Morton Family of Caswell Co., North Carolina










The Morton Family in Caswell County, N.C.

The Morton Family had been living in Caswell County since the late 1700's and married into the Lea Family who had settled in Caswell (then Orange County) in the late 1740's or early 1750's. Meshack (Mesheck) Morton was recorded in the first Federal Census in 1790 in Caswell Co. and also the N.C. State Census of the 1784-1787 time period Meshack appears in the N.C. Taxpayers List (1679-1790) in the years 1784 and 1786. Meshack migrated to Caswell Co. from Prince Edward County, Virginia. Meshack purchased property from John Zachary in Prince Edward County. John Zachary later appears in Caswell County records.

28 May 1778--John Zachery of Charlotte County, VA sells land to Meshack Morton (100 acres) of Prince Edward County, VA Meshack Morton Land Purchase A][Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book C, pages 325-26

Abstract supplied by Stephen Dennis a fellow Morton researcher.

Meshack then sold property in Prince Edward County to Thomas Tatam at which time I feel he was preparing for the move to Caswell County, North Carolina. The following is a transcript of the deed to Thomas Tatam. This may well have been the same property bought from John Zachary.

Mesheck Morton Land Deed to Thomas Tatam

Deed Book 6 Page 186 October 19, 1778

Prince Edward County, Virginia

This indenture made the nineteenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight between Mesheck Morton of the County of Prince Edward of the one park and Thomas Tatam of Cumberland County of the other park. Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of seventy five pounds good and lawful money of Virginia to him the said Mesheck Morton in hand paid by the said Thomas Tatam the receipt whereof he does acknowledge and thereof does aquit ______ the said Thomas Tatam, his heirs assigns forever by this presents has granted, bargained and sold unto the said Thomas Tatam one certain track or parcel in the County of Prince Edward County on the waters of Bryer River containg one hundred acres more or less and is bounded as followeth, beginning at Blased pine at Daniel Daverson line along the beginning, the Beginning line of the _____of said 400 acres land from thence to the white oak by a branch thence to a path known by the name of Dickson path along the path to Daniel Daverson’s line thence along his line to the beginning together with all and singular the appurtenances to the said land belonging or in any wise appertaining with the reversions remainders rents and profit thereof to have and to hold the said one hundred acres of land and appurtenances to the same belong unto the said Thomas Tatam, his heirs and assigns for ever to the only proper use and behoof of this said Thomas Tatam his heirs and assigns forever and the said Mesheck Morton does for himself and his heirs covenant and agree to and with the said Thomas Tatam and his heirs shall and will warrant forever defend the right title fostered and property of the said land against the just claim of all and every person or persons whatsoever in witnesseth of the said Mesheck Morton has hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year first above written. sealed and delivered in

Presence of ______________ Meshech x Morton SEAL

At court held for Prince Edward County October 19, 1778. T-- with deed from Mesheck Morton to Thomas Tatam was presented and acknowledged in court by the said Mesheck party, thereto, Mary his wife, privily examined relinquished her dower to lands in said deed mentioned and ordered to be recorded.

Meshack’s first record in Caswell County, N.C. was a deed from John Ashburn in 1782. Meshack could have been in Caswell before this time as settlers during this period were often delayed recording their deeds because of the closing of the land office at the time of the Earl of Granville’s death and the Revolutionary War. The following is a transcription of the deed from John Ashburn.

John Ashburn Land Deed to Meshack Morton

March 2nd 1782

Deed Book A ---- Page 616

Caswell County, North Carolina

This Indenture made this second day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven & eighty two and in the seventh year of our American Independence John Ashburn of the State of North Carolina & County of Caswell of the one part & Mashak Morton of the State and County aforesaid of the other part. Witnesseth that John Ashburn for and in consideration of Fifty Pounds Proclamation Money of the said State to me in hand paid by the said Mashak Morton at or before Sealing & Delivering of these presents the Receipt whereof he the said John Ashburn doth hereby acknowledge hath given, granted, bargained Sold & by these presents doth give, grant, bargain & sell_______,Release and Confirm unto the said Mashak Morton his Heirs Executors Administrators & Assigns forever a Certain Tract or Parcel of Land. Lying & being in the County of Caswell aforesaid and on the Waters of North Hyco. Beginning on a Post Oak on Thomas Kilgore’s line & Running Near a West Course to a point of a Ridge above the said John Ashburn’s spring & then down his Spring Branch to his South West corner a Sycamore on William Moore’s line including Anderson Ashburn’s Improvement, thence his line North twelve chains to a Hicory, then East fifteen chains to a White Oak, thence North thirty five chains to a Poplare, thence East twenty eight chains to a Pine on Thomas Kilgore’s___ line, thence his line to the Post Oak first Beginning Containing One Hundred Acres be the same more or less it being part of a Tract of Land that the said John Ashburn purchased of Richard Caswell Esq. then Our Governor Capt. General and Commander in Chief, with the Reversion & Reversions Remainder & Remainders Rents & Services thereof & also all the Estate Right Title Claim or Demand whatsoever of him the said John Ashburn of in & unto the said premises of in & unto every part & parcel thereof. To have and to hold the said Tract or Parcel of Land & premises above Mentioned with the Appurtenances unto the said Mashak Morton for himself his Heirs Executors Administrators & Assigns to the only proper use & behoof of the said Mashak Morton his Heirs & Assigns forever & the said John Ashburn for himself his Heirs Executors Administrators and Assigns doth Covenant and agree to & with the said Mashak Morton his Heirs & Assigns forever by these presents that he the said John Ashburn & his Heirs all & every other person & persons & his or their Heirs anything having or Claiming in the said premises above mentioned or any part thereof by for or under him shall & will warrant & forever Defend. In Witness whereof the said John Ashburn hath hereto set his Hand & Affixed his seal this day & year first above written.

John Ashburn----*Seal*
Signed Sealed Published and Delivered in the
Presence of us. Robert Long
Transcribed by: Latham Mark Phelps 2003

The foregoing deed tells of a family relationship with the Ashburn family. John Ashburn’s wife was Sarah Anderson. Meshack’s only child that is of the age not to require a guardian at Meshack’s death was named “Anderson” Morton. I feel strongly that John Ashburn may have been Meshack’s father-in-law. Meshack married Nancy (Mary) Ashburn. The next deed recorded in Caswell County recorded by Meshack is in 1792 where he sold property to Thomas Boman. The Boman family also came to Caswell County from Prince Edward County, Va. and there are numerous records between the Morton’s and Boman’s in Caswell County during this and later time periods. The following is an abstract of the deed to Thomas Boman as I have yet to transcribe the entire deed.

Caswell County Deed Book H-Page 241-2

January 27th, 1792

Meshack Morton of Caswell County to Thomas Boman of same, 100lbs, 220a on ReedyFork of N. Hyco Adj:William Pleasant- Witness John Zachary, Simon Roberts

The following information about Thomas Boman and other Boman’s and Morton’s was supplied by Stephen Dennis a fellow Morton researcher.

Thomas Bowman---Thomas Boman may have inherited land in Caswell County, NC when his father Royall Boman died in 1791. Thomas Boman purchased land in Caswell County, NC from Meshack Morton on 27 January 1792. This appears to have been Thomas Boman’s first land purchase in Caswell County, NC. Thomas Boman sold land in Caswell County, NC to Josiah Morton on 4 July 1797. (It should be possible to determine whether this was the land Thomas Boman had purchased in 1792 from Meshack Morton or instead land Thomas Boman had inherited from his father Royall Boman in 1791.) Thomas Boman is enumerated in Caswell County, NC in the 1810 Census. Thomas Boman sold land in Caswell County, NC in 1816.

Royall Bowman---Royall Bowman was a son of Robert Bowman, who died in Amelia County, VA in 1746. Royall Bowman married Elizabeth Morton, a daughter of Thomas Morton, in Prince Edward County 18 May 1756. Royall Boman died in Caswell County, NC in 1791, survived by his widow Elizabeth Boman. His children appear to have been Leah Boman, Thomas Boman, Joseph Boman, Samuel Boman, Leonard Boman and Robert Boman, as well as a daughter Nancy Bowman married to Simon Roberts.

Robert Bowman---Robert Bowman appears in the tax lists for Amelia County, VA in 1739, 1740, 1741, 1743, 1744, and 1745. Robert Bowman’s will was probated in Amelia County, VA in 1746; the will mentions four children: daughters Jane and Sarah, and sons John Sutton Bowman and Royall Bowman.

Elizabeth Morton---The Prince Edward County, VA marriage record for the marriage of Elizabeth Morton, daughter of Thomas Morton, and Royal Bowman is dated 18 May 1756; Royall Bowman died in Caswell County, NC in 1791, and Elizabeth Bowman died in Caswell County, VA in 1794. Their children appear to have been Leah Boman, Thomas Boman, Joseph Boman, Samuel Boman, Leonard Boman and Robert Boman, as well as a daughter Nancy Bowman married to Simon Roberts.

Leah Bowman---Leah Boman sold 70 acres on Country Line Creek to Peyton Morton on 13 December 1797. (This was likely some or all of the land Leah Boman had inherited when his father Royall Boman died in 1791.) This is the only reference to Leah Boman in Caswell County, NC deeds. Presumably Leah Boman left North Carolina shortly after this land transaction, or he may never have lived in North Carolina at all.

Joseph Bowman--The marriage record for the marriage of Joseph Boman and Elizabeth Dixon in Caswell County, NC is dated 1 March 1790. Joseph Boman’s brother Robert Boman was a bondsman for this marriage. Joseph Boman is not enumerated in Caswell County, NC in 1800 or in 1810. This could mean that the Joseph Boman family lived in the household of Elizabeth Dixon Boman’s parents, or it might mean that Joseph Boman lived elsewhere, either nearby in Virginia on in another North Carolina county. (The spelling of his name should also be checked closely, as variant spellings as possible.) Joseph Boman may have died in Caswell County, NC in 1818 as there is an estate record for a person of this name.

Samuel Bowman---The marriage record for the marriage of Samuel Boman and Betsey Carloss in Caswell County, NC is dated 30 June 1798. Simon Roberts, the brother-in-law of Samuel Boman, was a bondsman for this marriage. Samuel Boman is enumerated in Caswell County, NC in the 1810 Census. He may be the Samuel Boman listed as an insolvent in Caswell County, NC in 1812?

Robert Bowman---Robert Bowman was a son of Royal Bowman. He appears to have been born about 1760, as the marriage record for his marriage to Sarah Foster, a daughter of James Foster, is dated 7 November 1780 in Charlotte County, VA. The first evidence that Robert Bowman had moved to Caswell County, NC is a deed dated 21 July 1789. Robert Bowman was a delegate from Caswell County, NC to a Constitutional Convention held in Fayetteville, NC in November 1789 and voted in favor of ratification of the proposed federal constitution. Robert Boman and his brother-in-law Simon Roberts sold a mill property in Caswell County, NC to Barkley Elam on 7 July 1799. (The previous history of this mill property is unknown, though it may have belonged to Royall Boman prior to his death in 1791.) Robert Bowman is enumerated in Caswell County, NC in the 1800 Census. Robert Boman is enumerated in Caswell County, NC in the 1810 Census. Robert Boman witnessed a deed in Caswell County, NC in 1812.

Nancy Bowman---The marriage record for the marriage of Nancy Bowman and Simon Roberts in Charlotte County, VA is dated 3 January 1787. (Nancy Bowman Roberts likely inherited property in Caswell County, NC when her father Royall Boman died in 1791.) The first definite evidence that Simon Roberts had moved to Caswell County, NC (or owned property there) is a reference in a deed dated 19 July 1791, though Simon Roberts may be a witness to a deed dated 26 June 1791. Simon Roberts also sold land in Caswell County, NC to Peyton Morton in 1798. Robert Boman and his brother-in-law Simon Roberts sold a mill property in Caswell County, NC to Barkley Elam on 7 July 1799. (The previous history of this mill property is unknown, though it may have belonged to Royall Boman prior to his death in 1791.) Simon Roberts witnessed a deed in Caswell County, NC in 1801.

Peyton Morton---The marriage record for the marriage of Peyton Morton and Nancy Wimbish in Prince Edward County, VA is dated 5 May 1780. Peyton Morton appears in court proceedings in Charlotte County, VA in both 1783 and 1784, but in 1785 Peyton Morton is on the tax list for Prince Edward County, VA. Peyton Morton purchased land in Caswell County, NC from Leah Boman (a brother-in-law of Simon Roberts) in 1797. Peyton Morton purchased land in Caswell County, NC from Simon Roberts (a brother-in-law of Leah Boman) in 1798. There is a Census enumeration for Peyton Morton in Caswell County, NC in 1800. There is a Census enumeration for Peyton Morton in Caswell County, NC in 1810. No estate record for Peyton Morton has been found in either North Carolina or Virginia.

Josiah Morton---Josiah Morton was born in Prince Edward County, VA 26 December 1760, according to a Revolutionary War pension application filed in Caswell County, NC in 1833. It is not known where Josiah Morton lived between the conclusion of his Revolutionary War service and his appearance in Caswell County, NC in 1796, or when or how many times he may have married. Josiah Morton made purchases at the estate sale of Meshack Morton on 19 February 1796, and this is the first documentary evidence that Josiah Morton was in Caswell County, NC. There appears to be a Census enumeration for Josiah Morton in Caswell County, NC in 1800. There is a Census enumeration for Josiah Morton in Caswell County, NC in 1810. There is a Census enumeration for Josiah Morton in Caswell County, NC in 1820. Josiah Morton is almost certainly the elderly man aged 80-90 living in the household of his son Azariah Graves Morton in Rockingham County, NC in the 1840 Census. Josiah Morton died on 23 August 1844, according to the Final Pension Payment file for him at National Archives, which contains a letter authorizing payment of the unpaid arrearage of Josiah Morton’s pension to an attorney for Azariah G. Morton, named as the “only child” of Josiah Morton. It is believed that Azariah Graves Morton may have been the sole child of a second wife of Josiah Morton.

The following Chronology of the Morton’s offers a very thorough look at the Morton Family. This supplied again by Stephen Dennis and all Morton researchers owe him a debt of gratitude for his painstaking work.



1760-------26 December 1760-Josiah Morton born in Prince Edward County, VA [Statement in Revolutionary War pension application filed in Caswell County, NC in 1833]

1764------- Charlotte County, VA created from Lunenburg County, VA

1778------- 28 May 1778--John Zachery of Charlotte County, VA sells land to Meshack Morton (100 acres) of Prince

Edward County, VA Meshack Morton Land Purchase A][Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book C, pages 325-26]

19 October 1778--Meshack Morton and wife Mary, of Prince Edward County, VA sell land to Thomas Tatum of Cumberland County (100 acres on Brierly River)[Meshack Morton Land Purchase A][Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 6, page 186]

1780------ 5 May 1780--Peyton Morton marries Nancy Wimbish (witness Robert Bowman)[Prince Edward County, VA Marriage Records]

1782-------March 1782[1]--Meshack Morton purchases 100 acres on N. Hico from John Ashburn [Meshack

Morton Land Purchase B][Caswell County, NC Deed Book A, page 616]

9 March 1782[2]--“Meshak” Morton and William Richmond witness a deed [Caswell County, NC Deed Book B,

page 54]

19 March 1782[3]--Meshack Morton and William Morton witness a deed [Caswell County, NC Deed Book A,

pages 579-80]

26 December 1782--Josiah Morton marries Mary Roberts [Amelia County, VA Marriage Records][But this may be the wrong Josiah Morton?]

1783------7 July 1783--Peyton Morton v. John Zachery (found for plaintiff)[Charlotte County, VA Court Order Book 5,

page 103]

1784------Meshack Morton listed in North Carolina tax list (Gloucester District, Caswell County)

One white poll

No black slaves

320 acres []Meshack Morton Land Purchase C]


3 May 1784--Peyton Morton v. John Zachery and Royal Bowman [Charlotte County, VA Court Order Book 5, page 154

4 June 1784--Peyton Morton v. John Zachery and Royal Bowman [Charlotte County, VA Court Order Book 5, page 168]

20 July 1784[4]--“Meshag” Morton buys 320 acres on Reedy Fork from Jonathan Law adjoining William Richmond and Matthew Richmond [Meshack Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book E, page 79]

3 November 1784--Royal Bowman and Peyton Morton witnesses for James Foster [Charlotte County, VA Court Order Book 5, page 234]

1785-----Peyton Morton on tax list for Prince Edward County (3 souls)

A Josiah Morton on same tax list (4 souls)

July Court 1785--Meshack Morton witnesses a power of attorney [Caswell County, NC Will Book B, page 83]

23 September 1785[5]--State Grant No. 879 to Thomas Wiley for land adjoining Meshack Morton and John Richmond Sr. on Reedy fork of North Hico Caswell County, NC Deed Book D, pages 352-53

16 October 1785[6]--Meshack Morton a witness to a deed for land sold by Jonathan Law to Thomas Wiley [Caswell County, NC Deed Book E, page 70]

1786-----Meshack Morton listed in North Carolina tax list

18 December 1786--Will of Bartholomew Zackery (names son John Zackery)[Prince Edward County, VA, Will book 2, page 135]

1787-----[Charlotte County, VA Will Book 1, pages 395+, Peyton Mirtin?]

