Saturday, May 18, 2024

Process of elimination

There is no actual proof that John Jacky Morris, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. There is only speculation. It is assumed because John Jacky Morris and his children were consistent in reporting his place of birth as Virginia on Census records and compound that with the fact that Flora Dennis Morris, my great grandmother, reported Clarksville, Virginia as the birthplace of Thomas Morris, the son of John Jacky Morris and father of her husband, John Coon Morris, it somehow became family lore that John Jacky, the father of Thomas, must have been born in Mecklenburg, County, Virginia because Clarksville is located within that county.

It is thought that Great Grandma Flora might have been mixed up on who was born where and mistakenly reported Thomas’s place of birth as Clarksville, Virginia when in fact, it was John Jacky who was born there; but John Jacky could not have been born in Clarksville, Virginia because Clarksville did not exist until 1818 and John Jacky Morris was born in 1785.

It is important to note that Flora Dennis Morris was not even born when John Jacky Morris died in 1874 and was only 11 years old when her future father-in-law, Thomas Morris, the son of John Jacky Morris, died. She would not marry John Coon Morris, son of Thomas, until 1901, some 27 years after John Jacky Morris died. So, all the information she had, came from John Coon Morris, her husband, who was 5 years old when John Jacky, his grandfather, died. John Coon Morris was nearly 30 years old when his father, Thomas, died about 1897. Flora was repeating information that she heard from her husband who had heard it from Thomas, who had heard it directly from John Jacky Morris.

So, what did Flora Dennis Morris know that no one else can figure out? 

Joseph Morgan, son of Samuel and Susan Morris Morgan, and grandson of John Jacky and Amelia Morris, was at his grandparent’s home in 1860, listed as a 10-year-old child and may have remembered the day the Census taker came around to enumerate the family. He lived until 1930, recent times. Joseph would have been 24 years old when his grandparents died. Surely, he remembered them. Anything that Joseph knew about his grandparents was taken to the grave with him.

The ramifications of Thomas Morris being born in Clarksville, Virginia are enormous, and speculation runs wild with the possibilities.  

If Thomas were born in Clarksville, Virginia that would mean Amelia, his mother, most likely was born in Virginia as well. All his older siblings, William (1813), George (1817), Eliza (1818), John Jr (1819), Grandison (1823), and Thomas himself (1824) would have all been born in Virginia.

However, most Census information and family lore do not support this idea. According to family lore reported by George Washington (aka G. W.) Morris, son of William, John Jacky Morris moved from Virginia to Montgomery County, North Carolina in 1805, met and married Amelia around 1812 and their first child, William, was born in 1813. Meaning Amelia was probably already in Montgomery County, North Carolina when John Jacky arrived there in 1805 at the age of 20 years.

G. W. Morris was born in 1867, was 7 years old when John Jacky, his great grandfather died, was 30 years old when his uncle Thomas, died, and he lived until 1969 – 102 years! He outlived John Coon Morris, my own great grandfather by 4 years. I was born by the time G. W. died! So, G. W. had some information. To my knowledge, he never wrote it down. The only tidbit of information was gleaned from a newspaper account that reported on his 100th birthday celebration; G. W. entertained the family with tales of the past about the Morris family coming from England, settling in Virginia, and moving to Montgomery County, North Carolina in 1805. That is the story he had heard since childhood.


The 1850 Census reports that Amelia, wife of John Jacky Morris, was born in Virginia. The 1860 Census reports Amelia was born in North Carolina. Some of her children, on the 1880 Census, reported “mother’s place of birth” as Virginia while other children reported it as North Carolina.  



The only consistencies are the inconsistencies!  

Regardless of whether Flora Dennis Morris was confused about who was born where, there is some connection between Mecklenburg, specifically Clarksville, Virginia, and my Morris family. Something happened there! Otherwise, Flora would have never heard of Clarksville.

What did Flora know that I cannot figure out?

Clarksville is a town in Mecklenburg County, Virginia located along the Roanoke River. It was founded in 1818 and incorporated in 1821. It was named after its founder, Clark Royster, who inherited the land from his father, William Royster.

In 1792 William Royster deeded to his son, Clark, 376 acres in two tracks for “love and affection” and five shillings. On this land, Clark built his home, business, and established the Town of Clarksville by dividing a one-hundred-acre tract into 22 lots and petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to establish a town named Clarksville, which was approved. A post office established in 1819 and Clark Royster operated a tobacco warehouse and the Royster ferry. 

Settlers began to populate the land quickly because of the temperate climate and the fine soil for tobacco growth. The Richmond Enquirer in 1818 advertised town lots for sale in the new town called Clarksville.

A deed between Royster and Trustees of Clarksville reads:

This Indenture made this 14th day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen Between Clark Royster and Lucy his wife of the county of Mecklenburg of the one part and Richard Apperson, William Birchett, Howell Harper, John Baptist, George Somerville, and Stephen Pool trustees for the Town of Clarksville appointed by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia passed at the last session of the other part Witnesseth that the said Clark Royster and Lucy his wife for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar … deliver unto the said trustees of the Town of Clarksville … all the land lots … which have been surveyed and laid off by the said trustees for the purposes aforesaid which they may convey to the several purchasers … witnesses were Archer Phillips, Nm. Dortch, Granderson C. Royster. Registered 20 July 1818.

Interestingly, John Jacky Morris named a son Grandison (sometimes seen as Granderson). Could there be some connection to the name Grandison / Granderson or is it just a coincidence?

When Clark Royster died in 1847, his widow, Lucy Apperson Royster, was provided a life tenancy of the dwelling house and land, as well as furnishings, slaves, household and farm animals and tools. Lucy remained in the house until her death and her dower was deeded to Thomas Fletcher Humphreys and wife Eliza. The estate remained in the Humphrey family until 1962 when Fred and Mary Anne Boyd Oettinger purchased the home and one acre of land from the 22 heirs.

Clark Royster’s will left to his grandson William Grandison Royster, son of William A. Royster, $100.

Even though Clarksville, Virginia did not exist until 1818, Mecklenburg County, Virginia has existed since 1764 when it was formed from Brunswick which was formed in 1720 from land taken from Prince George, Surry, and Isle of Wight counties. The 1751 Jefferson/Fry map shows the area of what would become Mecklenburg about ten years prior to its creation.

A current day map of the same area.

I used Family Search’s new full-text search to search early deeds, and found the below deeds dated 1764-1799, a period of 35 years, for land located in Mecklenburg, Virginia that mention the surname, Morris. What I found interesting is that Mecklenburg County, Virginia was formed in 1764 from Brunswick County, however, from 1740 to 1770, I found no deeds in Brunswick County, Virginia with the surname Morris (is the full-text feature working properly?).

So, where did these Morris’s come from?

Brunswick County formed from parts of Prince George, Surry, and Isle of Wight. No Morris deeds for Prince George between 1720-1770. Surry County had 57 total deeds in the 1700s for the surname Morris with only 3 being recorded in the 1760s right before Mecklenburg was formed. Isle of Wight had 122 total Morris deeds for the 1700s with 23 being in the 1760s.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia deeds

1764 - Thomas Anderson of Lunenburg County, Virginia sold to Christopher Hudson of the same for 200 pounds 554 acres of land lying on both sides of Little Bluestone Creek in Mecklenburg County bounded by Morris's patent lines to the Ready branch being the bounds of 50 acres taken from the said Morris's patent, down the branch to the creek, thence to the mouth of another branch, to Morris's patent lines thence to Hawkins' patent line to Lucas's corner. No witness.

