The Morrill Story
My grandfather was James Roy
Morrill (1886?-1957). The 1910 Census reveals that his parents were
English-speaking Canadians. At this point we do not know their names,
although anecdotal evidence holds that it was Bremner or Williams and that
the couple put my grandfather up for adoption because he was born out of
wedlock. Another version of the story is that my grandfather was left
on a doorstep.
There is an intriguing entry
in the 1910 Census. First, all the Bremners in Michigan lived in Wayne
County, in which Detroit is located. There is a couple, William and
Margaret Bremner, listed; and their birthplaces are listed as
Canada-English. He was 60. She was 55, which would have made her
approximately 30 at the time of my grandfather's birth. He was a machinist. Obviously, there is no evidence other than anecdotal that
the name of my real great-grandparents was Bremner. This is a lead that
would be worth following, however. I did find a listing in the 1901
Canadian Census that lists a William and Margaret Bremner living in
Wallaceburg, Ontario, which is not far from Detroit. Bremner's
occupation is listed as "Hardware." They had no children.
|This is the actual page from the
1910 Census in which William and Margaret Bremner are listed.
It reveals that the couple immigrated to the United States in 1908
and that their parents were English Scots. This would fit a
family legend that the Bremners attempted to establish contact with
my grandfather but that he was so bitter over their abandoning him
that he would not agree to it. It is also noteworthy that
their year of immigration would be the year after my father's birth.
Here For Large Image Of 1910 Census Page For Bremner.
1910 Census. This
information is from Ancestry.com. In other censuses my grandfather
stated that his parents were born in Michigan. One can assume that
he was then referring to his adopted parents. This was the one
time he told the truth. I presume Wilhelmine
Lincoln was somehow related to my paternal grandmother. My paternal great-grandmother
was Mary Rounds Lincoln. My paternal great-grandfather was William
For Large Image of 1910 Census.
James Roy Morrill's adopted
parents were Frank and Nancy Morrill. That is where we get the Morrill
name. The 1880 Census documents that
Frank Morrill was then an unmarried farmer living in Somerset, Wisconsin with his
mother. There are no census records for Michigan for 1890 (they
burned), but in 1900 Frank Morrill was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan with
his wife Nancy, a native of Indiana, and two children, a daughter Cora and
my grandfather James.
1880 Census. This
information is from Ancestry.com. Frank Morrill, born in Maine, was
living with his mother, who was most likely a widow. Somerset in St. Croix
County is located just east of St. Paul Minnesota, in extreme western
Wisconsin. It was a logging center just like Newago, Michigan.
I am not sure that Frank Morrill was born in Maine. Other census
records list his birthplace as Wisconsin.
1900 Census. This
information is from Ancestry.com. Frank Morrill was then married and
living in Grand Rapids with his wife Nancy and two children, including
For Large Image of 1900 Census.
|1900 Census. This
is the actual census page. It states that my grandfather
was "in school." Also, Frank Morrill's birthplace is
listed as Wisconsin, not Maine. Also, the page states that
my grandfather was born in December 1885, not 1886.
Frank Morrill (1854-
), my adopted
great-grandfather, married Nancy Morrill (1857- ) (maiden name unknown), a native of
Indiana, sometime after 1880 and most likely before 1885 or 1886, when my
grandfather was born. The Grand Rapids City Directories do not list
Frank Morrill as a resident until 1900. This suggests that my
grandfather spent his first 13 or 14 years in Newaygo, Michigan.
Main Street of Newaygo,
This is the Newaygo
Furniture Factory in Newaygo. The town was booming in the late
1800s as factories located there because of the abundant waterpower
provided by the Muskegon River. This is what probably attracted
City Directories reveal that
Frank Morrill and his family, including my grandfather, established
residency in 1899 or 1900 at 5 Hodgson Place in Grand Rapids. The
house and the street no longer survive. Cora, my grandfather's adopted
sister who was 10 years older than him, became a waitress at the Kent
Country Club -- Grand Rapids is located in Kent County. Frank Morrill
is listed as being an inspector for the G. R. Felt Boot Company. My
grandfather's started work as a "nailer" for the G. R. Refrigerator Company
and by 1908 was a salesman for the Fox Typewriter Company.
My grandfather, James Roy
Morrill, married Ethel Lincoln, my grandmother, on July 3, 1906, in Grand
Rapids, Michigan. On the marriage license he lists his birthplace as
Newaygo, Michigan. It was common for an adopted child to give the
place of residency of his or her adopted parents as his or her birthplace. His adopted sister Cora is listed as a witness for
Interestingly, I never heard my grandfather mention Cora's, Frank's, or Nancy's names.
My father, James Roy Morrill, Jr., was born on January 19, 1907.
Clearly, Ethel Morrill was pregnant on her wedding day.
Click here for copy of
my father's death certificate. His brother, Clinton Lincoln
Morrill or our "Uncle Buss" was born on October 7, 1908. These were
Ethel and Jim Morrill's only children.
James Roy Morrill and Ethel
Note that the marriage license states
that my grandfather did not know his adopted mother's maiden name.
Also, my grandfather's occupation was listed as repairman.
This was my
grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1956. My
father, James Roy Morrill, Jr. (1907-1963) is on the left, then his father, James
Roy Morrill, then Ethel Lincoln Morrill, my grandmother, and then
Clinton Lincoln Morrill (1908-1969), my father's brother.
for a testimonial to my father's brother.
My father, James Roy
Morrill, Jr., graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier Ohio, just outside
Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in 1929. His transcript reveals that he was an
excellent student. Note that he lists his home address as 740 Kellogg
St., Grand Rapids, Michigan. The photograph below was taken at Kenyon
College in July 2007. Mary Dana Morrill Paradis, J. R. Morrill Jr.'s
granddaughter, and her son, Dan Morrill Paradis, are standing in front of
the Kenyon College Chapel.
This is the house presently at
740 Kellogg St., Grand Rapids, Michigan. We did not have time to
check the Sanborn Insurance Maps to determine if the house number has
changed. If not, this is the house my grandparents were living in
when my father graduated from Kenyon College in 1929.
The 1930 Census reveals that
my grandparents were then living in South Bend, Indiana. I do not know
the circumstances that caused my grandparents to relocate there.
Presumably it had to do with my grandfather's employment in the office supply
business. I do remember my mother telling me that she traveled to
South Bend, Indiana to meet her future in-laws and that the house was on a
river. Indeed, it is. The St. Joseph River.
Page from 1930 Census
showing James R. Morrill and his family living at 629 Riverside Drive in
South Bend, Indiana.
My grandmother, Ethel Lincoln
Morrill, wrote the note below to Margaret Caldwell soon after Margaret's
husband's death in January 1962. Little did my grandmother know that
she would soon suffer the death of her two sons -- my father in September
1963 and his brother in July 1969. Life has its sad and mournful
incidents. Nana was visiting for the only time in our home when word
arrived that her second son had died. It fell to me to have to tell
More To Come