Genealogy of the Morris family

From 1690 in VA to 1755 in NC to 1830 in TN to 1997 in Texas

Surnames mentioned on this site:

Slaves (only the first name is given) mentioned on this page, in order of oldest to youngest: Rose, Jack, Jane, Lewis
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"Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother, my sisters and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place on Asgard in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever."
- Old Norse prayer


WP Morris I'm Dave Morris, and I am a "person of color". One of my ancestors on my mother's side was Levina NEALY, a Cherokee girl who escaped the Trail of Tears, thanks to a white farmer who married her and had 2 sons with her. My ancestors. As you will learn if you keep reading, I will be paying myself reparations, illustrating the idiocy of such a concept.

This page is devoted to research on my father's side, which began with the discovery of a letter written by my great grandfather, Williamson Plant MORRIS back in October 1931. The letter contained a detailed description of life at the John MORRIS farm during the Civil War in Hickman County, Tennessee. The discovery of this letter prompted my interest in my ancestry, and an associated many hundreds of hours of detective work!

What I have written here is a work in progress that will continue to grow as I explore the many branches. Feel free to follow the many links I have sprinkled throughout the pages, understanding that links often are broken as web sites change. Sorry.

The complete letter written by Williamson Plant MORRIS in 1931

This fascinating letter describes:

The Lineage

The Origins of the Scots/Irish

In the 1600's, the border between Scotland and England was in tremendous upheaval. Peaceful, normal life was an unattainable fantasy. In order to survive, the Scots who lived in that region became "Border Reevers" (Robbers). They were the best frontier fighters in Britain, if not in Europe.

In 1603, James I, King of England ascended to the throne and the border was finally pacified by sending many of these families to Northern Ireland. It was hoped they would settle down, but their previous lifestyle had become too ingrained.

These Scots/Irish are usually referred to as "Ulster Scots" in the United Kingdom. They were predominantly Presbyterian/Protestant, and had no need of either a priest or a King to think for them.

There were wars between the Scots/Irish and the Native Irish between 1640 and 1660 when the Irish rose up against the English. Finally the Scots/Irish army was defeated, and the they became persecuted. Presbyterian services were prohibited and the ministers outlawed.


The Scots/Irish Emigrate to America

At the close of the 17th century, both persecution by the British and terrible climatic conditions all across Europe (there having been no harvest in 5 years) had become so severe that the Scots/Irish were forced to emigrate. They often indentured themselves as servants to pay for passage, and the journeys by ship, lasting anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months, were typically disastrous.

The Scots/Irish landed mostly in Pennsylvania and began settling in the hills nearby. They also moved into Maryland or other close by places that resembled their home countryside. The first Ulster settlement was in Donegal, PA.

Eventually, a ferry opened up the Cumberland Valley, and it became their heartland. By the middle 1700's, the flow of immigrants down the Shenandoah Valley and westward from Charleston and Carolina ports filled the back countries of the Carolinas at a remarkable rate.
But the Ulstermen were known for their drinking, arguing, singing, and dancing. They did not have a peaceful relationship with the Native Americans who lived all around them. The old border reevers of the Scots/English border had become the frontiersmen and the mountain men of the new world.

William MORRIS (1730-1806)

(Some of this information was taken from Family Treemaker World Family Tree, Volume #4, Ed. 1, Tree# 1402)

William MORRIS was born 1722 or 1730 in King George, Virginia and died in Anson County, NC. Some possible records related to him that I am researching are:

He was married to Pherabee GURLEY (1723-1809?), and they had these children:

Sometime after 1795, he married Martha Rebecca Ann NANCE of Anson County, NC (1773 Mecklenberg Co VA - ?) She was the widow of William MASK (ca 1769 Goochland Co. VA - ca 1795 Anson County, NC) with whom she had several children, including Miles W. MASK, (1794-?), who married Louise BOGGAN.

The children of William Morris and Martha Nance were:

His Estate Records are dated 1858.

Nathan MORRIS (1755-1830)

Nathan MORRIS lived in Anson County North Carolina until 1807, according to Ruth A. Hays of Montgomery County, TN (Mail: Route 1, Guthrie, KY 42234). I believe he may have lived in White Store Township, and I also believe his family may have been acquainted with Williamson PLANT, a revolutionary war soldier mentioned in a deed for the Long Pine Methodist Church and who is also listed in Dickson County Tennessee Handbook by Jill K. Garrett.

Many small farmers opposed the British militia under Governor Tryon at the Battle of Alamance, May 16, 1771, but they lost and were compelled to take the oath of allegiance to the King. About 4,000 people who refused to take the oath left North Carolina over the next few years and moved into Tennessee. Among those who moved to Montgomery County, Tennessee, were Williamson PLANT and Thomas PETTY who is also listed in deed for the Long Pine Methodist Church.

