Postcards from Descendants
Each year a group of people from around the World come together for a virtual Christmas party on the internet. We all belong to a mailing list for people researching their Cornish Roots. You can find the list on the Rootsweb site Here. In 2002 it was decided that it would be a good idea if members wrote a brief letter giving a virtual tour / story of the area where there ancestors travelled. This page carries the American ones.
If you have a similar story and would like to see it on the page then mail it to me at
Cut and paste this address in your browser and remove <at> and replace with @ leaving no spaces. I have had to take this precaution in order to reduce spam.
A Letter From William Toll by Jocelyn (Jago) Palmer
Nine Generations at Bostrase by Judy Powell
Nicholas Peters of St Hilary by Edith Chalke & The Rev. Walkie
Blewetts in Washington State by Di. Laffing
Letter From Torquay by Bonnie in Portland, Oregon USA
Tragedy in Sacramento by Janice in California.
Gunnislake Via Stithians and Helston to Ohio By Albert Jenkyn, California
Lostwithiel to Seaford, Delaware by Ann Tumser, California
Wendron to Utah by Joan in Colorado
Delabole to The Slate Belt USA. by Tom Menhennitt Jr, Pennsylvania
The Slate Belt USA part 2 by Doris Parsons Miller, Reading, PA USA
Wendron to Kansas by Ann Berry, Raleigh, North Carolina
Grass Valley / Nevada City by Mary Lou (Buckthought) Gibson, California
This first letter concerns an old Cornish smuggler named William Toll. to read more about him and his sad death visit my other site by clicking HERE. Use your back button to return here.
Jocelyn (Jago) Palmer
I enclose a copy of William Toll's letter to his wife, Charlotte. The original letter is very fragile (being 150 years old ). The Tolls were on my mother¹s side of our family. Her maiden name was Hebbard, her dad being James Arther Hebbard; and her Mother¹s maiden name was Pope. I¹m quite sure that Charlotte Toll was the one of the ancestors on the Pope side. It was my grandmother's understanding that this was the last letter "Dear Charlotte" received from Wm Toll. Let's hope he got home to see her before he left for Australia!
The town of Cobrey still exists in northeastern Nevada...very mountainous country. There is a town named Cornish nearby as well - I would imagine it was inhabited by many Cornish during the '49 gold rush days. This is really very interesting. I have an old whist table that was originally Charlotte's
and was left to my grandmother, Emily (Pope) Hebbard.
Cobrey September 15th 1849
Deer wife and children I now answer your letter June 28th hoping this will find you and the children in good helth as it leaves mee.
At present thanck God for it Joseph is left for old england the 10th instant hee have the pour of an atterney and will with you recive the money and settel with him and leave mee know what I am in det and how I do stand. I should lick to pay every one beefore com Home. I have sent the money to you as I goat it. I intend to send L20 (Pounds) moor as beefore then. I should like to keep a littel for to com home. As to the land if you can tack it worth the money leave it Cpt will and Mr. Harvy the value must be greatly redused since I left so if you can tack it worth the money tacke it
and I will com home as son as i can.
Dear wife and children I hope you are satisfied as to my going away if I had a stayed at home what should wee have a don by this time. I know I left without your consent. Give my kind lov to Mr. Treloar and tell him that Wm Toll would lick to liv in England and will Com home as soon as posabel if hee will let the land that I can liss my Deer Charlotte. It is not all pleasure in this country my Worck is not hard but I have a great deal to Mind and every one is very kind to mee except the Spanyards wich I have a great deal to do with. Richard Nichols is very well at presant and so is Stephen Williams. I have now seen them both.
Deer Charlot I must concllude and hope you will give my lov to all
I remain forever your loving husband,
Nine Generations at Bostrase
would like to share parts of a story written by my 4th cousin, twice removed,
regarding her home, BOSTRASE FARM, in Goldsithney, St Hilary, where she was born
in 1927, and still resides, albeit the house has been rebuilt. I met her
during my visit to Cornwall last May.
"This is the story of a house, a home, to nine, possibly ten generations of our LAITY family. There is no evidence as to when Bostrase was built, but there is a Matthew LAYTIE in the protestation returns of 1641 for St Hilary. Maybe he built the house in the early part of the century, but this is pure conjecture.
The old house was probably much the same then as when I was born in it. The main living room would have had a huge open fireplace with a bread oven and spit, with furze (gorse) being used as the principle source of heat. The end wall was well over six feet thick. With the cobb walls and thatched roof it would have been, like so many hundreds of other Cornish houses, warm in the winter and cool in summer.
The two outside doors were never locked whilst we were there. The back door with the old fashioned latch that the two foxhounds could always open, and the wide front door with its huge key and the lock that was upside down.
