Not long after the death of Thomas Morton of Prince George’s County in 1782, his four youngest children (Richard, James, Mary and Ann), along with their mother Ursulee Brightwell Morton, moved across the Potomac River to Stafford County, Virginia. We know they had relocated by 1786 when Richard Morton (on behalf of himself, “Mary and Nancy Morton his sisters”) signs a lease from William Fitzhugh, Jr for the parcel called the Accokeek Tract for the sum of one shilling per acre.
In that period, most Marylanders looking for new land were emigrating to states much further west or south, like Kentucky or Georgia. So, probably the Mortons were attracted to Stafford County by other issues. One factor would have been the presence of relatives or friends already there, since a number of families from Southern Maryland had already resettled there in the preceding century. In particular, their brother Joseph Morton’s wife, Catherine Billingsley, had grown up in Stafford County and her family was still there, but there doesn’t seem to be any common between them in Stafford County.
Another possible factor was the two or three tracts of land which Thomas Morton had acquired in the state of Virginia but privately deeded to the sons of his first marriage. The older brothers staying in Southern Maryland might have found these properties inconvenient and so settled the family dispute by allocating some of them to their step-mother and siblings.
The oldest and the leader of the Morton siblings was Richard Morton (see below), who soon married Margaret Waller and became an active man of business there. Ann Morton married George Grayson Hedgman, also from a prominent local family. About Mary Morton, there is a tradition that she married a Maddox, but this has not been confirmed. According to the notes of Mrs. Annie Dix (granddaughter of Richard Morton), Ursula Morton hadn’t planned on staying in Stafford, but one of her children became ill while in the vicinity of the courthouse. She liked the people there and so bought a home on part of the old Waller farm, Spring Hill, and remained there until her death. Another section of Mrs. Dix’s notes states Richard purchased a piece of land in sight of Spring Hill, built a house and moved his mother there.
Mrs. Dix’s notes state that their brother James came too and died there (possibly he was Ursula’s sick child?), which would explain why the Stafford records are silent about him. On October 12, 1795, Richard Morton had obtained the power of attorney from “Wester” (for her dower), Mary and Ann Morton in Stafford County, for the sake of a Morton land sale in Lower Marlborough, Md. One possibility is that “Wester” (Hester?) is James’ widow, but it is also possible that this is some form of the name of Richard’s wife (Margaret Waller).
Richard and his mother Ursula in public affairs
One factor complicating research in Stafford County is that many of the early records there suffered from vandalism during the civil war. In addition, the original schedules for the 1790 and 1800 Census Returns for Virginia were destroyed when the British Army occupied Washington in 1814. But fragmentary records survive.
In 1786, Richard Morton bought 150 acres by deed from Moses Phillips and he is listed on the surviving tax lists from 1786-1791 with that property assessed at £48.2.6.
Richard Morton is already on the roll of voters for the elections of Burgesses, April 1786, when he voted for Col. Mercer (the losing candidate). He was a Grand Jury member (1790, 1791, 1792); he was appointed to keep the Courthouse clean and to furnish firewood and water under the direction of the High Sheriff (1790). In 1792, he is appointed one of the administrators of William Anderson, whose seven orphans are to be bound out for service; four of them choose Morton as their guardian.
Meanwhile, Ursula Morton owned a tavern and would do so for over a decade. In the March 1790 court, Ursla Morton was “presented” (found guilty) by the grand jury for retailing spiritious liquors without license. Likewise, in the June court. Then the March 1791 court granted her a license “for keeping an ordinary [tavern] the ensuing year, she having entered Bond with security”, but alas, the November 1792 court presented her again.
Although the earlier Stafford tax records include a George Morton, Joseph Morton and Robert B. Morton (related to the Mountjoys), they are apparently a different family. The only Mortons on the 1800 individual tax lists for Stafford County are “Ursilla Marten (Ordinary)”, with 3 blacks over 16 years and 1 horse, and Richard Morton with 3 blacks over 16 years and 3 horses. A merchandise license is also listed for the firm of “Morton & Roberts”.
The 1810 Census of Stafford County lists three Mortons (spelled “Moton” based on pronunciation), all in the Aquia district: Ursilla and Richard living two houses from each other (and near their friends the Mitchells and Markhams); also an unknown “Edmond Moton” with a small household of one white man and woman, one slave.