Nathan Morris is listed as a Private in the roster of soldiers in the American Revolution as being in Evan's Company, from 1782 for 18 months. (North Carolina State Records, Clark, Vol XVI, 1782-1783, page 149)

The 1800 Census of Anson County lists the Nathan Morris family as having 3 males under the age of 10, 1 female between 10 and 16, 3 females 16 to 26, and the father being 45 or older. This would put Nathan's birthdate at 1755 or earlier.

In 1803, Montgomery County was split up, creating Dickson County, and Thomas PETTY staked a claim on Piney River. The Nathan Morris family moved to Montgomery County in 1807.

Nathan MORRIS was still living in Montgomery County, TN at the time he wrote his will on February 28, 1830. They lived on a plantation and Nathan had 5 personal servants himself. It is not known how many other servants were in their household or worked on the plantation. The following children were from his first wife, Louisa (last name and dates unknown):

The will also lists the following people who are assumed to also be grown children already married:

Nathan MORRIS was married twice, the second time to Michal (last name unknown, 1778-186?) and the Will lists the following children separately, with inhertitances more closely tied to Michal:

The area in which I have done the most intensive research, including overflights and on-site research on the land and in the historical society and land records office is that of

John MORRIS (1819-?)

The second son of Nathan and Michal MORRIS was John. According to the 1850 and 1860 US Census for Hickman County, John MORRIS was born in 1819 in Montgomery county, Tennessee. He married Sarah G. WILLIAMSON on 06/20/1846. (Sarah had a sister named Ann F. WILLIAMSON, who married John W. PLANT 07/26/1845.) John and Sarah had the following children:

  • Mary E. (1847-?)
  • Eugenia or possibly Virginia (1848-?)
  • Kate B. or Cate P. (08/1850-?) Married a HALL, was widowed by 1880, and had Camb (Campbell), (10/1870-?), and Alfred Hall (1874-?). Then married ETHRIDGE, and had Sammie (101887-?) and was widowed again by 1890.
  • Williamson Plant (06/27/1851 - 1941), named after his mother (WILLIAMSON) and his uncle (PLANT).
  • Anabella (Belle) Brown (07/07/1853 - 04/05/1895) married John FRENCH in Humphreys County, 29 January 1876. They had the following children: Bristol, Sallie A., Clarence C. and Mattie (Mabel). Belle B. FRENCH, John FRENCH and Sallie FRENCH are buried in the French/Pulley Cemetery on Lewis Branch near Erin, TN (Tombstone photo) and (Sallie FRENCH obit)
  • Joseph (Johnnie) (1857-?)
  • Sally A. (1859-?)
  • Sammie (1862 -?)
  • Mattie (AKA Mollie) (04/18/1865-?)

    His father's will stipulates that Michal "shall have all the rest of my effects together with the plantation wherein I now live to be at her command during her natural life or widowhood or until my youngest son Nathan Morris comes to the age of 21 years and then to be equally divided between Thomas, John, Ross, and Rebecca and Nathan." Assuming Nathan Jr. John's younger brother, born in 1821, would have been 21 by 1842, his mother Michal's planation and other effects inherited from Nathan would have been divided between the children around 1842. The 1850 Montgomery Co. Census, p221, lists Michal Morris, age 71, with Ross (29) and Thomas (35) living with her, and Real Estate valued at $500. The Agricultural Production schedule gives her land ownings as 137 acres plus $200 of livestock. Sometime between 1851 and 1860, the John Morris family moved from Montgomery County to Hickman County, Tennessee. Apparently, John's portion of this inheritance consisted of 5,000 angora goats and at least 6 slaves.

    The best estimation I can make of the location of the 700 acre property they were farming is in an area 1 mile South and 1/2 mile West of Pinewood, to the Northeast of James Hollow, North and West of the Piney River, as well as the bluffs and caves about 2 or 3 miles into the wooded region near what is now Cash Hollow Road. Here are the best potential areas that match the description in the letter, have the requisite open space and forest, access to the river, and are of the right size: [Site 1] [Site 2] [Site 3] Oddly, while personal property value is listed as $12,861 (a sizeable value rivaling that of the wealthy merchants and lawyers around there) the real estate value is $0. He must have had an lease or other arrangement to farm the the land? Who owned the property in 1860? I believe it is currently part of a 463 acre tract owned by the Cash family and which was owned by Hardy Petty during the time of the Civil War.

    In the 1860 Census for Hickman County, 6th District, page 139, the John MORRIS family is listed next to the Hardy PETTY family, consisting of Hardy PETTY (1811), Susan Wren PETTY (1812?), and at least 9 children. The Hardy and Susan PETTY family is also listed in the 1931 letter by W.P. MORRIS in numerous places. The CASH family land is adjacent to the PETTY Cemetery which Hardy PETTY defined and donated in his will. I assume these are descendants of Thomas PETTY, one of the first settlers of the Piney River in Dickson County. Hardy's wife Susan's maiden name was WREN. Is she related to Nathan Morris' child Rebecca Wren Morris? Is this why there is such a bond between the PETTY family and the John MORRIS family?

