Years of 1752 to 1769


Search for the Earliest Morphews

Years of 1749 to 1781


Data on the following Morphews:


James or Joseph Morphew – First name of this Morphew is in dispute.

    Born:  about 1725 to 1730, probably in England

    Died:  not known 

    Married:  Mary Burke on 9 October 1749 in Augusta County, Virginia, source of

          information undetermined, but does seem reasonable.

    Parents:  undetermined


Mary Burke

    Born: 1732 in Pennsylvania

    Died:  after 1802, probably in Ashe County, North Carolina

    Parents:  James Burke (~1710 to 1783) and Mary Jane Bane (1710 to ~1748)

2nd Edition, Morphew/Murphy Story – J.R. Murphy, 9 December 2001





When the search for Burkes and Morphews began more than 40 years ago, Cyrus Grubb’s account of the earliest Morphews was the first found.  “Joseph Morphew married Mary Burke, a sister of the Tory Colonel, Benjamin Burke, who was killed at the Battle of Shallow Ford.  ...The Morphews were Quakers and Tories, and Silas (their son) was hanged, but a woman held him up by the legs till help came and he was cut down and his life saved.  This happened in Rowan, probably.”   (From “History of Watauga County, North Carolina” by John Preston Arthur, 1915.) 


Our 6th generation Reverend William Morphew (1829-1912) recollected the Morphews were Quakers who left England because of religious persecution.  So far American Quaker records for Morphews have been disappointing.


Bible and family records were missing for the earliest Morphews.  My interview with a family historian, Marion Morphew at Paris, Texas about 1966, confirmed the Morphew lines back to the third generation Silas Morphew (~1752 to 1808) and (James Morphew (~1750 to ~1829).  Marion had the best grasp of the early Morphews, but even he did not remember the earlier generation, James or Joseph Morphew (~1730 to ~1783).   As of 2001, no family records remember James + Mary Morphew of Guilford County, North Carolina 1752-1775.   


Several records state “Joseph Morphew” married “Mary Burke” in Western Virginia. An exact date in 9 October 1749 is now found in listing.  The date does ring well, and one can only hope it is a bible or family record.  The name spelling of “Joseph Morphew” does not seem to appear in government records, even after much research.   His wife, Mary (Burke) Morphew is more visible.   Possibly the Virginia Indian wars of 1755+ drove the Morphews and some of Mary’s brothers and sisters eastward into Virginia or even eastern North Carolina.  For instance, look where James Burke is reported - Cumberland County, North Carolina in 1760 and possibly his son Benjamin Burke - Pitt County, North Carolina in 1764.  Southern Virginia counties such as Bedford (est. 1753), Halifax (est. 1752), and Lunenburg (est. 1746) also need to be checked for clues.  If he was a Tory/Loyalist, can more information be found? 


During the colonial years, the “w” in Morphew seems to be silent and may account for the spelling of “Murphey” when others write it. 


The discovery of Rev. Joseph Murphey, the Baptist minister of Surry County, North Carolina, near the Burkes, John England, and James Morphew added immeasurable complexity to the search.  The recurrent name Joseph Murphey in the same general location suggested two possible people – our Joseph Morphew and/or Rev. Joseph Murphey. Research had to expand to include and define Rev. Murphey in order to eliminate him as a Morphew and determine what information belonged to him.  


In the text to follow, year by year information about the earliest Morphews will be interwoven with historical events taking place.





Establishment of the Providence of North Carolina and Rowan County

1663 to 1753


North Carolina had its start in 1663 when Charles II of England granted shares in its territory to eight noblemen and their heirs.  In 1728 all but one – John, Lord Carteret, later Earl of Granville - sold their shares back to the crown.  In 1744 The Earl of Granville had his portion of North Carolina set apart for him, which covered a large section of northwestern North Carolina.




By 1745 the Scotch-Irish began settling a few miles east of the present city of Salisbury, following later by a German colony of Moravians.  In 1746, Matthew Rowan estimated there could be only about 100 fighting men in all of the western section of North Carolina, but by 1753 he estimated this number to be 3000.  About 1750, Quakers settled in New Garden.  In 1753, Rowan County was established which covered northwestern N.C.  During these times, Granville’s lands were sold to settlers through his agents, Francis Corbin and James Innes.   Granville never came to America to see his lands.  


