Attempted murder

Attempted murder — but who was the intended victim?

The German missionary Carl Hugo Hahn wrote the following entry in his diary on 11 July 1859:

Der früher erwähnte Willem Meintjies hat einen Mordversuch auf Fr.[?] Stewardson gemacht. Man benachrichtigte mich davon von der Mine aus, und Jonker, den ich davon in kenntnis setzte, versprach auf Bestimmteste, ihn einfangen zu lassen.

I’m not a German fundi, so I tried Google translate and Bing, without much success; their efforts did not make much sense. One said a suicide attempt, the other an assassinatuion attempt. So my attempted translation is as follows:

“The previously mentioned Willem Meintjies made a murder attempt on Fr. Stewardson. They informed me of this from the mine, and Jonker, when I informed him of this, promised that he would definitely arrest him” (Hahn Diary, 11 Jul 1859).

I would be grateful if anyone who knows German better than I do could comment on and possibly improve the translation.

But the biggest problem is not so much the translation as the interpretation, and for that some of the background and backstory is needed.

C.H. Hahn was a missionary of the Rhenish Mission Society in Germany who was based at Otjimbingue on the north bank of the Swakop River in what is now Namibia. But back then there was no Namibia, just a lot of principalities that often squabbled among themselves.

That would not have seemed strange to C.H. Hahn, since the Germany he came from was also not a united nation, but a lot of small kingdoms and principalities. But it was the very next year that Otto von Bismarck began his project of uniting Germany under Prussian rule. He succeeded 10 years later, and moved on to what became Namibia, and began to unite it under German rule. But in 1859 none of that had happened.

Jonker was Jonker Afrikaner, the ruler of one of the principalities, with its capital in Windhoek, about 150 kilometres from Otjimbingue. Willem Meintjies was one of his underlings, an assistant.

The “mine” was Matchless Mine a copper mine in the Khomas Hochland, south of the Swakop River (The Swakop was dry most of the year, and only flowed after it rained, but there was water under the dry bed, so it was a wagon route to the coast — the trek oxen could graze on its banks, and drink water if one dug in the sand.

Frank Stewardson had a contract to transport ore from the mine, and goods to the mine, and he and his family lived at or near the mine. His name was Francis, and his wife was Frances Morris, the sister of James Morris of Wynberg in the Cape, who had been a trader in Damaraland some ten years previously.

Namibian countryside. This picture was actually taken at Brandberg, north-west of Otjimbingue, and about 110 years later, but it shows the kind of country they trekked through with their ox waggons.

Namibian countryside. This picture was actually taken at Brandberg, north-west of Otjimbingue, and about 110 years later, but it shows the kind of country they trekked through with their ox waggons.

The editor of the diaries, Brigitte Lau of the Windhoek Archives, put a question mark next to the “Fr.” in front of “Stewardson” in the diary, probably because it could have been short for “Frau”, which would have meant that it was Mrs Stewardson who had been victim of the murder attempt. It could also be short for Mr Stewardson’s first name, Francis or Frank. But that would not be why Brigitte Lau put a questi0n mark there, because she thought Frank Stewardson’s first name was Ian, and listed him as such  in the index to the diaries.

That was because a bloke called Colin Bell wrote a book called South West pioneer : a memorial tribute to James Frank Bassingthwaighte, first permanent white settler in South West Africa. While Bell acknowledged that his book was a fictionalised account — he was writing a historical novel, not actual history — he did not say which bits were fact and which were fiction. He did not know the first names of Mr and Mrs Stewardson, so he made them up — Ian and Norah. I don’t blame him for that — it took us 30 years to find what their first names were — but he could have said so.

But this sort if thing is so typical of family history research. You find a tantalising hint of an incident, but many of the vital details are missing. You have to read between the lines to try to see what happened, and even then there are more questions than answers.

  • Who was the intended victim, Frank or Frances Stewardson?
  • What was the motive? Had they quarrelled, or was he trying to rob them?
  • What happened to Willem Meintjies? Was he arrested? Was he tried? Where and by whom?

And, for that matter, what happened to Frank and Frances Stewardson? We don’t know where or when they died. We know something about their four daughters, and who they marriedf, but their three sons are just as much a mystery.

Why did the Stooke change his name?

One of the advantages of the growth of the Internet and the amount of genealogical information available is that one can find things quite quickly that might have been quite impossible when we first started doing genealogy in 1974.

The first thing I did when we started was to order my grandfather’s birth certificate, from which I discovered that his parents (and my great grandparents) were William Allen Hayes and Mary Barber Stooke of Bedminster, near Bristol in England. After about 15 years we had managed, mainly through correspondence, to link Mary Barber Stooke to a Stooke family tree at Ashton and Trusham in the Teign valley in Devon, going back to the 16th century. A relative from another branch of the family who lived in Devon went into the Devon record office and checked the records in the tree step-by-step, copying the records by hand and sending them to us by snail mail.

