John Morris (Morrice), Hartford Founder

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Compiled by Timothy Lester Jacobs, SDFH Genealogist

JOHN1 MORRIS/MORRICE, HARTFORD FOUNDER (GEORGEA MORRICE?) was baptized 13 Jul 1600 in poss Messing, Essex, England, and died bef. 15 Feb 1668/69 in Hartford, CT (inventory). He married MARTHA WOODWARD abt. 1649 in Hartford, CT. She was born in England, and died 19 May 1690 in Middletown, CT.

It is unknown when and to where in the American colonies John Morris/Morrice, possibly of Messing, Essex, England, emigrated. He was in Hartford by the time of the Hartford land inventory of February 1639/40, when he held: two acres and three roods on which his dwelling house stood with other outhouses yards, and gardens, located in the northwestern section of Hartford on the south side of the road from the Old Oxpasture to the Cow Pasture; three acres in the Pine Field; and two acres on the east side of the Great River. It is also shown in the inventory that he had later acquired six other parcels including two lots in the Soldiers Field. He was one of the inhabitants “as were Granted lotts to have onely at The Townes Courtesie”.

He served on the Hartford jury 7 December 1654 and 15 October 1662.

The date and place of his birth, his ancestry, and the identity of his wife must be considered only as possible and tentative, as it is derived from extrapolation of known data. Primary data shows unquestionably that he had a brother Robert who died in Hartford 19 November 1684, who was aged 70 in 1665 while being treated in Wethersfield by John Winthrop, Jr., as noted in Winthrop’s medical records. John was noted as “My Uncle John Morrises” in the will of William Goodwin, son of Ozias Goodwin, leading to the supposition that John Morris’s wife Martha was a sister of Ozias Goodwin or of his own wife Mary Woodward. No indication can be found that Ozias Goodwin had a sister named Martha, nor is a Martha named in the will of Robert Woodward, father of Mary.

Although named as uncle, the relationship may have been somewhat more complex. It is clear from the inclusion of Morris families in Frank Farnsworth Starr’s “English Goodwin Papers”, that Starr was investigating this relationship. In this work, he listed the baptisms in the Messing Parish Register of John Morris son of George 13 July 1600, and in the same listing Martha Woodward daughter of John and Ruhamah 22 February 1623. As the first child of John and Martha Morris was born about 1650 and that John Morris was an adult owning land in Hartford in 1639, it is clear that he was an older man who married a younger woman, making the age discrepancy as shown in the Messing baptismal registrar explainable.

George Morris, father of John, is shown in the same register to have been buried 26 May 1611, and John Woodward as buried 21 August 1631, making John 10 years old when his father died and Martha eight years old when her father died. Thus it is likely that both children were taken in by other related families. Thomas Woodward of Brighlinsey, in his will of 03 July 1589, names sons Robert and John, thus he was the possible father of Robert Woodward, father of Mary, and John Woodward the father of Martha.

The first wife of Hartford founder Timothy Stanley has been identified as “Elizabeth Morrice?” by Torrey and by Ernest Flagg in his “Genealogical Notes”. That she was indeed Elizabeth Morris, sister of John and Robert, is reinforced by the probate records of Robert Morris, wherein Caleb Stanley, son of Timothy and Elizabeth, is noted as “having done many services for Robert Morris, as all his family, having baked his bread for a number of years”, supporting the conclusion that Caleb Stanley’s mother was Elizabeth Morrice sister of Robert and John.

Many of the pages in the Messing Parish Register are missing, thus are lacking support for the proposed relationships above.

No known birth records can be found for John, Mary, and Joshua, children of John and Martha Morris. Joshua’s date of birth is established by his death record of 2 December 1681, in which it was stated that he was killed by the fall of the log from a woodpile at age about 14. In the will of John Morris it is established that his son John was not yet age 21 and his daughter Mary not yet age 18 by 13 November 1668. Mary was married in 1680, thus placing her date of birth about 1659. Although it is claimed in the Tillotson genealogy that John died as a child, in the “Original Distribution of Land”, he is shown as holding land 9 March 1670/1, thus making him at least 21 at that time, and was still alive on 18 December 1683, when he was named overseer of the estate of Andrew Benton of Hartford. Further records of him cannot be found, so it is unknown if he married or had any children.

The will of founder John Morris was made 13 November 1668, and his inventory was taken 15 February 1668/9 by his brother Robert and Daniel Pratt.

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