“In the 1750’s, a great wagon road existed running from Philadelphia through Lancaster, York, Wincester, up the Shenandoah Valley, Looney’s Ferry, along the Staunton River through the Blue Ridge, southward past the Dan River below the mouth of the Mayo River, and further southward near the Moravian settlement to the Yadkin River in North Carolina.  A second road further east ran by the old Red House in Caswell County, and then followed Indian trails across to Trading Ford which was near Salisbury, N.C.”   Many settlers took these two roads southward to settle in North Carolina. (From “History of N.C.,” by Samuel A. Ashe, 1908.)


In 1752, James Murphy is listed as a chain carrier for the Earl of Granville’s surveyors.  The land surveyed 636 acres on the South Fork of Deep River for John Baldwin, a Quaker.  This happened a year before Rowan County was established.  


American Indians in North Carolina at first were fairly friendly with the new settlers and for a while this peace attracted new frontiersmen.   Soon the Cherokees and Catawbas began to harass and kill the settlers, and in 1754 the colonial government authorized money to arm inhabitants of Rowan and Anson County, but much of this money was misused for private gain.  After sixteen whites had been murdered and ten carried into captivity, a supply of powder and lead was moved to the frontier.  After General Braddock was defeated by the French and Indians on the Monongahela in July 1755, Governor Dobbs ordered fifty men to form a militia in each county.  In 1756, Fort Dobbs was built in Rowan County.


On 18 April 1753, land was surveyed by John Granville’s agents for James Morphew and on 6 November 1756, he is deeded 581 acres for 10 shillings in the Parish of St. Luke, Rowan County, N.C. on the South Branch of Deep River.  A tax was to be paid to John Granville yearly amounting to 23 shillings 3 pence.  His next door neighbor was William Buis, who is listed as a tavern keeper in 1754 and had an inn and tavern on an important road leading from Philadelphia to Salisbury.   Today, this is present-day Guilford County.   In 18 July 1757, James Morphew sold 284 acres of his land to William Buis for 5 shillings.  In 31 April 1758 James and Mary Morphew (“his wife”) of Rowan County sold their remaining land (297 acres) to John Farillow for 5 shillings sterling money. 




“On January 24, 1759, there were riots in Granville’s territory, and a number of citizens who were discontented at the frauds practiced by Granville’s agents and their entry takers and surveyors forcibly took possession at night of the house of Francis Corbin, the chief agent, and seized him and carried him off some 70 miles, and held him in duress until he gave bond.”  (From “History of North Carolina” by Samuel A. Ashe, 1908.)                 


“In October 1759, the people who had made their homes on the waters of the Yadkin and Catawba heard with dismay that the Creeks and Cherokees, theretofore friendly, had declared war against the English.  Bands of Indians began to pass the defiles of the mountains and roam along the foothills.  A reign of terror set in.  Accounts of atrocities and butcheries and of destroyed homes came thick and fast to Salisbury and Bethabara.  They were intensely harrowing, while some of the escapes were marvelous.   Many brave men, reluctant to abandon their homes, fortified them with palisades, and forts or stronghouses were erected where neighbor families could assemble for safety.  The men slept with their rifles at hand, and the most resolute were in dread of stealthy attack, of ambush, and of having their houses burned at night.  It was then that Fort Defiance and other forts in that region were hastily constructed by the people.”  (From “History of North Carolina” by Samuel A. Ashe, 1908.)  


1759 Rowan County, N.C. tax list includes “James Murphew.”   The Burkes and Englands are not on the list.




On February 27, 1760, Indians attacked Fort Dobbs, but could not defeat the soldiers.  Next they raided and robbed settlers particularly about Bethabara.  This village was the object of Cherokee raids and for about six weeks the town was surrounded.  Finally in April 1760, 400 soldiers arrived to disperse the Indians.   


On 10 July 1760, “Mary Morphew” was listed as a witness to a marriage at the New Garden Monthly Meeting (Quaker) at Rowan County (now part of Guilford County).  William Morgan married Rebeckah Mills of both of Rowan County.  This Mary was undoubtedly the wife of James Morphew, who was recorded in the previous Rowan County deeds of 1756 to 1758.


