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DEMORSE, CHARLES

DEMORSE, CHARLES (1816–1887). Charles DeMorse (born Charles Denny Morse), editor, publisher, statesman, soldier, public official, lawyer, merchant, and farmer, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, on January 31, 1816, the son of Aaron and Mary (Denny) Morse. He received a good academic education in New Haven and New York City and later studied law. In the autumn of 1835 he joined Maj. Edwin Morehouse's volunteers to aid Texas. En route to Texas he was detained by the British at Nassau, and while there his name (Charles D. Morse) through error was enrolled as Charles DeMorse. He adopted the change, which was later approved by the Sixth Texas Congress. Upon his arrival in Texas, DeMorse accepted a commission in the Texas Navy but resigned in July 1836 to become a major in the army, where he received military training under Albert Sidney Johnston. When the army was disbanded in 1837 DeMorse entered law practice at Matagorda. In 1838 he married Lodiska C. Wooldridge; to them were born five children. DeMorse was stock commissioner, charged with refunding the public debt, under President Mirabeau B. Lamar, and at the same time he was reporter for the Texas House of Representatives. He founded the Clarksville Northern Standard in 1842 and continued as its publisher and editor until his death.

In 1862 he organized and became colonel of the Twenty-ninth Texas Cavalry, which saw service in Indian Territory and Arkansas. It bore the brunt of the fight at Elk Creek or Honey Springs in 1863. DeMorse was the commanding officer of the force at Poison Springs, near Camden, Arkansas, where an attempted federal advance into Texas from Little Rock was stopped.

Although not particularly ambitious for public office, DeMorse served in 1842 as first mayor of Clarksville and was congressman-elect at the time of annexation. He helped in the organization of the Democratic party in Texas and advocated its principles so strongly that he was proclaimed the "Father of the Texas Democratic Press." He took a lead in attempting to get Texas to accept the results of the Civil War and later worked to eliminate Radical Republican control of the state. He served as a delegate to the state and national Democratic conventions in 1872 and supported the Liberal Republicans as a temporary expedient. He was second to Richard Coke in the nomination for governor in 1873; in 1886, against his wishes, he was again put forward as a candidate for that office.

DeMorse was an active member of the Grange, helped organize the Texas Veterans Association in 1873, and in 1874 was named one of the directors of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). He was one of the most influential framers of the Constitution of 1876, particularly of the judicial article. He spent his last years largely in championing the cause of the "nester." In 1873 the Texas Press and Editorial Association elected him president, and he has been called the "Father of Texas Journalism." DeMorse died on October 25, 1887.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850–1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983). Ernest Wallace, Charles DeMorse (Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1943; new ed., Paris, Texas: Wright Press, 1985).

Ernest Wallace

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ernest Wallace, "DEMORSE, CHARLES," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fde36), accessed April 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on March 4, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.