Thomas Morgan Parry

Parry, Thomas M.

Thomas Morgan Parry

Thomas Morgan Parry was a first-generation American born to Welsh parents in Palmyra, Portage County, Ohio. In the late 1800s, a large portion of the population of Palmyra was Welsh. Tom, born on 3 January 1876, was the middle child and only boy of Evan Parry and Margaret (Morgan) Parry. Jane was born in 1874, Tom in 1876, and Mary in 1877. Thomas is Dave’s grandfather.

In 1880, Evan and Margaret lived in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio where they would remain for the rest of their lives. The Welsh were drawn to this area of Ohio starting in 1854 with the opening of coal mines and the erection of iron works. The Parry family arrived in the area in 1856.¹ And it was in the steel mills of Youngstown that Tom Parry would learn his trade as a roll turner.

Tom lived at home with his parents until the age of twenty-four when he married Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell on 18 July 1900. Tom and Sarah were married in a quiet wedding in the home of her parents. Only close family were in attendance as her father Richard had died the previous week. Following the wedding, Tom took his bride on a “trip up the lakes” accompanied by her brother Albert Mitchell. 

The Parry’s moved frequently changing residences every year or two. Their first child Margaret was born in November of 1903 in Detroit, Michigan where Tom was employed as a rod turner. Back to Youngstown they went in 1904 and continued their ways of moving frequently.


Tom, Sarah, and daughter Margaret (L). Far left Tom’s sister Mary Howard. Right, Tom’s father and mother Evan and Margaret and granddaughter Isabel Howard. Standing Ebeneezer Howard.

In 1908, they lived in Eldes, Oklahoma where Tom ran a trading post on an Indian Reservation. Dave recalls stories of him paying Native Americans with vanilla extract for work they performed in the post. This practice was illegal as vanilla extract is about 35% alcohol. At times, when the workers perspired heavily, the smell of vanilla permeated the post. 

Their second child, Howard Owen, was born in 1909 in Ohio. Mary Elizabeth (Betty) was born in 1911, and their last child, Jane, was born in 1913.

As World War I dragged on the U.S. government conducted the third draft registration in September of 1918 for men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Draft registration cards are a treasure of information. Tom’s card revealed that he was forty-two, worked for Brier Hill Steel Company, and lived in Girard, Trumbull County. He was tall, slender, had blue eyes, and gray hair. Two months later the war ended. Fortunately, Tom did not have to serve in that horrendous war.  

From the beginning of their marriage, Tom and Sarah rented and moved every year or two. This had to be difficult for the family. However, it was in Trumbull County that the Parry’s finally purchased a home and appeared to settle down, at least for several years.

Large steel manufacturing operations existed in the areas of St. Louis, Chicago, and Baltimore. Perhaps looking for a better job, Tom moved the family to St. Louis in the late 1920s where he took a job as foreman at Missouri Rolling Mills. Tom was a skilled craftsman, a roll turner. Here is a description of his occupation, “Working from blueprints, roll turners clamp steel blocks in giant lathes and cut the desired grooves into the steel blocks, using cutting tools. Roll turners constantly check the shape and size of the grooves on the roll against a template (pattern). In this way the rolls, to be used in rolling mills to shape other steel blocks, are manufactured.”²

In the late 1920s, the Parry family moved to St. Louis. By 1930, Margaret had gotten married and was no longer residing with the family. Howard was twenty-one and an apprentice pattern maker for a car foundry, Betty was working for Frisco Railroad, and Jane was in high school. And Tom had abandoned the family.

Sometime during the next several years Tom and Sarah divorced and Tom married a woman named Ethylyn (Thomas) Schroeder. Howard, Betty, and Jane supported and took care of their ailing mother until Sarah died of cancer in 1937.

Tom and Ethylyn remained in St. Louis until 1945 when they moved to San Bernardino, California. Tom’s last employer was Kaizer Steel Company where he continued to work as a steel turner until he retired. Eventually, Howard moved to California with his wife Ada.

Dave recalls his grandfather as a stern man during the few times when Tom came back to St. Louis for a visit. Through the years I never, ever heard my sweet mother-in-law say anything bad about anyone. And she didn’t say much about him but you knew from the tone of her voice and her demeanor that when she talked about him that she had a deep resentment toward him over how he had treated her mother.

Tom died on 26 July 1960, at the age of eighty-four, at Pleasant View Sanitarium located in Monrovia, Los Angeles County. He was suffering from a variety of ailments including ALS and cancer of the prostate. But it was congestive heart failure that did him in. He was buried at Green Acres Memorial Chapel in San Bernardino County, California.

Parry, Thomas Headstone

Tom Parry is buried at Green Acres Memorial Chapel in San Bernardino

Thomas Morgan Parry (1876-1960) m. Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell (1875-1937)

  • Margaret Parry (1903-1979)
  • Howard Owen Parry (1909-2002)
  • Mary Elizabeth Parry (1911-2011)
  • Jane Parry (1913-1998)

¹History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio, Jos. C. Butler, Jr., American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1921


Mary Elizabeth Parry Ferguson…Sweet and Pretty

Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Parry

Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Parry

If anyone could put in a request for a great mother-in-law, they would ask for Mary Elizabeth Parry Ferguson. Born of Welch stock, she was born April 23, 1911 in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio. Her parents, Thomas Morgan Parry and Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell were first generation Americans, their parents being born in Wales. She was the third child of four. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1903, brother Howard was born in 1909, and her younger sister Jane was born in 1913. They were a close-knit family.

