Today, we’ll take a look at Morgan Bryan, patriarch of a large family who settled in Rowan County, North Carolina. If you’ve been following my blog before the holiday weekend began, I have been fleshign out the family of Henry Alberty and wife, Rebecca, said to have been a Bryan or Bryant and born c1783 in North Carolina.
In order to try to prove that Rebecca was indeed a Bryan, it will be necessary to build out a family tree for Morgan Bryan and his many children.
Right off the bat, I need to rectify some apparent misconceptions widely published about the origins of Morgan Bryan. Fanciful lore names him as the son of an English knight, but born in Denmark in 1671 and who married a French wife.
None of those statements can be documented in any way, shape or form by me.
Also, I highly doubt that Morgan Bryan was born in 1671. Morgan’s wife, Martha (said to be a Strode, but I can’t document that either), died in 1762 at the age of 65 years, placing her birth in 1697. Her gravestone has survived and is said to be at the Rowan County, North Carolina Museum in Salisbury:
Given that Morgan Bryan married Martha about 1719, she was born c1697 and there is no evidence whatsoever that Morgan had a previous wife and/or family, I find it very hard to believe that Martha married a man who was 26 years older than her and had their last child when her husband was reportedly about 85 years old.
It seems much more likely that Morgan Bryan was born c1694, two years old than his wife and about 25 years old when they married.
Next, Morgan’s wife, according to lore, was French, but if she was a Strode, that surname is of English origin and Morgan Bryan himself has also been described as of Irish origin, which again seems much more likely since Bryan, Brian, O’Brian are Irish surname variants.
As to Morgan Bryan’s colonial residence before Rowan County, North Carolina, it is said that he was a landowner in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but I find no mention of any Bryan/Bryant in the grantor or grantee indexes of Chester County, which begin in 1688.
He is supposedly mentioned once, in 1719, in the New Garden Quaker Meeting Minutes of Chester County. Those minutes are digitized and searchable on Ancestry. I find no Morgan Bryan mentioned anywhere in those minutes. There is one Morgan Morgan in the 27 November 1718 minutes who wanted to marry outside the Friends and his parents were to try to dissuade him. However, Morgan Morgan was in the Goshen minutes, not those of New Garden.
After leaving Pennsylvania, the Bryans reportedly lived for a number of years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, but moved on to North Carolina about 1748.
Lastly, Morgan Bryan may have had a brother, William, who was the ancestor of William Jennings Bryan.
Since the Bryan family had ties by marriage to Daniel Boone through his wife, Rebecca Bryan, and so little of what can be found online about Morgan Bryan has any documentation, I will divert a bit from Rebecca (MNU) Alberty and share what has been proven about Morgan Bryan’s life before he settled in Virginia.
Anyone who has early Virginia families who moved westward should be taking a look at Lyman Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia. It is out of copyright and available through the same site that hosts the Wayback Machine.
Morgan Bryan is mentioned many times in Chalkley’s work, the first of which was in 1734:
Vol. 2, page 56 – Anderson vs. Dermoss. In 1734, Thomas Anderson bought of Alexander Ross and Morgan Bryan, 1000 acres west of Opeckon, but Fairfax entered cavet.
Further, he is mentioned in 1737 in the History of Orange County, by W.W. Scott on page 49:
In 1737 William Williams, Gent., a Presbyterian minister, took the oaths, subscribed the test, and likewise a declaration of his approval of such of the thirty-nine articles of religion as is required, and certified his intention of holding his meetings at his own plantation and that of Morgan Bryan.
There is mention of one Jacob Bryan in a land deed concerning William and Eleanor Linville. Morgan had no known son named Jacob. Given that this document is dated 1746, and Morgan was married c1719, could Jacob be a son who died young or a brother/some other relative of Morgan Bryan?
Vol. 3, page 256, August 15, 1746 – William Linvell and Elanore, his wife to George Bowman of County of Frederick, £ 100 for 500 acres on Linnvells Creek purchased of Jost Hite and Company. Line of Jacob Bryan five days later.
Morgan Bryan is often mentioned in land dealings with Thomas Linville and William Linville, who married Morgan’s daughter, Eleanor.
Morgan’s son, Joseph, also appears in the Virginia land records in 1746. He would have been about 25 or 26 years old:
Vol. 3, page 257 – William Linnvell and Joseph Bryan £ 12 – 500 acres on Linnvells Creek between Williams and land in possession of Thomas Linnvells, part of 1550 acres, etc., acknowledged and dower released by Eleanor August 20, 1746.
Morgan Bryan removed to Anson County, North Carolina before 7 March 1749 and proves that he had financial ties to both Augusta and Frederick Counties in Virginia. Rowan County was formed from part of Anson County in 1753:
Vol. 3, page 28, March 7, 1749 – Morgan Bryan of Antson [Anson] County, North Carolina to John Madison, P. A. to collect debts in Augusta and Frederick Counties.
It is possible that Morgan Bryan had at least two brothers, William and Cornelius. William is found in Spotsylvania County records:
Page 129, March 5, 1733 – William Bryan of Spotsylvania County to Philip Bourk of same county, 102 acres in St. Marks Parish – 800 pounds of tobacco.
Cornelius Bryan died in 1751 in Augusta County, leaving a will. Notice that witnesses were James, William and Joseph Bryan:
Vol. 3, page 21 – Cornelius Bryan’s will dated March 30, 1751, wife, Rebecca; son, John; son, Cornelius; son, Thomas; eldest son, Benjamin; remainder of children. Witnesses: James, William, Joseph Bryan and Jacob Green.
For those of you who are certain descendants of Morgan Bryan, you now have a starting place to search out more records.
By the way, if anyone can direct me to an actual full source citation, or better yet, a digital image, of Morgan Bryan’s appearance in the New Garden Monthly Meeting minutes, to to proof of his land ownership in Chester County, Pennsylvania, I would greatly appreciate it.