Tag Archives: Connecticut

James Morgan – First of Jesse Morgan’s Line

James Morgan (Sr.) 1607-1685

I’ve spent a lot of time on the story of Jesse Morgan.  My 2nd great-grandfather wins the prize for the most fascinating ancestor in our line–or at least the most fascinating direct ancestor whose story came down to us by word of mouth, documented by letters in his own hand and by many other sources.

The American Morgan story, however, did not start with Jesse. In fact, it started with HIS 3x great grandfather, James Morgan (Sr.). James and his two younger brothers were the first of a Morgan clan that eventually spread out across the new land after they first arrived in Boston in 1636. That is just 15 years after William Bassett, the Pilgrim who is the direct ancestor of Mary Bassett Morgan, married to Jesse Morgan. An Early American power couple, genealogically speaking.

SOURCE of JAMES MORGAN’S EARLY STORY

The story starts in Wales where James was born probably in 1607, probably in the town of Llandaff in the county of Glamorgan. Notice that Llandaff lies just northwest of Cardiff, the capitol of Wales.

Wales - James Morgan's homeland

Map of Glamorgan County, Wales, showing Cardiff with Llandaff to the NW.

Glamorgan County lies on the far south of Wales along the Bristol Channel. Wales attaches to the west side of England.

Wales coast

Bristol Channel, along the Glamorgan Wales coast

Much of the information that I have about the early life of James –his exact birth date and place, the name of his father, etc.–needs further proof.  The 1869 book, James Morgan and His Descendants, honestly states when the author cannot prove a fact. He does not back up his stories with concrete proofs, although he seems to at least try to sort proven from unproven.

Therefore, I also will proceed with caution, attempting to warn you when proof is elusive.

For instance, although according to the book a family legend leans toward the name William for James’ father, without a birth certificate or baptism record, I cannot be sure.  It is true that there are many Morgans in that region of Wales. And my Morgan family has common names–William, John, James, Joseph. Find A Grave for England and Ireland shows a William Morgan dying in Bristol in 1649, and his age range is correct for a father of James. Plus James and his brothers sailed out of Bristol.

On the other hand, Find a Grave does not have a gravestone or death record for evidence, and Bristol could very well be the most convenient port for someone sailing out of Wales as well as southern England.

WHY LEAVE BRITAIN?

Whether the family moved to Bristol or stayed in Wales, the religious and political events brewing in England in the 1630s would have a great effect on their lives. Welsh people along the border with England joined the reform religions. The Scots beat the English King Charles in the first Civil War, a struggle over religion, in 1639. In Bristol, the Royalists stormed the port in 1642–just six years after the Morgan brothers departed. In another few years, the King would be deposed and executed.

Surely the Morgans were at least fleeing war, if not joining sympathetic Puritans streaming into North America. The younger son, John, reportedly was a minister and even Boston, according to the family history, was too wild for him.  He moved on to Virginia to practice his strict religion.

Miles became an instant leader, as he joined a group founding Springfield Massachusetts. At the age of 20, he finagled his way into the division of property which was supposed to go only to men over 21.

JAMES MORGAN IN NEW ENGLAND

So, wherever he came from and whoever his father was, we do have a record that shows James and his two brothers, Miles and John sailed from Bristol to Boston in March and April of 1636. His age is confirmed in later statements he makes in those wonderfully voluminous records kept by the New England towns. (Thank you, all you Puritan beaureaucrats!)

Are we related to J. P. Morgan?  In response to a request, I checked it out. Nope. Unfortunately, the millionaire Morgan descended from James’ brother Miles.  James family, however, claims the honor of a Presidential wife–Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes descended directly from James Morgan.

Once James arrives in America, the record becomes much clearer. By 1640, he shows up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he marries Margery Hill. In 1643, the town grants him the rights of a freeman (full citizen.) The couple settled in Roxbury and had a daughter and four sons (the last one dying within his first year) before they moved on to Connecticut.

Boston and Roxbury

Boston area colonial map. Roxbury (south) and Cambridge (west). Note that the bay has not been filled in and Boston City is an island.

I am amused–or bemused–by the fact that my grandson, visiting in Boston, met and married a young woman from Roxbury more than 360 years after James married Margery in Roxbury.

JAMES AND MARGERY MORGAN’S FAMILY

Hannah Morgan (Royce) 1642-1706

Hannah married Nehimiah Royce in 1660 in Groton CT and when she died, they had been living in Wallingford CT. Other than birth and marriage record, I know nothing else at present time about Hannah.

Captain James Morgan (Jr.) 1643-1711

James, like his father, was both a leader in the church and in the town. He served as a Deacon in the Groton church and also as Chief Magistrate and one of the first Town Selectmen.  He was moderator of every town meeting until he died and then his two sons took over the job. James had three boys and three girls. He inherited his father’s farm. James served as the Capt. of the “train band”, local militia in Groton in 1692 and Commander of the Dragoon Force of New London County in 1693/4. Keep in mind the military service of James Jr. and his brother John took place under the British, an irony since their father presumably left Wales/England because of enimity with the British.

