Tag Archives: Groton

A Revolutionary War Story Too Good to Miss (Part II)

Jesse Morgan (1758-1846)

1777, Groton Connecticut. Twins Jesse and David Morgan have reached the age of 19–a prime age for conscription into the militia that is fighting for American Independence. While nobody has definite information on David’s life, given the story of Jesse, it is likely that he was absent from Groton when the Militia “recruiters” came to round up new “recruits” for the Revolutionary War. See my description of Jesse’s life before and after the War.

Apparently the Morgan family opposed the war, or at least opposed turning their own young son over to the military. But the reluctant soldier became a witness to history. According to his deposition, he saw the hanging of Major Andre,

Jesse was nearby during the Battle of Camden.

And he saw the French Fleet as it sailed out of the Bay of Bristol , Rhode Island.

Pension Act

In 1832 the United States Congress passed a final law regarding the allotment of pensions to veterans of the Revolutionary War. I explored the many changes that were made to the pension law by various Congresses when I wrote about Eva Marie Stahler’s battle to get a pension that had been owing to her husband. (Eva Marie turned out not to be an ancestor–that’s another story.) From researching Eva Marie’s tribulations, I learned much about the frustration that those worthy Revolutionary War veterans went through. If you would like to look at the details (handy if you happen to be researching your own ancestors from the Revolutionary War) follow the link to an explanation of the pension battle.


The First Attempt – January 1833


After the 1832 law passed, Jesse Morgan wasted no time in applying for his pension for service during the Revolutionary War. He was 75 years old when his representative filed case #5770.

In addition to his own testimony, Jesse has a minister and another man from Pennsylvania testify to his character and truthfulness. But Jesse’s testimony is the most fascinating.

Beginning of Jesse Morgan’s four-page deposition requesting a pension

The Deposition: First Enlistment

1777-1778

The facts presented in January 1833, say that Jesse Morgan enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War December, 1777 or January 1778 (he wasn’t sure which). He presents the name of the Colonel, Major and Captain and Sergeant under which he served for a term of three months. At the time of enlistment, he lived in Groton Connecticut, although he later moved to Canaan Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, he did not receive a written dismissal and has no written evidence or anyone to testify for him. What? he nor his lawyer could not go back to Groton and find someone who also served in the Army at the same time as Jesse?

At this point, I’m thinking that my 3x great-grandfather needed to get a better attorney. Based on what I wrote about Eve Maria Stahler’s case, she started out with an incompetent attorney, but later hired one who was more thorough.

In his deposition, his description of his activities for the next three months comes across as vivid. “Their duty was to guard that place from the British who were then in possession of Rhode Island. They were engaged in no battles or skirmishes with the enemy during the period. Deponent reccollects however, that the British about this time took possession of and burnt a meeting house at Bristol containing stores, baggage, tents and a mortar familiarly called ‘the old sow.’ He helped to bury the bones of the deceased persons who had been laid in the vaults under the meeting house. ”

After three months the company was dismissed at Providence and he returned home.

The Deposition: Second Enlistment

1778

In July 1778 he re-enlisted and names the Captain and Sergeant he served under. Again he remembers vividly the activities of the army. “They joined the company of Captain Cavena at Norwich in the County of New London and after the space of two or three days they marched to Bristol in the state of Rhode Island. The company of Capt. Cavena as also many other companies at that period were detached and stationed along the shores from the town of Bristol to Rhode Island to guard them and keep the British on the Island. The Company of Captain Cavena were engaged in no battle or skirmishes with the enemy. Deponent recalls seeing the French fleet sail off from the Island in a violent storm and also recollected the retreat of General Sullivan during this period.”

At the end of three months, he was again dismissed and returned home.