With five bedrooms, the house must always have been full - in fact, there were 39 children in four generations and of the 30 born since 1780, all survived, usually to a ripe old age.
John Laity left a will in 1744 with an inventory of his goods. The family would have been fairly self-supporting, but only had two cows, four pigs, six sheep, and one mare. With one feather bed, one dreads to think how the other members of the family fared. Still, they did have eight pewter dishes, three quart flaggons and a pasty pan. Two brass candlesticks and two iron kettles and pots were also listed.
There is another item at the bottom of this will which John must have added as an afterthought, which is that should his wife remarry, she should have but one shilling.
The fifth generation, the time for emigration, when life was very hard for the small farmers. Five of the eight children went abroad, never to see the old house again - or their parents. This is the generation in which my great-grandfather, Joseph, married the granddaughter of the famous smuggling family - the Carters of Prussia Cove.
During this time at Bostrase there were several improvements, such as a large barn, incorporating a stable and bullock's house. Of course the cooking was done on the Cornish slab, but Mother insisted on having a new one when she married. Drinking water came from a well by the back door, and the original pump is
still a feature in the garden today.
It had stood from Commonwealth times, through fifteen reigns to Elizabeth II, with nine proven generations of Laity family being born, working and dying there, and from John, with his two brass candlesticks, it succumbed to the modern improvements of the twentieth century and was destroyed by fire in January 1958."
San Diego, CA USA
I thought Judy may be interested in this piece from Rick Parsons Penwith Resources Site . It is the sale when the Laity's ceased to be tenant farmers and became the owners of Bostrase.
To be sold by auction at the Union Hotel, Chapel Street, Penzance 14 Nov 1912
A tenement known as “Bostrase and Croft Gothal” (Ref. 572307) and a 1/2 share in some waste land 38 acres. St. Hilary, in the occupation of the executors of Joseph LAITY. A portion is leased for 1855 + 99 years or one life, now aged 81 years. Another portion is leased for 1872 + 99 years or one life, now aged 81 years. A third part is leased for 1878 + 99 years or one life, now aged 81 years. The whole is leased for 1880 + 99 years or two lives, now aged 45 and 42 years.
Sold? for £350 to G. J. LAITY.
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Nicholas Peters of St Hilary
thanks for that excerpt from "twenty years at St. Hilary" I have read that before, I don't know whether it was the bit you sent me before, or whether it was from my sister, who some years ago, managed to get the book through the school library system. I have a photo of Uncle Nicholas, whom I knew not very well, as /Aunt Janie was my mother's sister and the one I had the most to do with, but the photo of Nicholas has him with the praying hands that Rev. Walke mentions. Aunt Janie, also told of the time when she went to the vicarage at Christmas and they all had to dress up in the clothes of Chaucer's time. They broadcast a play from St. Hilary in the 30's and it was taken by the BBC from the church to the nearest telephone box and broadcast in that way, and I heard it in the early 60's when they repeated it in a programme I can't remember which, now. I also had the newspaper cuttings of the raid on the church because they thought it was too 'romish' that was in the 30's too.!
Aunt always used to refer to 'Father's rooks,' and I remember them too, when we stayed there on Easter hols. Thanks George and thanks too to John Coles for the stories.
Edith of Melbourne
FROM TWENTY YEARS AT ST. HILARY
By Bernard Walke
The Christmas Play. Page 194.
Of Nicholas Peters it is difficult to write, for the affection he bears me. I do not know whether his eyes or his hands reveal his character the more completely. I have often looked at his hands whilst he has knelt in church. At these times his face has lain in shadow, while his extended hands are in the circle of light cast by a hanging lamp. Nothing can be seen clearly but these hands-very bony, like a drawing by Durer. Watching them I understood something of the intensity of prayer, which owes nothing to any intellectual concept; it is known by the Church as the prayer of simplicity, or of the
loving look '-with Nicholas Peters it might be termed 'the prayer of the loving hands'.
Nicky, as he is called by his friends, is a very small man with the eyes of a bird. He goes about his work, delivering letters over a twelve-mile round of rough country, in so quiet a manner that he might be met many times on the road without being seen. I doubt if even the gulls and the ravens he passes along the cliffs on his way to some outlying farm are aware of his presence. On the few occasions on which I have seen him in a passion, his
eyes have had the look that I once saw in the eyes of a very small bantam who was chasing my spaniel dog from her chickens; they were very angry eyes, so angry that the spaniel fled yelping up the lane before them.
