The Mortons of East Freetown, Bristol Co., Mass., formerly quite numerous in that vicinity, but not now represented by many of the name, are the posterity of Maj. Nathaniel Morton and descendants of the eminent George Morton.
George Morton, born about 1585, at Austerfield, Yorkshire, England, came to New England in the ship “Ann” in 1623. He had married in Leyden, in 1612, Juliana Carpenter, daughter of Alexander Carpenter, of Wrentham, England. He is said to have served the Pilgrims in important relations before coming to this country, and published in England in 1621 the first history of the Colony, which was entitled “A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth in New England.” It is commonly known as “Mourt’s Relation.” He died in 1624. The children of George and Juliana (Carpenter) Morton were:
- Nathaniel Morton, who married (first) Lydia Cooper and (second) Mrs. Hannah Pemplar
- Patience Morton, who married John Faunce
- John Morton
- Sarah Morton, who married George Bonum
- Ephraim Morton
Of these, Nathaniel was secretary of Plymouth Colony from 1647 to 1685, and author of that very valuable work known as the “Old Colony Memorial,” compiled from the observations and writings of himself and Gov. William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth Colony. As early as 1668 Nathaniel Morton was elected a selectman of Plymouth and held that office twenty-one years. He was chosen to represent the town of Plymouth in the Colonial Court as early as 1659 and served in that capacity twenty-seven years. After the Old Colony was united with that of Massachusetts Bay he was elected to represent the town of Plymouth in the Provincial Court at Boston.
Lieut. Ephraim Morton, born in 1623 on the ship “Ann,” married (first) Nov. 18, 1644, Ann Cooper, who died Sept. 1, 1691. He married (second) in 1692 Mary, widow of William Harlow, and daughter of Robert Shelly, of Scituate. Mr. Morton became a freeman in 1648, and in that year was constable of Plymouth. He was chosen a representative to the General Court at Plymouth in 1657, and was a member of that body for twenty-eight years. He was chosen the first representative to the Massachusetts General Court under the charter of 1691-92. He was for nearly twenty-five years at the head of the board of selectmen of Plymouth. He was chosen a magistrate of the Colony in 1683, and at the time of his death he was a justice of the court of Common Pleas. He also served in other important relations. He died Sept. 7, 1693. His children were:
- George Morton, born in 1645
- Ephraim Morton, born in 1648
- Rebecca Morton, born in 1651
- Josiah Morton, born in 1653
- Nathaniel Morton
- Eleazer Morton, born in 1659
- Thomas Morton, born in 1667
- Patience Morton
Eleazer Morton, son of Ephraim, married in 1693 Rebecca Dawes, daughter of Ambrose, and their children were:
- Eleazer Morton, born in 1693
- Ann Morton, born in 1694 (married Robert Finney)
- Nathaniel Morton, born in 1695
- Rebecca Morton, born in 1703
Nathaniel Morton, born in 1695, and lost at sea before 1730, married in 1720 Rebecca Ellis, widow of Mordecai Ellis, and daughter of Thomas Clark, and their children were:
- Elizabeth Morton, born in 1720
- Nathaniel Morton, born in 1723
- Eleazer Morton, born in 1724
- Ichabod Morton, born in 1726
Maj. Nathaniel Morton (2), of Freetown, born Feb. 1, 1722-23, married in 1749 Martha Tupper, of Sandwich, daughter of Eldad Tupper and granddaughter of Thomas Tupper, and their children were:
- Nathaniel Morton, born in 1753
- Martha Morton
- Elizabeth Morton
- Job Morton
Nathaniel Morton, the father, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, being at first second lieutenant in Capt. Levi Rounseville’s company of minute-men, subsequently commander of a company, and then promoted, to major. There were many members of the Morton family named Nathaniel, and on Dec. 8, 1776, there were among the officers and private soldiers of the local militia of East Freetown who responded to what was known as the “Rhode Island alarm” no less than four Nathaniel Mortons: the company commander (later major); his son Nathaniel (then called Nathaniel, Jr., but in subsequent life widely known as Hon. Nathaniel Morton), who was one of the four sergeants of the company; Nathaniel Morton, Sr., and Nathaniel Morton, 4th.
