Thomas Mason Morris (c1790 – 1833)

According to a family Bible, which does not give his birth or death dates, his full name was Thomas Mason Morris.1   His origins are mysterious, as the first certain reference to him is his marriage to Catherine Fouch on 27 October 1815 in Loudoun County, Virginia.2  The marriage record was fortuitously preserved in the journal of the Rev. John Littlejohn, who performed the ceremony, as well as in Loudoun County records.

This was apparently his second marriage, as he had a nearly one-year old daughter at the time.  The gravestone of his eldest child, Lucinda Morris, gives her year of birth as 1814 and she listed December 1814 as here birthdate in the 1900 census.   It seems likely that he was the same Thomas Morris who had married Elizabeth Hall, daughter of Bennett Hall, on 23 March 1813 in adjacent Frederick County, Virginia.3   If so, Elizabeth must have died shortly after giving birth to Lucinda.

His next wife, Catherine Fouch, produced daughters named Sophronia and Kesiah in the first few years of their marriage.   By the 1820 census of Loudoun County Thomas Morris was enumerated as the head of a household comprised of three females under the age of ten and a male and female both aged 26-44.   No other Thomas Morris was enumerated in Loudoun or in any of the adjacent counties, another reason to think that it was he who married Elizabeth Hall.

Thomas Morris is rarely mentioned in Loudoun County records in the years following the marriage, but he was apparently living in Leesburg.  He witnessed a mortgage deed by Merritt Tarleton of Leesburg, Virginia in early 1819 and his name appears on a list of unclaimed letters at the Leesburg post office at about the same time.4

On 25 March 1820 he bought one acre of a much larger tract tract belonging to Noah Hatcher, located on the main road in the village that became Purcellville, about ten miles west of Leesburg.5  He apparently set up a tailor shop on the property.

Around 1827 he had married for a third time to a woman in her mid-thirties named Nancy Hesser, who bore him a son named James Heaton Morris on 13 August 1828.   Their marriage record is missing from records of Loudoun marriage bonds, but that is clearly the name of Thomas Morris’s wife written in the family Bible.6   Indeed, on 11 February 1828 a lawsuit by the heirs of Andrew Hesser listed Nancy Morris, wife of Thomas Morris, among Hesser’s children.7   Her father had died in 1805 when she was quite young, but the division of his land was delayed until her mother Hannah (Warner) Hesser died.  On 14 April 1829 Nancy and Thomas Morris sold their interest in the real estate of her father Andrew Hesser to her brother John Hesser.8

Nancy Hesser seems to have had a distinct independent streak. The county sheriff wrote in 1828 that he notified all the heirs of Andrew Hesser about the lawsuit “except Nancy Morris who refused to hear it.”  She also made purchases in her own name, a relatively uncommon thing for married women at that time.  Later records also show that she had an illegitimate daughter when she married Thomas Morris.  On 19 September 1836 Nancy Morris gave permission for the marriage of her daughter Castara Hesser to Henry Timms.9    A year later Henry and Castara Timms moved to Muskingum County, Ohio, and so did Nancy Morris and her two young Morris children.

The 1830 census shows Thomas Morris, aged 40-50, heading a household of one male under 5, three females aged 10-15, one female aged 15-20, one female 20-30 and one female 30-40.  The female in the 20-30 column was probably Nancy’s sister Sarah Hesser.  When she married the following year Thomas Morris attested that she was over 21.10  The household also apparently included Thomas Morris’s three daughters as well as Nancy’s illegitimate daughter Castara Hesser.

Thomas Morris died intestate in Loudoun County sometime in the summer 1833, according to a court record.11   He was dead by 12 August 1833 when John Hesser filed a bond for his guardianship of Lucinda Morris, Sophronia Morris, and Keziah Morris, orphans of Thomas Morris.12    The inventory and appraisal of his personal estate was recorded on 11 April 1834, valued at $347.87.13  Another record shows that a $100 note payment had been made to the estate on 6 September 1833.

