April 28th, 2013:


The Scottish Morehead family blended with the Motleys when John Morehead met Obedience Motley. Born in 1760 in Fauquier County (the northwestern area of Virginia), John Morehead came south to Amelia County, not far from Richmond, to teach school. As fate would have it, Obedience was John’s pupil, at least in dancing. The reading, writing and ‘rithmetic wasn’t mentioned.

According to the family history, Morehead was very attracted, or as it states in an old-fashioned way, he was “so worried by Obedience that he laid his hand on her shoulder and remonstrated with her—and made her his wife.” I think he was looking for an excuse for an interchange and perhaps showed her the right dancing step…It almost sounded like the wedding happened right away, but I drew my own conclusions! There’s more to the description as the author says the couple was “a great contrast.” Morehead was “versatile and many-sided; could officiate as a squire and marry people, pray with the sick and dying, preach a sermon of good Presbyterian doctrine, was a poet, a soldier, a planter, fond of the chase and social life.”

John Morehead “hated slavery and tried to take measures against it, and has been described as a man far ahead of his times.” Bravo for him. Obedience, the history says, was “more disciplined and practical.” As many women of her time, she knew how to spin and to weave clothes and the household cotton and linen. When they married in 1790, she was 22 and he was 30. They moved south, closer to the North Carolina line—not far from Danville, which became a hometown in the 20th century for many of the Motley clan and where I was born.


18th cent woman painted by John Singleton Copley--Was Obedience ever this fancy?

18th cent woman painted by John Singleton Copley–Was Obedience ever this fancy?

Obedience and John had daughters: five of them, but a son was the real achievement, especially in those times, and on July 4, 1796, their first son, John Motley Morehead was born. How could he help but go into public office with such a birth date! Three more sons were born, all but one of them became lawyers.

According to the history, Obedience was the inspiring force in the family, determined to educate oldest son, John Motley Morehead, and, through him the other sons. She sold produce from the family farm, which was in North Carolina’s Rockingham County, to pay for her son’s education, which started with Latin, when he was 14.

Working at her loom, Obedience created her own songs, like:

I raise my own ham,

My beef and my lamb,

I weave my own cloth,

And I wear it.

John Motley Morehead. He even looks like a governor!

John Motley Morehead. He even looks like a governor!


John Motley Morehead became Governor of North Carolina in 1841, but that’s another story for another blog.


Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button