Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Adventures in Wonderland

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

A fellow researcher recently told me “The plot thickens, and the mystery grows. Maybe it’s time to find an easy one instead of what seems so extremely difficult.” It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. 

My Morris family just keeps giving me one riddle after another to solve. They are not making this easy for me.

In my previous blog on Mary ‘Polly’ Williams, I noted that Bartholomew Dunn and wife, Nancy Williams, had remained in Moore County, North Carolina and did not follow her parents and siblings to Montgomery County in or about 1860. I now need to make a semi-correction on this. Nancy, to my knowledge, did remain in Moore County. I thought old Bart, her husband, had too, and he did for most of his life, but during the research for this blog, I realized I was missing an 1840 Census record for him. I found him in 1840 in Montgomery County, North Carolina, East Pee Dee River, living a few doors down from Frances (Blalock) Dennis, wife of Jesse Dennis.

Jesse Dennis is the son of Andrew Dennis and the brother of my ancestor, James Francis Dennis. Jesse married Frances Blalock, daughter of William David Blalock Senior. The Blalock family migrated from Chatham and Randolph counties to Montgomery County in the late 1790s to early 1800s following on the heels of John Stewart and his wife Rachel Morgan, who were also from Chatham County, and settled in what is now the areas of Uwharrie and Eldorado on the Uwharrie River. Frances’s brother, William David Blalock Junior, married Jesse’s sister, Martha Dennis. Another case of siblings marrying siblings.

Even though Jesse did not live long, he died between the 1830 and 1840 Census years, I have been able to dig up some information on him. Jesse was born about 1785 in Montgomery County. As already noted, he is the son of Andrew Dennis who had been in the area when it was Anson county, pre-1779.
In 1817, Jesse indebted himself for $65 to William Brookshire for the rent of the Dutch John Plantation. Benjamin Bell was security. We learn from the document shown below that Jesse used his personal property to secure the debt; a bay gelding called Hercules, his stud horse called Bones, 30 barrels of corn, a cow and yearling, 19 head of hogs. James Gaines and James Mask were witnesses.

From this document we understand that William Brookshire owned the Dutch John Plantation, but the document does not inform us where exactly the plantation was located, although I am sure it must have been near Dutch John Creek in the Uwharrie area, or how many acres it contained. What we can figure out by using an inflation calculator is what cost $65.00 in 1817 would cost $1220.71 in 2022.

In 1818, Jesse was granted 640 acres of land in Montgomery County in the forks of the Yadkin and Uwharrie Rivers, near the ‘new road,’ joining Brookshire’s line. David Blalock Sr and Jr were chain carriers for the survey that was completed on 19 Nov 1819 by Britain Chappell.

Jesse married Frances Blalock about 1824. In 1830, he lived East of Pee Dee River and very near my ancestor John Jacky Morris. Merritt Williams is somehow related to my Morris family but that is a story for another day.

The 1830 Census shows Jesse with young children in his household, two sons and two daughters. Up until today, I had only been able to identify Jesse’s sons from later Census and other records. However, I now believe that Nancy Dennis Bridges can be identified as a daughter of Jesse and Frances. I’ll talk more about Nancy in a minute.

The 1840 Census shows Frances Dennis as head of household so we know Jesse must have died between the 1830 and 1840 Census years. We can narrow his death date down even further because there are two children listed as under 5 years of age in 1840, meaning they were born after 1835. The 1840 Census was completed 18 Oct 1840, so Jesse died between 1835 and 18 Oct 1840.

There are still 4 unidentified children of Jesse and Frances Blalock Dennis, and it may take DNA testing to find them.

1850 shows Frances Blalock Dennis living next door to her brother-in-law, James Dennis who is my 3rd great grandfather. Andrew J (1829), George Washington (1826), Henry Nelson (1836), and William Cabin (1838) are still in the home. All the females who were previously listed in 1830 and 1840 and one other male are no longer in the home.

In 1845, Nancy Dennis married William Bridges. John Morris and George Washington (called G. W.) Morris were bondsmen. These two men are my 2nd great uncles. I was a bit puzzled why John and G. W. would act as bondmen for Nancy and William, usually only family members did that. I also wondered who William Bridges was, as there are no other Bridges families in Montgomery County. So, where did Nancy meet William?

I was able to find a William Bridges in 1850 living in Moore County in the household of James and Catherine Bridges. However, there was no Nancy living in that household, but there is Ann who is the right age to be Nancy. Perhaps she is going by her middle name? I am not sure this is my William. Although, this did pique my interest because it looks like the Bridges family may be from Moore County, the same place my Williams family is from. I’ll talk more about this later.

The 1860 Census shows Nancy Dennis Bridges, widow, living next door to Nelson Dennis in the community of Zion, the same community where my Morris/Williams family lived. Nelson is the son of Jesse and Frances Blalock Dennis and must be the brother of Nancy.

William and Nancy had at least two children, John, b. 1853, married Rebecca Galloway, daughter of Redding Galloway and Rebecca Seagraves, and James, b. 1852, married Sarah F. Dunn, daughter of John Dunn and Mary maiden name unknown.

When I saw the last name Dunn, things started to come into focus. I immediately knew that Sarah F. Dunn, wife of James Bridges, was probably somehow related to the Dunn family of Moore County who married into my Williams family. This lent some (but not a lot) of credibility to the 1850 Census with William Bridges found in Moore County.

James W. Bridges, son of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges, married Sarah F. Dunn, daughter of John and Mary Dunn, on 22 Dec 1870 in Montgomery County.