Peyton Morton not on tax lists for Virginia in any county

Two Josiah Mortons listed for Prince Edward County

Josiah Morton (page 1292) Taxed for self and one slave, one horse and two cattle

1788-----John Zachery in Caswell County, NC [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 8, page 100]

1790-----Census enumeration for Josiah Morton

Census enumeration for Peyton Morton

16 November 1790[7]--State Grant No. 1040 to John Law for 41 acres adjoining Meshack Morton, William Richmond and Humphrey Donaldson [Caswell County, NC Deed Book G, page 301]

1791-------July 1791][8]--Peyton Morton a debtor to estate of Thomas Van Hook [Caswell County, NC Will Book B, page 422]

1792-------27 January 1792[9]--Meshack Morton sells 220 acres on Reedy Fork of North Hico adjoining William

Pleasant[part of Meshack Morton Land Purchase C in 1784] to Thomas Boman (witnesses are John Zachery and Simon Roberts)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, pages 241-42]

27 April 1792[10]--“Paton” Morton witnesses deed from Meshack Morton to Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner) (100 acres on Reedy Fork N. Hico)(could be either Meshack Morton Land Purchase B or more likely remainder of Land Purchase C in 1784)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book J, page 254]

21 November 1792[11]--John Law sells to Job Siddall 41 acres on Reedy Fork of Hico adjoining Meshack Morton and William Richmond (description would relate to Meshack Morton Land Purchase C in 1784) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, page 219]

1793-------11 January 1793[12]--Meshack Morton and J. Zacherey witness a deed from Robert Kimbrough to

Samuel Morton for 86.9 acres on south fork of Country Line Creek adjoining John Kimbrough (the first of four 1793 deeds from Robert Kimbrough in which he is partitioning his landholdings) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, pages 122-23]

28 January 1793[13]--“Paton” Morton and J. Zachery witness a deed from Robert Kimbrough to Thomas Wiley (the second of four 1793 deeds from Robert Kimbrough in which he is partitioning or selling his landholdings) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, page 140]

20 March 1793[14]--Meshack Morton a witness to a deed from Robert Kimbrough to John Kimbrough on Michael’s Br. (the third of four 1793 deeds from Robert Kimbrough in which he is partitioning or selling his landholdings) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, page 279]

20 November 1793[15]--Robert Kimbrough sells land to Meshack Morton (448 acres on South fork Country Line Creek on Michael’s Br.) (the fourth of four 1793 deeds from Robert Kimbrough in which he is partitioning or selling his landholdings) [Meshack Morton Land Purchase D][Caswell County, NC Deed Book H, pages 268-69]

1794-------[October Court 1794][16]--Meshack Morton and Peyton Morton make cash payments to estate of John

Crisp [Caswell County, NC Will Book C, page 104]

1796-------19 February 1796[17]--Josiah Morton purchases at estate sale of “Mesheck” Morton [Caswell County,

NC Will Book C, page 167]

10 March 1796[18]--Thomas Wiley sells to Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner) 50 acres on Reedy Fork of N. Hico adjoining Meshack Morton (description would relate to Meshack Morton Land Purchase C in 1784) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book J, pages 210-11]

July Court 1796[19]--Inventory of estate of Meshack Morton [Caswell County, NC Will Book C, page 168]

July Court 1796[20]--Sales of estate of Meshack Morton [Caswell County, NC Will Book C, page 167]

12 August 1796[21]--Josiah Morton witnesses a deed in Caswell County, NC for a sale by James Jones to Step Roberts of Nottaway County, VA (130 acres south fork of Country Line Creek adjoining the Ridge Path)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 7]

1797-------January Court 1797[22]--Accounting for estate of Meshack Morton filed by Jesse Carter (prominent

Caswell County, NC store owner) and Mary Morton, widow of Meshack Morton [Caswell County, NC Will Book C, page 214]

4 July 1797[23]--Josiah Morton purchases land in Caswell County, NC from Thomas Boman (75 acres on Country Line Creek, adjoining Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner), Jonathan Starkey, Royal Boman decd.)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase A][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 90)

10 September 1797[24]--Gabriel Lea listed as Guardian to orphans of Meshack Morton (Lewis, William, Meshack, Paton, Any, Jacob, Martin, Ezekiel) and sells 448 acres on South Fork of Country Line Creek to Thomas Wiley [Meshack Morton Land Purchase D][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, pages 112-13]

23 November 1797[25]--John Siddall sells land in Caswell County, NC to Peyton Morton (97 acres on Country Line Creek plus 200 acres?)(Josiah Boman a witness)[Peyton Morton Land Purchase A][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 245][see earlier Caswell County Deed Book C, page 130, Harrel to Sidel in 1785]

13 December 1797[26]--Leah Boman sells land in Caswell County, NC to Peyton Morton (70 acres on Country Line Creek adjoining Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner), Josiah Morton, Slade)[Peyton Morton Land Purchase B][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 246]

1798-------24 October 1798[27]--Josiah Morton purchases land in Caswell County, NC from Jonathan Starkey

(150 acres on Country Line Creek adjoining same Morton and Jesse Carter [prominent Caswell County, NC store owner]) [Josiah Morton Land Purchase B][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 309]

Simon Roberts sells land in Caswell County, NC to Peyton Morton (75 acres adjoining Josiah Morton, Joseph Boman, Thomas Boman)[Peyton Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 260][28]

1799-------20 March 1799[29]--Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner) conveys 150 acres on

Rattlesnake Creek to Mary Morton (likely the widow of Meshack Morton) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, pages 80-81]

23 July 1799[30]--Josiah Morton purchases land in Caswell County, NC from Robert H. Childers (245 acres on Cabin Branch adjoining Lay and Thomas Slade)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, pages 88-89]

23 July 1799[31]--Josiah Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Barkley Elam (land adjoining Jesse Carter [prominent Caswell County, NC store owner], Solomon Graves and land formerly belonging to Peyton Morton)[75 acres of Land Purchase A?][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, page 137][FIND EARLIER DEEDS]

14 August 1799[32]--Peyton Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Robert H. Childers (97 acres adjoining James Kitchen, Job Siddall)[Peyton Morton Land Purchase A][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, page 225]

1800-------Census enumeration for Josiah Martin (Caswell County, NC)(appears on a page with very darkish ink)












1 slave

Census enumeration for Payton Martin (Caswell County, NC)(next to Thomas Wiley)












2 slaves

29 January 1800[33]--Josiah Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Lot Egmond (245 acres on Cabin Creek adjoining Lay and Thomas Slade)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, page 326]

3 March 1800[34]--Peyton Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Barkley Elam (145 acres on Country Line Creek adjoining Jesse Carter [prominent Caswell County, NC store owner]) [Peyton Morton Land Purchase B and Peyton Morton Land Purchase C?][This land was subsequently sold by Barkley Elam’s executor to Daniel Wilson in 1800, and sold by Daniel Wilson to Miles Wilson in 1801, who immediately sold it to Jesse Carter on the same day][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, pages 216-17]

29 October 1800[35]--Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner) and other executors of Barkely Elam sell to John Wilson of Halifax County, VA 25 acres including mill property, 150 acres adjoining Josiah Morton, and 75 acres adjoining Jesse Carter [prominent Caswell County, NC store owner] and Peyton Morton)(three separate land sales?)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, pages 296-97]

5 November 1800[36]--Josiah Morton purchases at estate sale of Robert Bruce [Caswell County, NC Will Book D, page 27]

1801------ 23 January 1801[37]--Bartholomew Dameron, Sr. and Payton Morton sell to Jesse Carter (prominent

Caswell County, NC store owner) two slaves named Massa and David [Does this suggest that Dameron and Morton’s wife were co-heirs to an estate that owned these slaves?][Caswell County, NC Deed Book L, page 324]

5 December 1801[38]--Josiah Morton purchases land in Caswell County, NC from Robert H. Childers (97 acres adjoining James Kitchen, Jeb Siddal, Tobias Williams)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase D][Caswell County, NC Deed Book M, page 204]

1802------ 8 March 1802[39]--“Paton” Morton witnesses deed for Robert H. Childers for sale to Charnol

Hightower of 200 acres on Step Roberts line [Caswell County, NC Deed Book __, page ___]

27 September 1802[40]--Lot Egmon sells land in Caswell County, NC to Josiah Morton (245 acres adjoining [Bird] Lay [Lea?], Thomas Slade)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book M, page 347]

1803------- List of Caswell County Taxables - Josiah Morton (491 acres)

Land Purchase B 150 acres

Land Purchase C 245 acres

Land Purchase D 97 acres

Possible TOTAL 492 acres

Mary Morton (150 acres)

Meshack Morton - No land, only poll tax

Peyton Morton, Sr. - No land, only poll tax

Peyton Morton Jr. - No land, only poll tax

22 April 1803[41]--Josiah Morton purchases land in Caswell County, NC from Luke Prendergast (146 acres on Country Line Creek adjoining James Noel, Sol. Graves, Siddle)[This was the majority of State Grant No. 1174 to Luke Prendergast on 7 April 1801 for land entered 10 March 1779 (200 acres on Reedy Fork and Country Line Creek), Caswell County, NC Deed Book N, page 30][Josiah Morton Land Purchase E][Caswell County Deed, NC Book N, pages 14-15]

1 November 1803[42]--Josiah Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Lewis Evans (97 acres adjoining James Kitchen, Jeb Siddeall, Tobias Williams)[Josiah Morton Land Purchase D][Caswell County, NC Deed Book N, pages 92-93]

1804-------18 February 1804[43]--Josiah Morton purchases at estate sale of John Fargerson [Caswell County, NC

Will Book E, page 101]

16 November 1804[44]--Josiah Morton purchases at estate sale of Aldridge Rudd [Caswell County, NC Will Book E, page 186]

1806-------28 January 1806[45]--Thomas Wiley sells 148 1/3 acres on Country Line Creek to son Alexander Wiley,

it being Mary Morton’s dower in lands of Meshack Morton, deceased [Caswell County, NC Deed Book O, pages 182-83]

10 April 1806[46]--“Paton” Morton witnesses deed for John Warrick [Caswell County, NC Deed Book O, page 203]

1807-------29 August 1807[47]--Josiah Morton witnesses a land sale by John Harrill to John Richmond [Caswell

County, NC Deed Book P, pages 137-38]

1808-------4 January 1808[48]--Meshack Moreton marries Patsey Boulton [this Meshack Morton may not be from

Caswell County, NC but could be a Virginia relative?][Charlotte County, VA Marriage Records]

1809-------10 April 1809[49]--Josiah Morton sells land in Caswell County, NC to Nat Burton to pay debt to Jesse

Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner) (with Peyton Morton as witness) (245 acres on Cabin Creek and 82 ½ acres on Country Line Creek) [Josiah Morton Land Purchase C][Caswell County, NC Deed Book Q, pages 36-37]

11 August 1809[50]--Bird Lay sells land to Thomas Slade, Sr. (adjoining land owned by Josiah Morton)[for earlier deed, see division of land of John Lay at Caswell County, NC Deed Book K, page 296 (7 October 1798), with Bird Law as grandson receiving 1/6 of his deceased father’s portion)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book Q, pages 131-32]

12 September 1809[51]--Josiah Morton witnesses sale by Benjamin Sewell and James Scott to William Kimbrough [Caswell County, NC Deed Book Q, pages 37-38]

1810-------Census enumeration for Josiah Morton (Caswell County, NC, page 489)

1 male under 10

3 males 10 to 16

3 males 16 to 26

0 males 26 to 45

1 male 45+

1 female under 10

1 female 10 to 16

1 female 16 to 26

0 females 26 to 45

1 female 45+

0 free blacks

3 slaves

1 loom

250 measures of cloth

125 gallons distilled spirits (?)

Census enumeration for Peyton Morton (Caswell County, NC, page 489)

0 males under 10

0 males 10 to 16

1 male 16 to 26

0 males 26 to 45

1 male 45+

1 female under 10

1 female 10 to 16

1 female 16 to 26

0 females 26 to 45

1 female 45+

0 free blacks

0 slaves

0 looms

0 measures of cloth

0 gallons distilled spirits (?)

Census enumeration for Mary Morton (Caswell County, NC, page 489)

0 males under 10

0 males 10 to 16

2 males 16 to 26

0 males 26 to 45

0 males 45+

0 females under 10

1 female 10 to 16

1 female 16 to 26

1 female 45+ [presumably Mary Morton?]

0 free blacks

0 slaves

1 loom

100 measures of cloth

40 gallons distilled spirits (?)

Census enumeration for Mishack Morton (Caswell County, NC, page 489)[this is presumably the younger Meshack Morton?]

0 males under 10

0 males 10 to 16

1 male 16 to 26

1 male 26 to 45 [presumably Meshack Morton?]

0 males 45+

0 females under 10

0 females 10 to 16

1 female 16 to 26

0 females 26 to 45

0 females 45+

0 free blacks

1 slave

1 loom

70 measures of cloth

30 gallons distilled spirits (?)

1812-------10 January 1812[52]--Mary Morton sells 50 ½ acres on Rattlesnake Creek to Anderson Morton

(probably part of land conveyed to her by Jesse Carter in 1799) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book Q, pages 401-02]

31 August 1812[53]--Noel Burton to Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner), by virtue of Josiah Morton deed of trust, 245 acres on Cabin branch and 82 ½ acres on Country Line Creek [Caswell County, NC Deed Book R, page 8]

1816---Peyton mentioned in will of Jesse Carter (prominent Caswell County, NC store owner)

1817-------Estate records for Mary Morton (this may or may not be Meshack Morton’s widow)[Caswell County,

NC Will Book H, page 105]

Mary Morton estate [Caswell County, NC Will Book H, page 171]

Mary Morton Sale [Caswell County, NC Will Book H, page 203]

25 March 1817[54]--Leasburg lots (#3 and #4) sold for judgment against Peyton Morton in favor of John Graves & Sons [Date of purchase of these lots is unknown? - were they gift or bequest or were they distributed via lottery?][Caswell County Deed Book R, page 436][Lots were immediately resold - Caswell County, NC Deed Book S, page 49]

26 March 1817[55]--Alexander Murphey sells to Gabriel Lea two town lots in Leasburg (#3 and #4) purchashed at sheriff sale against Payton Morton [Caswell County, NC Deed Book S, page 49]

1818-------21 April 1818[56]--Luke Prendergast sells land on Reedy Fork adjoining “Morton” (this description

relates to Meshack Morton Land Purchase C in 1784) (did Prendergast purchase or inherit this land, or was it land inherited by his wife?) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book S, page 229]

5 May 1818--Possible death of Peyton Morton in Virginia? [No other information posted at LDS website, so this information is highly suspect]

6 May 1818[57]--Josiah Morton is mentioned in connection with the settlement of Jesse Carter’s estate, and division of Carter’s real estate [Caswell County, NC Deed Book T, pages 123-127]

1820------ Census enumeration for Josiah Morton

1 male 10-16

1 male 16-26

1 male 45+

1826-------9 October 1816[58]--Josiah Morton land sold by Sheriff to James Chandler to satisfy debt to James Yancey but

no deed every conveyed? [This fact mentioned in 1834 sale by Susan S. Carter Galloway]

1830-------Census enumeration for Josiah Morton

1833-------Josiah Morton files Revolutionary War pension application in Caswell County, NC

1834-------7 May 1834[59]-- Land purchased from Josiah Morton by Jesse Carter is mentioned in sale by Susan S.

Carter Galloway (82 ½ acres, Wiley Tract)[Caswell County, NC Deed Book EE, pages 300-301][NO PREVIOUS DEED FOR THIS LAND]

1838-------4 December 1838[60]--Debt from Josiah Morton is mentioned (deed from Luke Prendergast to Josiah

Morton)(55-60 acres on Country Line Creek) [Caswell County, NC Deed Book EE, pages 121-22] [check this reference carefully as it may refer back to 1818 deed involving Luke Prendergast and likely nearby landholdings]

1840-------Census enumeration for Josiah Morton (living with son Azariah Graves Morton in Rockingham

County, NC)

1844------- 23 August 1844--Josiah Morton dies, presumably in Rockingham County, NC [Final Pension

Payment papers]


Land Purchase A (100 acres) 1778 SOLD 1778

Land Purchase B (100 acres) 1782

Land Purchase C (320 acres) 1784 SOLD part 1792 SOLD 1792

Land Purchase D (448 acres) 1793

Dower Settlement (SOLD 1806 SOLD 1812 (50 ½ acres) to A. Morton


Land Purchase A 1797 (75 acres) SOLD 1799

Land Purchase B 1798 (150 acres)

Land Purchase C 1799 (245 acres) SOLD 1800 to Edmond REPURCHASED 1802 from Egmon SOLD 1809

to Burton SOLD 1812 by Burton to Carter

Land Purchase D 1801 (97 acres from Childers) SOLD 1803 to Evans

Land Purchase E 1803 (146 acres from Prendergast)

Land Purchase F (82 ½ acres) SOLD 1826


Land Purchase A (97 acres) 1797 sold 1799 to Childers

Land Purchase B (70 acres) 1797

Land Purchase C (145 acres) SOLD 1800 to Elam

Leasburg Lots #3 and #4 sold 1817

Again I thank Stephen Dennis for all this Information.

