Sunday, February 4, 2024

John Morris of Granville County, North Carolina

This blog post is dedicated to Karyn. Without the Y DNA testing on your male relative and the impeccable research you have done on your ancestor John Morris Sr. of Granville County, North Carolina, I would never have been able to complete the research for our Morris Group M29. I certainly would still be in the dark about my own ancestor, John Jacky Morris. Someday, we will find out how our John's are related. Thank you! 

John Morris Sr. (1745-1815) is the star of Morris Project M29 at Family Tree DNA with three males in the project descending from three of John’s grandchildren, Groves, Redding Blount, and John Matthew. I have collected a lot of information on John. He led an active life in Granville County, North Carolina buying and selling property and attending to road orders and even being sued. His neighbors, near and far, were Johnson, Hicks, Ragsdale, Taylor, and even West Harris who moved to Anson/Montgomery County, North Carolina, was a close neighbor.

Several Morris men, Henry, William, George, Edward, Thomas, and Samuel, all lived close enough to John to make me think there is probably a familial relationship between them, but thus far, no record can be found to link them together.

Henry Morris is found in Granville Court Petitions 1754–1764: Lanier vs Morris court finds for Pltf 5 pounds seven shillings one penny sterling. William Morris lived next door to George and Mary Morris, who migrated to Johnston County, North Carolina. Edward Morris is named in the will of Archer Johnson Sr (John’s son, John Jr, married Archer’s daughter, Fanny) "pay brother Edward Morris ten dollars to preach my funeral" and I wonder if Edward is the mysterious second husband of Mary Ward Best Morris. If so, Edward is the son of Samuel Morris, the religious dissenter who started the Morris Reading Houses in Hanover County, Virginia. Thomas Morris, in 1792, purchased of Isaac Arnold 160 acres of land on Fishing Creek joining Thomas Bradford, part of a land grant to Sherwood Harris and conveyed to Isaac Arnold. Samuel Morris, in 1794, purchased land from John Cardin on the north side of Tar River.

All of John’s Tudor in-laws departed to Kentucky, leaving only his wife, Phebe Tudor Morris remaining in Granville County where she died about 1840, outliving him by 25 years. All but two of his children remained in Granville County; Amelia, and her brother, Henry, moved to Kentucky with their Tudor Aunts, Uncles, and cousins.

The problem with John is not one document provides much insight into who his parents or siblings were or where he came from. A handful of land grants, surveys, and deeds only hint at relationships with other Morris men who lived nearby on Fishing Creek and Hatcher’s Run, the same place John lived. 

A deed between John and George Robertson Sr of Chesterfield, Virginia (by the way, Archer Johnson lived in Chesterfield, Virginia too) may provide clues of relationships to Presidents and may help me span years into the past of Colonial Virginia with the Morris and Johnson families. 

A witness on John’s will, John Finch, springs forward tantalizing ideas that John may have somehow known the Morris family of Bedford and Campbell, Virginia who intermarried with a Finch family there who had roots in New Kent, Westmoreland, and Goochland, Virginia. Mostly though, John transacted his business with his neighbor, Archer Johnson, his Tudor in-laws, and his own children.      

I’ve mentioned John several times in this blog and a quick search will bring up posts for him. I’ve also written about the other ancestors in Group M29, and more information can be found on them by clicking on their names below.

John Jacky Morris (1780-1874) of Montgomery County, North Carolina
Blount Morris (1811-1878) of Bradley County, Tennessee
John H. Morris (1774-1861) of Campbell County, Virginia
John Matthew Morris (1845-1913) of Limestone County, Alabama
William Harvey Morris (1777-1853) of Morgan, Missouri (kit not joined to Group M29) 

According to the 1810 Census, John was born before 1755, maybe in Virginia, but Edgecombe (or even Bertie), North Carolina, those parts that became Granville in 1746, is also an option for his birth. His father (or brother) may be George Morris, who received three land grants, two in 1749 for 200 acres on the west side of Fishing Creek and 300 acres on both sides of Fishing Creek. Another grant for 1050 acres was obtained in 1754 between the head of Fishing Creek and Island Creek in Granville County.

