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William Morgan by Noel Holmes
The history of William Morgan and the aftermath of his disappearance in 1826 continues to fuel the flames of anti-masonic rhetoric.
William Morgan notes
These notes are gleaned from The Strange Disappearance of William Morgan by Thomas A. Knight.[1] They are provided here as further information to that found on the related pages noted on the left. Additional sources are cited in an endnote.
1.Batavia, in Genesee County, northwestern New York State, was laid out in 1801 by Joseph Ellicott for the Holland Land Company. Not to be confused with his brother, Andrew Ellicott, city planner for Washington, DC.
2. On July 5, 1826 James Ganson, secretary of the Batavia Royal Arch Chapter gave David C. Miller the text of a petition to institute a new chapter in Batavia. William Morgan’s name was left off the list of petitioners. The following day Morgan was allowed to add his name to the petition, and then while he was on a several-day drunk, it was destroyed and another petition circulated.
3. William Morgan was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, possibly on August 7, 1774. Apprenticed as a bricklayer [2] or stone cutter, he briefly attempted the trade of brewer in York before returning to quarry work in Rochester. Contemporary accounts from such non-masons as Bissell Humphry, the bartender at the Eagle Tavern in Batavia, and David Kingsley, tavern owner in Canandaigua, refer to him as a hard drinker and gamester. [p. 17] The U.S. War Department has no record of his having served as a Captain although a number of men by this name "served in Virginia organizations in the War of 1812." [p. 279]
4. At the age of 16, Lucinda Pendleton, eldest daughter of the Rev. Joseph Pendleton in Richmond Virginia, married Morgan in October 1819; he was then 44. (letter by Mr. E.S. Ferguson, Uhrichsville. Ohio, 1856) [p. 39] Her children were born in 1824 and 1826. cf. Cummings, p. 35.] Four years after Morgan’s disappearance the December 3, 1830 Albany Argus, notes that George W. Harris married Lucinda Morgan, "widow of the late Capt. William Morgan on the 23rd ult." Lucinda left Harris about 1850; Harris formally petitioning for a divorce on February 21, 1856. Rob Morris [3] claims she later joined the Catholic Sisters of Charity and was last recorded as a novice nurse in Memphis Tennessee. [This is contested by Cummings, p. 36.] [p. 171]
5. David Cade Miller, a printer, and editor of the Batavia Advocate, [Republican Advocate cf. Cummings, p. 26.] received the Entered Apprentice degree in Albany, New York but the lodge refused to advance him further. Although he claimed to be an army Colonel, the US War Department records show he was in the militia for two months as a quartermaster sergeant. [p. 64] [No record of initiation extant. Lieutenant colonel of the 164th regiment, State Militia in 1820. Cf. Cummings, p. 31-35.]
6. Although Thomas A. Knight reports that Morgan is recorded as a visitor of Olive Branch Lodge No. 39 in Le Roy [p. 34] this is an error. At the time, Olive Branch Lodge No. 215 (renumbered 39 in 1839) was meeting in East Bethany, New York. The lodge did not move to Le Roy until 1848.
W. Bro. Douglas Poole, secretary and historian for Olive Branch Lodge No. 39 in 2008, reports that, if anywhere, Morgan would have attended Le Roy Lodge No. 260. It and Western Star Chapter, Royal Arch, met at the Round House in Le Roy. All the records for Olive Branch Lodge since 1811 are extant and although Morgan is discussed, he is not recorded as attending. The Livingston Library of The Grand Lodge of New York holds what few records exist for Le Roy Lodge No. 260.
Morgan received the Royal Arch degrees in Western Star No. 33 of Le Roy, New York. Morgan confessed to John Whitney, Master of a Lodge at Rochester, that he had never been regularly initiated into Fremasonry. [p. 62]
7. William Seaver, first Master of Batavia Lodge No. 433 (1825-1828), [3] was a newspaper editor, and one-time president of the village. [pp. 43, 63]
8. While Morgan’s wife and two babies were boarding with a family named Stewart, Morgan lived in the home of John Davids, whom he had met as early as March 1826.
