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Twiggs Family Topics

© David Hallam - 2019

The Twiggs/Thornhill Families - After tragedy, New Lives in America

We have seen how. prior to her marriage to William Twiggs, Mary Bywater had lived at 14 Arthur Place, Nottingham with her older sister, Elizabeth and her husband Frederick Thornhill. Frederick, born in Beeston in 1846, the son of Richard & Eliza (née Reynolds). As such he was part of the wider Thornhill family of early lace makers and part of the local Baptist community that lived in and around Villa Street, Beeston in the first half of the 19th century. William Thornhill (1809-1876), the well known Beeston tailor, was his half-uncle 1.

Frederick Thornhill had married Elizabeth Bywater at Beeston Parish Church on 19 November 1867. At that time, he was working for the Midland Railway and therefor their home at Arthur Place and their home at 14 Arthur Place, near to the railway station in Nottingham, would have been convenient for his work. However, by 1874 however, Frederick had decided to move back into the lace trade and moved to Long Eaton, just beyond Beeston over the Derbyshire border where he was able to find work as a twist hand. It was there, in December 1874 that the couple's fourth child was born 2. Certainly by 1876, with another child on the way, things were looking good for the family when, from nowhere, tragedy struck. Frederick was a keen and very able cricketer and, on Saturday 22 July 1876 he took part in a match in Stapleford, as a member of the local team. Late in the evening, having missed the last train back to his home in Long Eaton, the 30-year-old set out to walk along the tracks. Somewhere, in the Toton area, in the early hours of Sunday morning, he was hit by a goods train and killed outright. At an inquest the next day, a verdict of Accidental Death was recorded 3.

It was, of course, life changing for both his wife and his four children - as well as their fifth who was born in the following October 4. The proceeds of a benefit match, played by his club later that month 5 was a help of course, but the future of the family, now without a breadwinner was truly daunting. But, she could depend on the family network for help where they could and, accordingly, their second daughter, four-year-old Mary Ann moved to live with her Aunt Mary Bywater and William and Mary Ann's family at Union Street, Beeston 6. She was to remain close to the Twiggs family for the rest of her life. No doubt other help was forthcoming for Elizabeth and her family but nevertheless it is not surprising that, by 1879, she had found a new partner, lace maker Thomas Wardle with whom she had a further three children. They married in October 1881 after their two daughters, Nellie and Gertrude, were born in 1879 and early in 1881 and Ernest, their son followed early in 1882 7. Once more, Elizabeth seemed to have a secure future but it was not to last. She died towards the end of 1883. in Long Eaton, aged 37 8.

Once again, her children, particularly the five from her first marriage, were changed forever. They were now orphans and, particularly after Thomas Wardle found a new partner 9, it was necessary for the wider family provide or find alternative support. Their future was inevitable linked to the Twiggs family and, for three of them at least, their future was to be in America. Our story now tracks each of them in some detail :
Elizabeth Thornhill - was born in Beeston towards the end of 1868 10 and was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 15 November 1868. As a child she lived with her mother and father until his father's death in 1876 and then with her mother and step-father. She was aged 15 when her mother died and, although we have no definite evidence, it is likely that she was placed in a household as a domestic servant. No evidence of a marriage or her death has been found.

Mary Ann Thornhill - was born in Nottingham on 9 February 1872 and baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 10 March 1872. She was aged about four when her father died and she was sent to live with Thornhill relatives in Beeston until about 1877 when she began to live with her uncle and aunt, William & Mary Ann Twiggs, in Union Street, Beeston She did not return to her mother's house after she remarried but stayed close to the Twiggs for the rest of her life, sometimes working as a lace mender. In 1893 Mary Ann married Leonard Hudston 11, the son of John and Catherine (née Lomas) Hudston, who was born in Beeston in January 1869. Both families were active in the Wesleyan church in Beeston so, undoubtedly it was there that they met. As a lace maker, it is very likely that Leonard worked for his father who traded as a lace manufacturer, from premises in Neville's Factory, in Chilwell. Before 1903, the business had been a partnership between John Hudston and his brother-in-law, James Lomas but John became the sole proprietor when Lomas retired and was bought out. However, in the years up to 1914, trading conditions became difficult and despite attempts to improve efficiency by replacing its old machines with modern ones - albeit on credit - the firm went into receivership in April 1914 with debts of over £1,800 12. Fortunately, it seems, Leonard was not financially involved and would have been able to move to other employment.

