Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why they came to America - James Richman of Wiltshire, England

An example of a "vanity book" entry about one of my ancestors is this biography of James Richmond, provided in the book "Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties," Chicago IL, J.H. Beers & Company, 1903. The specific article was titled Arthur Lucius Fitts, but it included the biography of James Richmond, who was the father of Emma Richmond, wife of Arthur Fitts.


The Richmond portion of the article reads:

"James Richmond, father of Mrs. Fitts, was born in Hilperton, Wiltshire, England April 8, 1821, a son of John and Ann (Marshman) Richmond. John Richmond was a farmer and laborer, and lived in Hilperton where both he and his wife died. His children were as follows: Elizabeth, the deceased wife of Thomas Hogan, a soldier in the English Army and a resident of Hilperton, England; Sarah, the deceased wife of James Thompson, of Hilperton; John, a seafaring man who married Maria Matthews, and died in Hilperton; Ann, the widow of John Hall, and resident of Hilperton; James and Thomas, who was a twin and died at the age of twenty one.

"James Richmond was reared to the hard and unsatisfactory work of farming on a small scale, and his youth afforded scant opportunity for educational training. Nevertheless, he possessed a keen desire for knowledge, and improved such chances as came his way, by observation and reading. His first intimacy with books was acquired at Sunday School, and his alphabet was learned from a copy made by a friend. At the present time he is an unusually well informed and intelligent man, no opportunity having escaped him to add to his store of useful and interesting information. As a young man he found employment for a short time in Cardiff, Wales, but barring this limited experience, he lived on the home farm until his marriage. For the first ten years thereafter he kept house in Hilperton, and from his wages as a laborer managed to save. In 1855 he boarded a sailing vessel at Liverpool, and upon arriving in New York went directly to his destination in Pascoag, R.I. where he had friends to welcome him. He was accompanied by his wife's brother, Samuel Rich, and they landed in New York October 21, 1855, after a month's voyage. Mr. Richmond had very little money in his pocket, but his hopes were high, and he soon found work in a woolen mill in Pascoag, where he saved his wages, and made considerable headway. On November 12, 1856, he was joined by his wife and five children, they having been on the ocean for six weeks and two days.

"For about ten years Mr. Richmond was employed in Burrillville, and in March 1866, he began work in the woolen mill of Michael Moriarty at Putnam, Conn. where he remained until 1870 as manager of the engine. The LaFayette Reynolds woolen mills at Windsor, conn. employed his services as engineer until the destruction of the plant and the following year he returned to Putnam, where he purchased his present farm from Nathaniel Battey. He is engaged in general farming, in which he has achieved success. Mr. Richmond is respected by all who know him, and he is regarded as a substantial member of the agricultural community of Putnam.

"While living in his native town of Hilperton, England, Mr. Richmond married, Sept. 7, 1845, Hannah Rich, born April 14, 1825, a daughter of John and Rebecca (Hill) Rich. Of this union there have been born nine children: Thomas, a boss carder of Elmville, Conn., who married Juliette White; James, a boss designer in the woolen mill in Stroudsburg, Pa., who married Sarah Bigwood; Ann, deceased in infancy; Louise, unmarried and living with her father; Elizabeth Ann, wife of Abram Sykes of Putnam; Emma now Mrs. Fitts; Hannah Rebecca, married first to Frank N. Smith and afterward to Edmund A. Hoyle, and now a widow residing at Worcester, Mass.; John Henry, who married Mary Ann Ramsey, is a farmer managing his father's farm; and Charles Edward, an expert mechanic of Hartford, who married Lavinia Gurten.

"James Richmond, above mentioned, is an expert in his line, as is evidenced by the fact that he had charge of the famous feat of making a suit of clothes in six hours and four minutes. In the hands of a tailor supplied with materials this might not seem an impossible undertaking, but in this instance the wool was taken from the back of the sheep and placed on the back of the wearer in the shape of a finished suit, within the specified time of six hours and two minutes."


While visiting Hilperton in Wiltshire in 1993, I talked to the elderly vestryman of the Hilperton church, Mr. Potts. He recalled that he had searched for information on James Richman for another researcher -- Chester and Barbara Richmond of Washington state. He reviewed his information from the church vestry chest (apparently a record book about church members), and told me that "James Richman had been accused of stealing coal on the Avon and Kennett Canal, but was found innocent of the crime. However, he felt his reputation was besmirched, and left Hilperton for America."

James Richman was my great-great-grandfather, and he and his family are my "last immigrants." His story is one of the most complete I've ever found, and all of the family relations in the article are accurate as best I can tell. It is also one of the most interesting I've found for my ancestral families.

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