George W. (1838 –1922) and John W. Morse (1832-1909) were brothers, born in Lincoln County Maine. Stories abound about the Colonel and hopefully this account will put some of them to rest.
Numerous articles state George ranched on Rock Creek. Research has failed to disclose any property registered to the Colonel on Rock Creek. Tax records show him paying taxes on property in the Flint Creek Valley, both in the Philipsburg and Drummond Townships.. Anne Luthje in “Upper Willow Creek” spoke of the Colonel residing on Upper Willow Creek and that his brand was 71, as that was the year he arrived there. The brand registered to the Colonel is 17 and the Major registered 16 as his brand. The Colonel could have easily grazed his cattle in the summer on Upper Willow Creek and Rock Creek and he refers to the area he lived as Rock Creek in a following article. This maybe the cause of the confusion. His voter registration address for 1912 is Section 31, Township 11, Range 13, which is located southeast of Bearmouth. The Colonel sold 320 acres of his 2,200 acre ranch and residence in 1919 for $65,000. His estate in 1923 listed 8 different properties in Philipsburg and Drummond for a total tax bill of $261.92, and another listing for John Hagg and George W. Morse for Lots 1 and 2 and SW1/4NE1/4 and W1/2SE1/4 section 5, T9, R14 for $39.06. This section is located near the Lower Willow Creek Reservoir on McLean Creek. The John Hagg obituary states that John was in a partnership with the Colonel on the ranch.
The title Colonel was earned by George during the Spinet Lake Massacre with the Sioux Indians in Minnesota. A volunteer company was organized and George was elected to be their Colonel. The following are excerpts of his history he narrated to A. J. Noyes (date unknown) and is archived at the Montana Historical Society.
I went to Minnesota in 1855 from Maine (St, Anthony)...I left St. Anthony and went to New Orleans but when gold was discovered at Pikes Peak I returned to Minnesota and sometime in May, I think, ’59 left for Colorado. We had horses. There were four of us…we landed on the Platt before Denver was started…took a contract to drive logs down the river..then went to Gregory to haul quartz…almost a year. In 1862, in May there was a party of us that started for Florence, Idaho (Col. McLean, Wash Stapleton, Lou P. Smith and myself) John White who discovered gold on the Grasshopper was one of our party but had horses and could get about better…we had cattle…We thought by going to the Salmon River we could go to the mines…When we arrived at Lemhi, we saw how impossible..so we went to the Deer Lodge valley. We were down on the Little Blackfoot when we got news that gold had been found on the Grasshopper (August 5, 1862). Wash and McLean went to Bannack and I with some others continued on our way to Orofino…I remained in Idaho til ’65 then came to Montana to Bear Gulch,…Blackfoot City…Helena…Musselshell..then back to Elk. I struck Weasel and Bilk Gulches…this was a rich little gulch…Am I married? Say young man what do you take me for to live all my life in a country like this and stay single. I was married in ’79 in Ogden. Met my wife (Nettie Milliken) in Beartown and was taking her east but had her fooled so by the time we arrived at Ogden she married me and we have two boys (George A. and Averril P)…In 1872 I went to Nevada and Utah for cattle. I bought 700 head and began ranching on Rock Creek… After remaining for several years in the stock business in the Rock Creek country I sold out and took some sheep to the Milk River country. I also had sheep in the Bitterroot…I made money in the cattle business and put it into quartz from which I never have made a dollar but have always made something out of placer.
Lesson’s “History of Montana” states the Colonel and four others removed $250,000 worth of gold from Bilk Creek.
Major John arrived in Montana after his first wife’s death in 1877. Children Frank D. and George W. and Mrs. James Rogers followed their father to Montana. The title Major was probably attained as a teamster. John married Charlotte Emmell January 16, 1890. The Major was elected Alderman of the First Ward at Philipsburg in 1893. His business partnership, Morse and Bradshaw operated at Philipsburg for many years.
In 1909 after John died, Charlotte rented their home to Senator and Mrs. George Metcalf and moved to Pennsylvania.