four squirrels at three shots and today am feasting on them. Two or three new kinds of birds have shown them selves -- one, a beautiful little linnet, comes every morning and washes himself in a trough when I water some vegetables. Last night and night before we had a nice rain and now every one is in a broad grin, your old man among them. That east wind dries up things in a hurry, but then we dont have more than five days of them an year. The student lamp I bought is a great comfort, and I do not know how I could get on without it. You have no idea how hard and tough my hands are getting, just like some old carpenters -- and as sunburnt as some old farmers! . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday April 14, 1879 --Oak Glen Apiary

 

Dear Mary

. . . The season commences in two weeks more, in earnest, when I hope to take out one or two barrels of honey a day. . . . Am planning to "run" three apiaries of 400 colonies each next year, but have not gotten things fixed yet as I desire, though prospects are very flattering. Have had a fine rain and every thing looks lovely, every body smiling. . . . Like everything in regard to climate, people and honey, better and better, but this is no country for agriculture, I can see that, its too much of a desert -- but for bees, its so much better. . . . We wont make this year more than 2/3 of a crop, some think, but then there is but little known about it, one way or other. . . . No honey coming in now -- its the first disagreeable weather we've had -- cool and misty, but t'was very welcome. You'll find the weather cool and very raw as at San Francisco -- about as disagreeable as can be. I ought to have come out when we first married. Harbison I find, with all his big crops, very unpopular & has spent most all his profits in speculations. Am glad to say that honey sells in San Diego, as readily and is as stable an article, as cotton is with us, this is one point I feared before I came, but am all right on. A German house has just sent a honey buyer out, who is now taking all that offers at a good price. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


April 20 1879 -- Oak Glen Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

I have been absent three days, off on a horseback tramp up San Diego river. Mr Morse bought 25 hives and I had to go to superintend their removal. The scenery all the way is very fine -- not so immense as Linville, but as picturesque as can be.17 The indians on their reservation were objects of curiosity to me -- and I will some day go there and take a lot of views. The tramp was only 40 miles but as I went by town it took three days. Your taste will suggest an apiary up there I know, as it is so much like Old Fort only far wilder.

Will send the ferns to you as soon as they are dry enough, have just gathered a lot and they look very nice also gathered a rattlesnake, how would you like that? But they dont seem to be like those in N.C as they set up such an everlasting rattling as soon as one goes near them, there's little danger.

. . .You ought to see Mr Morse's garden -- the geraniums are filled with blossoms and the finest kinds of Pelargoniums, seem to grow as rank as weeds -- Roses dont seem to do any better than with us. Since writing my last we have had another shower and things are looking so green and fresh -- but they say the honey season is a month later than usual this year. It will be two weeks now before I begin to extract, when they usually begin about the first of April. Mr Morse has caught the honey fever bad from me, and its the luckiest thing in the world I met him, some would call it providential. I find he is a man as much respected and looked up to as any in the county & for a partner, just the thing. We give in our taxes as Morgan & Morse. So far I have spent for him $900 and he says go ahead -- this besides an investment of 1500 he already had -- . . .

Affectionately
R. M.

 


May 1 1879 --Thursday Night-- Glen Oak

 

Dear Mary,

. . . For this year the prospect is good for 1/2 a crop, though an East wind would diminish that & a rain increase it -- neither are more probable than a frost in middle of May with us. I dont count much on my prospect this year -- as I wrote you, this & next year we will have to stint, but the outlook now is that all stinting will be over if we make a good crop next year. It does seem strange, dont it, that I should have found a berth so suited to me, and one it seems as if, had waited for me for years! Mr Morse & I are perfectly congenial -- his tastes are identically the same as mine & we fit together nicely. If he does not die, I will have all the capital I want -- this is really so -- We are negotiating now for the purchase of three more apiaries, with an average of 200 colonies -- this for next year. So practically I will commence business next year as boss bee man of the county -- Many look on me now as Harbison's successful rival -- all this is really so & not exagerated [sic] and what we do now -- this year -- we do not consider as to amount to any thing -- A total failure even will be no injury to me beyond pressing me for money. Of course I am short of money -- but I expected that, especially as the honey is two months later coming in than usual -- I dont mean cut short two months, but that much later. Flowers that very often bloom at Christmas are now out in all their glory. For the county at large this season will be a failure, but from here north for 30 miles we had a nice rain after an East wind, that saved us. . . . Mr Morse left this morning -- he & his wife after a four days visit. They are as pleasant as can be and plain New England people, well educated and rich. He seems to be liberal to a fault, and spends a hundred dollars with no more hesitation than I would $5 -- ! I have a new principle in bee keeping that is going to be a big thing -- I cant explain it to you -- but you will understand when you come. By it I attend to four times as many bees & prevent most of the swarming. Every one thinks I have money, as I am doing all the trading part, Mr M. says I can make better bargains than he can & the firm is Morgan & Morse -- How is that? . . .Mr Morse is an Unitarian and Republican -- how will you like that? -- but there is no man in the county that stands higher. . . .

. . . There is here the Erioganum [sic], Sage and Sumach, which are considered the only plants for surplus honey we have -- there [sic] are just beginning to bloom, but not enough for bees to work on, but the prospect is, that by the latter of next week I will be up to my ears in honey.

We got in yesterday 200 hives from San Francisco & they are cut wrong & of course we are in a stew, but as they were to be made up during my leisure for next season, the delay wont bother. It would not do for you to live out here, but you would like immensely to come and stay during a month or two -- The climate in town is the best on the coast, but is damp & heavy at times -- but back here in the hills its simply superb -- if the county was not such a dry desert, it would be elegant. As it is, its fit for nothing but heath and honey. I planted out a lot of Geraniums yesterday for your benefit -- Some five weeks ago I cut up an old Geranium bush and threw it away -- its alive and blooming now & does not touch the ground & has no root! Does it not seem incredible? . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


May 9 1879-- Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

. . . I had two of the largest honey producers to see me yesterday and their account of a good year here is marvelous -- one made 300 lbs pr hive of Ext' honey & the other 175 of comb! -- and they count their stocks by the hundred! As soon as I can get ahead, can make money easier and faster than I expected -- These bad years really do good, for they are driving a great many out of the business and consequently honey is slowly advancing. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

May 16 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

Dear Mary,

. . . There is a small stream of water near the door, brought in an iron pipe from the spring and you ought to see the humming birds every morning playing in it -- you can stand almost close enough to touch them, -- unlike ours at home, they alight very often and you can see them good. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday May 18 79 -- Glen Oak

 

Dear Mary,

I really believe I am getting popular -- in this out of the way place I had five visitors yesterday & today three of the best men in the county took dinner with me. Honey is coming in some better but I dont think there's going to be much made. . . . Thermometer averages from 58o in the morning to 74o at noon & 62o at sunset -- this day after day & a nice breeze all the time. Every one is crying hard times here -- many are breaking -- most all the farmers, as this is a very poor farming county -- fit for nothing here except bees and stock, but they persist in planting and [in] a wet year the yield is so enormous that they plant and hope for one every year. I took a trip over to Santa Maria Grant18 and saw quail by the thousands -- every step would stir them up. . . . Am rooting some very fine Geraniums and hope to get this place to look a little civilized some of these days -- as it is -- it's about like our Old Fort place. We see deer now very often sometimes as many as three together, larger than ours & seemingly not so wild. Have bought meat only once since I have been here, as I get squirrels, quail or rabbits, just as I want them! Dont think though you would like so much of a good thing do you? I inclose a "sage bloom," and "Buckwheat Greasewood"the latter is called Buckwheat because its bloom is alike & Greasewood, as it burns like tinder, even green [sic] -- you can tell which is the sage by the smell. . . . Bees doing much better this morning than usual and Mr Morse is much more sanguine than I am about this years crop -- Wrote me yesterday that Harbison had just told him we would make 1/2 crop sure. I concluded not to put in the blossoms, as it might attract attention to the money in letter. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Monday - May 26 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary,

. . . I found a lot of nice ferns yesterday some of the prettiest you ever saw -- but not many, as soon as they dry, will send them to you -- they must be seen in the day time to be appreciated, as the brightest of them are "Golden."

. . . This is the best place for an apiary Home I've seen, several times all around me, within one & two miles frost has killed tender shrubs, but tomato vines are now full, that are three years old! Honey prospects, if any thing are looking better -- but the season you must know is full six weeks later than ever known before -- . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


June 1, 1879 -- Sunday Morning,Glen Oak Apiary - Cal.

 

Dear Mary --

Its been a whole week since I wrote you last and during that time I took a trip to the seashore & took a dip in the surf of the Pacific. La Jolla, (pronounced La Hoe-a) is a barren cliff -- with no houses -- 15 miles from here & the action of the tides and stones have worn immense caverns into it -- something about like Bat Cave only not so large, but full of all kinds of weird fantastic shapes.19 Its a most delightful place to spend a day & [I] will take you there the first thing after you come.

Honey commenced to come in last Wednesday and every thing seems on the improve, but I am not going to halloo until I am out of the woods -- but will let you hear as it goes on. Have not commenced extracting yet & wont for a week.

