Charles Copeland "C. C." Morse
C. C. Morse Seed Company
born in Thomaston, Maine in 1842,
was a pioneer breeder of sweet peas whose career eventually grew to the
point that he was referred to as, the "American Seed King."
Like so many
others, Morse was drawn to California in 1859 by the "Gold Rush." He
reportedly worked at mining for a few years but eventually made his way
to the then small agricultural community of Santa Clara, California.
It was here,
while working in various occupations, that he met and married Maria
Josephine Victoria Langford in 1868. The couple had five children, built
beautiful Queen Anne Victorian style mansion on a full city block lot,
and were well regarded fixtures in the community.
his seed business responsibilities, Mr. Morse was one of the founders of
the Bank of Santa Clara, as well as the Advent Christian Church of Santa
In 1877, he
and a Methodist minister, A. L. Kellogg, pooled their funds to purchase
the seed company founded by O. W. Wilson, and C. C. Morse & Co. was
born. A. L. Kellogg retired in 1888 and Mr. Morse became the sole owner.
time, seeds were being produced on 1,400 acres of land leased from the
Martin Murphy estate in Sunnyvale, California. As the company expanded,
additional acreage was leased in Gilroy, California.
After C. C.
Morse's passing in 1900, Morse's son Lester L.
Morse, born in 1870, continued the development of the sweet pea, and
authored a book entitled "Field Notes on Sweet Peas."
In April 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire
destroyed the seed company building along with all contents. At that
time they consolidated their business with the Cox Seed Co. and the Seedhouse of E. J. Bowen. They continued all of the departments of the
Cox company including the nurseries, retail store, catalog mail
business, wholesale department, and commission box department.
The 1909 catalog
included numerous photographs of the company offices and
farms. By 1917, they had
sold their nursery department to the Vallance Nursery owned by brothers, John and James Vallance.
In 1930, the company was merged
with D. M. Ferry & Company of Detroit, Michigan to become the
Ferry-Morse Seed Company. The Pacific Coast operations were under
the direction of Lester L. Morse. Lester’s son Charles C. Morse
continued the development of flowers.
Ferry-Morse Seed Company became part of France's Groupe Limagrain in
1981. Ferry-Morse Seed Company and Harris Moran were merged into
Harris Moran Seed Company in July of 1997. According to the company, Groupe Limagrain is considered to
be the largest breeder-producer of horticultural seed in the world.
Moran Press Release - June 22, 1998 - "Harris Moran and
Agritope Announce Advance Trials of Bio-Transformed Melon Varieties."
City of Santa Clara historic Properties, The Morse Mansion.
Charles Copeland Morse House, California's Historic Silicon
Valley, National Park Service.
Ferry-Morse® Seed Company History.
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