9. David Danold’s Tavern stood at 112 or 118 Main Street. A few days after July 5, 1826, Morgan told David Danold, a Master Mason in Batavia Lodge, that he planned to publish a book.
10. An advertisement appeared in the Canandaigua Ontario Messenger [2] on August 9, 1826 warning the community and especially Freemasons that Morgan was a swindler. It was shortly thereafter copied in The Spirit of The Times and The Peaple’s Press. From this time Morgan took to calling himself Captain Morgan.
11. Morgan’s associates from March 13, 1826 were: John Davids, in whose home Morgan sometimes stayed; David C. Miller, editor of the Batavia Advocate; and Russell Dyer who would later renounce his allegiance to Freemasonry. [p. 59] Later associates were George W. Harris [1780/04/01 - 1857/11/23], a silversmith who lived with the Morgans and had earlier been expelled from Batavia Lodge for unmasonic conduct [p. 76] cf. Cummings, p. 37.; and Edward Giddins, an innkeeper who also was keeper of the Fort Niagara Magazine and responsible for the ferry at that point. [p. 108]
12. The text of Morgan’s "exposure" was not his personal reminiscences but were copied from either Samuel Prichard’s or Goodall’s Jachin and Boaz published in England or a Lancaster, Pennsylvania reprint of 1812. [contradicted by Cummings p 27.] Several similar editions had also been printed in New York and Boston. [p. 61] When David C. Miller realized that Morgan’s text was not original, he repudiated his agreement to pay Morgan. [p. 62] In Miller’s Introduction for the original edition he refers to Morgan as "the author, or rather compiler of the following work, who was kidnapped and carried away from the village of Batavia". [4] He makes no claim that Morgan actually wrote the book, or that he was murdered.
13. Danial Johns, a self-styled capitalist from Buffalo and fur trader from Canada [2], [cf. Cummings, p. 7.] offered his assistance early in August, then in the second week of August he disappeared with nearly half of the Morgan manuscript. [p. 73]
14. Arrested in the first week of August, on a charge of defrauding a Rochester merchant, Morgan was provided bail by Freemasons, Nahum Loring and Orange Allen. Saturday, in third week of August (19th [2]), deputies representing Sheriff Thompson arrest Morgan explaining that his bondsmen had surrendered their bonds. Millar offered to post another bond which was accepted the following Monday morning. [p. 74]
15. In the last week of August Whitney, Master of a lodge at Rochester, was named to a committee of one to interview Morgan at Donald’s Tavern. According to Whitney’s testemony, Morgan claimed to be without funds and was in bodily fear of Miller to whom he still owed the final chapters of his exposure. Whitney offered a plan for Morgan to escape his difficulties: Morgan was to be paid $50 as evidence of good faith; to take him out of the jurisdiction of Genesee County, he was to be arrested on a technical charge of the theft of a shirt and cravat he had borrowed in Canandaigua; he would be taken to Canandaigua where the charge would be dropped; he would be rearrested on a minor charge to allow him to remain in safe custody and then that charge would be dropped; he would then be escorted to a farm in Canada where he would be provided with funds and his wife would later be sent to him. According to Whitney, Morgan agreed to this plan. [p. 80]
16. On Sunday September 10th, Nicholas G. Chesebro, Master of a lodge in Canandaigua, and coroner for Ontario County, obtained a warrant for Morgan’s arrest on a charge of stealing a shirt and cravat. Chesebro left Canandaigua with Constable Holloway Hayward, as well as Henry Howard, Harris Seymour, Moses Roberts and Joseph Scofield. At Avon they were joined by innkeeper Asa Nowlan and storekeeper John Butterfield; at Le Roy they were joined by Ella G. Smith and others. James Ganson joined the posse in Stafford. Dr. Samuel S. Butler proceeded them to Batavia to inform Nathan Follett and William Seaver, Master of Batavia Lodge No 433, of their approach. Two miles from Batavia the posse wes met by Butler who conveyed Seaver’s message to not come on. They returned to Ganson’s Tavern to spend the night. [pp. 81-3]
Morgan was formally arrested at Donald’s Tavern on September 11th and the group proceeded to Le Roy. Morgan was discharged in Canandaigua and re-arrested by Chesebro on a debt of $2 due to Aaron Ackley, a tavern keeper in Canandaigua. ($2.69, debt and costs [2]) Morgan spent the night in jail, According to his jailkeeper Israel Hall, Hall’s wife Mary and a fellow prisoner, Daniel Tallmadge, Morgan was well provided with food and liquor through the night and following day.