At other times they have the watchfulness I have noticed in the eyes of a bird when she is sitting on her nest. He comes into my room almost every day on his way to dinner, to deliver the paper, and if I am writing or engaged in any way and take no notice of him he will say, 'Nothing wrong, is there, Father? You are not cross with me?' Reassured, he will make a very low bow and go away. Often he comes late at night, especially on Saturday nights, after he has been to Marazion for his weekly shave and has lit the fires in the church. I look up and find him standing at the back of my chair with a lantern in his hand. Our greeting never varies; it is always, 'Is that you, Peters?' 'Yes,' he will answer. 'Thought I would come in just to see you are all right. I'm going home now, Father.' This has gone on for years, and yet his look as he goes out of the room never fails to convey to me a rare and tender affection. It is because I know him so well that I have been able to write him parts to play in which he is completely himself. As one of the shepherds in the Christmas Play he says farewell to the Holy Family in the following words:
Little Jesus, this is our rough way of showing
how glad we are on this most blessed day.
Good-bye now, kind Joseph, and Mary dear, Keep well. We shall meet again, have no fear.
It is the greeting of a man of another age than ours; an age when Our Lady and the saints were regarded with a tender familiarity, which is lost to us; but Nicholas Peters belongs to that age. As he walks round the church in the play, with my old Spanish cloak on his shoulders, he might have stepped out of an Italian Primitive; and when he kneels down before the crib he prays as men prayed in the twelfth century, when they built the tower and spire of St. Hilary.
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The Blewetts of Washington State
Blewett Pass 2003 Blewett Mine 1900
Elizabeth ... Up here in Washington State we have a mountain highway known as
BLEWETT PASS. I'm not sure of the history of Blewett Pass, except that there was
a Blewett Mining & Milling Company. Following is an excerpt from an article
on the economic history of the area:
"During the late 1800s, the railroads were established as the first major industry in what
would soon be Chelan County. Construction of the railroads (the Northern Pacific in 1881 and the Great Northern in 1892) required a sizable pool of labor, many being Chinese.
"As the track-laying progressed, many Chinese ventured out to the surrounding countryside to try their hand at prospecting. Discovering gold at Sauk Creek, near what is now the Blewett Pass Highway in south Chelan County, the Chinese were
displaced when white prospectors rushed into the area. The same thing occurred down the pass at the Columbia River. The Chinese discovered gold, another rush materialized, and white prospectors muscled out the Chinese. Eventually, the Blewett Mining and Milling Company was established to exploit the mineral deposits.
"The completion of the railroads spurred heavy migration into the region, especially by
easterners and midwesterners, and resulted in the establishment of numerous mining towns. In 1888, the population boom convinced the Washington
Territorial Legislature to carve Okanogan County out of Stevens County (Chelan County would be created 11 years later by subdividing Okanogan County).
"Settlements sprang up near Lake Chelan as well as along the Entiat River and other tributaries which fed into the Columbia River. Their locations created a difficult jurisdictional situation; those with county business had to travel, first by boat across the Columbia River, and then by stage or horseback to the county seat at Conconully--a two to five-day journey. This being unrealistic, parts of Okanogan and Kittitas counties were partitioned to form Chelan County in the spring of 1899. There were roughly 2,000
mining company was founded by Edward Blewett of Seattle and interestingly, I
found this gentleman living in my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
in 1900: "Raven Copper & Gold Co., Ltd., Edward Blewett, pres., Store
St, 1900DIR, Business."
While there's no proof that he's connected, I wouldn't be surprised. The Blewett name isn't very common in the U.S.
Di. in Victoria.
is a short blurb about the old gold-mining town in the area ... written by
another Cornishman, of course.
Liberty was populated by people who deserted when news of the gold strikes in the Yukon reached the town. Liberty became a ghost town almost overnight. Some who were not successful in Alaska returned for a brief time but they too eventually left for good. To escape the summer heat of the nearby low lands of eastern Washington, a few
people take refuge in the old cabins during the summer. Liberty is so high and so cool, it makes for a great retreat to escape the heat. Submitted
by Henry Chenoweth.
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Letter from Torquay
I have so enjoyed the Christmas party. I was trying to find a way to thank
all of you and thought that sending this touching letter written in 1918 from
my great, great Aunt Amelia Kessell to her niece, my great Aunt Clara in the
USA, might give you some insight into how World War I felt to folks on the
Amelia was born in St. Ewe in 1860 and died in Torquay, Devon in 1931. She
was a domestic all of her life as far as I can determine. The letter is from
I have translated the letter as best I could read it. I hope you enjoy it,
but do get a hanky before you start reading. (And please forgive her
"political incorrectness" regarding the Germans - it was war time, after
Bonnie in Portland, Oregon USA
5 Coburg Place
29 10 18
My dear niece
I have been wondering how you all are and if you are expecting the Spanish
flu. I have <not?> so far I am thankful to say, but my landlady is very ill.