The Deposition: Third Enlistment

1780

His testimony continues with a third enlistment. In March of 1780, he “together with three other privates who served in a regiment of the Continental line (The particular number of which he does not recollect and has no means of ascertaining) under the command of”: and here he names the General and the Lt. in charge of the army that he joined “below West Point”. From there they marched to Musquito (sic) Hill in the state of New Jersey and thence after a stay of a few months they marched to Potaway in the same state. “While here the Camden battle took place and deponent recollects seeing one John Parker, a wounded soldier, on his return from the battle. After a stay of a few months, they marched to the highlands to guard the invalids and repair the huts for winter quarters. Deponent at this period saw Maj. Andre hung. A Company to which he belonged drew out to procure forage for the Continental forces under command of Captain Daggett. Jesse was serving as forage master. They loaded waggons(sic) and then returned to the highlands having been absent about two weeks. Although deponent had enlisted for the term of six months only he was detained til those were discharged who had enlisted for nine months–on the 22nd day of November. He arrived home on Thanksgiving Day (November 25th).

Jesse Morgan’s signature on his petition.

I have not dug my way through all of the claims he makes, but am trying to track down the geography of Potaway and Musquito Hill New Jersey.

Further, he says from Musquito Hill they marched to “the Highlands”. which means north of New York City along the Hudson River. If they went to the town of Tappan, then he might well have seen Major Andre hung in October, 1780. I can imagine that all troops in the vicinity were rounded up to witness the event.

Descriptions of the Revolutionary War hanging, like the one linked to Andre’s name above, show that it was a memorable event. But after nearly 60 years, might Jesse have confused what he knew with what he actually saw?

The battle of Camden took place in September, 1780, so according to his timeline, he would have been in New Jersey and been aware of that battle.

The Battle of Rhode Island, conducted in sync with the French fleet, took place in July 1778, again in conformity with Jesse’s testimony of his movements. The departure of the French fleet, did indeed take place in bad weather, as Jesse states in his deposition.

INVALID

In June 1833, Jesse’s appeal was marked INVALID. Further explanation says the evidence (of service) is insufficient, and his name is not found in the files, so he needs proof of his service in 1780. His application did not follow all the rules. The wording suggests that the court is giving Jesse a chance to submit more complete information before a final decision.

If you have read accounts of the Revolutionary War, you know that the record keeping was haphazard at best. An army being cobbled together by farmers and tradesmen who might or might not have had a little training as part of a militia– had better things to do than keep records.

His deposition sounded convincing to me, however the judges probably had been dealing with many fraudulent claims and were determined to follow the letter of the law about evidence.

APPEAL

September 1833. The pension file includes a letter from a man from Groton who testifies that he knew Jesse all his life in Groton and says he was a cooper by trade.

Eldredge Packer testifies that he and Jesse served in the same company of Militia in Groton. In February or March of 1780 three men were drafted from that company, among them Jesse Morgan and Eldridge himself.” Eldredge chose to pay a “transient person” to serve for him. “Morgan kept out of the way for some days but was taken by officer that Morgan compounded the matter and enlisted in the Continental Army for six months being entitled on enlisting to Bounty, as deponent understood and believed at the time. That the draft was for six months to join the American Army…that Morgan was absent from home from the time of his enlistment for many months and deponent always and does now believe that J. Morgan served as a soldier during the absence.”

At this point I notice that the judge in the case is Asa Fish. Significant because Jesse’s wife is Matilda Fish. I don’t know if the judge is related to Matilda, but it is likely. The next witness is also a Fish and I’m thinking that Jesse’s outcome has just gotten rosier.

Brother in law George Fish has a story to tell.

George Fish’s Story: Dodging the Draft

The story told by George Fish explains why I say this is a Revolutionary War story not to be missed. Keep in mind that Jesse would have been about 19 years old at the time.

George Fish says:

His [Jesse’s] family were opposed to his serving in the army. Because of urging by his family and friends, he avoided the officers who came for him. He avoided the conscriptors for a couple of days, but then they came into the meeting house during services and dragged him out. Even then, he managed to slip away and hide at his father’s house. He was finally “forcibly taken by a guard among whom were Timothy Wightman, Elisha Niles and others now all dead.”

