When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore, are the founders
- Daniel Webster
I have been researching our Morgan line and have hit many brick walls along the
way. This first part of this narrative is not founded on fact, merely supposition.
Maybe someone out on the web, by some miracle of fate, will recognize a name and
be able to help me tear down a brick wall or two.
George's eldest daughter, Eliza Ann Morgan Gochee moved to Webster County in the
fall of 1887 and she died in Washington Township, at the home of her daughter, Louella
Emily Hively, nee Gochee, during the winter of 1936. Eliza lived until the ripe
old age of 92.
She was an interesting woman (my grandmother said she was an ornery old cuss, so
I know where I inherited that trait from). She smoked a corncob pipe and was very
outspoken. In her later years after retiring from farm life outside of Moorland,
held court from her home at 621 Fourth Avenue N, in Fort Dodge.
And now onward to my families tale....
Verbal family history holds that we were "Pennsylvania Dutch", I have been researching
Pennsylvania and found a George Morgan with an original land warrent (could this
possibly be our George Morgan's grandfather) in Centre County, located in the Appalachian
Ridge. Many of these settlers originally came from Cumberland Valley to establish
farms in Penn Valley after the area was surveyed in 1766.
In 1788 to 1789 many settlers came to Ohio from Pennsylvania in search of new frontiers,
land and freedom. These people settled near Cincinnati, and were primarily of English
and German descent. This is more than likely the way, and time we started our great
migration, which ended in Illinois and Iowa.
Getting to Clermont County would have been a feat not tried by the weak. The Morgans
would have to cross over the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio River and then float
downstream to Clermont County and their military land grant or the grant they purchased
from a soldier of the Revolutionary War. They would be carrying with them the possessions
most necessary for their survival in the "gigantic forest", some of these may have
been an axe, an auger, a frow, and a drawing knife; a few kettles, some pewter plates
and a log chain, with these scant materials and a little corn to make into bread,
and a gun to shoot game for meat, they could in a relatively short period of time
make a good life for themselves and their children.
The Morgans upon arrival to their piece of land in the woods built their cabin with
materials which were in abundance in the general vicinity of the cabin. The house
was built of full logs, the loft of split logs and the doors of split timbers three
or four inches thick, hung on strong wooden hinges. The chimney was built of sticks
and clay, and the fireplace and hearth of puddled clay. Even the furniture would
be hand constructed over their first winter there. After the cabin was built would
come the clearing. One piece would be cleared entirely, for an orchard, and the
fruit trees would be planted as soon as they could be located. The next clearing
would be for a garden and corn field. There first winter they would be just getting
by with just enough to carry them for the winter if it was not to harsh and enough
game could be procured. Each year,they would struggle t clear more of their land,
till the earth to meet the growing families basic needs.
In researching Clermont Counties, Ohio 1830 Census records to find Georges parents
I found the following Morgans in Clermont County:
Washington Township - two Enoch Morgans
Monroe Township - Samuel Morgan and Enoch Morgan
Tate Township - Aim Morgan and Dos(z)ier Morgan
One of the Enoch Morgan's in Washington Township and Dos(z)ier Morgan in Tate Township
both have a boy in the household who would have been seven to eight at the time
of the census. At this point in time I have reached a dead end as to who is Georges
mother and father, but I will continue to search the archives for the answer.
Sometime after the birth of George Morgan in 1822, the family may have migrated
a little further north.. Most pioneer families moved every several years in short
jumps. The settlers often bought land from the government at $1.25 an acre. They
made improvements and sold the land and cabin for a profit and moved onto larger
homesteads, increasing their net worth.
In the fall , the Morgan's sold their crops and then their land and home. They packed
up the possessions they needed most, bought supplies in Cincinnati and headed out
on their journey. The trip was slow, the wagon train was lumbering north on old
Indian and trapper trails. They may have needed to cross one of the various creeks
and rivers which slowly and gently criss- crossed Ohio.
They left a land covered in forests, hickory, maple, oak and horse chestnut trees.
The landscape, steep hills and winding valleys, part of the Appalachian Plateau
and entered a land of smooth plains. accented by gentle rolling hills.
