The responses to the pictures in last week’s paper have been very impressive and I thank everyone who has taken the time to contact me. The one picture of Woodrow Morris was taken on Twenty Mile and was taken sometime during1936-1938. The picture of the Leatherwood Grade School students was answered with a complete list of the students.
The list goes like this: First Row: (L-R), Chubby Morris, Emory Taylor, Elmer Miller, Charles Taylor, Frances Ann Collins, Vonnia Taylor, Unknown, and Golda Bragg. Second Row: Don Morris, Paul Nichols, Louvena Taylor, Rosemary Miller, Roxie Miller, and Escar “Teeny” Taylor. Third Row: Unknown, Hilda Morris, Leon “Brud” Taylor, Glenna Bragg, Gladys Bragg and the teacher was Clarice Shamblin. I do so thank Helen Morris Gray for this list of students. The picture this week is of G. W. Williams who was one of the teachers at the school on Leatherwood Creek and he is Helen Gray’s grandfather. Can anyone identify the boy pictured next to G. W.?
I told you that this week that I hoped to give you more information on the Morris family. I had Teresa Gray in one of my art classes when she attended Clay County High School. Many of the students at that time participated in our project Hickory and Lady Slippers, Life and Legend of Clay County People, in which we research and published several books on Clay County families and history of the county. Teresa turned in the family pictures that we are using this week and last week. In talking with her mother Helen Gray I did not realize before then that she was part of the Morris family. She agreed to write down for our readers some facts about her family and the following is what she has submitted for your enjoyment.
The William Morris, Sr. Family
“The picture in last week’s Free Press of Woodrow Morris and his students was taken at Twenty Mile. I cannot identify any of those students, but one or two may be that of my older brothers and sisters. Woodrow was the son of Berton and Susie Morris. Berton had two brothers, Albert and Theodore. Albert was the father of the Reverend Willard Morris and Theodore was the father of Alvis Morris which is my Dad.
Woodrow was raised in the Leatherwood, Twenty Mile area which was a very small community. He walked to school every day, but he went on to college at Glenville State College. This is a college well down for producing excellent educators. He then went on to achieve his Master Degree from Duke University and attended Ohio State University where he
received his Doctorate Degree. He became a teacher and professor at Marshall University in Huntington. At one time he was the President of the Board of Education in Nicholas Co
unty. Woodrow was an ancestor to the William Morris Sr. family.”
“The ancestor in America of our branch of the Morris family was William Morris, Sr., (1722-1792). His ancestors came originally from Scotland, but had moved to England. He was born in Liverpoo
l England. This patriarch seemed anything but a patriarch when he stepped ashore in this county. Instead, his arrival was that of a bewildered young boy of twelve years, minus parents, funds, or belongings, as his departure from home had been accidental, or had it? He had gone aboard a ship to see some relatives or friends off for America. When the ship sailed he was still on board. When the Captain discovered that he was on board it was too late. He could not turn around and take William back to England so he was brought on to America. The Captain became very fond of him, and when they landed in Philadelphia he left William in the care of a good friend. He stayed there until he was twenty-two years old. He did not receive much of an education, he could hardly read or write. He later lived in New York for a while, and then went to Virginia where he met and married Elizabeth Stipps (Stepp) (1729-1795) in Orange County Virginia. They were the parents of ten children. There were eight sons and two daughters: William, Jr., Henry, Leonard, Joshua, Levi, John, Archilles, Benjamin, Elizabeth and Frances.
The Morris family resided in Culpeper County Virginia for a time but in 1765 they traveled to Greenbrier County, Virginia (now WV) where they lived almost ten years on Muddy Creek. They then crossed the mountains into the Kanawha Valley region which is now Kanawha County, West Virginia in the spring of 1774. It took a lot of courage for William to leave what
was then civilization and head into the wilds of a new frontier. They had to clear the forests and had to build homes with the ever present problems of the Indians. Apparently, he had little fear because he chose the site where Walter Kelly had been attacked and killed only months before by Indians William bought Walter Kelly’s rights from his widow
, and in 1774 made the first permanent settlement in the Kanawha Valley.