We know a bit about Betty’s childhood from an interview that her grandson Brian conducted for a college course in 1991. Betty was ninety at the time but mentally sharp. She remembered the false Armistice during World War I that took place on November 7, 1918. Her sister Margaret was fourteen, soon to turn fifteen, and was invited to attend a celebration of the Armistice. Not allowed to go the party, and very disappointed, Margaret soon found the war had not really ended; however the war would end a few days later. 

Sometime after 1920 the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Betty remembered the family purchased a large, three-story, brick house close to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The girls shared a large front bedroom, while her parents shared the middle bedroom. Her brother Howard had his own room and a student, who studied Botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden, rented another room. The house had electricity, running water, and a coal furnace provided heat.

When young, the Parry children roller skated in the summer and went sled riding during the winter. Their mother Sarah read to the children at bedtime; as the children grew older reading was the biggest pastime, one that lasted a lifetime for Betty. Their father Tom built a crystal set, which according to Wikipedia, was sold and homemade by millions, and “contributed to the development of radio as an entertainment medium around 1920.”

Holidays were celebrated with family dinners. The family always had a Christmas tree. The children were not able to go into the room to see the tree until all the candles were lit. Santa placed oranges, apples, and nuts in each child’s stocking. Their mother made them a gift and each child received a toy. The social life of the family revolved around the Shaw Methodist Church. The children were in Christmas plays and Easter pageants. One year Betty remembered she was supposed to be a mean girl in a play. Everyone commented that she couldn’t make herself mean enough, and that was true of Betty.

When Betty was in the eighth grade, her grandmother Margaret Parry, sent each of the children one hundred dollars; a lot of money in those days. Betty bought a bicycle and a graduation dress with the money.

Betty attended Bryan Milanphy grade school and Roosevelt High School, a state of the art school considered a progressive model for other schools in St. Louis. She graduated from Roosevelt in 1928. Next to her picture was the poem, “Sweet and pretty, Gentle and true, she always has a smile for you.” No truer words could be said about her throughout her life.

During the depression the family survived by pooling their money together. Betty worked as a file clerk for the Frisco Railroad, Jane worked for Ralston Purina and Howard was a printmaker. During this time their mother, Sarah, suffered from colon cancer and died in 1937.

And then Betty met Russ on a blind date and their life together began.

The Ferguson Kids … Introducing Russel Carrol

Russ Ferguson's Baby Picture

Russ Ferguson’s Baby Picture

I first met Russ Ferguson when I attended a family bar-b-q in 1965. I was dating his son David and it was the first time I was to meet my future in-laws. The family was warm and welcoming and I loved them at first sight. When introduced, I was asked to call him Russ and his wife Betty. Even though they were more like mother and father to me, rather than in-laws, I always called them by their first names.

Russel Carrol Ferguson was born December 16, 1912 at the family home in Webster Groves, Missouri. The fifth child of six born to Thomas and Lola Ferguson, he lived in Webster Groves at the beginning of his life and the end of his life until his death in 1990. He had two older sisters, Mildred and Dorothy, an older brother Clyde and a younger sister Mary.

In 1914, as the city of St. Louis was celebrating its 150th anniversary, people were moving to the suburb of Webster Groves. Webster Groves, about eleven miles from downtown St. Louis, was dubbed “Queen of the Suburbs” by developers and was a fast growing community. By that time the family had lived in the community for several years. I’ve seen pictures of Webster Groves at the beginning of the 1900s and many of the roads were still unpaved. In fact, Grandma (Lola) Ferguson stated this in a history she wrote about Webster Groves. It was a great place to raise a family; the houses were large and away from the smog filled skies that plagued St. Louis at the time.

Russ went to Avery Elementary School, which was one of the first schools in the area to have a kindergarten. Russ was left-handed, and the teachers forced him to write with his left hand. His father tried to get the teachers to let him write with his left hand, but they refused to listen. This gave Russ a bad taste for school and he eventually dropped out of school in the 11th grade. He worked as a soda jerk for a local pharmacy which allowed him access to “premium” liquor during prohibition. Apparently doctors could write prescriptions for “medicinal” alcohol. I’m sure Russ was the hit of many parties as he pulled out his “Bottled in Bond” whiskey while everyone else had home-brewed alcohol.

Betty and Russ

Betty and Russ

Russ and Betty met each other on a blind date to Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, an Indian burial grounds across the river from St. Louis. Russ knew Bob Wood; Betty worked with Esther Church. Bob and Esther knew each other and set them up on the date. They liked to party and many times went dancing and gambling at a place called the Whitmore in St. Louis County.

Russ married Mary Elizabeth Parry on September 4, 1936. They married in the parlor of the home of a minister in Union, Franklin County, Missouri. They were able to keep their marriage a secret for several years. During those times it was likely that a woman would lose her job if she married. Betty’s mother was ill with cancer and Betty, her sister Jane, and brother Howard, lived at home and helped financially provide for their mother. Unfortunately Betty’s mother died of colon cancer in 1937. By 1940 Russ and Betty were living at 231 Oakland Avenue, a four-family flat, in Maplewood, Missouri.