Job Morton, son of Maj. Nathaniel Morton, was born at East Freetown June 14, 1770, and received fine educational advantages. After attending the common schools he took a collegiate course, and was graduated at Brown University in 1797. He studied medicine, but never practiced. Like his forefathers he took a prominent part in the affairs of the town. On April 1, 1805, he was elected a selectman of Freetown, and served twenty-four years as such; on the same date he was chosen assessor of Freetown, in which office he served twenty-eight years. On May 14, 1814, he was chosen representative of Freetown in the General Court, and served acceptably for eleven years. On Feb. 9, 1811, he was commissioned a justice of the peace for the county of Bristol. In 1812 he was appointed clerk of the county courts, but it is not known that he accepted this position; if he did, he held it only a short time. He was also chairman of the board of commissioners of highways, which soon came to be known as the board of county commissioners.
In 1802 Job Morton married Patience Purrington (or Purington), of Middleboro, and they lived in an old-fashioned unpretentious looking house still standing in East Freetown, about a third of a mile from the line that divides Freetown from Lakeville, in which all their children were born. Mr. Morton died in March, 18-43, in the house mentioned, near the one in which he was born. His wife died Feb. 15, 1841. They had children as follows:
- James Madison Morton is mentioned below.
- Albert Gallatin Morton, born Aug. 8, 1804, lived and died in Freetown. He was a clergyman of the Christian denomination.
- Charles Austin Morton, born May 14, 1806, died in a house standing only a few rods from the one in which he was born. For a time he held a position in the Boston custom house; was selectman of Freetown nine years; assessor eight years; member of the school committee nine years; representative to the General Court, one year; and was a justice of the peace for the county of Bristol from April 11, 1839. No man in East Freetown or anywhere was better posted regarding the local affairs of that place and the immediate vicinity, he and his neighbor, Dr. Bradford Braley, being “lively oracles” to and “walking histories” of East Freetown, and the adjacent parts of Lakeville and Rochester.
- Elbridge Gerry Morton, born March 8, 1808, moved to Fairhaven, where he lived for many years. He was a leader in the public life of that place, serving five years as selectman; sixteen years as moderator of the annual town meeting; three years as representative to the General Court in Boston; delegate to the Constitutional convention of 1853; and was elected in 1853 a member of the board of commissioners of Bristol county (which consisted of three commissioners and two special commissioners), of which board he was immediately chosen chairman. Toward the close of his life he was post-master at Fairhaven.
- William G. Morton, born April 10, 1810, died March 8, 1811.
- Hannah P. Morton, born in 1811, married Harrison Staples, of Lakeville, Mass., where she died.
- Andrew Jackson Morton is mentioned elsewhere.
- William A. Morton, born March 20, 1817, at the old place, was reared there, and died in 1886, in the house in which he was born. The sons of this family were all “six footers” and were of marked personality.
James Madison Morton, son of Job, born April 28, 1803, passed the years of his earlier manhood in Fairhaven, Mass., where he was treasurer of the White cotton mill. In the winter of 1840 he moved to Fall River, where he passed the remainder of his life, dying there March 2, 1881. For a few years he was associated with James Bliss in the merchant tailoring business, until burned out in the fire of 1843. After that he continued alone in the same line for some time. With a natural inclination for public affairs he served one term as postmaster of Fall River during President Pierce’s administration, and was assessor and selectman of that place. In political sentiment he was a Democrat. A man of keen intellect and strong legal bent, his qualities of mind were evidently inherited by his son and name-sake, one of the foremost lawyers of southeastern Massachusetts. On May 25, 1822, he was commissioned ensign of the local militia in East Freetown, promoted to lieutenant Aug. 20, 1824; honorably discharged July 5, 1827.
Mr. Morton married May 30, 1830, Sarah Maria Ann Tobey, who was born March 23, 1807, daughter of John and Fanny (Ronseville) Tobey, of Freetown, and died May 2, 1901. Four children were born to them:
- James Madison Morton, Jr., born Sept. 5, 1837
- Mary E. Morton, born June 29, 1840, who is living on the old homestead
- Levi R. Morton, born in August, 1848, who died in 1877 (his son George is in Providence)
- Henry Morton, who died in infancy
James Madison Morton, LL. D., son of James Madison Morton and Sarah Maria Ann (Tobey) Morton, was born Sept. 5, 1837, in Fairhaven, Mass. He took a special course of study at Brown University from 1856 to 1859, graduating in the latter year, and was given the degree of LL. D. in 1894. Continuing his studies at Harvard from 1859 to 1861, he was admitted to the bar in the fall of 1861 and settled in the general practice of law in Fall River after his admission, continuing thus until 1890. Part of that time, from 1864, he was a partner of John O. Brayton, under the style of Brayton and Morton, and in 1876 he formed a partnership with Andrew J. Jennings, under the name of Morton and Jennings, this association continuing, until 1890. In the meantime Mr. Morton served as city solicitor, and for many years he was connected with much of the important litigation in his section, on one side or the other. Since 1890 he has been an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial court of Massachusetts, with residence at Fall River. He is a director of the First National Bank of that city and of the B. M. C. Durfee Trust Company; member of the Unitarian Church; member of the Union Club of Boston, and of the Bunker Hill Association.