. . . Yesterday Therm 102o -- to-day 99o -- first warm spell we've had, but the heat is not oppressive here like it is [at] home -- 102o here is not as bad as 90o there! But then the nights are so pleasant.

Friday we had the mountain brush on fire & it came in 2 1/2 miles of here and I was very uneasy -- but the wind change[d] very suddenly & it went the other way. Wherever they go -- every vestige of vegetation is destroyed that ruins bee feed for the present but is an improvement after the first years growth.

You ought just to see the humming birds after our water -- any time you go in the garden there are from three to five just around you -- not at all timid & so pretty -- some like ours & some not much larger than a chesnut. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


June 5 1879 --Oak Glen

 

Dear Wife

Every thing looks promising -- now -- that is[,] the prospect seems to be getting better than it was. I never saw such a climate -- flowers dont come out quick as with us -- they bud and stay so -- so long -- that it seems as if they would never bloom -- and when they bloom the[y] look as if they [will] stay forever -- Some wild ones in my apiary are bright now & have been there over six weeks -- the same blossoms -- I keep expecting flowers to bloom and have to find out by experience that it takes a long time. . . .

Good Night Sweetheart --

Rufus Morgan

 


June 9 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary, Cal.

 

Dear Wife --

. . . Honey coming in some better -- the truth of the matter is that no one knows what we are going to do -- the season is so different from any heretofore -- so we will hope for the best.

Managed to take out one barrel of honey to-day -- but ought not to have done it. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

June 10 -- Bees doing better.

 


June 15 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary

It's Sunday and I pass the time writing to you and Mr Morse and reading the book you sent me. Am busy during the week "fooling round" and fixing things in general: it has been very cool for several days, the thermometer as low as 50o so that bees doing but little.Have learnt to make good light bread and think I can beat you, in fact am learning to cook as I intend to discharge my help very soon and do all the work myself. Have nice large tomatos and as many figs as ever you could eat, though I dont care for them myself. But I miss the change from winter to summer very much -- now every thing is getting bleak and bare and summer is practically winter here as far as vegetation is concerned. But the climate keeps equable and pleasant -- sleep under two blankets the warmest nights

. . . have not seen a puny child or sickly person since I have been here except some that came here sick -- it does seem as if no one ever got sick here.

. . . I can rent a nice house already furnished for $8 pr month!

I could live here very happily one or even two years with you, but then you know you would be more dependent on society for happiness than I am, and I hope not to put you to such a test. One thing is good though we can live on half [of what] we could East & make twice as much. Every one here though seems to want to spend money faster than they make it. One of my neighbors made $2500 last year on 300 hives and now he is $700 in debt -- as soon as they get a little money they rush for San Francisco & stay until its all gone. None seem to wish to make it their home, but hope to make money enough to go back East and sett up big; and another one of my neighbors made $1500 in '76 -- and deposited it in a savings bank & last year made $700 more and concluded to quit & go home -- two days before he started, the bank broke & he is now here at work again. Such is life -- Fortunes are made quick here and lost quick. When we get ours we will keep it wont we.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


June 22 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

Dear Mary --

. . . Such delightful weather you never saw -- any time during the day a cool breeze is stirring and every night under a (2) blanket.

I have the bad news to tell you that the prospect is for no honey -- though for the last four days the bees have been doing elegantly. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


July 21 1879 -- Glen Oak, Cal.

 

Dear Mary

. . . Every body is very blue here and all except the practical bee keepers are trying to get out of the honey business, which of course will benefit those left. . . .

I am now trying to build up my chicken business so that it will give us a support and when honey does come it will be clear. Have now 80 chickens and expect a lot next week -- and wish to get enough to employ all my time

If when you come out you could bring an old negro woman or young girl, it would be just the thing, that is if we can raise the money to get them out here. . . .

Sitting in the door I saw four deer yesterday just in front of the house, three old ones and a fawn. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


[July 21, 1879]

Dear Mrs Clarke

I like [it here] as well as ever, only the honey business is the only prosperous one in the county, and you may say supports it, so that this years disastrous failure will break hundreds up, including many merchants: Its the 2d bad year they have ever had, and people feel it keenly -- over 40 families left San Diego last month & nice houses can be had for $5 & $7 pr month.

Of course I lose nothing but my time, but that is something, but will be repaid by the increased price of honey. If we make a good crop next year -- the increase in price will equal what we lose this. . . .

 

 

Very tr yrs --
Rufus Morgan

 

 


July 21 1879 -- Glen Oak

 

Dear Will,

. . . Glad to know Tom has a place. When he comes out here he can kill all the deer he wants if he brings a rifle -- this last week I have seen over a dozen and yesterday four came on the hillside, right at the house.

