Category Archives: family

James Morgan Sr.

James Morgan, 1607-1685

In a previous post, I reviewed the murky nature of materials regarding James Morgan’s birth and parentage. However, once he gets to New England, my seventh great-grandfather’s name appears frequently in the record books of New London Connecticut. Besides being the “first comer” of my Morgan line, he helped found two communities and was an early resident of a third.

In that earlier post, I named some of the family biographies that mention James. However, more details to flesh out the life of this early mover and shaker in New England lie in the history of communities. I have been engrossed in New London County Connecticut with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneer and Prominent Men, compiled by D. Hamilton Hurd and published in 1882.

Although I had not noticed that James was associated with the town of Stonington, Connecticut, Ancestry also led me to explore the book, Stonington Chronology, 1649-1949, Being a Year to Year Record of the American Way of Life in a Connecticut Town. That book, published in 1949, makes clear how intertwined these early towns were, and how fluid their boundaries. The book includes both local “news” as well as national and international events, so we learn that Cromwell was declared Lord Protector of England in Nov. 1653 as well as the bounty for wolves and the prices of trading goods. I have inserted excerpts, not always direct quotes, from that book throughout this article on James Morgan Sr.

James Morgan Sr Comes to America

It seems clear that James was born about 1607, and probably in Llandaff, Glamorgan, Wales. As I discussed in the previous post, his parentage is not well documented.

He probably sailed from England in March 1636 and landed in Boston the following month, accompanied by younger brothers Miles and John. However another account claims he sailed “in the summer” with a kinsman named Robert. In that scenario, Miles, whose mother was Elizabeth who had been born into another Morgan line, had sailed in January and was not a brother.

June 1637: Earthquake in North East in the month of June.

New England Chronicles

We forget that this whole territory had yet to be populated. A contemporary account in 1638 says there were 20 houses in Boston. Salem, Roxbury, Charleston, Dorchester, Waterton, Cambridge, Lynn and other towns totaled about 16,000 populaton. The first settlers arrived in Roxbury in 1630.

James Morgan Sr. Family in Roxbury

The first record of James Morgan Sr. in America comes with his marriage to Margery Hill in Roxbury. Margery and James had six children all born in Roxbury, four of whom lived to adulthood. (The sixth might have been born in New London as they moved from Roxbury to Pequot/New London in 1650 when she was born.)

  • Hannah, b. 1642, married Nehemiah Royce of New London in November 1660 and lived in Wallingford.
  • James (later known as Capt. James, b. 1643, married Mary Vine. Like his father, Capt. James held many church and civic positions in New London County.
  • John (my ancestor, and also later known as Capt.) , b. 1645, married first Rachael Dymond and 2nd Elizabeth Williams (nee Jones). He had a total of 15 children and lived in Preston Connecticut later in life.
  • Joseph (later known as Lt. Joseph), b. 1646, married Dorothy Parke and lived in Norwich/Preston
  • Abraham, b. 1648, died when he was one year old.
  • Elizabeth, b. 1650, died as an infant.

In 1643, the young James applied for the designation of Freeman. In 1646 and 1650 he was listed as a resident of Roxbury, but in 1650 he moved to Pequot, later called New London.

James Morgan Sr. Family in New London

To illustrate the confusion of names, here is an 1893 map of West Mystic (Groton) and East Mystic (Stonington) on either side of the Mystic River. Farther west you come to Pequot/Groton’s western boundary, the Thames, which separates Groton from the town of New London.

The General Court at Hartford Ct. had established Pequot the previous year–May 1649. The town would stretch four miles on each side of the Great River (Thames) and six miles in from the sea. Only 40 families would acquire lots.

An influx of Welshmen arrived in 1650, following their minister Richard Blinman. The author of History of James Morgan gives his proof that James was not part of that group. However, another book says the Welsh party from Gloucester Massachusetts were granted house lots on Cape Ann Lane–the street on which Morgan settled. So he certainly lived near his fellow countrymen, even if he did not arrive in the large group that followed Richard Blinman.