In 1750, George Morris sold to Lewis Anderson, both of Granville County, 800 acres of land on both sides of Fishing Creek.

George sold the 1050 acres between the head of Fishing Creek and Island Creek in 1754 to Edward Bullock of Hanover County, Virginia.

In 1755, George Morris, now noted as a resident of Johnston County, North Carolina, sold 300 acres of land to Robert Hicks of Granville, North Carolina. Is there some relation between Robert Hicks and Sabra HicksMorris family who lived in Charlotte County, Virginia? Sabra Hicks married Joshua Morris, the nephew of the religious dissenter Samuel Morris.

I lost track of George in Johnston County. I can find no Census, Estate, or Deed information for him in Johnston, and he may have moved on quickly to another county or state.

Contrary to George, John Morris, stayed put in Granville County. He lived on Fishing Creek, the same area where George lived, as well as owning land on Hatcher’s Run. John married Phebe Tudor, the daughter of John Tudor Jr and Elizabeth White of Brunswick, Virginia. Phebe was about 10 years old when she moved with her family from Brunswick County, Virginia to Granville County, North Carolina. She lived on Fishing Creek, near George and John Morris. She married John Morris about 1765.

The earliest document I can find for John is dated 28 May 1765 when he purchased of Michael Wilson 200 acres of land in Granville County lying on both sides of the Reedy Branch joining Michael Wilson’s line, for 20 pounds. 

At an Inferior Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions help for the County of Granville at Oxford the 7th day of April 1770, in the action of trespass on the case between Malachiah Dickerson Pltf and John Morris Deft a jury … do say that the defendant is guilty and ordered to pay six pounds nine shillings and three pence.

All of John Morris’s children were born between 1765 and 1777 in Granville County and are named in John’s will as well as Phebe Tudor Morris’s 1840 estate file. The children are:

John Morris Jr. (1765-1820) married Fanny Johnson, daughter of Archer Johnson. After the death of husband, John Jr, Fanny and her twin sister, Keziah Johnson Mitchell, moved to Weakley County, Tennessee with several family members. As far as I know, Fanny Johnson Morris died in Weakley, Tennessee after 1840. This line has been Y DNA tested through sons Matthew Johnson Morris (1805-1849) and Redding Blount Morris (1807-1878)

Amelia Morris (1767-1832) married John Byrum and migrated to Barren and Warren County, Kentucky along with a Whitlow and Hicks family.

William Morris (1769-1834) married unknown but evidently died before his mother, Phebe in 1840 as her estate file names William’s children as heirs at law. This line has been Y DNA tested through Groves Morris (1803-1873)

Stephen Morris (1770-1862) married Rhoda Parham, daughter of Kennon and Millicent Parham. Both remained in Granville County dying after 1860 in their 70s. This line has been Y DNA tested through so Littleton Avery Morris (1796-1850).

Tyree Morris (1771-1830) married Elizabeth Hester, daughter of Francis Hester. Her brother, Garland Hester, was bondsman for the marriage.

Jarrett Morris (1773-Bef. 1840) married unknown. His two sons, John, and Abraham are named as heirs-at-law in the estate file of Phebe Tudor Morris, his mother.

Phebe Morris 1777-1850 married Stephen Bridges, son of John and Margaret Bridges. Stephen may be a direct descendant of Joseph Bridger (1628-1686).

Henry Morris (1775-Aft. 1842) married Nancy Cavender and migrated to Graves County, Kentucky. In Feb 1842, Henry appointed Vincent Wade a Power of Attorney to receive his share of inheritance from the estates of John Morris and Phebe Morris of Granville County, North Carolina.

In 1779, 650 acres of land on Hatcher's Run was surveyed for John Morris by Thomas Persons. The land joined Edward Moore, Alston, Wilkinson, Person, Reardon, Hudspeth, and Searcy.

Land on Fishing Creek was also obtained via a land grant issued in 1783 and was surveyed in 1780 bounded by Registers corner in Banks Road (from what I can gather, current day Hwy 96) … to Hopkins corner … to Edward Moore’s corner … to John White’s corner … with Hick’s line. John Moore and Henry Tudor (probably the brother-in-law of John) were chain carriers.   