The next recorded deed of Meshack Morton in Caswell County is in 1793 when he purchased property from Robert Kimbrough. This tract would later be sold to Thomas Wiley in 1797 by Gabriel Lea guardian for the orphans of Meshack. The following is a transcription of that deed.

Robert Kimbrough Land Deed to Meshack Morton

November 20th, 1793 Deed Book H Page 268

Caswell County North Carolina

This Indenture made this twentyeth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three Between Robert Kimbrough of the County of Caswell and the State of North Carolina of the one part and Meshack Morton of the Said County and State of the other part. Witnesseth that the Said Robert Kimbrough for and in consideration of sum of two hundred and twenty four pounds VC to him in hand paid and made sum the receipt whereof he doth confess and acknowledge himself therewith to be to be fully satisfied and paid of every part and parcel thereof and doth the Said Meshack Morton his heirs & fully Exonerate Aquit and discharge hath bargained and sold and doth by these presents Bargain sell Alienate make over and confirm to the said Meshack Morton a certain tract or parcel of land whereon the Said Morton now lives Situate lying and being in the County of Caswell on the waters of the south fork of Country Line Creek.

Beginning at an Ironwood by a branch a fork of _______ Branch, thence then up said Branch as it meanders North Easterly 66 chains to a Birch in the old line, then East along said line 41ch & 50 links to a Stake and pointers, then South 41ch & 50 links to a Black Jack, then West with Said Line 22ch & 50 links to a Post Oak, then South with Said line 30 chains to a Pine, then West with Said line 60ch & 60 links to the head of a Branch, then down said Branch to the mouth thereof, then down the south fork of ______ Branch to the mouth thereof and up the North Fork to the first Station. Containing by Estimation Four Hundred and Forty Eight Acres of Land.

To have and to hold to the Said Meshack Morton his Heirs & Executors Administrators, Meshack Morton his Heirs Executors & Assigns forever free from the Claim Right Title or Interest of him the Said Robert Kimbrough His Heirs Executors Administrators to the only proper use and behoof of him the said Meshack Morton his Heirs Executors and Assigns forever together with all and singular the Appurtenances Privileges and Endowments there unto belonging or in anywise Appurtaining to the Said tract or parcel of land and the Said Robert Kimbrough against himself his Heirs Executors Administrators, or any other person or persons whatsoever claiming from by or under him, the right of the aforesaid lands and premises will warrant and forever defend to the Said Meshack Morton his Heirs etc. In Witness whereof the Said Robert Kimbrough hath hereunto set his hand and affixed his Seal the day and year above written.

Robert Kimbrough----*Seal*

Signed Sealed & Delivered

In the presence of:

Robt. Mitchell


John x Kimbrough------Jurat


Caswell County January Court 1794

The Execution of this deed was duly proved in Court by the Oath of John Kimbrough

one of the subscribing witnesses & on Motion ordered to be registered.

Test----A. Murphey C.C.

Transcribed By Latham Mark Phelps -- November 16, 2003

The next deed in the property trail of Meshack Morton involves Meshack’s purchase of a tract of land from Jonathan Law in 1794. The following is a transcription.

Jonathan Law Land Deed to Meshack Morton
July 1784 Deed Book E Page 79

Caswell County North Carolina

This Indenture made this 2_ Day of July 1784between Jonathan Law of the County of Caswell and State of North Carolina of the one part and Meshag Morton of the County and State afore said of the other part. Witnesseth that the said Jonathan Law for and in cosideration of the sum of Sixty one pounds Current money of Virginia to him in hand paid by the said Meshag Morton at or before the Delivery and Sealing of these presents Whereof the said Jonathan Law Acknowledged Granted Bargained and Sold Alinated _____ Release and Confirm and by these presents Doth from himself and his Heirs and assigns Grant bargain and Sell Alianate ____ and Confirm Unto the said Meshag Morton his Heirs and Assigns forever a Certain Tract or Parcel of land Situate Lying and being in the County of Caswell and State afore said and on the Waters of the Redy fork and bounded as follows.

Viz: Beginning a Red Oak Corner at William Richmond’s on Matthew Richmond’s Line and Running thence with his line South thirty nine chains to a White Oak, then West twelve chains to a Stake, then South to a Stake, then West thirty eight chains to a Post Oak, then North sixteen Chains to a Pine, then West twenty six chains to a Pine, then North twenty three chains to a Pine, then East with William Richmond’s Line to the first Station, containing Three Hundred and Twenty Acres of Land which said tract of land unto the said Meshag Morton. The said Jonathan Law do warrant and forever defend against the Claim or Claims of Me, my Heirs or any other person pretending Right of Title thereunto. With the Reversion and Reversions, Remainder and Remainders and also all Rights Title Claim Interest and Demand of Me the Said Jonathan Law of in and to the Said premises above mentioned with Appurtenances unto the Said Meshag Morton his Heirs and Assigns forever and the Said Jonathan Law for himself and his Heirs Executors Administrators and Assigns doth Covenant and Grant to the Said Meshag Morton his Heirs and Assigns forever by the presents that the Said Jonathan Law and his Heirs all and every other person or persons Whatsoever. And his or their Heirs anything having or Claiming in the said premises above mentioned or any part thereof by from and unto. Shall Warrant and Defend the Said parcel and premises above mentioned with the Appurtenances there unto the Said Meshag Morton his Heirs and Assigns forever by these presents in Witness Whereof the Said Jonathan Jonathan Law has hereunto set his hand and Seal the day and year above Written.

Jonathan Law *Seal

Signed Sealed and Delivered

in the presence of :

Alex Wiley

Thomas Wiley ---Jurat

Transcribed By: Latham Mark Phelps – November 16, 2003

The foregoing deed has some relevant facts revealed within. Thomas Wiley a witness to this deed would later be sold the 448 acres of land from the Robert Kimbrough deed to benefit the Orphans of Meshack. This is the first record of Meshack being a neighbor of the Richmond family of Caswell County. Even today the Morton and Richmond descendants live within a mile of one another. I have known the Richmond family since my childhood as they were friends and neighbors of my grandparents William Perry Lunsford and Hattie Belle Morton. My grandfather Perry Lunsford owned and ran a country store and gas station for many years in the Leasburg, N.C. community. The store was called “Four Points”as it sat at the crossroads of Hwy.119 and Hwy.158. After years of running the store “Four Points” became my grandfather’s nickname. They lived in the back of the store until they moved across the road to a house for their growing family. This house and the store was on Morton property passed down to my grandmother Hattie Belle Morton, from her father James Monroe Morton, his father Vincent Lea Morton, his father Elijah Morton who was a son of Meshack.
The Richmond family of today namely the family of Spencer Tribue “Cack” Richmond lives just up the road from the Morton property. My aunt Pat Lunsford Cobb and her husband C.D. Cobb own the former Morton farm today. My other aunt Linda Lunsford Kirby and her husband Jonah Kirby live on a parcel of land, which was once part of the Morton lands very near where the old Morton home place used to stand. My uncle Dennis Morton Lunsford owns the last parcel of the Morton property. The Morton home place was a large home with at least 14 rooms. Family history says that there is a slave cemetery between my aunt Linda’s house and where the Morton house stood. This is highly likely as both Vincent Lea Morton and more so his father Elijah Morton were documented slaveholders. Union United Methodist Church established 1820 is located between the Morton and Richmond property and it is said that the first person buried in the church cemetery was a Morton slave.
My mother Reba Jean Lunsford Phelps was buried in this very cemetery on January 16th, 2005 beside her parents Perry and Hattie on one side and the beloved “ Cousin” Annie Trollinger on the other side. My aunt and uncle Linda & Jonah Kirby gave this plot to my mother as a gift years ago which made my mother very happy to know she would have her final rest at “Home”.

Meshack Morton served or gave support in the American Revolution as he was compensated on two occasions by the State of North Carolina. Either way he was a Patriot of the American Revolution; See North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts, Vol.1, Page 60, Folio 4.

Meshack Morton died in late 1795 or early in 1796 as there are records of his Estate beginning in February 1796. The following documents cover the Inventory, Sales and Accounting of his Estate as no Will was found in the records of Caswell County. Jessie Carter was evidently appointed as the Administrator of the Estate. In later documents Gabriel Lea (my 4th Gr-Grandfather as well) was appointed as Guardian to the Orphans of Meshack. The spelling in these documents is my best attempt to faithfully transcribe these as they appear in the original documents, however this is a difficult task as any serious genealogist can attest.

Caswell County Will Book C Page 167

A List of Sales of Meshack Morton Decd.

Property sold 19th February, 1796

Sold to Jessie Carter Sundries

To the amount of Lbs. 34- 0- 6

Robert Kimbrough 26-16-0

Thomas Graves 3- 9- 0

James Turner 2- 7- 5

John Graves Sr. 0- 5- 6

Mary Morton 15- 5-11

Thomas Yancey 1- 4- 0

Robert Bowman 1- 9- 0

William Lea 0- 3- 8

Samuel Bowman 2- 0- 0

John Hightower 0- 8- 6

William Sawyer 3- 6- 0

Thomas Wiley 0- 8- 6

Anderson Morton 0-13- 6

John Kimbrough 0-11- 6
Edward King 0- 9- 0

Lbs 92-18- 0

Sold on March 12th 1796

Sold Mary Morton Sundries

To the amount of Lbs. 1- 0- 0

Jessie Carter 32-14- 0

Josiah Morton 2-17- 6

Anderson Morton 0- 2- 0

James Kitchen 0- 1- 6

John Kimbrough 4- 3- 0

William Sawyer 0- 1- 0

Major Lea 0-18- 1

February 19th 1796

Sold Robert Kimbrough three Bulks

Tobacco for 40/5 P. Hundred not weighed 2014 Lbs. 42-16-1

Sold Jessie Carter one Bulk Tobacco

For 55/ P. Hundred not weighed 807 Lbs. 22- 3- 7


Amount Sales Lbs. 199-14- 9

Sold Jessie Carter 1 large plow Amt. 2- 0- 0


Lbs 201-14- 9

J. Carter Admr.

Caswell County July Court 1796

This Acct. of Sale was duly returned by the Admin. and on Motion Ordered to be recorded.

Test: A.Murphey C.C.


Caswell County Will Book C Page 168
July Court 1796

Inventory of the Estate of Meshack Morton, Deceased. Property taken 19th Feb. 1796

Corn and Fodder, Meat, three Head Horses, six Head Cattle, fourteen Head Hogs, three Head Sheep, eighteen Geese, three Feather Beds and Furniture, four Bedsteads, one Cotton Wheel, one Flax Wheel, three pair Cotton Cards, one pair Steelgards, one Trunk, one Case and seven Bottles, three Water Pails, one Wash Tub, one Wheel Rim, 3 Pots two pair Hooks, one Dutch Oven, one Frying Pan, one Table three pewter Basons, one pewter Dish, four pewter Plates, Spoons, two Earthen Dishes, six Earthen Plates, five Tea Cup and Saucers, one Milk Pot, five Teaspoons, three Knives and Forks, two Flat Irons, one Lock Chain, one Handsaw, three Augers, two Drawing Knives, one Chisel, one Foot addz, one Whipsaw, Two Sythes and Cradles, one Mattock, one Grubbing Hoe, four Axes, one pair Iron Wedges, ten Hoirs, one Candlestick, one pair Snuffers, one Chest, four Barrels, one Handmill, Crop Cotton, Crop Flax, one Grindstone, Crop Tobacco, seven Chairs, one Churn, one large Plow, Cutter Plow, two Dutch Plows, one Frow, one Loom and Gear, one Flax Hackle, Parcel Book, one Tea Canister, one Candle Mould, one Pepper Box, one Bee Gum, three pair Knitting Pins, one Reap Hook, one Meal Sifter, one Man’s saddle, one Gun Barrel and lock, four Quart Bottles, Parcel Oats and Straw, one Gin, three pounds Feathers, one pound Salt Petre, one Sett Spools, Table Cloth and Towel, one pair Shears, one pair Iron Traces, one Watts Hymn Book, one Wire Sive, two Runtells, two Sack Bags, Parcel Flax Seed, one Pickler____

J. Carter Adm.

Caswell County July Court 1796

This Inventory was Returned to Court by the Adm. And on Motion Ordered to be Recorded.

Test. A. Murphey C.C.


Caswell County Will Book C Page 214
January Court 1797

January 1797 The Estate of Meshack Morton Deceased

The Amt. Of Jesse Carter as of Amt. Rendered Lbs 394—14—5 ¾

To T_______ due as of No. 2 1--- 3---9

To Adm. Fees of Inventory and Amt. Of sales 0---18---0

Of and receiving this Amt. Of

To Crying the Sale 0---10---0

To Crays Attending Sale and Delivering Property 1—16---0

Subtotal Lbs 399--- 2---2 ¾

To Ballance due the Estate 23--- 4--11 ¼

Total Lbs 422--- 7---2

Caswell County Will Book C Page 215
January Court 1797

In Acct. with J. Carter & Mary Morton Admrs. January Court 1797

By Sundry payments as ____ in Acct. No. 1 Lbs 220—12---5

By Amount of Acct. of Sales of Estate 201---14---9

Total Lbs 422--- 7--- 2

Cr. Ball. LfContra Lbs 23---4---11 ¼

On the same page of the Caswell County Will Book referenced above, Page 215, the entry directly below just happens to be a Listing for the entire County of Caswell as to the Taxable Property for the year 1796. I have included this Listing as it is valuable information for many researchers.

Taxable Property for the year 1796

District Names Acres White Black Value of the Season

of Land Polls Polls of Stud Horses

Gloucester District-- 54, 952 188 177 Lbs 1—13--4

St. David’s District--55, 867 ½ 220 312 4— 8—4

Caswell District--- 44, 873 174 173 1--- 9—4

Richmond District--73, 067 ¾ 239 380 … … …

Test.-- A. Murphy C.C.C.



Caswell County January Court 1797

Agreeable to the Order of our October Court last that we have met and examined and settled the Accts. Of Jessie Carter and Mary Morton Adm. & Admt. Of the estate of Meshack Morton, Deceased and find the Account as above stated that there is a ballance due the estate of Twenty three Pounds four Shillings and eleven Pence farthing.

Note William Rainey Appt. Commr. in room of James Williamson at January Court 1797-------

Alx. Murphey---Seal

Thos. Donoho----Seal

William Rainey---Seal

Caswell County

This Acct. was duly returned by the Commr. Above mentioned & on Motion Ordered to be recorded.

Test--A. Murphy C.C.

The following Court Record was furnished to be by Cindy Morton who is also a Morton descendant. This provides the only mention of Elijah Morton connected with Meshack Morton’s estate. It is documented fact that Jesse Carter was the Administrator of Meshack Morton’s estate and Gabriel Lea was Guardian to Morton children in other Caswell County Court documents. Some records are no longer available in the present day Caswell County, much to the dismay of many researchers. Elijah Morton also married a daughter of Gabriel Lea, Mary (Polly) Lea, which seems likely as they probably had a close relationship as youths, with her father being the Guardian of her future husband.

Hello Mark,
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you regarding where I found the reference of Elijah being the son of Meshack. I'm not sure if I mentioned to you that I have copies of ~200 pages of hand written notes from Edythe Rucker Whitley, a genealogist who wrote many books. Her estate left ALL of her notes to the Williamson County, Tennessee Genealogical Society. There are notes on 100's of families, and the whole lot takes up about 4 20' shelves, 3-4 shelves high. Since my line of MORTONs ended up in Williamson/Davidson County, TN, I've done a lot of my research there. What you can find is folders with loose notes on family names. I was very excited to find her notes on the MORTON line, so I had my husband (wonderful man), copy the entire file.

In it, I found her notes from the original estate papers CR 20.504.1 Box M, "Meshack Morton Estate Papers". Meshack Morton Estate Papers - CR 20.504.1 Box M (Original Papers): This is the only connection that she has in her notes of Elijah, but I'm taking it as legit. She also listed out the children as:Anderson, Peyton, William, Asa, Jacob, (married Annie Fisher)Polly, Elijah m. Polley Lea, Martin m. Mary Fuller, Hezekiah, and Nancy. She also has a Meshack MORTON who marries Patsy Boulton (Boulden) on 1/4/1808 in Charlotte County, VA., but no further info is provided.

Hope this helps.


Know all men by these presents that we Gabriel Lea and Jesse Carter, all of the County of Caswell and State of North Carolina are held and firmly bound unto William Rainey, Archibald Samuel and Adam Saunders, Esquires and their fellow Justices of the County Court of Caswell in the sum of 500 pounds to be paid to the said Justices and their successors in office and assigns in trust for the benefit of the child hereafter named, committed to the tuition of said Gabriel Lea.... To which the payment is well and truly to be made. We find ourselves, our Heirs ... and Admininstrators jointly and Serverally and firmly by these present sealed with our seals and dated this 2nd day of January A.Dom. 1797.

The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas the above bounded Gabriel Lea ... is constituted and appointed Guardian for Polley Morton, Elijah Morton, Martin Morton, Hezekiah Morton and Nancy Morton, minor orphans. If therefore, the said Gabriel Lea and Jesse Carter shall faithfully execute his said Guardianship by securing and improving the estate of the said Orphans, ... that shall come into his hands or possessions for the benefit of the said orphans until they shall attain the full age or be sooner thereto required and render up a plain and true account of his said guardianship on oath before the Justices of our said Court and deliver up pay unto or possess the said orphans with all such estate or estates as they ought to be possessed o for such other persons or persons as shall be lawfully authorized to receive the same and the profits arising there from then the above obligation shall be void otherwise to remain in full force and effect.

Gabriel Lea (seal)
J. Carter (seal)
signed sealed & Delivered
in presence of

A.E. Murphy Clerk


On Sept 10th 1797 Gabriel Lea is listed as Guardian to orphans of Meshack Morton to wit: Lewis, William, Meshack, Paton, Any, Jacob, Martin, Ezekiel----to Thomas Wiley for 232lbs 448 acres South Fork Country Line Creek Adj; Mitchell’s Branch---Deed also signed by Anderson Morton - Caswell County Deed Book K Page 112-3. The Gabriel Lea that was appointed as Guardian to the orphans of Meshack, was my 4th Great-Grandfather, with Meshack being my 4th Great-Grandfather as well. Gabriel Lea married Elizabeth Ashburn, who was very probably a sister of Meshack's wife Nancy (Mary), and were probably both daughters of John Ashburn. Reference a Deed Oct.23, 1810-Caswell Co Page 167-8: Gabriel Lea to Drury Burton For 200.00 45 acres on N. Hico being part of tract granted by state to John Ashburn.-Meshack's Son Elijah Morton married Gabriel Lea's daughter Mary as well. On May 25th 1830 Gabriel Lea deeded 150 acres to Elijah Morton for the sum of 500.00. This transaction is also mentioned in Gabriel Lea's Will of 1834.

Gabriel Lea (Guardian for Orphans of Meshack Morton) To Thomas Wiley

September 10th, 1797 Deed Book K Page 112

Caswell County, North Carolina

This Indenture made this tenth day of September in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Seven. Between Gabriel Lea as Guardian for the orphans of Meshack Morton-Dec’d. {To Wit} William, Meshack, Paton, Acey, Jacob, Martin, Ezeriah- Mortons the said Lea being appointed by the County of Caswell January Term 1797, to sell a Certain Tract of Land Belonging to the orphans above mentioned an here under described with a reserve of the Widow’s Dowery during her natural life the Said Lea in behalf of the orphans as above of the County of Caswell and State of North Carolina of the one part and Thomas Wiley of the Said County and State of the other part. Witnesseth that the Said Gabriel Lea as above for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and thirty two pounds five schillings & six pence in hand paid and made sure the receipt whereof doth confess and acknowledge himself therewith to be fully satisfied and hath Bargained Sold and doth by these presents bargain Sell alienate make over & confirm to the said Wiley a Certain tract or parcel of Land.Situate lying and being in the said County of Caswell and on the waters of the South Fork of Country Line Creek.

Beginning at an Ironwood by a branch a fork of Mitchels Branch, thence up Said Branch as it meanders North easterly to a Birch in the old line, then East along Said line 41ch & 50 links to a Stake and pointers, then South 41ch & 50 links to a Black Jack, then West with Said Line 22ch & 50 links to a Post Oak, then South with Said line 30ch to a Pine, then West with Said line 60ch & 60 links to the head of Branch, then down Said Branch to the mouth thereof, thence down the South Fork of Mitchel’s Branch to the mouth thereof and up North Fork to the first Station containing by Estimation Four Hundred and Forty Eight Acres of Land.

To have and to hold to the Said Thomas Wiley his Heirs Executors & or Administrators or Assigns forever free from the Claim Right Title or interest of them the Said Orphans their Heirs Executors or Administrators to the only the only proper use and behoof of him the Said Thomas Wiley his Heirs Executors Administrators & Assigns forever together with all and singular the appurtenances priviledges________ thereunto belonging or in anywise Appertaining to the Said Tract or Parcel of Land and the Said Gabriel Lea in behalf of the orphans as above his Heirs Executors & Administrators or any other person or persons whatever claiming from by or under him the right of the aforesaid Lands and premises will warrant and forever defend to the Said Thomas Wiley etc. In Witness whereof the Said Gabriel Lea hath hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal the day and year above written.

Gabriel Lea *Seal*



Anderson x Morton


Signed Sealed & Delivered:

William Richmond

John Langley

Caswell County October Court 1797

The Execution of this deed was duly acknowledged in open Court

By Gabriel Lea the Guardian and Anderson Morton for him self &

on motion ordered to be registered.

Test: A. Murphey C.C.

Meshack Morton left a Widow named Mary and the following children: Elizabeth, Anderson, John, William, Paton, Misheck, Asa, Mary(Polly), Jacob, Elijah, Martin, Hezekiah, and Nancy.

The children listed above are accounted for in a document furnished to me by Glenda Dyer and Nancy Travis, two descendants of Jacob Morton (Son of Meshack). The following is an excerpt from that document.

Mrs. Mary Morton Hester, Roxboro, Person County, North Carolina, has an old Bible in which are given the names and dates of birth of the children of Mesheck Morton and Mary Morton, such children being 13 in number, Their names being as follows:













The date of Jacob Morton’s birth is given as 11th February 1787

This old Bible together with these and other records, came down through the different generations fro William Morton, The son of Mesheck and Mary Morton.

Regrettably no birth dates are listed in the document except the reference to Jacob’s birth. I have not seen this Bible yet but am on a quest to find it. I have a strong conviction that the Bible does exist as I have heard my mother and aunts talk of going with their mother to visit a cousin with the last name of Hester during their childhood. The owner of the bible being Mary Morton Hester makes this all the more credible. The document I refer to above has no dates listed as to when it was compiled but it is definitely pre-computer age. This document was obtained by Glenda Dyer(descendant of Jacob Morton) on July 23, 2002 from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The title of the file as stated on the Photocopy Request Form is “Morton, Tn” and the entire folder was copied consisting of 6 pages. Two of the six pages however are copies of a letter received from the Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Ewin L. Davis on April 11th, 1941.



Ewin L. Davis

Commisioner April 11, 1941.

Mrs. Clarence Foster Hand,

345 Aubrey Road,

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Dear Mrs. Hand:

I duly received yours Of February 17th advising that you had received a letter from Mrs. William P. Cooper asking you to write to me for information about her Morton ancestry for verification of the tradition that she was descended from John Morton, the Signer.

I beg your pardon for the delay in answering‑your letter, which has been due to the pressure of official business, together with the fact that I was confined with a rather obstinate case of influenza.

Mrs. Cooper and I are first cousins, one of our grand mothers having been a Morton.

While there is and has been for a long time a well established tradition in the family that our line of Morton’s is descended from John Morton, the Signer, and it is also true that some of the members of the family have joined the D.A.R. and the S.A.R. in part on that line, yet I am not in possession of any official records definitely establishing the fact that John Morton, the Signer, was our ancestor.

I presume that Mrs. Cooper has explained to you her Morton line insofar as established and thereafter by tradition. However, for fear that she has not done so, I will explain that it is well established by various records, citations to which can be furnished if necessary, that Mrs. Cooper's father was Jacob Morton Shofner, that his mother was Sophronia Eglantine Morton, who married Michael Shoffner, and that she was a daughter of Jacob Morton, who was born February 17, 1787, in Caswell County, North Carolina, and moved to Bedford County, Tennessee, in 1808. The said Jacob Morton was a son‑of Mesheck Morton born in Virginia and who moved to Caswell County, North Carolina, when a young man, where he married, reared a family and died. All of these facts are established by records.

It is family tradition that the said Mesheck Morton was a son of George Morton, eldest son of John Morton, the Signer; that the said George Morton was born in Pennsylvania in 1745, and married, in 1765, his cousin, Sarah Morton, and that soon thereafter they moved to Virginia. As explained, I have no record

Page 2-- Mrs. Clarence Foster Hand.

evidence establishing the fact that Mesheck Morton was a son of‑George Morton or that George Morton was a son of John Morton, the Signer. I have always thought that those facts might be established by searching the old church and court house records in the Counties where John Morton resided during the time when he was rearing his family and they were marrying‑off. However, I have had no time or opportunity for making such searches. So far as the children of John Morton are concerned, I have made no investigation beyond examining some of the publications in the Congressional Library. There seems to be more or less conflict in publications‑with respect to the family of John Morton, the Signer. Some commentators state that h had twelve children, of which eight survived him; some state that he had eight children, naming the eight' which he mentioned in his will, to‑wit, ‑John, Sarah, Lydia, Elizabeth, Mary, and Ann. Aaron, Sketchley, In fact, the recitations that he had eight children are evidently based upon the fact that those are the only ones named in his will. However, I do not regard that as at all conclusive, as I know of many instances in which a testator does not mention all of his children, either because they were dead, because they had been previously provided for, because they had moved away and perhaps lost sight of. In the present instance, George Morton was the eldest son and soon after marriage moved to Virginia, presumably about 1766 ‑‑‑ this was some eight years before his father made his will.

There is a record of the Revolutionary service of Mesheck Morton in the latter part of the war; see North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts, Vol. 1. Page 60, Folio 4.

I am enclosing a memorandum, which may be of some assistance to you.

If you want more specific data with respect to the line since Mesheck Morton, including dates, marriages, and citations, I shall be glad to furnish same.

Yours sincerely,

Ewin L. Davis

Elijah Morton---my 3rd Great-Grandfather

Elijah was born February 5th, 1789 in Caswell County, North Carolina. He would been 7 years old at the time of his father Meshack’s death in 1796. In January of 1797 Gabriel Lea and Jessie Carter entered into a Bond established to create Guardianship for some children of Meshack, with Elijah being one of them. Gabriel Lea was designated as the actual Guardian. Gabriel Lea acted on behalf of other children of Meshack in September of 1797 when he sold property of Meshack’s to Thomas Wiley for the benefit of the orphans. Gabriel Lea who was also my 4th Gr-Grandfather, was to become Elijah Morton’s future Father-in-Law.

Elijah Morton (son of Meshack) married Mary (Polly) Lea (daughter of Gabriel Lea) November 5th, 1811. Mary was born February 20th, 1789. A handwritten note in the Journal of Wilhelmina Lea says:

No attempt has been made to trace the daughters (of Gabriel Lea) except in a few instances. The task would be too great. Gabriel Lea, son of the first James, had several daughters. One who married Elijah Morton has numerous descendants about here, who are well to do and good livers. The present generation is receiving an education, which has been quite limited in that line heretofore.

This was a runaway marriage and not agreeable to the Lea family.

Wilhelmina Lea

Leasburg, N.C. Oct. 22nd 1908

Wilhelmina Lea (1843-1936) was the daughter of Solomon Lea, a noted educator of the time and grandfather of William Lea, brother of Gabriel. She compiled the records of her uncle Rev. Lorenzo Lea who had written down the Lea family history and added her own notes to the backs of many pages.

It is possible that Elijah and Mary were 1st cousins if both of their mothers were indeed Ashburn sisters. Even though 1st cousins marrying was almost commonplace in those days, many families of the bride and groom looked upon it with disfavor. Gabriel Lea was one of the most prominent citizens of Caswell County, at one time owning over 5000 acres of land. He had served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War and later as Sheriff and Representative to the North Carolina House of Commons 1793-94 from Caswell County. Perhaps he had planned for Mary to marry someone else, perhaps a son of another leading citizen in Caswell, to further his stature in the community. In any event the marriage took place and Elijah and Mary had 5 children.

Phoebe L.—(September 2nd 1812---1896) married a Stanfield

Barbara H.—(October 25th 1821---July 31st 1896) married Archibald Baynes—February 22nd , 1840

Maranda R. —( --- )---married John C. Love---May 15th , 1839

Vincent Lea—(April 30th 1823---August 26th 1902)---Married Isabella Frances Oliver---December 4th , 1848

James M.—(October 19th 1831---April 10th 1849)---Died at 18 years old

Barbara H. Morton (daughter of Elijah) Married Archibald Baynes (son of Thornton Baynes). The following is an excerpt from a book concerning Archibald Baynes and a Union army trial.

Civil War History, March, 2003 by Thomas P. Lowry

Line upon line; line upon line; Here a little, and there a little. ---Isaiah 28:13

For ten years Manuel had been a slave of Archibald Baynes, a planter of Caswell County, North Carolina. With emancipation, Manuel became a contract laborer. After several months of work he went to Baynes and asked for his wages, which were refused. After some words Manuel walked away and his employer shot him in the back, killing him almost instantly. Baynes was tried by a court of the occupying Union army and sentenced to hang. A large number of local politicians and neighbors petitioned President Andrew Johnson, describing Baynes as a pillar of community and citing the state law whereby the "insolence by a colored person" should be regarded as a battery. The president referred the case to Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, whose blistering opinion branded the crime as cold-blooded murder, the defense testimony as perjured nonsense, and the state law on "insolence" as not only wrong but also unsupported by testimony. The death sentence was approved. This case provides only one example of the rich details contained within one of the most underused resources for Civil War scholarship, the records of courts-martial for the Union and Confederate armies and the Union navy.

In 1830 nineteen years after Elijah and Mary’s wedding, Gabriel Lea deeded a tract of land to Elijah for the sum of $500.00 for 150 Acres. Notice that in the deed a point of reference is made by the surveyor “to a Pine near a mud hole”. Lord help the poor property owner if the “mud hole” dried up and he couldn’t prove his boundary line.
Gabriel Lea to Elijah Morton Land Deed

Caswell County , N.C. May 25th 1830

This Indenture made this twenty fifth day of May in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and thirty, between Gabriel Lea of the County of Caswell and State of North Carolina of the one part; and Elijah Morton of the County and State aforesaid of the other part, Witnesseth that the said Gabriel Lea for and in consideration of the sum of Five hundred Dollars to him in hand paid by the said Elijah Morton, the Receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, hath given, granted, bargained and sold, and doth by these presents give grant, bargain and sell---- --------release and confirm unto the said Elijah Morton his heirs and assigns forever, a certain tract or parcel of Land situate, Lying and being in the said County of Caswell on a prong of Killgore’s branch of North Hyco: Beginning at a white oak at said branch an running thence north forty five degrees East nine chains to a Red Oak. Thence South eighty three degrees East seven chains and fifty links to Pointers, Thence North sixty seven degrees east five chains to a Red Oak, Thence North forty five degrees East seven chains and fifty links to White Oak by a drain, Thence North seventy six degrees East five chains to a small White Oak and pointers. Thence North fifty four degrees East thirteen chains and forty links to a Pine near a mud hole, Thence East five chains and ten links to Hickory on William Lea’s line, Thence South with his line twenty nine chains and eighty links to a Pine, Thence West four chains and twenty links to pointers, Thence South five degrees east twenty one chains and fifty links to a stake in the road, Thence South eighty two degrees West twenty six chains to a Spanish Oak, on the said branch, Thence down the branch as it meanders fifty chains and fifty links to the Beginning, Containing One hundred and fifty Acres, be the same more or less, and said Gabriel Lea doth hereby for himself, his heirs executors etc. covenant with the said Elijah Morton that he will warrant and forever defend the above bargained land and premises from the claim of all other persons whomsoever to the only proper use and behalf of him the said Elijah Morton his heirs and assigns forever. In witness whereof the said Gabriel Lea, hath hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year above written.

Sealed and delivered in the presence of: Gabriel Lea { Seal }

Solomon Lea

William Lea Jr.

James Lea

Transcribed by: Latham Mark Phelps 2003

In Gabriel Lea’s Will in 1834 he charged his daughter $500.00 as part of his Estate stating it was the value of the land that Mary now lived on and had never received any equivalent value for from her husband Elijah Morton.

Gabriel Lea's Will

Caswell County Court - October Term 1834 - Book M Page 433

In the name of God, Amen. I Gabriel Lea of Caswell County and State of North Carolina being of sound in perfect mind and memory blessed be God, do this 17thday November in the year of our Lord, Eighteen hundred and twenty-six, do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following:

That is to say I first will and bequeath to my beloved wife Elizabeth during her lifetime such property as she and mine son's William and James may think proper to appropriate to her for her maintenance and support.