Captain John Morgan 1645-1712

John, my direct ancestor (6 x great grandfather) married a second time after his first wife died. He had seven children with his first wife and eight with his second.  The second of his children in the first family is my 5 x great grandfather, Samuel Morgan.  John Morgan moved from Groton to Preston Connecticut where he also took community leadership roles as Indian Commissioner and Deputy to the General Court. He had served in that office from New London in 1690 and then from Preston in 1693.

Lt. Joseph Morgan 1646-1704

Joseph and his wife and family lived in Preston, which split off from Norton Connecticut.  He had one son and nine daughters.  The one son was a colorful preacher–popular in the pulpit, but getting kicked out of a couple of churches with accusations of practicing astrology, encouraging dancing and other nefarious activities.

Two other children of James Sr.died in infancy.

PEQUOT/GROTON CONNECTICUT

In 1650, James moved his family to the new settlement of Pequot in Connecticut, later known as New London. Reading the story in the book, James Morgan and His Descendants, reminds me what a godforsaken wilderness this was that these optimistic souls were seeking to turn into farms and towns. There he built a log cabin “on a path to New Street.”

The land was rocky and the Indians had not been gone long. Later in 1650, the “James Morgan” book relates from a contemporary record, “James Morgan hath given him about 6 acres of upland where the wigwams were, in the path that goes from his house towards Culvers, among the rocky hills.”

In 1656, he moved across the river to the area that was subsequently named Groton. Apparently the land there is more amenable to farming, and he thrived. There he rose to prominence in the community, being appointed First Deputy (from Groton) to the General Court at Hartford, and being reappointed nine times. He took leadership roles in the church as well.

In another geographical coincidence, my oldest son trained in the U. S. Navy submarine service in Groton in the 1980s. He only missed his 8x great-grandfather by 330 years.

In 1668 the tax records show James as third wealthiest land holder in the town, with a worth of £250.

James died in Groton in 1685, leaving his home farm to his son James. The property continued to pass on from James to James to James for six generations, and when the family history was written in 1846, the property still belonged to a member of the Morgan clan. And many of the Morgans stayed put in Groton for a very long time.  My 3x grandfather, Jesse Morgan Sr. was born there.

James Morgan (Sr.) and his wife Margery are buried in Avery-Morgan Burial Ground in Groton Connecticut. (The Hale Headstone Inscriptions mentioned below places them in a Hartford Cemetery, but the Avery-Morgan is much more likely.) This memorial plaque honors James Morgan at the Avery-Morgan Burial Ground.

James Morgan memorial

James Morgan Memorial at the Avery-Morgan Burial Grounds, Groton CT.

(The two families are related through the marriage of James’ grandson William to Margaret Avery, daughter of James Avery)

The plaque says,

Erected to the memory of the founders of the first Avery and the first Morgan families in America whose graves are near this site.

[on the left hand side]

Capt. James Avery

1620-1700

His wife, Joanna Greenslade

[and on the right hand side]

James Morgan

1607-1685

His wife, Margery Hill

Two pioneer families joined. Just as when Mary Bassett, whose 5 x great grandfather William Bassett was the first of the Bassetts who arrived in America married Jesse Morgan, whose 3 x great grandfather, James Morgan was the first of his clan.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriet (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan (Sr), who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan, who is the son of
  • Samuel Morgan, who is the son of
  • John Morgan, who is the son of
  • James Morgan (Sr.), first settler in America.

Notes on Research

James Morgan and His Descendants, Nathaniel H. Morgan,1869, from North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com

Connecticut Census, 1668, New London, New London County, James Morgan, resident, part of  Connecticut, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890, Ancestry.com

Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934, Ancestry.com, James Morgan

Connecticut, Hale Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, James Morgan,1629-1934, Ancestry.com

Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91, James Morgan, Ancestry.com

Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, James Morgaine and Margery Hill, Ancestry.com

U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Place: Massachusetts; Year: 1636; Page Number: 49, James Morgan 1636, Ancestry.com

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current, James Morgan

Seeking Security with Asahel Platt

Asahel Platt circa 1790-1833

Mary Bassett must have felt lost and alone.  When she was 16, her family had made the difficult move from New Hampshire to Ohio. And just three years later, in 1829, her mother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett died in Keene, Ohio.

Mary’s sisters Eliza (Emerson) and Martha (Smith) and Lura (Laura) (Stone) got married soon after, and Mary followed suit.  Only sister Sarah never married.

Two Distinguished Families

Asahel Platt came from a Connecticut family, almost matching the Bassetts in historic importance.  Both Asahel and Mary had grandfathers who fought in the American Revolution. Mary’s ancestor William Bassett was a Pilgrim sailing on the Fortune in 1621. Asahel’s ancestor Richard Platt , an early settler of Milford, had emigrated from Ware in Hertfordshire, England,  a hot-bed of Puritanism about 1638 according to Families of Early Milford, Connecticut by Susan Emma Woodruff Abbott. (Google Books).

