John Wrightson, of Scotland, has done a lot of work pulling together the various Wrightson clans around the world. Many, if not most, have their origins in Yorkshire, England. Visit John's site for links to the various Wrightson's clans.
A genealogical DNA project is underway for the Wrightson's. You can participate. Find out how ... now!
The first known domicile of my branch of the Wrightson's was Beverley, Yorkshire, England with a final immigration to California in the USA. The journey was not direct however. Thomas Wrightson, who was christened on January 5, 1755, at St. John And St. Martin in Beverley, Yorkshire, migrated down to Dover, Kent. There he married Lucy Perkins on December 13, 1784 at St. James Parish. The pricipal occupation of the Wrightson's in Dover revolved around the sea. Looking at the birth, marriage and death certificates, their occupations are listed as "ship’s chandler, chandler, victualer, harbour pilot, mariner." Many of the future Wrightson generations stayed in Kent but my direct ancestor, John Mowll Wrightson, whose ancestors had been in Dover for more than a hundred years, left for America in 1872.

John had married Elizabeth Carfrae on March 25, 1868 at St. Mary's Church, Dover and on January 13, 1869, they had their first child, John Mowll Wrightson. On December 12, 1870, their second child, Henry Walter Wrightson was born in Dover. So, in May of 1872, with their two young sons, John - age 2 1/2 and Henry - age 1 1/2, John and Elizabeth, boarded the White Star Line S.S. Hecla at Liverpool and sailed for Boston, Massachusetts. They were also accompanied by John's older sister Lucy Wrightson MOATE, her husband Henry MOATE and their one year old child. Also in the group was John Mowll Wrightson's youngest sister, Catherine Wrightson SWOFFER and her infant son, Alfred, age 1 1/2. Catherine's husband Walter SWOFFER and his brother Alfred had immigrated to Minnesota in 1871, leaving Catherine behind in Dover to await young Alfred's birth. The Swoffer brothers appear to be the Wrightson connection to America and Minnesota. The S.S. Hecla arrived at Boston, Massachusetts on July 9, 1872. The group then traveled by train to St. Paul, Minnesota, stopping in New York City for a few days. The intention of each family was to file for a homestead and naturalization papers.

For some reason, after a year in Minnesota, John and Elizabeth, along with their two sons John and Walter returned home to Dover, England. Was it the extreme cold of the Minnesota winter (there was a three-day blizzard in January 1873, killing seventy Minnesotans)? Or was it the five consecutive summers of the devastating infestations of Rocky Mountain Locusts (called the great Grasshopper Plague) that swept across the state beginning in 1873. Or perhaps the continuing repercussions of the 1862 Dakota Conflict, which swept across Minnesota with a series of Indian attacks motivated by hungry Dakota enraged by the failure of land treaties and unfair fiscal practices of local traders. By the end of the Indian conflict 486 white settlers were dead. On December 26, 1862, thirty-eight Indians were hung at Mankato.

We'll likely never know the reason, but return to England they did. The Swoffer's stayed on in Minnesota. The Wrightson's, along with the Moate's, returned to Mother England.

Back in Dover, John and Elizabeth continued to increase the size of their young family. On July 4, 1873, Alfred Stephen was born in Dover. On February 13, 1876, Charles Thomas was born in Dover. On March 21, 1879, Elizabeth Carfrae was born in Dover. And then the family moved to Edmonton, Middlesex, a suburb of London. In the British Census of 1881, the family is listed as residing at 21 Chauncey Street, The Hyde, Edmonton, Middlesex. John's occupation was listed as "Clerk, Emigration Office." Lucy Jane was born in 1882 (she is the only person of this generation that I spoke with as an adult, besides John Mowll Jr's second wife) but I can only assume that Lucy was born in Edmonton because I was never able to locate her birth certificate. On July 22, 1884, Leonard Norman was born in Lower Edmonton. Then on October 26, 1886, my grandfather, Frederick William was born in Lower Edmonton. And, on July 6, 1889, Florence Ethel, the last of John and Elizabeth's children, was born in Lower Edmonton.

It is interesting that the two youngsters who first made the migration in 1872 with their parents, but were returned to England and grew up there were the ones to return some twenty years later. We know from family history that John (Jack), the eldest son, was the first to return. But Henry Walter, through his autobiography, gives us some insight into the first migration and return to England and growing up in England. But his autobiography only refers to the fact that John preceeded his return (and induced him to come) when he states that his brother was to pick them up upon arrival at the train station in Fresno. Or does he use the name of his younger brother, Charles Thomas, as his traveling partner (he only says that his younger brother who was "only 14 years of age" traveled with him). So now come to the year 1890 - eighteen years after the first trip to America. John is already in Fresno, California (we don't know the details) and now two more sons, Henry Walter and Charles Thomas, one of whom made the first adventure to Minnesota, follow their older brother to California at ages 20 and 14. So, in March of 1890 they travel by steamer from London to Rotterdam and then board the S.S. Spaarndam for the trans Atlantic crossing to New York. In New York they board the S.S. Nueces (Mallory Line) and travel down the east coast of the United States, around Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico and on into Galveston, Texas. In Galveston they board a train and travel westward. Twenty-eight days after leaving England they arrive in Fresno, California. Two years later, in 1892, John, Henry and Charles convice their father and mother to bring the rest of the family and join them in warm and sunny California.

In 1975, I visited with Aunt Lucy (actually, my father's aunt and the last survivor of the Wrightson’s born in England) at her home in Coalinga, California. I took some old family photographs that had been given to me by my father's sister and asked Aunt Lucy to identify everyone that she could in the photographs and tell me all that she could remember of the family's life in England (of course she was only 10 years old when they immigrated to California). Aunt Lucy told me that she remembered leaving Dover around the first of November in 1892 and arriving in New York sometime in the middle of November. She said that they stayed in a hotel in New York for a few days and then took a train to California, arriving in Fresno on Christmas Eve, 1892.

Henry Walter, the second oldest son of John and Elizabeth, wrote an autobiography in 1930, which chronicles the first migration to Minnesota, his growing up in England, his final immigration to California and his subsequent life there. You can read it here.

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