1765 - James Maury Clerk of the County of Albemarle in Virginia to George Newton of Mecklenburg County for 38 pounds 400 acres on both sides of Little Buffalo Creek in Mecklenburg County to a branch crossing Grassy Creek Path and Little Buffalo Creek to a white oak and crossing Grassy Creek path and Fork of Little Buffalo aforesaid ... witness R. Morris, Henry Newton, George Newton, William Newton.

1767 - William Culbreath Sr of Mecklenburg County, Parish of Saint James sold to William Culbreath Jr of the same for 50 pounds 471 acres in Mecklenburg County on Beaver Pond Branch part of a larger tract formerly granted to Drury Stith, Henry Morris, and Michael Cadit young in 1758, beginning near the Ready fork of the lower bond branch along the old line ... near the Indian branch to Edward Culbreath’s corner to the beaver pond branch to William Richardson's corner to Richard Yancey's lower corner white oak to the Beaver Pond branch ... witness Henry Graves, Baxter Davis.

1768 - Edward Culbreath of Mecklenburg County, Parish of Saint James sold to Thomas Watkins of the same for 160 pounds 450 acres in Mecklenburg County on Beaver Pond Creek on the South side of Roanoke bounded by William Culbreath, Patrick Frails, Morris's, and William Royster ... witness Anthony Street.

1777 - George Vaughan of Mecklenburg to Isham Davis of the same for 5 pounds 150 acres in Mecklenburg County on Taylor's Creek bounded by Bates, David Walker, Kirk's, Morris's, John Ezel's ... no witness.

1778 - Stephen Mallet Jr of Mecklenburg to Abraham Morris of the same for 12 pounds 50 acres in Mecklenburg County being part of 400s granted to Henry Jackson by patent date 1760 beginning near the meeting house to Swepson's line on the School House Branch to Norment's line thence along the dividing line between Jackson and Stephen Mallet Jr ... witness Thomas Howell, Wilson Farrar, Isaac Salle.

1781 - Abram Morris of Mecklenburg to William Renn Northcross of the same for 16 pounds 50 acres in Mecklenburg County of land bounded by Standback, Jackson, Hammer, Harris, John Swepson, ... witness Howard Bailey, George Bailey, William Bailey, Henry Bailey.

1782 - William Pennington of Brunswick County to Jesse Morris of Mecklenburg for divers’ good causes and 75 pounds 136 acres of land in Mecklenburg County beginning at the old road in John Brown Jr line to a branch, to Brown's corner gum in Nance's, to Capt. Malone's corner near Black's Road ... witness Jesse Osling, Peter Winfield, John Sanders, Sack Pennington.

1785 - William Renn sold to Samuel Hogg and Allen Young the land in Mecklenburg County purchased of Abraham Morris to hold for debt owed to Jesse and Anthony Brown ... witness Ing Vaughan, Jesse Taylor, Reuben Taylor.

1786 - Estate sale of Matthew Marable, John Morris made purchase of wool, spinning wheel, cattle, peach brandy.

1786 - John Brown to Daniel Brown both of Mecklenburg for good causes and 100 pounds 230 acres of land bounded by James Pennington, John Hall, Sack Pennington, William Rainey, Thomas Fowler ... witness Jesse Morris, Philip Pennington, John Thomas's Pennington.

1793 - Edward and Frances Winfield of Brunswick County to John Brown of Mecklenburg for 42 pounds 141 acres of land in Mecklenburg County on Tuckahoe Branch to Warren's line to Black’s Road, to the head of a branch to Hubbard’s line on the head of Tuckahoe Branch ... Witness Jesse Morris, Edward Morris, Daniel Brown.

1794 - William Bell to Jesse Morris both of Mecklenburg for 18 pounds 35 acres in Mecklenburg County on Tuckahoe Branch bounds by Drury Malone and Pennington ... Witness Thomas Mitchell, John Saunders, Ann Mitchell.

1796 - William Warren to Jesse Morris both of Mecklenburg for good causes and 36 pounds 10 shillings 73 acres in Mecklenburg County on Genito Creek to Little Tuckahoe Branch to John Sanders line to Edward Winfield's line, to Lanier's line ... witness Thomas Mitchell, Arthur Winfield, Nicholas Lanier, Marriott Warren.

