Frances V. Cox: A Fall from Grace

Mistakes in the records. Children left to the care of others. And an early death.

The headquarters of company F 11th R.I. Infantry, the unit with which Frank Gridley served, at Miners Hill Va.
On March 17, 1862, Frances gave birth to a son. She and Frank named him Hervey.

Hervey Gridley. That name is straight from the family story. He’s the man who is supposed to have uttered that phrase, “I've heard your story, and I know your father. He's a wealthy man, and the man who runs this mill.” He would have been George Morrison's half brother.

Frances Gridley filed for a pension on behalf of her husband, Frank. Frank's father, Benjamin, was later added to the claim.

Frank served briefly with the Rhode Island 11th Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, and the family was living in Pawtucket in 1863. Then, apparently, he died. A pension filing made in April 1864, lists Frances as a widow. Late that year, on Dec. 5, Frances married Henry B. Williams, a tailor from Pawtucket. By June 1, 1865, Frances and Henry had moved to north, to Smithfield, R.I. The children she had with Frank – Nellie and Hervey – are not listed as living with them in the state Census. She was using the name Fanny.

In 1870, Frances and Henry were back living in Pawtucket. But the U.S. Census record raises questions. First, it lists the couple as Frances V. and Mary B. Williams, of Connecticut and Rhode Island, occupations housekeeper and tailor; then the names are crossed out and changed to Mary B. and Francis B. It's possible the census taker just made a mistake and corrected it, but Mary B. was the name of Frances' mother. Why was the name not corrected to Henry? And there is something else – the couple had a child living with them: 3-year-old James H.

The 1870 Census first lists Frances V. and Mary B. Williams, but the names were then changed to Mary B. and Francis.

Meanwhile, the census shows that Nellie and Hervey Gridley were living in Providence with Charlotte and Mary Gorton. Charlotte was Frank Gridley's aunt, and Mary was her daughter. Frank's mother had died earlier that year.

I don't know what to make of this. Why weren't Nellie and Henry with Frances? Did she leave them behind? A census is just a snapshot, so perhaps they were just staying with their aunt that week, or month, or year. But, then again, I think of the child she had with Thomas Morrison.

There is the record of her marriage to Frank Gridley, where her name was first reported as Anna. There is the 1865 Rhode Island Census, where she is Fanny, and the 1870 U.S. Census, where she becomes Mary B. Williams, and her husband becomes Francis. Was Frances hiding from something?

The death record for Frances V. Cox Williams.

Henry B. Williams died in 1872. Frances died eight years later, on Aug. 26, 1880, in the Town of Medfield, Massachusetts. The cause was listed as consumption. She was 40 years old.

© 2018 Mike Bailey and Ron Gletherow

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