John Weymouth Tregurtha was born in the village of St Buryan in 1794; his parents were John Tregurtha and Sarah Weymouth. In 1821 John married Mary Hosking; they were united in Mary’s native parish church in the village of Paul, just a few miles from St Buryan. John and Mary went on to have six children, they were:
• Thomas – born 1821
• Mary Hosking – born 1823
• John – born 1825
• William – born 1828
• Margaret – born 1832
• Elizabeth Harvey – born 1834
All six of their children were baptised at the St Buryan parish church (above), originally built in 930 AD and then rebuilt in the 15th century; it is still a most beautiful church whose recently restored bells are famous for having the heaviest peal of six bells in the world. Anyone with a chance to visit this old church can stand in the same place that John and Mary once stood as their children were baptised.
Throughout his life John worked as a blacksmith; labouring for long hours over hot fires, working iron and steel into a wide variety of items. His days would have been busy with the metalworking needs of his village neighbours; making and repairing farm tools, mill parts, building hardware, fireplace and cooking tools, and often shoeing horses and oxen as well.
From census records we know that two of John and Mary’s sons followed their father into the same profession. William was listed as a blacksmith journeyman (apprentice) in 1851, shown living with his parents in St Buryan, and John too was working as a smith in 1851 he was visiting friends George and Elizabeth Row in Madron a few miles to the north of St Buryan. It is John who we will follow next.
John was baptised in the St Buryan parish church, as mentioned above, in 1825; specifically on 27 Nov 1825. By 1860 at the age of 35 he was living in Morvah, a village six miles north of his home town of St Buryan; here he worked as a grocer. In December 1860 John married Jane Rowe Williams, the daughter of Dionysius Williams, a carpenter from Morvah. John and Jane went on to have four children in Cornwall, their names were:
• John – born 1861 in Morvah
• Dionysius – born 1862 in Morvah
• Ada Jane – born 1866 in Landewednack
• Bertwell Alexander – born 1867 in Mullion
As you can see, John and Jane moved around and during this time, with John working for many years as a grocer and parish clerk, then as a labourer and finally a mechanic by 1867 when their son Bertwell was born.
In 1869 things changed immensely for the Tegurthas. At some point John and Jane made the decision to leave their native home and emigrate across the Atlantic to the United States of America. A passenger record is yet to be found to confirm the ship they sailed on, however by 1870 they were living in New York; specifically in Sidney, Delaware. The 1870 U.S. Census shows the Tregurtha family living in Sidney, where John is working as a machinist on the rail road. After their arrival in New York their youngest son Dionysius died (he might have died on the voyage over) and in February of 1870 Jane gave birth to another son; they named this son Dionysius again, to remember the son they lost and to pay homage to Jane’s father.
The next ten years proved very tough for the Tregurtha family; in 1872, after only three years in the United States, Jane died, leaving John with five young children to look after while working full time. Then tragically, six years after Jane’s death John also died, now leaving their four children orphaned.
The eldest boy John began working as his father did, on the railroads as an apprentice and by 1880 was boarding with the Johnson family in Chenango. John’s sister Ada Jane would have been fourteen in 1880 however research so far has failed to uncover what happened to her after their father’s death in 1878. The other two children do appear on the 1880 census; Bertwell was being cared for by the Mann family in Sidney, and young Dionysius was living with his aunt and uncle, William and Pheby Williams in Otsego. It is the eldest boy John that we follow next.
John Tregurtha, son of John and grandson of John Weymouth, had lived an adventurous life by the time he was 21; yet also one of tragedy. Losing both his mother and father during his early teenage years must have been extremely difficult; especially when was living in a country far from his native Cornwall; a growing metropolis that would have resembled nothing at all like the countryside of St Buryan. But John was a Tregurtha; he was of strong character and he chose to take full advantage of the opportunities his parents had wanted for all their children, when they chose to leave England.
In July 1891 at the age of thirty, John met and married Nellie Mae Hider, a native of New York and the daughter of William Hider, a banker who was born in India to English parents. John and Nellie had three sons:
• John Hider, born in 1893
• James David, born in 1895
• William H, born in 1898
For almost thirty years John and his family lived in Shenectady, New York, at no. 37 Parkwood Blvd, and for many years Nellie’s parents also lived with them. John continued to work as a machinist until his death in 1925 at the age of 64. Nellie Mae survived her husband by thirty years; she died in March 1955 aged 82.
We now turn to the life of John and Nellie’s middle son, James David Tregurtha; who was thirty years old when his father died. Known as Jimmy to his class mates, James studied Agriculture at Cornell University, attending there for four years up until his graduation in 1918. Soon after however he enlisted in WWI and served overseas for eight months before being honourably discharged in 1919. Eight years later, in 1927, James married Dorothy Elizabeth Clinton and by 1930 the New York census shows them living at no. 127 Florence Avenue in Essex, New Jersey with their first child James.
By 1830 James was working as a chemist in a dairy company, and ten years later when we look to the 1940 census it shows that he remained in this occupation and was taking home an income of just over $4,100 per year. James and Dorothy had three children:
• James David, born in 1929
• Lois Ann, born in 1931
• Paul Richard, born in 1935
In 1941, at age 46, James enlisted to fight in WW2, not content with already having served his country almost twenty five years previous; yet another testament to the Tregurtha character. In 1959 Dorothy died, and seven years later in 1965 James retired after almost 45 years working for the Alderney Dairy Company in Newark. Four years after this, in 1969, James died at the age of 74; he and Dorothy are both buried at the Gate of Heaven cemetery in East Hanover, New Jersey.
And now we come to James and Dorothy’s youngest son, Paul Richard Tregurtha, whom many of you will know from photos we have showcased of the Great Lakes ship that was named in honour of him. Paul was very accomplished in his working life, holding the position of Vice Chairman of Interlake Steamship Co., and Chairman, C.E.O., and 50% owner of Mormac Marine Group, Inc. (owner of Interlake Steamship Co.). In 2006 he was awarded “Maritime Man of the Year” by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Paul’s son Edward James Tregurtha, known to many as Ted, now carries on with much of what his father began and together they have been keen sponsors and supporters of the Tregurtha Project since its inception.
These are really just snippets of this particular Tregurtha branch; this tale of adventure and triumph, that began in the fields of St Buryan and crossed an ocean…is still being written today.
- St Buryan church http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/St-Buryan
- NY photo http://imgur.com/PTc8yXj
- Paul R. Tregurtha ship http://www.boatnerd.com/news/newsthumbsb/images-11-3/4-Ptregurtha-10-11-11-sh.jpg