At this turn of events, the family and friends had second thoughts. They were afraid of the consequences, since they were complicit in hiding him, so they now urged Jesse to voluntarily enlist and he did so. George Fish further says that Jesse was absent from home until late in the fall of that year “and I always understood and believed that Jesse Morgan served as a soldier.

He admits that he was not personally present when Jesse was taken from his father’s house, or when he enlisted, but he was very conversant with the affairs of his family and have no doubts of the facts relating to his draft, enlistment and service. He says that Jesse is now 75 years old [accurate given the hearing was 1833]. He knows that because Jesse is five years older than he himself. He also testifies that Jesse Morgan and his family removed more than twenty-five years ago from Groton to the State of Pennsylvania.

George Fish knows all of these things because he is Jesse Morgan’s brother -in-law.

Second Denial

UNDATED The appeal, case #5770, including the testimony of the brother-in-law, failed to convince the court. The claim was rejected because Jesse’s name was not found in the files and he needs two witnesses familiar with his second service. (1780)

I believe this court finding must have happened before October 7 when the attorney presented more information. Three of the letters he presents are dated September, but it is possible the attorney did not have them in hand until early October, as they had to be certified by a Justice of the Peace.

October 7, 1883 Jesse’s attorney sends an eloquent letter and several more pieces of evidence. He stresses that Jesse’s first two 3-month enlistments were in the militia (in service to the Revolutionary War Army) and the 1780 service was with the regular army.

“The old gentleman has been at considerable trouble and expense to procure the testimony required in that letter and really needs the assistance of his country and from what his neighbors and old associates say he really deserves it.”


George B. Wescott, Esq.

Mr. Wescott reminds the court that they have all the testimony of previous presentations, and the records of Revolutionary War service can be found in Washington. Jesse Morgan claims he is entitled to pension for three months service in 1776 proved by his affidavit and that of John Packer. He also claims for at least six months in 1780 proved by the affidavits of Thomas Roach and Benjamin Parker.

Third Rejection

October, 1833, the court writes to Attorney Wescott and says that the two witnesses presented [Roach and Parker] are not adequate as they did not have personal knowledge of his service in 1780.

The Final Decision

Pension application cover from United States Archives

The culmination of all “the old gentleman’s considerable trouble and expense” appears, with less drama than other contents of the file, on a cover page. Undated, it simply says

Documents of Jesse Morgan an applicant for a pension on rolls Swift regt. from August to 3 December 1780 = 4 mo. 3 days. Can allow for six months only $20.

Amazing! After at least three years of denying that his name appears on the Revolutionary War rolls, someone has discovered that Jesse Morgan actually was listed on the rolls of the Swift regiment in 1780. The “Swift Regiment” under the command of Gen. Herman Swift was known as the 7th Connecticut Regiment I am not particularly surprised that there are no records of the militia service before 1780, but also have not so far been able to find substantiation that Jesse was in Swift’s regiment. However, Swift’s Revolutionary War regiment’s timeline in New York and New Jersey follows Jesse’s sworn testimony.

For a man who came from an obviously pacifist family, Jesse Morgan served his company well and stood on the fringes of some very important events in United States history.

A Note About Research

The bulk of this story comes from:


U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 , File #5770, Jesse Morgan, Pennsylvania. The records are compiled by Ancestry.com from records at the U. S. Archives and Fold3.com

Other sources:

United States Census, Canaan, Wayne County Pennsylvania, 1840, lists Jesse Morgan as a veteran. Ancestry.com Roll: 493; Image: 525; Family History Library Film: 0020557

Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 , pg 82, Ancestry.com, Jesse Morgan, Ninth Regiment, Lt. Col’s Company [ Because regiments and companies were frequently renamed it is difficult to figure how this tracks with “Swift’s Regiment”]

James Morgan and His Descendants, pg. 41, Jesse Morgan.https://archive.org/details/morgangenealogyh1992morg/page/28

Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; , 1929-1990; Series Number: Series 1 , Ancestry.com.

Other internet references are linked to their page and were accessed in March 2019.

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