Leonard and Mary Ann were to have no children but lived out their lives in Beeston, never out of the Twiggs family circle, living at various address, including 8 Chilwell Road in 1905, 28 Collington Street in 1911 and 1 Wollaton Crescent in 1930 13. Leonard died in September 1939, aged 70 14, and Mary Ann went to live for a while with her Twiggs cousins before moving to 15 Broughton Street where she was living at the time of her death in December 1948, aged 76 15.

Frederick Thornhill - was born in Nottingham on 28 December 1872 and baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 2 February 1873. As a child he lived with his mother and father until his father's death in 1876 and then with her mother and step-father. Aged only 11 when his mother died in 1883, he was taken in by Edward & Emma Bywater who lived in Beeston at 39 Regent Street. Edward Bywater was a machine fitter, probably in the lace trade and it might have been expected that others in the family would follow. But, in the event only Enoch, his second son, was apprenticed in that trade, and even then not for long and he was to take his family to live in the Liverpool family, went to sea for over 12 years and then moved to Australia. Other family members moved into the licensed trade - and later generations became well known in that field in Beeston. Frederick was to be no exception to the diversity within the family as, by 1891, he was working as a butcher while continuing to lodge with the Bywaters at their Regent Street home 17.

However, Frederick's life was to change completely after he left for America in March 1895, on the Majestic, out of Queenstown, Ireland, arriving at New York on the 21st. He declared that he was a butcher by trade and that he was traveling to Connecticut 18. The timing and destination were particularly significant as it was in Tarriffville, a district of Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut, in 1891, that Frank Wilkinson - then Beeston's biggest lace entrepreneur - acquired a building, previously occupied by the Hartford Silk Company, to set up a lace making factory. This was to counter the effects of the McKinley Tariff Act, introduced to protect US manufacturing but a substantial threat to Wilkinson's substantial US market. In a relatively short time, Wilkinson had sent out a management team and a group of his lace operatives to train the local workforce 19. It seems likely that news of the potential opportunities for Beeston lace trade workers would have filtered back and some would have decided to take the chance. it is very likely that Frederick would have known some of those that had made the move and had their encouragement and assistance to make the move. Although there is no evidence that Frederick had experience in the trade - and, as we saw, he traveled there as a butcher - any skills he did have appear to have been enough for him to find a job there as a 'warper' 20. In fact the mill had taken some time to get into full production and then seemed to struggle against the competition - despite the best efforts of Wilkinson's British manager, Frederick Jones, but not helped by Wilkinson's financial problems and his death in 1897. It received a new impetus after Jones took over ownership of the mill in 1898 but it eventually closed for lace making in 1910 when Jones started a new venture at the premises, Tarriffville Oxygen and Chemical Company.

By June 1900, Frederick had married another English emigrant, Elizabeth Ann Palmer 21 and they set up home, first in Simsbury - from where Frederick was naturalized in September 1900 - but then in Kingston, Ulster County, New York where Frederick had found work at another lace mill. It was there that their first child, Florence Emily Thornhill, was born on 11 January 1904. But, their happiness was shattered on 12 May 1905 when Elizabeth died giving birth to their second child, Bessie who nevertheless survived 22. Just over a year later, on 1 September 1906, Frederick married Bertha A Hewke (née Reynolds, the widow of James L Hewke, who had a son and two daughters by her first marriage 23. They were to have no children of their own.

Valley Falls By 1915, Frederick and his family had moved to 16 Lafayette Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island 24 from where he had found work at lace manufacturer that operated in the prominent Valley Falls Mills building on Broad Street in nearby Central Falls (see right). Around this time, Frederick and his family welcomed George Albert Jowett, a lace maker, into their home as a boarder. It appears likely that George was related in some way to Frederick's step-father and was yet another lace maker from the Nottingham area, encouraged to make the move to the New World. He went on to marry, raise a family and continue in the lace trade in America.

By 1920, Frederick and his family had moved on again, this time to Brooklyn, New York City where, for a short while he worked in a silk mill 25. But, at some point, before 1930, the took a farm in Saugerties, Ulster County, New York 26. This was the time of the Depression and operating as a self-employed farmer must have been difficult but, nevertheless, they appear to have come through it well as they were still there in 1940 27. During this time, Frederick's daughter, Bessie Thornhill, married Albert J Mason. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born in about 1933 but, sadly, in an echo of the circumstances of her own birth, Bessie died on 29 February 1938, following the birth of their second child, Frederick Albert Mason. Albert Mason went on to marry Bessie's older sister, Florence Emily Thornhill. Their first child, Gerald Allen Mason, was born in 1940 but, sadly, died as an infant in the same year. A daughter, Jeanne, is believed to have followed 28.