On 21 December 1761, James Burke was deeded 440 acres in Rowan County, N.C.  The land was located on both sides of Joseph’s Creek and extending north along the west bank of the Yadkin River.  This creek is believed to be another name for a portion of  Forbush Creek flowing to its mouth at the Yadkin River.


In 1763, the Earl of Granville died and his land offices closed until 1773 when Governor Martin was appointed agent, but the land offices stayed shut before the Revolution.  Settlers continued to come to homestead and develop these vacant lands.  For a period of 15 years, it was impossible for a person to obtain title to these Grandville lands.  Many persons who came into Rowan were denied the process of a land title and thereby would not appear on a tithable tax list and jury duty record.  The American Revolution terminated British land rights, so in 1778, land claims could be finally entered and there was a stampede to record homesteads and lands.  


The 1768 Rowan County, N.C. tithables are revealing:

         Joseph Murphey – 1; is next to Jno England – 1

         After one more name follows Jas Burk, Joseph Burk, Jas Burk (Jr)r

         Benjamin Birk – same page, probably Yadkin-Wilkes County areas

         William Ridings, Senr – 1, same area

         Daniel Boon –2, same original page when I saw it years ago

         Richard Morfee, at Hallows, Surry County

         Thomas Murphy in Iredell County areas


1769 or 1770 Rowan County tithables:  When I explored the Rowan County records years ago, there was another book of tax lists, without a date.  1770 may be the exact date, or the book may be a copy of other tithable lists.  The only problem is that the same names don’t appear on this one:

          James Murphey

          James Murphy

          Joseph Burk

          James Burk Sr.

          James Burks Jr.,

          Daniel Boone


Surprisingly enough, the 1768 Joseph Murphy entry may belong to Reverend Joseph Murphy, a non-relative.  One of the two James Murpheys may in fact be James Morphew, who probably was living on land which would become Guilford County in 1771.  Neither Murphey was near the Burk names.





These were the years where the great unrest of the Americans towards their English rulers gathers steam.  The spark for better government and independence from Great Britain began almost unnoticed in North Carolina.  In Granville County during 1766, a few men drew up a list of grievances about the colonial administration which included high taxes and high lawyer’s fees.  They peacefully presented their complaints only to be ignored.  In the next several years, disenchanted colonists began holding meetings in Orange County and called themselves “Regulators.”  Their purpose was to bring about needed government reforms and tax relief.  The British saw them as people who refused to pay their taxes.  This time their group was a little larger and a little more vocal, but still peaceful and conscientious.  The English appointed Governor Tryon recognized this and promised changes.  Nothing happened.  This only brought a more angry response from the Regulators who proceeded to disrupt court at Hillsborough in 1768.  In 1769, they fronted the same court with the “greatest insolence” that their growing frustration could bring.  Strong reactions about the Hillsborough incident spread like wildfire.  Andrew Allison, sheriff of Rowan County in 1765, found he could only collect 205 taxes because of public resistance.  By 1770 there was no sheriff in Rowan who would take on the tax duties because of fear of reprisals.  (From “A Colonial History of Rowan County, N.C.” by Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., 1917)


On May 29, 1770, the Rowan County Sheriff broke up a large gathering of protestors, and warned “James Murphey” that in any next gathering he would be jailed for being a violent dissenter.


The source for this outburst may be in a document by the so-called “Loyal Regulators Association” drawn up most probably the same year and signed by many people including “James Murphey” who may or may not be Rowan County’s James Murphey.   This document, in my opinion, has so much double talk, and perhaps, THE LAST LINE of the document says all.  This is my reconstructed version (from miscellaneous records in the Office of Secretary of State):  


Loyal “Regulators” Association:  We the subscribers true and faithful subjects of our Sovereign Lord King George 3rd...justly alarmed at the uncountable conduct and behavior of  (another) set of people, who have impudently usurped the title of “Regulators, and (have caused)...unparalleled insolence (to) his Majesty’s Superior Courts of Justice Hillsborough on 22 September,  the lawless and brutal violence (done) to the members of the court in the presence of the judge.  ...have adopted (wrong) principles and are pursuing dangerous measures to the Constitution, ...obstructing peace...  We (claim we) are entitled to protection and security.  We further (believe) it is our Christian duty to ...protect the innocent and redress the injured...restrain these...people from (their) depredation and ...acts of barbarity and cruelty.   We solemnly...swear...that we will stand faithfully (to) assist and protect each other...and will immediately lay aside other business and concerns (for our) self preservation and mutual enter upon any enterprise...agreed upon by a majority present...will on every occasion...protect, support and defend each other to the utmost of our powers and abilities....  Redressors (will) be our title, and rules for government and conduct of ourselves will (be determined by) our (association).





