Select Morris Miscellany

Here are some Morris stories and accounts over the years:


The Welsh name Mawrrhys is composed of two elements, mawr meaning “great” and rhys meaning “chief.”  Perhaps as a result, many of the early Kings of Wales had the Mawrrhys name.  Mawrrhys, the last so named to bear this title, died in the year 1200.

Morris at the Time of Shakespeare

The Morris family was recorded as living at Stratford-on-Avon or nearby Clifford Chance since the 1540’s.  During the reign of Queen Elizabeth these Morrises included:

  • Richard Morris who had a son Ferdinand
  • John Morris who married Elinor Jones and had a son William
  • and Jasper Morris, the rector of the church at Clifford Chambers.
Clifford Chance has in fact been claimed by some as the real birthplace of William Shakespeare as the bubonic plague was rife in the town of Stratford at that time.

The Morris estate was at Shottery, a suburb of Stratford, and was where Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway.  Kathryn Morris served in the Shakespeare household when he was growing up, whether as governess, nurse or maid it is not possible to say.  She died in 1587.

The later Morris line in Stratford took as its starting point George Morris who was born in Clifford Chance around the year 1605.

The Morris Family of Galway

The Morris family was one of the fourteen “Tribes of Galway” who were leading merchants of the town.  Richard Morris was its first Bailiff in 1486, under a charter granted the previous year by the English King empowering them to elect one mayor and two bailiffs.  The Morrises, sometimes written Mares or Morech, had apparently first arrived in Galway at about that time.

Various Morrises succeeded Richard Morris as Bailiffof Galway during the 16th century.  Anthony Morris was the town Mayor in 1588.  A later Anthony Morris took part in the defense of the city against Cromwell’s forces in 1651.  The Morrises, like the other Galway merchants, then lost their position.

They did manage to survive the changing political fortunes of the later 17th century, establishing their home at Spiddal.  The family later became the Barons Killanon of Galway.  In the 1970’s Lord Killanin was the sixth President of the International Olympic Committee.  His sons were the filmmaker Redmond Morris and the horse-trainer Mouse Morris.

The Morris Brothers in Barbados and New York

Colonel Lewis Morris, said to have commanded a Troop of Horse under Cromwell, may have visited the West Indies as early as 1633.  He served under Admiral Penn in 1655, taking part in the attack on Jamaica and later acquiring an estate in Barbados.  He was described in 1670 as a “merchant of Barbados.”  He died in 1691.

His younger brother Captain Richard Morris had also served with the Parliamentary Army.  After the Restoration in 1660, he deemed it unwise to remain in England.  He went to Barbados disguised as a Quaker and married there.  His only son Lewis was born in 1671.  By that time, however, he had established himself as a merchant in what was then New Amsterdam (still in the possession of the Dutch) and what was to become New York.

In 1668 Richard Morris purchased land granted by the Dutch in 1639 to Jonas Broncks, the first white settler of Westchester county.  This was the basis to what became Morrisania.  Richard himself died in 1672 and it was his infant son Lewis who was later to inherit his estate.

Morris and The Battle Hymn of the Republic

In the 19th century, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was adapted to fit prominent American surnames of the time, including Morris.  The Morris version had three stanzas of specific references.  They ran as follows: 

“Edward, Thomas, Nicholas were fathers of our clan;
Posterity of Anthony and Owen never ran.
Jacob was a hero, Roger was a famous man.
The clan goes marching on!

Sir Martin was an Irishman and statesman of renown;
And Anthony was mayor of a Pennsylvania town;
With great men of Jersey, Richard’s name is written down.
The clan goes marching on!

Charles was captain of the ship that sailed across the sea.
When Lafayette returned to France, America was free.
Jacob was an aide-de-camp to General Robert Lee.

The clan goes marching on!”

Edward and Thomas Morris were early settlers in Massachusetts, Nicholas Morris came to Virginia in 1640. Anthony Morris was a Quaker preacher in Pennsylvania, Owen Morris an early settler in Chester county, Pennsylvania.   Jacob’s identity is uncertain.  Roger Morris was a colonel who fought in the French and Indian War.  Roger Morris was also a successful suitor for the hand of Mary Philipse, a beauty of her day, over George Washington. 

Anthony Morris Jr was the second mayor of Philadelphia.  The Richard Morris name probably refers to the first of the line of Morrises, a leading New Jersey family in the 18th century.  Sir Martin’s renown escapes us.

Charles Morris was in charge of the vessel named Brandywine by which Lafayette, the French hero of the Revolutionary War, returned to France in 1825 after his tour of America.  And Jacob was indeed an aide-de-camp to General Robert Lee at the time of the Civil War

The Morris Family Coming to South Carolina

Another verse poem written for a 1921 reunion celebrated the Morris family that emigrated from Stratford-on Avon to South Carolina in 1788.  The following are some stanzas from this poem: 

“In seventeen eighty eight they came,
Samuel and wife Lucy by name
From Stratford-on-Avon 
To this American haven
Father Morris, he
Mother Morris, she
And the eight little Morrises
To grow the family tree.

Richard son, Sarah daughter,
They brought across the water,
Lucy and Mary - too young for malice
Farmer Morris, he
Mistress Morris, she
And the eight little Morrises
That came across the sea.

In South Carolina —
What state could be finer?
They built their family home
E'er their sons began to roam
Samuel Morris, he
Lucy Morris, she
And all the other Morrises
In glad felicity."

Joseph Morris of Brooklyn

Morris is a common Jewish name, more popular as a first name because of its similarity to or derivation from Moshe or, as it is commonly known, Moses.  Morris is less common as a surname but does appear.

Joseph Morris was a prominent citizen of early Brooklyn.  He owned and operated livery stables to furnish horse-drawn hearses and carriages for the conduct of Jewish funerals.  His firm was established in 1888 as I.J. Morris and incorporated in its present form in 1929.

The original Morris location was at Thatford and Sutter Avenues in the almost exclusively Jewish community of Brownsville in Brooklyn.  Most of the prominent Jewish schools, yeshivas, rabbinical seminaries, and synagogues had their roots in the community serviced by I.J. Morris.

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