Not a ton of honey will be shipped this year against a thousand last. Blue time here and many leaving, but I dont regret coming at all if I can like [sic] over this year -- as I am as sure as ever of a big thing --

 

 

Very tr yrs --
Rufus Morgan

 


July 27, 1879 -- Glen Oak

My Darling Wife

. . . My chickens will pay better than photos and we can make a living off them alone, honey or no honey. There are several families who make their support that way in this county -- some with as high as 1000 chickens -- the worst of it is mine will give so little money at first -- for it will be two or three months before the young ones are old enough for sale. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Aug 18 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary

. . . Our grapes are ripe (3 vines) and a crop of figs just coming on and a fine lot of cantelopes -- dont I wish you were here to enjoy them. There seems to me to be no drawback to this country except want of help & this lonely life -- but my neighbors say you will have no difficulty in hiring a girl & we can stant [sic] the lonely life until a crop or two of honey is made. Shot a deer down but [it] ran off last sunday at the spring and average now about three to bee [sic] seen every time I stir from home. Saturday I came upon six and stood almost in the midst of them before they discovered me -- but had no gun. The[y] certainly are handsome. . . . Have 23 chickens hatched out -- but they have not commenced laying yet, as soon as they do -- I cand [sic] send you 4 -- 5 -- or $6 pr week from their eggs -- that is if they do as well as every body elses does. Have a very valuable "female dog" and will raise a pup for M.B. by the times she comes out. Hope you all are doing well -- am more afraid of yellow fever now than any thing else -- I fear it will spread, & may strike NewBerne. It seems to me now as if I just could'nt live in such a climate -- thats one advantage this far from the coast -- the climate on our ranch is as much superior to San Diego as S.D. is superior to where you are. Am saving my clothes I brought with me & shirts, until you come -- Am wearing pant 75¢ & dark shirts 75¢. They are good & every one wears them here. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday, Aug 24 1879

Dear Mary --

. . . Am always sorry to see Sunday come, as I do nothing but eat all day -- I think I must have eaten already today two dozen figs -- grapes one cantelope [sic] -- peaches -- and still want more, my appetite is simply enormous. Honey has gone up from 4¢ to 10¢ pr lb for extracted -- if it will only hold so for next year, we will feel rich.

. . . On one of my cantelope vines there are some large cantalopes, so thick that they touch each other, besides what is scattered. Vegetation is so rapid here -- I have one geranium, raised from a slip within three months & now it is as large as a two year old one would be at home. Mr Morse sent me out some choice strawberry plants yesterday and next year we will enjoy them as they fruit in every month of the year.

Tell Sister20 some of my chickens had the gapes and I cured them with a small dose of -- kerosene, lard, & sulphur well mixed -- it may be of some service to her.

Got out yesterday two barrels of sugar for the bees and tomorrow I will commence making candy.

. . . We have 1 peach tree, 4 orange, 1 apricot, 4 fig 3 grape vines [&] bananas. . . . Write me word what kind you would like most of -- my hobby is oranges. We have no frost here, though a mile below or a mile above me there's too much frost for oranges or bananas. Take it all in all I like my location very much -- Woodson has more land, but I have all I want & its so frosty at his place, 4 1/2 miles off, that he cant raise any of the tropical fruits.

Have more tomatos than I can eat.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Aug 31 [1879] --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

I killed my first deer yesterday and now I am feasting on venison, tender, fat, and juicy. I had just made me up a nice Brunswick Stew, but when I got the venison, gave it to my dog and chickens. My hens are beginning to lay -- got nine eggs yesterday and nine to-day. . . . By Oct every one says I ought to get 4 doz eggs pr day, if I get 2 doz I can send you $4 pr week!

This season is bad -- bees are dying by the hundreds and next year will see honey up -- Mr Morse has been here 25 years and he says it will be a good thing for those who can hold out and we can I think -- at least we are feeding, and buying all the good stock we can find. Mr M. proposes to go as deep into [debt?] as I wish -- not at all discouraged -- you see there is only a short time to feed -- for by Dec they will begin to make honey again. Sixty young chickens now. Wish I had a stereo out fit to send you some views.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sept 20 1879 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

. . . Its very warm here to-day but not at all sultry -- Ther' 98o -- . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sept 29 1879-- Glen Oak

Dear Mary

. . . Bees are doing very well from an unexpected flow of honey dew. . . . Here a man has to work steal or starve. And this is the poorest county in the state -- no one makes any money here except the bee men & some sheep men --

. . . You are not going to live out of town -- have made my mind up to that, its too lonely, its almost killing -- by the way I killed three large wild cats last week.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Oct 12 1879-- Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

Am still feasting on venison -- can kill one most any time now, but my shoes are most gone & I dont know how the next are coming. . . . They claim that we are sure of a wet winter from various signs, at any rate rain has commenced much earlier than usual -- we've had two days. . . . Winter has sett in & it feels cool and damp with ther' at 60¡ to 75¡ -- Went as low as 40¡ one night.

