Morss Homestead

Morss Homestead

Morss Homestead/Federal City Homestead is a historic home and farm complex located on State Route 23 at Red Falls, Prattsville, New York. The house was built about 1830 and is a Greek Revival style dwelling. Also on the property is a barn, carriage house and privy. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Red Falls

Once a thriving hamlet of Prattsville, Red Falls is located in and around State Route 23 in the eastern part of the town of Prattsville, in a natural basin, surrounded by hills and mountains. Its most distinguished citizen was Hon. B. G. Morss, who once owned the place. This place was named by Mr. Morss from the peculiar reddish color of the stream that flows through this locality, in connection with the small falls just west of Morss’ cotton factory. In 1830 Mr. Morss and his father built a large tannery at Red Falls, and ran it 20 years. This building is also used as a barn, planning-mill, cider-mill. A gristmill at the site was built by a Mr. Elmendorf in 1825, and the saw-mill by a Mr. Gunn in the same year.

A cotton factory was built by Mr. Morss in 1848, and continued in operation till 1881, giving employment to 80 hands, 50 females and 30 males. It was used as a paint shop, etc. after the cotton mill shut down.

The only building left intact at Red Falls today is the fine residence of Mr. Morss. There was also once a store, post office, school, creamery, and a score of cottages. The post office still stands, now a private residence.

Once again, journalist Mike Ryan has written a great story about the history of Prattsville, this time the tale of fourteen Irish Colleens who perished in a fire at the Morss cotton mill sometime in the mid-to-late 19th century. Despite several valiant local efforts to uncover authenticated stories of the fire and the death of these “daughters of Erin” no one has yet been successful. Yet an article in the Feb. 11, 1937 issue of the Stamford Mirror-Recorder tells us that “in the great freshet of 1869,” Mr. Morss had “most of his property swept away at Red Falls…[and] he was also hard hit by occasional fires.” We’ll keep digging for a published account along with those already hard at work on uncovering this incident in history. And we’ll certainly let you know what we’ve found.

Carolyn Bennett

Prattsville Town Historian

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