Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Ramblings of Wakeman Edwards

Wakeman Edwards (1788-1842)
One of the ironies of my own family history is the absence of famous ancestors. There was the occasional miller, mariner, gardener or shipwright, but for the most part my ancestors were farmers or agricultural labourers from England. None of them were members of the aristocracy, none of them had illustrious military careers, and none of them were notorious criminals. A few of them did, however, have connections to interesting people.

Samuel Cooke (1789-1832), was a merchant and the brother of my ggg-grandfather. Samuel married a young woman from Bideford named Elizabeth Edwards (1792-1862). Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth Chichester (1758-1834), a granddaughter of Sir John Chichester, 4th Baronet (1689-1740).

Louisa Marrett (1812-1842)
At the time of her marriage to Samuel Cooke on 1827, Elizabeth's cousin, Sir Arthur Chichester (1790-1842), was 7th Baronet. Elizabeth's brother, Wakeman Edwards (1788-1842), was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Wakeman married Louisa Marrett (1812-1842), the daughter of Captain Joseph Marrett (1778-1857), a distinguished naval officer during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1841, while living in Brittany, Louisa gave birth to a son, Wakeman Julius Chichester Edwards. A year later, young Wakeman was an orphan.
In 1867, while on a voyage from London to Trinidad, Wakeman decided to write an account of his life up to that point. The original manuscript is held by a descendant, however, a few years ago I was given a transcribed copy. Wakeman's "Ramblings" are quite fascinating as they relate how over the course of several years he circumnavigated the globe.

Wakeman was raised by his grandparents, Joseph and Sarah Marrett. When his grandmother died, his grandfather moved in with his daughter. Wakeman's aunt ("Mrs. B.") was quite envious of "my grandfather's partiality towards my orphan self" and as a result Wakeman entered the Royal Naval School in London. Wakeman excelled in Arithmetic, Geography and Navigation, but was indifferent to the rest of the curriculum.

While in London, Wakeman was a frequent visitor at the house of another aunt, Elizabeth Cooke. After the death of her husband Samuel in 1837, Elizabeth had moved to London with her two children. Wakeman writes:

I shall never forget the kind welcome they gave me, so different from the reception I received from my Aunt C. and her family. How I used to look forward for the Saturday I used to spend with my kind Aunt and cousins.
When Wakeman graduated from the Royal Navy School he turned down a commission in the Royal Marines and instead joined the mercantile navy as an apprentice. His first voyage was aboard the Nourmahal, commanded by Capt. Lewis Brayley. Nourmahal was a ship of 835 tons with a crew of 30 and 18 passengers bound for Australia. Wakeman was one of six apprentices.

Corroboree on the Murray River, 1858 by Gerard Krefft
Nourmahal arrived in Australia in February 1857 after a voyage of 125 days. Wakeman almost deserted the ship at Sydney, as one of his cousins (the wife of brewer, squatter and businessman Robert Tooth) was living nearby, but at the last minute he decided to return to England. While in Australia, Wakeman also encountered a large group of aborigines performing a corroboree:
The relection of the fire on their painted bodies, representing skeletons made them look hideous, all being quite naked and yelling and dancing about...
By the time he returned to England, Wakeman had decided to "leave the sea." For the next three years he worked as a clerk in London for Charles Tennant, Son & Co., His grandfather had died while he was in Australia, and in February 1862, his Aunt Elizabeth Cooke also died. Wakeman then decided to take passage for New Zealand aboard the Indian Empire, arriving in Auckland in October 1862.

After working at a South Island sheep station on the Rakaia River for a few months, Wakeman then took passage across the Pacific to Vancouver Island.  After a two week stopover in Tahiti, Wakeman arrived in Victoria in May 1863. His intention was to prospect for gold in the interior of British Columbia, but instead he worked first as a navvy for a road crew and then as a bartender.

After 10 months, Wakeman headed south to San Francisco where he obtained work at a lumber mill. A year later he was back in Victoria. Work was scarce, and after a nine-month period as a steward on a coastal steamship, decided to head for New York.

In 1867, the easiest way to get from Victoria to New York was by steamer to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; by mule to Lake Nicaragua, and then across the lake and down the San Juan River by steamer to the Caribbean, where Wakeman boarded the Santiago de Cuba for New York.

After three months in New York working as a night watchman, Wakeman sailed to Liverpool aboard the Chicago, arriving in England on April 22, 1867. His trip around the world had taken almost five years.

A month later Wakeman was aboard the Spherved bound for Trinidad. It was on this voyage that he wrote his "Ramblings."

Gravestone, Watt, Muskoka, Ontario
What exactly happened next is not known, but in 1868, Wakeman came to Canada. In November of the following year he married Margaret Alexander (1844-1905) in the Muskoka district of Ontario. Margaret had been born in Tongland, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland and had emigrated to Canada with her brothers in 1868. Canadian Census data shows Wakeman was a farmer living in Watt Township, Muskoka in 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901.

Wakeman and Margaret had seven children. Their third child, William Cooke Edwards (1874-1931) was named in remembrance of the kindness that Wakeman had received from his Aunt Elizabeth Cooke and her children. Wakeman died in 1902 at the age of 60, and was buried at St Thomas Anglican Church in Ullswater, Ontario.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Respectable Woman

Gravestone of Michael Snell (1788-1810)
at St Giles in the Wood
Mary Ann Isaac was born in Yarnscombe, Devon in 1788, the youngest of three children of Hugh Isaac and Ann Cheek. Little is known about her childhood, although it was somewhat usual to grow up in a family with so few children.