Bertha Thornhill died in 1944, aged 77, at their home at Lake Katrine, north of Kingston, and was buried with her first husband in Wiltwyck Cemetery, Kingston, New York where a memorial survives. Frederick died on 14 August 1962 and was buried with his first wife, also in Wiltwyck Cemetery. The shared epitaph on the surviving memorial reads "Born in England - Lived & Loved in America" 29.

Annie Maria Thornhill - was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire in December 1874 30 and was therefore aged nine when her mother died in December 1883. Remarkably, when she was only ten years of age, Annie Maria was placed with Alfred and Jane Bell who were then keeping the Lord Nelson public house on Mitchell Street, Radford, Nottingham. Annie Marie stayed there for about three years, during which time she was required to assist with the household chores including - as she remembered almost sixty years later - regularly navigating 42 steps into the cellar to fetch beer balm for customers 31. After that, she worked as a domestic servant, including some time in the household of Joe and Alice Ellis at Ireton Villas. Station Road, Beeston 32.

By 1896, however, news would have got back from her brother Frederick that he was now well established in America and she would also have heard similar stories about others in the lace trade from the Beeston area who were involved with Frank Wilkinson's American lace factory venture in the Simsbury, Hartford, Connecticut area. No doubt with her brother's encouragement, Maria was ready to take her chance in the New World. And, so it was that, on 1 August 1896, Annie Marie, aged 21, arrived in New York, from Liverpool, on the Etruria 33. Within days, her arrival in Hartford County was even announced in the local newspaper, The Hartford Courant, and she soon found employment as a cook in the household of Lemuel Stoughton Ellsworth. It was to become a significant connection in her life.

In 1866, Ellsworth had married Anne Jane Toy, the daughter of Joseph Toy, a bookkeeper and Methodist lay preacher, in 1839, had been sent out from England to represent the interests of Bickford Smith & Davey, his employer, in its American-based venture in Simsbury. In 1831, the company's founder had invented the safety fuse which had contributed greatly to safety in mines. A partnership with a Connecticut man, Richard Bacon, had followed in 1836 but the English partners became dissatisfied with its record keeping. Toy immediately used his bookkeeping skills to set up the books and to report regularly to the owners. As a Methodist lay preacher, he also set a high moral tone within the firm. By 1851, the partnership with Bacon was dissolved and Toy was now in full charge such that he looked to his family for future continuity. When his son died through illness during the Civil War, he turned to his sons-in-law - including Lemuel Stoughton Ellsworth who, despite his initial lack of experience, soon proved himself when he was tasked with setting up a satellite facility in California. Eventually, after Toy's death in 1887, Ellsworth, with Toys's stepson, were in joint control of the Simsbury-based company 34. So, by 1896, when Annie Maria arrived, she found herself serving one of the most prominent households in Simsbury.

But, it seems that contact with the Beeston family network had been maintained and after four years, in July 1901, she returned to Beeston to marry William Edward Twiggs on 28 June 1902 35.

It wasn't until 1907 that the couple had their own first child - William Edward - born in Beeston but sadly dying there, only about six months later 36. However, before that, they had adopted a daughter Evelyn Alice Sumner, born to a mother in Manchester in December 1903, who had given her up for adoption 37. She was later to take on the name Twiggs and stayed close to her adoptive parents for the rest of her life.

In April 1909, they left for America to settle in Simsbury where Annie Maria still had her contacts - not least the Ellsworth family. For some reason, they traveled separately with William Edward arriving on the Baltic, out of Liverpool on the 18th 1909 after his wife and their adopted daughter had arrived there on the Arabic, two days earlier 38.

Annie and William with family In the first year at least, William found work doing odd-jobs 39, probably helped by Annie's connections with the Ellsworth family and, in June 1915, their son John Thornhill Twiggs was born 40 - almost certainly a surprise and a delight at that stage of their marriage. John is shown right, with his parents and Evelyn, probably early in 1917. William and his family became American citizens in 1918 41. By 1920, the Ellsworth connection was certainly in evidence as, by then, William was employed as a 'caretaker' for a private house - almost certainly that of Annie Ellsworth who lived very close by and was now a widow, following her husband's death in 1917 42. It seems that William was working in that role in the American sense, that is he was managing and caring for his employer's property. By 1930, Mrs Ellsworth having passed away in 1923, William was employed in a similar role for other wealthy Simsbury residents 43. Some records record his occupation as 'chauffeur' so it is likely that was a role that was included in his job description.

