Friday, March 25, 2011

Who's Who? The Morris Men

According to some accounts of the Great Hanging, there were four Morris Men who lost their lives in the hanging. Most accounts give only initials for the given names, such as W. W. Morris, M. W. Morris, John W. Morris, I. W. Morris, John A. Morris, etc.  It can be a little tricky trying to figure out just who is who.

McCaslin in his book "Tainted Breeze, The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862," lists four men who were hanged with the surname of Morris.
Diamond’s account of the Great Hanging only identifies three men with the surname of Morris that were brought to trial before the Citizen's Court.
James Lemuel Clark has three Morris men on his list of men who were hanged.

In preparing the previous post about Thomas Floyd, we found a small clue about a few of the Morris Men. Supposedly, Clora Carter Floyd (wife of Thomas Floyd) had a sister(s) who married a Morris. They migrated from Tennessee to Texas with a stop-over in Arkansas along the way. And then, they lived next to each other in the 1860 Cooke County Census.  The husband to Clora Carter Floyd's sister supposedly died in the Hanging, also.

So, first we will list and compare information about the Morris Men found in the different accounts.

Diamond’s list of 3 Morris Men who were tried by the Citizens Court:
W. W. Morris – Seventh man tried by the Citizens Court - individual trial
John A. Morris – Tried together with Edward Hampton
M. W. Morris – Group trial with Goss, Anderson, Miller and Dawson.

McCaslin's list of 4 Morris Men, along with his notes on each man:
William W. Morris – (1860 Cooke County Census) age 50, born Georgia, farmer. Wife, Nancy, age 35, born Alabama. Will written 28 Feb 1861 and probated 27 Oct 1862. Wife, Nancy, is only heir mentioned. No known children. Trial, hanged on October 8th. In his trial, W. W. Morris states he was initiated into the Peace Party with (Thomas) Floyd.
BlogNote: Probably the W. W. Morris referred to in Diamond’s account
John A. Morris – (1860 Montague County Census) age forty, born Arkansas, wife, Marguerite 39 b. Indiana, oldest three children born Arkansas and youngest born Texas. John Morris paid taxes in Cooke County in 1861 & 1862. Tried by Citizen’s court in a double trial along with Ed Hampton, hanged on October 19th.
M. W. Morris – paid a poll tax in 1861 & 1862, Cooke County. McCaslin states that M. W. Morris is a brother to William Morris.
Tried in a group trial, along with Goss, Anderson, Miller and Dawson. Hanged on October 19th.
John W. Morris -- (1860 Cooke County Census) age thirty, born Tennessee. Wife, Lucretia, and their two sons (ages 11 & 9) born in Tennessee.
BlogNote: There was NO mention in Diamond's account of a trial for John W. Morris. Was he the witness named I. W. Morris in the trial of Ramey Dye, stating that he had been at the meeting for the rescue of Harper?  Witness Gilbert Smith mentions John W. Morris as being present at the Dye meeting.

Clark’s list of 3 Morris Men, along with our BlogNotes:
Clark said there were two Morris brothers - Wesley & Wash - that were hanged:
Wesley Morris – landholder – probably the Wesley Morris listed in 1860 Cooke County census, wife: Ann 33 b. TN, daughters: Martha Ann & Clora. He lived next to Thomas Floyd and Washington Morris in the 1860 census.
Wash Morris – landholder – probably the Washington Morris listed in 1860 Cooke County census, wife Josephine 22 b. TN, twins Wm R. & Sarah 3 yrs old.
Clark also listed:
 J. Morris - ? This is probably the John A. Morris in Diamond’s account, but it could be either one of the two John Morris men listed by McCaslin.
BlogNote: Some may argue that Clark's list included men that were not hanged and did not include some that were.  The Clark family and the Morris brothers were listed on the same page of the 1860 census, making them close neighbors.  Clark would have known close neighbors who were also hanged along with his father. 

So, who exactly are the Morris Men who died in the hangings? Were there 3 or 4? Which ones were brothers? Who were their families?

On page 227 of the 1860 Federal Census for Cooke County, the following men are listed next to each other:
Household 89 - Thomas Floyd family (Thomas Floyd hanged)
Household 90 - Wesley Morris family (According to J.M. Clark, Wesley Morris hanged)
Household 91 - Robert Morris family
Household 92 - Washington Morris family (According to J.M. Clark, Wash Morris hanged)
Household 93 - Madison Lynch family
Household 94 – N. M. Clark family (Nathaniel Miles Clark hanged)
Household 95 – Alex Powers (Father of James Alexander Powers, who was hanged)

According to the above mentioned “small clue” we found in the Lewis County, Tennessee History Book: Thomas Floyd married Clora Carter and she had sister(s) who married a Morris and lived next to them in Cooke County, Texas.  Note, we were only able to find one sister that married a Morris.