Nancy, who was pregnant when her husband died, evidently continued to live on the one-acre home place.   Over the next few years Sophronia and Keziah Morris both married, as did Nancy’s daughter Castara, and Lucinda Morris apparently left the household.  Sometime in 1837 Nancy Morris moved to Muskingum County, Ohio apparently along with her daughter Castara Timms.

In February 1838 the three elder daughters of Thomas Morris brought suit against Nancy Morris and her children to force the sale of the one-acre tract in Purcellville.14  Isaiah Beans, who had married Sophronia Morris, testified on 24 February 1838 that Nancy Morris and her two Morris children were no longer living in Virginia.   A summons was issued but Nancy Morris failed to respond.  Her brother John Hesser had himself appointed guardian ad litem of her two infant Morris children for the purpose of joining the suit.  The case was heard in July and a month later the court ordered the house and lot to be sold and the proceeds distributed in equal shares to Nancy and the five children of Thomas Morris.  The property was purchased at auction on 25 August 1838 for $305 by a next-door neighbor named Mahlon K. Taylor.

The newspaper notice of the auction described the property as “one Acre of Land, with a comfortable Log Dwelling, a Stable, and Tailor’s Shop thereupon, adjoining the lands of Stacy Taylor’s heirs and others on the North side of Turnpike Road within half a mile of Purcel’s Store.”15   The Turnpike Road was initially called the Leesburg and Snicker’s Gap Turnpike.  It is now US Route 7, and when it was finished in 1835 it probably increased the value of the Morris property significantly.   Purcellville, for which Route 7 was the main street, grew up around Valentine Purcell’s general store.

The commissioner appointed to sell the property was asked by the court to make inquiries about the status of Nancy Morris.  He reported to the court in August 1838 that “in obedience to said decree I have made inquiry as to the age, constitution and health of Nancy Morris, widow of Thomas Morris dec’d, and have learned that she is about forty five years of age, of strong constitution and good health.”   Oddly, he was apparently unaware that Nancy Morris had remarried five months earlier.   She had married a 60-ish widower named John Clymer in Muskingum County, Ohio on 29 March 1838.

Among the papers in the case file is an 1842 guardian’s accounting by John Hesser spanning the period 1833 to 1842.  Nearly all of his expenses consisted of 14 days “attending to business at Charles Town” in 1836.   The nature of the business is unknown, but it must have been significant because he charged the Morris orphans $22.34 for that travel in 1836 even though he collected no income for the estate after 1834.    None of the parties lived in Charles Town and one wonders what business of the orphans could possibly have required two weeks of his presence there.   Charles Town was located in Jefferson County (now West Virginia) about 12 miles northwest of Thomas Morris’ home in Purcellville.

In the meantime, Nancy and her new husband John Clymer had moved to Olive Township in Morgan County, Ohio (but in Noble County after 1851).   John Clymer was enumerated in Olive Township in 1840 with an “extra” boy and girl in his household who were surely the Morris children.16  A guardianship bond in Morgan County, Ohio dated 11 May 1844 shows that John Clymer was guardian of “Thomas William and Sarah Ann Morris, children of Thomas Morris, decd.”17   In 1850 John Clymer (age 77) and Nancy (age 55) were enumerated in Olive Township living next door to his son Albert Clymer and just three households from Thomas Morris and not far from Sarah Morris, who was married and in her own household.    The Olive Cemetery contains a stone for John Clymer (1777-1852) and one, without dates, for Nancy.

Thomas Morris appears to have had three wives.  If he was the same Thomas Morris who married Elizabeth Hall, she was apparently the mother of:

  1. Lucinda Morris (December 1814 – 1901)  She married George W. Shacklett on 5 September 1839 in Frederick County, Virginia.   That may be an indication that she was indeed the granddaughter of Bennett Hall of Frederick County, since just a few months after the marriage the couple were enumerated in the 1840 census living in Fauquier County.  Her gravestone, which reads “1814-1901” and calls her Lucy Morris Shacklett, is in the Cool Spring Methodist Cemetery in Delaplane, Fauquier County, Virginia.  Her age in censuses is consistent with a birth year of 1814 – her age is given as 33. 45. 55. and 64 in the 1850-1880 censuses of Fauquier County.