In September of 1808, Mary married Michael Snell, youngest son of William Snell and Rebecca Cooke of Dodscott in the neighbouring parish of St Giles in the Wood. Mary Ann was pregnant at the time of her marriage, as her son William was born early the following year.

Then tragedy struck. Michael died in November of 1810 at the age of 32. At the time Mary Ann was pregnant with her second child, Michael, who was born in early 1811.

Michael Snell's will was proven at Barnstaple a month after his death. The will is somewhat unusual in that it provides both for his son William and for his unborn child.

After her husband's death, Mary Ann likely lived with her parents. Her mother died in the summer of 1811. Seven years later, she married Thomas Joce of Yarnscombe.

Ann and Thomas had two children:  James William who was born in 1821, and Mary Jane was born in 1829. In 1841, Thomas was a farmer living at Slees, Yarnscombe with Mary Ann and his two children.

Mary Ann should have lived an ordinary life as the wife of respectable farmer, except for two incidents. In January 1846, Mary Ann was accused by Mrs. Cory of the Fortescue Arms Inn in Barnstaple of having stolen a sable muff. The case generated considerable interest, and was the subject of two lengthy articles in the North Devon Journal, likely because Mary Ann was "a respectable woman." Mary Ann was a regular vendor at the Barnstaple Market, selling poultry and vegetables. On January 30, 1846, Mrs. Cory purchased a turkey from Mary Ann, but accidentally left her sable muff behind. When Mrs. Cory later returned to the market, Mary Ann at first denied having seen the muff, although other nearby vendors were certain that they had seen it with her. Mary Ann then stated that another woman had claimed the muff shortly afterwards. The magistrates concluded that there was enough evidence to send Mary Ann to trial. At her trial in April she was found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment.

Three years later, Mary Ann was in trouble with the law again, although this time it was her husband and son who were charged. When a sheep went missing from the flock of Samuel Davis, suspicion fell upon the family of Thomas Joce. Although Mary Ann and her husband willingly allowed their house to be searched, they refused to account for the 50 pounds of mutton that was being pickled in salt and obvious signs that a sheep had recently been butchered. The evidence was sufficient for the magistrates to commit Thomas and his son James to trial. At their trial, however, the Court ruled that there was no case whatsoever against James, and that there was insufficient evidence to show that Thomas had stolen the sheep, despite "strong circumstantial evidence" and the suspicious behaviour of his wife. The North Devon Journal noted that Thomas "
is very respectfully connected, and has always been considered an honourable man and a man of some substance."

Thomas died in October of the following year. Mary Ann followed him to the grave four months later.

Gravestone of Thomas Lovering
Snell (1835-1841) at Tawstock
Mary Ann's oldest child, William Snell, is something of a mystery. According to the terms of his father's will, he would have received half of his father's estate as well as his father's watch when he turned 21 in 1830. A year later he married Fanny Lovering of Tawstock. Four children followed: William, Michael, Thomas Lovering, and Elizabeth.

Here begins the mystery. William Snell does not appear in the 1841 Census. His wife Fanny is a servant at the Vicarage in Bishops Tawton, Devon. Two children live with another family in Bishop's Tawton, while the youngest, Elizabeth, is living with her aunts in Tawstock. Their other child, Michael, is living with his grandmother, Mary Ann Joce. Thomas died later that year and is buried at Tawstock.

In 1851, Fanny is still a servant at the Vicarage, the children are still living with relatives or elsewhere, and William Snell is a lodger in Finsbury, Middlesex. 1851 also saw the death of William and Fanny's son Michael.

In 1861, William is back in Barnstaple, while Fanny is now living with her brother-in-law in Landkey, Devon. In 1864, William death at Landkey was announced in the North Devon Journal. Fanny died at Barnstaple nine years later.

Advertisement in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post

His brother Michael Snell seems to have been far more successful. Michael established himself as a Wine and Spirit Merchant in Barnstaple, Devon. Several flagons bearing his name survive, and advertisements appeared frequently in the North Devon Journal and Trewman's Exeter Flying Post.

Michael married Eliza Sharland Taylor, eldest daughter of Isaac Taylor and Ann Sharland, at Tiverton, Devon in May 1837. Their daughter Ellen Taylor SNELL was born the following February. Nine months later Eliza died, leaving Michael a widower with a infant child. Ellen was sent to live with her maternal grandparents but eventually returned to Barnstaple to live with her father.

In 1843, Michael married Elizabeth Bowden, third daughter of John Bowden and Mary Keen of Berrynarbor, Devon. Michael and Elizabeth had eight children, six girls and two boys, five who survived to adulthood.

Sometime after 1871, Michael retired to Lee Cottage in Berrynarbor. Elizabeth died in 1888. Michael died in 1895 at the age of 84. Their son Michael, a stockbroker, landowner and justice of the peace, continued to live in the area until his death in 1932. Inside Berrynarbor church is a commemorative plaque describing him as a "generous benefactor of this Church and Parish."


North Devon Journal, Thursday, February 12, 1846
North Devon Journal, Thursday, April 16, 1846
North Devon Journal, Thursday, July 5, 1849
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, Thursday, July 5, 1849
Western Times, Saturday, July 7, 1849