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the Teign River. John Stooke, my 9x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the River Teign. John Stooke, my 8x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

But we still did not know about Mary Barber Stooke’s brother and sister.The earlier generations were fairly well documented, the more recent ones were not, or at least the documents were less accessible.

We knew she had a sister Sarah, because they were staying together in the 1871 census before Mary Barber Stooke got married. Both their parents seemed to have died by then. It was only much later that we discovered that they had a brother Thomas, and through resources like FreeBMD and FreeCEN managed to discover that he was living in Exmouth, Devon, in 1891, with a wife Mary Ann and two children — Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke.

And a mysterious e-mail correspondent, known to me only as visionir, told me that Sarah Stooke had married Charles Robert Parker who ran the Colston Arms pub in Bedminster, Bristol, and hinted that he/she had a lot of information on that family, but refused to share it, saying that he/she already had enough information on them and didn’t need any more. I was able to verify some of this information from censuses, but consulting them entailed a 70km drive to the LDS Family History Centre in Johannesburg, and ordering the the films from Salt Lake City if necessary, and waiting two months for the films to arrive.

I tried to follow up Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke. As more resources came online it became easier and quicker.  Their parents, Thomas and Mary Ann Stooke, seem to have died between the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Mildred seems to have married a Leonard O. Meyer and to have had a son Lionel O. Meyer, born in 1918, but of her brother Lionel there was no sign. Had he died? Had he emigrated? There was no way of knowing.

But then the Internet provided the information that would have been impossible to find before — in the London Gazette of 31 May 1949 the following notice appeared:

NOTICE is hereby given that by a deed poll dated
the 19th day of May, 1949, and duly enrolled in the
Supreme Court of Judicature on the 26th day of
May, 1949, I, STEPHEN RENDEL of Number 76
Roman Road Colchester in the county of Essex
Retired a natural born British subject renounced and
abandoned the first names of Lionel Leigh and the
surname of Stooke.—Dated the 27th day of May,
1949.
STEPHEN RENDEL, formerly known as Lionel
(207) Leigh Stooke»

And from that clue it has been possible to piece together the story of Lionel Leigh Stooke, alias Stephen Rendel. From knowing next to nothing about him, suddenly we know more than we know even about his sister.

He grew up in Littleham (Exmouth), living with the family at 6 Raleigh Terrace. He was there at the time of the 1901 census at the age of 16.

He became a civil engineer and went to work in South America. He returned to the UK in August 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, under the name of Stephen Rendel, aged 30, and joined the army under that name, giving his birthplace as Hertfordshire. But no Stephen Rendel appears as being born in Hertfordshire (or Herefordshire for that matter) in FreeBMD, or in any census prior to 1911 that I have been able to consult. His appearance at the age of 30 seems to have been his first.

After the war he married Elsie Bowden, and they had a daughter Doris in the UK, and on their next journey back from South America, in 1928, they also had another daughter Pamela, aged 1.  Doris appears to have married Anthony White in 1941, and Pamela to have married Peter Lewars in 1947.

So that seems to be what happened to Lionel Leigh Stooke, but it would be interesting to know why he changed his name, and why he only decided to register the change about 35-40 years later.

His sister Mildred is also quite interesting.

She seems to appear in the 1911 census as May Stooke aged 23. May was probably Mildred’s middle name, and the address and age are right — she was still living at 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, with a son Roy, aged 3, and a maid Elsie Hocking.

She also had fun with the census form, taking the mickey out of the bureaucrats. Under the “Marriage” column she wrote “Hope to be married shortly” — and she apparently was married a couple of months later. For the maid she wrote under marriage “Awaiting opportunity”, which the dour bureaucrats crossed out and replaced with “Single”.

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

Under Occupation she described herself as “Cook’s Mate”, and her young son Roy as “Guzzla”.

MayStooke2The last column was for Nationality under which she described all three as “Devonshire dumplings”.

The other branch of this family, of Sarah Stooke who married Charles Robert Parker, likewise seems to have got split up after the 1901 census, with the death of both parents.

There were three children, four, counting one who died young. They were:

  • Henry Charles Bannerman Parker (born about 1889)
  • Amelia Mary Parker and Edward Colston Parker (twins, born 1890, but Edward died the following year)
  • Edward James Stooke Parker (born 1891)

Edward James, the youngest, may have married Kate Jacobs.

This particular branch of the Stooke family — Mary Barber, Sarah and Thomas — were the children of Thomas Stooke (1815-1868) who was born in Chudleigh, Devon, and married Mary Harriet Hollins, daughter of Richard Hollins. Unlike the Stookes, we know very little of the antecedents of the Hollins family.

