Malvina Morgan: Two Lives

Of all four of Jesse Morgan’s children with his first wife, Malvina Morgan was closest in age to my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan (Stout), her half-sister. She was probably also the closest emotionally to my great-great-grandmother, Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, her father’s second wife.

Malvina Morgan 1835-1917

I had high hopes of being able to flesh out the life story of Malvina, because my mother passed on family memories of Malvina. For instance, she said that Malvina owned a store in Colorado and that she came back to Ohio to visit her step-sister Hattie (Harriet Morgan Stout). It is possible that my mother even encountered Malvina on one of her visits to Harriet (Hattie) in Ohio, but mother would have been a very young girl.  It is more likely that mother’s beloved grandmother Hattie (Harriet Morgan Stout) talked to my mother about the Morgan siblings.

But the Colorado part of Malvina’s life that my mother knew about was the second chapter. The first chapter set in the East and the second chapter set in the West. In the last half of her life she lived an independent life, far from the life of her childhood and the first chapter of her life, when she was a wife and mother.

Malvina’s Childhood

Malvina was born in Chautauqua County, New York in 1835, and would have been a toddler when her parents, Jesse and Mary Pelton Morgan moved to Ohio.  When Malvina was about three years old, her mother died.  I have no evidence of where Malvina lived as a very young child, but in 1838, her father married Mary Bassett, the widow of Asahel Platt, and they set up housekeeping in Killbuck, Ohio.

Two years later, in 1842, Jesse and Mary Bassett Morgan had a baby girl, Harriet (Hattie). Malvina was seven years old, and probably living in Killbuck with her father (when he was not ‘on the road’) and her step-mother.

In July, the 1850 census counted Malvina, now fifteen years old, living with Mary Morgan and the eight-year-old Harriet in Killbuck. The census report says the Malvina was in school that year. Although it was not common for girls to get education into their teens, it is not surprising that the well-educated former teacher, Mary, would ensure her step daughter went to school. In October of that year, Mary received word that Malvina’s father, Jesse, had been killed in Sacramento California in the month of August.

Chapter One: Malvina’s Married Life

In 1854, when Malvina was only 18 years old, she married 20-year-old Austin Grimes from Mina, Chautauqua County, New York.  Since her mother’s family still lived in Chautauqua County, I can only speculate that she met him while visiting family, or perhaps moved back there to live at some point.  The 1855 New York census shows Austin and Malvina living in Mina, next door to an Andrew Grimes, who was Austin’s older brother.  Later that year, Malvina gave birth to their first daughter, Eva.

Austin was working as a farmer and they continued to live in Chautauqua County, where their second daughter, Eva was born in 1858. The 1860 census shows the family in Ripley, New York, a town on Lake Erie and not far from their previous home in Mina.  By 1863, Austin (and probably the rest of the family) was living in Cornplanter, Pennsylvania and Austin had a new career in the oil fields.  His Civil War draft registration lists him as  “refiner”. However it also lists him as “single.”  Since the 1870 census lists the family together again, I can only assume the “single” is an error. The 1870 census again has Austin working in the oil fields in Cornplanter, this time as an “engineer.”  Emma (15) and Eva (12) are attending school, and the family has taken in two roomers to help make ends meet. One of those roomers is a 15-year-old nephew of Austin.

Austin clearly was interested in cashing in on the oil boom in Verango County, Pennsylvania, which started about 1860–the first major oil boom in the United States.  It becomes clear how important the petroleum industry was to that area when you look at some of the place names like Oil Creek, Petroleum Center and Pithole City.  The towns were rough and raw and the demand for labor must have been great for this farmer to suddenly turn into an oil refiner or engineer.  And by 1880, at the age of 46,he was a Fireman at an oil well.

If being a fireman on an oil well sounds dangerous–it was.  The job entailed removing dangerous gases building up in oil wells and putting out the sometimes explosive fires.

We know that in 1881 Austin Grimes died in Long Island, New York. The family had moved to Queens, New York, some time prior to the 1880 census. Whether it was an accident on the job or some other cause, he was just 47 years old when he died and left Malvina a widow at the age of 46. I was hoping to be able to find an obituary, or some confirmation of how he died, but it does seem probable that an accident on the oil fields caused his death.

Chapter II: Malvina Goes West as an Independent Woman

Because of the missing 1890 census reports, I do not know how long Malvina stayed in the east before moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, but it turns out that mother was right–she lived in Colorado.  The Colorado Springs City Directories for 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910, 1912, 1914 and 1916 all list her. That means that all of the wandering Jesse Morgan’s four children from his first marriage followed in his footsteps and went west.  Carlos ended up in Montana, Charles in California, and Louise in Denver. Whether Malvina owned (or worked in) a gift shop as mother said, cannot be proven from the census reports or the City Directories, as no occupation is listed in any of them.

I did not spot any relatives near her at the addresses listed in Colorado Springs, although there are many Grimes’ in the Colorado Springs cemetery. Malvina moved at least four times, each time living in rented rooms.  She went from 837 W. Huerfano, to the Gough Hotel, spent at least one year at the YWCA in 1910 and then lived at the St. Charles Rooming House on South Tejon Street.  It seems to have been a lonely life, but perhaps she was able to travel frequently, since we know that she visited Mary Morgan in Killbuck Ohio more than once.

She outlived all three of her siblings and died in April 1917 in Colorado Springs.  She is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in that city, as Mrs. M. L. Grimes.

I have the feeling that one of the unidentified pictures in my great-grandmother’s photo album may be Malvina Morgan Grimes, but for now, I have only this sketchy information and my imagination.

I will tell the story of the fourth child of Jesse Morgan, Louisa Morgan, through the wanderings of her children.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jessie Morgan and Mary Bassett Morgan.
  • Jessie Morgan with his first wife Mary Pelton is the father of
  • Malvina Morgan Grimes

Research Notes

Federal Census Reports: 1850, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; 1860, Ripley, Chautauqua, New York; 1870, Cornplanter, Venango, Pennsylvania; 1880, Queens, New York, New York; 1900, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Colorado

New York State Census: 1855, Mina, Chautauqua, New York (on line at Ancestry.com

James Morgan and his Descendants, North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com (on line)

Colorado Springs City Directories, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, Ancestry.com (on line)1900, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916, Malvina Grimes, widow.

Find a Grave, M. L. Morgan, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Civil War Registration, Austin Grimes, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marsha

New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948, Austin Grimes, 1881, Long Island City, New York

 

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