Some twenty-five years ago, in an article on the Bench and Bar of Bristol County, Mr. Morton was referred to as being one of the oldest members of the bar, as being a close student, as having an excellent legal mind, and as one of the acknowledged leaders of the bar in southeastern Massachusetts.
On Nov. 6, 1866, Justice Morton married Emily Frances, daughter of John Luther and Elizabeth (Read) Canedy, and a direct descendant of Alexander Canedy, a Scotch emigrant who came to Plymouth, Mass., in the latter part of the seventeenth or early part of the eighteenth century. From (I) Alexander Canedy the line is traced through (II) William Canedy, born in 1689, who married Elizabeth Fuller, and died in 1774 (he was an important man in his day and a great Indian fighter); (III) William Canedy, a lieutenant in the French and Indian war, who married Charity Leonard (he died in 1804); (IV) William Canedy, born in 1757, died in 1836, who married Mary Brown; (V) William Barnabas Canedy, born Dec. 28, 1784, who married Susan Hughes Luther, of Swansea; and (VI) John Luther Canedy, who married Elizabeth Read, daughter of William Read, Jr. The following relates to (II) William Canedy.
“In memory of William Canedy, Esq., who departed this life June 23, 1774, in the eighty-sixth year of his age:
“Silent the Warrior lies!
He shall no more
Scourge the wild natives of the eastern shore.
His honorable titles with him fall;
He leaves behind him friends and earthly all.
His soul immortal, was it calmed with Peace
Before he fled ? His Joys shall never cease.
Go, widowed consort, trust in GOD most High.
Children, bereaved, to Heaven for Grace now cry;
That after Death, to Glory, you may rise above the sky.”
Three children were born to James Madison and Emily Frances (Canedy) Morton:
- James Madison Morton is mentioned below.
- Margaret M. Morton, born Sept. 24, 1870, married Willard F. Keeney, a native of Areola, Ill., now settled at Grand Rapids, Mich., one of the leading attorneys of the State. Their children are
- Willard F. Morton
- Morton Morton
- Roger Butterfield Morton
- Annie Morton, unmarried, lives at home.
James Madison Morton, 3d, son of Justice James Madison Morton and Emily F. (Canedy) Morton, was born Aug. 24, 1869, in Fall River, Mass. He received his early or preparatory education in the public schools of his native city and at the Fall River high school, from which he was graduated in 1886. He then furthered his studies at Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, graduating there in 1887. Entering Harvard University he was graduated cum laude in 1891. He received the degrees of A. M. and LL. B. from Harvard in 1894 on graduating from the Harvard Law School. Mr. Morton was the law orator at the 1894 commencement, being elected as the representative of the law school on that occasion. He was admitted to the Bristol county bar at the spring sitting of the Supreme court at Taunton in 1894, and began the practice of his profession at Fall River in July following, at the time forming a partnership with Hon. Andrew J. Jennings, under the firm name of Jennings & Morton. Mr. Morton is now a member of the law firm of Jennings, Morton & Brayton. He is president of the Sagamore Manufacturing Company, clerk and director of the Arkwright Mills, a director of the B. M. C. Durfee Trust Company, and of the First National Bank; is a member and chairman of the board of police of Fall River; a member of the committee for the new city charter. He has served as president of the Harvard Club for some three years, is a member of the Quequechan and Coffee Tavern Clubs of Fall River, and of the Union Club of Boston. He is connected with various charities, is a Unitarian in religious faith, and a Republican in politics.
On June 10, 1896, Mr. Morton was married, at Fall River, Mass., to Nancy J. B., daughter of Israel P. and Parthenia (Gardner) Brayton, of Somerset, and they have had children, as follows:
- James Madison Morton, 4th, born June 10, 1897, who died May 14, 1908
- Brayton Morton, born Oct. 28, 1898
- Sarah Morton, born Sept. 29, 1902
- Hugh Morton, born Sept. 10, 1906