The History of James Morgan of New London describes in detail the location of his home in Pequot/New London. It was located on “the path (later known as Cape Ann Lane) to New Street (later known as Ashcraft Road). ” The area was a highland on the east side of the Thames River and today borders Morgan Park. James and his family lived in that home until 1656 when he moved across the river to the town that became Groton. That same source sites a sale of some of his land, described as 6 acres of upland, where the wigwams were, in the path that goes from his house towards Culvers, among the rocky hills.

Click on map to enlarge and see labels for markers.

1654, April: Peace in Europe ended the British/Dutch war and Connecticut stopped preparing to attack New Amsterdam.


1654, August: The bounty on wolves raised from 5s to 20s. (shillings)

Stonington Chronicle

James Morgan and Family Move Across River

On Christmas day (just another day to the Puritans) in 1656, James sold his Pequot/New London homestead and moved to the west side of the river to what would become Groton. (I assume to occupy some of that 200 acres he was granted earlier, but I don’t know for sure.) He was part of a move by some of the movers and shakers of the community who decided the West side of the river was a better place to live.

1656: Thomas Hewitt first appeared on the Mystic River trading grindstones, muskets and poder and rum and such goods for corn, cattle and sheep.

1656: A citizen of Stonington paid 12s 3d (12 shillings, 3 pence) for county taxes plus his one year’s dues to the minister of 1 firkin of butter, 12d worth of wampum. Note: for an explanation of the money system in the colonies see this very interesting article.

Stonington Chronicle

The house location is described as three miles from the Groton ferry on the road to Poquona Bridge.

The first settlers of Groton, besides James Morgan, included James Avery, Wiilliam Meades, Nehemiah Smith and John Smith. Interestingly James Morgan’s home passed down to seven successive James Morgans who lived in the same home until the final James had no sons.

In March 1657, The General Court changed the name of Pequot to New London and the east side of the river, where the Morgan family now lived, became Groton and Ledyard.

1660, May 8: Charles II restored as King of England after Cromwell died in 1658.

Stonington Chronicle

James apparently made the most of the property he had been granted. In a tax list in 1662, of 100 property holders, only seven had value more than 200 Pounds. His property was valued at 250 pounds.

1664, Nov.17: A comet streaking over New England is taken as a portent of war with Indians.

Stonington Chronicle

James Morgan Sr, a Community Leader

In short order–May 1657, James was sent to the General Court of Connecticut to represent his new community. It was then that we have a statement from him that he was “about 50 years old” confirming his birth at about 1607.

He held other positions of responsibility for which I do not have specific dates.

  • Frequently employed in land surveys.
  • Helped establish highways.
  • Determined boundaries
  • Adjusted difficulties between citizens when he was a magistrate.
  • As a measure of the high regard his fellow citizens had for him, The History of James Morgan relates an incident where the court authorized a committee of three arbiters, but once James Morgan was chosen, he was authorized to proceed alone.
  • Elected Selectman of New London several different years.
  • Ten times was chosen as a member of the Assembly.
  • Commissioned to lay boundaries for New London.
  • Commissioned to contract for the building of a meeting house in 1662.
  • Between 1656-1660, Laid out the highway from Pequonnock Cove to Mystic River which is now U. S. Rt. 1. The road started as a bridle path, but wisely was build very wide so it accommodated later traffic.
  • November 29, 1669, New London appointed Lt. Avery, Saul Rogers, James Morgan and John Morgan (James’ son) to lay out a King’s Highway between Mystic and Norwich.

1673: England and Holland are at war again and the Dutch blockade Long Island Sound, making goods scarce in New London County.

1674, June 29: King Charles grants his brother Duke of York not only New York but most of New England in an effort to cancel New England charters and form royal provinces.

1675: King Phillip’s War breaks out, raining death and destruction on New England and forcing participation of men in militias. James Morgan’s friend James Avery is very active in this ear.

1676:The King Phillip’s War continues. In August, Thomas Miner has 6 sheep killed by a wolf.

1676: The colony levied a war tax of 8d on the pound on all the tax list. New London and Norwich pay 25s an acre.

1677: A smallpox epidemic strikes across New England.

1681: A comet with a blazing tail terrifies the people of New England.
1681: William Penn got grant for his colony which he opened without restrictions by creed or color.

1683: 2 horse coursers (thieves) apprehended at Stonington and fined
£ 10 AND 5 LASHES.

