New information has come to light concerning the location of the old William Morrison Mill. Many of us thought the old William Morrison Mill was located on Third Creek where Island Ford Road crosses it. There are remnants of an old dam on both sides of the creek and some foundation stones where a mill water wheel might have once been which led us to believe this is where William Morrison’s mill once stood. But now we believe this site is actually what remains of the William Watts Mill, and the William Morrison Mill was located approximately one mile further upstream where Wood Bridge road crosses Third Creek, which makes sense, it would be much closer to the location of William Morrison’s residence and cemetery.
For those of you that might not be familiar with the story of the William Morrison Mill, and how we are zeroing in on its correct location, I have prepared this short synopsis for you.
The first mention of the William Morrison mill is from the journal of Bishop Joseph Spanenburg, who surveyed lands in this section for the Moravians looking for a settlement of the Moravian colony which settled in Salem in November 1755. Writes from the “forks of the Little River south of Brushy Mountains” which would be the present site of Taylorsville, in an entry for November 1752 he writes, “about fourteen miles from here lives a Scotch-Irish family. There is said to be a mill but there is neither road nor way leading to it.”
Next, there are numerous entries in the Rowan County Court minutes listing William Morrison such as; Sept. 21, 1753: “Wm Morrison Prays his mill to be recorded as a publick mill, Granted Sd. mill being built and erected on Third Creek.”
From the history of Fourth Creek Church, written by Rev. E. F. Rockwell, we learn that Fourth Creek was gathered into a Congregation at least as early as 1751, and their place of worship was fixed upon as early as 1756. The Rev. John Thompson came into this region as early as 1751 and settled near Centre Church. He had one preaching station near where third Creek Church is, one at Morrison’s Mill, and one near the present site of Davidson College. As Cathey’s Meeting-house (Thyatira) was established about this time, or earlier, no doubt John Thompson preached at that place also.
Another story handed down is that Indians at one time ran William Morrison and his family out of their house, and burned all his property except the mill on account of a superstition. Morrison and his family took refuge in Fort Dobbs, which was built about that time near Statesville.
According to William Morrison’s headstone, he died on 3rd June 1771. His son William Morrison then lived on the tract of land that includes the mill in documents, he is known as William “Miller” Morrison, and he writes his will on the 22 nd Day of 1822, in which he “bequeath unto my beloved son James M. Morrison all the old tract of land including the Mill, house and improvements, except so much of said tract as shall be hereafter mentioned. Also part of a tract of land adjoining said old Mill tract on the south side of Third Creek which tract of land was originally granted by the state aforesaid, bearing the date Oct 10th one thousand seven hundred and eighty three….”
From this information, we can state the old Mill was located on the North side of Third Creek.
Unfortunately, James M. Morrison died about 1851, without leaving a will. So at this time, it is unclear who next owned the tract of land which included the Mill, but Jim Morrison is working with the Iredell County, NC historian Joel Reese to search for land deeds so we can continue with the chain of ownership of said Mill tract.
In 1914 P F. Laugenour a local Dentist and historian contributed an article in the Statesville Sentinel, that talks about William Morrison Mill, and its location. Here is part of that article that pertains to the location, “ It was situated on Third Creek, a mile south of Loray, on the new public road from Loray to the Island Ford road. This road is called the Hart Dam road from the fact that the road crosses the creek on the old mill dam. Before the civil war, the mill became Raymer’s mill and later Hart’s mill. Soon after the civil war, about 1870, owing to damage alleged to be caused to the lowlands by the pond, no contention being made that it was injurious to the health of the community, the owners were compelled by legal process to tear out the dam and discontinue the mill. It stood immediately below the dam and at this time only a solitary post remains of the mill.”
Hart dam road is now called Wood Bridge road, which indeed runs from Loray and crosses Third Creek, and continues down to Island Ford road.