Its cloudy now every morning and night but the days are beautiful and pleasant. Have two kinds of Dahlias in bloom and as elegant ones as I ever saw.

My dog is a mixed kind -- mongrel, but I have the promise of a most beautiful tiny pup about the size of a quart pot -- is not come to life yet -- but the mother is a beauty. Will secure it if I can.

Whilst I am writing to you I am making yeast as tomorrow is "cook your bread day" --

There will be but little trouble to get help here. I saw yesterday a stout, intelligent indian girl, could do any thing, that would come for $8 pr month. Mrs Woodson hires her sometimes & gives he[r] a good name, but she speaks only Spanish.

Our fresh meat is kept here in a simple manner -- just hang it up in the shade of a tree & its good and sweet from one to three weeks -- no salt used. One can get as much coarse salt here as is wished for the hauling. There are Lagunas, where the tide overflows when very high and this drying out summer after summer leaves the pure salt in large quantities.

Monday. Its raining nicely today, something very unusual, as the rains rarely begin before the middle of November. Much love to all.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Oct 19 1879 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

Honey has doubled -- every body's bees are dying in large numbers, but we are all right. . . .

I am now making some very fine fern crosses and if I can sell them -- others do -- it may ease our woes. . . . Good night Darling

Rufus Morgan

 


Oct 31 1879 --Glen Oak, Cal

 

Dear Mary --

Very disagreeable weather now -- wind East and hot, ther 85¡ & air dry and parched -- they say it blows most of this month -- and at this season does no damage. Fires in the mountains to the North of me.

Deer all gone now, so I have to return to rabbits and quail -- . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Nov 3 1879 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary

Its now cloudy and looks very much like rain -- I sent in to Mr Morse to send out after my chickens . . . thought I would sell them and send you the money -- he says I will make from 4 to $6 pr week off of them, so I will keep them awhile longer. . .

Killed the finest kind of deer Saturday -- Am quite hopeful about my fern work and some how think we will pull through. Every thing is improving in tone -- farmers are preparing to put in double crops this season, so confident does every one feel in a wet winter. Young Woodson yesterday engaged all the ferns he could gather to one person at $3.00 pr 1000 -- . if I could do that now, it would be something as I can get 500 a day, I think You see they are in such rough localities that ladies cant go after them. My Comb foundation, ferns and eggs must come in now very soon -- and then we will get in some honey by March. . . . Have all the work I can do -- Making hives, hunting and ferns -- We dont hunt here for fun -- only go out when we need some meat & only kill as much as we need.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

Nov 10 1879 -- Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

We have just had a glorious rain -- fully as much as we need for two months -- just think about what it is -- last year it did not rain until Jan -- Every one thinks we are all right now -- And I've got my first order for fern work & am now on it & hope . . . that I can begin to send you some money along pretty often now. You dont know how good we all feel.

. . . My fern mottos are really elegant & I am sure will sell. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Nov 17 1879

Dear Mary --

. . . A perfect gale from the N.E., is blowing and I would not be surprised to see more rain, as the weather is so unsettled -- every thing points to a very wet season -- though not a very large honey yield for the county on account of fire, which has left a space of 75 miles as bare as a floor, but has not hurt us though it came [from] all sides -- none nearer than two miles. . . . Mr Morse wants the R.R. to come bad, I dont, its going to hurt the honey business more than it will do it good.

. . . Just think of it -- I had in the house this week at one time -- venison, goose, duck, rabbit and quail!

You cant conceive what a difference a little rain makes here -- every thing is growing -- I planted potatoes yesterday --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Sunday Nov 23 1879 --Glen Oak Apiary

 

Dear Mary --

Every night I change some of my ferns to dry paper so that they may dry faster and I tell you its a job -- Fern work will be slow to build up, I am afraid, but the more I see of it the surer I am that there's enough money in it to occupy all my spare time -- Yesterday I went 15 miles down a place like Linville River for a very rare kind and got about 200 --

I have treated myself to some shirts and a pair of shoes and feel much more comfortable -- Cant you manage to mail me two pair coarse, large, home knit, socks? They are so high here and they [sic] kind they have are poor -- two pr are a plenty.

We have had such a terrible blow -- not as bad as you have there every winter, but its so unusual here that it seems worse. Hives blew over, hen houses and almost every thing else, but no damage done.

