When Susan Josephine Morris, daughter of Blount Morris and Mary Brawner, affectionately called Aunt Josie by her family members, submitted her application for enrollment with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina in 1926, she could not have possibly known the confusion she would cause for generations of Morris family historians for the next 97 years.
It wasn’t until a male descendant of Josie’s brother, Samuel Pride Morris, Y DNA tested in 2019 and was put into my Morris Group M29 at Family Tree DNA that Aunt Josie's Eastern Cherokee application was questioned – by me.
I contacted the Y DNA match as soon as I got the notification email from Family Tree DNA. There was not a lot of information that could be provided.
“We have some insurance forms of Blount’s from the 1860’s that state the number of brothers and sisters he had. But apparently, he wasn’t close to them. There’s a possibility that he was illegitimate or from a first marriage or something like that.”
I was put in touch with another family member who informed me that “Gideon and Rebecca Na-Ke are Blount's parents” and provided me a link to the application on Ancestry.
I built a test tree for the match and started the process of finding proof documents for the family members that linked them together. I read Aunt Josie’s application, several times. I then reviewed family trees on Ancestry and found nearly all of them have Blount Morris’s parents listed as Gideon and Rebecca Na-Ke Morris. I found Gideon and Rebecca’s application on the Chapman Roll (it was approved as Rebecca was native American) but the children listed for Gideon and Rebecca did not include Blount. This Gideon is listed as 57 years old with a son named Gideon. The Chapman Rolls are dated 1851 so Gideon Sr would have been born 1794 and Gideon Jr 1834. Blount Morris was born about 1807, so these Gideon's are not Blount's father, one would have been too young and the other not born yet.
I am not sure where Aunt Josie got the name Gideon Morris from or why she believed he was her grandfather, but it seems obvious from Aunt Josie’s application that J. C. Johnson, probably the son of Noble and Frances Johnson (Josie’s sister) of Anderson County, Tennessee, had heard Blount say that his father married a Cherokee Indian.
Thankfully, Y DNA testing has solved the mystery of Blount Morris. A male descendant of Blount Morris, Aunt Josie’s father, matches to the John Morris (married Phebe Tudor) line in Granville County, North Carolina. Further, documentation from Granville County shows Blount is the grandson of John Morris and Phebe Tudor, through their son, John Morris Jr. and his wife, Frances Johnson who is the daughter of Archer Johnson. None of which are native American.
Frances Johnson Morris moved with several of her family members to Tennessee between 1823 and 1830. She is found on the 1820 Census for Granville County, North Carolina and was called to testify on the validity of her brother, Phillip’s will in Aug 1823 in Granville County. She is found in the 1830 and 1840 Census for Weakley County, Tennessee living close to her twin sister, Kezzie Johnson Mitchell. Aunt Josie, being born in 1856, had probably grown-up hearing stories of her grandmother but probably knew very little of her grandfather.
Frances Johnson Morris, Blount’s mother, is the daughter of Archer Johnson. You can read more about Archer here. In an 1809 deed written in Granville County, North Carolina, Blount’s maternal grandfather, Archer, names him as his grandson, Reading Blount Morris.
Archer again names Blount in his 1812 will as Reading B. Morris.
Who was Reading (Redding) Blount Morris?
It seems somewhat obvious that Blount may have been named for Reading Blount, a major in the Continental Army during the American Revolution who was cited for bravery for his part at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781, and again at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, on September 8, 1781, where he was recognized for bravery beyond the call of duty by General Nathanael Greene. Reading Blount died 13 Oct 1807 at his home, Bellefont, a three hundred acres farm on Tranter's Creek, a few miles from Washington, North Carolina, about the same year Reading Blount Morris was born.
A blog post at East Carolina Roots shows two deeds, dated 1788 and 1795, between Elisha Morris of Beaufort County, North Carolina, and Reading Blount. I am very curious to know if there is a connection between the Elisha Morris family and the John Morris family of Granville County, North Carolina. The research is still pending my investigation.
Outside of the 1809 deed and the 1812 will of Archer Johnson, Blount’s grandfather, little is known of his early life in Granville County. On 1 Jan 1826 a Granville County, North Carolina marriage license between Redding B. Morris and Mary Longmire was procured, the bondsman was Morris Byrum, Blount’s first cousin. Morris Byrum is the son of John and Amelia Morris Byrum. Amelia is the Aunt of Blount Morris, she is the sister of his father, John Morris Jr.
