Ludgvan: globetrotters and stay at homes

Luidgvan, one of Cornwall’s larger parishes, situated to the east of Penzance, survived the difficult times following the late 1860s rather better than many other rural parishes. This was despite the fact that over half of the men in the parish worked as miners in the 1850s. Its population declined by a third between the 1860s and 1901 but it remained far higher than it had been in the early 1800s and the fall was much less than that experienced by some more remote rural parishes heavily dependent on mining. Ludgvan was cushioned by opportunities in the new business of market gardening and the proximity of the growing town of Penzance.

Agapanthus in a field near Ludgvan Church. Was it grown commercially?

As a result, more than half of the 37 Ludgvan children in the database who were alive in 1891 were still living in the parish and its neighbours overlooking Mount’s Bay. Not all of Ludgvan’s children were stay at homes however.

Alfred Curnow was the youngest son of Sampson and Jane and was born in 1851 at Trenowin. The farm at this hamlet was recently advertised for sale, having ‘enormous holiday letting potential’. Holidays for Alfred and his family were limited to feast days and festivals such as Christmas and Easter and there wouldn’t have been much holidaymaking when his father died in 1855 at the age of 59. Alfred had little choice but to work on the dressing floors of a mine to boost the family income.

Some of Alfred’s siblings left for South Australia in 1866, his sister Mary Jane sadly passing away during the long voyage. Alfred, and possibly other family members, left in the other direction west across the Atlantic in 1870 when he was 19. In 1873 he married Mary Trythall and was living in Pennsylvania in 1875. He seems to have made a trip halfway around the world to Australia in the late 1870s but he and Mary and their son Alfred were back in the US at Calumet on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1880, where his death was recorded in 1906.

Miners ready to descend at Calumet and Hecla Mine in 1906. This mine was the leading copper producer in the USA in the 1870s and early 1880s

In the US Census of 1880 Alfred was described as a miner, although the Cornish Global Migration database states he was (also?) a ‘teacher or preacher’. Whichever, the experience of Alfred and his family contrasted markedly with most of his peers in Ludgvan who were much less mobile. Take James Davy Hicks, who was born in the same month as Alfred Curnow. James’ father was a farm labourer who then became a market gardener at Ludgvan’s churchtown. James followed his father into market gardening. By 1891 he had moved only a short distance from the churchtown to Long Rock, near the coast, where he continued to profit from the demand for vegetables.

One thought on “Ludgvan: globetrotters and stay at homes

  1. I believe that Richard Chellew Curnow, an older brother to Alfred, is my great-great-grandfather. Richard Chellew was the third child to Sampson and Jane Pengelly.

    Richard Chellew married Martha Edwards (b. 1837) on 18 MAR 1858. Their son, Richard was born 12 MAY 1858. Richard Chellew Curnow is not enumerated in the 1861 census and Mary Edwards Curnow and son are living with her parents at 2 Trenowin.

    Richard Curnow is enumerated in the 1870 US census in Boone County, Iowa. Richard Curnow married Susan Haddock in 1868. Susan was a widow to a (“Conferate”) Civil War veteran who perished during the American Civil War. How Susan Haddock ended up in Iowa remains a family mystery.

    I have no hard evidence that Richard Chellew Curnow is my great-great-grandfather, but his absence in the 1861 census does strongly suggest that he left Cornwall (and emigrated to the U.S.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.