Colonel George Morgan Full Biography
I was born February 14, 1743 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Welsh immigrant Evan Morgan and his wife, Joanna Biles. When I grew up, I worked as a clerk for merchants John Baynton and Samuel Wharton and became a junior partner in 1760. In 1764, I married John’s daughter Mary Baynton. My business began trading with Native Americans in the country won by Great Britain in the French and Indian War, we used the Fort Pitt trading post (today’s Pittsburgh) as a base. I developed good relations with the tribes and the Delaware made me a member of their tribe, honoring me with the name Tamenend. In their history, he was a great man known for his wisdom and faith.
When the Revolution began, the Continental Congress appointed me as its Indian affairs agent, with the rank of colonel, for the western district based at Fort Pitt. I advised treating the Indian nations fairly and this put me at odds with other government officials who wanted to get rich by taking lands from the Indians. These officials attacked me and tried to get me fired. In contrast, Chief Killbuck of the Delaware nation said I was “the wisest, faithfullest, and the best man” he had ever known. I became very frustrated trying to protect the Indians while defending myself and tried to resign in the spring of 1778. Then, in 1779 I left Fort Pitt and headed for Princeton, New Jersey where I purchased the large farm of Jonathan Baldwin. I named the farm Prospect because of the beautiful view I had from the house. I was just 37-years-old and began a new career as a gentleman farmer surrounded by my family and studying the science of farming.
Mary and I had three children, John, Ann, and Mary, and also owned several enslaved persons who I considered part of my household. Eight-year old Tommy Hutchins also lived with us. His father, the Geographer of the United States, was a life-long friend of mine but was not interested in having a family life. I became the surrogate father for Tommy.
Soon after I moved into Prospect, a delegation of ten Delaware chiefs was heading east to meet with the Continental Congress and George Washington about their lands. I offered to have them stay at my new farm. They arrived in May, accompanied by three Indian boys, and set up their camp on my farm. While I knew and respected the Indian culture, not everyone did. One man described the chiefs as, “a singular group of savages, whose appearance was beyond description ludicrous. Their horses were of the meanest kind, some of them destitute of saddles, and old lines were used for bridles. Their personal decorations were equally farcical, having their faces painted of various colors, jewels suspended from their ears and nose, their heads without covering except tufts of hair on the crown, and some of them wore dirty blankets over their shoulders waving in the wind.”
These were my friends, though, and I had arranged for the three boys with the chiefs to live in Princeton and become educated in the ways of the whites. One of the boys had been named for me. He was George Morgan White Eyes, the son of Chief White Eyes who tragically had been murdered. I treated the three boys like my own sons during the several years they spent at Princeton. I accompanied the chiefs when they met with George Washington at Middlebrook, New Jersey. Unfortunately, Washington could not solve the problems the chiefs reported and neither would the Congress when they went to Philadelphia. Again, I was frustrated in seeking fairness for the Indian nations and I finally did resign my government position.
I fully enjoyed my time in Princeton and got to know my neighbors well. Princeton was very busy during the war for independence and helped procure supplies for the Continental Army and maintain an army hospital at the college in Nassau Hall and other buildings. Things really got busy at the end of June 1783 when the Continental Congress came to Princeton after a rebellion by some disgruntled Continental soldiers in Philadelphia made them feel unsafe there. The Congress met in Princeton from late June until November when word was received that the final peace treaty with Great Britain had been signed. While the Congress was in Princeton, I offered the use of my home and also helped arrange for the use of Nassau Hall and other buildings. When General Washington came to Princeton to be near Congress, I helped find a home from him at the farm called Rockingham belonging to Mrs. Margaret Berrien.
I left Princeton and returned to Pennsylvania in 1796 and settled on a farm I called Morganza. I lived there until my death on March 10, 1810. Today the site of my Princeton farmhouse is the building called Prospect, not far from Nassau Hall, and the house I arranged for General Washington, Rockingham, is a New Jersey State Historic Site.
Bush, Alfred L. “Indians, Slavery, and Princeton” puts the story into the context of other Indian students at Princeton. Available at: https://slavery.princeton.edu/stories/indians-slavery-and-princeton
Savelle, Max. George Morgan, Colony Builder. New York: Columbia University Press, 1932.
Schaaf, Gregory, Wampum Belts and Peace Trees: George Morgan, Native Americans and Revolutionary Diplomacy. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1990.