And if anyone out there is related to these Devonshire dumplings, please get in touch — we love discovering new cousins!

Update 27 Jan 2013

And now a descendant of the “Devonshire dumplings” has indeed got in touch, and we have been able to sort out their story a bit.

One of the things about the 1911 census entry that is a bit puzzling is that May Stooke describes herself as a “daughter”, and not as the head of the household, suggesting that she is the daughter of an absent father or mother, in which case Roy might have been her brother and not her son.

This has indeed proved to be the case. Mary Ann Stooke (born Johnson) died in 1902, and the widower Thomas Stooke married Jane Moore in about May 1905, and they had a son Leslie Roy Stooke in 1908, the “guzzla” of the 1911 census. Thomas and Jane Stooke were staying in a hotel in Blackpool, Lancashire at the time of the 1911 census, where both are described as having been born in “Barnstaple, Bristol” — the hotelier was probably a bit confused when he filled in the census form.

And while we haven’t yet managed to discover why Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel, it appears that his maternal grandfather’s name was John Rendle Johnson.

Where does Francis Joseph Hayes fit in?

Yesterday I discovered a Hayes relation I had not known about before; he is Francis Joseph Hayes, born about 1882.

Discovering hitherto unknown relations is not unknown in genealogical and family history research — that’s what it’s all about. But the difficulty is finding where this one fits in.

Francis Joseph Hayes appears on the 1911 English census, aged 29, staying with the Nobbs familyat 11 Ashchurch Park Villas, Hammersmith, London. Most of the male members of the family are gun makers, and he is too. He is shown as the nephew of the head of the household, 62-year-old Barbara Nobbs, widow. From other sources I know that she was Barbara Rachel Hayes, born in Bristol, England, and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Clifton, Bristol, on 15 July 1848.

name: Francis Joseph Hayes
event: Census
event date: 1911
gender: Male
age: 29
birthplace: Finsbury Park London N, London
record type: Household
registration district: Fulham
sub-district: North Hammersmith
parish: Hammersmith
county: London

Barbara Rachel Hayes married William Nobbs, gun maker, on 4 June 1870, and they had five children, Rosa, William, Wesley, Elijah and Chrisopher. By 1911 three of the five were dead: Rosa, William and Christopher all died in their 30s, apparently unmarried and leaving no descendants. At the 1911 census two of the five children were at home: Wesley, with his wife Florence and two children, and Elijah Thomas Nobbs, who was still single. And then the mysterious Francis Joseph Hayes, nephew.

Where did Francis Joseph come from?

Barbara Rachel Hayes was the eldest of eight children of Sander Hayes and Barbara Deake Clevely. She did have a nephew William Joseph Hayes, born in 1882, son of her brother Christopher Albert Hayes, but William Joseph Hayes died 18 months later, and his birth and death are recorded on a plaque in the Easton-in-Gordano cemetery. None of her other brothers had children born in the right time frame, and their children were all born in Bristol.

One brother, John Hayes, was in the right place at the right time. He married Maud Alice Rogers in Bristol in 1877, and they had two daughters, Maude and Adelaide, in 1878 and 1879 respectively, and they appear on the 1881 census living in London, where John was a builder. It is possible that they could have had a son in London in 1882. But in 1885 the family emigrated to the USA, where they show up in censuses for San Francisco — father, mother and two daughters — no Francis Joseph. Is it likely that they would have emigrated and left a three-year-old child behind?

Earlier censuses don’t seem to cast much light on the matter, so perhaps he was in America, and returned.

Perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and order the birth certificate for this one:

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page
Births Jun 1881   (>99%)
HAYES  Francis  Hackney  1b 509
HAYES  Francis Joseph  Islington  1b 452
HAYES  Francis William  Upton  6c 323

But if his parents are not known members of the family, then what?

Little by little

A couple of years ago we accepted a challenge by Randy Seaver to list ancestors in the maternal line, and Val’s list is as follows:

  1. Valerie Greene
  2. Dorothy Pearson (1823-1984) married Keith Dudley Vincent Greene
  3. Martha Ellwood (1885-1968) married William Walker Pearson
  4. Mary Carr (1847-1897) married Thomas Ellwood
  5. Isabella Little (1822-1895) married Ralph Carr
  6. Ann Akin married Edward Little — of Cumberland, England

And since then we’ve gone a generation further back, and discovered that Ann (or Nancy) Akin was probably the daughter of James and Margaret Aiken, and was probably born in Keswick, Cumberland around 1780.

