Saturday, June 3, 2023

Needles and Haystacks

Although I have solved some of the riddles and puzzled together some pieces, my journey with my Morris ancestors is far from over. In fact, there are times when I feel like I am just beginning since I must start over each time I come to another dead end. Right now, the answer seems to lie with how Thomas, the son of John Jacky and Amelia Morris, met Mary Williams, the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Williams, but that answer is the proverbial needle in the haystack, and I can’t seem to find it.

Several years ago, I was working with a descendant of a man named John H. Morris and Jane Coggins of Chatham and Moore counties because I wanted to find out if his Morris line connected to mine. John and Jane, in 1850, lived in Upper Regiment, Chatham, North Carolina and in 1860, they lived in Moore, North Carolina. In 1870 and 1880, they were in Chatham, but in 1900, back in Moore. John listed his occupation as construction and wheel wright, and I believe he worked between the two counties of Chatham and Moore. His children also lived on the county line, and he is found, in his later years, living with them. So, the movement between counties made sense.

What did not make sense is where John came from. A family letter dated 1938 says he was an early settler from Scotland but then contradicts itself and says he was born in New Bern, North Carolina. Others have him born in Pasquotank, North Carolina. The person I was working with believed that John may have been a grandchild of a man named Frederick Morris who lived in Cumberland (later Moore and Lee) County. That was certainly a possibility, but no actual proof can be found.

In the end, Y DNA testing has ruled out John H. Morris being related to my Morris line. A male descendant of John H. Morris Y DNA tested and is in Group M26. My Morris group is M29. So, these Morris men are from different Morris families. That means if John H. Morris is the grandson of Frederick Morris, then this is not my Morris family.

Since there is no genealogical proof that John H. Morris descends from Frederick Morris, I cannot rule out that my Morris line may (or may not) be related to Frederick. Perhaps neither of our John’s is related to Frederick Morris. A proven male from Frederick Morris would need to Y DNA test to prove or disprove a relationship. 

I am very interested in Frederick Morris because his descendants did live close to and possibly interact with my new-found Williams family in Moore County. There may be a family connection here. That’s what I am trying to learn.
Who was Frederick Morris?

Frederick Morris shows up as early as 1765 in Cumberland (now Lee) County, North Carolina when he buys 200 acres of land from George Robards (sometimes seen as Roberts). The 200 acres of land was on both sides of a branch of Upper Little River called the Juniper. The deed was witnessed by Henry Gaster and William Robards.

Lee County, located in North Carolina's Piedmont region, was formed from Moore County (formed in 1784 from Cumberland County) and Chatham County (formed from Orange County in 1771) in 1907. The Upper Little River rises in a pond about 1 mile east of Lemon Springs, North Carolina and then follows an easterly course into Harnett County to join the Cape Fear River about 0.5 miles northwest of Erwin. [Wikipedia]

The National Park Service has provided research on the early Development of Lee County, 1740-1849. Not surprising, the area that is now Lee County was populated mainly by Highland Scots who came to America in several waves of immigration, the first of those beginning after the 1745 Jacobite War.

According to the research cited below, there were a few Scots in the area as early as 1732. Highland Scots centered on the area of Cross Creek, now Fayetteville and extended north to the Deep River and South and west into South Carolina. So, the coverage area to research is quite large.

George Robards had two early land grants on Juniper Creek, dated 1753, when the area was still Bladen County. He continued to live on Juniper Creek until he sold his land to Frederick Morris in 1765.

Frederick Morris looks to have settled into farming on his 200-acre purchase from George Robards. In 1771, Frederick and wife Vaughan deeded to Henry Morris 100 acres of the 200-acre George Robards tract.

The witnesses for the 1771 deed between Frederick Morris and Henry Morris were Henry Gaster, who was a Captain in the Revolutionary War, and near neighbor to Frederick Morris, and no doubt, Gasters Creek is named for the Gaster family, and Arthur Boyes (also seen as Boyce and Boice) who may have moved on rather quickly to South Carolina.

A few of Henry Gaster’s grandchildren looked to have intermarried with Frederick Morris’s grandchildren. 


In 1774, Frederick and wife Vaughan sell to Archibald McGill the other half of the George Robards tract of land. The witnesses for the 1774 deed between Frederick Morris, who is the target of my research, and Archibald McGill were Malcom Buie and Gilbert Buie. Lots of good information on the Buie family here


In 1777, Frederick Morris was a witness on a deed between Charles Walker, who lived on Bear Creek, probably more than 20 miles west of Frederick, and Henry Gaster.

The witnesses for the 1777 deed between Walker and Gaster were Frederick Morris and Richard Timberlake, whom I have found no solid information.

In 1784, Frederick Morris and Vaughan his wife deeded to Henry Morris 10 acres on both sides of the Upper Little River. The witnesses for the 1784 deed between Fred and Vaughan Morris and Henry Morris were Henry Gaster and Peter Morris, who is most likely a son of Frederick Morris.

There are six Morris men who are thought to be the sons of Frederick Morris; William, Peter, John, Stephen, Matthew, and Henry. Let's talk about each one.

William Morris

Not much is known about William other than the deeds found in Chatham County (for land located in now Lee County) and an 1800 Census record that showed his neighbors were Thomas Wicker and Thomas Riddle. He is mentioned in other deeds with the Morris men who are believed to be his brothers.