He had two daughters by Catherine Fouch:

  1. Sophronia Morris (22 March 1816 – 16 September 1885)  She married Isaiah Beans (1810-1886) by bond dated 15 September 1836, with the permission of her guardian John Hesser.   They remained in Loudoun County, appearing in the 1850-1880 censuses.   Censuses list a total of ten children:  Aaron Thomas Beans (born c1838), Mary J. Beans (c1839), Oscar Beans (c1841), Elwood H. Beans (c1843), William Flavius Beans (c1844), Theodore A. Beans (c1846), Elizabeth A. Beans (c1848), Mary Beans (1849), Albert Beans (1850), John Edgar Beans (c1855).  She is buried in the Arnold Grove Methodist Cemetery in Hillsboro, Loudoun County where her gravestone gives her dates of birth and death.
  2. Keziah Morris (c1818 – after 1880)  She married a neighbor’s son named Jonathan Tavenner (1807-1873) on 25 September 1837 in Frederick County, Maryland.  She may have married across the county and state line in Maryland to avoid obtaining the consent of her guardian and/or his parent, which would have been required of anyone under 21 in Virginia.   Jonathan and Keziah Tavenner moved to Morgan County, Ohio about 1844, settling in Meigsville about 20 miles west of John and Nancy Clymer.  They are in the 1850-1870 censuses with children named James W. Tavenner (born c1843), Eliza E. Tavenner (c1844), Robert E. Tavenner (c1846), Francis A. Tavenner (c1849), Charles W. Tavenner (c1852), Henrietta V. Tavenner (c1856), Olive Tavenner (c1859), and Emma Tavenner (c1864).   Jonathan Tavenner died in 1873 and is buried in the Wells Cemetery in Morgan County, but there is no stone for Nancy.  She was enumerated in Meigsville in 1880 with her daughter Emma and her daughter Henrietta and her Henrietta’s husband George Henry in the household.

He had three children by Nancy Hesser:

  1. James Heaton Morris (13 August 1828 – 1830-33)   He was the first child of Thomas Morris and Nancy Hesser according to the family Bible.   He died in childhood sometime after the 1830 census but before his father died in mid-1833.  He was apparently named after James Heaton, a medical doctor who lived in the same Purcellville neighborhood as Thomas Morris.  Curiously, though, Dr. James Heaton had died in 1824 and his young son James Heaton Jr. had died in 1826; there were no adult James Heatons in Loudoun County when this son was born.  Whether the connection was to Nancy Hesser or to Thomas Morris is unknown.   Other than proximity, no relationship was found between James Heaton and this family.To add to the mystery, Dr. James Heaton had a son named John Thomas William Heaton (1810-1862).  Thomas Morris gave that unusual name to his second son, which seems more than coincidental.
  2. John Thomas William Morris (26 May 1831 – 30 May 1907)  See separate paper.
  3. Sarah Ann Hannah Morris (15 September 1833 – 1 January 1860)  She was born shortly after her father died.  The family Bible gives her name as Sarah Ann Hannah Morris, but she was consistently referred to in the Loudoun County court records as Sarah Ann Morris.  She married William O. Thorla (1829-1904), a son of Benjamin Thorla, on 23 September 1849 in Morgan County, Ohio.18  They are enumerated in the 1850 census of Olive Township in Morgan County a few households away from his father.   Her age is given as 17 and her birthplace as Ohio.  Sarah Ann died in January 1860 according to the 1860 mortality census, which gives her age as 26 and birthplace as Virginia.  Her gravestone in the Olive Cemetery gives her date of death as 1 January 1860 and her age as 26 years, 3 months, and 17 days.19   Her husband remarried on 13 September 1862 to Margaret Hutchins.   The family was in Linn County, Missouri for the 1870 census with six children of Sarah’s and five younger children by the second wife.   By the 1880 Linn County census all six of Sarah’s children were out of the household.  Sarah’s children generally adopted the “Thurlow” spelling.Jackie Marshall, who is descended from Sarah, has more detail on these children:6.1.  Argumento Thurlow (20 June 1850 – 20 June 1948)  He was living with his father in 1870 but by 1880 had moved to Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, where he appears in the 1880 through 1930 censuses.   By 1880 he had acquired a wife named Elizabeth, age 28, and he was listed as a salesman.  In 1900 his wife was Mary L., the census indicating they married about 1887.   That marriage is recorded in York County, Maine (!) on 20 August 1888 to Mary Louise Stackpole.  The 1900 household included a daughter from the first marriage, Lenora Thurlow (born Dec 1880), and two children of the second marriage named William Stackpole Thurlow (12 Feb 1891) and Elvira Thurlow (12 April 1900).20   He’s in the 1910 through 1930 census of Portland listed as a salesman for a furniture store with his wife Mary L. and the two younger children in the household through 1920, and his sister “Fronia” Wilson in the 1930 household. Argumento Thurlow is buried in the Greenword Cemetery.   His wife Mary (9 September 1868 – 7 June 1938) is buried there, as is the daughter Lenora Thurlow (5 December 1880 – 24 August 1903).

