Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Gourds--William Soper and Mary Jane Bolt


William Soper Gourd, the son of John Parker Gourd and his wife, Anne Pyne, was born on 15 May 1831 at Chudleigh, Devon, England, a small town located between the larger towns of Newton Abbott and Exeter. William was the youngest of seven children, the last five having been born at Chudleigh. On the 1841 census for Chudleigh, William was ten years old and living with his parents. His father was a blacksmith. Ten years later, William also listed his occupation as "smith" and he was still living with his father at Chudleigh.

On 4 February 1856 William married Mary Jane Bolt, the daughter of William and Sarah Sealy Bolt. Mary Jane was also Chudleigh-born in about 1835. They were married at Newton Abbott, about seven miles S of Chudleigh. Their married life can be followed through census records and railway destinations. Great Western Railways chose Newton Abbot as the location for its locomotive and carriage repairs in the mid 1800's.


On the 1861 census they were living in St. Davids Exeter, 11.5 miles N of Chudleigh, at 3 Bystock Cottage. They had two children, Mary Ann, and their second daughter, Louisa Jane. William was working as an engine hand. This painting, by William Spreat, depicts the Exeter St. Davids station built in 1844. By 1860, there was a central railway station and several different rail companies in Exeter. Since William chose a career with the railway, it was a good place to work. He had an opportunity to move from time to time, and by 1871, they were living in Nottingham at East Retford, which is about 20 miles from Doncaster, in Yorkshire.

Doncaster is 263 miles N of Chudleigh, and that was a big move for them because it took them away from family and their ties in Devonshire. By that time their children Louisa Jane, twins William Henry and Ernest Albert, and John Parker, had all been born and died. It is possible that their decision to move involved a new start away from so many sorrowful memories in Devonshire. Being with the railway, it could also have just been work-related. Doncaster was a large industrial area, and the Great Northern Railway Locomotive and Carriage Building Works moved there in 1853 and was its largest employer at the time. It was a natural place to find work with the railways.

Emma was born in Doncaster in 1868 and died that same year. Then, Emily was born on 6 June 1872, and she survived. On the 1881 census, William and Mary Jane were living in Doncaster, and he was an engine driver. That same year, their older daughter, Mary Ann, married John Naylor. Mary Jane lived to see Emily marry John Procter on 9 January 1890, but died later that year, leaving William a widower. Still an engine driver on the 1891 census, William was 59 years old and living alone.

By 1901, William had moved to the village of Huntington, about 45 miles N of Doncaster, near the city of York. York was also a railway center and is the home of the National Railway Museum. William lived until 21 March 1917. He is buried at All Saints Churchyard in Huntington, Yorkshire, England, which is where he died. William's move from the south of England in Devonshire, to the north of England in Yorkshire, made it possible for our southern Gourd ancestors to meet our northern Procter ancestors. And we can thank our cousin, Linda Nelson, who still lives in Huntington, for these wonderful photos.

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