From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Morrell, Benjamin F.

(born: 1841  -  died: 1930) Benjamin F. Morrell was born in Madison County, KY. On December 1, 1872 he enlisted in the U.S. Army in New Orleans, LA at the age of 31 [source: U.S. Army Register of Enlistments]. Serving with the 25th Infantry, Company A, he was the best marksman in the company.

Sergeant Morrell received an honorable discharge on December 1, 1877 but would re-enlist in the U.S. Army several times. In 1889, he was stationed at Ft. Greble on Dutch Island in Rhode Island. Morrell would remain in Rhode Island after his service ended, becoming quite prosperous, including owning several properties on Clarke Stret in Jamestown, RI. He was frequently mentioned in the local newspapers during his lifetime, and after his death articles concerning the settling of his estate appeared over several years. The Sergeant Morrell House is on the Newport County (RI) Historical Register.

According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Morrell was the husband of Nannie A. Morrell; the couple had an adopted son, Frederick G. M. White. They had been in Rhode Island since at least 1889 and were considered prominent in the Jamestown community [source: "Shiloh Church Anniversary," Newport Mercury, 8/20/1892, p. 1]. Nannie A. Morrell was born around 1846 in North Carolina and died November 1904 in Jamestown, RI [source: "Deaths," Newport Mercury, 12/3/1904, p. 4].

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, there were 956 persons in Jamestown, RI including an all-time high of 81 Blacks (of which Benjamin F. Morrell and Gabriel B. Miller were the only two from Kentucky) and two Mulattoes. Very, very few free Blacks from Kentucky had settled in the state of Rhode Island, one of the first being 26-year old Fanney Birkshire, who is listed as a free woman in the 1850 Census. By 1900, Benjamin Morrell was one of 18 Blacks from Kentucky living in Rhode Island and one of two in Jamestown.

In 1906, Benjamin Morrell married his second wife, Lucy J. Morrell, and the couple lived on Clarke Street. They are listed in the 1910 and the 1920 Census. Lucy was born around 1865 in Virginia.

In 1899, Benjamin Morrell was considered the best choice when he was appointed the administrator of the James Walker estate [source: "Jamestown," Newport Daily News, 12/27/1899, p. 5]. By 1910, Benjamin Morrell had retired from the Army as a commissioned officer, according to the census.

Both Benjamin and Lucy Morrell were property owners; on September 30, 1914 Lucy ran an ad in the newspaper offering to lease a six-room tenement at 66 John Street [source: "TO LET," Newport Daily News, p. 17].

In 1917, Benjamin Morrell was in the hospital in Newport recovering from an illness, and his wife Lucy had moved to the city to be near him [source: "Sergeant B. F. Morrell...," Newport Journal and Weekly News, 12/14/1917, p. 4]. The couple would return to their home in Jamestown, and in 1929 Benjamin was one of the guests of honor at the American Legion Post and Auxiliary celebration [source: "Tuesday evening at the town hall...," within the article "Jamestown," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 9/27/1929, p. 7].

Sergeant Benjamin F. Morrell died February 8, 1930 and was given a military burial at Cedar Cemetery in Jamestown. According to the obituary notice, Sergeant Morrell was a member of the 9th Cavalry [source: "The funeral of Sergeant B. F. Morrell..." within the article "Local Briefs," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 2/14/1930, p. 5]. In November 1930, a petition was posted in the newspaper seeking the appointment of a guardian for his wife Lucy and her estate [source: "The petition..." within the article "Jamestown," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 11/7/1930, p. 8]. By 1932, Lucy had died. In June 1933 the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the Morrell estate was to go to the next of kin of Benjamin F. Morrell [source: "Supreme Court gives opinion in will case," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 6/30/1933, p. 1].

The land and buildings on John Street, which had belonged to Lucy Morrell, were transferred over to Marcus F. Wheatland [source: "According to a deed filed...," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 9/22/1933, p. 5, column 3]. In 1941, the Benjamin F. Morrell estate was back in the newspapers, which reported that the case was to be heard in the superior court [source: "In the Newport Trust Company...," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 7/11/1941, p. 3, column 7].

For more see the Benjamin Morrell entry in On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert; the Sergeant Morrell House -74- entry at the Newport County Historical Register website; "8 - Sergeant Benjamin F. Morrell died, 83," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 1/09/1931, p. 6, top of column 4; and "Three local cases in Superior Court," Newport Mercury and Weekly News, 8/1/1941, p. 3.

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“Morrell, Benjamin F.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-26 17:08:21