Joseph Morgan fought in Washington's army until the Revolution was over, and then settled down to farming near the village of Hartford. He made money enough to invest it in stage lines and eventually rose to the control of the chief roads of transportation in the State. Hartford, during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, had a great prosperity as the centre of longdistance traffic; the mainline of stage from New York to Boston passed through the city, running from Boston to Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, Middletown, NewH aven, and New York—three days each way. Hartford also held the key to the trade of the Connecticut River valley, northward nearly, orquite, to the border of Canada. Innumerable taverns were sprinkled along the countryside, and Joseph Morgan also dipped into this thriving business. But in the fall of 1839 the first locomotive—the “Vesuvius” or the “Good Friend” or some other quaintly named piece of machinery— made its slow way across the State, and Hartford's business position was changed. The old customers were drawn away by the merchants of rival towns, the stage lines went to seed year by year, and this thrifty ancestor quickly bestirred himself in other directions.
He opened a large hotel in Hartford, the “City Hotel,” and soon afterward began to figure as a capitalist in connection with the Aetna Fire Insurance Company of that city. At this time these companies had no cash capital, their resources being represented by the notes of the principal “solid men” of the town, notes ranging in sums from five to ten thousand dollars each. The expectation was that the profits from the insurance business would render it unnecessary to call upon the note makers for cash to meet any fire losses, but agreat fire in New York suddenly gave a different aspect to things. There was a period of heavy losses, and the prospect of calling upon the note makers became so imminent that the notes were offered at a large discount to anyone who was willing to assume their liability. Joseph Morgan bought these notes wherever he could, acquiring a large number of them. Soon afterward the danger passed; the premiums received for insurance proved ample to pay the losses; the company began to accumulate a capital stock, whose cash value was represented by the increasing profits of the business; and eventually the holders of the notes received stock in proportion to the liability they had assumed. Joseph Morgan made a fortune from his holdings. It was this fortune which eventually placed J.P. Morgan's father, Junius Spencer Morgan, in the banking business.
Joseph Morgan handed to his son, besides fortune and the capacity for making more money, a genial disposition; he had the qualities of the old-time host in the hotel business, and his son Junius was a famous and agreeable entertainer on a different, and of course more sophisticated scale.
The Life Story of John Pierpont Morgan