Loton Lawson and two others arrived Tuesday night sometime after 6:00 pm. They left when Mrs. Hall refused to release Morgan into their custody and returned with Captain Ed Sawyer to be met with the same refusal. They left and returned with Chesebro who authorized Sawyer’s payment of Morgan’s debt and took custody of Morgan. They took Morgan from the jailhouse where, drunk and argumentative, Morgan changed his mind and decided he didn't want to go, screamed "Murder! Help! Murder!" John Whitney arrived at this point and Morgan calmed down, getting into the carriage driven by Hiram Hubbard, a livery stable proprietor. [p. 99]
There was no attempt at secrecy and many freemasons and non-masons were aware of the progress of the carriage. James Gillis, a visiting Freemason from Pennsylvania met them at Victor and agreed to ride ahead to announce Morgan’s progress. Dawn found them in Hanford’s Landing on the outskirts of Rochester. At the insistance of Morgan, and with no attempt at secrecy and in broad daylight, the procession of couriers, outriders, carrage and sulkey and other riders stopped at almost every tavern and inn on the route.
Three miles west of Clarkson there was a change of horses and Captain Isaac Allan took over driving. The next stop, a mile beyond Gaines, Elijah Mathers took over driving. At Ridgeway Jeremiah Brown, road supervisor and later member of the Legislature, took the reins. Arriving at Wrights tavern seven miles from Lockport, at least fifty Masons met that evening to discuss the project. Eli Bruce, Sheriff of Niagara County arrived and near 10:00 pm the procession continued. Brown was replaced by Corydon Fox at 1:00 in the morning. The journey ended in Youngstown, at the residence of Colonel William King, Master of a lodge in Lewiston — a journey of more than 100 miles in thirty hours.
Fox drove King, Bruce, Morgan and a fourth man to a point near the ferry at the Niagara River. they were met by Edward Giddins, innkeeper and keeper of the Fort Niagara Magazine, who ferried the party across the river. Orsamus Turner and Captain Jared Darrow met them on the other side and told them that the Canadian Freemasons weren't ready for him. They returned to the American side where for five days Morgan was imprisoned in the Powder Magazine in the care of Giddins, who, it later developed, was a confederate of Miller. On Friday Giddens' association with Miller was uncovered; he was releaved of responsibility and replaced by Elisha Adams.
On or about Monday night, September 18th, Colonel King [d. 1829/05/28], John Whitney of Rochester, Eli Bruce, Sheriff Niagara County, Orsamus Turner, editor, Captain Jared Darrow, Loton Lawson, John Sheldon, James Gillis, Timothy Shaw, Noah Beach, Samuel Chubbuck, William Miller, David Hague, Richard Howard and other unidentified Freemasons confronted Morgan in the magazine.