In the year 1771, the county of Surry and Guilford were formed from Rowan and the following is a tithable list for Surry County, North Carolina:

         Armstrong, Martin – 1 (Surry county leader)

         Burk, Benjamin – 1 (brother-in-law to Joseph Morphew)

         Bryant, William – 1 (Billy Bryant of the Bend)

         Cleveland, Benjamin – 1 (Tory killer of Wilkes County)

         England, John – 1 (father-in-law of Silas Morphew)

         Murphey, Richard – 4 (Tory Captain of Surry County)


     In 1772, there was a second tithable:

         Armstrong, Martin – 1

         Burk: Benjamin, Joseph, James, and John

         Cleveland, Benjamin – 1

         Murfee, Richard – 5

         Martin, Alexander – (Patriot leader of Surry County)

         Wright, Gideon – 1 (biggest Tory leader of Surry County)


The Burke clan is clearly living in Surry County now.  Where are the Morphews?  Richard Murphey is the only Murphey appearing on either Surry County tax list.  He later becomes a Tory Captain in Surry County.  Guilford County tax records do not seem to exist, otherwise we might find some answers.


On 4 April 1774, “James Murphew” is listed in the marriage bond book at Guilford Court House, N.C. as marrying Betty Chadwick on 4 April 1774.  Review of Quaker Records at Deep River and New Garden do not show any Quaker marriage. 


On 3 May 1775 in Guilford County, James Morphew, of Guilford County, witnessed two deeds sold by William Baldwin on Deep River at or near the mouth of Murphies Branch.  These lands were apparently from Morphew’s original lands, and he had to disclaim rights to them, even in 1775.   


In 1775, Silas Morphew marries Elizabeth England in Chadham County, North Carolina.  The source for this is unknown.  Elizabeth was the daughter of John England who is listed on the 1771 Surry County tax list.  Why both England and Morphew were in Chadham County is not clear and perhaps more research would help. 


On November 1, 1776, James Burk, Jr. entered into the service on the Continental Army and served until October 28, 1783.  The Revolution was now a part of everyone’s life.


On August 27, 1777, the Surry County Court ordered the sale of personal property belonging to Mrs. Ann Elliott, deceased.  Purchasers were Benjamin Burk, JAMES MORPHEW, Joseph Chadwick and William Riddings.  The record suggests a James Morphew (but which one, the one born ~1730 or ~1750?) was living in the vicinity of the Burks and Riddings.  Missing was James Burk, Jr. who had broken with his loyalist brothers Benjamin and Joseph.  A year had passed, but it most undoubtedly was any uneasy year.  In theory the English reigned, but in practice, the Liberty men were growing stronger everyday.


On 30 December 1778, Surry County land entry book of Joseph Winston mentions that Justice Reynolds enters 150 acres of land in Surry County on the North Fork of Forbis’s Creek beginning at the conditional line between me and JAMES MORPHEW, including my improvement for complement.  This warrant was granted. 


1776-1781:  Silas Morphew is hung.  According to Cyrus Grubb, an early Morphew descendant:  “The Morphews were Quakers and Tories, and Silas was hanged, but a woman held him up by the legs till help came and he was cut down and his life saved.”  The cause for the incident is not recorded.   Lyman Draper explains how the Quakers were often associated with Loyalist sentiment.  “There were some men in the country conscientiously opposed to war, and every sort of revolution which led to it, or invoked its aid.  They believed that they ought to be in subjection to the powers that be; and hence they maintained their allegiance to the British crown.  The Quakers were of this class.  They were, religiously, non-combatants; and the weight of their influence naturally fell on the wrong side.”  (From “King’s Mountain and Its Heroes,” by Lyman C. Draper, 1881.) 


Please notice that no government record has yet been found with the spelling of “Joseph Morphew.”  The first one with the spelling is in an 1804 Ashe County, North Carolina, deed, and belongs to Joseph Morphew, born about 1775.