A deed written in 1797 between Benjamin Bohannon (Buchannan) Jun of Chatham County and William Morris of Chatham County shows William purchased from Benjamin a tract of land, 99 acres, on Shaddox creek near Joseph Brantley's tar kiln, near Francis Drakes line. Witnesses were Thomas Stokes and Hinchia (?) Brewer. William Morris sells this same land to Thomas Stokes in 1802. 

In 1806, William purchases from James Laurence 100 acres of land on Lick Creek, south of Shaddox Creek, beginning at Wicker's corner and his own line. Witnesses were William Stedman and Randolph Battle.

In 1807, due to a judgement arising out of the court of Chatham for 196 pounds, against William Morris, recovered by Thomas Stokes, George Gee, Sheriff, seized two tracts of 393 acres of land belonging to William Morris and bounded by Nelly (or Milly) Wicker, Thomas Stokes, Bohannon, Hatley’s and Robert Wicker and Thomas Wicker. The land sold for $40 to Thomas Stokes. No waterway is named.

Peter Morris, John Morris, and Stephen Morris

I decided to cover Peter, John, and Stephen together as these three brothers married three of the daughters of Benjamin Wicker. Peter married Jemima Wicker, John married Nancy Wicker, and Stephen married Ferriby Wicker. There is a fourth daughter called out in Benjamin's will as Mary Morris who is probably the wife of one of the other Morris brothers. Maybe William or Henry as they are the only ones that I cannot find wives for.


Peter is found on the 1790 Moore County Census living next door to Henry, probably his brother, and Frederick, most likely his father. Henry Jun and Mathew Morris live nearby. 

In 1797, Peter Morris is mentioned in a deed between Stephen Morris and Benjamin Wicker of Moore County and Richard Buchannan (probably the same man named as Bohannan in the William Morris deed) of Chatham County. Stephen and Benjamin sold to Richard 200 acres of land in Chatham County that joined Peter Morris and James Wicker and William Morris. John Riddle, Jonathan Wicker, and John Morris were witnesses.  

John Morris is where things get a bit complicated. John had a daughter, Sophia, who married into a Sloan line. I have not completed the genealogy on this line yet but feel certain it will connect somewhere with my Marks line in Chatham County.

John’s daughter, Mary, married Edward Walker and their daughter, Isabella Walker, married Abner Gunter, my first cousin five times removed. Abner is the son of Benjamin Gunter and Elizabeth Long. Benjamin is the son of Isham Gunter, my fifth great grandfather and the brother of Mary Gunter Marks, my fourth great grandmother.

John married Nancy Wicker, the daughter of Benjamin Wicker. He also lived until 1850 so there is a good amount of information on him. John and Nancy had several other children too and I am still building out the children’s lines to find all the marriages. I do know John’s children married into the Gaster family. His son, Peter, married Sarah Gaster and daughter, Jemima, married David Gaster. Both Sarah and David are the children of Jacob Gaster, the son of Henry Gaster, who lived close to Frederick Morris.

Jacob Gaster married Nancy Dye who looks to be the daughter of Hopkins Dye. The Dye line reaches directly back to Richmond County, Virginia, and my Marks line.

It will be difficult to research John’s line in hopes to find my Morris connection because there looks to be some crossover with my Gunter/Marks line in Chatham County. 

Stephen was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and lived long enough to file his pension claim which provides a lot of information. His claim states that he substituted for Frederick Morris but does not say what his relationship to Frederick is. The claim also provides his birthplace as Juniper Creek in Cumberland County, the same place Frederick Morris lived, in the year 1768. 

Stephen married Ferriby Wicker, daughter of Benjamin Wicker. He lived past the 1850 Census and can be found living with his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Wicker Kelly, in 1850.

Mathew Morris

Mathew married Margaret Buie, daughter of Gilbert Buie. The Buie family is traced back to Scotland. There is a link above with a lot of information on the Buie family. Mathew may have lived past the 1850 Census. I found a man by that name who meets his age requirements living in Cumberland County in 1850.

Henry Morris

Henry may have married Mary Wicker, daughter of Benjamin Wicker. I suspect that either he, or his brother, William married the Mary Morris mentioned in Benjamin’s will. Henry had a land grant dated 1787 for 100 acres on Juniper Creek. Peter Morris and Alexander McBride were chain carriers.

Lastly, there is Vaughan Morris, the wife of Frederick. She is mentioned in several deeds as his wife. Her first name immediately caught my attention because it is a surname of an allied family who has ties to the Morris family from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the place where John Jacky Morris, my third great grandfather, was supposedly born in 1785.

Jesse Morris lived and died in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. He was born about 1742 and married Jane Jones. There is much speculation on who his parents are, but, to my knowledge, there has been nothing solid found to prove his parentage. Jesse’s son, Henry, married Lucy Drumwright (also seen as Drumright) the daughter of William and Stacy Andrews Drumwright. There seems to be some doubt that her name was Stacy, but researchers agree that her maiden name was Andrews.

Henry and Lucy Drumwright Morris had a son named Harrison Ruffin Morris (born about 1809) who married Martha Ann Cheatham, daughter of John Cheatham and Nancy Vaughan who is thought to be the daughter of Ambrose Vaughan and Elizabeth Livingstone.

Is it possible that there is a connection between Vaughan Morris and the Vaughan family who lived in Mecklenburg County, Virginia?  

More research is required on my part on the Vaughan family, as well as the many other allied families, Morris, Cheatham, Drumwright, and others. There is a lot to learn, and I will post blogs along the way on these families as I find out more about them.

My hope is to find the parents of John Jacky Morris. There is a very long road ahead of me.

Wish me luck!