Every thing is getting so green & pretty, if you were only with me, it does seem to bright -- every one busy and all so hopeful -- They base their hopes mostly one [sic] the fact that this section never has had two years alike -- So that this is bound to be a moderately wet one. I'm so busy getting up a large lot of ferns that I dont have the blues so bad now adays -- some days I go five miles one way, right over the mountains & the next in some other place far distant another way -- A stranger seeing me would say I was a hard student to go all round so with my books -- I have to carry books to get them in. When you come out will take you along, only its worse work than trout fishing. . . .

 


Dec. 4, 1879

Dear Mary --

Lately we have had two slight rains and every thing is coming out fast.

My ferns are on status quo -- but prospects good -- only sold $3 worth yet.

Bees have commenced [to] bring in small quantities of honey, and on the whole -- nothing bothers me but want of ready money for you.

Mr & Mrs Morse both think -- say they know -- that there's enough demand for ferns to bring me in $300 to $500 an year -- after my work gets known --

Dont be afraid of rattlesnakes -- there is no danger from them here unless you go on the mountain -- No drawbacks of any kind that I can see except help and lonesomeness -- but we can stand that for an year or two. I never knew before what health meant -- and it does seem as if I get stronger and heartier every day. All children I have yet seen are healthy here. Have made no improvement in eggs --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Dec 7 -- 1879 --Glen Oak California

 

Dear Mary --

The fern outlook is still very bright, but as my ferns are mostly not dry -- I cant push it yet -- but am quite satisfied it will prove of great value. Every body just as busy as can be -- all the plows run on Sunday & every one anticipates a glorious year -- but of course there is nothing sure yet.

Sold this week $10 worth of fern work, but get no cash.. . .

Mr and Mrs Morse just left after a three days visit -- Mrs M. I did not like at all when I first came -- but like better and better every time she comes out. On 28 of last month I saw the first bloom of Manzineli [manzanilla], which is the first bloom to open after a rain -- on the following day I looked into a hive & found a little new honey -- well, from now on it will gradually increase until the swarming season, which is April here with a few days of March & May -- While sage comes into bloom about May 20th & not until then does the honey season realy commence when it comes in a flood for three months, with none or little swarming. Very few take any honey before June -- We expect 30 or 40 barrels before May -- Altogether we will make 200 barrels off this one apiary almost sure -- perhaps double that -- So you can see what a big thing it is when one has several apiaries. . . .

 

Aft
Rufus Morgan

 

 


Dec 17 1879--Glen Oak

Dear Mary

On Saturday next I will ship the ferns, which will enable you all to get them by New Years -- could not send them sooner. Ferns go slow, but I have just sold $3.00 worth Cash & got a 3.00 order! Every thing lovely and bright -- have just been offered another apiary on shares, but dont know yet if I can take it, if I get money enough ahead to buy a horse I will, as it is 25 miles from here. Bees doing well. . . .

Affectionately
R. M.

Am working hard on the ferns.

 


Christmas Eve/79-- Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

Am having my ranch put down in wheat, some 7 acres & hope to make enough to keep two horses on, and my chickens -- also a cow if you will bring some one out with you who can milk.

Since my last we have had two good rains and so far the season is the best they've known here for years -- They all say that crops are assured now. Peas are up and I dug some few new potatoes yesterday, thoug[h] last night looked much like winter, ther 41¡ -- but strange to say there was some ice -- first I've seen -- but tomato vines nor Callas not hurt.

Big railroad excitement and real estate booming and every ones attention given to real estate. Mr Morse thinks San Diego will add 10000 citizens to itself in six months -- if I only had just a "leetle" money to invest!

Affectionately
R. M.

 


Dec 27 79 -- Glen Oak

Dear Mary

We have already had 6 1/2 inches of rain & the rainy season is not considered very late here if it dont come until Jan., & 10 inches makes fine crops -- so you see we are safe -- so far its the finest season ever known. . . .

. . . Before you come, make you a pair of Turkish trowsers for horse back riding -- that is the way a great many of the nicest girls ride here!

No drawbacks here but the desert winds & you have read of them in Nordhoff20 -- no fleas -- few flies -- few ticks (no small ones) -- only one kind of poisonous snak[e], & one spider. I think you will be delighted here for an year until the novelty wears off and then you can tough it out an year, & then we will move to town.

Will ought to come out here, he would do so much better than there. If I had Tom here now I could give him five months employment at $25 & board & perhaps $30.

So dont be uneasy about a failure now, it cant come -- and I think we will be all right hereafter.

Bees are making a good deal of honey now as a great many plants are in bloom -- but as I wrote you the harvest dont commence until May 20th -- and swarming is all through by then!

But few people here have extra beds, the climate is so delightful that they as often as any way put their visitors in the hay stacks.

