My Heritage: A View From The “Great” American Indian Wars

John Carpenter Ford

My post of January 12, 2013, mentioned my maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, from Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina.  John’s U.S. Army Enlistment Records of August 14, 1888, show his date of birth as January 15, 1864, which would have been just one year before “The ‘Great’ American Indian Wars began (1865-1890). His enlistment record also shows that this 24-year-old stood only 5’8” tall, had fair skin and grey-blue eyes.  He was assigned to Infantry Company D, 17th Regiment out of Washington, DC.

Fort D.A. Russell, Cheyenne, Wyo. 1910

After serving 3-1/3 years in the Infantry, Private John C. Ford, just shy of his 28th birthday, was discharged on December 10, 1891, from Fort D.A. Russell, in Laramie, Cheyenne, Wyoming. His record also included “General Order 80,” which was the U.S. War Department’s credit for battle participation and “Adjutant General Order 90.” The date of John’s discharge would also have been one year after the Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Indian Massacre. This regrettable and tragic clash of arms, occurred December 29, 1890. It was the last significant engagement between Indians and soldiers on the North American Continent, ending nearly four centuries of warfare between westward-bound Americans and the indigenous peoples.

On December 29th, the U.S. Army surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under Big Foot, a Lakota Sioux chief, near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side. A brutal massacre followed, in which 230 Indian women and children and 120 men at the camp were killed. Army casualties were 25 dead and 39 wounded. The total casualties were probably the highest in Plains Indian warfare except for the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The battle aroused the Brules and Oglala on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, but by January 16, 1891, troops had rounded up the last of the hostiles, who recognized the futility of further opposition. Although he didn’t speak of his infantry service that I am aware, this engagement could have left deep emotional scars on John and have been the cause for his later irascible disposition.  When he passed away at age 97 on November 12, 1961, he was only one of two remaining Indian War veterans.

With his father, Robert Jackson Ford present as one of three witnesses to his Wedding Ceremony, John married Mary Susan Morris, age 20, also of Wake County, Raleigh, on September 23, 1894.  The irony of their relationship–she was full blooded Native American and just three years later he had put the Indian wars behind him, and John and Mary Susan found each other and were married.  Although, it appears that John may have lied to Mary Susan about his age as 27.  He listed his year of birth as 1867 on the marriage register of Wake County, North Carolina.  And the Decennial Census records beginning with the 1870 Census listed his year of birth as 1867.  I believe he used his brother William Sherman Ford’s year of birth instead of his own to keep the 10-year age span from his wife. I discovered further evidence of John’s birth year as 1864 when I looked at his brother William’s death records at  There, William’s year of birth was listed as 1867. And, our family always went with John’s military records–which means John was in fact 10 years older than his wife, Mary Susan.

The following link tells the story of the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota in about four minutes:

As an American whose Native American heritage comes from my maternal great-grandmother Mary Susan Ford and my paternal 11th great grandmother, Pocahontas, my heart aches for all of those involved in these horrific injustices.  And it aches, too, for my maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, who because of his enlistment in the Army became a part of this unforgivable moment in history that haunted him apparently for the rest of his long life.  You see, he and my great-grandmother separated in the early 1940’s because he was too difficult a man to live with.  He moved to the National Soldier’s Home in Washington, D.C. where he remained until his death in 1961.  Mary Susan lived with maternal grandparents until she passed away suddenly in her sleep.  She was 73 years and 7 months old–and I was just 14 months.

THE MAKING OF A NATION – by the Voice of America. (A podcast about the Sioux Indians and the Battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee.) 

