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Curious Cbus

How did Morse Road get its name?

Map of Franklin County in 1842 shows plots of land with names of owners.
H.F. Wheeler
Columbus Metropolitan Library
This section of a 1842 Franklin County map shows two parcels of land owned by 'W.A. Morse,' or Dr. William Amos Morse.

Morse Road runs east from North High Street to the Franklin County line. It is a major thoroughfare lined with shopping centers, car dealerships and apartment complexes.

WOSU’s Curious Cbus received multiple requests for more information on the history of Morse Road. Contrary to what some may think, the road was not named after Samuel Morse, the American inventor who contributed to the creation of the single-wire telegraph and subsequently, the Morse Code system.

Before Morse Road was Morse Road, it was actually named Moore Road, after Simeon Moore Jr.

According to records from the Franklin County Engineer’s office, the first section of the road was established in the space between Sunbury Road and Big Walnut Creek in 1824 when it was petitioned by Moore and other landowners.

The Moore family has a long history in the region. There is record that Simeon Moore Sr., father of Simeon Moore Jr., was an elected Justice of the Peace of Plain Township in 1810 and 1814.

Simeon Moore Sr. served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the 4th Regular Connecticut Infantry. Simeon Moore Jr. was a veteran of the War of 1812.

In 1833, a man named Dr. William Amos Morse petitioned for a section of road from High Street to Sunbury Road. Moore Road transitioned into William Morse Road in 1834.

Aaron O’Donovan, the special collections supervisor at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, looked into this history and was able to uncover many details of William Morse’s life. It turns out the road’s namesake was only an Ohio resident for a couple of decades.

“This is actually a really interesting story,” O’Donovan said over email.

Morse was born in Kingston, New Brunswick, Canada in 1786.

O’Donovan said that Morse married Hannah Finn around 1812 and they had at least two children between 1813 and 1815 in Clifford, Pennsylvania. The family then left Pennsylvania and was living in Delaware, Ohio by 1820.

Census records show Morse first appears in Franklin County, within the Clinton Township, in 1830. In 1842, his first wife died and he married his second wife, Sarah Bleeks Burwell Morse. Around this time, he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1848, his family migrated to Salt Lake City with other Mormon pioneers. The Morse family settled in Iron County by 1850 where Morse was elected to city council.

Morse was a well-known herbalist and co-founded a society of health council with other doctors in the Iron County area. The council helped provide medical information to area residents.

In 1853, Morse died at the age of 66 in Parowan, Utah.

Meanwhile, back in Franklin County, more roads were being constructed. Between 1838 to 1874, other sections of what would-be Morse Road were established, each with a different name. There were sections titled Cook Road, Line Road, Bull Road, Rathbone Road and Township Line Road.

In 1935, the Franklin County Engineer at the time, Curtis Lattimer, decided to change many road names in Columbus to have better uniformity. His changes instituted Morse Road as the official name for the full length of the roadway.