The First Piece Falls Into Place

The names were familiar, but the none of the events seemed to line up. But a Census shows a new baby, and things start to make sense.

The 1860 Census shows that 3-year-old George Morrison was living with his grandparents in July 1860, after his mother had married and moved to Pawtucket, R.I.
The marriage of Thomas Morrison and Frances Victory Cox did not last.

On May 12, 1859, Frances married William Franklin Gridley, a 22-year-old painter from Providence, R.I., and several generations a Yankee. The ceremony was performed in Norwich by the Rev. Fred Upham, a Methodist minister. The marriage record, in Norwich, first listed Anna H. Cox. Frances' sister, as the bride. Anna H. was then crossed out, and Frances V. was written in above.

The record of the marriage of Frances V. Cox and William Gridley. Originally, the bride's name is reported as Anna Cox. Anna was Frances' sister, but the name is crossed out, and Frances is written in above.

Frances and Frank settled in Pawtucket with his parents, Benjamin and Roby Gridley. Just nine months after the marriage, Frances gave birth to a daughter, Nellie. Pawtucket is a stone's throw from Providence.

Thomas moved on as well. On Oct. 19, 1859, he married Mary Jane Robinson. In 1860, they were living with Thomas' mother, Elizabeth, and brothers James, William, and Charles.

The record for the marriage of Thomas Morrison and Mary Jane Robinson.

So far, beside the names – Morrison, Cox, Gridley – there doesn't seem to be much to the family story. There's no record of an annulment, or of Frances being sent away. There is no French maid.

But there is this: In 1860, the year after Frances had moved to Pawtucket, the Census listed four people in the Cox household in Norwich: John Q. and Mary, both 52; their daughter Anna, 16; and a son. His name: George B., born in 1857. By 1870, John, Mary and George had moved to New London. George, whose middle initial had changed from B. to M., according to Census records, was in school.

Here is a grandfather raising his grandson as his son. A critical piece of the family story, it turns out, is fact.

It 's possible that Thomas and Frances split on their own accord. But it's odd, the Coxes raising George as a son, with Frances remarried. Odd, the marriage record first listing her sister as the bride, then crossing he name out. It could be a mistake, or could it be something else?

And odd that she met and married Frank Gridley of Providence, a city almost 60 miles away, a day's journey from Norwich in 1859. Norwich was a New England travel hub. Perhaps the two had met in Norwich, when Frank was passing through. But, perhaps, Frances had been spending time in Rhode Island.

A grandfather raising his grandson. It would be just the first of many critical pieces of the family story that turned out to be true.

© 2018 Mike Bailey and Ron Gletherow

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