2nd after the first appropriation is made as pointed out in the 1st clause. It is further my Will and desire that the whole of property and estate of every description whatsoever be divided and appropriated in the manner herein, after pointed out, To Wit:

I first will and bequeath to my son James that partial or part of my land of which he has made his improvements on so much there of as in here in specified here in to say, beginning at the corner near a large white oak at the east in of my peach orchard and running from there due north until it intersects William A. Lea's land. All my land east of said line be it more or less I will give and bequeath to him as in the article herein specified.

It is furthermore my Will and desire in the settlement of my estate that my daughter Mary Morton shall be charged with five hundred dollars as a part of my estate which she has already received that being the estimated value of the tract of land on which she now lives and for which I have made her husband Elijah Morton a deed to the same without having received any equivalent value for the same.

It is furthermore my Will and desire that the remainder of my estate of every description whatsoever be divided in the following manner To Wit:

I will and bequeath to my beloved children as follows:

To my son William two equal shares of my estate

To my son Vincent nothing saving my love and affection

To my son Gabriel B. one equal part

To my daughter Elizabeth one equal part

To my daughter Mary one equal part

To my son James one equal part

To my daughter Phoebe one equal part

To my daughter Barbara one equal part

Making in the whole eight parts, and I hereby make and ordain my son's William and James my executors this my last Will and Testament in witness where of I the said Gabriel Lea have to this my last Will and Testament have set my hand and seal this day and year above written.

In the presence of : Gabriel Lea (Signed)

James Darby

James M. Lea

Willis M. Lea

Transcribed by Latham Mark Phelps

In 1825 when the Racetrack opened north of Leasburg, Elijah Morton enjoyed regional fame for his five Arabian stallions known as “Morton's Bays.”According to Wiiliam S. Powell, who wrote a book on the history of Caswell County Elijah Morton also owned this Racetrack. He was also a Caswell District Patroler, meaning he chased down runaway slaves. In a December 1856 Court record he paid the Clerk 15.00 for old timbers from Love's Ford on Hyco. In October 1857 Elijah was a bondsman (witness) for William Lea as administrator for the estate of William Lea Jr. Along With Elijah was Solomon Lea also as bondsman. In October Court 1825 he was Administrator in account current with the estate of Martin Morton, deceased. (his brother) Caswell Co. Wills Book K Page 289.

Below is the Census listing for the household of Elijah Morton and Vincent Lea Morton in the year 1850


* REEL NO: M432-623 PAGE NO: 232b

REFERENCE: Enumerated on the 14th day of Nov. 1850 by Wm. P. Graves




13 881 884 Morton Elijah 62 M W Farmer 3,415 Caswell

14 881 884 Morton Mary 62 F W Caswell

15 881 884 Morton Phoeby 38 F W Caswell

16 882 885 Morton Vincent 26 M W Farmer 260 Caswell

17 882 885 Morton Isabella 16 F W Caswell

There is reference made to Elijah Morton in the List of Taxables in the Richmond District of Caswell County of 1838,the listing reads as follows:Elijah Morton 723 acres valued $2.75 per acre, total land value $1988.00. He also had 5 slaves and his tax that year was $5.49.

In the List of Taxables for the year 1863, his property was less in acreage, but substantially more valuable. However this being 25 years later and in the midst of the Civil War we see this listing:

Elijah Morton

530 acres--@9.00 per acre--$4770.00

63 acres--@15.00 per acre--$945.00

104 acres--@6.00 per acre---$624.00

25 Slaves valued at ----$15,702.00

His tax that year of 1863 was: $88.26 State Tax

$66.20 County Tax

$154.46 Total

As a point of historical reference, The Battle of Gettysburg took place in July 1863, the year of this Tax Listing. In the Census of 1860 of Caswell County, one year prior to the start of the Civil War, Elijah Morton is listed in the District of Milton. His wife Mary died the following year, three months after the beginning of the War Between the States. The household is listed as:

Elijah Morton---71-Male-Farmer

Mary Morton-----71-Female

V. Lea----------82-Male-Farmer

E. Love---------16-Female

A. Love---------11 or 14-Male

Value of Real Estate--------$10,100
Value of Personal Estate--$27,400.00

The V. Lea shown in the Census above was most probably Vincent Lea, Mary’s older brother and the Love children were grandchildren of Elijah and Mary, children of Maranda Morton who married John C. Love. Why they were living with Elijah and Mary is unknown at this time. Vincent Lea was elderly and probably alone as his wife had probably died and they had no children during their marriage and came to live with his sister.

Last Will of Elijah Morton

Caswell County Court 1875

I, Elijah Morton, being of sound mind and memory and calling to mind the uncertainty of Life do make publish and declare my last Will and Testament as follows:

My desire is that all just debts and funeral expenses be paid and all my other property, Money and estate be divided between my four children, Vincent L. Morton, Phoebe L. Stanfield, Maranda R. Love and Barbara Baynes I hereby appoint my son Vincent L. Morton my executor to this my Last Will and Testament.

Signed and acknowledged in the presence of this 21st day of January 1869.

William Paylor Jr. Elijah Morton (Signed)

A. W. Graves

Record of Wills Caswell County Page 173

Vincent L. Morton being sworn, doth say that Elijah Morton late of said county, is dead, Having first made and published his last Will and Testament and Vincent L. Morton is The executor named therein. Further that the property of the said Elijah Morton Consisting of Lands, Goods, Chattels, Bonds, and Monies, is worth $4000.00 so far As can be ascertained at the date of this application and this V. L. Morton, Phoebe L.Stanfield, Maranda R. Love and Barbara H. Baynes are the parties entitled under said Will to the said property.

V. L. Morton (Signed)

May 1875

G. H. Kerr

Probate Judge

Transcribed By: Latham Mark Phelps

Vincent Lea Morton--My 3rd Great-Grandfather

Vincent Lea Morton (son of Elijah) was born April 30th, 1823 in Caswell County, N.C. He married Isabella Frances Oliver (daughter of Rueben Oliver and Nancy Lea) December 4th , 1848 when Isabella was only 14 years old and remarkably would not only become a child bride of 14 but would go on to have 14 children as well.

Isabella’s father Rueben Oliver (son of Stephen Oliver) was killed by lightning while fishing on the banks of Country Line Creek in Caswell County in the summer of 1837. Rueben’s wife Nancy Lea Oliver after the estate was settled and her children provided for, re-married James Eli Murray of the Crossroads Church community in neighboring Orange County, present day Alamance County. The Oliver’s had come to Caswell County from Caroline County, Va. in the late 1700’s.

Isabella’s mother Nancy Lea was a daughter of James “ Jimmy Shoo-Boot” Lea and Frances “Frankey” Rucker. James “Shoo-Boot” Lea was a grandson of James “Country Line Lea” a pioneer settler in Caswell County as was James “Kilgore’s Branch” Lea (father of Gabriel Lea). In those days there so many James, William and John Leas that they needed another distinction to be able to tell them apart, thus the use of “Shoo-Boot”, “Country Line”, “ Kilgore’s Branch” etc. One of the most trying tasks for researchers of the Lea family is sorting out which James Lea you are related to. Luckily in my case I am related to both “Country Line” and “Kilgore’s Branch” James Leas.

Isabella’s grandmother Frances “Frankey” Rucker was a daughter of Ambrose Rucker and Mary Tinsley of Amherst County, Va. On their marriage bond James was called “James Lea, Batchelor of Caswell County” and Frances was called “Frances Rucker, Spinster of Amherst County.” The Rucker and Tinsley families were both prominent families in Colonial Virginia. The following is some information about “Frankey” Rucker’s father Ambrose Rucker and his two brothers Anthony and Benjamin Rucker, who invented a new kind of river transportation that even caught Thomas Jefferson’s attention.

Ambrose Rucker was born 13 April 1735 in Orange Co, VA and died 14 December 1807 in Amherst Co, VA. He served as Captain in the French and Indian War and the Revolution. He was a very influential citizen of Amherst Co, and was said to be 6'6" tall and weighed 300 pounds.

His brothers Anthony and Benjamin Rucker were inventors of the James River batteau, which superseded the double dugout canoe and rolling road for transporting tobacco hogsheads. Each hogshead weighed about two tons, and each bateau could haul an average of ten hogsheads. These long (about 50 or 60 feet), double-ended vessels dominated the commercial traffic on the James River and other Southern upland waterways between the 1770s and 1840s. A dispute arose in 1821 when the Rucker brothers' heirs sought to patent the design. A letter from Thomas Jefferson testifying to his presence at the first batteau's launch resolved the matter in the Rucker’s favor. There is now a batteau festival held each year on the James River to celebrate this invention.

Rucker's Chapel was one of the first Anglican (present-day Episcopal) churches in Amherst County. Also known as Harris Creek Church and later as St. Matthew's, the church was founded by Col. Ambrose Rucker before 1751. It stood on part of a 5850-acre tract his father, John Rucker, patented in 1745. The church served its congregation until 1817, when the members moved to Ascension Church, in Amherst. Logs from the chapel were later used to construct a corncrib at Sweet Briar College, two miles north.

1778 –Ambrose Rucker served as Sheriff of Amherst Co, VA


A Study of the James River Batteau

By Thomas D. Mackie

Director, Amherst County Historical Museum

In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, the inland rivers of Virginia and surrounding states teemed with graceful river boats known as Batteaux. Flat-bottomed and pointed at each end, these craft were the invention of two brothers from Amherst County, Virginia. Although nearly forgotten for over a century, the Batteau has been the object of revived interest in the 1980's.

The two Amherst Brothers credited with inventing the Batteau, Anthony and Benjamin Rucker, were part of a large, influential family in Amherst and Nelson Counties. Five Rucker brothers who settled in Amherst in the mid-18th Century became very active in the public life of the community. Benjamin Rucker was a lawyer, justice of the peace, trustee of Warminster Academy, a member of the Amherst County Committee of Safety, and a captain in the Revolutionary War. Anthony Rucker, the youngest brother, was also a Revolutionary War captain, as well as Amherst's Commissioner of Provision Law in 1781 and Tobacco Inspector in 1792.

The first Batteau was launched in April 1775. The primary purpose of this craft was to move tobacco, packed in hogsheads, down the James River and its tributaries to Richmond. The earliest known reference to the Batteau comes from Thomas Jefferson's account book, dated April 19, 1775. Jefferson had been at that first launching and forty-six years later was to witness the successful patenting of the Batteau by heirs of the Rucker’s.

The Lynchburg Virginian newspaper disputed the patent, issued on April 3, 1821. It was thought that the Batteau was too common a craft to have been developed from a single source. By August of that same year, however, the editors of the Virginian retracted their attacks and stated their belief in the Rucker’s' patent claim:

When we first heard that such a patent had been obtained, we were also inclined to the belief that it had been granted improvidently either from inattention on the part of the keeper, or some defect in the laws on the subject of Patent rights Nevertheless, when we came to inquire more particularly into the circumstances under which the Messrs. Rucker’s, claim the privilege of Patentees . . . (t)here can be no doubt, that Anthony Rucker the Elder, was the original inventor and constructor of the James River Batteau, and that it was a species of boat essentially different from any before that time used on the waters of America.

The article goes on to state that Thomas Jefferson, who had been in attendance at the original launching, would be willing to testify to the Rucker’s claims. Anthony Rucker is named and is given sole credit for the Batteau, but in Deed Book "P" at the Amherst County Courthouse, dated November 23, 1821, is a document according equal credit to Benjamin and Anthony Rucker.

While the primary historical sources clearly reveal the identity and importance of the inventors of the Bateau, only scant detail is given regarding the design of the craft. Thomas Jefferson made notes in his account book describing this new river boat in 1775: "Rucker's battoe is 50 f. long 4 f. wide in the bottom & 6 f. wide at the top. she carries ll.hhds. & draws 13 ½ water." Twenty years later, Isaac Wald described these boats as "from forty-eight to fifty-four feet long, but very narrow in proportion to their length.

Another major source of contemporary references to the Bateau is the Calendar of Virginia State Papers, a collection of military and civilian correspondence dating from the 17th to early 19th Centuries. Although there is no direct description of a Bateau in these papers, they do give a fairly clear picture of the boat's uses. One 1780 letter records, “ The commandant at Pittsburg has. informed me that there was about 50 Light Batteaux at Fort Pitt, which might be had by an order from the War Board I think it (Bateau) is much better calculated for these rivers than barges, as they run over shoals where a keeled vessel must be carried.”

According to this letter, five years after the Rucker’s' launching, boats called Batteaux were used in numbers on shallow rivers in the North. They were not a keeled vessel but flat, to enable them to "run over shoals". Several references in the Calendar of Virginia State Papers highlight the construction and use of Batteaux by the Continental Army. Batteaux were used to move troops, munitions and supplies on the shallow inland rivers during the Revolutionary War. They were carefully built craft as they were often mentioned as being built by a boat builder or "ship's carpenter." This evidence infers that the crafts known as "James River Batteaux" were strong, shallow-drafted vessels. They were a valuable military asset and were considered a major loss if captured by the enemy.

Another military communication mentions that two Batteaux left Kaskaskia on November 15, 1779. They carried twelve men and "three or four" families west toward the Ohio Falls. From this we observe that both cargo and significant numbers of passengers were sometimes transported long distances on the inland river system by means of Batteaux. Unfortunately for settlers, the boats apparently appealed to Indians as well, for this particular group suffered an attack along their voyage. One of the Batteaux was seized and its crew killed. During more peaceful periods, the Batteau was described by travelers and scholars along the James River. The earliest illustration of a boat believed to be a Bateau is in a book about the tobacco trade, written by William Tathams in 1800. The boat is labeled with the vague term "upland boat." Tathams states that "there are a number of boats (similar to those upon the Grand Trunk Canal) which carry on this business professionally."

A first-hand description of a Batteau and Batteau life, is given by Porte Crayon (David Strother) in Virginia Illustrated. While visiting Lynchburg in the 1850's Crayon reminisced about his Batteau journey twenty years earlier. During the narration of his adventures he described the Bateau as gliding down the current controlled by three men who "poled their batteau through the shallows, or bent to the sweeps on the long stretches of still water." (11) His sketches show the Batteaux with rounded bows coming to a peak and tall arched awnings covering the center of the boats. The oars in the sketch on page 231 indicate that the bateau was at times rowed.

Another noted traveler, Mrs. Ann Royal was impressed by the freight boats (Batteaux) at Lynchburg and their ability to carry heavy hogsheads on shallow waters. After some questioning Mrs. Royal was told that each hogshead weighed 1500 pounds and that a Bateau could transport 9000 pounds of cargo or more, depending on river conditions. (12) During this time (1820-1840), there were at least 500 Batteaux and more than 1500 Batteaumen operating between Lynchburg and Richmond alone. (13)

The primary sources describing the Batteaux decline sharply after the 1840's, when the James & Kanawha River Canal reached Lynchburg. When David Strother was in Lynchburg in the 1850's he bemoaned the loss of the "picturesque". "There are no boats on the river now… This cursed canal has monopolized all that trade, I suppose." (14) Apparently with the coming of the packet boat and rail the Batteaux were relegated to the backwaters and continued to fade from use. Eventually even the appearance of the Batteau, once commonplace, was forgotten.

The reproduction Batteaux of the 1980's have begun to illustrate one aspect of Virginia's heritage and to stimulate a popular interest in its River culture. Though the era of the famed James River Bateau is past, it is once more being remembered and celebrated.

Isabella Oliver Morton’s great-grandmother Mary Tinsley, came from another influential family of Virginia. Mary Tinsley’s parents were Edward Tinsley and Margaret Taylor. The Taylor’s and their descendants were yet another prominent Virginia family. Margaret’s father Col. James Taylor II was great-grandfather to two American presidents, James Madison and Zachary Taylor. Margaret’s sister Frances Taylor married Ambrose Madison, grandfather of President James Madison. Margaret’s brother Zachary Taylor, was grandfather to President Zachary Taylor. President Zachary Taylor’s daughter Sarah Knox Taylor was the first wife of Jefferson Finis Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

Children of Vincent Lea Morton and Isabella Frances Oliver are:

1) James Monroe Morton, b. 02 Sep 1850, d. 19 Jul 1924 married. Cannie Elizabeth Blackwell b.

1888, Caswell County NC d. 1909 Married 18 May 1905, Caswell County NC

James Monroe and Cannie were my Great-Grandparents

2) Quinn Eli Morton, b. 16 Apr 1852, Caswell County NC; d. 27 Mar 1920

Quinn Eli Morton was a Commissioner of Person County, N.C.

3) Mary Ann "Nannie" Morton, b. 21 Feb 1854, Caswell County N.C. d. 28 Oct 1938, Caswell County NC; m. Thomas Josiah Stephens, 19 Dec 1878, Caswell county NC; b. 22 Jun 1846; d. 07 Feb 1893.

