Monday, December 10, 2012

A Fancy Wedding, and a Family Myth Perpetuated

This clipping is from the Herald Statesman newspaper in Yonkers, New York, dated Monday, July 17, 1933.  It depicts a pretty fancy wedding for the middle of the Great Depression era.    Leonore Esther Elmina Morill was born 13 September 1906 in Boston.  She is named after her mother Leonore Emerson, and her grandmother, Mary Esther Younger.  Mary Esther was my 3x great grandmother, and I descend from Leonore's sister, Mary Katherine Emerson (1847 - 1932).   Leonore Esther Morrill is my first cousin 3 generations removed.

The name Leonore has a long history in my family.  My grandfather's sister was named Leonore Carrie Allen, and the bride Leonore pictured above named her own daughter Leonora.  The name dates back to George Emerson, who was a 49er and left for the gold rush from Boston on a ship named the Leonore.  To read more about that part of our family history see this link

Apparently this side of the family was wealthy.  The bride's father, John Milton Earl Morrill of Boston, was a builder of fine homes in Jamaica Plain and the Boston suburbs.  He was famous for belonging to several riding clubs in the days when there were elegant riding parks in Boston for the wealthy to show off their pedigreed horses and fine carriages and coaches.  I found many newsclippings of John M. E. Morrill mentioned with the "horsey set" and he even patented some elaborate horse tack and bridles.  The riding park in Brookline, Massachusetts is now The Country Club.

Here is a transcript of the wedding announcement in the Yonkers newspaper:


The marriage of Miss Leonore Morrill and John Meeker High, Jr. took place on Saturday afternoon at 4 o'clock in Christ Church, Riverdale-on-Hudson, the rector of the church, the Rev. Dr. Raymond Brock officating.  The bride is the daughter of Mrs. John Milton Earl Morrill, of Sacremento, Calif. and Boston, Mass., and the late John Milton Earl Morrill, a prominent turfman.  The bridegroom is the son of Mrs. John M. High of Riverdale-on-Hudson and the late John M. High.

The bride was given in marriage by her mother, wore a princess gown of white mousseline-de-soie made with a long train and carried a rose point lace handkerchief  a family heirloom, and a bouquet of lilies of the valley and white roses.  Her veil was of tulle.  The bride's mother wore a blue chiffon gown and blue picture hat and carried a bouquet of pink roses.

Mrs. Jack Fernald of New York City was the matron of honor and only attendant.  She wore a pale green taffeta gown made on princess lines, with puffed sleeves and a white organdie hat.  She carried a bouquet of yellow roses and baby's breath.  Jack Fernald was the best man.

A reception for over a hundred guests was held at "Highwolde", the estate of the Highs in Riverdale, where tables were arranged for the guests in the garden.

After a motor trip to the Adirondacks and Canada  the couple will reside in Riverdale.  the bride, a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, attended  Leland Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. and Barnard College.  The bridegroom, a native of New York City, was graduated from Horace Mann School and Columbia Engineering School where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.  he is a Fellow of the Radio Club of America and a member of the Institue of Radio Engineers.  He is one the first men to engage in radio phone transmission of power without wires." 

Leonore Morrill married in to a wealthy New York family.  I found them listed in the social registers available via Google Books online in the late 1920 and the 1930s.   Her bridegroom, John Meeker High, was born on 4 December 1899, the son of John Meeker High and Ann Dorothea Harrington.  The High family estate was known as Highwolde while the High family was residing there.  His father's obituary was printed in the New York Times on 26 April 1924, page 15.

There is one big error printed in the newspaper wedding announcement.  We are not descendants of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  This myth has been passed down for generations, and from this news clipping I can see it is not a new myth.   Ralph Waldo Emerson is my 4th cousin, 5 generations removed.  I have to go all the way back to the Reverend Joseph Emerson (1620 - 1680) of Concord, Massachusetts to find a common ancestor, even though my great grandmother was an Emerson from the same family.  Leonore was just a distant cousin to RWE, too.


Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Is it strange that I think it's exciting to find confirmation of the same family myth? I think I've been reading old papers too long... :)

    ~ Stephanie

    1. Yes, it was fun to see that this myth had been carried on for a long, long time. Couldn't possibly be any older since RWE was alive a short time before this!

  2. Heather, a very nice story. Strikes me as odd that someone born in 1906 would ever imagine they were "descended" from someone who had only passed away 25 years prior to that. That would have been a very close relationship! I suppose they were using that phrase in a very general and incorrect sense, as a substitute for "related to". Boy, genealogy has always been an uphill battle, hasn't it?
    I have a friend who's an Emerson, and like you has some sort of distant connection to the poet. If she ever decides to pursue that, I'll show her your blog!!

  3. What a gown! Whew. So her dad was connected with the "horsey set," even though she wasn't descended from Emerson. Brookline is still a fairly rich area, it seems. Those family myths certainly do hang on. For years our SC family, the Frasers, thought they might have a connection with the Lord Lovat line of Scotland. Beautiful picture.

    1. Yes, my Mom still calls this the "Boston side of the family". They were horsey and in the newspapers a lot. Good stuff for genealogy 100 years later!

  4. That must have been quite a grand wedding, especially during The Great Depression. Her gown is so luxurious and her bouquet is enormous!

    And how interesting that the family legend was even printed in the newspaper.