Addicted to Genealogy

For the Love of a Dear Sister

sistersAfter many years as an (the world’s largest online history resource) subscriber and enthusiastic supporter, I went looking for a similar but free resource for a friend of 40 years (who’s like or better than a biological sister to me) who has never been consumed like me by researching family history

In fact, I immersed her as my genealogy cohort when she mentioned to me that she knew little about her family. Her father passed when she was 13 when he lost control of his propane tanker truck, and her mother, who she continues to mourn, passed away from brain cancer 12 years ago.  I asked her for a few simple facts, names, dates of birth, city, state, entered them into Ancestry as a new tree, and one entry led to another, and so on . . . most of you know this storyDanville Register - Sat Aug 14 1971 - William Irvin Owen

When I found the August 14, 1971, newspaper article about her father’s accident and listed his relatives in the obituary portion, that’s all it took.  I had hooked her and the addicted researcher behavior in me took over my life again.  Within a matter of few furious days I gifted her a tree of 368 relatives and 82 photos.  So obviously, she was on high with delight and wanted to continue this trip and get to know her family for herself.  Thus, my search for a free online family history database resource.

Finding the Mother Lode

I first looked at FamilySearch, the genealogical organization operated by the Genealogical Society of Utah (“GSU”), and the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the largest genealogy organization in the world.  It is this organization that we can thank for digitizing billions of family history records.

And yet, here is this completely FREE genealogy website with billions of indexed records, access to billions of pages of unindexed records (most of them original source material), with a significant educational component (the Wiki and Video Courses), a collaborative family tree (featuring sources, notes, record hints, photos, stories, etc.), and only five percent of a genealogy enthusiasts audience of 100 use it–and 95 out of 100 in this audience were aware of it and had visited it (according to Randy Seaver, author of Genea-Musings Blog).

At any rate, I took my friend’s small tree, used my Family Tree Maker (FTM) software and downloaded her tree’s .ftm file into a GEDCOM (.ged) file so I could upload her file into FamilySearch’s database.  My only other option would have been to re-enter all her family history data manually into FamilySearch (FS).  Next, FS uploaded the information into its database, but it didn’t add all her records automatically.  I was required to do a one-to-one comparison of her records to those possible duplicate records already in FS.  On a small file this isn’t so bad, but on a file as large as my tree (12,000+ records) this would be a tedious and exhaustive process–a real downer.  Perhaps this is why people choose not to transfer their files to FS?  Or, maybe because it’s a collaborative database and they are not willing to share or have their data edited by others who they do not know or feel they can trust their genealogical skill sets?  Bottom line, my dear sister friend was euphoric to have her own family tree and to be able to manipulate it on her own.  My sister and I are going on a short out of town trip very soon to hear her son’s band play and this will be an opportunity for us to revive our genealogical buzz.

Awaiting Another Intoxicating Adventure 

Meanwhile, in my endeavor to try out and test FS, I queried the database about my third maternal great grandfather Henry Ford–a brick wall in my tree.  I didn’t nail down Henry’s data, but I discovered there were two conflicting records for my second great grandfather–the father of my maternal great grandmother, Mary Susan Morris, who was the wife of John Carpenter Ford.  One record had his death in 1880, which agreed with my record, but a census record showed an inmate in 1900 at the North Carolina State Insane Asylum.  So, I contacted the FamilySearch research support team. Within a couple of days I received the most unexpected in-depth research about the conflicts and directions to further resources about these people. And, to boot, FS researchers complimented me on one of my blog posts that they had found and read as a result of their queries on my behalf.

So now, the genealogical addict in me is adding my public tree (slowly and surely) using the GEDCOM file upload and one-to-one record comparison method to see what my sharing and comparing of these data might bring to light.

Native Americans, White People, and Scottish-Irish Emigrate to North Carolina

Native Americans

A recent blog post focused on my maternal great-grandmother Mary Susan MORRIS‘s family–our native american heritage through the Morris branch–and the freshly fallen bricks of a wall I had been up against for years.

White People

Not abandoning this wall, but continuing on, I returned to my maternal great grandfather–Grandmother Susan’s husband, John Carpenter Ford’s (1864-1961) family. Similarly, I found myself at yet another brick wall at his paternal grandfather, Henry Ford (1790-1830)–not the infamous innovator of the automobile industry.

