ELKANAH MORSE (1790 – 1849) was born on May 14, 1790 in Wallingford, Connecticut. He moved west to Poland at the age of 24 and four years later married Nancy Kirtland when she became 17 years of age. Nancy was also born in Wallingford in 1801 and was brought to Poland by her parents, Judge Turhand and Polly Kirtland when she was just 2 years old.
Elkanah entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, Henry T. Kirtland (1795–1874) who was then a Poland merchant. Together these two men had many successful business ventures, seized many opportunities and were instrumental in developing the Village of Poland in its early years. Soon after arriving in Poland Mr. Morse built a flat-boat on the Mahoning River and loaded it with bear-skins and flour from his mill and floated down the river to New Orleans. There he found ready markets for his goods. He made several more successful trips down the river and had many adventures on his 1,000 mile walk back to Ohio on the old Natchez Trace.
Almost all his life Elkanah was interested in river and lake traffic, owning vessels and a shipping business in Detroit. However, he continued to retain his home in Poland, operating a store on Main Street and the flour mill on Yellow Creek.
At one time he became interested in the growing of broom-corn and raised 400 acres of corn and employed 20 men in making brooms. One load of brooms was sent to Baltimore, Maryland and exchanged for a wagon load of canned oysters. When this wagon returned to Ohio they were sold for $4 to $5 per can, being a luxury item back then.
Elkanah Morse received 200 acres of land in the northeastern corner of the Village as a dowry when he married Nancy, Turhand Kirtland’s daughter. Mr. Morse promptly laid this property out into streets and building lots. He changed the name of the old path that lead from Poland to Struthers from “Old Furnace Trail” to “Water Street”. He also laid out both First and Second Streets in the Village. First Street was later changed to Grant and then to Botsford. At the north end of Water Street he built a beautiful home facing his dam and mill on Yellow Creek. His homestead was a showplace and stood for over 100 years until it fell into disrepair and was razed in the 1950s. His granddaughter, Mary L. Wick Morse lived there until she died in 1952.
Elkanah and Nancy’s marriage lasted for seven years. To this marriage three children were born. Lois was born in 1819 and later married Isaac Mansfield. (See Issue No.13) Henry was the second child and was born in 1822. (See Issue No. 30) Edwin came later in 1824. The following year Nancy returned to Wallingford for a visit. While there her health failed and she died on October 8, 1825. Elkanah was married again to Comfort Eliza Waller and they had one son, William. When the Civil War came in 1862, William enlisted and was taken prisoner at the battle of Stone River. He died in an Atlanta prison.
In 1836 Mr. Morse suffered a major business loss when one of his schooners, the Ben Barton, encountered a severe storm on Lake Erie while loaded with cargo and was lost. In 1847 he went west looking for gold in order to recoup his losses. He, plus his son, William, and his business partner’s son, Cook F. Kirtland joined a group of men from Poland who called themselves the “California Argonauts”. Returning with empty pockets, Elkanah died of cholera in Wyoming and was buried at Fort Laramie in June 1849. This ended the career of one of Poland’s earliest and most successful entrepreneurs.