1797 - Daniel Brown admin of John Brown deceased of Mecklenburg to Nicholas Lanier of Brunswick for good causes and 81 pounds 140 acres in Mecklenburg County bounded by Jesse Morris, Warren, Winfield's line at the old road, John Hubbard ... Witness Jesse Morris, Thomas Fowler, Edward Morris.

1797 - William Warren of Mecklenburg to Arthur Winfield of same for good causes and 75 pounds 24 1/4 acres in Mecklenburg County bounded by Nicholas Lanier near Black’s Road, Daniel Thomas, William Stokes, the meeting house path ... witness Marriott Warren, Thomas Mitchell, Jesse Morris, Nicholas Lanier.

1797 - William Warren of Mecklenburg to Nicholas Lanier of same for good causes and 75 pounds 50 acres in Mecklenburg County on the side of Black’s Road formerly John Brown Jr corner, Jesse Morris, Joshua Winfield ... witness Marriott Warren, Thomas Mitchell, Arthur F. Winfield.

1797 - William Warren of Mecklenburg to Jesse Morris of same for good causes and 36 pounds 10 shillings 73 acres in Mecklenburg County on Genito Creek and Tuckahoe Branch Edward Winfield line ...Witness Thomas Mitchell, Arthur F. Winfield, Nicholas Lanier, Marriott Warren.

1798 - Estate of Benjamin Lanier deceased ... witness Thomas Mitchell, John Northington, Jesse Morris.

1799 - Thomas Malone and James Davis both of Mecklenburg to John Saunders of the same for good causes and 250 pounds 235 acres in Mecklenburg County on Genito Creek near an old mill formerly belonging to Drury Malone deceased which is a corner to the said John Saunders thence along his line to Edward Winfield's line to the creek above mentioned ... Witness Jesse Morris, John Hubbard, Nicholas Lanier, Daniel Brown.

Jesse Morris is noted in multiple Mecklenburg deeds starting in 1782. He was a neighbor to many (Winfield, Pennington, Lanier, Fowler, Warren) who migrated to Montgomery County, North Carolina (and surrounding areas). Jesse purchased land from some of these people before they left Mecklenburg County.

Jesse Morris is believed to be the son of Edward Morris and Elizabeth Hammond from Richmond County, Virginia. Edward Morris’s will does mention a son, Jesse, who is under the age of 18 when the will was written in 1751. 

In Dec 1778, John Sanders and Milly his wife of North Farnham, sold to Charles Dobyns 20 acres, part of a tract of land which the said Sanders got by intermarrying with Elishie (Alishia) Jones, one of the co-heiresses of Sanford Jones, late of the county of Richmond dec'd, which land lies on the east side of the road leading from Farnham Church to Richmond Court House ... down the road ... through the woods ... to George Sanders line ... to a small branch ... along the line of Edward Morris dec'd ... witness Jesse Morris, Daniel Dobyns, Daniel Dobyns Jr.

24 Mar 1779, 3 months later, Jesse Morris and Jane his wife of North Farnham, Richmond County, sold 33 ½ acres of land in Richmond County, Virginia to William Dobyns, beginning at a persimmon tree on the side of the main county road ... to William Dobyns ... to a small branch to Samuel Woolard ... witness William Warner, Charles Dobyns, Leroy Dobyns.

3 Mar 1779 John Morris of Granville County, North Carolina sold to Samuel Thrift of Richmond County, Virginia, 40 acres in Richmond County, beginning at a sassafras by a small branch that proceeds out of the Reedy Branch to a branch called the Cool Spring Branch ... to the main road … crossing the road ... witness Thomas Smith, John Clark, James Sanford, Mathias Self.

