Thomas Wildey and Amelia Charity Ellis

Thomas Wildey provides a good example of a successful program for the reduction of poverty. Struggling unsuccessfully to make a living in economically depressed England, authorities paid to send the Wildey family to underpopulated Canada. From there, Thomas took his family to Rome, New York, where the economic boom created by the construction of the Erie Canal allowed his family to prosper.

Thomas1 Wildey (JohnA) was born in 1805 and baptized on 14 April at St. Mary's Church in Faversham in the County of Kent, England. [1] He was the son of John Wildey, a widower, who had married the widow Mary Coppen, nee Jones. [22] Mary had previously been married to William Coppen. [3]

Thomas married Amelia Charity Ellis, also born in England. On her death certificate, her age was given as 77 years, 11 months and 5 days, indicating a date of birth of 22 January 1808. Her father's name is given as "Lou Ellis" but her mother's name is blank. [4] She may, however, be the Amelia Charity Ellis who was baptized on 1 March 1807 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Canterbury, Kent, the daughter of John Ellis and his wife Charlotte. [5] Although the dates do not perfectly coincide, the informant for her death certificate -- possibly her son-in-law, Arcibald Farr -- may not have known her birthdate. The informant did not know her mother's name, suggesting that it was not her daughter who provided the information. The match in the first and middle names, and the mother's name, Charlotte, her daughter used for her own daughter, make this Amelia Charity Ellis a good candidate for the one who married Thomas Wildey.

In England Thomas followed the trade of shoemaker but was unable to make a sufficient living at it. When he was examined by the Justices of the Peace in St. Giles in Camberwell, Surrey in 1829 he stated that at the age of 14 years (c. 1819) he had been apprenticed for seven years to a shoemaker, Mr. Hoad, in Faversham, Kent where he was born. [6] (This is presumably the Thomas Hoad, shoemaker, whose numerous children were baptised at St. Mary's church in that town.) [7] He served only six years of that apprenticeship, continuing to live at home with his father during that time. [8] At some point he moved to Camberwell, Surrey where he pursued the trade of shoemaker, given as his occupation in the baptismal record for his son Edward. [9] Unable to support even his small family of wife and child, he became a burden on the parish. After being examined before two Justices of the Peace in Surrey at the request of the churchwardens and overseers of the poor in the parish of St. Giles, he and his family were judged to be the responsibility of the parish of Faversham and on 31 December 1829 were ordered to return there. On 4 January 1830 the Wildeys were turned over to the Overseer of the Poor in Thomas's home parish of Faversham. [10]

The Wildeys were still in Faversham on 9 September 1831 when their daughter Harriet was baptized at St. Mary's Church. [11] Two years later, however, their daughter Amelia was born in Canada c. 1833.[12] By 1840 they were living in Boonville, Oneida County. NY. One individual in the household was working in "manufacturing and trade", suggesting that Thomas was continuing to follow the trade of shoemaker. [13]

Their status as paupers, the short sojourn in Canada and subsequent removal to Nwe York State, suggest that the Wildeys were the beneficiaries of a program designed to deal with the growing number of paupers in England. The economic downturn that occurred after the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), a rising population, and the Corn Laws, which prohibited the importation of inexpensive foreign grain and so kept grain prices artificially high, created a growing population of paupers. The increasing resources need to support the poor alarmed many. The Malthusian solution, to allow famine and pestilence to eliminate the excess population, seemed unattractive to most. Some began advocating assistance to the poor to help them emigrate to Canada, where settlers were badly needed. The costs were low -- at most 20 pounds per person, including money to make a start in the new country -- and over the long term, would reduce expenditures for the maintainance of the poor. In the county of Kent, where the Wildeys lived, many parishes had already taken the initiative to use the funds from the poor rates to send emigrants to Canada and New York in the late 1820's. Many of those who arrived in Canada continued on to New York State. While critics of this policy referred to it as "shovelling out paupers," for the Wildey family, at least, it seems to have been a success.[14]

The family's travels finally led them to the city of Rome in Oneida County around 1849, according to daughter Harriet's obituary. [15]There Thomas and remained until their deaths. The 1850 census showed Thomas still working as a shoemaker and son Edward was now employed as a "boatman," likely on the Erie Canal. [16] In later census records he was described simply as a laborer, and in 1870, the last U.S. census in which he appeared, he was working as a lock tender. [17] He died sometime before 1880, when widow Amelia was found living with her daughter Harriet and son-in law Archibald Farr. [18] He is buried in Rome Cemetery, section B, plot 15, but does not have a headstone. [19] Amelia died of an umbilical hernia in Rome on 27 December 1884 and is buried in the Rome Cemetery. [20]

Thomas Wildey and Amelia Charity Ellis had the following children:

+ 2 i. Edward Henry Wildey was born on 28 February 1829 in Camberwell, Surrey, England and was baptized at the church St. Giles [21]
+ 3 ii. Harriet Sarah Wildey was born in Faversham, Kent, England on 21 August 1831 and was baptized in the Church of England on 9 September at St. Mary's. [22]
4 iii. Amelia C. Wildey was born in Canada c. 1833. [23] She was listed with the Wildey family in 1850 but by 1855 had married Harrison Jacobs, a widower twice her age. [24] According to his obituary, Harrison was born in Parisburg, Vermont c. 1814 and migrated to Rome when he was about ten. He began his working life on the Erie Canal running packet boats, which carried passengers, but c. 1854 he settled down as a merchant catering to the canal trade. [25] He was clearly a success, as he owned a home worth $1500. [26] Amelia died in 1879 and is buried in Rome Cemetery. [27]

Return to Once Wildey: A Farr Genealogy

Last updated on 23 July 2014

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