When we started our family history research in 1974, just after we got married, we made our most rapid progress on the Pearson, Ellwood, Carr and Little sides of the family, because Val’s grandmother, Mattie Pearson, born Ellwood, had lived with them in Escombe, Natal, for twelve years after the death of her husband, and Val still had lots of her photos and press cuttings. Among the photos was this one:

Carr and Ellwood families, Whitehaven, Cumberland, 12 June 1874. Back: William Carr (14), Bessie Carr (17?), Ralph Carr (23), Thomas Carr (12), Thomas Ellwood. Front (sitting): Unknown, Isabella Carr (born Little, 52), Mary Ellwood (born Carr, 31); Isabella Carr Ellwood (sitting on lap, 1), John Ellwood (4), Ralph Carr Ellwood (3)

Bessie Carr may be the woman sitting in front on the left, in which case the woman standing behind her is the unknown one. Bessie’s full name was Elizabeth Renney Carr, and she married Tom Spedding in 1884, ten years after the picture was taken. We have a picture drawn by her daughter Nellie (Eleanor) Spedding:

The Empty Chair, by Nellie Spedding

Isabella Carr was the daughter of Edward and Ann Little, and was born in Mealsgate, near Bolton, Cumberland, in 1822. The trouble was that there was more than one Edward Little who had married an Ann. There was Edward Little who married Ann (or Nancy) Akin, and an Edward Vipond Little who had married an Ann Moffatt. We wrote to some of Val’s mother’s cousins in England to ask if they knew which one it was, and one of the cousins, Ralph Pearson, latched on to Edward Vipond Little, son of George Little and Hannah Vipond, and traced his ancestry back several generations. They were from the east of Cumberland, near the Westmorland border. Checking with descendants of Edward Vipond Little, who had gone to Australia, showed that that was a false trail, however. Isabella’s father was Edward Little, a blacksmith of Bolton, and Ann or Nancy Akin, and she was the youngest 0f five children that we have been able to find so far.

Isabella Little married Ralph Carr, a master mariner, whose father and grandfather were also named Ralph Carr, and also appear to have been mariners. On 4 May 1862 Ralph Carr died on board the schooner Hematite of Whitehaven during the passage to Oporto in Lat 43 2 N Long 9 4 W, in the 42nd year of his age, leaving the pregnant Isabella a widow. Their son Thomas Carr was born a month after his father’s death, on 4 June 1862 (he is in the picture above, aged 12).

Ralph Carr was buried at Corunna in Spain, on the west side of the harbour near to the grave of the celebrated General Sir John Moore who was killed during the retreat of the British Army to that place durimng the Napoleonic Wars. At school I had to learn a poem about the burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna:

We buried him darkly at the dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light,
And the lantern dimly burning.

But Ralph Carr was presumably buried in daylight.

After Ralph’s death Isabella supported herself and her children with her pawnbroking business, which was later taken over by her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Thomas Ellwood. Two of her sons, Ralph and William, also went into pawnbroking.

Since then we have added to our knowlege of the Little family, Little by Little, as it were. One of the tantalising clues was that in a couple of censuses there is an Edwin Little staying with the Carr family. In 1861 he was a ship’s carpenter’s apprentice, aged 18, and and in 1871 he was a ship’s carpenter, aged 28. What is not clear is who his parents were. He could have been an illegitimate son of one of Isabella’s sisters, or a son of her brother Edward. We have since discovered that he went to Victoria (Australia), where he married Elizabeth Allen, and they had a son, Edward Allen Little.

More recently, with many records coming online through FamilySearch and FreeBMD, we have been able to find more Little descendants.

Isabella’s eldest sister Sarah married John Brindle in Torpenhow, Cumberland, and had six children. We have managed to trace one or more generations of three of them, including a fairly sizeable Taggart family.

 

Tombstone Tuesday: Growdon, Queenstown, Eastern Cape

Having just written a blog post about my great grandfather, William Matthew Growdon (or Growden), it seems appropriate to include a closer view of his tombstone in Queenstown Cemetery.

William Matthew Growdon’s grave in Queenstown Cemetery, Eastern Cape

His wife Elizabeth Growdon (born Greenaway) died some 14 years later, and was buried next to him. She was born in St Breward, Cornwall. Her brother William Greenaway also came to South Africa.

Elizabeth Growdon, born Greenaway (1842-1927), Queenstown Cemetery

When we first visited the cemetery in 1975, we found the graves quite easily. We took black & white photos then. In 2011 we visited again, and had some difficulty in finding them. Memory seems to play strange tricks. We took a number of colour photos this time, and also noticed that several of the graves nearby had been vandalised. We took some photos to show the graves in relation to surrounding graves, to make them easier to find next time (if there is a next time).

Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011

 

 

William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

William Matthew Growdon (or Growden) was my great grandfather. Today my cousin Jenny Aitchison asked me for the story of his death, and I thought it might be more interesting to tell the story of his life — what little we know of it.

