The Morrill of this story is?

Isaac Morrill Sr. and his son, Isaac Morrill Jr., were both living in 1690 and both resided in Salisbury, Massachusetts. These are indisputable facts.

The question is this: were either of them the Isaac Morrill — or related to the Isaac Morrill — accused of a treasonous plot to foment a slave and Indian servant uprising that would destroy such small towns as Haverhill and Amesbury?

The short answer is that we simply do not know precisely who this Isaac Morrill was and it is the fault of those who briefly — without any clues as to their source material — wrote about it.

To add injury to insult, the version written by Joshua Coffin in his historical sketch on Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, has been repeated without question.

Coffin wrote in 1845:

“Isaac Morrill, a native of New Jersey, came to Newbury, to entice Indians and negroes to leave their masters to go with him, saying that the English should be cut off, and the negroes should be free. He was arrested May twenty-ninth, 1690, and sent to Ipswich for trial. … Their intention was to take a vessel out of dock at Newbury, and go for Canada and join the French against the English and come down upon the backside of the country and save none but the negroes and Indians. They intended to come with four or five hundred Indians, three hundred Canadians, between Haverhill and Amesbury, over Merrimac river, near ‘Indian river by Archelaus’ hill on the backside of John Emery’s meadow and destroy, and then they might easily destroy such small towns as Haverhill and Amesbury.

FH Map Essex Co 1643

A more plausible version was reported in 2004 by David Thomas Konig in his book on law and society in Puritan Massachusetts:

Anxieties in Essex became more intense when an escaped slave was apprehended and revealed the plans for an insurrection. He said he was fleeing to join Isaac Morrill, a local Jerseyman who had persuaded him to organize the blacks and Indians of the area as part of a combined uprising and invasion against the English settlements. Morrill had made elaborate preparations, he continued, and had spied on military garrisons from Massachusetts Bay to New York. Moreover, other advance scouting had been made by two Frenchmen visiting Newbury under the pretense of buying corn. The local blacks and Indians were to be directed by Morrill, ‘a Frenchman’ named George Major (or Moger or Mayo), and two others. Joined by five hundred Indians and three hundred French troops crossing the Merrimack, they would destroy Haverhill, Amesbury, and Newbury. The story was corroborated by another slave, Robert Negro. According to his story, Major was planning to lead the assault “upon the backside of the country and destroy all the English and save none but the Negro and Indian Servants and that the French would come with vessels and lay at the harbour that none should escape.”

The detail that Isaac Morrill was a “Jerseyman” precludes the Isaac Morrills of Salisbury from consideration. Both were native born. It is more possible to believe Isaac Morrill was from New Jersey than that he was a “local Jerseyman.”

According to Duane Hamilton Hurd, in his history of Essex County, Massachusetts, Isaac Morrill was arrested May 29, 1690, in Newbury and sent for trial in Ipswich.

The court record regarding this matter has not been located. However, we do know that, on June 2, 1690, Nathaniel Clarke of Newbury was tasked with taking depositions from two of the alleged witnesses:

Clarke “took the depositions of Joseph, an Indian, and of Robin, a negro, concerning the supposed treasonable communication of Isaac Morrill with the French.”

The search for the identity of Isaac Morrill, alleged traitor, continues.

Major Issues

Konig identified George Major as a “Frenchman”. This is equally as unproveable as Coffin’s claim that Major came from the “parish of St. Lora, in the island of Jersey.” St. Lora is not one of the twelve known parishes.

George Major (also found as Mager) did not arrive in New England until 1672 and settled in Newbury, where he was married by August 21st. Very little is found of him. His three children were born between 1673 and 1676. He took the oath of allegiance at Newbury in 1676, when he gave his age as 31. He is believed to have died soon after 1690; no death record for him or his wife Susanna has been found. His two daughters married but there is no further record of his son, George.

. . .

. Joshua Coffin, A sketch of the history of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845 (Boston: S.G. Drake, 1845): 153-154 and 309.
. David Thomas Konig, Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County, 1629-1692 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). No page numbers available in this Google eBook preview.
. Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Essex County, Massachusetts: With biographical sketches of many of its pioneer and prominent men (1888), Vol. 2:1946.
. Genealogy of the descendants of Nathaniel Clarke: 11. Available online.

This entry was posted in Great Migration, Massachusetts, Merrill, Morrill and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Morrill of this story is?

  1. Marilyn Goodwin Soper - descendant of George and Susannah through their daughter Hannah says:

    George Major was from St. Lawrence Parish on Jersey, as noted in Tingley’s prodigious work: A Record of Some of the Ancestors of Guilford Solon Tingley and His Wife, Martha Pamelia Mey.


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