Tuesday, July 4, 2023

How Archer Johnson solved a Morris mystery

New Kent is one of the oldest counties in Virginia. In its early days, the region was a cluster of thriving Indian tribes ruled by Chief Powhatan and, after his death, by his brother, Opechannough. A series of violent and deadly encounters between Native Americans and European settlers finally resulted in a peace treaty in 1644. As European settlement expanded across the area, St. Peter's Church was built in 1701. George and Martha Washington often attended services here and the pastor who baptized Martha Washington, the Rev. David Mossom, who also presided over both her weddings, is buried here.

It is here, St. Peter's Parish, New Kent County, Virginia Colony, that Archer Johnson Sr was born on 27 Dec 1734 to Matthew and Judith Johnson and baptized at St. Peter's Parish on 1 Feb 1735. I do not know much about Archer’s early life as I have not yet researched his parents or his siblings. I assume he grew up in New Kent county and probably attended services at St. Peter’s Church.

In 1767, Archer, then age 33, was living in Chesterfield County, Virginia. There he purchased 150 acres of land on the second Branch, joining Blankenship’s line, from John Fryth.

In 1771, Archer, age 37, moved to Amelia County, Virginia where he purchased 326 acres of land from Nathaniel Booth, on the southwest side of the sweathouse creek, near the sweathouse bridge, joining John Clay. The land was part of a tract of 1554 acres granted to Thomas Booth in 1735 and conveyed by deed in 1749 to Nathaniel Booth. Temperance Booth, wife of Nathaniel, was privately examined and voluntarily relinquished her right of dower.

In 1782 Archer Johnson was still living in Amelia County, Virginia and was counted on the early Virginia Census in township 1225.

It appears that Archer’s older children were born in Chesterfield County, Virginia between 1760 and 1765 and his younger children were born in Amelia County, Virginia between 1779 and 1783. There seems to be a big age gap between his children, and, although I have found no record of it, I wonder if he was married twice. I will cover his children below with his will.

I am most interested in Archer’s daughter Frances, called Fanny, as she married, in 1799, Granville County, North Carolina, to John Morris Jr, son of John Morris Sr and Phebe Tudor. This is the Morris line that my male cousin and paternal Uncle Y DNA match.  

I have dedicated this year, 2023, to my Morris family and I suspect that next year will also be dedicated to researching this line of my family tree. My cousin and Uncle have five Morris Y DNA matches and three other matches to Gresham, Bradshaw, and Thomasson lines. There were either name changes, adoptions, or NPEs in the three later named lines and I hope to uncover the story there. Read that research here

I have spent most of my time this year chipping away at the brick wall of the tester who descends from John Matthew Morris born 1845, died 1913. According to research done by this family, their ancestor John Matthew Morris descends from a man named Johnson Morris born about 1809 in North Carolina and died before 18 May 1849 in Madison County, Alabama, the date his wife, Margaret, remarried. The tester had conflicting stories in their family that Johnson's name may have been Jackson. I think he may have been called ‘John,’ short for Johnson, or ‘Jack,’ a nickname for John.

My research shows his name was Matthew Johnson Morris, born about 1805, named as a grandson in the will of Archer Johnson Sr who died about 1813 in Granville County, North Carolina. Johnson’s parents are John Morris Jr and Frances Fanny Johnson, daughter of Archer Johnson Sr.

Matthew Johnson Morris married a lady named Margaret, called Peggy, probably in Alabama, but perhaps in Tennessee, and this couple had children Thomas (1839), Nancy (1842), John Matthew (1845), and Andrew Jackson (1848).

Margaret ‘Peggy’ Morris’s maiden name is unknown to me currently. Some family trees I found showed Taylor as her maiden name, but I have yet to prove that. I have no doubt that it probably is Taylor as that surname is found alongside the Morris and Johnson families as far back as Granville County, North Carolina in the late 1790s. You will see the name below too as you read the will of Archer Johnson.

I found Margaret ‘Peggy’ Morris on the 1850 Madison County, Alabama State Census living next door to a man named Isham Morris. Since I had researched Peggy and her children previously and found no real new clues for them, I moved on to researching neighbors. Isham Morris, I discovered, is the son of John Morris Jr and Frances Fanny Johnson of Granville County, North Carolina. John Morris Jr. is the son of John Morris Sr. and Phebe Tudor Morris, the same Morris line that this tester and my Morris testers match to. How convenient! It was right here where this brick wall began to crumble and all the pieces began to fall into place for this Morris family!
Prior to Johnson Morris migrating to Alabama, the tester did not know for sure where Johnson was living. Although there were clues, like Margaret claiming on Census records to be born in Tennessee. Isham Morris can also be found in Tennessee, so I thought perhaps I was on the right track searching Tennessee records. I knew there had to be a link between Margaret Peggy and Isham since they both shared the same surname and lived next door to one another. Besides, if Isham was the son of John Morris Jr, I thought Johnson probably was too.
Scouring Tennessee records for the past month, I finally found Johnson Morris in the 1838 early tax list for Weakley County, Tennessee. I also found two other people who immediately solved this mystery for me. Shown on either side of Johnson on the 1838 tax list in Weakley County, are Frances Fanny Morris, the widow of John Morris Jr of Granville County, North Carolina, and her twin sister, Kizziah Johnson Mitchell.

Frances and Kizziah are the twin daughters of Archer Johnson Sr of Granville County, North Carolina. They are both mentioned in the Revolutionary War pension file of their brother-in-law, William Allen, as being the daughters of Archer.

Frances Fanny Morris and her twin sister, Kizziah Kissey Mitchell, are both mentioned in the will of their father, Archer. I’ll cover that below. Both sisters migrated together to Weakley County, Tennessee with several family members before 1830. Both Frances and Kizziah are found on the 1830 Census for that place living just one page apart from one another. In 1840, the sisters are living next door to one another.

Updated research: 26 Mar 2024

Frances 'Fanny' Johnson Morris looks to have died in 1845. Isham A. Morris and Matthew Johnson Morris of Madison County, Alabama sold their interest to slaves Sally, Julia, and Ann, then in the possession of Fanny Morris of Weakly County, Tennessee at the time of her death.

The will of Archer Johnson Sr provides so much genealogical information we cannot help but thank him for his diligence and the care he took to ensure that he named all immediate family members. I could tell by reading his will he was a man who truly cared about the welfare of his family, as well as others who he considered to be in his charge. It will take me months to research every person mentioned in his will but that certainly will provide me a better understanding of this family, which in turn will help me (at least I hope) find where in this family John Jacky Morris, my third great grandfather, fits.

Archer Johnson’s Will

In the name of God Amen. I Archer Johnson of Granville County and state of North Carolina being sick and weak in body but of sound and disposing mind and memory thanks be to God for the same and calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament. And first of all, I commend my soul to the hands of God who gave it and my body I desire to be buried in a Christian like and decent manner at the discretion of my executors in hope of the resurrection in Christ Jesus. And as it respects my worldly substance which God has committed to my charge I dispose of the same in manner and form following. That is to say

To my daughter Dosha Clay two hundred acres of land in Granville County beginning at a corner pine John Morris Sen. line...also ten negros to wit, Pete, Eady, Jerry, Lucy, Agnes, Charlotte, daughter of Lucy, Viney, Peter, son of Agnes, Barbary, and Ruth.

You will see John Morris Sen mentioned throughout the will of Archer. He seems to have a great deal of respect for him, and other members of the Morris family mentioned. THIS John Morris Sen is the man that carried the same Y DNA as my Uncle and cousin. John Morris Sen is somehow related to MY Morris family, and I am on a quest to discover how.
Dosha was born about 1760 and married Peter Clay. Recognize that name? It is the same name found in Amelia County, Virginia living next door to Archer. See above deeds for reference. There seems to be conflicting information if Dosha remained in Amelia County, Virginia or moved to Granville County, North Carolina with the rest of her Johnson family. There are deeds in Granville County for Peter Clay, so I think it is safe to assume that Peter and Dosha did live in Granville County. Some of their children are found in Granville County and others look to have moved on to Tennessee.

Children of Peter and Dosha Johnson Clay are:

Charles 1775
Archer 1780
Doctor 1784
Harriet 1790
Susannah 1793
William 1974
Pleasant 1796
Dosha 1799
Ann 1805 

To my son-in-law Anderson Freeman 100 acres of land in Granville County beginning at a small drain where it empties into Hatchers Run ... to John Morris Sen. line ... also six negroes, Sally, Eady, daughter of Jude, Nancy, Lotty, Jude, and Page

Anderson Freeman married Mildred Johnson, daughter of Archer. Anderson moved to Haywood County and Rutherford County, Tennessee. Mildred died in Haywood County, Tennessee in 1812.
Anderson and Mildred had the following children:

Betsey 1780 (married Thomasson)
Anderson 1783
Mary 1788
Cato 1792
Ansel 1794
Green 1795
Littleberry 1796
Asbury 1798
Elva 1804
Alfred 1805
Mahala 1809

I hereby acknowledge a deed of gift heretofore made and recorded (?) by which I have lent to Betsey Ann Thomasson, daughter of Anderson Freeman, two negros, Edward, and Abraham

To Littleberry K. Freeman two negros, Salisbury, and Mason (?)