    At the outbreak of the Civil War, at age 43, John MORRIS joined the Confederate Army along with other men from Hickman County, possibly into A or B Company, 42nd Infantry of the CSA (based on a match between Tennesseans in the Civil War, Part 2 and Goodspeed's Hickman County History of Tennessee. Sometime between January 20th when he was in Centerville selling a 12 year old slave named Lewis for $1,000 (which would have been almost 10% of his entire net worth!), to raise cash to sustain his family in his absence, and February 13, 1862, he joined his regiment and was sent to Fort Donelson, which is only about 60 miles north of Pinewood. Almost immediately upon arrival, on February 16, 1862, Fort Donelson was captured by the Union forces under General Ulysses Grant. Some historians believe this was a collossal blunder, as the gunners at the fort had rendered 4 Union City-class Ironclad Gunboats inoperative and had repelled every Union assault on the fort. And yet they surrendered, turning the tide of the war almost immediately in its infancy, by opening the way for the Union to invade Nashville and the South. John MORRIS and 13,000 other soldiers were captured, and MORRIS was sent to Rock Island Prison in Illinois in 1863. It is not clear where he was held for the year prior to his incarceration at Rock Island, because Rock Island prison was not operational until November 1863. Possibly Camp Douglas in Illinois.

    "On April 10, 1862, a petition was sent from Camp Douglas to Andrew Johnson, Military Governor of Tennessee, from men from the 42nd, 48th, 49th and 50th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, expressing a desire to take the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government, and requesting his intercession in their behalf."

    He took the Amnesty Oath, and when he returned home to Pinewood, (they found him walking down the road) he was "tall and lean, with an awful crop of beard" and his children did not even recognize him. It's over 500 miles from Rock Island to Pinewood. How far did he actually walk? If he was indeed at Rock Island, he managed to survive smallpox and many other horrors that killed 17% of the entire inmate population there.

    It appears the John Morris family lost everything during the Civil War, and he was declared insolvent and moved out of Hickman County. The John Morris household then shows up in the 1870 and 1880 Census of Humphreys County. The real estate value in 1870 is $2,000 and the personal property value is $800. I imagine the goats did not make the move to Humphreys County. Certainly the roughly $3,500 worth of slaves he owned were set free by 1865. In the 1880 Census of Humphreys County, District 2, John Morris is listed as a widower, with Sallie, Mattie, and Samie (daughters) living with him as well as Katie (Kate R) HALL (26), listed as a Daughter, and her two sons Camp HALL (8) and Alfred HALL (6).

    There are photos of my trips to Hickman County and Fort Donelson in this Album.

    In an amazing twist of irony, the property farmed by my father's Morris family in Hickman county (described above) is now owned by the Cash family, which is also my mother's maiden name. No close relationship.

Williamson Plant MORRIS (06/27/1851-01/13/1941)

Born in Humphreys County, TN. In 1877, he married Ella TROTTER (18??-1893), and they had the following children: Walter (02/1882), Alma E. (07/1883), Trotter J. (08/1885), Bessie B. (12/1887), Clarence Norman (03/1893), and 3 others lost in infancy.

After Ella TROTTER died in 1893, Williamson Plant MORRIS moved to Rives, TN, in Obion County. On October 10, 1895, he married Elizabeth Caroline WHITESIDE (05/17/1864-11/11/1955) of Rives, TN. She was the daughter of James Harvey WHITESIDE (1818-1873) and Margaret Ann Harper (7/23/1830-4/5/1868), married 02/16/1848, who both died while Elizabeth was still a child. Family members say they never heard Elizabeth call W.P. anything except "Mr. Morris", and he called her "Miss Lizzie". She had 2 brothers, John and Luther, and 2 sisters, Mary Ann and Margaret Jane. Both W.P. and Elizabeth are buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Rives, TN.
They had the following children:

Click on this image of the 1860 Census for Hickman County to see how difficult it is to find your relatives in these poorly preserved documents!

The Amnesty Oath

We, the undersigned, do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that we will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder; and that we will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or held void by Congress, or by decision of the Supreme Court; and that we will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the Supreme Court: So help us God.

Genealogy Links of Interest

I am selling a book called TENNESSEANS IN THE CIVIL WAR, by Civil War Centennial Comm., Part 2, 1965, reprinted 1981: A listing in alphabetical order of all TN residents known to have participated on either Union or Confederate side in the Civil War, with rank and unit served with. 612 pages. Hardbound. In mint condition except for a couple of names highlighted in yellow. Maybe you can find them if you look hard enough! I bought this book for $48.00 and got what I needed. I'll sell it for $40, including shipping, to the first person who e-mails me and tells me they want it! I can take check, money order, or credit cards.

Links to MORRIS genealogies


North Carolina


Civil War


PETTY Family researchers on the Internet

EASLEY Family researchers on the Internet

HORN Family researchers on the Internet

Last Update: 20Apr2004 by Dave Morris