Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grandmother Helen Melvina (Mellie) Groesbeck Morgan. Independent and outspoken.

Independent and outspoken are the two adjectives great grandmother Helen Melvina (Mellie) Groesbeck Morgan’s granddaughters used to describe her when we visited a couple of weeks ago. Eighty years after she passed away they recalled that she remained VERY independent and outspoken throughout her life.

They enjoyed sharing the fact that a neighbor boy, Robert Dansie (who later became an attorney), kept a German Shepherd dog, who on occasion would run through Grandma Mellie’s back field of flowers. Filled with beautiful cosmos blossoms one year, she could not tolerate the dog running through her field. She became so infuriated at the dog and her neighbor that she called the police and reported them. She complained to the police because the city would tolerate a dog running loose through her field of flowers, and they had denied her the right to keep a cow in her back field.

In this case Grandmother Mellie’s complaint may have been rooted in her family’s history of keeping a cow behind their house.

In the early 1900’s Mellie and her children farmed and gardened at their home on Bryan Avenue, as many in the Farmers-Waterloo Ward area did. When son Nicholas was seventeen years old he worked for a neighbor, doing morning chores each day, and he earned his mother their own Jersey cow. Nick built a small barn at the rear of his mother’s home of patchwork and odd-sized boards to house the cow, which loved to wander elsewhere.

Early one morning when Nick returned from chores he found his sister Gail waiting at the gate to inform him that the cow was gone, “and Constable Sam Nowell got her. He impounded her.” The “impound corral” was in the center of the block between Seventeenth South and Eighteenth South, and between Third and Fourth East streets.

Nick went to retrieve the family cow. He found no one home at the Nowell residence, so he went to the corral where he found their Jersey in a muddy mess; her belly and udder were covered with muck, her feet made sucking-slobbering sounds as she struggled to the fence, and just as he spotted her a wide cake of muck fell off her side. Trembling with rage, Nick led her out of the corral to her own shed, blocks away.

An hour later, as he was finishing his breakfast, Nick looked out the window to see Constable Nowell traipsing through the back lot toward the cowshed with a rope in his hand. Nick ran out the door and met Nowell at the shed door, “Where’d you get that cow, boy?” Nick told him. “Then you take her right back where you found her.”

“In that filth? Not my cow!” Nick described a verbal confrontation, some tripping and falling, and demanding, and a criminal complaint filed against the seventeen-year-old.

Justice of the Peace Francis M. Bishop, who was also Nick’s Sunday School teacher, came around the next day with a bit of advice, “Pay the fine.” Nick paid the fine, one dollar! [1]

[1] Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan; the Man who Moved City Hall, by Jean R. Paulson, Press Publishing Limited, Provo, Utah, 1979, pgs 61-62.

Picture of cosmos flowers and Jersey cow from Wikipedia. Thank you, cousin Karen M. for this beautiful picture of Grandmother Mellie Morgan.


  1. Wonderful post -- the story is well on its way.

  2. Thank you for your comments Nancy and Karen. Its wonderful having cousins who enjoy the stories of this family as much as I do.