I have been looking after her. The Dr don't know if she will pull through
and the Lodger up stairs is very bad delirious raving and shouting night &
day. His wife is worn and tired. 3 people died close here after a few days
illness. I suppose it was in your papers about the poor soldier that died on
the ship coming over. What an awful disease. Well the Germans are getting a
whacking now. I hope they will soon be in their own country. What awful
savages they are, but their wickedness & sins will come back on their own
heads. I hope you have had the papers all right. I send them regular hoping
some will reach you. I had a letter from a young man that lodged with me ?
years ago. He expects to be in England next month and will come to see me.
I shall be pleased to see him again. He was very nice. I do hope things
will soon be a little cheaper. It is real starvation. We can't get a bit of
meat its so dear. Apples 1/6' per lb and everything famine? price. I am
sorry to tell you my cat Toby died 2 weeks ago. I have missed him
dreadfully. I had him 17 years. With best love to all.
Your Affc Aunt A. Kessell.
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Tragedy in Sacramento
My grt grandfather owned the "Xchange Saloon" in Sutter Creek/Jackson California, He had live entertainment all the time and serve his favorite "Port Wine" along with other drinks. He made his money from this saloon (& the Brothels) which in turn bought him land and property. Am sending a picture of his family - The "John Chinn" family (wife Lilly Jane Glasson). What is embarrassing is that My Mom and her sisters knew nothing about their family - only awful stories...very sad stories. My grandmother seems to have lived in another world - always made up stories about her family. It wasn't till about 2 years ago we uncovered the awful tragedy of her mother Lillie Jane Glasson Chinn. My grandmother's father (John Chinn) owned and ran the Xchange Saloon and the two Brothels that existed in the Amador & Sutter area. The family wasn't that well liked. I am enclosing the story of Lillie Jane Chinn.
researching the family history opens doors to some very sad events and very
troubled people. It's kinda hard to show a "proud" Cornish
heritage. Guess we all have skeletons in the closet. My family had
more than one (actually many). But here is the story as it appeared in the
The other picture is off my Langdon family musicians, with mandolin, Banjo, and a couple of guitars.
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Gunnislake Via Stithians and Helston to Ohio
Jenkin family came, I've learned, from round 'bout Gunnislake about 1600.
The oldest location my cousin George has identified as ours is Tremboath Farm,
Stithians Parish. For the next 400 years, our JENKIN men owned or operated
most every mill in Stithians, Mawgan and Sithney parishes at one time or
Great-grandfather Sampson Jenkin bought Anvower Mill in Lowertown from his widowed mother-in-law. She then proceeded to outlive him. Ownership passed to my grandfather, William Henry Selwood JENKIN. (Any of you Selwood's out in OZ, let's compare notes. We may be cousins.)
Three children were born to Grandfather and to Grandmother Louise Adelaide Filby JENKIN: Sampson Henry, Albert George and Marie Louise. Then grandfather found himself a widower with three children to raise. As many will, he remarried.
My father, Albert George, did not get along with the new lady of the house. ( Being myself a stepchild and stepfather, I understand too well.) So, he went to America to seek his fortune, or at least his future. He found work there, with his Uncle John WONNACOTT in northern Ohio. Uncle John and Aunt Ethel had a daughter, Ena Morwenna. (Now, there's a proper Cornish name, if ever was one.) Ena had a school friend named Nellie. Need I say more?
The next four decades are hard to explain or believe, even for me and I was there. The only relevance to Cornwall is that after my father's death, I was told very little about him, and most of that incorrect. I learned much later that my mother had corresponded for years with his family in Cornwall, and never told me.
Here's the real Cornish part of my story. In 1969, my wife and I took time for a second honeymoon, going to Cornwall to look for my father's family. I managed to get some names and addresses from Cousin Ena and, grudgingly, from my mother. We arrived in Falmouth and took a bus to Mawnan Smith. Talking with the conductor, I mentioned having only a house name and nothing else.
"Oh, 'ee want get off right 'ere." He rings the bell for the driver.
""D'ee just go cross and down the lane, there."
What we saw was a sign reading "Carwinion Lane." We walked on down the lane as instructed 'til we came to a house and a sign saying "Carwinion Cottage." I went up to the lady sweeping out the kitchen door, and said, "Are you Mrs. Jenkin?"
She answered, " 'ello, Albert. What took 'ee so long?." Aunt Estrella meant that I was 30-odd years late coming home.
Was I truly home? Well, some days later, a neighbor lady came down to trade produce - trade heggs for Murphy's - according to Aunt Estrella. When she made to introduce us, the neighbor said, "Oh, I seen they goin' down road t'other day, Di'n't know who 'e were, but I knew 'e were a Jenkin."
I had come home.
There's more I can tell. How my Kentucky-born wife loved the sound of that name on Aunt Estrella's house,and wanted to call our home in California "Carwinnion'. (Joke is, we lived in a very mixed neighborhood. Black and Latino neighbors thought it was a great joke, white liberal friends were horrified. "You can't call your house that!") Or how, going around Lowertown with Uncle Ronnie, I was recognized by an old friend of my father. "Oh,damneo, that's George's boy!"
American born, yes, but in my heart a Cornishman.
Gorhemmynadow yn gwella,
Albert Jenkin, California.
Click on Picture
Lostwithiel to Seaford, Delaware
story unfolds in 1855 in Lostwithiel, Cornwall as John Trewhela Stephens
advertises for "A respectable FEMALE to superintend the domestic
arrangements in an establishment where a limited number of young gentlemen are
received as boarders" and Jane Hobb Rowse of Lancarffe advertises
"Young Lady wishes to obtain a situation as GOVERNESS in a School".
John and Jane were married 3 January 1856 and Mr. J. T. Stephens of Hellier House Academy, Lostwithiel "respectfully informs his Friends and the Public, that the duties of his Establishment will be resumed on the 15 January 1856".
In 1861, they're at Kingdon House Academy, Lostwithiel with four children and nine male pupils. In 1871, they're at Norway House, Lostwithiel with six children and eight male pupils.
The family is in Seaford, Delaware in the United States 1880 census and John is now "Professor College" and he and Jane have five children at home. One child died in Lostwithiel, from meningitis, before they immigrated to America.
John writes a letter to his youngest child, Janie, who is away visiting friends. She had just become 13 years on June 4. "Thursday Morning June 30th 1881.
Both your Mama and Self as well as your Brothers & Sister are delighted at your enjoying yourself so agreeably and hope you will as long as you remain.
I suppose you will have a fine time at Dover on the 4th. We are going to have the Band out in Ross's Woods, some speeches, etc. Jack is very much disappointed he had promised to play with this Band a day or two before he got a letter asking him to come to Dover. I hope he will not break his heart.
The Cat is well and able to climb a tree as well as you can. You would have laughed had you been here to see what a wonderful jump the Cat made. Joe put it into the Bell of his Horn and then blew into it, and you should have seen it jump right out of the Horn and over Joe's Head.
Every thing goes on just as usual in a quiet way.
All unite in kindest & best love to you. Our kindest regards to Mr. & Mrs. Sarde & family.I remain your loving Pop,
John T. Stephens"
Janie was my maternal grandmother, and this letter was found when she died in 1948 in New Jersey.
Warmest wishes for a joyful Christmas 2002,
Ann Tumser, California.
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Wendron to Utah
is no doubt that the Cornish had a very special kind of courage that sent the
miners all over the world where they became known for their expertise. The
stone men too travelled extensively and I want to thank those of you who have
sent me passed-down family stories for my web site
that bring the entries alive, from the homely mention of one who enjoyed his pipe to the one who always made a rice pudding when he came home from work on a Saturday. I have been sent many tragic stories too and some of great courage. Here is one:
JOHN ROWE MOYLE was born abt. 1808 at Pulmarthweth Downs in Wendron. He was a mason and farmer, and eventually became a construction superintendent. He moved around in his work and 1835 found him in Guernsey and a year later in Rose Mellon, Luxulyan. He also lived in Bodmin, and from 1839 to 1850 he was in Plymouth and St.Budeaux. But sometime between 1851 and 1857, he emigrated to Utah where he worked on the construction of Temple Square and the Utah State Capitol Building. He had a long, long walk to work there and back each day, often in extreme temperatures. Tragically, he was involved in an accident on the job and his leg had to be amputated.
So determined was Mr. Moyle to continue with his work on the building of the Temple that when he had recovered sufficiently, he set about making himself a wooden leg. Then he went back to work and continued to make the long, long walk to and from the building site. That takes true Cornish courage.
Warm wishes and Merry Christmas, Joan
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Delabole to The Slate Belt USA.
I would like to share a virtual ( tour/ story) of my Cornish area what we call The Slate Belt.
Joseph Kellow and Robert Chapman( both hailed from Cornwall) were one of the firsts to discover slate outcroppings and opened the first quarries in the Bangor area in 1853 and in Pen Argyl in 1854.
I do think its fitting due to the fact of the area at which the party is being held....
North Cornwall is famous for its slate and my family hailed from the Lanteglos by Camelford area....and moved to the Pen Argyl, Bangor area( The Slate Belt ) in about 1870. I hope you enjoy and hope Im not stepping on John Coles toes( who is the master story/tours teller)........
