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.
Glamorgan County lies on the far south of Wales along the Bristol Channel. Wales attaches to the west side of England.
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!)
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.
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.
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 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.
(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
His wife, Joanna Greenslade
[and on the right hand side]
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