Ralph Morden, my great-grandfather, born in 1742 in Yorkshire, sailed across the Atlantic with his family when he was just a year old. Ralph's father was James George Morden who decided to immigrate to the colonies, settling in Penns Woods in 1743. In 1755, 13 year old Ralph lived on the 55 acres his father owned on the Delaware River in Northampton County, just north of Easton. Easton would have a very different meaning for Ralph.
While on a hike in 1765, Ralph fell instantly in love when he met a young English~Irish Quaker lass named Ann Durham. Ann's parents, Catherine and John Durham fled religious persecution of their homeland and settled in the peaceful Penns Woods. After their courtship, Ralph and Ann married, with Ralph converting from his family's Anglican religion, embracing the Quaker beliefs of the Durhams. The love Ann and Ralph shared resulted in the births of their nine beautiful children.
Drastic changes brought war between Patriots and Loyalists to the tranquil forest where the Morden family flourished. Needless to say, the Revolutionary War would forever change countless lives. Little did Ann and Ralph know how much change would enter their family.
One of Ann and Ralph's neighbors was Robert Land, a staunch Loyalist with England. Robert was a courier for British forces and in 1780 sought help from Ralph to lead his way to Canada. Robert knew he would face certain death if he remained in Pennsylvania. Ralph being a true Quaker was only too happy to help his neighbor in need.
As Ralph guided Robert through the woods, a group of Patriots who had learned of Robert's plans to flee, were waiting in silence. With shock, they attacked the two neighbors and Robert was shot on sight. He fortunately survived and did escape for his successful journey to Canada. Ralph was immediately taken captive by the Patriots and imprisoned. Being a Quaker, 38 year old Ralph had taken no side in the War and he only had helped a neighbor and friend in need. Ralph would easily clear his name and be home with Ann and his children. Or so he thought...
The atmosphere in 1780 was volatile to say the least. Emotions ran high in both Loyalist and Patriot camps. Both groups had a disdain for Quakers who mainly were Pacifists. Tragically, this effected Ralph only in the worst way. He quickly would find out that he would not be released as easily as he thought. In a shocking turn of events, Ralph was charged with high treason and a hasty trial found a peaceful Quaker guilty and condemned to death. Only his sweet Ann and his loving children stood by his side.
On a frigid November 25, 1780, Ann Durham Morden and her eldest son John witnessed the public hanging of their patriarch Ralph in Easton. No one even glanced their way as a murderous rope forever altered one family's journey.
Ann, a 37 year old widow, was left broken hearted and a single parent in a world gone terribly awry. She did her best to love her family as she held strongly to her Quaker beliefs. Her eldest son, John, finally went against his mother's wishes and entered the War as a Loyalist soldier joining Sir John Johnson's King's Royal Regiment of New York. His younger brother James soon followed him in the Loyalist regiment. This same regiment had been the one their father's brother James had joined, meeting his own death in 1777 in Montreal. Ann's son Moses then joined the New Jersey volunteers and he soon went off to War.
By 1786 after the War finally ended, the 3 Morden sons reunited at Fort Niagara. They had no idea they would all meet there. John told his brothers of his meeting with Robert Land who was now living in peace at Burlington Bay. John and his brothers decided that it would be best to move into Canada.
Ann couldn't agree more when she heard of her sons plans. She could no longer tolerate the endless persecution by Patriots who formerly were friends and neighbors. Even the Loyalists and some Quakers who remained in the area had shunned the Widow Morden and her fatherless children. This was a totally different world than she had ever thought possible. At this time, she also had taken in her 2 orphaned grandchildren. They were children of Ann and Ralph's daughter. She gathered what belongings they could carry and packed their wagon for their new home in Canada.
They spent the winter at Fort Niagara before moving into the Dundas Valley, an area that they were to be the first white settlers. Ann decided it was already too crowded in Burlington Bay for her family. Ann also spoke Mohawk and as a Quaker had always gotten along well with Native folk.
With Ann's sons being Loyalist soldiers, the family was granted land by the English in the area of today's Dundas, Ontario. Ann and her family struggled through times of near death, including a bitter winter when death lurked at every corner. Finally, Ann's family built their sawmills and farmed the land. Her son, Moses, settled at what is now Rock Chapel. Another Morden family settlement was at Spencer's Creek, near Crooks Hollow.
Ann at one point even ran a still to help support the family. She was known to help Governor Simcoe to deal peacefully with the Natives, translating for them. Ann and her eldest son John decided to move into the London, Ontario area where they spent their last years. John married another Quaker of New Jersey named Hannah Sutton. This couple had a large family as well who settled the London area. On a bitterly cold January day of 1832, Ann's eldest son John passed away on his 64th birthday. In a strange twist of fate, Ann soon followed her son and rejoined with her sweet Ralph in 1832. No grave markers exist where Ann and John are buried on the family farm. Their lives forever flow within my heart and soul.
I write this as July 4th winds down another year. I cannot help but have mixed emotions. My journeys through time with my great-grandparents share very diverse stories concerning this country I call home. Besides, my Mordens, I think of where my other greats were at the time Ann and Ralph faced so much tragedy. To give a brief glimpse, at the time of Ralph's 1780 tragic execution, I had Swiss Patriot greats living in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Scottish Highlanders and Lowlanders living across Scotland, Native Cherokees living in North Carolina, Irish Protestants living in and around Belfast, Irish Gaelic Catholics living in County Clare, Native Shawnees living in the Ohio valley, English Quakers living in North Carolina, Manx Methodists living in the Isle of Man, German Lutherans living in the Black Forest of Wurttemberg, Welsh Quakers living in Ireland, and French Huguenot Patriots living in New York... (and there are more)
I share these diverse greats of this "1780" period as a way to express how diverse family lines are in each of us... Across the globe there are rarely any who can say they are pure bloods... We are all eclectic folks and each ancestor has a story to tell... Each shares an equal voice in us... I say, they deserve our equal time...
I hope one day ALL people embrace their family history, a key I say to global peace...
"Just say no to labels!" John Charles with many surnames Williams Ireland....