Richard had become one of the fifteen wealthiest men in the county and kept the company of the wealthy. On the 1812 taxable property record, his plantation near Aquia Creek had 468 acres and 15 slaves, and in 1810 he is recorded as a witness to a land transfer of Daniel Carroll Brent, the county’s second largest landowner (3184 acres) and slaveholder (53). His father-in-law, William Waller Sr of Concord had 700 acres and 11 slaves.
Ursilla’s 1810 household had two white females over 45 and 8 slaves; then the 1820 Census records her as the only white person in a household with 11 slaves.
Ursula Brightwell Morton sealed her will on 19 July 1818, but it was not probated until she died in May or June 1826. She states that she has previously provided for her children and grandchildren, and she leaves her seven slaves and the rest of her property to her grandson James Morton who is also named as her sole executor. But James renounced his right to be sole executor and instead James Morton and Peter D.G. Hedgman entered into a bond to be co-executors. Peter D.G. Hedgman was the son of Ursula’s daughter Ann “Nancy” Morton Hedgman. The inventory of her estate, appraised at $3184.75, included a dozen individually described cows, a mare and cart, 12 hogs, farm equipment, 1 desk, 2 pine tables and 10 old chairs, 2 andirons, 4 beds, kitchen furniture, 9 plates, etc.
After spending the first 40 or more years of her life along the Patuxent in Maryland, Ursulee Brightwell Morton, widow of Thomas Morton of Wood’s Joy, had found a second homeland in Virginia between Stafford Courthouse and the Potomac River, where she spent another 30 years. She outlived several of her children but in the end was surrounded by a dozen grandchildren from her son Richard Morton (below) and daughter Ann “Nancy” Morton Hedgman.
Richard Morton, the son of Thomas Morton and Ursula Brightwell, was probably born on his father’s home plantation “Wood’s Joy” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, sometime in the early 1760s. If he is the Richard Morton who signed the Oath of Fidelity in Prince George’s County in 1776 (no other man of that name is known), then perhaps he was born even a bit before 1760.
With his mother and several siblings, he moved to Stafford County, Virginia, before 1786. There, he married Margaret “Peggy” Waller (b. 16 Oct 1771) of a prominent local family by 1790 and had a large family. On the 1791 land tax list for Stafford County, Virginia, besides his own 150 acres, Richard Mortonis recorded with 67 acres for William Waller (presumably his father-in-law) and in 1800 also 11 acres for H. Peyton (reason unknown).
Richard Morton wrote his will 19 July 1812 on his deathbed. He mentions his mother, wife Peggy, and ten children James, Thomas, William, Elizabeth, Allen Waller, Nancy, Margaret, Mariah, John and George Morton. In addition to the usual Morton names of his brothers and father (William, James, George, Thomas), Richard carried on his Maryland heritage by naming one daughter for his mother Ursula and one son for his mother’s father, John Brightwell. He left his schooner to his son James, his mill to Thomas, and “the plantation on which John Beagle now lives (and the Rents becoming due)” to his mother —and the rest to his wife and children.
Richard must have died that same day because the next day his wife’s aunt Barsheba Waller wrote out her will mentioning “the late Richard Morton” and her niece Peggy and bequeathing all her money, furniture and property to their same ten children. The witnesses were William Waller, Jr., Nancy Hedgman (Richard Morton’s sister), Margaret Markham. Her will and her sister Jane Markham’s and her brother Allen Waller’s were preserved in the Virginia state files because they were used in 1822 by Peggy Morton and her children to apply for a land warrant due to Allen Waller for military services; the military certificates were accordingly granted.
The 1810 Census records Richard Morton with two men over 45 (himself and someone unknown) and two women (one 26-45, probably his wife, and another over 45). In addition there are six young whites: one male 16-26, one boy 10-16; two boys under 10, two girls under 10; and eight slaves. This generally fits what else we know about the birth years of his children, but not exactly and this only accounts for six of the ten children.
In the 1820 Census, Richard’s widow Margaret Morton is recorded as head of household with 9 whites, 17 slaves, and 5 free persons of color. Besides herself (over 45), there are 2 white males aged 16-25 (probably Allen and James), 2 boys aged 10-15 (probably John and Richard), and also 4 white females aged 16-25 (which seems too old for the youngest girls). Her will does not survive but the inventory of her estate was taken in 1827.
