Monday, June 20, 2011

Helen Melvina (Mellie) Groesbeck Morgan. 1894-1897. The years following her husband's death.

At the time of John Hamilton Morgan’s death Mellie was 42 yrs old and her children were Helen Melvina Morgan Burt Austin-22, married (son Wallace-4) , Eliza Ann Morgan Smith-19, married, Ruth-16, Nick-10, Gail-6, Bessie-3, Earl-2, John Hamilton-6 mos.

She and her children we able to continue living in their home at 163 South 1st West until 1896 when a sheriff’s order evicted her family from the fifteen-room home her father had given her. They moved into a duplex on Second West between 4th and 5th South. The very next Spring Mellie moved her family from there because “the rent is twenty dollars a month—and Aunt Josephine [her sister, Josephine Groesbeck Smith] is paying it. She and John Henry [Smith] have their own problems. They shouldn’t have to take on ours.”

Mellie and her six remaining children moved to a lumber shack on Armstrong Avenue. At that time Armstrong Avenue extended from State Street west to Main Street approximately opposite Capitol Avenue. Just where that avenue and home were located I have not yet established--presumably on Capitol Hill.

Her son Nick said it was the “second move within the year.” He described this home as a shanty with two rooms and a lean-to-for a kitchen, and in “this slant-ceilinged room was a hand pump which, when muscle was applied, would bring water spurting from a shallow well. The rent was three dollars a month, and this was paid by Uncle Joe [Mellie’s brother, Joseph Smith Groesbeck] Groesbeck.

After her rent was paid, Mellie provided for her family with the help of a twenty-five dollar a month tithing order, Nicks earnings, and whatever money she earned sewing and doing housework for others. Family history states Mellie worked for women she formerly hired to work for her.

In spite of the confusion these changes may have caused her family, Mellie would not let it permeate her home or the values she’d established there. With her prized furniture under sheets in a storage room and in her sister’s barn, night fell on their new two-room home. The children made a game of where to throw mattresses and quilts for their sleeping arrangements. Their mother stood in the doorway and “decreed that the beds must be in orderly rows.”

This picture is labeled Kennsington and was probably taken in the 1950's. Thanks for the picture cousin Karen M. I believe it must be the Armstrong Avenue "shanty" Mellie's son Nick writes about. I need to look into this further. I know the family lived near Capitol Hill for a while, because of an account in the book Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan; The Man Who Moved City Hall by Jean R. Paulson, copyright, 1979 by Marjorie Morgan Gray, which is my source for this post.

The index page for all John Hamilton and Helen Melvina (Mellie) Groesbeck Morgan posts is here.

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