Nannie Morton and Thomas Stephens had a daughter named Annie who married George W. Trollinger. She was called by my mother’s family “Cousin Annie Trollinger” and dearly beloved by the family. My mother and aunt have told me stories about how “Cousin Annie” used to take them with her to the mountains of North Carolina to visit her daughter-in-law who had remarried a gentleman that owned some diamond mines and was apparently wealthy. They would be furnished with a car and driver the whole time and had some wonderful adventures during their stays there. “Cousin Annie” was adamant that the young girls were properly attired and on their best behavior whenever they traveled with her. I was told that if the proper shoes, dresses, hats, etc. were not available that she would provide them. Even when not traveling she would admonish my grandmother if their dresses weren’t properly pressed or their hair not properly kempt. Fittingly my mother is buried between “Cousin Annie” and her parents Perry and Hattie Belle at Union United Methodist Church in Leasburg, N.C.

4) Eugenia "Jenny" Demarius Morton, b. 28 Jul 1856, Caswell County NC; m. (1) David Wells; m. (2) -------- Smith.

5) David Lea "Cap" Morton, b. 27 Sep 1858, Caswell County NC; m. Ida Scott.

6) William Elijah "Uncle Will" Morton, b. 11 Oct 1860, Caswell County NC; d. 10 Aug 1912; m. FannieWagstaff.

William and Fannie had a daughter named Mae who married Thee Hester Sr. “Cousin” Mae had beautiful flowers and a large Japanese pool with large golden Japanese Carp fish. She also had a house out back where she raised Guinea Pigs. I don’t know why but I loved to go out there as a child and play with them. Margie Monk Thomas, a granddaughter of Glendora Belle Morton, relayed this story to me. My mother and my aunts also told me of going with their mother Hattie Belle Morton Lunsford to visit their Hester cousins when they were children. There is a road in present day Person County, NC just over the Caswell County line called “Thee Hester Road”

7) Lizzie Polly Morton, b. 03 Dec 1862, Caswell County NC; m. ------- Paylor.

8) Lula Phebe Morton, b. 01 Feb 1865, Caswell County NC; m. Oscar Vanhook

9) John Alvis Morton, b. 16 Apr 1867, Caswell County NC; d. 04 Sep 1932.

10) Emma Caroline "Kattie" Morton, b. 26 Jun 1869, Caswell County NC; m. John Murray.

11) Edward Vincent Morton, b. 06 Oct 1871, Caswell County NC; d. 28 Aug 1937; m. Sally Winstead.

12) Charles Wheeler Morton, b. 20 Oct 1873, Caswell County NC; d. 23 Dec 1912.

Wheeler Morton died from a wound received while cutting mutton, he bled to death later after falling down some steps and re-opening the wound.

13) Glendora Belle "Glennie" Morton, b. 29 Mar 1878, Caswell County NC; d. 1943; m. Nathaniel Harris.

14) Rosa Matilda Morton, b. 30 Jun 1881, Caswell County NC; d. 06 Feb 1887.

Rosa on her first day at school fell into a large open fireplace at the schoolhouse and burned to death. She was brought home wrapped in a sheet. This story was told to me by my grandmother Hattie Belle Morton and confirmed by Margie Monk Thomas, a granddaughter of Glendora Belle Morton. This must have been a tragic occurrence for the whole family to lose their baby daughter in such a way.

In 1869 Vincent was deeded by his father Elijah 500 acres of land with the consideration to support and

Maintain Elijah. As Vincent was the only living son this was a common practice to deed over the family lands

before one’s death and to be cared for by the family after that. At the time of this deed Vincent and Isabella were

expecting the 10th of their 14 children

Elijah Morton to Vincent L. Morton

January 21st, 1869

Caswell County, North Carolina

State of North Carolina Caswell County

This Indenture made and _______this the 21st day of January 1869. Witnesseth that for and in consideration the natural love and affection which Elijah Morton bears his Son Vincent L. Morton and for and in consideration of a bond executed and delivered by said Vincent L. Morton to support and maintain the said Elijah Morton and for other good causes and considerations the said Elijah Morton hath given granted bargained Sold & delivered to the said Vincent L. Morton his heirs and assigns the tract of land whereon he the said Elijah Morton now lives containing five hundred 500 acres more or less adjoining the lands of John S., Wm. Peterson, William______and others to have and to hold the Said tract of land to the only proper use & behoof of the said Vincent L. Morton his heirs and assigns forever.

Elijah Morton *Seal*


Wm. Paylor Jr.

A.W. Garner

Elijah’s wife Mary Lea Morton, had died in 1861 and the Civil War had taken it’s toll on Caswell County’s

Property owner’s and their families. Many sons, fathers, and brothers never returned to the homes and fields of

Caswell, putting yet another hardship on the widows and families left without the head of the family to provide

for their needs and help raise the children. By this time the Scalawags and Carpetbaggers from the North were

firmly in control of local politics and were ready to reap the victor’s spoils wherever they could. The Confederate

soldiers who did manage to return home found it hard to be under the heel of the Union Army and their

appointed officials, The Union League that were now controlling Caswell County.

Vincent’s wife Isabella Frances Oliver’s family were heavily involved in the clandestine resistance to the Union

Army’s being there along with their northern sympathizers. Two of Isabella’s cousins John G. Lea and James T.

(Tom) Oliver were intimately involved in the now infamous murder of Senator John “Chicken” Stephens in the

Caswell County Courthouse in 1870. John G. Lea and Tom Oliver were both Confederate veterans and had no

love for the Union. John G. Lea organized and became the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Caswell County and

Tom Oliver actually delivered the Killing blows to John “Chicken” Stephens. This was an unsolved murder for

65 years until the sealed confession as well as account of the murder, written by John G. Lea and opened after his

death when he was in his 90’s.

The Murder of “Chicken” Stephens and Confession of John G. Lea

The Confession of John G. Lea as to his involvement in the murder of John “Chicken” Stephens at the Caswell Court House just after the Civil War. John G. Lea was the son of Thomas L. Lea(former Sheriff of Caswell County), the grandson of John “Canebrake” Lea, The great grandson of John “Country Line” Lea, the great-great grandson of James “Country Line” Lea, and my 2nd Cousin 4 times removed. Alas, another 2nd cousin of mine was the one who actually delivered the killing blows—James Thomas Oliver, son of Lindsay Oliver, grandson of Durette Oliver (brother of Reuben Oliver-my 3rd great-grandfather),with Durette and Rueben being great-grandsons of Stephen Oliver. James Thomas Oliver and John G. Lea both served in the Civil War from Caswell County. Tom Oliver was in the same unit, the 6thRegiment Company H “The Caswell Boys” as was Payton L. Lunsford and Joseph R. Lunsford my 2nd great-grandfather and 2nd great granduncle respectively

Latham Mark Phelps--2005

The North Carolina Historical Commission








July 2, 1919.

At the request of the North Carolina Historical Commission, I have written the true story of the events of the Reconstruction Period in this State, which centered mainly at Yanceyville in Caswell County, where the killing of the notorious, John W. Stevens,* took place in the courthouse. I have given all the facts of which I have full knowledge as a participant in the stirring events of that time.

(Signed) John G. Lea

Witness to the reading of the story and to this signature

(Signed) Fred. A. Olds

*(Note: Last name usually spelled S‑t‑e‑p‑h‑e‑n‑s. JDW)




Immediately after the surrender of General Lee, in April, 1865, a bummer named Albion W. Tourgee, of New York, from Sherman's army came to Caswell County and organized a Union League, and they were drilling every night and beating the drums, and he made many speeches telling the negroes that he was sent by the government and that he would see that they got forty acres of land. He succeeded in getting J. W. *Stevens and Jim Jones appointed justices of the peace of Caswell County and they annoyed the farmers very much by holding court every day, persuading the darkies to warrant the farmer, &c Stevens was run out of Rockingham County for stealing a chicken. *(Other records show his name, spelled Stephens. JDW)

The first trial that Jim Jones had, a negro stole Captain Mitchell's hog. He was caught cleaning the hog by Mitchell's son and by a darky whose name was Paul McGee. He was carried before Jones and Jones turned him loose and said he had been appointed by Governor Holden to protect the negro and he intended to do it. Soon thereafter I formed the Ku Klux Klan and was elected county organizer. I organized a den in every township in the county and the Ku Klux whipped Jones and drove him out of the county.

J. W. Stevens burned the hotel in Yanceyville and a row of brick stores. He also burned Gen. William Lee's entire crop of tobacco, and Mr. Sam Hinton's crop. Ed. Slade, a darky, told that he burned the barn of tobacco by an order of Stevens and another darky told about his burning the hotel, also by an order. Stevens was tried by the Ku Klux Klan and sentenced to death. He had a fair trial before a jury of twelve men. At a democratic convention he approached ex‑sheriff Wiley and tried to get him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff. Wiley said he would let him know that day. He came to me and informed me of that fact and suggested that he would fool him into that room in which he was killed He did so and ten or twelve men went into the room and he was found dead next morning


A democratic convention was in session in the court room on the second floor of the courthouse in Yanceyville, to nominate county officers and members of the Legislature. Mr. Wiley, who was in the convention, brought Stevens down to a rear room on the ground floor, then used for the storage of wood for the courthouse. I had ordered all the Ku Klux Klan in the county to meet at Yanceyville that day, with their uniforms under their saddles, and they were present. Mr. Wiley came to me and suggested that it would be a better plan, as Stevens had approached him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff and he had told him that he would let him know that day, to fool him down stairs, and so just before the convention closed, Wiley beckoned to Stevens and carried him down stairs, and Captain Mitchell, James Denny and Joe Fowler went into the room and Wiley came out. Mitchell proceeded to disarm him (he had three pistols on his body). He soon came out and left Jim Denny with a pistol at his head and went to Wiley and told him that he couldn't kill him himself. Wiley came to me and said, "You must do something; I am exposed unless you do."

Immediately I rushed into the room with eight or ten men, found him sitting flat on the floor. He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood‑pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek.

I may add that it was currently believed that Stevens murdered his mother while living with him. Stevens kept his house, within sight of the courthouse and now standing, in a state of war all the time with doors and windows barred with iron bars and a regular armory with a large supply of ammunition.

Col. A. K. McClure of Philadelphia, Pa., came to Yanceyville. He was for Horace Greeley against Grant. Wilson Cary, a colored man, better known as the "Archives of Gravity," replied to Col. McClure and said that Senator Stevens, who had been elected to the State Senate by the negroes, stole a chicken and was sent to the State Senate and if he would steal a gobbler he would be sent to Congress, and you could have heard the negroes yell for miles around and there were at least 2000 negroes present.

The first state election we had in North Carolina, when Gov. Holden was elected, we had a 2800 negro majority. The Freedmen's Bureau Agent from Michigan, Captain Dawes, came down to take charge of the election. I carried him down home with me. He and I fought each other in the Civil war. I carried him out fox hunting and had a beautiful chase, and on the day of the election he came to me and said that he was sent to carry the election by the government and if it was found out on him he would be courtmartialed and possibly shot. He told me where he put the ballot box, so I worked on the ballot box until twelve o'clock at night and then rode to Locust Hill, nine miles distant, and counted until day, and we elected a ticket by twenty‑seven votes. Caswell's bonds stood at par, while Person and Rockingham, adjoining counties, went down to five and six dollars. They went Republican.


To show the feeling, I may say, at the first State election after the War, in 1866, Tom Lea, colored, voted the democratic ticket. A great mob of negroes gathered in Yanceyville and we learned that they had seized him. There were hundreds in the mob, and when we came up we found that they had Tom on a rail and were carrying him around, singing and shouting as they went. With me were Sheriff Griffith, Thos. L. Lea and Weldon Price. We rushed upon the crowd and the sheriff struck several of the mob and knocked them down and we took Tom from them, unhurt.

Governor Holden was born in Caswell County and knew the situation. That was why he was so prejudiced against the county. He declared martial law and had every prominent citizen arrested by a regiment of cutthroats, who could neither read nor write, from western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, commanded by Col. Geor. W. Kirk. Col George Williamson got a writ of habeas corpus from Judge Mitchell of Salisbury but Col. Kirk and Governor Holden did not obey it. He then went to Chief Justice Pearson, with the same result. I then came to Raleigh with Col. Williamson and saw General Matt. W. Ransom and told him of our troubles and he said that he would go that night to Elizabeth City and see Judge Brooks, U.S. District Judge. He issued the writ, and we went back to Danville. Captain Graves and Col. Williamson served the writ. Lt. Colonel Burgin of Kirk's regiment told Col. Williamson that if he ever put his foot in Yanceyville again he would shoot his head off.

They failed to arrest me on the day of the general arrest, so I went home and the next day they came and arrested me and brought me to Raleigh. Major Yates came to my house with ten or twelve men and when he came to the house I was lying down, asleep. It was raining and my sisters came running into the house and told me there was a crowd of Kirk's men out in the yard. I rushed to a drawer and got my pistols, but my sister grabbed me and told me not to go out in the yard, nor to try to use my pistols. The major came to the door and said: "I came to arrest you and take you to Raleigh as a witness." I said, "By what authority do you make this arrest?" and he said, "by authority of the Governor of the State." I told him that I could not walk to Yanceyville, seven miles distant. He told me to have my horse sent up to the church that he had more prisoners up there. When I arrived at the church Lil Graves, a colored man, said: "Mars' John, I didn't bring them. "They made me come. They have sent Mars' Nat on." They sent me with one man, a youth of 24, with a rifle slung at his back, on an old horse twenty‑four years old belonging to Dr. Garner, while I was on my speedy fox hunting mare, I could have made my escape easily but on account of my younger brother I thought it best for me to go.

When I got to Yanceyville, to my surprise I found my brother in great glee, laughing. I asked him what was the matter. He said that a threshing machine had just come into town and Kirk's men thought it was a cannon and they rushed into the courthouse and grabbed their guns. The soldier that carried me begged me all the way to Yanceyville not to let anybody shoot him. He also asked me to let him get behind me. He then unslung his gun and we went into the town. This guard begged me to let him come to my house and work for me, saying he did not expect to find so many kind people and that he would be glad to live in the neighborhood; that he had been brought down from the mountains, not knowing where he was going nor what he was to do, or what sort of people he would be among. When Kirk's men arrived in Yanceyville, Old Aunt Millie Lee was selling ice cream at the courthouse. It was the first they had ever seen and several of them said, "Ain't this the best frozen victuals you ever tasted?"

A man by the name of John Spellman, editor of a Raleigh paper, went to Governor Holden and had me released on my own recognizance. I then went over to the hotel at Raleigh and found Judge Kerr, Col. Williamson, Sam Hill and others. Judge Kerr advised me to take the first train out and go to Arkansas, saying if I stayed here they would hang me. I told him that I had two uncles living near Little Rock, Ark., who came to my father's every summer and they looked so much like a corpse that I was like General Grant, "I believe I had rather be hung here than die of slow fever in Arkansas." So the next day they arrested Capt. Mitchell, Sheriff Wiley, Felix Roan and myself and tried us before the Supreme judges, Dick, Settle and Pearson. The trial lasted for a week. Ex‑Governor Bragg and Judge Battle defended us. Bailey and Badger prosecuted and they never did prove that there was a Ku Klux Klan in Caswell County.

The day that Kirk arrived in Yanceyville I went to Judge Bowe and said to him that there were enough ex‑Confederate soldiers there to whip Kirk's regiment and Judge Bowe said that that would never do, that we had better go into the court room, where the candidates were speaking. We went and he took his seat inside the bar. I sat down behind him. Col Kirk marched his men, four abreast, up the steps. He walked in front of Bowe and asked if this was Bowe. Bowe told him it was. He said "I arrest you." Judge Bowe asked him by what authority. With an oath he shook his pistol at him and said, "By this," whereupon Judge Bowe shoved him back and told him that was no order. I had a large hickory stick in my hand. I raised the stick to hit him, when Tobe Williamson caught it and kept me from striking him, and you had better believe I was glad he did. I left Yanceyville that evening and went over to Danville and got the writ of habeas corpus as above stated.

The day I was arrested I was carried to Yanceyville and all the prisoners had been sent over to Graham except a few from Alamance who had confessed being Ku Klux. I was carried over to Graham the next day and all the other Caswell boys started to Raleigh next morning. Late that afternoon Judge James Boyd, United States Judge, came and asked me how I would like to take a walk; that he had permission to take me out provided I would agree to come back. I agreed, so we walked awhile, finally coming to his house. He asked me to have a seat on the porch. In a few minutes the bell rang for supper. I told him I had plenty to eat at the courthouse, that my friends had sent it to me, Mr. Banks Holt and others, but he insisted on my taking a warm supper and as soon as we finished eating he said to me,

"Lea, I was a Ku Klux. I have disgraced myself and my little wife." I asked him how. "I turned State's evidence." Why did you do it? He replied "Moral cowardice. When Kirk's men hung Murray up by the neck and they let him down he was apparently dead (he lived 20 year after this, but really died from the effects of this injury), they then came to me and put the rope around my neck and I wilted." He and his young wife both cried like a baby and Boyd said, "Lea, I will never expose you. I know you are the county commander in Caswell." I said, "Oh no, there are a great many Leas in Caswell; I am not the one."