Children of Richard Morton (c.1765-1812) and Margaret “Peggy” Waller (1771-1827):
(listed in the order of their father and great-aunt Barsheba’s will)
In 1822 land application above, Peggy Morton’s five youngest children are stated to be under 21 years of age, which means five were over 21 and born before 1801. Likewise, the eldest son William was old enough in 1812 to be named as executor of his great-aunt Barsheba will. In fact, in the August 1806 Stafford Co. will of Peggy’s aunt Jane Waller Markham, Richard Morton is described as having been a security for the execution of her husband John’s estate, and the witnesses include W. Morton, so he must even be born at least by 1788. For her September 1809 codicil, Thomas Morton and James Morton are witnesses, so they must be born by 1791.
7.1) William Morton (born before 1788, died 1821)
He was old enough to be named the executor of his father Richard’s and Barsheba Waller’s will when they wrote them in 1812. He left a will dated 10 June 1821 and proved 12 July 1821 in Fredericksburg, in which he mentions his mother and brothers Allen W., James and Thomas Morton.
7.2) Thomas Morton (c. 1790 – after 1821)
Named for his grandfather. His father’s will left him “my mill and mill seat”; a Thomas Morton was granted a tavern license in Stafford County in 1827.
7.3) James Morton (c. 1793/96 – 1859) of Spring Hill marr. Lucy Brown Horton
He was named for his uncle. In his father’s will, he was bequeathed “the Schooner ‘Active’ and all the apparatus to her belonging”. He married (perhaps for the second time) Lucy Brown Horton, by whom he had six children named below. James and his wife Lucy are buried at the Spring Hill cemetery.
7.4) Elizabeth Morton. Nothing is known beyond her mention in various wills.
7.5) Allen Waller Morton (1799 — 1872) marr. Jean Mitchell
He first lived in Fredericksburg, but later moved to Richmond and was a city official there. He had 8 children.
7.6) Anne “Nancy” Morton (c.1801/3 – ) marr. Joel James Jameson (?)
The marriage is only known from an oral tradition. In the 1840 census, Joel J. Jamieson’s household has himself and a woman in their thirties, two late teenage girls, and two small girls and a boy under 5, with seven slaves. But the Joel J. Jameson found in the 1850 Stafford census is a schoolteacher aged 49 and living with the Lowry family.
7.7) Margaret M. (?) Morton (c.1803/5 — 1883) marr. Rev. Nelson Head (1811 — 1902)
Named Margaret for her mother, her middle initial was printed as “M.” in the published account of her aunt Barsheba Waller’s will, but also has been listed as “Ursula” (what source?). She married Rev. Dr. Nelson Head, a Methodist minister, and travelled around the state with him. He pastored a church in Petersburg in the 1840s, led a revival for Confederate troops in Farmville during the War, received the D.D. from Randolph-Macon College in 1867, then finished his life leading a church in Leesburg, Va. He and his wife are buried there in Union Cemetery; her gravestone says 1801- 1882, but her date of death is given as May 7, 1883 and the birth order of the children and age of her own children suggests she was born a little later.. Children (perhaps others): Mary Nelson Head (Kent) (1839-1907); Richard Head.
7.8) Maria Waller Morton (c. 1805/6– d. 1844)
The will of Maria W. Morton “of Stafford County but for some time past a resident of Baltimore, Maryland” was dated 29 March 1844 and admitted to probate before the Corporation Court of the City of Fredericksburg 12 April 1844. Therein she mentions her niece Mary Nelson Head; her brothers John B. and Waller Morton; three sisters but not by name; her sisters Margaretta; and nephew Richard M. Head.
7.9) John Brightwell Morton (July 4, 1807 — 1881) marr. Clarissa Coleman (1809 — 1894)
Named “John Brightwell” for his father’s grandfather. The name was also passed down to later generations. He is found in Richmond by the 1850 census in Richmond with his wife “Clara”. The family were strong members of the Methodist Church and are buried at Hollywood Cemetery. Of their six children, their sons Osmond Summers Morton and Douglass Vass Morton both became Richmond bankers with large families.
7.10) George Richard Morton (c. 1810 — )