    6.2.  Sophronia Thurlow (13 December 1852 – 18 April 1934)  She married Daniel Wilson, and died in Portland Oregon.

    6.3.  Mason Thurlow (11 March 1855 – 23 June 1938)  He’s in the 1900 through 1930 censuses of Okanogan County, Washington.

    6.4.  Wilhemina “Minnie” Thurlow (22 September 1857 – 13 December 1932)

    6.5.  William W. Thurlow (c1858 – after 1870)   He is in the 1870 census of Linn County, Missouri.  He is thought to have died while serving on a whaling ship in the Arctic.

    6.6.  Anna Thurlow (6 December 1859 – 17 February 1960)  She did not marry, but ended up in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon with her two older brothers.

  1. Bible in the possession of Karl Morris of Sweetwater, Texas. []
  2. Jordan R. Dodd et al., Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850, online. Also see Mary Alice Wertz, Marriages of Loudoun County, Virginia, 1757-1853, page 107. []
  3. Database online, Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940. []
  4. Loudoun County Deed Book 2Y, page 2. []
  5. Loudoun County Deed Book 3Q, page 151 (abstracted by Patricia B. Duncan, Index to Loudoun County, Virginia Land Deed Books 3N-3V, 1826-1831, page 82). []
  6. Only the names of his last wife and last set of children are written in the Bible. []
  7. Loudoun County Chancery Court Case File, Case #M6884. []
  8. Loudoun County Deed Book 3S, page 345 abstracted by Patricia B. Duncan, Index to Loudoun County, Virginia Land Deed Books 3N-3V, 1826-1831, page 155. []
  9. Aurelia M. Jewell, Loudoun County, Virginia Marriage Bonds, 1762-1850, page 71. []
  10. Mary Alice Wertz, Marriages of Loudoun County, Virginia, 1757-1853, page 114. []
  11. Statement included in Loudoun County Chancery Court File, Case No. M1497. []
  12. Included in case file, Loudoun County Chancery Case No. M2144. []
  13. Patricia B. Duncan, Loudoun County, Virginia Will Book Abstracts, Books A-Z, Dec 1757-Jun 1841, page 173. []
  14. Loudoun County Chancery Court File, Case No. M1497. []
  15. Newspaper notice in the Genius of Liberty of Leesburg published on 28 July 1838 and included in the case file. []
  16. 1840 Morgan County census, p152:  John Clymer 011200001-0100201.  Clymer’s own five children were the older ones, the youngest boy and girl were surely Thomas and Sarah Morris. []
  17. Gateway to the West (Clearfield Publishing Company, 1989), Ruth Bowers and Anita Short, Vol. II, p254.    This is a bound version of a periodical published from 1967 to 1978.   The portion of interest is an abstract of guardian bonds in Morgan County, Ohio. []
  18. Morgan County Marriage Book B, p383. []
  19. Note that this would yield a birth date of 14 September 1833, one day different from the Bible entry. []
  20. The Oregon Birth Index contains an entry for the son William Stackpole Thurlow, which gives his mother’s full maiden name. []