Tag Archives: Chautauqua

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


Aaron Purdy Lures Uncle Jesse Morgan to Ohio

When we last saw Mary Bassett, she was settling the affairs of her first husband, Asahel Platt with the help of her new husband, Jesse Morgan. My 2nd great-grandmother, she had married a much-older Mr. Platt when she was only nineteen, hoping for stability after her mother died. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way she had hoped, and he died just a few years after they married. Read Mary’s story here.

What is the Question?

Family letters that Mary and her daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand daughter saved, are helping me learn more about Mary and particularly about her somewhat elusive second husband, Jesse Morgan. One of my quests is to figure out why Jesse Morgan wound up in the little town of Killbuck, Ohio.

I had long assumed that Jesse was born in New York because of this letter that he received addressed to New York.  But he probably was born in eastern Pennsylvania, where his father, Jesse Sr. moved from Connecticut. However, after the Jesse that became my 2nd great grandfather married his first wife, they moved to New York, because two daughters, and possibly two earlier sons were born there.  In 1835 when he received the letter, he had a three-month-old daughter, plus the older children, but he moved the family to Killbuck before 1938 when his third son was born.  His wife died,probably when that child was born.

The evidence is fairly strong that the letter he received in 1835 was influential in convincing him to move. He probably was a private school teacher, and might have wound up in Killbuck because there was  a need for a teacher.

What to Look For in the Letter

  • Aaron’s focus on the value of farm produce,
  • a lot of family gossip–which is invaluable to the family researcher,
  • a revealing couple of paragraphs pointing out the strong prejudices against German immigrants in the early 19th century. (I wrote about that anti-immigrant feeling in the late 18th century here.)
  • His sales pitch to Jesse to come to Ohio, appealing to the sense of adventure and novelty.

Note: As with the previous letter I shared, I have added paragraphs and punctuation. However, I have left Aaron Purdy’s very original spelling alone.

July 21st 1835

Folded with Address on the outside; from Clark’s Ohio

August 7th
Mr. Jessee Morgan

To: Volucia,Chautauqua Co., New York

Dear uncle I take this opertunity to inform you that we are all well at present and hope that these few lines will find you enjoying the same. I have just been perusing the last leter we had from you dated the 3rd of July 1833. We have not had any letter from you since but I think that father has wrote one since he received it. We hear from you by some one that moved from there and we only believe that you are still alive.
We just received a leter from Matilda [Morgan Howard] which was bad news to us. She writes that her oldest dauter is dead and the rest of them has been very sick. Towner Savage [Aaron Purdy’s borther in law] has had two shocks of the palsy [strokes] and is not able to do any hard laborer. We expect them here next summer. [Matilda and Towner Savage live in Oregon Territory] We have such bad news of the western country I think that we will be satisfied whare we are. I am now akeeping a store of my own on Dowdys fork, Mechanick[Mechanic] Township, homes county[ Holmes County, Ohio] I commenced the 18th of April. God only knows how I shal get along. I am aselling goods very fast.
(back of first page)

Wheat has been a beter price this Spring than it was even more before from 100 to 100.20

on the ___________ (?) which is not very far from us. Every thing that we have to sell we can get the cash for it and thare is no lack of it neither – corn 50c oats 31c and 37c. Some of our ole neibours were back to Pensylvania this Spring and it does us good to hear that old town says that we can raise wheat here and send it thare cheaper than they can aford to raise it thare.
I must tell you something of our prosperity. I have 3 children, 2 boys and 1 girl, all healthy enough. Sally [Sister of Jesse Morgan] is married to George Bucklew and he is a brother to my wife [Belinda Bucklew] and if you call her duch [Dutch, meaning German] you may gess what he is and how well they are liked in this country.

I am sorry to hear of George [Jesse’s brother’s first wife died, and he married a second time. His second wife died in 1834.] having such misfortune in choosing a companion.  If it be true to have the bad luck to meet with a dville instead of a friend, we only have it from hearsay.

I want you to writ to me as soon as you can I think of enough to fill a sheet, and if you can’t think of enough perhaps some of uncle family can fill it with something interesting. I should like to know what you are all occupiing and how you
(2nd page)
you are ageting along. I want you to tell me the prices of your markets of catle, sheep, horses, wheat of which we have a plenty of here. I should be glad to See you here if you could come. I supose it would be more satisfaction from you to come here than for me to come there. I supose I have a beter idea of that county than you have of this.

I don’t know as I have much more to write at present only for some apologies made in your laste leter respecting some of the duch. I know I hope that you wont think any the less of me [or] Sally for choosing our companions because they are reported to be duch nor of us if we were as duch as the devil.

You must excuse me for not writing sooner and something more entertaining for I have so mutch to do behind this desk that I can’t think of mutch at this time
Yours with Respect, Aaron Purdy

The Family

The letter writer, Aaron Purdy, is the son of Jesse’s sister Hannah Morgan and her husband Isaac Purdy, who had moved to Ohio after they married–the only one of Jesse’s siblings to leave Pennsylvania. Aaron is married to Belinda Bucklew. Despite his enthusiasm for Ohio, he and his wife will eventually move to Oregon territory.

Sarah Morgan, who married George Bucklew, is the sister of Jesse Morgan. Her husband George is the brother of Belinda Bucklew Purdy.

Matilda Morgan Howard, Jesse’s older sister, has death and illness in her family.

Towner Savage, as described in the letter above, is the husband of Aaron Purdy’s sister, one of the many Purdys who move to Oregon Territory. (Her name was also Matilda. This family was one where they reused the names of sisters and brothers quite often).

George, Jesse’s brother lost two wives, probably dying in childbirth. The second would have died a few months before this letter was written. I believe the reference to “some of Uncle family,” has to refer to George as well.

Reading Aaron’s letter to his uncle has given me an enormous amount of information, and I believe has indicated an answer to my question about why Jesse moved to Ohio.