As I mentioned in my last blog, Obedience Motley, my Virginia relative who was born before the Revolutionary War and lived until 1863 in the midst of  the Civil War years, gave birth to a distinguished North Carolina governor, John Motley Morehead. I think she deserves a lot of the credit for ensuring he was broadly educated, became a lawyer and capped his career with the governorship. I couldn’t find a picture of Obedience during her younger years, so I received several comments about her unattractiveness.  Her son is very good looking, so I imagine his mother was probably a pretty woman.


Gov. John Motley Morehead

Gov. John Motley Morehead

The painting here of John Motley Morehead  shows he was a handsome man and remained attractive (I found an older painting of him) until he died in 1866, only three years after his beloved mother and after the Civil War. Funny how his hair looks like the latest style, except for the sideburns!

Is there something special in the soil of Pittsylvania County, Virginia? Morehead was born on a farm there on July 4, 1796. Nancy Langhorne Astor was born there in 1879, and I was born there in the 1940s. Morehead became a governor; Nancy married England’s Lord Astor, and when he died became the first woman in British Parliament. Interesting connections, although I’m stretching it to compare myself to these illustrious folks, and I have no desire for public office! I’ll stick with writing, blogs and editing!

Morehead wasn’t the typical farm boy; Obedience used money from the farm produce and farm animals to send John to study Latin and then to attend the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After he graduated in 1817, he studied law, and by age 25 was serving in the North Carolina state assembly.

He and his wife Eliza Lindsay were married in 1821, moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and had eight children. Those Motleys had big families!

Apparently, he made a good impression on the residents of Raleigh since their newspaper, the Raleigh Register said in 1842 when Morehead became Governor that he was, “A fine orator, a good scholar and is justly considered a man of fine talents. There is something noble in his ordinary appearance; his private conversation is always remarkably interesting, and when speaking, his fine appearance, his manner and gestures are well calculated to make an impression on all present that he is no ordinary man.”

Because of his enthusiasm for public works, a railroad system in North Carolina, for instance, he was called the “Architect and Builder of Public Works.” One statesman in North Carolina called him The Father of Modern North Carolina.

In reading about this fascinating relative, there were a couple of factors that stood out for me: As a North Carolina representative in a conference to avoid the Civil War, in 1860, he did what he could to preserve the Union. People considered him to have a sparkling wit, to be a courteous gentleman, and to have the best control of his temper of anyone they knew.


This sign marks Morehead’s mansion, Blandwood, now in downtown Greensboro.

Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time to meet your relatives?






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