In 1785, John sold to Avery Parham Jr, probably the son of Avery Parham Sr and Elizabeth Reavis, and related no doubt to Rhoda Parham who married John’s son, Stephen Morris, a tract of land containing 60 acres on a branch of Fishing Creek on each side of Banks Road joining James Jetter, Joseph?, and David Hicks. Witnesses to the deed were Isham Johnson, William Reavis, and Thomas Thomasson.

In 1788, John Morris purchased from his brother and sister-in-law Valentine and Elizabeth Betty Hicks Tudor 160 acres of land in Granville County on Fishing Creek. Valentine and Elizabeth married in 1784. Most family trees show Elizabeth Betty Hicks Tudor as the daughter of Robert Hicks; however, his will is dated 1792, and a lengthy estate file follows that does not name Elizabeth Betty Tudor at all, even though she was alive at that time.

In 1796, John sold land to his neighbor, Archer Johnson who was also the father-in-law of his son, John Jr. This John could be either John Sr. or John Jr. The land was located on Bolling (Bollens) Creek joining Mitchell’s land and because of that, I tend to think this deed belongs to John the younger as he married Fanny Johnson, daughter of Archer Johnson. Fanny’s sister, Keziah, married Thomas Mitchell, no doubt related to the Mitchell of the adjoining land. Fanny and her twin sister, Keziah, seemed to always live near one another. Where I found one, I always found the other. The sisters even moved to Weakley, Tennessee together and are found as neighbors there on the 1840 Census. They obviously were very close.

John is found on early Census and tax list for Granville, North Carolina, years 1769, 1784, 1786, 1787, and 1790.

The 1800 Census for North Carolina, Granville, Hillsboro shows John Morris Sen age 45 and over. Living in the home are his wife, Phebe, a son, probably Henry, and two children, one male under 10 and one female 10 thru 15, perhaps grandchildren. John has eight enslaved persons living in his home.

John’s neighbors are listed as Harris Hicks, Sherwood Harris, Mosley Harris, James Raby, James Roberts, William Spencer, Caleb Crews, William Cothern, Jeremiah Frazer, Thomas Poller, Stephen Morris (his son), William Frazer, Robert Lewis, and William Hilliard. All names I am currently researching.

In 1802, John Morris sold to Francis Hester (who happened to be the father-in-law of his son Tyree) 63 acres of land on Fishing Creek and on both sides of Banks Road. 

Francis Hester is probably the son of William Hester (1716-1774) and Mary Wicker (1718-1807) who supposedly is the sister of Thomas Wicker (1717-1784) who married Mary Hester (1722-1784) the sister of William Hester (1716-1774). So, siblings married siblings.

If this is the case, then this opens the door for the possibility that Frederick Morris (1740 - 1800) may somehow be related to the Morris family of Granville County, North Carolina. Frederick Morris had four sons, Peter, John, Stephen, and either William or Henry who married the daughters of Benjamin Wicker (1742-1809) who is the son of Thomas and Mary Hester Wicker shown above.

Benjamin Wicker migrated from Granville, North Carolina to Chatham County, North Carolina and then to Moore County, North Carolina where he died in 1809. His Morris sons-in-law all remained in the Moore County area and lived near the Williams family of whom I descend through Mary Williams, the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Williams. Mary Williams married Thomas Morris, the son of John Jacky and Amelia Morris and this couple serve as my paternal 2nd great grandparents and my maternal 3rd great grandparents.

This is incredible and could be the first dawning realisation of how these families connect.

A lot more research is required here though. As I stated in my blog post ‘Needles and Haystacks’ the answer to breaking down the brick wall of John Jacky Morris seems to lie with how his son, Thomas, met Mary Williams. Thomas lived in Uwharrie, Montgomery County, North Carolina and Mary Williams lived in the Robbins, Moore County, North Carolina. That is nearly 40 miles away. Thomas and Mary married about 1845, a time when there was no easy way to meet someone that far away - unless you had family who lived nearby. Somehow, they knew each other. But how? Could this latest find be the needle in the haystack? Is my Morris family of Uwharrie, North Carolina related to the Morris family who lived in Moore County, North Carolina near the Williams family?