William's father died in 1925 and, in 1927, William decided to travel to England to visit his mother and the wider family in Beeston. He arrived at London on 19 June, out of New York on the SS American Shipper and arrived back in New York on 18 July. Although, it seems, it was to be the last time that he was able to visit England 44, they were to continue to stay closely in touch until their respective deaths.

William Edward died on 1 April 1949, aged 73, in Simsbury and is buried in Hop Meadow Cemetery there. Happily, his widow was able to make a last visit to Beeston, sailing from New York on 28 July 1949 to Southampton on the Mauritania and returning three months later on 29 October. She died on 6 April 1951, aged 76, in Hartford, Connecticut and was buried with her husband in Hop Meadow Cemetery, where a memorial survives. Evelyn, their adopted daughter married a Scotsman, Bennett Pringle, in about 1923. By 1930, they were living in Fairfield, Connecticut where Bennett worked as a superintendent in an electrical factory 46. They had one son 47. Bennett died in 1987, aged 88 followed by Evelyn in 1991, also aged 88 48. William and Annie's son John Thornhill Twiggs was employed as a electrical maintenance worker with a safety fuse manufacturer in 1940 49 and then moved to work in a similar role with the Hartford Empire Company, a manufacturer of glass making machinery 50. In 1941 he married Bertha McCormick (née Frechette) 51. In 1943 he enlisted and served as a Technical Sergeant with US Army Air Forces during World War 2 52. Later in his life he retired to Florida where, after Bertha's death in 1984. he married Cora Mae Freehan 53. He died in May 2009, aged 94 and is buried, with his wife Bertha, in Simsbury Cemetery, where their memorial servives 54.

Emily Thornhill - was the youngest of the five orphaned Thornhill siblings, having been born on 4 October 1876 55, just over two months after her father had been accidentally killed. By 1891 she was working as a domestic servant, although in around April she was able to take time off to stay with her sister Annie Maria who was, at the time, a servant at Ireton Villas, near the station in Beeston 56. As we have seen, in 1896, Annie had moved to America in 1896 and had found an excellent position as cook in the Ellsworth household in Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut. No doubt encouraged by her sister's success, she sailed out of Liverpool on 3 July 1897, on the Campania, arrived in New York on 10th July and traveled on to Simsbury 57. She was to stay in Hartford County for the rest of her life, remained unmarried and, it seems, never made a visit back to England.

Emily Thornhill Her first position is a demonstration of the network that undoubtedly existed amongst the Beeston lace makers who had originally been sent out to provide the core workforce at Wilinson's American mill in Tariffville, Hartford County in 1891. Her employer was Frederick Jones, who had been Wilkinson's manager in the enterprise and previously his manager at the Beeston factory. His wife Henrietta was the daughter of the Beeston farmer, Francis Burrows. In 1898, after Wilkinson had withdrawn from America, Jones had taken over the mill and was trading there as the Tariffville Lace Company. In 1900, he and his wife were living in Simsbury with Emily their servant 58. By 1910 however, Emily had found the courage to set up on her own providing a laundry service for private homes in the area 59. As a futher indication of the breadth of the network that clearly existed amongst the local English immigrants, her partner in this enterprise was another English woman, Louise Newing, who had been working in the Ellsworth household, with Annie Thornhill, ten years earlier. However, it wasn't long before Emily returned to the perhaps relative security of working as a housekeeper and this life was to continue, sometimes as housekeeper, sometimes as cook, for the remainder of her working life 60.

In July 1932, some 35 years after her arrival, Emily became a Naturalized American Citizen 61. The photograph her, shown right, is from the Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. At that time she was working as a cook in the household of William and Sarah Moodie at 139 Buckingham Street, Hartford. Sarah Moodie witnessed the Petition for Citizenship.

Emily died in Hartford on 28 January 1946, aged 70, and is buried in Simsbury Cemetery (Hop Meadow) where a memorial survives 62.

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We are extremely grateful to Christine Smedley who kindly made her Twiggs family album and other family information available
to help to tell and illustrate this story.

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