Its cold and snow has taken over The Slate Belt, very early this year....As I travel through Bangor and Pen Argyl I catch myself starring at the slate spoil hills that were built over a 100 years ago. Bluish gray color peeks out through the white snow. I wonder how many people notice these massive mountains anymore like I do?. I wonder if anyone cares that our towns here were built and formed due to the slate industry? I wonder if my fellow neighbors know that many Cornish came here from North Cornwall to work in these now abandoned, water filled quarries??
I close my eyes and think about what it was like 100-150 years ago. No paved roads, men walking to quarries in the snow. Men of Cornish names of Bray, Parsons, Amy ,Rowe, Kneebone, Heard, and so many, to many to mention. They worked hard in quarries in Cornwall and worked twice as hard in the quarries here, so their children did not have to.
As I walk from my house I pass Heards Meat Market, a ancestor of a Cornish emigrant. I walk over the via-duct( a bridge that goes over Martins Creek and train tracks) . As I get over the bridge Im now on what is called Powder House road( Rt. 191). It gets its name due to the fact that the blasting powder for the quarries was stored in the hillside, safe away from town.
I travel into town and pass the old train station( Bangor had 2 or 3 back than) I think about how many travelers came through that point. I walk passed the Old Colonial Hotel, this hotel was probably to expensive back then for any of our ancestors to stay at, many Cornish stayed with other Cornish families till they could afford a house of their own...
I pass The Slate Belt Heritage Center which used to be the Old town hall and firehouse. The center is a museum, each room is dedicated to a part of the Slate Belt history....which includes the slate room, firemen, Welsh, Italian, PA German, and of course the Cornish room, which depicts what a Cornish household would have looked like in the early 1900's
As I go through town its very hilly ( not to many flat parts in the Slate Belt) towards Pen Argyl I pass many houses, the Cornish back than tended to "cluster" together and live by each other.
Entering Pen Argyl you get a beautiful view of the Appalachian Mts. Snow is still lying on the tops of trees on the Mountain and Im sure there is many hunters right now trying to score a trophy white tail deer up there.
We to have a boarding village named Delabole? Yes there is much Cornish Heritage here! Our Delabole is very small, basically country roads and farm land and some scattered houses, and looking very beautiful on a snowy day.
As you travel the main road connecting all the Towns of the Slate Belt this time of year you get a very special Christmas feeling inside you......most of the towns are decorated with wonderful Christmas lights of some kind attached to the telephone and street lights. Many houses and businesses are lighted as well...breath taking!!!
We are now heading over the next hill from Bangor and entering Pen Argyl, the first thing you happen to see is a large park, with a beautiful and very old carrousel and Im sure if you made the 10 th Gathering of Cornish Cousins, which was hosted by Penkernewek, I'll bet you had a ride on the old beauty!
As we travel the main road through Pen Argyl you may catch a smell of pasties, if its not coming from one of the homes, I bet its from our very own pasty shop...Mr. Pasty! This pasty shop is noted for making a wide variety of different kinds of pasties...
But than every family in this area might argue about the proper way to make a "handsome" pasty.....
Me?.....well I still prefer my Grammy Menhennitt's( but don't tell the Mrs. or my mom for that matter!)
Oh this is a wonderful town, settled at the base of the mountain, you can see church steeples, old homes, and yes more slate hills and quarries.......
>From 1850 - 1920 many Cornish immigrants came here worked these quarries and probably stayed in the company row houses and bought their supplies from the company stores, some stores shared the name of the families who ran the quarries......Masters, Doney and Jackson.
My grandfathers cousin worked in one of these stores as a child.
Again I close my eyes and imagine walking with the quarrymen to work on the unpaved roads, day in and day out...6 days a week.
They worked hard and Im thankful they helped shape this area we call The Slate Belt.
I hoped you enjoyed my little tour of the The Slate Belt....
and wish you all a Very Merry and safe Christmas...
Your Cornish Cousin
Tom Menhennitt Jr
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The Slate Belt USA part 2
I hope Tom wont mind if I add a little to his story of the Pennsylvania Slate Belt. Since I grew up there myself, I have a propietary interest in it.
At the height of the boom in the Slate Belt, near the turn of the century, there were five hotels in Bangor. The biggest of these was the Mansion House, which employed an imposing, large black man dressed in formal livery, who was employed to go to the train station on Main Street and hawk the virtues of saying at the Mansion House to the arrivals from Philadelphia and Easton. He was very good at his work and people would gather around him and follow him to the hotel a block and a half away. I am not sure but I seem to remember that the other hotels had similar means of filling vacancies. But this fellow at the Mansion House was a star.
Bangor was known at that time as a place for excellent food and entertainment. It was very fashionable for the absentee owners of the quarries to entertain their friends there by traveling to Bangor by train on the weekends.
the advent of asphalt shingles for roofs put a damper on the economy of
the region. The hotels have long disappeared as well as the trains and the
tourists. Many thanks to Carolyn and Harry Bray for their untiring efforts to
preserve the history of our Cornish ancestors in Bangor and environs.