Henry Ford’s birth and death have been recorded as North Carolina in many public family trees.  These trees also show that he and Peggy Rigsby had a son, Robert Jackson Ford, father of my great grandfather, John Carpenter Ford. Henry’s marriage to Peggy is documented in the North Carolina Marriage Index (1741-2004) as 5 Aug 1816 in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina.  Without any evidence to the contrary, we suffice that this Henry is my third great grandfather, who we also believe was of Scottish/Irish descent based upon the etymology of the surname Foard, Foord, and Ford as it became commonly spelled.

Scottish/Scotch-Irish Migration

The term “Scotch-Irish” is an Americanism, generally unknown in Scotland and Ireland, and rarely used by European historians. In American usage, it refers to people of Scottish descent who, having lived for a time in the north of Ireland, migrated in considerable numbers to the American colonies in the eighteenth century.

Scot Immigration USThe Scotch-Irish, or Ulster Scots had prospered in Ireland until changes in English policies led many to migrate to America, where most settled in Pennsylvania. They began to arrive in North Carolina in the 1730s, leaving Pennsylvania after crops were harvested in the fall and arriving in the Piedmont in time to plant winter crops and seedlings that they brought with them.

On small farms these Scotch-Irish settlers grew corn for home use and wheat and tobacco for use and for export. They raised livestock and drove them in large numbers to northern markets. Settlers built stores, grist mills, sawmills, and tanneries. Blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, potters, rope makers, wagon makers, and wheelwrights established many local industries. Brewers, distillers, weavers, hatters, tailors, and others practiced their trades either in isolated homes or in shops in towns.

“The Guttenberg Project:  Scotland’s Mark on America,” published in 1921

In 1682, a number of Scottish nobility and aristocracy first left Scotland and settled in New Jersey and the Carolinas. During the following century a constant stream of emigrants both from Scotland and from Ulster, Ireland came to the colony.  The largest influx of Scots/Scots-Irish into North Carolina was in the form of Protestants–largely Presbyterian but also Anglican due to religious persecution.

Cape Fear is in the lower right.  The pin points to House Creek in Raleigh where my Ford ancestors lived.

The red arrow points to Cape Fear. The red pin points to House Creek in Raleigh where my Ford ancestors lived.

From 1715-1773 tens of thousands of Scots settled in North Carolina on or near the Cape Fear River. Cross Creek, now Fayetteville, was the center of these settlements. It was in this area of North Carolina that my Ford family’s history is first documented.  In fact, my 2nd great grandfather lived and died in the House Creek area of Raleigh, Wake County, and still today there are thousands of Fords who still live in North Carolina.

Gov. Gabriel Johnston, of the province of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752, appears to have done more to encourage the settlement of Scots in the colony than all its other colonial governors combined.

Between 1729 and 1740 scots were in Virginia. A strong infusion of Scottish blood in New York State came through settlements made there in response to a proclamation issued in 1735 by the Governor, inviting “loyal protestant Highlanders” to settle the lands between the Hudson River and the northern lakes.

The first Presbyterian Church was organized in Albany, New York, in 1760 by Scottish immigrants who had settled in that vicinity.

In 1773 Scots penetrated to and settled in Kentucky.  By 1790 seventy-five thousand people were in the region and Kentucky was admitted to the Federal Union in 1792.

According to the United States Historical Census Data Base (2002), the ethnic populations in the American Colonies of 1775 were:

English 48.7 %
African 20.0 %
Scottish/Scot-Irish 14.4 %
German 6.9 %
Scottish 6.6 %
Dutch 2.7 %
French 1.4 %
Swedish 0.6 %
Other 5.3 %

By 1779 they had crossed the Ohio River into the present state of Ohio. Between the years 1730 and 1775 the Scottish immigration into Pennsylvania often reached ten thousand a year.

Scotland immigration_tableIn 2000, the state of North Carolina had more citizens of Scottish ancestry than any other state or country.