Mountains just East of me covered with snow and bees here making honey & everything green! Our little tree yellow with oranges! I do wish you would come soon enough to see the beauties of a wet season, but you would have to come in (by) April for that. Tell your Mother if she comes with you, that she will never be satisfied with N.C. again. Since writing the above we have had enough rain to make the quantity more than all last winter.

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

Jan 18 1880 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary,

The mottos I now make, I have greatly improved so that they are much better -- no paste now shows at all, or very little. . . . I can never sell all I can make, if I could I would be making $40 pr month clear of expense -- but I expect in an year or two to have a large demand, enough to fill up all my leisure time.

One can do twice as much here as elsewhere. Bees are making a good living -- Plenty of rain if we have no more for a month....

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Jan 30 1879 [1880] --Glen Oak,

Dear Mary -- We have had a good rain and plenty of ice since my last -- though Callas nor oranges are not touched, and the weather seems still unsettled. The outlook is certainly cheering.

. . . You ought just to see some of my late fern work you would'nt know it -- I keep telling you this, because I have just finished a Motto & it look[s] "like a picture."

 


Feb 9 1880 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

Every thing promising another good rain -- it takes the clerk of the weather here, about three or four days to get ready to rain. Season very backward though on account of the coldest weather ever known here --

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Feb 10 1880 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

. . . Had another fine rain to-day. Still cloudy.

R.M.

. . . Ferns improving.

 


March 1 1880 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

. . . We only have one mail a week for the present, so if you miss a week getting a letter dont be uneasy. . . . I am assured of a brilliant success here -- I see it plainer to-day than ever -- every one predicts it for me. Mr Morse says I'll make money he knows, but that he thinks I never save it, for our southern people here in Cala, put on a great deal of style when they are making money, and he think[s] I will wish to too. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


April 4 1880 --Glen Oak

Dear Mary --

The rainy season is, or ought to be over yet we had two days rain since my last -- so that every one agrees this will be a memorable year. . . .

Affectionately
Rufus Morgan

 


Epilogue

According to family tradition, Mary Clarke Morgan received Rufus Morgan's last letter and a separate notification of his death in the same day's mail. She is said to have read her husband's letter first, then fell in a dead faint upon reading the news of his demise. Mary C. Woodson, whose letter of April 5, 1880, informed Mary Morgan of the tragedy, wrote to Mary Morgan's mother, Mary Bayard Clarke, on May 9, expressing shock and dismay at E. W. Morse's failure to dispatch a telegram bearing the sad news. In addition, Mrs. Woodson castigated Morse for what appears to have been an absence of compensation for Morgan's "unceasing care and hard work," as well as monetary outlays Morgan made on behalf of the partnership. For his part, Morse wrote to Mary Morgan on April 7, 1880, to express his condolences but offered virtually nothing in the way of compensation, instead informing her that Rufus had borrowed from him a total of $125. He offered to return to Mary all of her husband's earthly possessions: a gold watch chain, two gold studs, a few books, a trunk, some clothing, and a quantity of pressed ferns and fern work.21

The San Diego Union noted Rufus Morgan's demise with regret. After providing various details concerning the death, the paper described Morgan as "a gentleman of education and fine traits of character." "His sudden decease," the paper reported, "has cast a gloom over the community."22

 


NOTES

1. Modern day Rancho Bernardo, near Escondido.

2. Ephraim W. Morse (1823-1906), a native of Amesbury, Massachusetts, came to California during the great gold rush of 1849. With a partner, he subsequently established a store in San Diego. During a residency of more than fifty years, Morse pursued a variety of mercantile and business interests. He practiced law and was elected a judge, a member of the San Diego County Board of Trustees, county treasurer, and public administrator of "Newtown" San Diego. He was instrumental in establishing both the city's first bank and the City Park, today the renowned Balboa Park. Morse developed an early and lifelong interest in beekeeping and established Oak Glen as a successful and profitable apiary. He served as cofounder and first president of the San Diego Bee-Keepers' Association. T.S. Van Dyke, The City and County of San Diego (San Diego: Leberthon & Taylor, 1888), 87-90; Earl Samuel McGhee, "E. W. Morse, Pioneer Merchant and Co-Founder of San Diego" (master's thesis, San Diego State College, 1950); Barbara Newton, "E.W. Morse and the San Diego County Beekeeping Industry, 1875-1884," Journal of San Diego History 27 (Summer 1981): 151-160.

3. Mary C. Walker Morse (ca. 1828-1899) was E. W. Morse's second wife. They were married in 1866.

4. Marshall Clay Woodson (d. 1900) and his wife, Mary Ann Pell Woodson, came to California from Paducah, Kentucky, in 1875.