23 Mar 1779 John Morris of Granville County, North Carolina does promise to pay unto Samuel Thrift of Richmond County, Virginia the sum of 5,000 pounds, a bond to indemnify Samuel Thrift from all damages that may arise from the sale of land the deed bearing date with these presents, wherein the said John Morris's wife (not named) is not entered for right of dower to the land ... the obligation void otherwise ... witness Thomas Smith, John Clarke, James Sanford, Mathias Self.

Obviously, I want to know more about John Morris from Granville County, North Carolina who sold land in Richmond County, Virginia because my own Morris family is a YDNA match to John Morris who married Phebe Tudor of Granville, North Carolina.

Wiki Tree quotes Find-A-Grave who quotes the book, “Morris, A Collaboration by Descendants of Edward Sr and Elizabeth Morris from 1600s Colonial British Virginia into 21st Century America and the Millennium.” It seems most collaborators have some connection back to Jesse and Jane Morris of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

John Morris, son of Edward, supposedly “lived a short time in Granville County, North Carolina prior to moving to Pendleton District, Anderson, South Carolina” (created in 1789 from Indian lands) where he died about 1809. His will named his wife, Baylis, and children John H. Morris, Susannah (May), Nancy (Poe), Elizabeth (Ragan), and Frances (King). 

There is a problem with this timeline because John H. Morris, the son of John and Bayliss Morris of Pendleton District, South Carolina claims on the 1850 Franklin County, Tennessee Census, where he had moved prior to 1812, according to tax records, that he was born in 1776 in South Carolina. Meaning, John Morris, son of Edward, would not have been in Granville County, North Carolina in 1779 if his son, John H. Morris, was born 1776 in South Carolina. This would mean John and Baylis were already living somewhere in South Carolina by 1776. 

John H. Morris supposedly married Mary Dobbins, the daughter of James Dobbins who wrote his will in 1813, Pendleton District, South Carolina and the will was probated about 1817 in Anderson County, South Carolina. James Dobbins’ will does mention his daughter, Mary Morris. 

The Dobbins connection on the surface seems to lend credibility that John Morris is the son of Edward Morris of Richmond County, Virginia. Jesse Morris did sell land to a Dobyns family in Richmond, Virginia.

However, James and Elizabeth Dobbins of Ninety-Six District, South Carolina, in 1784, sold their land in Augusta County, Virginia. They never lived in Richmond County, Virginia that I could find. I also could not find any connection between the Dobyns that Jesse Morris sold land to in Richmond, Virginia and the Dobbins in Augusta, Virginia. This timeline could mean that daughter, Mary, was probably born in Augusta County, Virginia about 1778, then moved with her parents to Ninety-Six District, South Carolina before 1784, while still a child of 6 years old. The opposite could also be true, perhaps she was born in South Carolina.

Mary Dobbins and John H. Morris seemed to have met by happenstance, their parents, both from different parts of Virginia moved to the same area of South Carolina at different times. The couple met and married about 1799 with their first child, James born about 1800.

To understand the county divisions for South Carolina, go here

A study of Census data shows that John H. Morris moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. His children also moved there, along with some of his siblings. In a very telling revolutionary War pension file of his brother-in-law, Larkin Reagan/Ragan, I found that John H. Morris provided an affidavit for Larkin.

John always understood from his father (not named) and a brother-in-law by the name of William Rowe that Larkin served in the Revolutionary War, and he has no reason to doubt it.

Larkin Reagan’s pension file adds even more inconsistencies in the timeline for John H. Morris, son of John and Baylis Morris. Let’s cover Larkin’s claim; he says he was born in Caswell County, North Carolina on 7 Aug 1757. Since Caswell was not formed until 1777 from Orange County, Larkin was mistaken, he was born in Orange County, North Carolina, those parts that became Caswell.

Larkin claimed to have lived in Caswell and Wake counties, North Carolina after the Revolutionary War and about 1800, moved to Pendleton, South Carolina. Coincidently, that is about the same time John and Baylis Morris moved there. He resided in South Carolina for about 11 years and then moved to east Tennessee for 2 years and then to Franklin County, Tennessee where he has lived ever since.