William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

His story can be briefly told: he was born in Cornwall in 1851, and emigrated to the Cape Colony about 1876, and lived in the Eastern Cape, working on the Cape Government Railways as a platelayer. He was later promoted to permananet way inspector, and when he retired from the railways he went farming in the Free State. He tired of that, and went to live in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, where he died a few months later after a cart accident in 1913.

But from various pieces of information from censuses and church records and the like, it is possible to expand the story a little.

He was born on 22 February 1851 at Scarlet’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, the son of Matthew Growden and Christiana Growden, formerly Pope, born Dyer. His father Matthew Growden was also born in Bodmin, the son of William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, and his mother Christiana was apparently born in the nearby town of Roche.

By the time the widow Christiana Pope married Matthew Growden she already had three children, so when young William Matthew Growden was born in 1851 he had four older siblings — his half-brother James Dyer, aged about 15, another half-brother Thomas Pope, aged about 13, a half-sister Philippa Pope, aged about 11, and a full sister, Elizabeth Ann Growden, aged 2. Only his sisters were at home when he was a baby, though, because when the 1851 Census was taken when he was a month old, his father and brothers were living at Constantine, Cornwall, where all three were listed as labourers. Constantine is about 50 km (30 miles) south-west of Bodmin.

Scarlett’s Well, where William Matthew Growden and his sister Elizabeth Ann were born, is an interesting place, a holy well  on the outskirts of Bodmin. The Holy Wells of Old Bodmin Town | The Heritage Journal:

Scarlett’s well, is another of Bodmin’s peaceful and secluded holy wells. A mineral rich healing well situated by the beginning of the Camel trail on the edge of town. The site is set back into an Ivy clad bank, where a spring gushes forth from the hillside and flows into a granite trough which holds the water briefly before it continues its flow towards the bubbling stream which meanders along the valley floor towards the larger River Camel and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. This site is very beautiful and peaceful. The well was once part of the Priory of Bodiniel and has many stories of healing and miracles associated with it. The well and its immediate vicinity is reputed to be haunted by a lady dressed in white. This ghost has been linked to Victorian times, but it is undoubtedly a much earlier ancient folkloric echo of the goddess of the sacred spring.

I’m a little sceptical of the “undoubtedlys” that are liberally sprinkled in such accounts, but since William Matthew Growden grew up there in Victorian times, I wonder if he ever saw the ghost, or witnessed the events that gave rise to it.

Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

But whether or not he ever saw a ghost, there are plenty of other things to see, and it must have been a marvellous place for a child to grow up, with woods, fields and streams to play in.

Footpath at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall

William Matthew Growden was baptised at St Petroc’s Church in Bodmin on 28 December 1851.

St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

The family was probably poor, and so I find it difficult to picture them living in this house as it is today, but it is the only house in the vicinity of Scarlett’s Well. Perhaps back in the 1850s it did not have so many additions, or perhaps they lived in another house nearby, now demolished.

House at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, in 2005

Matthew Growden’s occupation is shown on contemporary documents as “woodman”, which does not seem to have been lucrative or well paid. It could mean someone who cared for the woods, thinning trees, clearing away dead wood, repairing fences and stiles etc. Or it could be someone who simply scavenged dead wood for sale as fire wood and so on. If Matthew Growden was the former, it is possible that the cottage shown in the picture (in its original form) went with the job. If the latter, the family might have lived in a dwelling of the type found in what are today called “informal settlements”, and being a temporary structure, could easily have vanished or fallen into ruin after 150 years.

By the time of the 1861 census, when William Matthew Growden was 10 years old, the family was living at 3 Higher Bore Street, in Bodmin, which is not very far from Scarlett’s Well. Theirs would probably have been one of the whitewashed houses on the right of the picture, unless the street numbering hass changed drastically since then. He is shown as a scholar on the census, though it is not clear which school he attended. By that time he also had two younger brothers, Mark Dyer Growden  born in 1853 and Simeon Growden born in 1855. Simeon died at the age of 8 in Plymouth, Devon.

Higher Bore Street, Bodmin, where the Growden family was living at the time of the 1861 Census

On 2nd August 1868 William Matthew Growden married Elizabeth Greenaway, in the parish of St Breward. He was 17 years and 5 months old, and she was about nine years older than him, which makes her look, on the face of it, like a bit of a cradle snatcher. They lived at Limbhead (also called Limehead) down the hill from the centre of the village, and W.M. Growden is described on their marriage certificate as a labourer. Their banns were called in the 12th, 19th and 26th of July 1868. His mother, Christiana Growden, died a month after they were married

We can only speculate about what took W.M. Growden to St Breward. Possibly he worked for, or was apprenticed to, a stone mason, as stone working was one of the industries St Breward was known for. In later life his occupation was sometimes listed as “stonemason”.

Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when they married, and their first child, Christiana, was born about November 1868, named after William Matthew’s mother who had died a couple of months previously. Christiana was baptised on 26th August 1869, and died a few weeks later. She was buried on 16th September 1869 in St Breward. Her name was listed in the baptism register as Growdon with the “o” spelling rather than Growden with the “e” spelling, and thereafter William Matthew Growdon, his children and his grandchildren used the Growdon spelling.

Soon after Christiana’s death William Matthew and Elizabeth moved to Bodmin, where they were living at the time of the 1871 census with their 9-month-old-daughter Melinda Francis. William Matthew Growden (the Growden spelling was still used on the census) was shown as a general labourer.

In about February 1872 another child, Richard Matthew Growden (known as Dick), was born in Bodmin, and on 28 July 1873 William George Growdon (known as George, and with the Growdon spelling) was born at Penpillick, near Tywardreath. William Matthew Growdon is shown on George’s birth certificate as a tin miner.

The family’s stay in Penpillick did not last long, however, because by 1875 they were back at St Breward, where another son, Mark Dyer Growdon, was born about February 1875. He was baptised in St Breward on 27 Jun 1876, and died a few days later. It seems that the Growdons only had their children baptised when they were in danger of death. But the next child, Simeon Growdon, born on 12 May 1876 in St Breward, was baptised on 27 June at the same time as his ill-fated brother Mark.

Some time between the middle of 1876 and the middle of 1878 the Growdon family moved to the Cape Colony, where railway lines were being built from the costal ports inland. In 1870 there were only two railways in the Cape Colony, one from Cape Town to Wellington, and another to Wynberg, built and owned by private companies. In 1872 the Cape Government bought the railways, and a railway boom developed, wilth lines going inland from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London, all aiming to connect to Kimberley, the diamond boom town.

William Matthew Growden was a platelayer, building the new lines. By 1877 the railway line from East London had reached King William’s Town, and James  (Jim) Growdon was born there about 1878. Joseph (Joe) Growdon was born in Cathcart on 3 December 1879.

In 5 May 1880 the railway reached Queenstown, and Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon was born somewhere along the line on 12 January 1882, possibly at Cathcart, because her younger sister Florence Growdon was born in Cathcart on 12 September 1883. In 1888 the Anglican priest from Queenstown discovered the Growdon family living at Bushmanshoek, and on 14 April 1888 the South African-born Growdon children were all baptised on the same day. On 2 September 1885 the East London line reached the Orange River at Aliwal North.

On 22 September 1890 William Matthew Growdon’s eldest surviving daughter, Melinda Frances, married John Ainscough, a well-sinker for the railways,  at Springfontein in the Free State.

At Springfontein, across the Orange River in the Free State, the East London railway line joined with those from Port Elizabeth and Cape Town on one side, and Bloemfontein on the other. On 2 November 1899, a month after the start of the Anglo-Boer War, William Matthew Growdon was transferred to Springfontein on account of the resignation of Permanent Way Inspector W. Blair. Blair may have resigned because of the war, and it would be interesting to know what WMG did in Springfontein in war time, when it was unlikely that there would be a great deal of cross-border traffic. Possibly there were attempts on the part of one side or the other to blow up parts of the railway line, which would require repairs that a permanent-way inspector would supervise, but we don’t know. At that time Springfontein was simply a railway junction in the middle of nowhere, probably with few inhabitants other than railway employees. Free State forces had crossed the Orange River into the Cape Colony at about this time, but by February 1900 the British had pushed them back and were advancing on Bloemfontein, In May 1900 the British announced the annexation of the Free State as the Orange River Colony, though it would be another two years before they had undisputed control of it. Later in the war, in January 1901, a concentration camp was established by the British at Springfontein, in which over 700 women and children died.

Melinda Francis Ainscough and her husband had nine children, several of whom died young. At least two of them, Alice and George Ainscough, were born at Springfontein during the Anglo-Boer War, and George died at the age of two weeks, perhaps of the same disease that caused the death of so many children in the concentration camp nearby. On 29 May 1903 Melinda Frances Ainscough herself died, and the surviving children were brought up by their grandparents, William Matthew and Elizabeth Growden.

In 1904 a town was established at Springfontein. William Matthew Growdon bought a farm in the area, Mooiplaats, on 4 January 1904. He must have retired from the railways soon afterwards, because he received a pension of £36/4/2 which, according to the resident magistrate at Bethulie, he drew up to and including 31 March 1908, but at no later date.

