Isaac Morgan Gregory

1737 (Approximate)-August 2, 1800

Revolutionary War Veteran

from research published in

"Gregory Family Origins"

by

Nathan Gregory

This line of Gregorys was said to originate with Thomas Gregory, b.1673 in Chowan, NC, a claim which we seriously doubt, but cannot disprove. Thomas' parents are unknown. We suspect, but cannot prove that he descends from one of the British Gregory lines. The year 1673 was very early in our country's history, well predating the voyage of William Penn of 1682, and records of any such early arrivals are problematical.

     Thomas married Priscilla Barecock in 1691, at age 18. We know the Barecock family were British and came from England in the early 1600's. Thomas and Priscilla had some ten children, by most accounts.

     In our genealogy researches we attach great importance to choices parents make for their children's names, as they often lead to insights we might not otherwise observe. Uncommon names are genealogical gold, and a few of theirs stood out as significant.

     Thomas named sons William (1692), Richard R. (1705), Nathan (1707), Sampson (1710), Jacob (1914), Job (1716), Thomas (1718) and Caleb (1723). His son of 1707, Nathan, did obviously catch our eye, as did Sampson who reminds us of another Gregory line, that of Isaac Gregory (1785) who married Louisa Sampson in Orange County Virginia in 1814, and who ultimately moved to Tennessee. This family obviously was of a different generation, and we see no possible namesake connection. Thomas and Priscilla also had two daughters, Priscilla (1702) and Elizabeth (1703). Priscilla also gives us some pause since there is one Priscilla in our core line, Priscilla Jane Gregory, b. 1836, daughter of William and Synthia Ann. There have been claims of a connection to the Gregorys who moved to Bath County Ky in the early 1800's but we have not found anything to support such a connection. Hopefully one day a DNA test will clarify the situation.

     There seems to be a rather large, unexplained gap between the birth of their William and the next child, causing us to further question the accuracy of linking Thomas and Priscilla as grandparents of the General. Fitting him into their family seems contrived.

      Thomas and Priscilla's supposed son William married Judith Morgan in 1724. They too were prolific and had nine children by most accounts. Our concern arises since they did not reuse family names. Thomas and Priscilla had some uncommon children's names, Jacob, Job, Caleb and Sampson, suspiciously none of which appear among William and Judith's children.

     William and Judith had sons Willis (1728), Mark (1730), Dempsey (1734), Isaac Morgan (1737), Cornelius (1750) and James (1751). They named daughters Affiah (1724), Mary (1744), and Lovey (1745). As you can see, none of the names William and Judith gave to their children match the names used by Thomas and Priscilla, this fact, along with the rather large gap between William and Richard cause us to highly doubt the oft-claimed connection. Unfortunately, many claim this connection and these details do not quite rise to the level of reliable proof, and we have no alternate candidate. Connecting William as Isaac's father seems secure since the middle name Morgan matches his mother's maiden name, a powerful linkage.

    Isaac was quite the colorful character and Revolutionary War hero. North Carolina historian Alex Leary is quoted as saying "He was the most notable person to have ever lived in Camden County,"

    In the 1760's Isaac became County Sheriff of Pasquotank County, and in 1773 he was appointed a trustee to the building of St. Martin’s Anglican Chapel on land owned by Thomas McKnight in Currituck Cty.

    Some sources credit him as marrying Elizabeth Whedbee in 1765, when he was about age 28. We are unable to confirm the marriage, or any children. However, she is claimed as having died in 1780, and his son Isaac is recorded as born in 1772. There is confusion as he is also recorded as marrying Sarah Lamb, and sources say she died in 1781, yet she is left as his widow after his death in 1800. Clearly we do not have accurate facts. Our best inference is that he married Elizabeth first, she died birthing Isaac Jr, and then he married Sarah, but again, proof is elusive.