The day the arrest was made in Yanceyville, late that afternoon, Lt. Col. Burgin with eight men went down after ex‑sheriff Wiley, nine miles from Yanceyville; went in his tobacco field where he was standing and told him they had come to arrest him. He asked them by what authority. Burgin shook his pistol at him and said, with an oath, "This is my authority. His men rushed on Wiley, who knocked down seven of the, but one slipped up behind him with a fence rail and knocked him down; they then put Wiley on a horse, bare­ back, tied his feet to the horse and whipped him nearly all the way to Yanceyville. The blood flowed freely, he being in his shirt sleeves. Burgin told me that Wiley was the bravest man he ever saw. When they arrived in Yanceyville, that afternoon, Burgin took him into a room in the courthouse, ordered his men to draw their guns on him, and told him that if he did not tell who killed Stevens they would kill him. With his head straight as could be, he opened his coat, slapped his chest and dared them to shoot.

The night I reached Graham they put Sheriff Wiley and Josiah Turner in jail with a crazy negro who hollered all night long. They didn't sleep a wink. Next morning they were taken out to go to Raleigh and Mr. Turner kept repeating that the powers of the judiciary were exhausted and Col. Kirk told him to shut his mouth. He then flapped his arms and crowed like a rooster and said, ""Well, I reckon I can crow." Kirk then said, "Hush up that, fool" The militia detachment were terribly frightened, thinking that they would be attacked in Durham. They closed all the windows and barred all the doors.

The night after Jones was whipped the Ku Klux went up to see if he had moved, having been ordered to do so. There were three very worthy darkies living in the neighborhood, named Stephen Taylor, William Garland and Frank Chandler. They were carried up to the graveyard by the Ku Klux, where we had left our horses. I walked through the graveyard, placed my hands on Will's naked shoulder and it nearly scared him to death. He shook all over. The next day Will came by my house and Capt. Graves, my brother‑in‑law, asked him where he was going. Will said, "Lordy, Mars' Billy, I'm going across the creek." "What's the matter, Billy?" asked Capt. Graves. "Dem things got me last night. They were as tall as the eaves of this house. I knows they came out of the graves, for I saw them with my own eyes and one came up and put his hand on my shoulder and his hands chilled me clean through. "

While I and the three others referred to were being tried before the Supreme Court, on the lower floor of the Capitol, on the bench warrant issued for us, the trial of the prisoners from Caswell County taken by the writ of Judge Brooks, which was the third writ, was being held in the Senate Chamber, directly over us. Our case was dismissed and we left at once for home. They had a great demonstration in Raleigh. There was a street Parade, cannon were fired, tar barrels burned and speeches by a great many prominent men were made. Judge Kerr's speech created great excitement and enthusiasm. Only Wiley and Josiah Turner went to jail. When I reached home, Sheriff Griffith, who had been a prisoner, came and summonsed me to go with him and we ordered the heads of the Union League of America to leave the county within twenty‑four hours and they did so without exception, going to Danville.

As one can see this gives a first hand account of the Reconstruction period in Caswell County and what many of it’s citizens faced on a daily basis. Even though some could not consider the actions taken a noble act, the majority of the inhabitants of Caswell County probably felt it was entirely justified at the time.

Now that you’ve read the true story from the lips of the person who knew the actual details of the murder, the following article from The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1934, a year before John G. Lea died and the truth story revealed.

Richmond Times-Dispatch October 21st 1934

Who Were the Killers of John Stephens?
Danville Nonagenarian May Be Last Living Witness
Of Execution of Yanceyville's Public Enemy
No. 1 in Stirring Days of Reconstruction
By Gerard Tetley

A gentleman of the old Southern school who a few months ago entered his ninety-second birthday sat in a chair by his bedside in Danville the other day and slowly but deliberately combed his memory for vivid events in the era of Reconstruction. It was a mental game of chess in which the aged Confederate veteran, now frail of limb but firm in purpose, resisted a reportorial onslaught for hitherto unwritten facts, more especially the long protected details concerning the assassination of John W. Stephens at Yanceyville, N. C., which played an important part in the future of North Carolina and Virginia history and of which, there is good reason to believe the now aged man is the last living witness.

The man was Captain John Lea who for 60 years has kept the pledge he made in youthful days when, as the accepted leader of the Invisible Empire of Caswell County, he risked his life with other bold spirits to combat Negro supremacy, and embarked on a course which brought the country into a state of insurrection and, finally, the impeachment of a governor who imposed humiliation on a free people until they cowed him by the strength of their defiance.

It was a curious interview, with knowledge of the part of the younger man that within the scope of the Confederate's telling repose the true facts of an important chapter in Carolina history--so far told only with broad reliance on insinuation and a chapter so clothed with fallacious legend as to raise historic doubts concerning all but the main elements of an expedient homicide.

Captain Lea was conscious of all this and , if frail of body and with no illusions as to the security of life, an admirable mental poise brought Queens and Pawns to check openings to the recess of his mind whence could emanate the real truth of the Stephens episode. Here and there he shed a touch of color to illuminate the factual record of the putting to death of a man deemed a public enemy in his day, and he would approach the very essence of the fateful hour in which history was written in blood, and then veer away from it with all the wiles of a diplomat.

* * *

But, if unassailable in an interview, Captain Lea let it be known that eventually the full story will be told, but not so long as any member of the band which did away with John Stephens is living. He does not admit that he was present, but there is abundant reason to believe that he was, since only 10 years ago he went to Raleigh and admits making a "deposition" to State authorities, carefully surrounded by safeguards. This will tell the story of what actually happened, without admitting any names and preserving the bond of brotherhood on which rested the security of the Ku Klux Klan during the days when it performed real and essential service to the Southland and when it was not blemished by the alleged inferior ideal of bigotry to which it descended in imitatory latter day phases. The fact that this deposition exists and is surrounded by pledges of security gives it unusual status in that it promises to fill out the present uncertain record of the times, will dissipate legend and constitute an important chronicle.

Nothing is known precisely about the circumstances surrounding the death of Stephens. On only one point is there agreement, that seven men saw him come to his end privately, expeditiously, within the walls of the temple of justice itself.

De Roulhac Hamilton, North Carolina's learned historian attributes it unquestionably to the Klan and the broad suspicion deepens with the realization that Captain Lea, who knows more than he cares to tell, has been historically recorded as the head of the Caswell Den, as it was called. Some, however, have contended that Masons did away with Stephens and others that a group of white men decided to rid the state of him in a political emergency, which afforded the opportunity and one taken only with courage.

* * *

Southern loyalty has never deprecated the acts of violence which were committed in the name of the people which, after losing the war at untold cost of physical suffering and mental anguish was subjected to the tortures of a Reconstruction by the agents of the Republican party who lacked understanding of southern ideals and who practiced a vicious punishment not only through the reviling but by robbing them of the security of the courts.

The picture in Caswell County during the spring of 1870 was dark and ominous. Governor W. W. Holden's administration was in full swing--a regime marked chiefly by efforts to remove the last vestige of power from the white Democrats. The elections were coming on and it was important that the liberated Negro vote be effectively allied with that of the Republicans, in order that the position of that party could be entrenched throughout the State.

The situation was very much what "The Birth of the Nation" and the works of Thomas Dixon have proclaimed it to be. The Union League, which had been founded in 1860 was assuming more and more executive functions. Men of courage but of small scruple were chiefly in demand, to mingle with the Negroes, to animate them with political ambition and to whip them into active participation as new American citizens.

Caswell had suffered from the activities of these men and chief among them was John W. Stephens, generally understood to be acting in detective capacity for Governor Holden in a county, which, like Alamance, was less responsive to Republican blandishments than had been hoped.

His background has never been adequately treated. Captain Lea recalls that he was a native of Rockingham County, formerly a farmer, of doubtful political faith, and not above stealing chickens--witness the fact that he was known through the section as "Chicken" Stephens.

* * *

To Yanceyville came this man armed with an arrogance born of the mandate he bore from the Governor of the State. He came preaching a policy of violence among the Negroes, instilling into the doctrine that they were equal to the white race and were accorded the same privileges. Once, he gave to each of 20 Negroes a box of matches, a rarity in those days, and bade them go abroad firing barns. Nine were burned that night--one instance in policy of attempted white intimidation.

The Caswell Ku Klux came into being when Negro suffrage and its ultimate effect were seen to be inevitable, in 1866, and gained strides so rapidly that during most of the Holden regime it plagued him, finally causing him to take the step to suppress it which led to his political downfall and impeachment. When the activities of Stephens had reached their zenith and when it was realized that this man was exerting a subversive influence on Negroes who were being cajoled or threatened to perform the duties of citizenship which few of them wished to enjoy, he became the special subject of Klan consideration.

Whether this is legend or truth cannot be said, but a cross was burned one night in the Clan Convocation ground, a spot overlooking Country Line Creek, not far from Yanceyville at which the solemn determination was reached that Stephens, thrice warned to leave the county only to bring hot diatribes from him, must be removed for the benefit of white women's virtue specially, and the welfare of the county citizenship generally. His fate was sealed, so the story goes (Captain Lea does not vouchsafe endorsement but smiles on hearing it), the fiery cross burned low and it was left to picked leaders to determine the means of his end.

* * *

The crucial date was May 21, 1870, with the campaign for the August election already in full swing and with a steadily mounting tide of vitriolic campaign oratory. Conservative Republican candidates were exhorting the Negroes to stand by the party that had liberated them. Democrats accepted the challenge and called on the real bulwarks of the county constituency to meet the race menace while some of them warned the colored people against self-evident exploitation, urging them to stay with those who best understood them.

Yanceyville was little different in that day to what it is today. The courthouse today is the same, a substantial stone two-story structure faced by a large public quadrangle where, on that day, was gathered a multitude of people fully conscious of the dangerous currents of thought propelling Democrats to a realization that only through desperate measures could white supremacy be maintained. Negroes, under the extravagant promises of the white Northern carpetbaggers, or renegade Democrats, were being spurred to unaccustomed liberties designed to establish the feeling of citizenship. The air was full of pending trouble that May day. Governor Holden was uttering sharp threats of punishment toward the Klan for numerous whippings. Only a few weeks previously Caswell had been electrified by the action of Frank Wiley, a retired Democratic sheriff, who had called Stephens a "damned chicken thief" to his face, when the latter he charged had sought to seduce him from his political faith by offering him Republican support if he would run on the Republican ticket.

Midday came. White men and Negroes mounted the curving staircase to the high pitched courtroom with its fluted ceiling, its high judicial rostrum and the pewlike benches of the day. The spellbinders in their long coats and wearing their thin black ties gathered with supporters on separate sides and exchanged thin smiles of forced cordiality.

Judge John Kerr was speaking as a preliminary and below him seated on the floor of the rostrum was Stephens, taking copious notes. He was not to speak but, was to prepare a special report of things said, to be forwarded to Governor Holden.

The name of the messenger who worked his way to the front of the courtroom has escaped memory at this late day, but he whispered to Stephens that Wiley wished to confer with him on an important matter downstairs. Stephens, sensing compromise and strategic advantage stuffed his papers into his pockets and followed the messenger out of the courtroom and down the steps. The building was filled with Negroes. Some of them were boasting loudly of their new day while white Democrats in grim silence listed taxes for the privilege of casting a vote they felt would be stolen from them.

* * *

There can be small doubt that the whole enterprise, even though swiftly determined upon, had been carefully rehearsed, for in the long corridor were Klansmen who, on hearing the first outcry from Stephens, were suddenly to become embroiled among themselves. It was to be a noisy fight among good Democrats with heavy imprecations to drown the sound of the business on foot.

Stephens was never aware of the plot until he reached the chamber that was to be the scene of his execution. As the door opened, he was conscious that he was surrounded by seven strange men who were crowding him and in the press he felt the significant thrust of blunt metal about his body, and he was hustled into the room, to outsiders as though in the midst of a group of urgent conferees. The room itself was not being used and in it was a quantity of lumber and other equipment in storage.

There are two versions of the killing, the accepted records holding that Stephens was at once told that he must die and that unless he held his peace it would be immediate. He was swiftly gagged and bound, his body being rolled behind a pile of lumber so as to be beyond the range of vision of a window, slightly above head level on the south side of the building. Three seven-shooters were removed from convenient holsters underneath his coat and thus helpless he remained under the trained revolver of a guard who also secreted himself. The other six men left the room within a few moments.

To pursue this version further, one must believe that the plot for Stephens' assassination provided for his hanging at midnight from a tree limb in the public square, his swinging form to be a silent gesture of Democratic contempt for his activities and defiance to the master he represented, but, the plan was changed for within a few minutes the same six men retraced their steps, re-entered the room and charged Stephens formally with the sins attributed to him. He was garroted without delay by a rope, a sharp blade found his throat and another penetrated his heart. Who the executioner was for half a century has been a speculative subject. The six who have died never revealed him, nor has any confession been recorded.

* * *

The other story--and this comes from traditional testimony--is slightly different. Stephens, on being shown the open door, pulled back against his captors but a flying noose caught his neck in the doorway and before a cry could be uttered his body was hurled over the pile of lumber where his neck was broken, his throat being immediately cut.

Authors of the deed slipped out one by one and the door was locked. Tradition has it that the key was taken to Country Line Creek and dropped in the stream.

Stephens was not missed for hours. Vigorous oratory swept the crowd upstairs to foot stamping or derisive cries and Stephens' absence was not material for he was mysterious in his goings and comings. But after the public speaking, certain Republican leaders had important business with the Governor's factotum and he was hunted high and low. Foul play was not suspected, for Stephens had been seen during the speaking among a great crowd a majority of whom were his Negro acolytes who fawned on him for promised favors. It is a matter of dispute if Stephens had a stalwart bodyguard since the warning reached him to leave the county. Captain Lea says that this was not the case, because Stephens with his strong and rugged face was a man of personal courage. One well-authenticated detail is that Frank Wiley during the murder of Stephens was riding a white horse outside the courthouse in full view of the crowd, establishing a carefully laid alibi and safeguarding himself from proceedings as an accessory, at least, before the fact.

The next morning vague rumors were current that Stephens had disappeared and search for him was redoubled, Governor Holden being informed of his vanishing. It remained for a boy of doubtful identity peering through the window in which the slain man lay to see red stains emanating from the loose end of rope, the other end of which still incased Stephens' neck. Through the rope came seepage and telltale evidence. The door was broken down and the body long in rigor mortis was carried out.

A great cry of rage went up from the Republican entourage of Holden for this new evidence of accepted Klan audacity--for the crime at once was saddled on the invisible empire. It was a powerful blow. The Negroes were being won by the Republicans through cajolement into active usage of the franchise and the fact that the Governor's agent, the man who had told them that they were "the same as white folks" had been boldly slain sobered them and threw them into doubt.

While Stephens' body lay in his home which stood where today stands Yanceyville's Negro public school--a grim play of fate--and while he was being laid in the town cemetery where two boxwoods mark the head and footstones, Governor Holden was preparing for avenging his death and summary treatment of the suspected groups composing the Klan.

Holden had a double motive in exerting all the force at his command. Whispers reached him of the belief entertained in certain quarters of the party that Stephens had been done to death by members of his own party. A surprisingly large number of white active Democrats seemed to be of the same opinion. This grew out of a previously quoted remark of Holden that "we must get rid of Stephens." What the Governor meant, undoubtedly was that since Caswell County was rapidly falling under the domination of the Klan that Stephens must be recalled and more adroit political leadership exerted.

* * *

It has been the understanding that great affection fell upon the people of Caswell County at once, but it came only after spies had flooded the area, none of them succeeding in securing one iota of evidence against the Klansmen nor against the seven men who accomplished Stephens' end. But when Holden struck, he struck hard. On July 8 he declared Caswell County in a state of insurrection and he dispatched Colonel George W. Kirk to Yanceyville with 300 of his "lambs," an evil assortment of freebooters, recruited from the Tennessee and Carolina mountains and forming a police force which Holden found he could use more to his own advantage than the occupationary and disciplined troops of General Grant.

Kirk was a savage character, brutal by instinct and just the man to visit harrowing punishment on the people of Caswell resisting the now flagrantly preached doctrine of "all men are equal." The regiment made its way to Caswell, leaving a trail of plunder and rapine behind it. Into Yanceyville they stormed and were quartered all about the public square, striking terror into womanhood and openly threatening to pistol anyone who thwarted them. Some time later when Captain George Rodney was sent to Yanceyville with a small detachment of Federal regulars, more as a precaution against open rebellion than to preserve the Holden regime, he wrote that Kirk's men ran riot in the Caswell County seat, roaming the town, trying to stir up hostility. Described as ignorant Jacobins, they were prone to undress and bathe in public and no white woman was safe so long as they remained.

