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About Samuel Finley Brown Morse
Samuel Finley Brown Morse (July 18, 1885- May 10, 1969) was an environmental conservationist and the developer of Pebble Beach. He was known as the Duke of Del Monte and ran his company from the 1919 until his death in 1969. Originally from the East Coast, Morse moved West and fell in love with the Monterey Peninsula, eventually owning and preserving vast acreage while also developing golf courses and the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Samuel Finley Brown Morse was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of George Morse, a soldier in the civil war and later a lawyer in Massachusetts. Morse's distant cousin, Samuel Morse was the inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code. Morse attended Andover, like his father, and then Yale. At Yale, he was captain of the undefeated 1906 football team and member of the 1906 All-America Team. A member of Skull and Bones, he was voted Most Popular in the Yale University graduating class in 1907.
Although he inherited a considerable sum upon his father’s death in 1905, he decided to move out west to begin working on his own after graduation. In June 1907, Sam married Anne Thompson and moved to Visalia, California to begin working. Initially he worked for John Hayes Hammond's Mt. Whitney Power Company with the help of a Yale classmate. He then ran the Crocker Huffman ranch in Merced for W. W. Crocker During his first years in California, he and his family visited Monterey for the first time, and Sam fell in love with the peninsula.
Business and Properties
In 1916, S.F.B Morse was made manager of the Pacific Improvement Company, in charge of liquidating many of their assets. He formed his own company, Del Monte Properties, in 1919, in order to acquire these assets. Funded by Herbert Fleishacker, he bought 7,000 acres (28 km2) on the Monterey Coast including the Hotel Del Monte, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and the 1,100-acre (4.5 km2) Rancho Laureles, now the village of Carmel Valley, and the Monterey County Water Works- all for $1.34 million. Morse planned to use this land to develop a community within the forest centered around the Del Monte Lodge, and he had many plans for the rest of the area as well. Immediately, Sam banned needless land clearing and speculating on this forest land and set aside greenbelts to be reserved for the preservation of wildlife, prioritizing preservation of the forest, coastline and oceanfront.
Throughout his endeavors on the peninsula, his goal was to protect nature and share the beauty of the coast and he had the vision to see that this would also increase his profit. He accomplished this by changing existing plans and setting aside land for a golf course set beautifully, and now famously, along the coast, moving the planned home lots to the forest overlooking the golf course.
S.F.B. Morse developed and rebuilt the land and properties of the Del Monte Forest into the Del Monte Hotel and the Lodge at Pebble Beach among other buildings. Morse can be credited with building eight golf courses including Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Morse was able to preserve Del Monte through the Great Depression, as guest membership nearly disappeared, with smart business ventures. He sold the Monterey County Water Works and operated a sand plant, among other ventures. "Fortune" magazine had an article describing the company as a "dying dream with a profitable sand business". He also leased and eventually sold the Del Monte hotel to the navy.
During World War II, Morse allowed the US Navy to use the hotel and land as a flight school for 2000 cadets. After the Great Depression and war, Del Monte flourished once again. The resort also reflected a sign of the times as initially African Americans and "people under the former subjection of the Ottoman Empire" were not allowed to own property within Del Monte; however this ban was lifted in the 1960s.
In the late 1950s Morse proposed opening a shopping center in Monterey, which aroused much controversy and opposition from the downtown merchants. The proposal was later approved in 1963 and the shopping center opened in 1967.
Atmosphere of Del Monte
During the 20th century, Del Monte operated as a semi-private reserve for the rich, powerful and beautiful and hosted golfers, polo players, socialites, sports figures, celebrities and royalty. It was considered one of the most beautiful places on the west coast. The property was known for its parties, alcohol (even during prohibition), and entertainment for the guests. It was, and continues to be, a popular place for championship golf tournaments such as the US Open, regattas, dog shows, tennis tournaments, equestrian trials and the Concours d'Elegance Car Show.
Sam was well regarded by most throughout the Monterey peninsula. His estate, hotels and golf courses were an asset to the area and effectively kept Monterey from being developed into a seaside suburb. Regarded as the "Duke of Del Monte", Sam enjoyed quality food and drink, and was known for his sense of style.
Morse was an avid competitor, an excellent horseman, yachtsman, swimmer and polo player. Ironically, he was not an avid golfer, but appreciated the game. He was a painter and an accomplished chef. Peers described Sam as caring and courageous, with an explosive temper. Morse continued to live at Del Monte in Pebble Beach until his death in May 1969.
S.F.B. Morse married his first wife Ann Camden Thompson in 1907. They had three children and their marriage lasted until 1916. Their children, Samuel F.B. Morse Jr., John Boit Morse and Nancy Morse Borland lived in California before moving to Illinois. S.F.B. Morse then married Relda Ford, and had one daughter, Mary Morse Osborne Shaw. After the death of Relda Ford Morse in 1951, he married his last wife, Maurine Church Dalton in 1952. Mary Morse, his daughter, became one of the nation's top amateur golfers. She held the course record for Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Stanford and the San Francisco Golf Club. She currently resides in Pebble Beach.
S.F.B. Morse was commonly known as "The Duke of Del Monte", the "Founder of Pebble Beach" and "Boss". His legacy continues throughout Monterey and California as one of the first environmentalists to preserve the California coast. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although his actions were often controversial, he was the most influential and significant figure in the development of the Monterey Peninsula. During his 50 years living on the Monterey Coast, his words and dreams became law. He died in Pebble Beach in 1969, and his funeral included telegrams from President Nixon, Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and many other celebrities he hosted at Pebble Beach over the years. Today, various monuments on the Monterey Peninsula including an ecological preserve, plaques, streets and a gate to Pebble Beach bear his name.