Morgan recounted the full confession he gave three weeks previous to Whitney: that he had never been a regular Freemason, that he had entered into a contract with Miller to write an exposition of Freemasonry, and that Miller had failed to fulfil the terms of the contract. Given the option of a farm at Breede’s Hill or a horse and $500 in gold, Morgan took the gold in exchange for leaving the country forever. Colonel King, John Whitney, Richard Howard, Jared Darrow and Sammuel Chubbuck accompanied Morgan across the river. Given the horse and gold, Morgan was offered an escort which he declined. John Whitney’s deposition on these events can be found in Rob Morris' William Morgan; Or Political Anti-masonry, Its Rise, Growth and Decadence, p. 195. [3]
17. Recognizing the damage Miller could do them, Sheriff Bruce, Whitney and King hired two trackers to find Morgan. They reported that Morgan had travelled to the settlement that would later become Hamilton, then to York where he visited Richmond Hill and finally to Point Hope where he sold his horse and embarked on a steamer bound for Boston, Massachusetts. [p. 137]
18. Sheriff Elli Bruce was removed from office by Governor Clinton on September 26, 1827 [fn. 2 p. 22] and received a 28 months sentence. An appeal failed and he was jailed from May 20, 1829 to Sept 23, 1831. Loton Lawson received two years in the County jail; Nicholas G. Chesebro, one year , Edward Sawyer, one month; and John Sheldon, three months. Colonel William King died before trial. [p. 213] All of them made depositions prior to trial date; confessing their guilt in holding Morgan against his will for five days but denying that he had accompanied them against his will or that they had killed him.
In April, 1927, Jesse French, James Hurlurt, Roswell Willcox, and James Ganson, were tried at Batavia, in Genessee county, for the forcible arrest of David C. Miller. They were all found guilty, but Ganson : French was sentenced to an imprisonment of one year, Wilcox for six months, and Hurlburt for three months. [fn.2 p. 22]
19. There is some claim of Morgan’s presence in Boston. William L. Stone,[5] who had signed the Declaration of Independance from the Masonic Institution (adopted at Le Roy, July 4, 1828) and was not sympathetic to the masons, writes that an acquantance of Morgan’s, one Mr. Brown identified Morgan in Boston on March 21 or 22, 1827. Circumstantially, during the months following Morgan’s disappearance Davids and Dyer frequently made trips along the Boston post road and it should be noted that Miller and his associates were unwilling to testify at any of the enquiries into Morgan’s disappearance.
It has been claimed that Morgan sailed to Smyrnia in Asia Minor on the brig "America", commanded by Captain Waterman. During this period, Waterman was not in command of the "America" , and the "America" was not in Smyrnia. Captain Samuel I. Masters of Greenwich NY wrote in August 15, 1875 that in 1830 he saw Morgan in Smyrnia and identified a number of other people who also claimed to have seen him. Captain Andrew Hitchcock of West Troy, New York wrote in August 1875 that he was at Smyrnia on or about February 6, 1830 and saw a man looking like a turk who said he was Morgan. Joseph A. Bloom, an American scientist, is quoted in P.C. Huntington’s book [6] as having met in 1931 an American Mohammedan in Smyrnia who he was convinced was Morgan. [p. 233-37] On the other hand, Gould questions the timing of these sightings and discounts them [7] as does Cummings (p. 30).
"Morgan’s alleged presence in Boston was based solely on a statement made in the White Banner of Pawtucket, R. I. which was quoted in the Masonic Mirror of Boston, April 1827." [fn. 8 p. 200] "The earliest statement as to Morgan having been in seen in Smyrnia appeared in the New York Evening Post of April 14, 1828." He is claimed to have "arrived at Smyrnia about a year and a half" earlier, placing him there at about the time his book [7] was first put on sale, October 14, 1826—which meant he would have had to have left Batavia some two or three months before his actual abduction. A report in the Amaranth or Masonic Garland of February 1829 describes someone answering to Morgan’s description being seen in Smyrnia in March of 1826. If Morgan had travelled with Captain Waterman, he left Boston on February 1, 1827 on a voyage that did not go to Smyrnia but arrived in Trieste on March 28, 1827. Waterman’s first officer, Mr, Job W. Tyler, claimed that Waterman told him that Morgan had travelled with hgim on his last voyage to Smyrnia in 1825. Waterman never publicly confirmed or denied the story. Brown’s and Tyler’s claims contradict each other.
