The Tragic Death of George Purvis and his Children

George Purvis was a native of England but settled in the Ouachita Parish area before the Civil War. He married Carolyn K. Morrison (from a very old Ouachita Parish family) and they were the parents of several children. When I was inside Grace Episcopal Church earlier this year, I saw a painting of George hanging on the wall of their fellowship hall. I made a snapshot of the painting:

George was apparently the first Senior Warden of the church back in 1856. The painting brought to mind a document that I found years ago about his tragic death in Monroe, which I transcribed for the Ouachita Parish GenWeb Archives page:

Letters From the Register & Receiver at Monroe 1862-1864 Land Office Monroe La December 12, 1862

Sir
It becomes my painful duty to announce to you the death of Geo. Purvis, Reciever [sic] of this office. The incident of his death is indeed a most horrible and heart-rending calamity. Between 3 and 4 o’clock yesterday morning his dwelling was consumed by fire – in the flames of which perished, four out of six of his children, together with their nurse. In his efforts to rescue them, he himself was so badly burned, that he died this morning about 1 o’clock. About two hours after the fire at Mr. Purvis’, the dwelling of Dr. C.H. Dabbs was also burned to the ground. The origin of either fire remains a mystery, and renders it probable that both were the work of incendiaries. The vials of wrath, it seems, are being poured out upon our little town. Phisicians [sic] pronounce eight or ten cases of Small Pox in our midst – not confined to the Hospital, but scattered through several families. It will be necessary to appoint a Succession to Mr. Purvis and I beg leave to recommend Dr. Christopher H. Dabbs as a most fit and proper person. In the mean-time I shall close the Land Office until I receive instructions from you.

Respectfully Yours,
R.M. Jemison Register
Hon. Wm. J. McCulloh Commissioner of Public Lands Opelousas, LA

Additional Comments: Document # 530.00230 Page 80

Thanks to Certified Genealogist and handwriting expert Mr. Philip B. Adderley for showing me this database and helping me translate Mr. Jemison’s handwriting. The acutal letter has been scanned into the Louisiana Land Records database and can be found at http://1webfn.doa.la.gov/slodocs/SLO/hist_records.htm. George was a native of England and married Caroline K. Morrison in Ouachita Parish on March 8, 1849. They were the parents of six children. In 1850, they are living in Lafayette, Jefferson Parish. George has two sons, Michael, 9 years old, and George, aged 6. Caroline is only 21, so the children are possibly from a previous marriage. The 1860 Census lists: M.C., Female, aged 11; C.K., Female, aged 9, J.M., Male, aged 5; Jas., Male, aged 3 and a six month old Female infant. Also in the household is George S. Purvis, aged 17. This may be the 6 year old son George on the 1850 census. On the 1870 census, Mary, aged 18, and Charles H., aged 8 are all that are left. It is not known what happened to George or Michael. Unfortunately, the “Nurse” remains unidentified.

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