    In 1775 Isaac represented Pasquotank County in the last colonial assembly to meet under a Royal governor in North Carolina. Although an early supporter of the Continental Congress and delegate to the provincial congresses of 1775-1776, Isaac withdrew, along with five other members, in defense of his friend Thomas McKnight, the Currituck County representative, when McKnight refused to sign the Continental Association.

    From 1775-1779, Isaac held a series of appointments in the region including member of the Safety Committee in Edenton and senior Pasquotank County Militia Colonel. In July 1777 the General Assembly appointed him to a committee to establish a courthouse and public buildings in the new county of Camden, where Isaac held large land holdings. That same year, Isaac’s brother, Dempsey obtained a captaincy in the 10th N.C. Continentals, a post he held for only a few short months. On May 12, 1779, the General Assembly appointed Isaac a brigadier-general of the Edenton District Militia.

    On August 16, 1780, under the command of Richard Caswell, (under General Horatio Gates) Isaac led his brigade in the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. The American forces suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Colonel Cornwallis, but Isaac and his men acquitted themselves well. Facing a superior British army led by Cornwallis, Isaac’s men held while Gates and the other North Carolina militia regiments fled the field. He and his men joined Maryland and Delaware Continentals in a last-ditch bayonet charge that resulted in direct hand-to-hand combat with some of the very best British regiments.

    Isaac’s horse was killed and fell upon him, and he was unable to extricate himself from under the animal's dead weight. He was bayoneted twice while so entrapped, and then taken capture by the British. Isaac's wounds were tended by the British, and he was paroled as British surgeons determined that he could not live. He was recorded by Cornwallis as having died, and released to die.

    He did not die. Isaac recovered from his wounds and returned to Pasquotank County. He immediately began forming a militia company of dragoons in the district to oppose a projected British invasion of the area from Suffolk, Virginia.

    In the spring of 1781 accusations arose that Isaac was secretly cooperating with the British after a letter was captured reputedly from him to the British commander in Suffolk offering to surrender his command. Patriot officials, horrified at the thought that one of their senior militia commanders was a traitor, moved to court-martial Isaac. However, the letter had been written as a joke by a British officer under the command of Colonel John Graves Simcoe, and when word came of Isaac’s impending trial, the British sent word to Whig officials admitting that it was untrue. Although he escaped trial, questions about his loyalties continued to haunt him for the remainder of the war.

    After the war, Isaac Gregory ran a plantation called Fairfield or Fairfax (sources differ, the plaque says Fairfield but it was not placed until 2011, older stories cite it as Fairfax) where he built a 3-story brick mansion, and raised six children. Isaac served in the General Assembly, and as a trustee of various academies and schools in northeastern North Carolina. He was appointed a delegate to the constitutional conventions of 1788 and 1789 as a Federalist, and served as a commissioner of navigation for Albemarle Sound, as well as a customs collector for Camden County.

     Isaac Gregory died at his Camden County, NC plantation, on April 2, 1800 at age 63, leaving a wife, Sarah Lamb Gregory, and six children. We do not definitely know the names of all six, but we know he had a son born in 1772 also named Isaac Morgan Gregory, and two daughters Harriett and Matilda. His historic brick mansion was torn down in the 1950's and all that remains is a metal plaque placed by the Sons of the American Revolution. His gravesite is unknown, but presumed nearby on the plantation land.

    Isaac Morgan Gregory and his wife Sarah of North Carolina, are often confused with Isaac Gregory and Alse Gerard of South Carolina, whom we call “Isaac the Elder” in historical references, and it is tricky separating the two in some details. Confusion between the two well known men both named Isaac Gregory has presented research problems.

We have noted a trace DNA linking to the Iberian Peninsula, and we note that at least one of Isaac's descendants does have this marker, in common with our family and that of “Isaac the Elder” despite the lack of yDNA correlations. More DNA testing is needed.

 

References:

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 367—sketch by William S. Powell
Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Fortitude and Forbearance: The North Carolina Continental Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (2004)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XIII-XV, XIII-XIX, XXII-XXV (1896-1906)