1684: The French/Indian war broke out in western New York and Connecticut sent troops.

1685, January: A great snowstorm and a very cold winter hit New England.

Stonington Chronicle

In 1685, at 78 years old, James Morgan, Sr., the early settler of New London and one of the founders of Groton Connecticut, died. He left four children and his wife.

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), who is the son of
  • James Morgan, Sr.

Notes on Research

A History of James Morgan of New London Connecticut and His Descendants, Nathaniel Morgan, Lockhart and Brainard, Hartford CT (1869). Accessed at archive.org April 2019

A History of the Family of Miles Morgan, Titus Morgan, self published (1809), Accessed at archive.org April 2019

The Stonington Chronology: 1649-1949, William Haynes, Pequot Press, Stonington, CT (1949), Accessed at archive.org April 2019

New England Chronology, From the Discovery of the County by Cabot in 1497 to 1820. Boston: S. G. Simpkins (1843) Accessed at archive.org May 2019

Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920, Ancestry.com

Connecticut, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890, Ancestry.com,
CT 1635-1807 Misc. Records

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

Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91,
C. R., Vol. II. pp. 27, 28. Accessed at Ancestry.com

Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, Jay Mack Holbrook . Oxford MA : Holbrook Research Institute (1985), Accessed through Ancestry.com

U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s,
Place: Massachusetts; Year: 1636; Page Number: 49. Accessed at Ancestry.com Original Document: Immigrant Ancestors: A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America before 1750. Frederick Verkus, editor. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1964. 75p. Repr. 1986.

James Morgan and A Case of the Maybes

James Morgan (Sr.) 1607 (maybe) to 1685

Once James Morgan became established in New London County, Connecticut, records abound that trace his activities and his family. However, before his arrival all is murky.

Note: This is one of my rare “process” posts in which I focus on how I get the information in order to tell the stories. If that bores you to tears–just skip this post and go straight to the next one (when it appears) that will tell the story that is based on strong assumptions and concrete records. But for now, I’m sharing the down and dirty struggle with elusive fact.

I have relied heavily on the secondary source, A History of James Morgan of New London Connecticut and his Descendants by Nathaniel H. Morgan, first published in 1869. As I have discussed before, these genealogies of a family were extremely popular toward the end of the 19th century. Nathaniel Morgan actually was at the beginning of the trend and was a much more careful historian than were many of those who collected family information.

For instance, he explains in detail how he has pursued some information that previously had been assumed correct and proven it incorrect. He labels family stories and legends as “traditional” knowledge, separating them from those items recorded contemporaneously in the Puritan communities of New London County. And yet…lacking primary sources, I may tend to believe most of what he says, but never treat that information as proven.

Maybe #1: Where and When James Morgan Was Born

Map from Victorian Times of area James Morgan came from (Maybe). Glamorgan County showing Llandaff just NW of Cardiff. Wiki Commons.

Nathaniel Morgan says that our James Morgan was probably born in Llandaff, Glamorgan County in Wales. That town, also Landough, and county lie in the far south of Wales next to Cardiff. However, Find a Grave.com says he was born in Denbighshire which lies in the far northwest of Wales. I don’t know the source of the Find a Grave assertion. I prefer to trust the instinct of Nathaniel since Find a Grave also lists unproven relationships to mother and father.

According to a biography in Wikitree which tends to the cautious, preferring to cite primary sources, we have James’ word for his age. In 1657, James Morgan signed a statement* saying he was “about 50 years old.” As far as I can see that is the only solid piece of primary evidence for his age. *The statement was related to his being chosen to serve in the General Court.

Maybe #2: Who Were James Morgan’s Parents?

Some sources list William Morgan and Elizabeth Morgan. Others have a different maiden name for Elizabeth but those who believe she is from another Morgan line have an elaborate explanation. William and Elizabeth were very common names in Wales, as was the surname of Morgan, which makes tracking by baptism and wedding records difficult indeed.

A man named Appleton Morgan self-published a book called A History of the Family Morgan From the Year 1089 to Present Times in 1902. His book seems to pick and choose from the work of the aforementioned Nathaniel Morgan. A History of… relies to some extent on the author’s own family legends. After tracing the Morgan family back to the 16th century, Appleton gets to William and then James.