On 4 Sep 1828, age 22, Blount is recorded on the U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments. Right above his name on the roll is Thomas G. Morris, age 20, Blount’s first cousin. Thomas is the son of Stephen and Rhoda Parham Morris. Stephen is the Uncle of Blount, the brother of John Morris Jr. This document provides several personal details about Blount. First, his occupation was listed as a Hatter. Second, he enlisted in the Army on Sep 4 in Oxford, North Carolina under Lt. Patrick for a period of 5 years. His Regiment and Company was listed as 1 Art. G. Third, he had blue eyes, brown hair, and light skin. He was 5 feet 10 ½ inches tall. Fourth, he was born in Granville County, North Carolina (not surprising since his male descendants Y DNA match the Morris line from there). Lastly, he was listed as deserted on 10 Mar 1831, there is no record that he was ever apprehended.
Mary Longmire Morris continued living in Granville County, North Carolina through 1870. She may be the same person listed as marrying Samuel Craft in 1847. In 1850, she is living with Samuel Craft and two daughters, Martha Morris, born about 1829, and Phebe Morris, born about 1831. In 1860 and 1870, she is living with her daughter Phebe Lynch, who married Dennis Lynch. The bondsman to that marriage was Doctor D. Clay, Blount Morris’s first cousin, the son of Peter Clay and Dosha Johnson. Dosha is the sister of Frances Johnson Morris, Blount’s mother.
By 1832, Blount Morris looks to be in Blount County, Tennessee. He married Mary Brawner there in Feb 1832. Of interest, there were three other Morris’s who married about the same time Blount did. I am researching each of these men to determine if there is any connection to Blount or to the Morris family in Granville County, North Carolina.
In 1837, Blount is listed on the Early Tax List in Rhea, Tennessee and in 1840, he is found on the Census for that place.
Even though I cannot find documentation of Blount in 1850, I know he was in Kentucky from about 1845 – 1852 because several of his children were born there during these years. Interestingly, Paschal Johnson, Blount's first cousin, lived in Daviess County, Kentucky. It is also very probable that Mary Brawner Morris had family in Whitley County, Kentucky.
Paschal Johnson is the son of Phillip Johnson, the brother of Frances Johnson Morris, Blount’s mother.
1860 finds Blount and family living in Scott, Tennessee. This county borders Whitley County, Kentucky. More research is needed on my part, but it is very likely that Blount’s brother-in-law, Jeptha Brawner, lived in Whitley County, Kentucky.
The Morris children listed in 1860 are:
Samantha age 21, a schoolteacher
Jeptha, age 19, farm labor
Nancy, age 16
Thaddeus, age 14
James, age 12
Julia, age 11
Frances, age 8
Samuel P[ride], age 6 [male descendants have Y DNA tested and match the Morris family of Granville County, North Carolina]
Josephine, age 4 [submitted the Eastern Cherokee application in 1926, rejected]
In 1870, Blount has moved his family to Bradley County, Tennessee where he will live the remainder of his life.
Samantha married John Carland and moved to Knox County, Tennessee. She was counted on the 1900 Census there.
Nothing more is known about Jeptha currently.
Nancy married Russell Lawson and died 1903 in Bradley County, Tennessee.
Nothing more is known about Thadeous currently.
James married Nancy Barnett and died 1905 in Bradley County, Tennessee.
Julia had a daughter, Inus, born about 1874.
Frances married Noble Johnson and died 1886 in Anderson County, Tennessee. It is possible that a child of Frances, J. C. Johnson, signed an affidavit for Aunt Josie’s Cherokee application.
Samuel Pride Morris married Mary Danzenbaker and moved to Amarillo, Randall, Texas where he died in 1907. A male descendant of this line has Y DNA tested and matches to my Morris line.
Susan Josephine married first William Goodner and second a Mr. Roberson. She died at the home of her son, Williard Goodner in 1945 and is buried in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Miami, Ottawa County, Oklahoma.
Mary Brawner Morris, the wife of Blount Morris died 1877 in Bradley County, Tennessee. She is buried next to her husband, Blount, in Tasso United Methodist Cemetery in Bradley County, Tennessee. Blount died 24 Apr 1878 in Bradley County.