To Mary Ann A. Freeman two negros, Lucey, and Soureset (?)

To Redding B. Morris one negro, Sarah
It is my will that and desire that the negros should be distributed agreeable to the instruction of said Deed

Betsey Ann Thomasson is the granddaughter of Archer. Her father, Anderson Freeman, married Archer’s daughter, Mildred. Littleberry and Mary Ann are the siblings of Betsey Ann.
It is interesting that Redding B. Morris has been lumped in together with the Freeman children. Is he really a child of John and Frances Morris or is a child from a previously marriage of Mildred? The deed (see below) makes it clear that he is a grandchild of Archer.

A deed found in Granville County made by Archer gives Redding’s full name as Redding Blount Morris. He is named with the Freeman children indicating that he may be a child of Mildred by a previous marriage. This is very exciting, because another Y DNA match descends from a man named Blount Morris of Bradley County, Tennessee. I cannot help but wonder if it is the same man. 

To my son Phillip A. Johnson and to his son Paschal during the life of Phillip with remainder to Paschal two hundred acres of land being the land whereon Archibald Mitchell and Hardy Bass (?) formerly lived. Also, to my son Phillip during his natural life one negro, Esson. Also, three negros, Sucky, Tabb, and Godfrey on condition they be not hired or put out to other person during his life. I bequeath Godfrey to his son Paschal Johnson and Suckey and with their increase to be equally divided among his children at the death of his father Phillip. If Paschal die without lawful heirs or before his father, then his part to his brothers and sisters
Phillip Johnson married Phebe Clay, probably a sister or cousin to Peter Clay, whom his sister, Dosha, married. He looks to have had at least two children, Paschal, and a daughter who married Nelson Thomasson. He died in 1823 and Nelson Thomasson, in right of his wife, along with Fanny Morris and several others, were called upon by the court in Granville County to testify as to the validity of the will.

Paschal moved on to Daviess County, Kentucky where he died in 1853. 

I lend to William Allen and Betsey his wife and her children during the lifetime of said William and Betsey eight negros, John, Charlotte, Patrice (?), Zach, Patience, Usley, Micajah, and Willis, and after their death to be equally divided among the children of said Betsey with all their increase. I give to Judith Allen, daughter of William Allen, one negro and one feather bed

Betsey Johnson married William Allen. Their children were:

William Archer
Dorcas 1780
Daniel 1785
Judith 1786
Elizabeth 1787
Martha 1793
James 1794
Frances Fanny 1797

 I give to my son in law John Morris five shillings sterling

John Morris Jr is the son of John Morris Sr and Phebe Tudor.

This is my Morris Y DNA line I am trying to connect with.

John Morris Jr married Frances Fanny Johnson, daughter of Archer, and they had the following children:

Isham Allen 1800
Nancy Archer 1802
Matthew Johnson 1805
Redding Blount 1807 [more likely to be a son of Mildred Johnson Freeman by a first marriage]
Appalonicia 1801
Martha 1812

I give to my sons Archer Johnson and Anderson Johnson and Cato Joseph Taylor two negros Isaac and Sally, daughter of Fanny in (?) for the benefit and support of my daughter Fanny Morris and her children

In Granville County Deed Book Volume R-S pages 322-323 is found the deed Archer made out to his executors to hold in trust for his grandchildren, named as, Isham Allen Morris, Nancy Archer Morris, and Matthew Johnson Morris.

I hereby acknowledge a Deed made and recorded in which I have given to Isham A. Morris a negro, Deanna

To Nancy A. Morris a negro, Letitia

To Matthew J. Morris a negro, Sicily

For the youngest daughter of Fanny Morris, Appalonicia Morris, daughter of Fanny Morris, one negro, Ussey, daughter of Pat.

I lend to my daughter Kissey Mitchell three negros, Abraham, Disey, and Jasper

I lend to Fanny B. Dolly wife of Richard Dolly on negro, Delphia

To Pamela Mitchell I lend one negro child, Mary

To Archer E. Mitchell I lend one negro, Peter

Also, Thomas A. Mitchell I lend one negro, Squire

To Matthew J. Mitchell I lend one negro, Anthony

Also, Kissey Mitchell I lend one negro, Lively

Kizziah (Kissey) Johnson Mitchell married Thomas Mitchell; a Revolutionary War soldier whose pension application gives many clues to this family. 