Author Appleton Morgan lists William Morgan Of Llanvabon, (same county of Glamorgan that is generally claimed) born in 1591 as James Morgan’s father. Appleton does not name a mother at all. In his version of events, this William had seven sons, none of them Miles, although Nathaniel and most other accounts of our Morgan line list James, John and Miles as the three brothers who sailed together to the new world. The significance of this is that Miles is a more unusual name, and so it is easier to assign to him the mother, Elizabeth Morgan Morgan.

Seeking Truth in Family Legend

Nathaniel Morgan tells us that while there is no concrete proof, tradition says that James’ father was William. In support of the father being William Morgan and the place Llandaff/Landough, Nathaniel tells us that a later William, son of John, son of the original William told a story that his father, John (b. 1693) had a very little old book in which was written the name of “William Morgan of Llandaff” and dated before 1600. That John said that William was the father of James, Sr.

A family heirloom also figures into the story, as there existed a pair of gold sleeve buttons (of ancient make) with WM stamped on them. They were said to belong to William Morgan of Llandaff and they came into the possession of Nathaniel, the author, from his father, who was another William. Unfortunately someone stole those sleeve buttons.

Maybe #3: The Connection to J. P. Morgan

Nathaniel’s book, and most other sources list three brothers who came to America together, James Morgan, the oldest and two younger brothers John and Miles. The traditional stories have John disliking the Puritans of New England because he was a believer in the Church of England. So he went to Virginia, where the dominant church was Episcopal–or Church of England. There the trail becomes cold–perhaps because of his common name.

The tradition has Miles leaving the Massachusetts Bay for Roxbury and then when he was not yet 21, joining the founders of Springfield Massachusetts. Miles was an ancestor of the financier, Junius Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan. Miles seemed to be the most adventurous of the three and his life in New England has been well documented.

Nathaniel’s book on James and family includes an appendix devoted to Miles. That manuscript is called A History of the Family of Miles Morgan by Titus Morgan (1809). If you are curious, it starts on page 220 of the History of James Morgan, linked above.

James also went first to Roxbury and then moved to New London Connecticut. His life as a founder and leading citizen of a New England town is also well documented.

However, Appleton Morgan’s book throws doubt on whether Miles indeed belonged to the same family as James and John. Appleton has Miles leaving England in January 1636 and the two brothers James and John leaving in the summer of that year. He gives a different family line for Miles. Appleton casts enough doubt that the folks at Wikitree reserve judgement about whether the three are in the same family. They also don’t adopt Appleton’s extensive number of children, since no proof exists for them as far as I can see.

Conclusions

I should note that there is no question that there were generations of very interesting, rich and powerful Morgans in Wales, specifically in Glamorgan (territory of Morgan) County. The Morgan family has been well researched in all its branches and intertwining of branches in those ancient days in Wales.

I would love to be able to wallow in the exciting story of Welsh princes fighting Normans and the numerous castles and riches. The problem is that we don’t know for sure which group of Morgans our James descended from. That leads eager “famous ancestor” hunters to jump to conclusions that may not be justified. I’m resisting.

The birth year seems to be correct based on James Morgan’s own words. Family traditions recorded by Nathaniel persuade me that the place of origin was Llandaff. The same story verifies the father’s name was William.

I tend to believe the preponderance of commentary that there were three brothers who sailed together. The basic proof for their arrival on the ship Mary comes from a book , Immigrant Ancestors: A List of 2,500 Immigrants to American Before 1750, edited by Frederick Adams Virkus.The Genealogical Publishing Company printed the text in 1986. Some repositories allow searches on line, but the text is not available on line. I will feel more comfortable when I see the book in person. (A search reveals a James Morgan on many pages and several where a Miles Morgan is mentioned.)

Why do I believe they were brothers? Partly because the age of the three is right for three brothers. All three sailed from Bristol in England, where James and John’s family supposedly lived for a few years. Even more important, consider the fact that both James and Miles are documented in Roxbury before going on to found new communities. And, hey, it has nothing to do with the fact that if they are brothers, I am distantly related to J. P. Morgan!

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).