At night camping on the journey to their new home, they heard the distant cry of
the wolf, under the starry skies, young George may have been lulled to sleep, listening
to the lament of the wolf. They noise of the wolf made the adults tense. They feared
for the safety of their livestock and could not permit the loss of any of his animals,
they could mean the difference between life and death for his family during the
long winter which faced them. I do not wish to miss lead the reader, the prairie
was there, but new settlers were moving into the area everyday. Some came to farm,
others to build the Ohio and Erie Canal, and still more to build the National Highway
and the massive railroad system, which was vital for the farmers to transport their
crops to the eastern market. But however, there was still a silence in the breeze,
their neighbors still a distance from them, they depended on themselves and their
family for there survival.
I will leave this narrative where it is at for this moment in time, and move forward
to the established facts. With luck and perseverance, I will be able to come back
to this chapter and write a fuller, richer picture of these courageous ancestors.
On July 29th, 1822 lots were now for sale in Rush County, Indiana. Sometime later
the Morgan's were on the move again, Indiana their next stop.
George Morgan and Mary Jane Downing
"The charm of a woodland road lies not only in its beauty but in anticipation. Around
each bend may be a discovery, an adventure. A familiar road is like an old friend
who every so often startles with an unexpected quirk of personality, while a heretofore
untraveled one is a new acquaintance whose character is yet to be appraised."
-The Endless Adventure
George Morgan was born in Clermont County, Ohio On August 1822. Mary Jane Downing
(Mary also had a cousin named Eliza Ann who married Baker Keeler) was born somewhere
in Ohio in December of 1824. Before Clermont County existed, it was part of the
Northwest Territory. The area in which Clermont County lies, was originally the
"Virginia Military Reserve". This land was set aside for military persons from Virginia
who fought for American during the Revolutionary War. Either George's father or
Grandfather was in the War, or he purchased the land from someone who was.
George was born in the same year and the same county as Ulysses Grant. The state
of Ohio was experiencing growing pains, the westward expansion was on! Life in these
frontier territories and states was hard and dangerous. Their efforts to establish
farms and to clear unbroken soil, demanded courage, self reliance and a determination
The farmers were soon producing far more than the could use. It was difficult for
them to sell their surplus, for between the Buckeye State and the eastern markets,
rose the rugged Allegheny Mountains. Many farmers converted bulky grain to flour
or whiskey, which could be transported more easily. They loaded their goods on pack
horses for the dangerous trip over the mountains.
George and Mary were married at a small Episcopal Methodist Church (sometimes referred
to as Gowdy Ebenezer Church), in Gowdy, Orange township, Rush County, Indiana, in
December of 1842.
The church was a simple wood frame structure, covered in clapboard siding and painted
white, which had been originally a grade school. It was set among trees, on a half
and acre site , which was purchased from Eddie G. and Kathryn Thompson for the sum
of $250.00 in the year 1838. The original church burned to the ground on December
4, 1897 and the next year a larger Church was built.
Rush county, Indiana when first seen by the settlers, before them stood unbroken
forests, thick underbrush, massive tangles of bushes and also the dense, beautiful
growth of weeds and flowers. The trees that blanketed the area were immense in size.
A Burr Oak stood on the Shawnee fork of the Flat Rock River which had a diameter
of ten feet, it rose seventy feet into the air before the limbs divided. The tree
was destroyed in later years by a fire, accidentally. Another tree, the largest
Walnut Tree in the area, stood on the Kirkwood's farm. This tree was over eight
feet in diameter. The tree to all appeared healthy and vigorous that no one suspected
that it was hollow on the inside. This was later found out when the tree was struck
by lightning. These are just a few of the tree which the early settlers individually
recalled. But you can be sure, Indiana grew its trees broad and gigantic. The wildlife
supported by these forests was abundant. It was not unusual to hear the sharp shrill
of a panther, awakening the sleeping settlers in their crude cabin. Elk and deer
were plentiful. Daniel Boone spoke of vast herds of Buffalo migrating through the
Their first child and our direct ancestor, Eliza Ann, was born in Rushville, Rush
County, Indiana on August 5th, 1844. Rushville was the center of rich farming country.
