My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

* * * *

REV. JAMES FOYIL MORTON, pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at Cedarville, assumed charge of this pastorate in May, 1863, having been recently graduated from the Monmouth, (Ill.) College. The fact that he has since remained with the congregation through the vicissitudes of nearly twenty-seven years, attests the fidelity with which he has labored and the success which has crowned his efforts. The church through his instrumentality has increased largely in numbers and influence, becoming a power in religious circles in Southern Ohio.

The subject of this notice was born in Lincoln County, Tenn., January 18, 1828, and is the son of James and Mary Foyil (Breckenridge) Morton, who were natives of South Carolina and removed early in life to Tennessee where they were married. There the mother died in 1828. Mr. Morton, subsequently in 1841, emigrated to Illinois with his family and followed farming until his death. James F. was reared amid the quiet scenes of country life and pursued his first studies in the district school. When approaching manhood he occupied himself as a teacher during the winter season and in summer worked on the farm until the early part of 1859, then entered Monmouth College, where he was graduated in the college class of 1861, and in the Theological class in 1862, with a license to preach by the Western Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1863 he assumed charge of the Cedarville Congregation, over which he has since continuously presided.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cedarville was organized about 1810, being the first church of that denomination in the Presbytery, and from data obtained in a history written by Robert C. Reid, it appears that in 1804, David Mitchell of Kentucky with his wife and James Miller and family from Scotland, settled on Clarke’s Run and organized a prayer-meeting. In the spring of 1808, James Reid and family took an active part. In the fall of the same year. William Moreland settled near and also joined the infant society. The first preaching was in 1809 by the Rev. Thomas Donelly and John Kell, then a licentiate.

Shortly afterward the Rev. John Black of Pittsburg visited the society and received Mr. and Mrs. James Reid who were the first regularly accepted members of the church. Mr. Black organized sessions and the next Sabbath preached a sermon in a log barn on what is known as the Dallas farm. On that day the ordinance of baptism was first administered in the congregation, the parties interested being William and Joseph Reid. At this time there were about ten members. During the next few years eight or ten families joined, but for a time there was very little preaching, owing to the want of a building. Meetings were held in barns and residences, the latter being for the most part small log houses.

The first church edifice was built in 1812 on Mr. Miller’s farm, seven miles from Xenia. This was a rude log structure, twenty-two feet square, chinked with clay and the floor was of rough planks without joining or matching. The clapboard roof was held in place by weight poles. The first regular preacher was the Rev. John Kell, who for six years supplied the pulpit about once a month., giving this congregation about one quarter of his time. The first regular pastor was the Rev. Jonathan Gill, who settled here in 1816 and remained until 1823. Then on account of inadequate support he requested to be released and the pastoral relation was dissolved.

The Rev. Gavin McMillan then took charge and reached about one quarter of his time until 1829. In the meantime, in 1824, a new church building was erected on the banks of Massies Creek, six miles from Xenia and two miles from Cedarville. This was a stone edifice, 40x36 feet in dimensions. In the fall of 1829 the Rev. Hugh McMillan, brother of Gavin, accepted the pastorate, which he held until his death, in October, 1860. He was greatly lamented by the whole community. At the time he took charge there were but sixty-six communicants, but a number of his parishioners in the South followed him to his new location and greatly increased his flock. At his death only three of the original subscribers were living, namely — Robert, John and William Reid, who have since passed away.

In 1833 there was a division in the congregation, thirty-eight of the sixty-five members going to another synod. This caused some trouble about the occupancy of the church, which was settled by allowing those who left to use it every fourth Sabbath and two Sabbaths in succession when they had communion. In 1839 the original society built a new church on a lot near the old one. This was a brick structure 45x55 feet in dimensions. In 1848 members living in Xenia received permission to the have a distinct organization, fifty-five members taking leave at that time. They called on the Rev. Mr. McMillan to become their pastor but after mature consideration he declined and removed to Cedarville, where his earthly labors were ended.

In 1853 the brick church was torn down and rebuilt in a more central location in the village of Cedarville. This structure is of brick, 45x67 feet in dimensions and has in it much of the material of the old stone church of 1824-39. In May, 1863, Rev. J. F. Morton, the subject of this notice assumed charge of the congregation with which he has so faithfully labored and to such a good purpose.

There are now five distinct classes or societies which hold regular prayer-meetings, some of them meeting once a week and others once or twice a month. The Sabbath-school numbers two hundred or more members and is in a flourishing condition. There are twenty-one classes including seven Bible classes. The average attendance is about one hundred and fifty. This includes all classes and ages. Of those enrolled, over one hundred are from outside the congregation, consisting mostly of the very poor or those who receive no other religious instruction. These are sought out by the faithful teachers and members, who, when it is necessary, furnish them with food and clothing at the expense of the congregation. Under such Christian influence and benevolence many of them become exemplary men and women. The church is thus doing good missionary work. Pastor and people labor in the utmost harmony, endeavoring to follow the teachings of the Master.

Rev. James F. Morton was joined in wedlock with Miss Martha Blair, June 3, 1863, at the bride’s home near Sparta, Ill. This lady was born in Tennessee and is the daughter of James and Jane Blair, who were residents of the same place in Illinois but are now both deceased. They removed to the Prairie State at an early day and their daughter Martha was educated in the High School of Sparta, where later she followed the profession of a teacher a number of years. Early in life she also became connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. There were born of this union six children, the eldest of whom a son, Cargill M., married Miss Anna Stewart of Clifton, Ohio, and is now a prominent business man of Cedarville. Mary and James died at the ages of five and three years respectively; Calvin Crawford is attending college at Monmouth, Ill.; Martha Lulu and Jennie Belle are attending school at Cedarville. Dr. Morton had always maintained a warm interest in the temperance question and some time since identified himself with the Prohibition party, with the principles of which his congregation is mostly in sympathy, a few members, however, still adhering to the old parties. He is held in high esteem in his community, having made for himself a worthy record, both in religious and social circles.

* * * *

This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

View additional Greene County, Ohio family biographies here: Greene County, Ohio Biographies

View an historic 1901 map of Greene County, Ohio

View family biographies for other states and counties

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of family biographies.

Follow My Genealogy Hound: Follow me on Facebook