Doris Parsons Miller
On Line Parish Clerk, Tintagel, Cornwall
Researching:Parsons, Bray, Derricott, Chilcott, Treleven, Coumbe, Lobb,
Chapman and Draper
Reading, PA USA
Wendron to Kansas
You've asked for accounts from all corners of the Cornish Diaspora. It seems to
me I have retold mine until all must have seen it and be bored; it's not full of
mining or sailing or derring-do. But maybe that's the point. So here goes--and
if you don't have time, I'll
understand, because this is going to be long:
of Manhattan, Kansas, my birthplace and an attractive town that is one of
America's well kept secrets, an old river road winds along the base of the
grassland hills that overlook the rich Blue and Kansas river valleys. The road
ducks back and forth, up and down, in and out of
shade and small side valleys. (Yes, in Kansas we do have hills and trees. I have cracked walnuts that fell on this road, and gathered sweet tart sand plums beside it--and found Indian arrowheads on the hills above it.)
Near a woodsy curve of this road, half-hidden now by trees, stands a barn whose lower story is massive dry-laid blocks of native limestone. Above it on the slope is another well-laid limestone and frame building, still in use. Both were built by my great grandfather, Simon Pryor Richards, born in Wendron, Cornwall in 1832, to Humphrey Penelerick Richards and Jane Pryor Richards. Simon, their third son, is in the 1851 census as a miner at age 19. In 1854 he left for America. So did his two younger brothers, Josiah and Thomas. Their elder brother, William (Pryor) Richards, was also part of the Diaspora, in his case to Australia at the time of the Ballarat gold strikes. In Cornwall and in Ballarat, William was a tailor; he did well in Oz, but that is another story.
The other elder brother, Humphrey (Pryor) Richards, is still mostly a mystery to me, but is known to have stayed in England and is probably the Humphrey Richards, stonemason born in Wendron, who lived in Gillingham, Kent, with a Kentish wife, at the 1881 census.
There were also several Richards sisters whose marriages I have yet to decipher. It's not that I'm pro-male, God knows, but surnames (especially Richardses in the Helston-Redruth part of Cornwall!) are hard enough to sort without the name changes females underwent. Until I get time to pick at these great-great-aunts, if you have a 19th-century Richards woman, daughter of a Humphrey and Jane of Wendron, in your picture, do let me know--but watch out, for there were then at least two sets of Humphrey and Jane Richardses in town!
The Humphrey, b. 1797, who was Simon Pryor Richards's father was a small farmer, sometime stonemason and occasional miner. The bit of land he worked was left by his father, also a Humphrey Richards, to his widow, Ann Penelerick Richards, in 1837; I don't have a firm death date for Ann, but by 1841 the younger Humphrey, their eldest son, lists in the tithe book as the effective owner. These few acres lie in the Retanna / Rame neighborhood in the northeast of Wendron parish.
That second Humphrey Richards, Simon Pryor's father and my great-great-grandfather, had a brother, Simon Penelerick Richards, born 1802, who was first in the family to go to America and to Kansas. He seems to have stowed away at 14 and been befriended in New York by a patron, perhaps named Taylor, who paid to have him return to England and be educated in civil engineering, possibly at Oxford. His descendants say Simon Penelerick Richards emigrated as an adult from London. He seems to have left a wife in Cornwall or Wales when he returned to America. I don't know whether his engineering was hands-on or managerial, but he's said to have helped build the Brooklyn Bridge, a marvelous feat in stone, and the Allegheny (railroad) Tunnel, another engineering wonder of its day in Pennsylvania.
Simon Penelerick married, had a son, John Henry, and settled for a time in Altoona, PA. But ultimately he left for the West, probably via Galena, Illinois (a mining center for a time), and arrived in the Blue Valley of Kansas about 1849, very early in that area's settlement. He built a log cabin near the Blue River and lived there, evidently alone. His wife stayed in Pennsylvania and later in Illinois. After a few years, Simon Penelerick sent for his son John Henry Richards, who became a Santa Fe trail freighter and homesteaded land in the hills near his father's place. John Henry married, in sequence, two sisters from Illinois who were Roman Catholic and gave him 17 children. The "Protestant branch" from whom I descend were less procreative and more migratory, so the Richardses around Manhattan, Kansas today are likely to be descended from John Henry.
