Monday, November 7, 2016

Priscilla Ridgely (White) Morison's daughter Rebecca (Morison) Henry awarded French Legion of Honor

Priscilla White (1850-1942) was the 4th Priscilla.  Her father Charles Ridgely White's mother Priscilla Hill Dorsey (Ridgely) White was born at the great estate "Hampton" to Gov. Charles Carnan Ridgely and Priscilla Hill (Dorsey) Ridgely who was born at "Belmont" (now a Howard County run historic home) to Caleb Dorsey, Jr. and Priscilla (Hill) Dorsey.  She was a life long Howard County resident, spending the winters in Baltimore; and organized reading classes in Howard County, worked for better roads, raised funds for charities and was active in the St. Johns Church of Ellicott City, where they are buried.  One of her daughters, Rebecca, earned the French Legion of Honor medal for her work in Paris during World War I.


Her parents - Charles Ridgely White and Rebecca Angelica (Waters) White - lived in HoCo but she was born in Baltimore at her grandfather’s [Horace Wesley Waters] home on Battle Monument Square.  "She received her education at the fashionable school on Mt. Vernon Place, which house is now [1942] owned by the Mount Vernon Club."

“At the age of twenty-one Priscilla White married Ernest N. Morison [1848-1924], son of Nathaniel H. Morison, Provost of the Peabody Institute.  He was a northern man  and a very strong union sympathizer.  In the fall of Richmond, he illuminated his home, which was the large colonial one, still standing [in 1942] at Madison and Cathedral Streets.  Priscilla White and her little friends were all children of strong southern sympathizers, so she related how on passing Mr. Morison’s house they all ostentatiously drew their little skirts aside – but in 1871 she married his son, and become [sic] his father’s favorite daughter-in-law.

After her marriage they made their home in Howard County, only spending a few months in the winter in town [Baltimore].  Mrs. Morison organized reading classes in Howard County, got up private theatricals for charities, worked for better roads, in which she was largely successful, and took an active interest in the church work at St. John’s Church, especially in the choir.”  She and her husband are buried in St. John's Cemetery, Ellicott City.

One of their nine children, Rebecca, married an Army officer and was in Paris during World War I organizing care for children and was awarded the Legion of Honor.


Born in Howard County, Rebecca Morison (1877-1955) married Captain Morton Jackson Henry (1869-1945) in 1902 (and divorced in the 1920s).  A Harvard grad, he joined the Army during the Spanish-American War, was wounded at San Juan Hill and retired as a Colonel in 1920.  They were stationed in the Philippines, Washington DC, and Paris (as assistant military attache at the American Embassy) a few months before World War I began in 1914 through it's end in 1818. She collected money from her friends the first war Christmas for the French and Belgian refugees in Paris and helped organize the American Ambulance at Neuilly.  She headed a society to help French orphans - 315,000 - and distributed 120,000,000 francs from Americans.

"In 1917 she took up work for the fatherless children of France and organized a society for the relief of French war orphans.  In 1918 she became the head of this work in France.  Three hundred and fifteen thousand French children owe at least their health and, probably, their very lives to the relief work done by this society, for during its existence it paid to them 120,000,000 francs, given by Americans.

"Mrs. Henry remained in Paris, at the head of this work, until September, 1919.  She directed an office force of 150 clerks... During the bombardment of Paris by the long range guns, with shells droping very near, these women, Mrs. Henry says, remained steadfastly at their posts, not one of them showing a sign of fear, even on the day when a shell dropped on the building across the street..."

In March, 1919 Mrs. Henry was awarded the Legion of Honor, and returned to Baltimore.  She was elected President of The League of Women Voters [of Baltimore] in 1930.  At some point they divorced and her husband remarried.  She was buried with her parents in St. Johns Cemetery, Ellicott City.

Maryland Women v.1, v.3 Baltimore: 1931, 1942. Margie H. Luckett, editor and publisher.

Rising Above the Ruins in France.  by Corinna Haven Putnam Smith, 1920

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD

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