Arrests were made right and left soon after the riffraff troops arrived. Some two hundred of the county's outstanding Democrats were seized and marched to the courthouse, which became a prison for weeks. There was brutal treatment for the sheer invisibility of the invisible empire made every white man of Democratic leanings suspect.

* * *

While this was going on, Mayor "Pink" Graves of Danville, a dozen miles away, sent word that he would raise a band of 500 men and would come over as a posse to liberate the county leaders held in the courthouse, some of them in the very room where Stephens died. Kirk heard of this and sent back word that he would turn his guns on the hostages the first time a Virginian turned the corner into the square. The posse remained at home.

But Holden's retaliation was his own undoing. The judiciary was still functioning, if lamely, and there were fearless and honest men on the Supreme Court bench at Raleigh. Captain Lea played an important role in securing writs of habeas corpus but Kirk and George Bergen, his chief lieutenant, who later fled to Danville, only to be run down by bloodhounds as a common thief and who, after escaping trial, went to Washington to win an appointment as American consul to Pernambuco, refused to recognize the court writs.

Eventually the Caswell hostages were removed to Raleigh and there indicted and tried for the murder of Stephens and other Klan activities by three Federal judges.

The Republicans won the August election and won it with the Negro vote, but the Holden administration was weakening and it was a chastened form of carpetbaggery, which prevailed from that time on in Caswell County. The Klan was riding high, wide and broad across the hills.

The following December Governor Holden was impeached. A long, corrupt and unsavory administration was behind him. The judiciary committee of the Legislature voted 60 to 46 for his ousting. He was tried on five counts, one of them being his action in declaring Caswell County in a state of insurrection and another for recruiting his own legion unconstitutionally, to promote his own policies. Still another was for the arrest of John Kerr "and three others," one of the latter being Captain Lea. Holden was convicted on every count, the vote ranging from 3 to 6 for conviction. Before the impeachment, Holden was converted and baptized and, during the trial the evidence caused him to groan aloud and to shudder, as he listened to a recital of his high crimes and misdemeanors.

* * *

No record of the stormy era would be complete without reference to the broken coping over the portico of the Caswell Courthouse--a permanent relic of Josiah Turner, the tempestuous publicist who defied Holden, stinging him with his writings in the Burlington Sentinel and who did much to whet the courage of the long-suffering white people. Throughout the rise of the carpetbaggers he had been a thorn in the side of the State government. Holden finally decided to arrest him and he was taken to Yanceyville for imprisonment. Long a popular idol among the Democrats, a general melee threatened when he arrived and one of Kirk's men became so excited, the story has it, that he dropped his rifle, bayonet down on the upper galley of the courthouse, splitting one of the coping stones which remains un-repaired to this day. But Josiah Turner went to jail with a smile on his lips for he had just printed the following personal communication to the Governor:

You say you will handle me in due time. You white-livered miscreant, do it now. You dare me to resist you, I dare you to arrest me. I am here to protect my family; the Jacobins of your club, after shooting powder in the face of Mrs. Turner, threw a five-pound rock in her window near one of my children. Your ignorant Jacobins are incited to do this by your lying charges against me that I am king of the Ku-Klux.

"You villain, come and arrest a man and order your secret clubs not to molest women and children.

"Yours with contempt and defiance, habeas corpus or no habeas corpus,


This is the story of the murder of John W. Stephens with its frenzied aftermath and the fight, which Caswell made for the preservation of its integrity. It is all still clear to the last living man who went through all of its turmoil. The missing pages could be supplied, with many unknown incidents, from his memory, but the pledge he took 62 years ago in the ruddy light of a blazing pine-knot still holds good, and Captain Lea intends to pass on with the badge of honor untrammeled.

These Historical events that took place in Caswell County exposed the harassment and punitive practices of the Union League and caused the resignation of Governor Holden and his Union cronies. I felt it was important to include this history in this narrative as it took place during the lives of Vincent and Isabella and involved members of their family. After this the citizens of Caswell and other counties of North Carolina complaints no longer fell on such deaf ears as before. For a hundred years Caswell County prospered as one of affluence, culture and grace, yet after the Civil War became one of the poorest and downtrodden. The words of William S. Powell attest to this very distinctly:
"Caswell County, formed in 1777 from Orange, was the home of many distinguished people who developed a plantation economy equal in importance to that of almost any other county in North Carolina. People from Caswell assumed positions of leadership in the state and in the nation. From among them came important military leaders, U.S. cabinet officers and ambassadors, Congressmen, and Senators, teachers, ministers, and businessmen. Before the Civil War the economy of Caswell County was based on tobacco, and the development of Bright Leaf Tobacco there was one of the notable events of the time. Wealth resulted and made possible the construction of large and handsome houses, public buildings, and churches, investments in mills and railroads, and the development of schools and academies. After the Civil War chaos reigned for a time as people adjusted to the drastic changes, which it brought. Race relations and political conditions were problems of great concern; Ku Klux Klan activity and the Kirk-Holden War were the result. Agriculture declined, many people abandoned the county for more promising places, and Caswell County ceased to be the center of culture and wealth that it once had been. With the coming of the twentieth century, however, great improvements were anticipated. In due course schools were reestablished, improved roads were built, and eroded farmland was reclaimed. Through local efforts industry was developed and manufacturers encouraged to come to the county. Services for the people were improved through the efforts of the county government, and plans were made for a revitalization of the county that might well make its third century equal in greatness to its first."

Extracted from the cover fly of "When the Past Refused to Die, THE HISTORY OF CASWELL COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA 1777-1977", William S. Powell, Moore Publishing Company, Durham NC, 1977.

Last Will of Vincent Lea Morton

State of North Carolina

Leasburg, Caswell County

March 10th 1898

I Vincent Morton being of sound mind and recognizing the uncertainty of human life, do make and declare this to be my last will and testament namely: My wish is first that all my just debts and burial expenses be paid, after which I bequeath to my wife, Isabella F. Morton, my entire estate, to have and to use during her life.

Vincent L. Morton

George Connally

J. A. Wade

James Monroe Morton—My Great-Grandfather

James Monroe “Pug” Morton was born September 2nd , 1850 in Caswell County, NC. The firstborn child of Vincent Lea Morton and Isabella Frances Oliver. James married Cannie Elizabeth Blackwell May 18th , 1905 in Caswell County. At the time of the marriage James was 54 years old and Cannie was only 17 years old as stated on their marriage certificate. James and Cannie had two children , Hattie Belle and Gladys Elizabeth.

Cannie was afflicted with what they called in the old days “spells”, which was most probably epilepsy. This was not a very socially acceptable condition to have in those days as it was thought of as being “touched” , “demented” or “possessed” in some way. I have heard family members relate stories of how when Cannie would feel a “spell” coming on she would run into the woods so her children or others wouldn’t see her when she was having a seizure. It was obviously a great source of embarrassment to her and she went to great lengths at these times to conceal her affliction. In those days the medicine of choice for this malady was Laudanum, which was a powerful narcotic and could be very addictive. On one fateful day perhaps after having a “spell” when my grandmother Hattie Belle was perhaps 3 years old and her sister Gladys still a baby, family members found Cannie lying unconscious on the floor with her little girls at her side rubbing her face trying their best to wake her. Sadly she never awoke having taken too much Laudanum, which overpowered her vital functions and caused her death. More than one family member passed down this story to me and I feel it to be an accurate portrayal of the death of my great-grandmother.

This left my great-grandfather James Monroe Morton, now approaching 60 years old with two small children and no mother to raise them. My great-great-grandmother Isabella took in the little girls and after her death their Aunt “ Nannie” Morton Stephens , sister of James Monroe Morton, raised the girls. Tragically their father James Monroe Morton fifteen years after their mother’s death, was kicked in the head by a horse and lay upon his bed for a couple of months and finally died from the injury. Now the girls were true orphans, having lost both parents. He was apparently was able to make a will before he died to provide for his girls after his death.

Last Will and Testament of James Monroe Morton—April 1924

North Carolina

Caswell County

I , J.M. Morton of the aforesaid County and State, being of sound mind but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existence, do make and declare this to be my last will and testament.

First: My executor herein after named shall give my body a decent burial suitable to the wishes of my children, and pay all funeral expenses, together will all my just debts, out of the first moneys which comes into his hands belonging to my estate.

Second: Whereas my two daughters Hattie Belle and Gladys E. Morton are both minors of the ages of about eighteen and sixteen years respectfully, neither being old enough to handle my estate legally, and Whereas, I have encumbered my lands with a deed of trust in the sum of Eight Hundred & Fifty Dollars and am desirous of paying off the debt as early as possible so that my daughters may not be paying interest on the aforesaid note, I do hereby authorize my executor hereinafter named to sell privately or at public auction that portion of land lying on the east side of my land and containing about forty or fifty acres, and if he can not sell the land for enough to satisfy the claims, then in lieu thereof I do authorize and empower him to sell all that portion of my lands lying on the south side of a plantation road leading from the public road known as the Semora and Hightowers road, said plantation road running between the feed barn and another barn nearby, and running in an easterly direction and out of the proceeds of the sale of either of the described lands he will pay the note that is secured by the deed of trust on the place.

Third: After all my just debts are paid, I give devise and bequeath the residues of my estate shall be equally divided between my two daughters, Hattie B. Morton and Gladys E. Morton share and share alike, said decisions to be made when Gladys E. Morton shall arrive at the age of twenty-one years of age, until this division can be made it is my will and desire that R. L. Mitchell be and he is hereby appointed and constituted trustee of my estate which I will to my two daughters to have and to hold the custody of the estate until the said Gladys E. Morton shall arrive at the full age of twenty-one years.

Fourth: I herby constitute and appoint my trusty friend R. L. Mitchell, my lawful executor and trustee to all intents and purpose to execute this my last will and testament according to the true intent of meaning of the same, and every part and clause thereof, hereby revoking and declaring utterly void all other wills and testaments heretofore made by me.

In Witness whereof, I the said J. M. Morton do here unto set my hand and seal the____ day of April, 1924

Signed: J. M. Morton

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said J. M. Morton to be his last will and testament in the presence of us, who act at his request and in his presence do subscribe our names as witnesses thereto.

Signed: G. R. Lunsford

A.H. Wilkins

Record of Executors and Guardians, Caswell County, in the Superior Court before B. L. Graves, Clerk of Superior Court, August, 1924

In the Matter of the Will of J. M. Morton

R.L. Mitchell being duly sworn, doth say that that J. M. Morton, late of said county is dead, having first made and published his last will and testament, and that R. L. Mitchell is the executor named herein.

Further that the property of the said J. M. Morton, consisting of Real and Personal property, is worth about $3000.00 , so far as can be ascertained at the date of this application, and that Hattie Morton and Gladys Morton are the parties under said will entitled to said property.

Signed: R. L. Mitchell

Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 1st day of August, 1924

Signed: B. L. Graves

Clerk of Superior Court

Transcribed by: Latham Mark Phelps 12-14-2002

The property of James Monroe Morton was obtained primarily in two deeds. The first was from his father Vincent Lea Morton, from the lands of his father Elijah Morton.
Vincent Lea Morton To James Monroe Morton

Caswell County, N.C. June 28th 1877

Know all men by by these presents that I, V. L . Morton Executor of Elijah Morton and for and in consideration of the sum of Twelve Hundred & Ten dollars to me as Executor aforesaid in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged by J. Monroe Morton all of Caswell Co., N.C. do hereby give grant bargain & sell unto the said J. M. Morton his heirs & assigns forever a certain tract or parcel of land lying & being in the County of Caswell on the waters of North Hyco adjoining the lands of the said V. L. Morton, J. W. Stephens & Mrs. Shanks containing by estimation Sixty Three acres be the same more or less to have and to hold the aforesaid premises with all & singular the privileges & appurtenances thereunto belonging to him the said J. M. Morton his heirs & assigns executors & administrators to his and their use and be hoof forever & I the said V. L. Morton as Executor aforesaid do covenant with the said J. M. Morton that he has a right to sell & convey the same and will for himself his heirs & assigns executors & administrators warrant & defend the title to the same to the said J. M. Morton his heirs & assigns forever against the lawful claim of any & all persons whatsoever. In witness whereof I as Executor aforesaid hereto set my hand & affix my seal this the 28th Day of June, 1877.

V. L. Morton ----- SEAL

Executor of Elijah Morton-Decd.


George N. Thompson

State of N.C.} In Superior Court

Caswell Co}. Nov. 17, 1885

The execution of the written deed is this day duly proven by the oath & examination of Geo. N. Thompson the subscribing witness and is adjudged to be correct let the deed & certificate be registered.

S. B. Adams---C.S.C.

Transcribed By: Latham Mark Phelps 2004

The second deed was years later conveyed by his younger brother Quinn Eli Morton who was in 1917 a Commissioner of neighboring Person County. The name of James Monroe Morton’s brother may provide a clue as yet unproven to the forbearers of Meshack, as the name “Quinn” appears in the early Prince Edward County, Virginia Mortons on more than one occasion beginning with the marriage of Richard Morton and Judith Quinn. Richard Morton was a son of Thomas Morton and Elizabeth Woodson of Prince Edward County, Virginia.
Q. E. Morton Commissioner To J. M. Morton

North Carolina

Caswell County

This deed made this 5th day of September, 1917, by Q. E. Morton, Commissioner of Person County, North Carolina, party of the first part, and J. M. Morton of Caswell County, North Carolina, of the second part.


That whereas, the said Q. E. Morton, commissioner, under and by virtue of the authority vested in him by a decree of the Superior Court of Caswell County, in that certain special proceeding entitled “ Q.E. Morton and others versus D. L. Morton and others ”, did, on the 30th day of December 1916, at the store of S. P. Newman in Leasburg North Carolina, after first having advertised the said sale by publishing notice thereof in the Caswell County Democrat, a newspaper published weekly in Caswell County, for four successive weeks immediately preceding the date thereof, and by posting notices of the same at the court house door and four or more other public places in Caswell County for thirty days immediately preceding the said date, did expose the land hereinafter described at public sale to the highest bidder, when and where the said J. M. Morton became the last and highest bidder for same, /- and was declared the purchaser thereof for the sum of $1330.

And whereas the said sale has been duly confirmed by the said court and it has been ordered that the said Q. E. Morton Commissioner, shall, upon the payment to him of the said purchase price, make, execute / and deliver a good and sufficient deed conveying the said land to the said J. M. Morton in fee simple, and the said J. M. Morton has paid the said purchase money.

Now therefore, in consideration of the premises, and of the sum of one dollar to the party of the first part paid by the party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the said Q. E. Morton Commissioner, has bargained and sold and by these presents does bargain, sell and convey unto the said J. M. Morton and his heirs and assigns that certain tract of land situated in Leasburg township, Caswell County, North Carolina, being tract No. 4 of the V. L. Morton Land, as shown on the plat prepared by E. H. Copley, surveyor and described by metes and bounds as follows, to-wit :

Beginning at a stake in the Pinson road, corner of tract No. 3 thence south 86 ½ o east 4465 feet to stake in Cora Stephens line; thence with her line north 4 ¾ o east 660 feet to hickory stump in the King’s Mill and Leasburg road; thence with said road 514 feet to stake; thence north 75 o west 1175 feet to red oak; thence north 7 ½ o west 290 feet to a mulberry; thence north 73 o west 2060 feet to a rock in the Pinson road; thence with said road 2250 feet to the beginning containing 127 acres more or less.

To have and to hold the said land, together with all privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging unto him the said J. M. Morton and his heirs and assigns forever in fee simple, in as full and ample manner as the said Q. E. Morton, Commissioner is authorized and empowered to convey the same.

In testimony whereof the said Q. E. Morton Commissioner, has hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal.

Q. E. Morton, Commissioner—(Seal)

North Carolina

Caswell County

I, R. L. Mitchelle, Clerk of the Superior Court of Caswell County, do hereby certify that personally appeared before me this day Q. E. Morton, Commissioner, and acknowledged the due execution of the foregoing deed, therefore let the deed, together with this certificate, be registered

Given under my hand and seal, this 10th day of Sept. 1917

R.L. Mitchelle C.S.C.

Filed for registration at 9:30 A.M. Sept. 10th , 1917 and registered.

Robt. T Wilson
Register of Deeds.

Transcribed By: Latham Mark Phelps February 2004

Hattie Belle Morton, my grandmother, married William Perry Lunsford and they had six children:

Edward Harold Lunsford married “Micky” Ashford

Reba Jean Lunsford married Wilford Latham Phelps

Patricia Ann Lunsford married Carl Dean Cobb

Malcolm Perry Lunsford died as an infant

Malinda Jane Lunsford married Jonah Benjamin Kirby

Dennis Morton Lunsford married Tina Capps

My Mother, Reba Jean Lunsford, born May 3rd 1930—died January 14th 2005, married
Wilford Latham Phelps, son of Lewis Elmo Phelps and Catherine James Walker. Three children were born to Reba and Latham:

Latham Mark Phelps
Gary Lynn Phelps
Susan Denise Phelps

Latham Mark Phelps--- May 2005



| Top |