John Dunn, Sarah's father, can be found on the 1850 Census for Montgomery County. He earned his living as a Blacksmith. In his household is his wife, Mary, and their 9 children, Sarah being a middle child, born about 1842.

1860 shows John living in Mount Gilead with his family. Sarah is now age 16. Frank Stafford, age 17, is probably a hired hand who is learning the Blacksmith trade from John. 

1870 paints the entire picture on how Sarah Dunn met James Bridges. The 1870 Census was enumerated on 10 Aug 1870. James Bridges is shown as hired labor and working for John. Sarah Dunn and James Bridges married 17 Dec 1870, just 4 months after the 1870 Census was enumerated.

Mary Dunn, wife of John, must have died between the 1860 and 1870 Census years, as she is not listed on the 1870 Census.

In 1874, John Dunn remarried to Martha Frances McLenden of Richmond County. His marriage license shows his father as Bartholomew Dunn. 

I’ve come full circle!

Bartholomew Dunn married, evidently, an unknown first wife and from that marriage was born John Dunn about 1810 who is the father of Sarah F. Dunn Bridges. 

Rechecking Census data, I found Bartholomew in 1810 with a young family living in Moore County. I am not sure who the first wife was, nor the female listed.

Bartholomew Dunn married second, Mary Williams (1800-1857), daughter of William Williams and Elizabeth Stutts of Moore County. Mary was the sister of my newfound third great grandfather, Joseph Williams (1803-1880).

Bartholomew Dunn married third, Nancy Williams (b. 1829), daughter of Joseph (1803-1880) and Nancy Williams of Moore County (my newfound third great grandparents).

Nancy Williams (b. 1829) is the niece of Mary, the second wife of Bartholomew.

Confused yet?

Let’s talk about the Bridges family.

There were no Bridges in Montgomery County, North Carolina prior to Nancy Dennis marrying William Bridges. The earliest record in Montgomery County of the surname Bridges I could find is the 1845 marriage license between Nancy Dennis and William Bridges. All other records are after 1845 and of the many that I reviewed, all led back to the two sons of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges, James, and John.

As already stated, William and Nancy are not found in Montgomery County in 1850. However, there is a male named William Bridges living in Moore County in the household of James and Catherine Bridges who meets what I think is the age requirement for William Bridges. Since I am not able to find a record showing his approximate age, I am assuming he was around the same age as Nancy who was born in 1825.

The female living in the home is shown with the name Ann. So, it is unclear if this is Nancy possibly going by her middle name or if Ann is the daughter of James and Catherine. I found conflicting information for Ann. Some documents had her married to J. Jackson Stedman and others to John Wesley Stedman.

It will take time to straighten out this Bridges line.

I was not able to find any other information on William, age 27, who is listed in the home.

In the same home (on the next page) is found Mary, age 18 (born 1832), and Joseph, age 16 (born 1834), and a 4-year-old child named Catharine Gilmore.

Research shows that Joseph Bridges married Permelia Fentress Stedman, daughter of John Wesley Stedman, the man who Ann Bridges is shown to have married. So, Ann became the stepmother to her own brother, which seems a bit odd to me. But Bartholomew Dunn also married his wife’s niece.

Joseph died in 1894 and Permilia in 1888. The couple are buried at Cool Springs Baptist Cemetery in Moore County.

Mary Bridges looks to have confusing records as well and it is going to take some time to straighten them out too. There were probably two Mary Bridges in Moore County about the same age, and they have been confused with one another.

One Mary Bridges (1832-1902) married Daniel Morris, the son of Stephen and Jeanett Morris. Stephen descends from Frederick Morris (born 1730) and his wife Vaughan, the couple that I am trying to connect my Morris line with. Mary Bridges Morris and husband Daniel were in Moore County in 1850. Mary looks to be buried in Scotland County, North Carolina. I do not know where Daniel is buried or when he died.

Another Mary Bridges (1824-1913) married a man named Gideon Tyson Moore (1815-1880) and this couple are buried at Browns Chapel Christian Church Cemetery in Moore County. Some resources have Mary Bridges Moore listed as the daughter of Newsom Bridges and Elizabeth Drake while others had her listed as the daughter of James and Nelly Bridges. Both of Moore County.

Again, I will need to work on getting these records straightened out.

The 1860 Census shows Joseph, Catharine, and Catharine Gilmore.

I was not able to find any further record of Catharine Gilmore.

The result is one of disappointment. My Morris line remains elusive but does look promising. More questions added to the ever-growing pile. Why did John and G. W. Morris sign as bondmen for the marriage of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges? Where did William Bridges come from? There are still pieces to the puzzle that are missing.

More genealogy research is needed on the Bridges line to see how they may connect to the Williams or Morris lines found in Cumberland / Chatham / Moore / Montgomery counties.

More to come...


  1. Now that’s a tangle web of Surnames.

  2. Hello! I descend through John Jacky Morris and Amelia through their daughter Susan who married William Jacob Morgan. I've seen somewhere that John may have lived in Mecklenburg County VA at some point. Has that been confirmed? I just so happen to live in Mecklenburg County VA but have only glanced at the deed books for Morris. I haven't done any thorough research though.

  3. Greetings. Family lore says that John Jacky Morris was born in Mecklenburg County, VA but it has never been confirmed. Susan Morris, the daughter of John and Amelia, married Samuel Morgan.

  4. Thanks for your reply. I realized I paired Susan with the wrong Morgan gentleman after I posted this. I was trying to do it from memory which is dangerous when you have thousands of names in your head. I actually found your page by searching "William Jacob Morgan." I had been here years ago and am glad I ran across your blog again and will continue to follow your updates, cousin!

  5. Your comments are most welcomed. Thanks for reading my blog!