J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, November 12, 2022

Seeking John Morey in Roxbury

There were two generations of men named John Morey (also spelled Mory) in Roxbury.

The first John Morey was born in 1687 and married a woman named Hannah. They had several children, including a baby named John in 1736 who died early and another named John born on 23 Jan 1738. The couple’s daughters married into the Pierpoint and Turrell families.

This John Morey became prominent and wealthy. In 1734 he served as one of the two coroners of Suffolk County. As of 1741, he was using the suffix “Esq.” in a newspaper advertisement. In 1745 and 1753, Morey took in poor teenagers under indenture from the Boston Overseers of the Poor.

Morey also owned enslaved people. According to Hannah Mather Crocker, he was the owner of a mason named John Marcy, whom he hired out for jobs in Boston. Marcy was evangelized by hearing the Rev. George Whitefield, joined the Rev. John Moorhead’s church, married an enslaved servant of Lt. Gov. William Dummer, and eventually gained his freedom.

That John Morey died in 1771. He left an estate valued at almost £3,400. It included a large farm and lots of livestock, but also an eight-day clock, a map of the city of London, and five books—more luxury goods than an ordinary farmer had. He was labeled a “Gentleman” in his son’s newspaper advertisement settling the estate.

Also on that 1771 estate inventory were:
  • …a Nego [sic] Boy Named Cato about 12 Years Old…[valued at £]32.0.0
  • …a Negro Garl About 11 Years Old…26.13.4
  • …Ditto Named Bino About 7 Years Old…16.0.0
  • …Ditto Named Zippra an Inferm garl…6.0.0
It looks like the clock went to the West Roxbury meetinghouse. At least, the publication of an 1853 sermon referred to the meetinghouse having that clock with Morey’s name as donor on it. The church also received a silver baptismal basin in 1774; I’m guessing that was given by the younger John Morey but at the behest of his father.

Back in 1768, that second-generation John Morey had turned thirty and married Mary Cheney, born in 1743. The following year, that couple had their first baby, a son they naturally named John. He was followed by Hannah in 1771, Ebenezer Cheaney in 1774, and Susannah in 1776.

Mary’s father was Ebenezer Cheney (1699–1780) of Roxbury. His will left her considerable real estate in Middleborough. The couple prepared to move south. On 2 Oct 1783 John Morey advertised in the Independent Chronicle to sell “A very valuable Farm in Roxbury…containing one hundred and fifty Acres,” plus “Salt Marsh” and “near twenty Acres of good Wood Land.” Interested parties could speak with Morey or three of his neighbors, one being Eleazer Weld, Esq. Morey also called in his debts.

In March and April 1785, four Boston newspapers ran identically worded advertisements announcing the sale “By Publick Vendue [i.e., auction], on the premises, the Monday the 25th day of April next, The valuable FARM of Mr. John Morey, lying in Roxbury.” Reflecting the postwar economic situation, this ad said:
N.B. The payment will be made easy to purchasers, as the whole sum will not be immediately wanted, and government securities will be taken at their common rate of discount.
This time people could inquire of Weld and two other neighbors, but Morey was no longer said to be living on the property.

The facts of John Morey’s life shed a little light on the sale/indenture of the boy named Dick Morey in July 1785, discussed yesterday. For one thing, Morey was leaving that child behind in Roxbury as he moved to a new farm in Middleborough. David Stoddard Greenough paid him £5 for Dick’s next sixteen years, less than the value of a seven-year-old girl for life back in 1771. 

More ominously, it looks like that enslaved girl named Bino whom Morey inherited in 1771 was probably the mother he called “my Negro servant Binah” in 1785. She had given birth around 1780 when she was about sixteen years old. We don’t know who the father was, but he was white since Bino was listed as “a Negro Garl” and her son as “a Molatto Boy.” The list of possible fathers has to start with John Morey himself.

Finally, the Eleazer Weld who helped in selling the Morey farm was also one of the magistrates who affirmed Dick Morey’s indenture in 1787.

John Morey died in Middleborough in 1800, his widow Mary in 1821.

David S. Greenough and his wife Anna had a son (shown above) in the Loring Greenough House in 1787. Anna also had one surviving child from her first marriage. Those boys presumably grew up with Dick Morey as a household servant or farm hand in between their ages but not in their class.

However, I haven’t found any record of Dick Morey past those two documents from 1785–1787.

1 comment:

Wayne @ Eleven Names Project said...

For interested researchers and completists, here's the 1783 deed where John Morey sells his 120-acre lot (where his home stood) and several other lots to Eleazer Weld and Lemuel Childs. (via FamilySearch)