Select Morgan Miscellany

Here are some Morgan stories and accounts over the years:

Morgan Origins

Dr. T.J. Morgan, co-author of the 1985 book Welsh Surnames, has warned of the dangers inherent in explaining the meaning of a name which was probably in use for many centuries before the time of the first surviving Welsh manuscripts.  However, with that caveat in mind, he has suggested the following as to the origin of the Morgan name: 

“The elements of Morgan can be seen in the earliest spelling of Morcant  Mor is probably from the Welsh word Mawr meaning 'great' and cant is 'hundred' with a secondary meaning of 'herd' or 'throng.'  'Great throng,' with the suggestion of a battle throng, seemed to have been a typical wishful name to give to a boy.” 

was probably in use from the 8th century.  It became Morgan in the medieval period.  The Morgans of Tredegar began using Morgan as a surname in the 1330’s. 

The writer Theophilus Evans had thought that Morgan meant "sea born."  But this was probably based on the mistaken view that Morgan was derived from "mor-gen-i" (mor being Welsh for "sea" and geni being "to give birth"

The Morgans of Tredegar

The Morgans of Tredegar claimed descent from Cadifor Fawr, lord of Cilsant, who had lived in the 11th century.  During their early history, they survived the depredations against the Norman French knights, support for Owen Glyndwr’s revolt against the English Crown, and the turmoils of the Wars of the Roses. 

Llewelyn ap Ifor, Lord of St. Clere, had married Angharad, the daughter and heiress of Sir Morgan ap Maredudd, the Lord of Tredegar, in 1334.   According to the Morgan pedigree of 1612, their son Morgan ap Llewelyn was responsible for the adoption of Morgan as a fixed surname.  Thomas Wakeman in his notes on the pedigree pointed out that this Morgan was still alive in 1375 as he was a witness to a deed that year. But he was dead by 1387 as his son Llewellyn ap Morgan stood in his place.

Llewelyn’s grandson Sir John Morgan was known as Y Marchog Tewor “the Fat Knight,” according to his bard Gwilym Tew or the “Fat William.”  He was said to have made a journey to Jerusalem where he was made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.  He was a strong supporter of Henry Tudor and ended up in his later years on the winning side at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Sir Henry Morgan the Pirate

Much about the pirate Sir Henry Morgan has become blurred by myth.  Not even upon his birthplace can the historians decide.  He was born in 1635 in either Penkarne in Monmouthshire or Llanrhymny in Glamorgan.  He is believed to have spent his childhood in Wales.  Two of his uncles, Edward Morgan and Thomas Morgan, were army officers of some success, although in opposing camps. During the Civil War Thomas was a Colonel for the Royalist cause and his brother Edward was Major-General in Cromwell's army. 

How did Henry Morgan come to the Caribbean in the first place?
One version has it that he was "Barbadosed," beaten over the head in Bristol and on a ship the next day to America to be sold as an indentured laborer.  Another version has him joining up with General Venables’ troops in 1654 in their mission to attack the Spaniards in the Caribbean. 

The Venables expedition turned out to be a disaster.  But Henry stayed on in the area and 1662 saw him as Captain Morgan in charge of a ship that raided the Spanish settlement of Santiago de Cuba. 

Thus began Morgan’s career as a privateer.  Two years later he returned to Jamaica from his sorties against the Spanish with great riches.  He was to earn a reputation as one of the most ruthless privateers among those active along the Spanish Main and in fact as one of the most notorious and successful pirates in history

Morgans in Virginia and North Carolina

The forebear of these Morgans was John Dorian Morgan from the Llanrhymney Morgans in Glamorgan.  He was born about 1648, the youngest child of Edward Morgan. In the 1680's he emigrated to Essex county, Virginia where he settled with his wife Hannah.  They had a son named John Morgan who married Ann Barbee and settled on Occypacia Creek in St. Ann parish in Essex county. 

After John's death, Ann married Dr. Thomas Caruthers who then sold all her property rights.  Ann moved to Onslow county in North Carolina where she died.  Her sons had to start over in acquiring their own property. 

Son Joseph became one of the first judges of Onslow county, his brother William the county constable.  Another brother Nathan opened a trading post in the wilderness, mostly trading with the Indians, and a fourth brother Mark moved to Bladen county where he had bought land. 

Mark Morgan had a remarkable daughter named Nancy. She defied the Tories during the Revolutionary War. She stood six feet tall and had flaming red hair. She was renowned for her marksmanship with a musket. The neighboring Indians called her Wahatchee, meaning "War Woman."

The Morgans of Holyoke

Miles Morgan was an early settler of Springfield, Massachusetts and there is a bronze statue of him at Court Square in Holyoke.  He had emigrated from Wales in 1636.

His great grandson Captain Joseph Morgan fought against the French in the 1750’s and suffered a head wound during an attack on Fort William.  He returned home and married Experience Smith in 1765.  They had one son and six daughters.  A Morgan family history remarked about him: “In character as well as in physique he was reckoned to be one of the staunchest men in western Massachusetts.”

The Captain’s great grandson was John Pierpont Morgan, the famous financier.  He gave $10,000 towards the building of the Holyoke Public Library, a donation he could well afford.

Harry Morgan and the Morgan Sports Car

When he was born in 1881, HFS (Harry) Morgan was the son and grandson of Anglican vicars from Herefordshire.  He chose not to pursue the pulpit and instead set about on a career in engineering.  He worked first in the railways before meeting up with some early auto enthusiasts. 

What emerged in 1909 was the first Morgan sports car, a three-wheeler with the engine mounted transversely at the front and a single rear wheel driven by a chain through dog clutches.  These three-wheelers were to define Morgan for the next quarter-century, achieving success in both small-bore racing and in hill climbs.  Their first four-wheeler was introduced in 1936. 

Harry Morgan died in 1959, leaving his son Peter to carry on the business.  Morgan owners revere their cars the firm has remained unflinchingly steadfast in hewing to tradition. The Morgan Motor Company is still located in Malvern Link, still builds traditionalist sports cars by hand in tiny quantities (647 in 2007) – with most now destined for U.S. buyers.  Among their enthusiasts, Morgans are affectionately known as "Moggies."

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