Captain John Morgan The First and The Missing Will

Captain John Morgan (1645-1712)

John being such a popular name, it comes as no surprise that there are several generations of John Morgans in my family tree. Sometimes you can distinguish one generation from the next by using titles. But not in this case. Captain John Morgan, my 6th great-grandfather, had a son who had a son–all called John, and all achieving the rank of Captain in the Connecticut Militia. (Despite a bit of a kerfluffle surrounding the third John, which I wrote about here.)

Besides all the Johns, there were several James Morgans, also, and besides passing their names on from generation to generation –James, son of James, son of James, son of James, etc.–it seemed that every James had a son named John and every John had a son named James.

Now that I have that whining out of my system, I will explain the “Captain” part of the name. Titles were held in high esteem in the early Puritan communities. If a man held an elected office, that title would stay attached to his name forever. Captain, the highest rank elected in the militia, therefore became the most common title, sort of like Colonel in the old South.

John’s Young Life

John Morgan was born on March 30, 1645 in Roxbury Massachusetts. His father Captain James Morgan, had arrived in North America from Wales in 1636. John’s mother Margery Hill came from Essex in England, and married James in 1640. John was born third, after a sister who died as an infant and the eldest son James, Jr. After James was born, he saw two of his three younger siblings die in infancy.

When he was five years old, John’s family moved to New London Connecticut. Settlers named the area on the Northern edge of the Long Island Sound “Pequot,” for the predominant native tribe in the area. The town’s name became Groton, and John spent the rest of his years in Groton, Connecticut.

First Marriage and Children

At the age of twenty, Captain John Morgan married Rachel Dymond, a native of Connecticut. (Some records list her maiden name as Deming, and I have not seen an original record, so am not sure which is correct, but the majority seem to be Dymond.)

Fourteen months after the wedding, their first son, another John Morgan, was born, and Rachel gave birth to six more children:

John and Rachel were fortunate in that all of their children lived to adulthood. However, the offspring outlived their mother. Rachel died in August,1689, leaving six children between 9 and 22 years old still living at home. The first four children married quite late for that period–29, 39, 29, and 30.

2nd Marriage and More Children

That made for quite a houseful of people! Particularly since Captain John Morgan quickly took another wife and had more children. He married the widow Elizabeth Jones Williams very soon after Rachel died, because their first child, who died in infancy, was born in 1690. Since Elizabeth is not in my direct line, I will not write about her separately, but would like to mention here that she was the daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. Her grandfather had been the Governor of Connecticut.

In 1692, the family moved to Preston, Connecticut. The town of Preston, like Groton, lies in New London County, but is north of Preston and inland.

With his wife Elizabeth, Captain John had seven more children after the death of infant Elizabeth.

  • 1690: Elizabeth (Died in infancy)
  • 1693: William (Died at 36 years old) (Named for his grandfather William Jones).
  • 1697: Rachel (I find it interesting that ancestors in this period frequently named a child in the second marriage for the spouse from the first marriage.)
  • 1697: Rachel’s twin, Andrea.
  • 1699: Margery (Named for her paternal grandmother)
  • 1700/1701: Joseph
  • 1703: Theophilus (Named for his maternal grandfather Theophilus Eaton, former Governor)
  • 1705: Mary

Captain John Morgan’s Life

Besides rising through the ranks of the Militia, he held important offices in his communities. He followed in his father’s footsteps and those of his brother James in both the military service and civic service. He was an Indian Commissioner and Advisor. He also was chosen as a deputy to the General Court from New London in 1690 and from Preston in 1693 and 1694.

Being an Indian commissioner must have been very serious business. In 1637, a vicious battle had virtually destroyed the Pequot people, and for the first time the English settlers felt safe in New London. Serious settlement began in the 1650s, so John’s family were among the first settlers in New London County when they arrived in 1650. The English turned from fighting to trading with the Pequots and purchasing land from them, working as later settlers in the Western United States would do to “civilize” the “savages.”

What the Records Show (Or Don’t)

My biggest frustration in researching these Morgans is that I have not found clues as to their livelihood. I have to assume that most were farmers. In John Morgan’s case, he moved away from the Bay of Groton, but stayed along the river. This could have to do with sea trade, but also could be because of fertile land in a river valley. Unfortunately, his will does not give me any clues.

I have only second-hand information from the book called History of James Morgan of New London, Connecticut and his Descendants. That book relates part of the will, written on 23 August 1711. Probate date 12 February, 1712, so although I do not have proof of a death date, he had to have died between those two dates.

It took some time for a new community to set up their government. After all, they had land to clear, houses to build, and Indians to fight or try to pacify. So although the Puritans kept excellent records in their established villages, the best we have to go on with these earliest settlers often is an index of old records that have never been photographed or digitized, or references to old records that no longer exist.

Captain John Morgan’s Will

In John Morgan’s will, according to the book, he mentions his wife Elizabeth and 12 of his 13 children, so we also know that Elizabeth died AFTER 23 August 1711. However, secondary records seem to all list her death date as 23 August, 1711, instead of AFT. 23 August, 1711 as they should. And as for John’s date of demise, we only know that it happened some time between the date he wrote his will and the probate date. That will is one of those missing pieces that I long to get my hands on.

A curiosity of the will, mentioned in the History of James Morgan, lies in the omission of his son Joseph. Joseph brought some genealogical fame to the family by marrying the daughter of William Brewster, Deacon of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. However, the author of the “History” includes this maddening teaser:

The record shows that the probate of this will was appealed from, and in the litigation that followed, this Joseph is mentioned as one of the parties. I had a reference to the case and intended to examine it, but lost or mislaid the reference.

Nathaniel H. Morgan, author of The History of James Morgan (etc.)

Gee, thanks a lot Nathaniel!

Next time we will talk about John’s father James, my 7th great-grandfather, thought of as the founder of this branch of the Morgans of America.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan, who is the son of
  • Samuel Morgan, who is the son of
  • Capt John Morgan (1st).

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