Mary conducted a small school for a short time on a farm in Coshocton County, Ohio, and I have not figured out how she met Asahel Platt. Since I am descended from Mary’s second husband, and their daughter Harriett was the informal family historian, family information about Asahel was sparse. Thanks to researching sideways through his siblings, I have pieced together some information.

The Platt Family of Milford

The Platt family came from Milford Connecticut in New Haven County. Asahel and three of his siblings were baptized on October 4, 1790 at the First Congregational Church. In total, he had 5 sisters and three brothers.  His parents were Isaac Platt (son of Isaac Platt) and Amy Eehls Platt.

Although it would be unusual for a man to marry for the first time so late in life, I have not found a record of an earlier marriage before Mary.  When his father, Isaac Platt, wrote his will in 1817, he left property to other sons, but cash to be paid to Asahel (spelled Asel in the will).  That makes me assume that at the age of approximately 27, Asahel had already left Connecticut to seek his fortune further west.

There is a tax list index that includes A. Platt in Washington County, Ohio in 1810 but I have not sought to confirm that is “our” A. Platt and if so, what more information it might give.

At any rate, somehow, Mary Bassett, just 19, met the 39-year-old Asahel Platt in Ohio, and they married and settled in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio. Asahel must have signified stability in Mary’s so-far unsettling life. Twenty years age difference meant he was almost as old as her father.

Life Comes Undone

But Mary was not yet to have a settled life. According to my mother, Mary and Asahel had an baby who died in infancy. Then in October 1833, just four years after their marriage, Asahel died.  He must have been ailing for some time, because I have a letter to him from one of his brothers that was written in September 1833 asking about his health and complaining that he has not heard from him since the past June. The letter hints at concerns about his spiritual health as well.(You can see the entire letter in a post below this one.)

In a double blow, Mary’s father also died in 1833. Now she was an orphaned, 23-year-old-widow. Fortunately, Asahel owned land and goods and had some cash, so she was not destitute, but the will specifically sets aside enough to sustain the widow for ONE YEAR.

What I Learned From Asahel Platt’s Probate Papers

When I chanced upon the legal papers regarding the settlement of Asahel’s estate I was in for some surprises.

First, our family records spell his name Ashel, no doubt because that is what is on his tombstone in the Killbuck cemetery, but that is not the official spelling. (Not that anyone in the 19th century cared about spelling.)

Second, he had no will. Only forty-three years old, death caught him unprepared.

Third, I was reminded that women had no legal standing when I noticed that a receipt for funds for Mary Morgan (late widow of Asahel Platt) did not sign her own name. Instead, this intelligent woman who was to become a competent businesswoman, had to sit back and watch her new husband, Jesse Morgan sign for her.

Jesse Morgan

Jesse signs receipt from her first husband’s probate for Mary Morgan, 1846

Fourth, looking at the somewhat puzzling inventory of his belongings–ribbons? merino shawls?a white “vail”, five pairs of men’s gloves 8 pocket knives, 10 razor straps and posts and on and on for several pages, I wondered what he was doing with all that stuff.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

Then a light bulb went on in my head–he was a merchant. He must have owned a general store in Killbuck. I can’t help wondering if in those early years before he married he was a traveling peddler. His brother’s letter to him in 1833 hints at a restless spirit.

Asahel’s  will leaves Mary quite well fixed, with three pages of furniture and other items set aside for the widow. The settlement of the estate dragged on from Asahel’s death in November 1933 until September 1946 until the will was settled.  I began to think I was re-reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. (The dark satire on law and the courts follows a case called Jarndyce vs Jarndyce that drags on into infinity.) By the time probate closed, Mary had been married to her second husband for six years, and faced a new set of problems.

Asahel Platt

This pillar in the Killbuck Cemetery matches the stone of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan.

Ashel Platt Killbuck cemetery by Debe Clark

Note the variant spelling of his first name in this closeup of his tombstone. Photo from Find a grave, by Debe Clark.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of 
  • Harriett Morgan Stout, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan who was married first to Asahel Platt.

Notes on Research

Letters from Alanson Platt to Asahel Platt (1833) and Mary Platt Morgan (1853). Copies of letters our family has kept. In the 1853 letter regarding some legal issues, Alanson lists all of the Platt siblings and where they were living at that time.  He even included the married names of the women in the family. Thank you Alanson. And thank you Mary Morgan and Hattie Stout and Vera Stout for keeping these letters in the family for future researchers.

Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920, Vol. 071 Town of Milford,  First Congregational  Church, Ancestry.com Several pages refer to Platt family members.

Indiana Genealogy: Articles Appearing in the Indianapolis, Ind. Sunday. Specific listing of William Bassett (Pilgrim) and descendants cites D. A. R. Magazine Vol. 60 No. 6, 1926-12542.

Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Holmes County, Asahel Platt Probate Records 1833-1846.

Find a Grave, Ashel Platt.  Photos of tombstone are by Debe Clark, used with permission from Find a Grave.