In April 1913 the Growdons moved to Queenstown, and William Matthew Growdon died four months later in a cart accident. He had taken Mrs Berry and Mrs White on a drive to see the Bongolo Dam, on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 August 1913, and on their return the horse bolted, and the spider overturned, and the occupants were dragged for about 50 yards. They were taken to the nearby Bongolo Tea Room, where he died the following afternoon. Here is a contemporary newspaper account:

FATAL CART ACCIDENT: MR GROWDEN SUCCUMBS

A serious carriage accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon last near the Bongolo Dam as a result of which Mr. W. Growden, the driver and owner of the vehicle, received such serious injuries that he succumbed on Wednesday evening. From what one can gather, it appears that Mr. Growden, who resides at the corner of Batchelor and Berry Streets, took out to the Bongolo Mrs S.J. Berry of Milner Street, and Mrs. Geo. White, a lady friend from Port Elizabeth, who has been spending a holiday in town (and who was due to leave for home the following morning.) Having viewed the dam the return journey was commenced. The horse, which was very frisky, set off at a brisk trot down the hill, and when passing through a drove of cattle evidently took fright, and becoming unmanageable, ran the spider into the side of the hill, violently overturning it and burying the unfortunate occupants beneath the smashed vehicle, under which they were dragged some 50 yards, till the horse broke its traces. No one, it seems, saw the accident occur, and  the injured ladies say that it all happened so quickly that it is hardly possible to say how it all occurred. Mr. Myburg, who was working in the field near by,  saw a cloud of dust and a horse careering down the road, having freed itself from the vehicle. When he arrived upon the scene the Port Elizabeth lady, though injured in the hand and shoulder, was endeavouring to lift the broken spider off her less fortunate companions, who lay stunned and bleeding beneath. They were taken as speedily as possible to the Tea Rooms, and a telephone message was sent to Dr Clark and the S.A.P. who were soon on the spot and gave all the aid that was possible. It was found that Mrs. Berry was badly cut about the head and face, and her ankle was sprained. Mrs White received injuries to her left shoulder and arm, and her right thumb was sprained. In Mr. Growden’s case it was seen that the injuries were the most serious of all. The skull was badly cut nearly half  way wound, and  the poor old man never regaind consciousness for any length of time. Add to this his age (72 years) and one can hardly wonder that the shock was too much.

The injuries were so serious that it was deemed advisable to keep the patients  at the Tea Rooms for the night, where every attention was given them by Mr. and Mrs. Myburg and many willing helpers. Corpl. Avery, of the S.A.M.P., rendered yeoman service in dressing the wounds of the injured, remaining with them all night, and saw to the safe removal into town the following day of Mrs. Berry and Mrs. White For this purpose Mr Bremmer kindly placed his motor car at their disposal. It was deemed inadvisable to move Mr Growden who, as stated above, died at Bongolo the same evening.

The ladies, we hear, are progressing favourably towards recovery.

Mr Growden was at one time on the C.G.R., and afterwards he went farming in the Free State, There he remained until four months ago, when he returned and took up his residence in Queenstown. He was an old Freemason and will be buried with Masonic honours on Saturday ar four o’clock. To his sorrowing wife and family we offer our sincere sympathy.

Like many journalistic accounts, there are some in accuracies. WMG was 62 years old, not 72 as stated in the article. After his death, the family gathered for his funeral at Queenstown.

The Growdon family (and a few friends) gathered for the funeral in Queenstown

Elizabeth lived for another 14 years, and was buried next to William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown Cemetery. Her tombstone lies too, because it says she was 87 when she died (which would have made her 15 years older than her husband), but if her birth certificate is to be believed, she would have been 84, having been born at St Teath, Cornwall, in 1842. My mother, Ella Hayes (second from the left in the front row of the photo above) did not have fond memories of her grandmother, and said she was a fierce termagant. According to my second cousin Violet McDonald, the Aiscough children (of whom her mother was one), who were brought up by Elizabeth after their mother died, had similar memories.

 

Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011

If you have any more stories about William Matthew Growdon and his family, please add them in a comment below, or better still, add them here.

The Stewardson and other families of Namibia

We have recently solved a number of puzzles relating to our Stewardson family in Namibia.

Val’s great great grandmother was Kate Stewardson (1848-1898), or Catherine Anne Agnes Stewardson, to give her her full names. She married Fred Green at Otjimbingwe in 1865, and after he died in 1876, she married George Robb. She gave birth to 16 children, only five of whom lived till adulthood, most of them dying in infancy, and one as a teenager. As Fred Green wrote to his friend and business partner, Charles John Andersson, if the children got sick as they travelled around in the bush by ox wagon, there was nothing one could do. There were no doctors, no nurses, no hospitals. He wrote of how helpless he felt, knowing that there was nothing he could do except hope that they recovered, as they sometimes did, or, in most cases, didn’t.

