George Cox: A Search for a Name

Updated: Dec 22, 2018

George B. Morrison was born on May 3, 1857, in Norwich to Thomas and Frances Morrison. His parents would soon be wiped from his life.

George M. and Annie Morrison
According to the family story, the French maid was sent away to keep her apart from Thomas. Perhaps, John and Mary Cox sent Frances away to keep her from Thomas. Perhaps they wanted to hide the fact that Frances was carrying a child.

In any event, soon after George was born, his mother had remarried and moved to Rhode Island, and he was living with his grandparents as their son. By 1870, John had moved his home and carriage-making business to New London. George, whose middle initial had changed from B, to M., according to Census records, was 13 years old and in school.

John Q. Cox died in 1873, and George soon went to work, but not in the family business. By 1880, the widow Mary Cox, 73, had returned to Norwich, and 23-year-old George was working in a bleachery. In the 1880 Census, taken in June 14, George was listed as Mary's son.


In the 1880 U.S. Census, George was clearly identified as Mary Cox's son, not her grandson. She would have had to given birth to him when she was 50.

On Oct. 1, 1880, George M. Cox and Elisabeth Myra Bell of New York City were married in Norwich by the Rev. Hugh Montgomery, a Methodist pastor who would become one of New England's most prominent prohibitionists.

Something was amiss, however, because on March 3, 1881, the couple were married again, by Rev. Montgomery, but this time as Elisabeth Myra Bell and George M. Morrison. Apparently, George had discovered that his real name was not Cox.


The first marriage to Elisabeth Bell, as George M. Cox.

The second marriage to Elisabeth Bell, as George M. Morrison.

Their son, Frederick Leonard, was born on Oct. 1, 1881. In 1884, the young family was still living in Norwich, but not with George's elderly widowed mother. The next year, George, Elisabeth and Frederick moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

There's no record about why the family moved to Pawtucket; no diaries or family letters. There is the family story, which says a son went in search of his father. George's mother, Frances, had moved to Pawtucket with her second husband more than 20 years earlier; perhaps her mother knew. George would have had no luck finding Frances; she died in 1880.

George did, however, find Hervey Gridley. Hervey certainly knew the story. In 1885, the same year that George moved to Pawtucket, Hervey got married. In the marriage record, he listed his parents as Frank Gridley and Frances Morrison. In the record of his second marrriage, Hervey listed his parents as Frank Gridley and Frances Cox.


The record of Hervey Gridley's first marriage, in 1885, listing his mother as Frances Morrison.

The record of Hervey Gridley's second marriage, in 1897, listing his mother as Frances Cox.

Elisabeth died sometime in the next few years; there is no record. On Aug. 16, 1892, George married Anna Mae Garde in Pawtucket. By 1900, George was working as a folder in a bleachery, and the couple was living in Lincoln, R.I., a town just outside Pawtucket, with their three children, Helen, 6, May, 5, and my grandfather, George Albert, 1. George's eldest son, Frederick, 18, was in school and living in Enfield, Conn., with his grandparents, Thomas and Mary.

That means George had found his father, Thomas.

The 1900 U.S> Census shows that Frederick Leonard Morrison, George's son, is living with Thomas and Mary and clearly identified as their grandson.

Ten years later, the family had moved to Yardley, Pennsylvania, where George was working in a bleachery. A second son was born on New Year's Eve, 1909, and named Thomas, after his grandfather.

By 1915, the family was back in Pawtucket, where George was a folder in a bleachery. In 1920, they were sharing a home in nearby Attleboro, Massachusetts, with Hervey Gridley and his wife, Ida, identified by the Census as a half-brother and sister-in-law.

In 1920, the Morrisons and the Gridleys were sharing a home.

For the next 20 years, the family remained Pawtucket and in Attleboro. Annie died in 1940; she was helping George on with his overcoat when she had a heart attack and slumped against him. George moved in with his daughter and son-in-law until his passing three years later.


© 2018 Mike Bailey and Ron Gletherow

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram