Gwinear: the American connection

Although there were no major mines within its borders Gwinear was another Cornish rural parish whose people depended heavily on the health of local mining. Seven out of every ten adult men in 1861 worked in and on the mines, as did half of the women with paid employment.

As in other rural industrial parishes, a major depopulation set in in Gwinear between 1861 and 1901, a period when its population halved. Only one in six of those who were 11 years old in the parish in 1861 were still present in Cornwall in 1891; as many as a half may have emigrated, at least temporarily. This high level of migration drew Gwinear into world-wide migration networks, particularly across the Atlantic to North America.

Now long gone, Gwinear Road station was still operating in the 1890s, although there doesn’t seem to be too many passengers waiting

One person in our database with American links was Catherine Corin. Catherine had been born in America but by 1861 was back in Cornwall and serving as a child’s maid in a copper miner’s household at Gwinear. Although there was no hint of it in the census, she may have been a relation of the household head. Catherine married young, taking Thomas Donnithorne, a hairdresser from Penzance, as her husband in 1867. This was Thomas’s second marriage. His 11 year old son, only ten years younger than Catherine, was living with them in Market Jew Street in 1871.

Thomas, more than 20 years older than Catherine, died in 1879 at Penzance. Catherine then took on a post as a domestic servant to a bookbinder’s family at Truro. Ten years later she had moved to London, where she worked as housekeeper for a widowed merchant’s clerk and his two children at Lambeth. Her whereabouts after that are unknown.

Eleven year old Thomas Beckerleg was working on the surface of a mine in 1861, helping to dress ore. He was the son of Samuel Beckerleg, a Gwinear man who had been mining in Camborne in 1851. Samuel and his wife Mary Ann hopped to and fro between Gwinear and Camborne. They returned  to Camborne in 1871, where they, with Thomas still at home, were living at Trelowarren Street in the heart of the town. Thomas, a tin miner in 1871, left Camborne (or Gwinear) at some point in the 1870s, his death being recorded in Mariposa County, California in 1898.

Mariposa in the 1860s, about a decade before Thomas arrived

3 thoughts on “Gwinear: the American connection

  1. Bernard,

    Did Samuel and Mary Ann go to Mariposa? I know that Thomas their son went in the 1870’s and there is a Samuel on the New York passenger lists in 1874 but have not been able to tie them up.

    Thanks again for your blogs which I follow regularly to glean information




    1. Well spotted Keith. My mistake – now corrected. I obviously wasn’t concentrating when I wrote the caption! You’re right; although Thomas ended up in Mariposa there’s no evidence about the whereabouts of his parents after 1871.


  2. Dr. Deacon, Your publication on this site plus three of your books have been of great support and understanding of the history of Kernov. I am at present writing John Davey Clark’s biography, my g grandfather, that even thought born in Cubert, he was raised in Gwinear and Crowan Parishes, where all his family goes back for at least 300 yrs. He died a hero, saving his miners in Mexico. I have done extensive research; but of course there are still unanswered questions. I will be Cornwall this year and would love to meet you , ask many questions and seek feedback from your expertise. Mike Kiernan has been a good and supportive friend through this journey; as well as Gage McKinney from Grass Valley, who sends his regards. My kind regards. from Arizona. Lupita Duarte clark


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