Ever since I was a little girl I heard that some relative was almost hanged as a Northern spy during the Civil War. As a child, it was very exciting to have such drama in my history. And how I was awed by the realization that if he had been hanged, I would not exist!
But I never really knew the rest of the story. My sister, Joanna, who was the first one to begin gathering this information in detail, has helped me piece together more of it.
My great-grandfather, Joseph Morgan, came to Texas just before the Civil War. My sisters and I had always heard something about his being the second son and therefore received passage to America rather than the estate in England. But when we realize that the "estate" we had always heard about was my great-grandmother’s family, not his, and that he owned a nursery, we’ve come to believe that story isn’t quite right. But whatever the reason, we do know that somewhere around 1857, he and his brother, along with several families from Torquay and Buckfastleigh, came to Texas. He found his wife from one of these families. Her name was Eliza Furneaux. At some point, probably later, his parents and brother also came.
All of them settled in northern Texas on what became known as the Hapstead Farm, Hapstead being the name of the estate outside of Torquay in Buckfastleigh. My great-grandparents were married at some point after they arrived and had their first child in the log cabin they lived in. His daughter’s obituary said he taught school when he first arrived.
However, when the war broke out, here was an Englishman complete with a British accent in the middle of Texas. I can believe he showed little or no interest in the war, given that he had not lived there very long and given that he probably held to his British manner of being somewhat reserved. I can only suppose that those factors are what contributed to the label of "Yankee spy." But for whatever reason, somehow, someone was ready to "string him up."
It was only because of an itinerant preacher, or a "presiding elder" as one report states, that his life was spared. Supposedly he begged them to wait until the elder rode into town and vouched for him. They complied and, thus, he was saved from the gallows. But something in that experience told him he needed to go back to England.
So on June 23, 1865, my great-grandparents with her mother and sister and their small child in tow began their journey back to England. They went by wagon to Shreveport, sold most of the horses and wagons for cotton, and took a boat to New Orleans and then a ship to Liverpool. It was an arduous journey where her mother, my great-great grandmother, died on board ship. They arrived in England on October 6, 1865.
Two more children were born while they were in Torquay, including my grandfather, also named Joseph Morgan. But the whole family came back to Texas when my grandfather was one, somewhere around 1871.