Driving to the library, my mind was flooded with thoughts and I kept thinking about those initials…PM…PM…PM. Could the first initial be for Phillip or Paul or Patrick? And, what did the M stand for?
Like a bolt of lightning, the name Morgan slammed into my head.
I lived across the street from the historic “Morgan Mansion.” It was built in 1856 by a judge named Thomas Morgan and his wishes were that upon his death, the house be bequeathed to the city.
I had been in it just once and I must have spent over an hour looking at all the old furniture and trying to imagine what life would have been like then. I remember being surprised that some of the furniture was so much like mine.
There was a “fainting sofa” in the sitting room, with a tufted back and a lush, velvet pillow against the rolled arm. I have one in my bedroom with the same tufting and an embroidered pillow against the back.
In the same room, was an antique secretary with glass doors and brass drawer pulls. There was a set of vintage drafting tools carefully placed on the drop-down leaf.
I have an antique secretary in my living room, where I display several vintage ink wells. Next to them is one of my daddys’ pens and a pair of his glasses.
A crystal chandelier hung in the main rooms. I have chandeliers in every room in my house…even in my bathrooms.
My love of that era, I thought, explained the similarities.
For some reason, I decided to drive by the old Morgan mansion on the way to the library. There’s a plaque in the front yard with a quilting design painted on it, along with the history of the house and visitation schedules.
While I was sitting in my car looking at it, I did one of the “slap yourself on the forehead with your open hand gestures” while wanting to shout “of course!” My grandmothers’ name was Morgan! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Why hadn’t the name registered when I moved next door?
I didn’t know much about my grandmother but I knew that she and her people were from this area. She was an educated, proper Southern lady who unfortunately, died giving birth to my daddy. My grandfather never talked about her. He never re-married and never stopped grieving. He eventually put a bottle of bourbon to his head and pulled the trigger.
I decided to forgo the library and head straight for the courthouse. I intended to check every single public record on file, having anything to do with the Morgan mansion. It was going to be a daunting task but I was up to the challenge.
I was momentarily distracted when I passed City Hall and remembered that I needed to make a donation for Bob. I think I was still secretly angry with him for dying.
I got to the courthouse, went in and asked to see property records from when they started being recorded. I spent a while combing through them but I could find nothing that even remotely suggested that my grandmother was related to Thomas Morgan. From the information available, it seems that Judge Morgan was a confirmed bachelor.
I don’t know what made me think that finding a connection between the greeter and the Morgan mansion was actually going to materialize but I had high hopes. I was disappointed but not discouraged.
The next step was to research any last name that started with an M accompanied with a first name that started with a P.
I enlisted the help of a young intern named Carol. I didn’t tell her I was looking for the greeter. I just told her that I was looking for a property owner whose initials were P. M.
Carol wanted to be a court-reporter and had secured a part-time job in the file room. She was a cute, petite girl with medium length black hair that sported a hot pink streak down the side. She had the visible tattoo of a phoenix on her left arm. I could see that it was there to try to cover several self-inflicted wounds. She seemed so sweet and I wondered what had happened in her life to make her want to disfigure herself.
We chatted for a few minutes and she told me that although she was born in Alaska, she had grown up on a farm just outside town. She had six brothers and sisters. They had been in and out of foster care their entire lives. When she turned eighteen, she enrolled in the local technical college, determined to get a degree.
For some reason, the cuts on her arm now made a little more sense. I had no idea what this young girl had suffered but she had survived and was obviously strong and determined.
She was eager to help me find old records and spent a lot of time with me. We found the names Maine, Martin, Milton and Morris but none of them were coupled with a first name that started with a P.
Suddenly, Carol shrieked as she said “I found it! It’s right here! Paris Montgomery.”
I was so excited that I wanted to kiss her. Instead, I reached into my purse and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill. I told her to put it toward her education. She was hesitant to take it but I told her if she didn’t, I would leave it on the table.
Paris Montgomery was registered as a land-owner in town. Carol got busy trying to find the deed to the property. When she found it, the only information recorded was the parcel description, the lot number and of course, the owner listed as Paris Montgomery.
Carol found the census records where all the births, deaths and marriages in the county were listed. The earliest recorded birth was in 1830 and although the ledgers were hand-written and faded, we were able to see most of the names.
At the very bottom of the page, something caught my eye.
Étienne and Adéle Montgomery had immigrated from France in 1831. They arrived in America through the port of Charleston, South Carolina and had settled in the upstate.
I ran my finger along the lines all the way across the page, jotting down the information that had been written. Every member of the household was listed.
Line one…Étienne Michel Montgomery • twenty-four years old • race W • DOB 12/27/1814 • Head of household • Occupation • Farmer
Line two…Adéle Simonet Montgomery • twenty-three years old • race W • DOB 8/24/1815 • Relationship to head of household • Wife
I turned the page and saw the name. I looked at Carol and said “we found him! We found him! This has to be him!” We gave each other a high-five and I said “I bet they named him Paris after their homeland.”
Line three…Paris Camille Montgomery • infant • race W • DOB 7/25/1832 • Relationship to head of household • Daughter
To be continued………………………