Jacobstow: Go west young man? Or perhaps south.

From the Isles of Scilly, we jump to the northern end of Cornwall. As befits a farming parish, all three of the Jacobstow children of 1861 who appear in the Victorian Lives database and who have been traced to at least 1891 were living on farms in 1861. Not that a farming life was the inevitable future that lay in front of them. Moreover, the status of ‘farmer’ was not as fixed in the 1800s as we might assume.

For example, Henry Bellamy had a small farm of 16 acres at Kents just outside the village of Jacobstow in 1861. But Henry had been a farm labourer in 1851 at North Petherwin. The farming venture did not work out and by 1871 Henry was back working again as a farm labourer at Treforda, a mile or two to the north. Henry’s son William was given no occupation in the 1871 census when he was 21 but was probably also a farm labourer like his father.

The lane near Kents nowadays
Platelayers at work around 1900

After marrying Betsy Orchard, the pair crossed the Tamar and moved down south to Plymouth. William got work there as a railway platelayer. Platelayers were responsible for the upkeep of sections of rail track, working in a gang of around eight men, re-laying rails, removing rotten sleepers and generally ensuring the track was safe. In 1891, William and Betsy and their three children were living in a one-roomed apartment. Living conditions had improved somewhat by 1901 when the family had the luxury of three rooms, although William was no longer working on the railway but as a general labourer, getting work wherever he could. Betsy died in 1901 and by 1911 William was earning his keep from gravedigging.

John Gynn was staying on the farm of William Baker and his wife at Higher Blagdon in Jacobstow in 1861. Both of John’s parents had died before he reached the age of eight and John and his siblings were brought up by his grandparents who had a farm in Warbstow, the parish where John had been born. Like William Bellamy, John was not destined to go into farming. Instead, he was apprenticed as a carpenter at Clubworthy in North Petherwin.

Proving that Cornish emigrants were not all miners, in 1872 John Gynn joined the flood of emjgrants seeking a better life, or just more money, attracted across the Atlantic by the economic boom in North America. He arrived at Dakota Territory in 1872. At some point he married Margaret Erskine, possibly in Canada at Ontario. Their children were born in North Dakota, which was admitted to the Union as a state in 1889, and John presumably died there in 1900.

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