Thomas and Kissey Johnson Mitchell had the following children:

Fanny 1791
Matthew 1792
Thomas 1797
Kissey 1798
Archer 1801
Pamelia 1803

To Archer Johnson Jr two hundred acres of land beginning at Peter Clay's line on Hatchers Run thence along his line to a pine John Morris Sen corner thence along Morris's line to a white oak formerly Mitchell's now Morris's...also ten negros, Clarncey, Molly, Sol(?), Jenny, Doctor, Joe, John, Eady, daughter of Molly, Grace, and Polly.

To my grandsons William A. Johnson and Allen Johnson, a tract of land containing three hundred acres lying and being in the county of Amelia state of Virginia wherein I formerly lived ... also nine negros, Anthony, Sara (?), Hannah, Daniel, Lucy, daughter of Fanny, Betty, Sylvia, Ned, John, son of Lucy, Bariute (?), and Davy.  I desire Delphia Johnson, mother of the above children, have the (?) and benefit of the said tract of land in order to raise and maintain her children during her natural life or widow hood

While I have not investigated who Delphia is, it seems obvious that she is probably the wife of a deceased son and that she, and her children, live in Amelia County, Virginia.

To my son Anderson Johnson the tract of land whereon I now live containing three hundred acres beginning where Anderson Freeman's line comes to Morris's ... to Taylor's corner on the road ... to an oak Morris's corner to Mitchell's corner, now Morris's, thence to the rocky branch thence down Rocky Branch to Hatcher's Run ... to him and his heirs twelve negros, Astin (?), Isaiah (?), (?), Pat, son of Charity, old F(?), Ne(?), Billy, son of Charity, John, son of Patience(?), Louisa, Manuel, and Lucy, daughter of Charity. Also yoke of young steers and my big gun.

Anderson Johnson looks to have married Polly Talley in Granville County, North Carolina. I have not found anything more on him yet.

I lend to Kenelm Higgs and Susannah his wife twelve negros, Wilson, Buck, Zach, son of Milly, Lester, Lucy, Gloster, Lou, son of Sucky, Ephrana (?), George, Rachel, Frank, Luke, and Ussey
Kenelm and Susannah were married 9 Feb 1801 in Granville County.

To my grandson Charly Clay one negro, Daniel, in lieu of the money I owe him for his services. Also, my bay horse called Rockingham, one feather bed and twenty (?) out of the crop.

I give to my daughter Fanny Morris one cow and calf and two ewe and lambs.

To my daughter Kissey Mitchell my mare called Sal (?) and one ewe and lamb also twenty barrels of corn out of the present crop and I desire that six hogs be fattened for her out of the present crop.

I lend to Martha Thomasson, daughter of Phillip A. Johnson three negros, Violet, Lawson, and Ginny

It is my will if either of the legatees of Thomas A. Mitchell deceased shall refuse to stated (?) to a contract that I made with the representative of Evan (?) Mitchell for two hundred dollars their father's part of said estate that they shall have no part of their Mother’s estate bequeathed to her by me and as they arrive to lawful age or marry that my executor pay them ten pounds Virginia money each as their part of the two hundred dollars above mentioned.

The negros left in trust if ill-treated the executors shall have the power to take and hire them out for the benefit of those to whom they are left. I desire that all the old negros be well treated during their lives.

My executors sell the following negros Caty (?), Eley, Abey, and Joe (?) with the crop and stock of all kind that is not already disposed of with all my household and kitchen furniture and plantation utensils and that my executor pay doctor John Brodie for his attendance of Betsey Allen fifty dollars and I also desire that all my just debts be paid that my son Anderson Johnson do pay Kissey Mitchell's children two hundred dollars and that my executor pay off a note of two hundred dollars without (?) to Kenelm Higgs out of the proceeds above directed.

After paying my just debts, any balance to be reserved for son Phillip A. Johnson and daughter Fanny Morris to be paid yearly five pounds Virginia money.


I desire that Brother Edward Morris do preach my funeral service if he can be got and that he be paid ten dollars but if not that James (?)Hunt preach it and pay him four dollars.

A new name to research … Edward Morris who looks to be a minister.

Appoint executors my sons Archer Johnson and Anderson Johnson, Cato Joseph Taylor, Joseph Littlejohn and Joseph Taylor Jnr.

As noted above, Margaret Peggy, who married Johnson Morris, maiden name is thought to be Taylor. More research is required to prove her maiden name, however, based on the close relationship that Archer Johnson has with the Taylor family, I think Margaret Peggy will most likely be found somewhere in this Taylor family. I will make another post if I am able to uncover her identity.

Archer Johnson Sr. died in Feb 1813 in Granville County, North Carolina. He is buried in the Allen and Coley Cemetery on West Lyon Station Rd (SR 1215) Granville County, North Carolina.

Gravestone picture from Find-A-Grave

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