Bay City Players, located in Bay City, Michigan, is a nonprofit community of performers and other volunteers that offers exciting, intimate and relevant theatre experiences. We believe in the power and immediacy of a great performance. Our dedication to that principle is how we’ve become Michigan’s longest continuously operating community theatre, we have been operating for 102 years. Great theatre lives here.
Emily Fox Grinnell
Bay City Players was founded by Mrs. J. D. Grinnell
That credit has appeared countless times. But who was Mrs. J.D. Grinnell?
As with many women of her era, one of the few ways to find out more about Emily Fox Grinnell is by researching her family. The story of her parents, sisters, and children helps us imagine the person she must have been.
Emily Fox was born May 18, 1859, in New York City. Her parents were Charles Sheldon Fox (1830-1904) and Catherine B. Murray Fox (1827-1897). She had two younger sisters: Florence Cornelia Fox (1862-1933) and Alma Florence Fox Holt (1864-1927).
Charles Fox, Emily’s father, has a wonderful nineteenth-century American life. Born in Kingsville, Ohio, he left home at age 11 to make his own way. He attended Kingsville Academy and became a teacher, working in Cayuga Lake and Auburn, New York. At age 26 he changed careers, becoming a Methodist minister.
He and Catherine Murray were married in 1856, and in 1859 they moved to southwest Michigan when Fox was transferred to the Michigan District of the Methodist Church. He was a popular and much-beloved minister, known throughout the state for his work.
An obituary by J.L Buell describes him:
[a]n industrious and versatile student, he explored widely extended fields of art, science, philosophy, history, and theology and metaphysics . . . as well as in other ranges of literature.
Florence Fox, from the Normal School yearbook The Echo, 1903
Highly cultured . . . daughters.
Emily and her sisters seem to have grown up in a home that valued education.
Florence attended Olivet College, graduated from Cook County Normal School, and was a teacher. From 1896-1904 she was the Teacher and Critic in the Primary Department of the Model School at Wisconsin State Normal School (later the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). She also wrote textbooks about teaching the primary grades, the Fox Series of Readers, and other storybooks such as Lily of Willowreed: The Story of a Friendly Cow.
Emily Fox married Joseph Durand Grinnell (1852-1938). They lived in Bay City from 1888, most of those years in a house on Ninth Street that was built in 1890. Mr. Grinnell was a commercial traveler for the Chicago Rubber Clothing Company of Racine, WI
The company made rubber raincoats for men, women, and children, and also made inner tubes and retreads for automobile tires. Emily Grinnell joined the Musical-Art Club in 1911, when the Bay City Art Club and the Thursday Morning Musical Club joined forces. These are examples of the thousands of groups around the country, mostly consisting of women, which studied and fostered fine arts, performing arts, and literature. When Emily Grinnell suggested that the club actually stage rather than just read two one-act plays, that began our hundred year-run.
Directed by Mrs. J. D. Grinnell was the credit line on more than fifty shows over the next twenty years. Her last show was just a year before her death.
Joseph Durand Grinnell
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