Thursday, June 13, 2013

Greeley Family Descriptions in Harry Stokes' Letters

In my blog post about the Greeley family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, I mentioned William and Elizabeth Stokes who were not family members yet were buried in the Greeley family plot. I have been in touch with Teresa, a second great niece of William and Elizabeth and, although it doesn't appear that the Stokes family was related to my ancestors, they were very close.

Teresa told me that William died two years after emigrating from Ireland, leaving his wife with an infant son, Harry. The family begged Elizabeth to return to Ireland with the baby, but she stayed in Chicago. Mother and son returned to Ireland some years later and Harry attended school in England. In 1894, he returned to Chicago alone, writing several letters to his mother who remained in Ireland. Teresa's cousin, a granddaughter of Harry's, is in possession of these letters and has given me permission to share excerpts here.

She notes that these letters were mailed from the home of Samuel S. Greeley. Many of the letters described his trip by ship and train to get to Chicago. Although his descriptions of his travels are wonderful, it is his descriptions of my Greeley family that I really enjoyed. The following is a small excerpt of all that was shared with me. The [bracketed numbers in red] indicate the family members I am able to identify. Those family members are identified below.

Weds, May 30th, writing from Mr. Greeley's home 
6pm came at last and I arrived here (Mr. Greeley's) [1] greeted with a welcome I can't describe and treated as if I was one of their best sons. You can't imagine the kindness that they've shown me. Well, after dinner Mr. Greeley (look at this for a bit of kindness) came with me to get my bags out of this hotel. I was ashamed to take him down there. Well he helped me to carry the bag, a fearful heavy bag it is too, and then we got home here and I met Louis Greeley [2], Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Greeley [3 & 4], (of course I had met old Miss G. [5] at dinner) then I went to bed and fell asleep. Had breakfast at 7 then went to bank and got money out, looked up some chaps that Jack (Hodder?) knew but couldn't find them, then I sat down and wrote you this letter, which so far has taken from 12 to 4 o'clock. Now as to the kindness and description of everything here you'll have that now. I talked to Mr. Greeley [1] last night, he said I had plenty of good letters and very good "testys" [testimonials] he is an awfully decent old chap, so awfully kind and nice and decent to me, he is a dear old chap and I believe likes me or he wouldn't have helped me with the bag, the best and dearest friend I have, then Miss G. [5] is a nice old girl, with one eye but very decent, then Louis G. [2] is a fine chap with very dark hair and good honest good natured chap too. Then Maurice G. [3] and Mrs. Maurice nice rather measly he's got spec.s and is conceited but very decent chap. Mrs. Maurice [4] is straight forward decent and jolly, she's got a little boy [6]. I've got a lovely room and am very happy but I'm afraid there isn't much chance of work for a while. I'll go look for work in earnest tomorrow. I got 3 letters from Ball (?) to very good men in town , so that's not bad. I must write to him and thank him. Also Mrs. Wells [7] who is quite well now, left an awfully kind little note for me saying she was sorry not to have seen me.

[1] Samuel Sewall Greeley, my second great grandfather, was 69 years old when Harry Stokes returned to Chicago.

[2] Louis Greeley (1858-1939), Samuel's second son, married the following year, 1895, to Anna Lowell Dunbar. He had attended Harvard (class of '80) and practiced law in Chicago.

[3 & 4] Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Greeley are: Samuel's third son, Maurice (or Morris) (1863-1945), and his wife Anne Foote (1867-1960), married in 1892. He was a Civil Engineer and Surveyor in Chicago. They had five children, a couple of whom my mother kept in touch with in the '70's and '80's. They are buried in Graceland Cemetery.

[5] "Old Miss G." must refer to Louisa May Greeley (1827-1903), Samuel Sewall Greeley's unmarried sister (and only sibling) who moved from Boston to Chicago between 1860-1870 and appears in his household until her death. Samuel's first wife (Anne Larned) died in 1864 and he remarried my 2nd great-grandmother (Eliza Wells, 1839-1880) in 1866, so I've always wondered if "Aunt Louisa" may have moved to Chicago around then to help with his household and be with her brother (as their father died in 1861).

[6] "Mrs. Maurice... [has] got a little boy.": Their oldest son, Morris Greeley, Jr. was born March 1893. At the time of this letter, she would have been about 6 months pregnant with her second son, Sidney.

[7] Mrs. Wells, who "left an awfully kind little note for me." It is possible that this is Eliza Wells Greeley's mother, who outlived her daughter (SSG's second wife, who died in 1880) and died in Boston in 1900. I don't think she ever lived in Chicago, so I'm not 100% sure on this identification.

Unfortunately, Harry didn't mention my great-grandmother, Ethel, who would have been 18 1/2 in the summer of 1894. That would have been a treat for me to read about. She married my great-grandfather, Lowell Copeland in 1900.

A random act of genealogical kindness on my part (sharing the cemetery plot information with a Stokes family member) resulted in an act of kindness from these family members who were able to provide me a young man's description of extended Greeley family members from the 1890's. Thank you Teresa and Barbara.


  1. I enjoyed reading this very much, it's so nice we were able to help each other!

    1. It was a pleasure to connect with you about our ancestors' interactions. Thank you for reading and commenting!