A quick search of the Iredell County, NC 1850 census locates a Moses Ramier whose occupation is listed as a Mill Wright, and Jacob Hefner as a Miller. On the 10th day of September 1859. Moses Ramier and Jacob Heffner sell a tract of land to David Hart for the sum of sixty-five hundred dollars situated on the waters of Third Creek containing Four Hundred Thirteen acres and a quarter. Unfortunately, it does not list any buildings in the description of said tract, so it is unclear if this tract included the Mill and said dam, but it is a good guess the mill and dam were included in this sale.
David Hart had two daughters who married two Morrison brothers. Nancy Caroline Hart
married Henry Lee Morrison, and Laura Ann Hart married Abner Franklin Morrison. More on how these families tie into the William Morrison Mill will be explained shortly.
On the 7th day of December 1874, a contract was made between David Hart and James
Anderson Harris and James Elam Alexander, in which David Hart agrees to lease all his whole plantation lying on both sides of Third Creek including his dwelling house and all outbuildings for a period of 5 years. The contract continues in stating that the said Harris and Alexander shall pay a yearly rent plus 2/5 of all the corn raised on the bottom land now in cultivation lying between the Creek and the road leading from the dwelling to what is known as the Gibson House and also 1/3 of all the corn wheat oats and cotton raised on the upland including a strip of bottoms on the Mears branch lying above the bridge on the branch also including a strip of bottom lying on the McRee branch above the road. Also to keep the fences in good repair from where it joins Mrs. McRees around to the breast of the old dam.
From this instrument, although no mention is made of the mill, we can infer that the Mill is no longer in use and may or may not be still standing, but part of the dam was still visible.
Another quick search of the 1860 Census for Iredell County, District south of the Yadkin River, NC lists all the neighbors in the above contract, David Hart is family number 1158, Leander Morrison is next door, family number 1159. He is the father of Abner Franklin and Henry Lee who marries David Hart’s daughters Laura Ann and Nancy Caroline Hart. Next to David Hart is John Gibson and his family, family number 1160. Next to him is Franklin R. McCree, family number 1161. Franklin R, McCree’s wife was Jane Isabel Woodside whose father was Joseph Gillespie Woodside, whose daughter Eugenia Ann Woodside married David Brooks Morrison, a son of Henry Lee Morrison.
After the death of David Hart in 1876, it is harder to trace the ownership of the Mill property as it was sold in smaller tracts to several different people. There is a land deed dated 1890 where Pressley Kirkland Hart a son of David Hart sells land to David Brooks Morrison, Deed Bk. D14, Pg 401. The description of that tract is as follows; “Beginning at a stake on the North bank of Third Creek Clark Combs Corner thence with Combs line North 10” East 27 poles to a rock thence with Combs line North 02 near North 38 ½ poles to a rock. Florence L Stevensons corner thence with her line East or near East 86 poles to a stone on Samuel Stevenson line, thence with said Stevensons and Rev William McClelland’s’ line South 86 ½ poles to Third Creek thence with the meanders of said creek to the beginning. Containing forty five acres more or less.” it is unclear whether or not this parcel of land included the area of the Mill site or not.
The following information was given to us by Michael Morrison, a great-grandson of David
Brooks Morrison. “According to Dad, David Brooks Morrison did own the property containing the cemetery when he died in 1932. When his widow Eugenia died in 1961, the property was passed on to their daughter Ina and Ina’s husband, Ollie Madison. Ollie sold the property to Robert Cook, a local developer, with the stipulation that the portion containing the cemetery was to be donated to Concord Church. This took place in 1972.
Now as of 2023 the Old Morrison Cemetery has come full circle and is back in Morrison’s hands. Concord Presbyterian Church has deeded the Cemetery to Morrison-Q Inc., a non-profit organization, that promotes learning the history of our Morrison Ancestors through Y-DNA testing and genealogical research. On March 11, 2023, some of our Morrison Cousins took the first steps in cleaning the cemetery of brush, and are making plans for the upkeep of the cemetery and preserving these ancient burial grounds of some of the earliest settlers of this part of what is now Iredell County, North Carolina.