William Morris Sr. was the first person to die and leave a will to be probated in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia. Prior to settling in the Kanawha Valley region, the Morris family lived on Muddy Creek, near Alderson, Greenbriar County. History states that 52 year old William arrived with his wife, Elizabeth, ten children, four daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren; a party of 18 including 7 able bodied men.
No one is quite sure how he himself came to be in this country and there are several different versions of the story. All come to the same conclusion, which was that he came here, without knowledge of his parents, and after some help, decided to stay. Not a lot is known about his wife Elizabeth, and I have found no pictures of either of them, or the children they had.
William served in the service of his country, including but not limited to the Battle of Point Pleasant (Indian Wars). West Virginia - A History, written by Otis K.Rice, mentions William Morris in several places. On page 30, we read: "Shortly afterward, William Morris acquired the tomahawk rights (based on notching of trees along the boundary) of Kelly's widow, who, with the remainder of the family had returned to the Greenbrier settlements prior to the attack. With his large and prolific family, Morris established the first permanent settlements in the Kanawha valley." Rice agains mentions Mr. Morris on pages 49-50, "....Such seasoned frontier leaders as George Clendenin and William Morris, members of the house of delegates from Kanawha County, informed Governor Henry Lee that the defeat of the Indians had been so complete that one Militia Company could defend the Kanawha and Greenbrier settlements."
He was the first permanent white settler in the Kanawha valley region. He and his family arrived in Kanawha in the spring of 1774. William Morris purchased the rights to the Walter Kellyproperty from the widow at Lewisburg and moved his family of 10 children to the valley. Kelly was killed by Shawnee indians. In the fall of 1774, Morris built a stockade and cabins within it. As the children of Walter Kelly became of age, William Morris provided each with a horse, saddle and bridle, although said heirs had no title to the land and no claim against Morris, but Kelly had cleared a small patch and tried to raise a crop and made some improvements thereon, and he paid this compensation.
The Morris family increased its holdings in the valley from Kanawha Falls to Campbells Creek. Simon Kenton and Daniel Boone were frequent visitors at the fort. The Morris settlement at the mouth of Kellys Creek was the end of the "Old State Road" from eastern Virginia.
William Morris built the White House Inn a quarter mile east of Fort Morris in 1792 and it became famous as a stage coach stop. [Blogger attempted to locate this Inn, but after locating & talking to several innkeepers online none of the houses appear to be the one mentioned as being built by William Morris] After the death of William, the inn was operated by Col. Henry Tompkins. His journal of distinguished visitors include Henry Clay, Rufus King, Thomas Benton, Andrew Jackson, J. C. Breckinridge and many others.
Issue of William Morris (1722-1792) & Elizabeth Stepp(1729-1795):
- Wm Morris Jr. aja Major Billy 1746-1802; marr Catherine Carroll 1751-1823
- Henry Morris 1747-1824 marr Mary Byrd 1747-1820
- Leonard Morris 1748-aft 1831 marr 1.)Margaret Price m2.)Margaret Likens 1771-1841
- John Morris 1751-1818 marr Margaret Droddy 1759-1818
- Joshua Morris 1752-aft 1824 marr Frances Simms 1757-1795
- Achilles Morris 1760-1821 marr Elizabeth Jarrett
- Frances Morris aka Franky 1760-1844 marr John Jones 1755-1838
- Levi Morris 1763-1834 marr Margaret Starke m2.) Margaret Jarrett
- Benjamin Morris 1770-1829 marr Nancy Jarrett 1769-1832
- Elizabeth Morris aka Betty 1772-1829 marr Michael See m2.) Thomas Cobb
I do have full dates and issue for the issue of William & Elizabeth, but space will not allow me to expound on that here. So if you are interested please email me karen[at]miprofgenie[dot]com and I'll be happy to swap info with you. Studmuffin is the 6th great grandson of Benjamin Morris and Nancy Jarrett.
[Images at top - left Kelly Historical Marker, right - William Morris memorial plaque Virginias Chapel, Kanawha, West Virginia - both in possession of blog owner. Please give acknowledgement if you choose to use.]