For my branch's history, the point is that Simon Pryor Richards was drawn to this part of Kansas by his uncle Simon Penelerick Richards's having settled there. I know little of Simon Pryor's earliest days in America save that he evidently worked as a stonemason. He didn't fight in the Civil War, though his brother Josiah did. Around 1866, a young woman near Medora, Indiana, drawing water from the well at her family's farm, was asked for a drink by a fellow working on a nearby stone bridge. The way Laney Jones Richards told it later, "As soon as I clapped eyes on that young Englishman, I knew he was my man!"
Simon and Laney married in 1867 and in a few years were off for Kansas. That first try didn't go right; they returned to Indiana, where he farmed with or near his in-laws and probably did stonework too. Simon took his growing family to Texas briefly, seeking "better air" for an ailing son, but that didn't pan out either.
About 1880, Simon Pryor Richards brought his family to Kansas for good, and those stone farm buildings must have been built in that decade, using good Cornish masonry technique. Simon Pryor Richards died in 1890, as did his uncle Simon Penelerick Richards, and they're both buried in the same Manhattan cemetery, which has led, as you'd expect, to some genealogical confusion. Simon Pryor's daughter Carrie May Richards, my beloved grandmother, born in 1872 in Indiana, grew up on the farm where those buildings still stand. She was a country one-room schoolteacher in the Kansas hills by age 18. She married another schoolteacher, Samuel Thackrey, and became the mother of four sons, who distinguished themselves in journalism, teaching and communication.
Carrie did a superb job with those boys, with her scores of other "boys"--college students who rented her upstairs bedrooms over the years and came to call her Mother Thackrey--and with her eldest granddaughter, me. Grandfather taught me checkers, but Grandmother taught me everything else. She let me play in her button box and make a button bracelet. She got down on her threadbare carpet and showed me jacks and marbles. She let me roll little balls of mercury around on a saucer (we didn't know then about poisoning). She helped Dad teach me to read at 4. She let me dig at will in the rich lode of National Geographics and Readers' Digests stacked neatly in the corner of her spartan sitting room, near her Mission rocker and Grandfather's, beside a long wooden window seat full of scraggly house plants. I wore some of those magazines out. She taught me to sew, to darn, to tat, to knit, to embroider French knots and grass stitch and leaf stitch and cross-stitch, to crochet, to cut and piece and quilt a little block--all this before I was five or six. Later she showed me how to work her treadle Singer sewing machine and turned me loose on it. She let me bang on, and then play, her big oak piano. She got out Grandfather's stereopticon viewer and slides and introduced me to ancient Rome and Greece and Egypt in 3-D black and white. She showed me how to collect the seed of her tiny drought-shrunken backyard pansies and plant them the next season, year after year. She let me pick from her mulberry tree. She helped me cut paper snowflakes and lacy paper May baskets that I'd fill from her bushes of spirea and honeysuckle and hang on neighbors' doors on May Day. When my parents were away, Grandmother let me sleep on her upstairs sleeping porch even when snow blew in, which I found, as she knew I would, not frightening but exciting. The one thing she didn't teach me was cooking, which she found unexciting, and as far as I know there was nothing Cornish in her cuisine; her mother wasn't Cornish, after all, and her elder sisters had done the cooking as she grew up. But Carrie was very Cornish, I think, in her stubborn independence, her forthrightness, her wit, her curious mind and true love of learning, her self-reliance--and in a personality whose general theme was serene calm, broken by frequent flashes of humor and, less often but definitely, of ire. Sprung from centuries of Cornish stoneworkers, she said she'd like to have been an architect; at one point in her life she made a little money (a little was all she ever had) doing house-plan drawings for people.
Richardses represent a less-observed side of the Diaspora--those who did NOT
follow the mines, who knew life underground and wanted no more of it. As farmers
and masons, their life after emigration was far less tied to Cornish ways and
communities of other Cornishmen. Yet much that was Cornish survived. After all,
the first riddle my grandmother taught me was "As I was going to St.
-------------------------------And if you're still with me after all that, I thank you for your patience, as do the ghosts of all the Richardses.
Raleigh, North Carolina
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Grass Valley Concert Band
Grass Valley / Nevada City
Thank you for the heads up on HGTV about Nevada City. I spent many happy holidays living in Grass Valley/Nevada City. It struck me funny that Nevada City does the celebrating when the majority of the Cornish settled in Grass Valley. Christmas after the gifts were opened we went to the Methodist Church and listened to the Cornish Choir sing. .Then to my Gram's for dinner with all the family. What are the youth of today missing? I have the saffron buns made and Christmas Eve we will have the traditional pasty. Christmas dinner will have the plum pudding. Many good memories of growing up as first generation USA. Dad arrived in USA in 1923. People often ask me if I have gotten the genealogy to the pond (Atlantic Ocean) and I answer yes no problem it is only me.
each and everyone a Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Year!!
Mary Lou (Buckthought) Gibson
Very rainy Northern CA.
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