It was because of the Indians who always traveled the trail nearby that Morris built a fort at the mouth of Kelly’s Creek and this fort was known as “Fort Morris”. His sons also erected forts, one on Len’s Creek, (now Marmet) and another one opposite the mouth of Campbell’s Creek. It was during the spring, summer and autumn months they had to live inside the forts. This was the season that was most active for Indian raids and wars.
The supplying of food was simple, as game was plentiful but obtaining meal and flour was a real problem. So, William erected a small Grist Mill on Kelly’s Creek. In Cedar Grove, West Virginia one might today see a cone-shaped stone at the base of a historic marker designating the site of the Morris Settlement.
The Morris brothers made boats and this was the beginning of a new family business. The boat building blossomed into a large scale business. The boats carried people from one side of the
Kanawha River to the other side. There were not any bridges and this area was called The Boat Yards. The Morris family also became involved in the salt industry on the Kanawha River. A grandson of the original Billy later invented an important piece of equipment in the salt industry that enabled the Kanawha salt driller to go deeper than ever b
efore. This equipment was known as “slips” and came to be called “Jars” in the oil and gas drilling industry. This equipment was never patented but is still used today.
William gave the land for the Greenbrier Baptist Church in Greenbrier County and also gave the land where Morris Memorial Church now stands in Kanawha City. William acquired land amounting to 3,100 acres and most of this was along the Kanawha River. He owned 200 acres on Fifteen Mile Creek, located below Point Pleasant. He owned land from the Greenbrier River down the Kanawha to the Ohio. It is recorded that at one time he owned Kanawha Falls. A man vigorous mentally, and of recognized wealth, though without formal education (which sometimes caused him embarrassment) he was chosen with Henry Banks as a delegate to the General Assembly of Virginia for the session of 1792, setting from October 1st. to October 28th.
William’s second son Henry, a mighty hunter was totally without fear settled in Peters Creek of Gauley River, against the advice of his brothers. It was a rugged remote area, miles away from the other Morris family cabins. The next year the disaster feared by his family happened. Two of his young daughters Betsy and Margaret were sent down the trail to drive the cow’s home for milking. They were killed and scalped very close to the cabin. Henry realized his mistake by settling in such a lonely spot and being grieved by the tragedy he vowed, “That no Indian would ever cross his path and live.” He returned later to the Kelly’s Creek Settlement. His daughters are buried at Lockwood near Peters Creek in a field. There is a historical marker along the highway where the girls are buried. There is also a memorial for them erected on the lawn of the Nicholas County Courthouse. This tragedy has always been called, “The Morris Massacre.”
William Morris, Sr. died in 1792. His will, recorded January 3, 1773 was the first will recorded in Kanawha County, Virginia, (now WV.) Record Book. Descendants of William are still numerous in the area, but many bear other names than Morris. His name is on one of the residential streets in Charleston, which is Morris Street and also in the William Morris Chapter of the DAR. This organization has placed on the outer wall of Virginia’s Chapel in Cedar Grove a memorial tablet to him and his wife and another for his son William Morris, Jr.
Leonard Morris was the third son of William Morris, “Pioneer.” He and his brothers fought at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. He lived in the Kanawha Valley but later moved east of Charleston to Len’s Creek which still bears his name, “Len’s Creek”.
Leonard was one of the first justices of the new county of Kanawha (1789) and later one of the first trustees of the town of Charleston. He served as Sheriff in 1789, and performed many public services.” By Helen Morris Gray (Notes taken from, From Culpeper County to the Teays Valley by Mildred Chapman Gibbs, 1984)
I believe that any person who is related to this Morris family should be very proud of their ancestors. They possessed qualities that many of us lack today. I am sure Helen is proud to be a decedent of the William Morris, Sr. family. I thank Helen for such a wonder article to be published in, Can You Identify?
Thank you so very much for reading Can You Identify and we do hope that you enjoy seeing these pictures and reading the articles. Please send your comments to Jerry D. Stover, PO Box 523, Clay WV 25043 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We again thank the Clay County Free Press for allowing space for our articles. You can also call 304-587-4316, leave a message and your telephone number and we will try to return the call