Elba Morse


Elba Morse

Date of Birth: February 11, 2014
Date of Death: July 3, 1975

Miss Elba was co-founder, along with Dr. Goldie Corneliuson, of Bay Cliff Health Camp in 1933. At that time, she was a field nurse for the Upper Peninsula Children’s Fund and Superintendent of the Northern Michigan Children’s Clinic. She and Dr. Goldie traveled the Upper Peninsula and saw the devastating effects of poor nutrition and health care on the lives of children. Together they explored the idea of a summer camp which would provide the U.P.’s malnourished and underprivileged children with good food, fresh air and sunshine, combined with camping experiences. Elba knew just the spot – the Chedna Farms at Big Bay which was for sale, and in 1934 it became the site of Bay Cliff Health Camp. Elba was in charge of assembling the staff and coordinating the referrals of children. She became the second Executive Director and held that position from 1938 to 1957. She retired at that time after 25 years of devotion to camp but continued to stay involved with Bay Cliff in the role of Director Emeritus and enjoyed returning in the summers to be with the children. She was affectionately known to campers and staff as “Aunt Elba”. The Therapy Center built in 1986 housing PT and OT was dedicated in honor and memory of Miss Elba Morse.

The Life of Elba Morse

Elba L. Morse was born in 1882, growing up on a farm near Sandusky, MI. After graduation from Sandusky High School, she attended the Spring Arbor Seminary Junior College, studied at the Pontiac State Hospital for the Insane, and completed her training at the University of Michigan nursing school. Elba was a 1909 graduate of Peterson’s Hospital School of Nursing. She traveled to Europe to study lab techniques and anesthesia for approximately one year at the Allemannen Krankenhaus of Vienna before returning to the University Hospital at Ann Arbor.

When the call went out for Red Cross nurses during World War I, Miss Morse volunteered as a recruiter with offices in Chicago. After the war, she traveled in a mobile van, answering emergency calls from Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan. She left the Red Cross in 1927 to become supervisor of metropolitan Detroit’s Visiting Nurse Association. Three years later, she was appointed field representative for the Upper Peninsula Children’s Fund of Michigan. When the Northern Michigan Children’s Clinic was completed, Miss Morse was named superintendent. She also co-founded Bay Cliff Health Camp in 1933. Miss Morse continued in that capacity of Children’s Clinic superintendent until 1957, while also running Bay Cliff until 1958, when she retired.

Although she never married, Miss Morse was made guardian of an instant family when her twin sister, Eva Morse Burton, died of typhoid fever in the early 1930’s. Elba promised her sister that she would care for the youngest six of the 12 children. She served as guardian until they completed their education, and they in turn provided her with nursing care from the years of her immobility until her death in Iron River, MI, on July 3, 1975. The Elba Morse Retired Nurses Association was formed in her honor.

Taken from the book, A Place Apart – The Bay Cliff Story, (1983) written by Dixie Franklin.

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