Colonel James Morgan

Col. James Morgan

James Morgan, pioneer Texas settler, merchant, land speculator and Commander at Galveston during the Texas Revolution, was born in Philadelphia, Penn. On October 13, 1787, the son of James and Martha (Prudun) Morgan. As a child, he was taken to North Carolina, where he grew to manhood and married Celia Harrell. In 1830, he visited Brazoria and decided to open a mercantile business in Mexican Texas. He returned to North Carolina to get his wife and children, and set out for Texas. He stopped in New Orleans, formed a partnership with John Reed and the two of them purchased a schooner, Exert. Morgan went by land to Anahuac, where he opened a store. Reed soon arrived with a cargo of merchandise, upon which the Mexican authorities levied a tariff. Morgan and Reed defied the taxes, and became involved with William B. Travis and other colonists, stating that the extraction of duties or taxes was contrary to the Mexican constitution of 1824. Travis (killed four years later with his men at the Alamo) was imprisoned by the authorities. This eventually led to armed confrontations between Mexican authorities and the rebellious colonists. These first hostilities were the opening campaign of the Texas Revolution in 1832. Morgan, recognized as a leader, was elected to represent Anahuac in the Convention of 1832.

In 1835 Morgan was appointed agent for a company called the New Washington Association, organized in 1834 by Lorenzo de Zavala and a number of New York financiers to develop Texas real estate. He immediately purchased for the company an enormous quantity of land in Harrisburg, Liberty & the point at the mouth of the San Jacinto River & Galveston Bay. Here he laid out the town of New Washington (later to become Morgan’s Point). The company brought a number of Scottish highlanders & free blacks from New York, including Emily D. West (the legendary Yellow Rose of Texas) to the colony.

Morgan operated ships often used by the Texas government during the Revolution, in addition to supplying the civil & military branches with merchandise from his store. From March 20, 1836 to April 1, 1837, Morgan with the rank of colonel, was Commandant of Galveston Island and responsible for its fortification.

After the revolution, Morgan returned to the site of New Washington, which had been destroyed by the Mexicans, to rebuild his home, which he called Orange Grove. He continued his dealings for the New Washington Association & his partner Samuel Swartwout, the savior of the First Texian Navy.

Later, Morgan served as a Special Commissioner appointed by President Sam Houston to effect the secret sale of the Second Texian Navy at New Orleans in 1843 & played a vital role in the Texian Navy’s victory at Campeche, Yucatan prior to returning to Texas. He lost an election to Congress of the Republic shortly afterward.

Morgan’s wife Celia died on Oct. 1, 1840. Kosciusco (Morgan’s son) & wife Caroline cox lived with Col. Morgan at Orange Grove with their children. She died on March 23, 1846.

Throughout this period, however, Morgan continued numerous business ventures including the cultivation of oranges, cotton, and sugarcane. He owned extensive herds of cattle, importing the first Durham shorthorns into Texas. He loved to entertain such notable guest at his home as John James Audubon, Ferdinand Von Roemer and the British world traveler and author, Mary Houstoun. Morgan’s eyesight deteriorated to blindness in 1851. Later, although completely blind, he continued to enjoy hunting, sailing and racing on the bay.

His son, Kos, preceded him in death on June 25, 1865. Morgan died at his home on March 1, 1866 and was buried on the plantation in what is now the Morgan’s Point Cemetery.

Morgan’s granddaughter, Fannie Belle, married Henry Lowndes Allan on June 13, 1866 and moved to Galveston. Her mother Caroline Maria Cox Morgan left Texas for North Carolina with the other children immediately after the wedding, the last of the Morgan’s at New Washington.