Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Horse Thief in the Family – Robert Morgan

B. about 1601 in Great Britain
M. 27 Jan 1638 in Salem, Massachusetts
Wife: Margaret Norman
D. 1672 in Beverly, Massachusetts
Emigrated: before 1636

There is no conclusive information regarding the origin of Robert Morgan who lived in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. His birth year was about 1601 which is estimated from a deposition he gave years later. Some believe he was born to Thomas Morgan and Catherine Herbert of Llanrumney, Wales, but with his name being a common one, there's no way to really connect him.

There are two stories of when and where Robert arrived in America. One says he came into Plymouth in 1621, but the ship named in this claim doesn't have his name on the passenger list. The other story has Robert arriving on a ship in 1635 that deposited him in Jamestown, Virginia. Then he made his way somehow to the New England colony. There is a Robert Morgan age 33 on a ship's passenger list landing at Jamestown that year, but there is nothing verifying that this is the same man who went to Salem.

Robert first turned up in Salem when he was granted 20 acres of land in 1636. He was said to be a cooper (barrel maker). On January 27, 1638, he married Margaret Norman. They had eight children, seven of them boys. Robert was admitted to the church of Salem in 1650, and had several of his children baptized on April 23rd. The part of Salem where they lived was called Cape Ann side, which later became the town of Beverly. In 1667, Robert was one of the "leading men" to help build a new meeting house for Reverend John Hale.

Robert was frequently mentioned as "Brother Morgan" in church records. He was in the description of Reverend Hale's Ordination proceedings in 1667. On November 17th of that year, his wife Margaret was admitted to the Convenant. On July 24th of the following year, five of his children were admitted to the church. Then something seems to have happened that caused the family to be omitted from further reference. A record from 1668 describes an incident involving Robert Morgan’s son Benjamin, aged about 19:

“Benjamin Morgin, sonne of Bro. Morgin, a childe of ye covenant in this Church, having in partnership with another stole two horses and several oxen & added to his highhanded boldness ye hayness sin of lying to cover his sinne, was apprehended and convicted thereof in Cambridge Court and ye fact being so notorious and evident was sent for by this Church ye [December 16, 1668] by two of ye brethren to shew his repentance for this haynous and publickly scandalous sin but he not then appearing was sent to againe to appeare [December 27th].  But then, he not only refused to come, but spake very reproachfully of ye Church and ye publick worship of God. This answer being returned, it was propounded by ye Pastor & consented to by ye brethren that two other messengers should bee sent to him with this message: that unless the next Lord’s Day he appeared before ye Church & manifested something of repentance not only for his former sins of theft and lying, but for his presumptuous contempt of ye worship of God & of this Church he would be proceeded with as a Scandalous and Impenitent sinner.

“This was accordingly done, & ye next Sabath viz: ye [January 3,1669]  hee made his appearance. But by his irreverend carriage and dumbe silence manifested himself to be A lamented spectacle of A stupefied sinner & forsaken of God & no signes of repentance manifested either for his former sins or late presumptuous behavior; hee was by ye Censure of Excommunication delivered to Satan for ye destruction of ye flesh yt ye soul might be saved in ye day of Christ.”

After Robert's son Benjamin was convicted of being a horse thief and unrepentant "sinner," Robert no longer appeared in church records. He died in Beverly sometime in 1672 between October 14th, when his will was written, and December 10th, when an inventory of his estate was taken. Reverend Hale, who usually noted the death of important members of the church, never mentioned Robert's death.

Robert's son Benjamin inherited land near Reverend Hale's property, but unfortunately, he didn't outlive his father by very long; he and his brother Moses were killed during an Indian attack at Cape Porpoise, Maine in 1677.

Famous descendants of Robert Morgan include John Kerry.

1. Samuel Morgan – B. 1638, Salem, Massachusetts; D. Dec 1698, Beverly, Massachusetts; M. Elizabeth Dixey (1641-1690), 15 Oct 1658

2. Luke Morgan – B. 1644, Salem, Massachusetts; D. Apr 1732, Cape Sabel, Nova Scotia

3. Joseph Morgan – B. 1646, Salem, Massachusetts; D. 23 Oct 1731, Beverly, Massachusetts; M. Deborah Hart, 12 Jul 1669, Lynn, Massachusetts

4. Benjamin Morgan – B. about 1649, Salem, Massachusetts; D. 1677, Cape Porpoise, Maine

5. Robert Morgan – B. 15 Oct 1650, Salem, Massachusetts; D. 15 Dec 1650, Salem, Massachusetts

6. Bethiah Morgan – B. about 1653, Salem, Massachusetts; M. Samuel Weed

7. Moses Morgan – B. about 1655; D. 1677, Cape Porpoise, Maine

8. Aaron Morgan – B. 24 May 1663, Salem, Massachusetts; D. young

"Whatever Happened to Brother Morgan?" Historically Speaking: Stories from the archives of the First Parish Church in Beverly, Massachusetts [website]
New England families, genealogical and memorial, Vol. 2, William Richard Cutter, 1913
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

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