I found both Larkin and John Morris (the elder) in Wake County, North Carolina in 1790. Considering that Larkin married Elizabeth Morris, the daughter of John and Baylis and sister of John H. Morris, and their children were born 1785 – 1798, before moving to South Carolina, this indicates that Larkin and Elizabeth were married in Caswell, North Carolina. This also means that Larkin knew his in-laws, John and Baylis Morris, when living in Caswell, North Carolina.

John H. Morris, on 5 Sep 1832, in his affidavit for Larkin’s Revolutionary War pension file, claimed that he was 60 years of age. Because this came from John himself, it is the most reliable record of his age. His birth year would be 1772, meaning he was born in Orange County, North Carolina, those parts that became Caswell County in 1777, just 5 years later.

John Morris, the elder, was probably not living in Granville County, North Carolina in 1779, he was in Caswell County, and he is probably not the same man who sold land in Richmond County, Virginia to Samuel Thrift.

In contrast, the John Morris from Granville County, North Carolina could be John Morris Sr who married Phebe Tudor and was living in Granville, North Carolina in 1779. 

Or it could be a totally different John Morris whom we have no other record of. 

Or John and Baylis moved from Orange County to Caswell County to Granville County to Wake County and then finally to South Carolina. Which is totally possible. Our ancestors moved all the time!  

Where was the land located that John Morris of Granville, North Carolina sold and how did he get it to begin with?

On 29 Apr 1728, John Hammond of North Farnham, Richmond County deeded to Edward Morris of the Parish and County aforesaid for three thousand pounds of good tobacco and cask forty acres of Land the Parish and County aforesaid, beginning at a marked sassafras standing by the side of a small Branch that proceeds out of the REEDY BRANCH and then down along the side of the same to the REEDY BRANCH, and then down along the side of the REEDY BRANCH unto the mouth of another Branch which is called the COOL SPRING BRANCH, and thence up along the same to the COOL SPRING and thence South 36 West to a line of marked trees by the Main Road and then along the said line crossing the Road to a white Oak corner tree of John Hammond and Simon Taylor, and thence South East to the place where it first began.

Signed Sealed and Delivered in the presence of us


At a Court held for Richmond County the first day of May 1728

JOHN HAMMOND came into Court and acknowledged this his Deed unto EDWARD MORRIS which was admitted to Record; Also, DANIEL HORNBY by virtue of a Power of Attorney from KATHERINE HAMMOND, the Wife of JOHN HAMMOND, to him in that behalf made, relinquished her, the said KATHERINE HAMMONDs, right of Dower in the land conveyed in this Deed unto EDWARD MORRIS, which was also admitted to Record. Test M. BECKWITH, Cl Cr

It is obvious that this is the same tract of land that John Morris of Granville, North Carolina sold to Samuel Thrift in 1779. It is reasonable to assume that John Morris of Granville is the son of Edward Morris. 

John Hammond is the husband of Katherine who relinquished her right of dower on the land.

Most genealogist identify John Hammond as the husband of Katherine Dobyns, daughter of Daniel Dobyns (he witnessed the deed for John Sanders in 1778 - see above) and Elizabeth Godson, and brother of Job Hammond and Amadine Baylis who are the parents of Elizabeth Hammond who married Edward Morris.

At FTDNA is found in Group M04, a male descendant of Hammond Morris, another son of Edward Morris and Elizabeth Hammond and brother of John Morris who died in South Carolina about 1809 (see his will above). If the genealogy for kit 112794 is correct, then Edward Morris of Richmond County, Virginia is not my Morris line. My Morris family is Group M29.

If Jesse Morris of Mecklenburg County, Virginia is the son of Edward Morris and Elizabeth Hammond of Richmond County, Virginia, then process of elimination excludes this Morris family as mine.

The search continues for my Morris family…