5. Sam is apparently the name Rufus and Mary Morgan had selected to be the name of the baby they were expecting, if it turned out to be a boy. Samuel W. Morgan was born in July 1879.

6. William Edwards (Willie) Clarke (1850-1901) was an older brother of Mary Clarke Morgan. He practiced law in New Bern, served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, and was postmaster at New Bern. Beth G. Crabtree and James W. Patton, eds., "Journal of a Secesh Lady": The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 1860-1866 (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, second printing, 1979), 737.

7. Dr. Samuel Marshall was from Pennslyvania and lived in Bernardo. Great Register, San Diego County, October 1882, 21; San Diego Union, 7 March 1883.

8. Thomas Pollock Devereux Clarke (ca. 1859-1921), an avid hunter, was the younger brother of Mary Clarke Morgan. He apparently had resided with the Morgans at Old Fort sometime between 1876 and 1878. He later joined his brother, Francis Devereux Clarke, as an educator of the deaf. He subsequently became head of the Washington State School for the Deaf in Vancouver. Crabtree and Patton, "Journal of a Secesh Lady," 737.

9. John Stewart Harbison (1826-1912), a native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was the premier apiarist and producer of honey in California. Harbison was the author of The Beekeeper's Directory, Or The Theory and Practice of Bee Culture (San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft, 1861). He is credited with bringing the first hive of domestic honeybees to the state, as well as for creating and patenting the highly successful "California Hive" (popularly known as the "Harbison Hive"), which became a standard beehive type in the Golden State from 1860 to about 1890. Harbison settled in San Diego County in 1874 and became by far that county's leading beekeeper. He is credited with making San Diego County, with its prolific areas of sage and buckwheat, the leading honey-producing county in California and California the leading honey-producing state in the nation. Lee H. Watkins, "John S. Harbison: Pioneer San Diego County Beekeeper," Journal of San Diego History 15 (Fall 1969): 17-26. The "simplicity" hive was invented by apiarist A. I. Root in the 1870s. A. I. and E. R. Root, The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (Medina, Ohio: A. I. Root Company, 1929), 381-382.

10. Alice Morgan (Mrs. Joseph) Person (1840-1913), older sister of Rufus Morgan, invented and successfully marketed a patent medicine known as "Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy." The nostrum sold well in North Carolina and throughout the South for nearly fifty years.

11. Probably Alexander Smith, who preceded Rufus Morgan as caretaker of E. W. Morse's apiary at Oak Glen. McGhee, "E. W. Morse, Pioneer Merchant and Co-Founder of San Diego," 150, 151.

12. Dr. George Leonidas Kirby (1835-1901), a longtime physician and resident of Goldsboro, North Carolina, was a close personal friend of Rufus Morgan.

13. Probably Francis Devereux (Frank) Clarke (1849-1913), another older brother of Mary Clarke Morgan and a nationally recognized educator of the deaf. In 1885 he became superintendent of the Arkansas Institute for the Deaf in Little Rock and subsequently directed the state School for the Deaf in Flint, Michigan. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, s.v. "Clark, Francis Devereux."

14. Hickory Nut Gap (alt. 2,878) is a scenic mountain pass situated on the line that separates Buncombe and Henderson Counties in western North Carolina.

15. Possibly the mother of Mary C. Green Kirby, wife of Dr. George L. Kirby of Goldsboro.

16. A small town in eastern North Carolina and the seat of Carteret County.

17. Linville (alt. 3,623), a small summer resort town on the Linville River in mountainous western North Carolina, is renowned for its beautiful natural scenery.

18. The Santa Maria Valley is northwest of Ramona.

19. Bat Cave, situated in Henderson County in the North Carolina mountains, is inhabited by bats and other animals and is preserved as a natural area. A town by the same name exists near by.

20. Probably a monograph by Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901) titled California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence. A Book for Travellers and Settlers (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1872; reprinted, n.p.: Ten Speed Press, 1973), portions of which appeared in Harper's Magazine and at least two newspapers.

21. E.W. Morse to Mrs. Rufus Morgan, 7 April 1880, Ephraim Morse Collection, Research Archives, San Diego History Center.

22. San Diego Union, 6,7 April 1880.


Stephen E. Massengill is iconographic archivist for the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh. He is a graduate of Saint Andrews Presbyterian College, Laurinburg, North Carolina, and holds a master's degree in history from North Carolina State University. He is the author of books and articles on topics related to North Carolina history, particularly early North Carolina photographers and photography.

Robert M. Topkins is a historical publications editor with the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master's degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Mr. Topkins is co-author with Stephen Massengill of A North Carolina Postcard Album, 1905-1925 (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1988).