Indiana was now opened up, and the state was booming with the westward migration,
and George must have felt the pull of the wilderness and the need to move on to
a less populated territory.
In the fall of 1844, George, Mary with her baby in arms, Followed the sun to a place
called Buckles Grove, in Mclean County, Illinois. Her cousin, Eliza Ann (nee Downing)
and her husband Baker Keeler moved with them. This area was sparsely populated ,
and with a newborn baby, life must have been a struggle for Mary. Her home which
may at the beginning , been nothing more than a lean to, with a dirt floor.
Two more daughters were born while they lived at Buckles Grove. Melinda Jane on
August 26th , 1846 and Mary Elizabeth, May 17th, 1851. Here they tilled one hundred
and fifty acres, imagine the work with no tractors, combines and no electricity!
They also faced another problem plowing the prairie, the grass roots were so dense,
that it often took two plows and teams of oxen to accomplish the job. For the average
farmer it took forty to sixty days a year to plow, plant and harvest ten acres of
corn, so for George and Mary there was very little rest. During the spring, summer
and fall they were busy with the crops, Mary doing double time with the house and
children. The long winter months would be spent busily making clothing, splitting
logs, repairing tools, carving utensils, furniture and possibly a whistle for the
Following the custom of pioneers, they moved once more. George and Mary migrated
to Keokuk county, Iowa, late in 1851 or early in 1852. Again the Bakers came with
them. In most likely hood, they made there way across Illinois, in a wagon. They
probably followed a trail, created first by the Indians, used by the fur traders
and finally the settlers. This trail eventually became state highway 136. They may
have stopped and rested at Peoria, Galesburg (founded in 1836) and finally Burlington,
Iowa where they crossed the Mississippi by ferry boat. George and his family most
likely stayed in Burlington to rest for several day in this tiny settlement. They
may have taken a inventory of their supplies and purchased what they needed. The
last leg of there journey, leaving the lush tree lined area of the Mississippi,
they found themselves in the region known as the "driftless plains". Endless miles
of beautiful prairie grasses and wildflowers. There was no shelter from the elements,
and the weather could be extremely harsh on the prairies. When they finally reached
Keokuk County at least a month had been spent on the journey. But there was little
time for the well deserved rest, there was a home to construct, and fields to be
Their first home on the prairie was a sod house, sod was in abundance, timber was
not. The railroads were entering Iowa at this time so the sod house was only temporary,
with the railroads came civilization and the availability of lumber for construction.
Two more daughters were added to their growing family while they resided in Keokuk
County, Iowa. Louisa Emily on July 15th, 1855 and Melisa Caroline on February 28th,
Sometime between 1857 and 1860 they made one more move in Iowa, this time to Oskaloosa
, Iowa in Mahaskia County. This was the shortest migration they had made to date.
The distance between Richland and Oskaloosa was sixty five miles. Eliza Ann would
have been approximately 14 years old at this time Melinda, 12 and Mary Elizabeth
7, they would have been a great help to their mother in this move.
While they were in Iowa, Mary Jane's cousin, Eliza Ann Baker, passed away. Baker
Keeler remarried, and the Morgan's and Keeler's stopped traveling together, on their
migrations back and forth on the plains.
Early in 1860 they were on the move again, this time back to McLean county, Illinois.
This would be Mary Jane's last move. In 1863, their oldest daughter Eliza Ann, met
and married, Joseph Louis Gochee on December 31st, 1863. She was no longer in their
home. Their last daughter, Clara Rebecca was born on May 13th, 1864.
Mary Jane was forty when Clara was born, this had to take a great toll on her health,
with the lack of proper medical care during this era. Mary Jane died on February
6th, 1869. She was laid to rest in the old section of the Oak Grove Cemetery, in
Melinda Jane was 23 at the time of her mothers death and she did not marry until
she was 32 years old. The responsibility of the house and the children would have
landed on her shoulders.