And, like so many other of my posts that I have written while journeying through stories and searching for historical records that give me new and improved evidence about the life and times of our family’s ancestors, I must end today’s post here–with many questions still unanswered…until next time.


The Guttenberg Project:  Scotland’s Mark on America

You Little Dickens!

MarySusanMorrisFordMy mom has told me a story about my relationship with my Cherokee maternal great-grandmother, Mary Susan Morris Ford, ever since I was old enough to talk. Unfortunately, I was only 14 months old when Grandma Susan passed at 73 years old.

The story goes like this.  My great-grandmother went to sleep one night and when she awoke the next morning she was completely blind probably due to glaucoma.  Despite her blindness her favorite pastimes were knitting and crocheting and I was highly interested in her and her hobbies.  However, when Grandma Susan would leave the room for any reason I would toddle over to her chair, grab her yarn and needles and either take off on a run or try to hide them under the seat where she had sat. I’m told Grandma Susan would chuckle each time, retrieve her goods and say to me, “You, little dickens!”

littledickensknittedmouseAccording to, “Dickens” is a minced oath. It stands for Devil. A little Dickens is an imp. Used familiarly, it is usually affectionate.  The phrase “what the dickens” was coined by William Shakespeare and originated in The Merry Wives Of Windsor Act 3, scene 2, 18–23.

And to add irony to this story, little did anyone know that I would become the mother of “three little dickens,”–ah–Dickinson’s, that is.


To my knowledge, no one in our past or present day family has researched its Cherokee heritage. However, mom at 87, often looks at her arms and says that they remind her of her Grandma Susan’s; “except grandma’s skin had more of a red hue to it”.   Mama also is the only family member alive who remembers her grandmother telling her that she was full-blooded Cherokee–a powerful detached tribe of the Iroquoian family. And Grandma Susan’s father, Gideon W. Morris, passed away when she was only 5. So, again, immediate family information about our Cherokee heritage was not handed down from generation to generation.

In my recent research, however, I discovered that the Cherokee Nation formerly held the mountain region of the south Alleghenies, in southwest Virginia, western North Carolina and South Carolina, north Georgia, east Tennessee, and northeast Alabama, and claiming even to the Ohio River when first they were first met by De Soto in 1540.  Our Morris family branch hailed from Virginia and North Carolina.

Cherokee wars and treaties

Seven clans are often mentioned in Cherokee ritual prayers and in the printed laws of the tribe. They seem to be connected with the “seven mother towns” of the Cherokee, described by Sir Alexander Cuming in 1730 as having each a chief, whose office was hereditary in the female line.

Numbering about 22,000 tribesmen in 200 villages throughout the area, a series of battles and agreements around the period of the Revolutionary War (1763-1787) effectively reduced Cherokee power and landholdings in Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and western North and South Carolina, freeing up this territory for speculation and settlement by the white man.

Today’s Cherokee Nation is the federally recognized government of the Cherokee people with sovereign status granted by treaty and law. Its capital is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation has operated under a constitutional form of government since 1827. Today there are more than 320,000 registered Cherokee citizens, making it the largest Native American tribe in the United States.  And, for now, this is where my story pauses.  That is, until I find new discoveries that can place my Morris family within a particular clan and village before 1798 when my third great grandfather, James Thomas Morris, was born in Virginia. James was Mary Susan’s grandfather.

157 Years Later: CSA Sgt. Gideon W. Morris–Our “Battle of Antietam” Survivor

Freshly Fallen Bricks of My Morris Family Wall

After searching to uncover more information about my maternal great grandmother’s (Mary Susan MORRIS Ford) family, I once again stumbled and fell upon freshly fallen bricks of a wall I had pushed against for many years.  Until now, I primarily had focused on the origins of my Native American heritage through the Morris branch.  And then, I immediately shifted my center as a result of revisiting my earlier research in Grandmother Susan’s tree.

