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October 21, 2021 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Ella Pauline Morriss

Ella Pauline Morriss. Courtesy Times-Dispatch.

In March of 1904, Richmond’s Times-Dispatch published a lovely portrait of Buckingham County belle Ella Pauline Morriss, accompanied by the following caption:

“Silver Seal” is the title of the delightful story of thrilling romance by Miss Virginia Bayard, of Roanoke. The authoress has dedicated it to one of Virginia’s fairest daughters, Miss Ella Pauline Morriss, of Buckingham, whose picture is given above. Miss Bayard’s story is laid in the Blue Ridge and is quaint, pathetic and fascinating from beginning to end. The story is now ready for the press. The authoress is a young lady of talent and bids fair to take her place in the brilliant galaxy of Virginia writers.

Miss Morriss, to whom she dedicates the work, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Garland Morris (sic), of Sutton, Va., also the granddaughter of the late Charles Y. Morriss, of Richmond, known as “the Shoestring Millionaire,” because of his eccentricity of wearing a shoestring for a watch chain when, his fortune was rated at a million.

It is understood also that Miss Morriss figures prominently as one of the characters in “Silver Seal.”

Born on Christmas Day, 1884, Ella Morriss was the daughter of Garland and Ella (Sutton) Morriss and lived in Buckingham County’s James River District. Public records reveal that her life was fraught with challenges. By 1900, three of her ten siblings had died. Married in 1909, she was widowed by the aged of thirty.  As an adult, she went by the name Pauline and, on November 30, 1916, her name was recorded as Pauline E. Sparks when she married Charles G. Human. They were divorced in Richmond, Virginia on December 23, 1922 on grounds of desertion.

To date, nothing more has been learned about the writing career of Virginia Bayard and no evidence has been found that “Silver Seal” was ultimately published.

Birth Certificate for Ella Pauline Morriss.

Divorce Record for Pauline E. Human.


Leave a Comment
  1. Joe Pruden / Oct 21 2021 12:02 pm

    Joanne – I forwarded your e-mail to Julia Boltz and this is her comment

    I find this one very curious. The two documents do not seem to indicate the same person to me- in addition to the obvious name differences (Ella Pauline Morriss and Pauline E. Sparks/Human), unless her first husband’s name was Sparks, even still, the birthdate and ages don’t line up. If she was born in 1884, she would have been 32 at her second marriage and 38 at her divorce, yet the divorce paper says she was 30 (which aligns with neither the marriage nor divorce date). I would be interested in seeing what evidence the author found to think this is even the same person. Both Ella and Pauline were common names at the time (and we don’t know that that’s even what the “E” stood for in the latter document); I would not have thought these the same person, myself.

    My cheeky theory: The “author” of the not-published book mention in the RTD, however, seems to me like a very clever publicity stunt done by the actual EPM after her widowhood to make herself more appealing for a second husband, in my opinion.

    My favorite takeaway: Shoestring Millionnaire. One can only hope! Haha

    Thanks for sharing, Joe,

    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 22 2021 5:14 am


      Many thanks for sharing Julia’s thoughts about Ella P. Morriss’ story.

      I will dig deeper and see if I can find more documentation about Ella’s life. Women’s ages are often inconsistent in vital statistics. In days gone by, many ladies got younger as they get older.

      I tried to find more about the Shoestring Millionaire. No luck. What a tantalizing clue that is!


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