William Morgan, by A. Cooley, 1829
The US Consul in Smyrnia, Lieut. David Offley, in office from 1823 to 1838, is noted in the Syracuse Herald, October 1, 1899, as believing that the man in question was an Englishman. Other contemporary accounts have him claiming to be from Quebec, much younger than Morgan, and also employed by the British consul at the custom house in Smyrnia—an unusual occupation for an American so soon after the US War of Independence.
20. A posthumous portrait of Morgan first appeared as a frontispiece to David Bernard’s Light on Masonry, printed by William Williams, Utica. Claiming to be from a painting by A. Cooley, the caption gives credit to V. Balch as sculptor, original copyright by Cooley in New York, April 1829. With this picture and a meticulously worded legal description, artist Noel Holmes was directed by William G. Vorpe, one of the editors of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to draw the picture of Morgan found at the top left of this page.
21. Governor DeWitt Clinton (1769/03/02 - 1828/02/11) issued three proclamations, the second on October 26, 1826 and the third on March 19, 1827. Cf. Cummings, pp. 30-31.

1.Thomas A. Knight, The Strange Disappearance of William Morgan. Published by the author at Brecksville, Ohio. The Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company New York City: 1932.
2.The Proceedings of the United Stares Antimasonic Convention, Held at Philadelphia, September 11, 1830. Embracing the Journal of Proceedings, the reports, the Debates, and the Address to the People, Published by I. P. Trimble, Philadelphia et al. 1830. 164 pp.
3.Rob Morris, William Morgan; Or political Anti-masonry, Its Rise, Growth and Decadence. New York: 1883. 398 pp.
4.Capt. William Morgan, Illustrations of Masonry By one of the fraternity, Who has devoted Thirty Years to the Subject. Printed for the Proprietor, 1827. Ezra A. Cook, Publisher, Chicago: 1872. 110pp. [Frontispiece illustration of "Capt. William Morgan, Murdered by Freemasons in 1826 for revealing the Sexcrets of Masonry,"]
5.William L. Stone, Letters on Masonry and Anti-masonry, Addressed to The Hon. John Quincy Adams. New York: 1832.
6.P.C Huntington, The True History Regarding Alleged Connections of the Order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons with the Abduction and Murder of William Morgan... New York: 1886.
7.Robert Freke Gould, History of Freemasonry, Vol IV. The John C. Yorston Publishing Co., Philadelphia: 1902. pp. 316-29.
8.David McGregor, "Did William Morgan Go to Smyrnia, Asia Minor?" Masonic Craftsman. March, 1934. pp. 200-206. 8.William Leon Cummings, Bibliography of Anti-masonry. With a Sketch of the "Morgan Affair" and an Appendix Containing Several Important Documents Etc. North Carolina Lodge of Research, No. 666. Syracuse, N.Y., September 24, 1933. pb. 128 pp.
Further reference
1.J. Hugo Tatsch, "An American Masonic Crisis: The Morgan Incident of 1826 and Its Aftermath," Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. XXXIV (1921), pp. 196-209.
2.William Leon Cummings, Bibliography of Anti-masonry. With a Sketch of the "Morgan Affair" and an Appendix Containing Several Important Documents Etc. North Carolina Lodge of Research, No. 666. Syracuse, N.Y., September 24, 1933. pb. 128 pp. 3. Five lodges have existed in Batavia: Olive Branch Lodge No. 215 (Changed in 1839 to No. 39), Batavia Lodge No. 433, Batavia Lodge No. 88. Fishers Lodge No. 212, and Batavia Lodge No. 475. Cf. David Seaver, Freemasonry at Batavia, N.Y. 1811-1891. Batavia, 1891. 8vo. 111 pp. [noted in Cummings, p. 109.


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