Research into the marriage records for Lewis County, Tennessee, shows a Michael W. Morris who married Ann Carter on 10 July 1850. The marriage was performed by K. Carter (Kinchen Carter) who was the father of Clora and Ann Carter.   Floyd and Clora Morris named their first son, Kinchen, after her father.  Wesley and Ann Morris had 2 known daughters, one of them named Clora, after Ann's sister.

The household 90 from the above 1860 census page shows the Wesley Morris family. Wesley’s wife is Ann, age 33 born in Tennessee. It appears that the Wesley Morris on Clark’s list is the Wesley Morris in the 1860 census.  His full name is Michael Wesley Morris and he is the M. W. Morris listed in Diamond’s account.  

In 1860, Wesley was living next door to his brother-in-law, Thomas Floyd. Wesley Morris and Thomas Floyd married sisters, Clora and Ann Carter of Lewis County, Tennessee. Thomas and Wesley were also living next to at least one more Morris brother, Washington Morris, and perhaps another, Robert Morris.

WHO'S A BROTHER TO WHO?  McCaslin states that the M. W. Morris on his list was a brother to William W. Morris. McCaslin's William W. Morris was 50 years old born in Georgia. It seems more likely that Wesley was the brother to Wash Morris (Clark's account) than to William W. Morris (McCaslin's account.)  Clark was a close neighbor to the Morris brothers, as shown in the above 1860 census for Cooke County and would have had personal knowledge of the relationship between Wesley Morris and Wash Morris.  According to the 1860 census, Wesley was 32 years old born in Tennessee. He was living next to Washington Morris, age 21 born Tennessee in the 1860 census. 

In the 1850 Census for Lawrence County, Tennessee, the following Morris family can be found with both a Wesley and Wash. Lawrence County borders Lewis County, where the Carter family lived.

1850 Lawrence Co., Tennessee, Page 371 line 1-11, Dwell 180/Family 180
Morris, Shadrick, 44, M, Farmer, Value of Real Estate $1500, NC
Morris, Sarah A. 44 , F, SC
Morris, Wesley, 19, M, TN
Morris, Sam'l C., 18, M, TN
Morris, Mary, 16, F, TN
Morris, Wash P., 11, M, TN
Morris, Shadrick F., 7, M, TN
Morris, George M., 6, M, TN (Moved to Texas by 1860)
Morris, Sarah J., 3, F, TN (Moved to Texas by 1860)
Morris, Felix G., 22, M, Farmer, TN (Moved to Texas by 1860)
Morris, William M., 2, TN (son of Felix & Henrietta Pollack Morris)

The above family from the 1850 census is most likely the family belonging to Wesley and Wash Morris in 1860 Cooke County, Texas and referred to by James Lemuel Clark. 
Wesley Morris is most likely the M. W. Morris but was Wash Morris one of the McCaslin/Diamond men?
Several Morris Men had a "W" initial.  But, in the above 1850 census, Wash's middle initial is “P” and we know from further research his son was called Washington P(erry) Morris, so, his name was most likely Washington "P" Morris.  That does not fit any of the men on the Diamond or McCaslin list.  But, how careful was Diamond in transcribing the original court records?  Could Diamond have gotten the initials wrong? Diamond's account lists only 3 trials for Morris men.  McCaslin added John W. Morris (he was mentioned during court testimony and I. W. Morris was a witness.)  A recently found newspaper account from 1880, lists Wesley and Work Morris.  Work is probably a transcription error for Wash.

Washington Morris married Josephine Hawbuckle 20 Oct 1859 in Cooke County, Texas.  In the 1860 census, there are 2 three year old children listed.  Since Washington and Josephine were married less than a year when the census was taken, the children listed on the census could be children from a previous marriage for Josephine.  If that is the case, then Hawbuckle is probably not her maiden name but a previous married name.  Josephine and Wash Morris had one son, named Washington Perry Morris, who was born in November 1862.  If Washington Morris was one of the men who died in the hanging, then that means his wife, Josephine, gave birth to a baby boy a month after the hanging.   In 1867, Josephine remarried a man by the name of William Alpin, so we know she was free (widowed) to marry by 1867.

It's very unforunate that the only surviving records of the court (Diamond's account) listed some of the men by initials only!  Research is much more difficult when only initials are known for the given name, especially if the surname is common in the locality of research. 


Any help, suggestions, additions or corrections to any of the Morris Men would be appreciated. We have not been able to find information posted by descendants on any of the online family trees on,, etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My g great grandmother was Martha Ann Morris daughter of Michael Wesley Morris and ANN Carter. We have found Martha Ann Morris and her husband Issac Bonivan Cook in Eleven Points,Randolph Co. Ark