In 1803 John Morris Sr sold 200 acres of land on Hatcher’s Run, joining Archer Johnson, to George Robertson Sr of Chesterfield County, Virginia. Remember, in 1767, Archer, then age 33, was living in Chesterfield County, Virginia. So, there may be a relationship here that needs to be uncovered.

Is George Robertson the son of James Robertson (1715-1758) and Martha Field Archer (1713-1750)? If so, Martha may be the Aunt to Archer Johnson who lived next door to John Morris Sr.

If these relationships are correct (and verification is certainly needed here) this would make Archer Johnson and George Robertson Sr first cousins, their mothers were sisters. This also makes them a cousin to President Thomas Jefferson, as their grandmother, Martha Field Archer, was the sister of Mary Field Jefferson, the grandmother of President Thomas Jefferson.

Preliminary research shows that a daughter of James Robertson and Martha Field Archer, Agnes Robertson (1749-1815), married Daniel Cheatham (1746-1815) of Mecklenburg County, Virginia (the Cheatham family also reaches back to Chesterfield, Virginia). Their son, John Cheatham (1779-1816) married Nancy Vaughan (1792-1864) and it was their daughter, Martha Ann Cheatham (1819-1900) who married Harrison Ruffin Morris (1809-1876) the grandson of Jesse Morris (1742-1807) and Jane Jones (1760-1823) of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Is there a connection between Jesse Morris of Mecklenburg County, Virginia and John Morris Sr of Granville County, North Carolina?

At any rate, this is an incredible find as it opens doors to new research on a Morris family in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. The exact place where my third great grandfather, John Jacky Morris, was supposedly born.


In Oct 1815 John Morris Sr wrote his will. He first noted that he was “weak in body” but of “perfect mind and sound memory.” He made the usual recommendations, his soul to God who gave it and his body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner. His worldly goods he bequeathed to his beloved wife Phebe Morris during her natural life or widowhood the land and plantation where he lived containing 400 acres and the tract of land where son Stephen lived containing 200 acres. He gave slaves Chaney, Jacob, and Abram to his wife during her natural life or widowhood and then they and their increase to be divided between all his children. His sons Jarrett, Tyree, and Henry received $200 each in lieu of land and before any land division takes place. Daughter Phebe Bridges “shall continue to keep the negro boy Peter which I formerly lent her and to receive $100 before a division takes place to make her part equal with the rest of my children.” Daughter Milly Byrum received $100. Wife Phebe received all other household and kitchen furniture, plantation tools, stock of horses, hogs, cattle, and sheep, but after her death or marriage, all to be divided equally among his children or their heirs. Phebe Morris executrix, and Stephen Morris and Stephen Bridges executors. Witnesses were Anderson Freeman, Thomas Winston, and John W Finch. The will was proved in Nov Court 1815.

What another exciting find! The surname Finch! More research required to find out if John Finch has a connection to the Finch family who intermarried with the Morris family who lived in Campbell County, Virginia. John H. Morris (male descendants are a Y DNA match to John Morris Sr descendants in Granville, North Carolina) and Lucretia Howell of Campbell, Virginia had a daughter, Mahala, who married William Finch, the son of John Finch and Mary Weber.

Preliminary research found several family trees and online postings that show John Finch of Granville, North Carolina is probably the son of John Finch Sr from either Goochland or Westmoreland County, Virginia. This is the same area where the Campbell, Virginia Finch’s came from. In fact, a William Finch signed as witness to a deed between James McCormack of Southampton, Virginia and William Butler of King George, Virginia for land in Brunswick, Virginia. This is an opportunity to learn more about the Finch families of Virginia and North Carolina. 

The McCormack and Morris surnames are found in Buckingham, Goochland, Louisa, Bedford, and Campbell, Virginia. John H. Morris, an ancestor of a Y DNA match, is thought to be the son of William Morris and Sarah McCormack of Buckingham, Virginia.