A family who lived in Chacewater, near Truro, and had links to Brazil and the USA.
A headstone with a poem stands close to the tower of Chacewater church, and says much about life in Cornwall 150 years ago:
One lies beyond the ocean waves and one beneath this sod,
But watching over our children's graves, are angel hosts of God.
The miner’s blast destroyed our son. Our daughter fell asleep.
Help us to say Thy will be done. We give them Thy to keep.
As this poem is specific to the family, it seems likely that it was penned by the parents of the children referred to: Joseph Guy (1872 – 1896) and Sophia Guy (1879 – 1894).
Their parents were John and Sophie, who probably married overseas around 1867: John was born in Kea, Cornwall in 1843, whilst Sophie had been born to Cornish parents living in Brazil. It would seem likely that John had gone to Brazil to work as a miner where he met Sophie, and she had perhaps lived in South America all her life.
Two children were born to the couple in Brazil - Elizabeth and Emily, in 1868 and 1871, respectively – and soon after Emily’s birth, the family travelled to Cornwall and settled in the Chacewater area: the couple’s third child – a son named Joseph Guy – was born Cornwall in the autumn of 1872, and both he and his sister Emily were baptised together at Chacewater church in September 1872. It is interesting to think that this may have been the first occasion that Sophie saw a county that she had doubtless heard much about as she was growing up.
Two more daughters were born in the following years – Rosetta in 1876, and Sophia in 1879 -and not long after Rosetta was born, mining seems to have been supplanted by farming as John’s main occupation, probably due to either economic necessity (the absence of suitable work, due to mine closures) or his physical condition.
A few years later, records show that Sophie and John’s son, Joseph, was working (and living) at Wheal Busy mine (around 1885) at the age of 13; intriguingly, it seems that in May of this year, he married a young woman from Chacewater - Emma Williams Bennetts – who was 18 at the time of their wedding. That a daughter born to Joseph and Emma in February of the following year suggests there was a pressing social need for them to wed; the law at this time would have required both sets of parents to give permission – but perhaps not their approval; parents from neither side feature as witnesses to the marriage. Joseph and his wife initially lived not far from his parents, on Station Hill in Chacewater, but sometime in the decade after 1886, Joseph left Cornwall to work overseas. It’s not clear if his wife and child accompanied him.
A ’late’ child had been born to John and Sophia – in 1891, when Sophia was aged 40 – a second son, who they called John Henry, and who must have brought joy to the household. At this time, all four of their daughters were living at home, and Rosetta was contributing to household income by working as a dressmaker. The marriage of their eldest daughter, Emily, two years later - she married Samuel Moyle, a miner - would have been another happy occasion, and the couple stayed local, living at Chacewater Hill. But sadness was just around the corner: in 1894, their youngest daughter, Sophie, succumbed to illness and died on 11th June 1894, aged only 15 years. Exactly two years later – on 11th June 1896 – their eldest son Joseph was killed in a mining accident while working at a mine in Marysville, Montana, in 1896, aged just 24.
After the awful experience of two children dying in the space of two years, the arrival of Emily and Samuel’s first child – a son Joseph Henry Moyle – in September 1898 would have been a ray of light. Sadly, Emily’s husband died in December of that year, and Emily and her son moved in with Emily’s parents after this sad event.
The eldest child of John and Sophie, Elizabeth Mary, married in 1901, and their youngest surviving daughter, Rosetta, married in 1905. Rosetta and her husband, Alfred, welcomed a son in the year after they wed, but Rosetta was widowed sometime soon after; in the 1911 census, Rosetta is living in Chacewater with her son, and a schoolmistress is lodging with them, presumably providing a source of extra income.
This snapshot of a family through two generations (and the beginnings of the third) contains all the elements of life in mid-Victorian Cornwall; migration, illness, close family ties and income tied chiefly to mining and farming. Even the relatively sparse information from public records can provide us with an intriguing insight in to the hopes, happiness and misfortunes that flecked their lives – different, but not so different – to the lives we have today.
Request flowers, a potted plant or a painted stone to be delivered to the family grave: