Escapades of Col. Zackquill Morgan, Father-in-Law of Jacob River Swisher

Jacob River Swisher’s father-in-law was Col. Zackquill Morgan who played a very prominent role in the early history of Morgantown  West Virginia. He was also a close friend of George Washington. As I was going through a notebook of Swisher memorabilia, I found a copy of a letter that tells of some of Zackquill’s escapades. True or not, I thought this letter is worth the time to read, so I have copied it here. I do not have a date as to when it was written, but the copy that I have was made in 1992, so this letter predates that date.

“Many thanks for your letter. You asked about Zackquill and I will relate some of the stories about him.To write down all that he did would require a novel.

“As you already know, he was the founder of Morgantown, West Virginia, home of West Virginia University, the first place of business there was a saloon (opened by him).

“Prior to the Revolution, George Washington and he were friends. After the war, Washington came to visit him at Morgantown to inquire about routes that could be turned into canals to the Ohio River. In Washington’s diary he speaks of him as Zacky and apparently took his word as a close friend. Yet, in the election of 1758 Morgan Morgan (Zack’s father and first settler in West Virginia) voted against Washington and Zack didn’t even bother to vote. (Probably down deep he considered Washington to be a rich political clown which was against all that Zack stood for.) But, I do note that Zack’s Father-in-law, Dennis Springer, voted for Washington.

“The Morgans along with others in the same area manufactured whiskey, which they named Monongahela Rye. They would build rafts and float to New Orleans by way of the Ohio River. In New Orleans they would sell the rye and walk back to Morgantown, which is an almost unbelievable feat in itself. Yet, we must remember that our ancestors were a special breed of people who feared nothing or no one. The Indians were in constant fear of the Morgans, because they would kill them. Now back to the barges of whiskey, on one occasion, Levi (Zack’s son) went with the barge to New Orleans. There he met a Cajun queen and didn’t return home for six years. In the meantime, his family thought him dead and sold all his property. When he returned to Morgantown, he sued all his brothers and sisters. (Our great great grandfather, Jacob Swisher, was included.)

“The one story that I think brings out what Zack was really like is this one. He was made a colonel in the home guards in order to protect the Monongahela Valley from Indians and Tories during the Revolutionary War. He received orders to go to Pittsburgh to arrest a loud-mouthed Tory who was raising a group to cause trouble in the Valley. After arresting this man, he and two other Morgans were bringing the prisoner back across Cheat River on their way to Richmond for trial when the canoe overturned. The prisoner drowned. Zack was arrested and sent to Williamsburg for a hearing. He was acquitted when his men of 500 strong refused to fight without him. Zack said later that his trouble was caused by upper Monongahela Valley loyalists to the king. This was their way of getting him out of the valley so that they could do as they pleased about making trouble. When the canoe overturned, he couldn’t help it if the Tory couldn’t swim. (He forgot that the prisoner was leg shackled and hand cuffed at the time.) I think it was apparent that Zack and the others threw the Tory out of the canoe so that they didn’t have to leave their families alone. I might add that after this happened, the big concentration of Tories at Pittsburgh ran to Detroit to get away from the Morgans. Included in this group was the infamous halfbred Simon Girty.”

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