Gideon W Morris HeadstoneTo refresh my memory, I reviewed data I had compiled about her father, Gideon W. Morris–my second great grandfather (1837/8-1880)–Virginia born and raised.  It was about 18 months ago when volunteer contributor Michael Hollingsworth first created a findagrave memorial page about Gideon W. Morris and I added his entries to my tree. My newest research, based upon Michael’s page, has helped me remove some significant bricks from my Morris Family wall–thank you, Michael.

It turns out that The Southern Historical Society, a public organization founded by Confederate Major General Dabney H. Maury in 1868-1869 documented Southern military and civilian viewpoints from the American Civil War until now. These were compiled into the Southern Historical Society Papers, published in the late 19th Century, comprising 52 volumes of articles written by Southern soldiers, officers, politicians, and civilians.  And among these papers and published online, when googling “Sergeant Gideon W Morris,”  I found the military history of my second great grandfather Sergeant Gideon W. Morris.

Gideon Morris’s Life in the Confederate States of America Infantry

At age 25 on April 23, 1861, Gideon enlisted in Virginia’s Infantry less than two weeks after the civil war officially began on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.  He was a member of Company A of the 15th Virginia Infantry.

Battles Involving 15th Infantry


The Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg

Drewry's Bluff-Fort Darling

Drewry’s Bluff at Fort Darling

In the Antietam/Sharpsburg Campaign (September 16-18,1862)  16 months after he enlisted, Sgt. Morris was captured on Wednesday,
September 17, 1862. The battle began just outside Sharpsburg early on the morning of September 17, 1862, when Union troops under General Joseph Hooker attacked the Confederates near the Dunker Church. Later, the fighting would move to the Sunken Road, and then to a bridge over Antietam Creek, across which troops under General Ambrose Burnside managed to fight their way only to be withdrawn again when rebel reinforcements arrived at the end of the day.  With a combined tally of dead, wounded, and missing at 22,717, this is the all-time bloodiest single-day battle in American history. Based upon those statistics, I would consider the capture on this day of Sgt. Morris to be one of his luckiest days in life.

Twenty months later, on Saturday, May 14, 1864, Sgt. Gideon Morris was wounded in action probably at Drewry’s Bluff at Fort Darling in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

And then, nearly one year later he was captured again on Saturday, April 11865, just 8 days before the Civil War came to its official end on  Sunday, April 9, 1865.

Gideon’s Private Life

Before Gideon’s enlistment in 1861, according to the 1860 Census, he and his wife, Mary J. Schaner, ten years his junior, and their first-born, one year old son Granville, J. Morris, were living in Mecklenburg, North Carolina.   Unfortunately, the enumerator failed to enter any occupations for the Morris’s.

The 1870 Census has Gideon and his wife, Mary J. Schaner and their one year old daughter, Florence, living back in the Marshall Ward of Richmond, and Gideon working as a lumber inspector.

My next tracer, The U.S. City Directories, shows Gideon and his family at 2404 E. Main Street, Richmond where he worked as a laborer.

The Census beginning on June 1, 1880, shows Gideon alive at age 43 or so, working as a carpenter and living in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, Mary, and his two daughters, Florence D., 10, and Mary Susan (my great-grandmother), age 5.  This explains why our Ford family knew so very little about Mary Susan’s ancestry.

And, aside from the  findagrave memorial page (noted above), to date, I have found no further information about Gideon Morris’s life or death.

A 2-minute Video Commemorating the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam and all those who lost their Lives or were Injured

The video below concludes a series of six two-minute segments from The Civil War’s Trust’s animated events of The Battle of Antietam.  To see the full series, click on this link.

References,Sources, and Other Notes:

Basic information from Southern Historical Society: Note: From an annotated roster of Company A, 15th Virginia Infantry by Captain M.W. Hazlewood, published originally in the Richmond Dispatch of 19 August 1894.

Southern Historical Society, and Rev. John William Jones, Robert Alonzo Brock, James Power Smith, editors, Southern Historical Society Papers, 52 Vols., Richmond: Southern Historical Society, 1876-1959, Vol. 21, pp. 48 – 54 [AotW citation 8853]