Mary Elizabeth married on October 13th, 1870, a man named James W. Morgan, one more
child leaving the nest. James was killed during a severe storm, which produced a
tornado in NW Iowa. Mary had children that lived until adulthood. She later married
John Scott on June 2cd, 1889, in Puadua, Illinois. She died six years later, at
the age of 44, on March 9th, 1895. She is interred at Riverside Cemetery, in Saybrook,
The next child to leave and start a new life was, Melissa Caroline, at age 17, she
married Jackson Cutright Gassaway, on January 27th, 1874. Her and Jackson had children
who lived until adulthood. Melissa lived until the age of 69, and died on January
31st, 1926. She was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery.
On August 27th in the year 1876, George remarried. George was now 54 years old.
He wed, Mary Catherine Swearingen, the daughter of Charles and Sarah , in Leroy,
Illinois. Mary Catherine was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 23rd, 1830.
She was 46 at the time of her marriage to George. She brought 9 children with her,
as she had been previously married to Lemuel Swearingen. During their marriage,
they moved to Kansas. They returned to once more to Leroy, Illinois. In October
of 1895 George and Mary Catherine divorced and went their separate way.
On September 26th, 1878, Melinda Jane, Married James Holden, In Leroy, Illinois.
She was 32 years old, she had raised her younger sister's and was now free to start
a new life. She had sons who died in infancy. It is not known were these children
are buried. They were not buried with their mother, nor was Melinda buried with
James. She died on June 11th, 1920, at the age of 74. She was laid to rest at Gilmore
Cemetery, in rural Leroy, Illinois, by Eliza Ann's son "Little George".
Eveline Delcena was wed on August 26th, 1883, to John Henry Thompson. Evaline had
children who lived until adulthood. She died on June 20th, 1920 at the age of 60.
Eveline was buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Leroy, Illinois.
The baby of the Morgan brood, Clara Rebecca, married on September 10th, 1891 to
Peter Moore. She was Peter's second wife. Her and Peter had no children. She passed
away in June of 1932. She was buried at Gilmore Cemetery in Leroy, Illinois, next
to Peter and his first wife.
Louisa Emily, married Jared Hall, in February of 1895. There son died in infancy.
Louisa died on November 26th, 1937. She was buried at Gilmore Cemetery, in Leroy,
Illinois. It is not known were her son was buried, as she was not buried next to
George Morgan married, a widow, Nancy J. Davis Bass, in Salem, Illinois, located
in Marion County, on the 15th of October, 1895. George was 73 and Nancy was 30 years
old. Nancy was born in North Carolina on October 2cd, 1865. She was the daughter
of William Davis and Bevo Crews. Here first husband, Jacob Bass, died in 1890. They
remained in Kinmundy until 1908. George and Nancy both were seriously ill. George
was taken to his daughter, Eveline's for the constant care he required. Nancy remained
with her family to receive care. George passed away on April 30, 1908, at the home
of his daughter, Eveline. He was 86 years old.
The memorial service and wake were held in Eveline's home. Burial followed at Oak
Grove Cemetery. Nancy died a few month later, she was buried next to her first husband,
Jacob Bass. She was only 43 at the time of her death.
Mary Catherine Swearingen Morgan passed away at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Silas
Watters, in the SW part of Leroy, Illinois, on July 2?, 1921. She was buried in
Oak Grove Cemetery with her Daughter, Jennie Pray.
George Morgan's Migration Across the Midwest
A ) George is born in Clermont County, Ohio, August 1822( Ulysses S. Grant was born
in the same year, in the same vicinity )
B ) George marries Mary Jane at Gowdy, Orange Township, Rush County, Indiana, December
C ) Fall of 1844 moved to Buckles Grove, McLean County, Illinois
D ) 1851 or 1852 Move to Richland Township, Keokuk County. Also move 65 miles west
to Oskalasa, Iowa.
C ) 1860 returned to McLean County, Illinois.
E) Marries Mary Swearingen, sometime between 1876 and 1898 move to Kansas, and then
returns to McLean County, Illinois.
G ) Marries Nancy and moves to Kinmundy, Illinois.
C ) Becomes ill and is moved to his daughter's home in Leroy, Illinois. He dies
((C))Copyright 1998 Kandus Barland