Anderson might not have sympathised, as he had opposed Fred Green’s marriage to Kate, and thought it a bad match, though he never said exactly why. One can, however, speculate. Kate was Fred’s second wife, and she was  20 years younger than him. He was nearly 36 and she was 16 when they were married. His first wife was a Herero princess, Betsey Kaipukire Sarah ua Kandendu, and it is not clear what happened to her. Did she die, or did he abandon her for someone younger and prettier? At any rate their daughter Ada Maria Green was only two years old at the time of his second marriage. Nevertheless, as Andersson wrote in his diary on the day of the wedding, “the thing is done”.  There is more about Fred Green on our family wiki page here.

When we began researching the family history, and got back on the Green side as far as Fred and Kate, were stuck. One of the most informative sources was a book by Edward C. Tabler, Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland, 1738-1880 which is a series of potted biographies of adult male foreigners who were in Namibia before it became a German colony in the 1880s. Women and children are only mentioned in passing. Tabler culled his information from other published sources, and collected it together conveniently in one place, so it is a very useful book. But the names of Kate’s parents are not mentioned anywhere. Her father is “Stewardson the elder” whose three sons, William Charles and James, Tabler refers to as “a bad lot”, the youngest brother, James, being “a bit of a scoundrel”. They were hunters and traders around Omaruru in the mid 1870s, and that’s all we know. His wife was “a daughter of one of the Morrises” — and he mentions two Morrises, Thomas Morris the elder, and Thomas Morris the younger, who, according to Tabler, was a nephew of the elder.

C.H. Hahn, a German missionary at Otjimbingue, mentioned in his diary the arrival of Stewardson with his brother-in-law Morris, the Wesleyan trader, with whom he lived in fierce enmity.

So all we knew was that a nameless Stewardson had married a nameless Morris, who had a brother Thomas, who took over his uncle’s business.

In 2003 we went to Cape Town on holiday and found a document about the Morris, Huskisson and Titterton families, which said that the Morris who did business in Damaraland was a James Morris, and from other sources as well it appears that this James Morris was indeed the brother-in-law with whom the elder Stewardson lived in deep enmity. And perhaps that enmity explains why James Morris’s sister Frances, who married Frank Stewardson, does not appear anywhere in that rather long and detailed document.

And then we found, in a Methodist Church register from Cape Town, the baptism of Elizabeth Stewardson, daughter of Francis and Frances Stewardson, so at last we had a name for the elder Stewardson, who was apparently also known as Frank.

In addition to their three sons, the Stewardsons had four daughters: Elizabeth, Frances (or Fanny), Catherine (or Kate) and Charlotte. And they all married traders who plied the route between Omaruru and Walvis Bay. Elizabeth married Oskar Theodor Lindholm, from Sweden. Fanny married Axel Eriksson, also from Sweden. Kate, as we have seen, married Fred Green (who was from Canada) while Charlotte Caroline Stewardson married John Gunning of Walvis Bay (and just to confuse things, one of their daughters married a John Harold Green, who was unrelated to Fred Green). And one of the Lindholm daughters married another of the traders, Charles (or Carl) Reinhold Carlsson.

We have information on several of their descendants, so if you think you might be related, please get in touch.

And there’s more.

Twent years ago Val also found, in the Windhoek archives, an Emily Jacoba Stewardson who married a Jacob Dennewill, an Alsatian.

Where did she fit in? Was there a fifth Stewardson daughter?

Dennewill grave in Omaruru Cemetery

We left her unattached, and earlier this week things fell into place. A cousin of one of the Eriksson descendants put us in touch with Naomi McFadden who hasd been recording the Omaruru cemetery. We did have a record, also found in the Cape Town archives, of a rather messy divorce between Axel Wilhelm Eriksson and Fanny Stewardson. She had taken the children to Cape Town because there was a war on in Damaraland, and while there had an affair with the lodger, one Clement Stephen Stonier. So when Axel came to Cape Town and realised that young Emily could not be his, he divorced Fanny. And so Emily who married Jacob Dennewill was the daughter of C.S. Stonier and Fanny Stewardson.

Fanny went back to Omaruru, and had a couple more daughters by the Herero cook, whose name is only recorded as Johnathon. One of the daughters died young, but the other may also have descendants somewhere.

And one of Axel Wilhelm Eriksson’s sons, Andrew or Andreas, went to Sweden, changed his surname to Waerneman, and became a priest. No wonder we couldn’t find him.

But many thanks to Naomi McFadden of Omaruru, Bo Lindquist, and Peter Johansson of the Vänersborg Museum, who helped us to find missing links, fill in some gaps, and gave us the clues we needed to make further links.

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