Redruth: America’s 51st state

Redruth had been at the heart of Cornwall’s central mining district in the 1700s. In the days of copper, it was surrounded by the riches of Gwennap to the east and the mines of Illogan to the west. As copper faded after the 1860s and the centre of Cornish metal mining shifted westwards towards Camborne’s tin mines, conditions became altogether tougher in Redruth. As a result, many of the parish’s miners joined the stream of migrants heading out of Cornwall.

As Redruth offers us a considerable number of database cases it might be worth briefly looking at the overall migration picture in the parish. In our database we have 62 boys and 63 girls aged 11 years old who were living in Redruth in 1861. We find that well over half of the men who had survived and have been traced were living overseas in 1891, 13 in the States, five in Australia and one in New Zealand. Only one in four were still resident in Cornwall and just five men in Redruth itself.

Women were considerably less likely to emigrate. By 1891 a third of Redruth’s girls were overseas and almost a half still in Cornwall, with 11 (or 30 per cent) remaining in Redruth.

About a quarter of the Redruth cohort overall remains untraced, so the total number of emigrants is very likely to be an underestimate. Yet, despite such a striking level of departures the population of the parish, which peaked in 1861, before falling by 19 per cent in the 1860s and 70s, then recovered almost to mid-nineteenth century levels by 1911. New food processing businesses and a brewery, with the flow of capital back from overseas and Redruth’s continuing role as a shopping centre for west Cornwall meant that as well as losing people it was also attracting them.

Richard (Dick) Angove

Moreover, some of Redruth’s migrants returned, even if only temporarily, and some came back more than once. In 1895 the local paper reported that ‘many miners from the US, Canada and South Africa came home for Christmas’. However, not all of this transatlantic community were miners. Although Richard Angove began his working life as a mine labourer on the surface of a mine dressing tin, he left to join the Navy in 1865. He left the Royal Navy in 1878. It’s not clear where he was in the 1880s, which might suggest a spell in the merchant marine. But at some time, probably in the later 1890s, he went to North America. In 1900 he was recorded as owning a 160 acre allotment at Eureka, Kansas. However, a year later he was back in Redruth, described as a marine engineer and lodging at Penventon Terrace, substantial houses built around 1900. He may have returned to find a wife as he married Clara Rose in 1903 in Plymouth and promptly whisked her off to Kansas. Yet in 1911 he and Clara were back in Britain again and living at Newton Abbot in Devon. Three years later Richard returned to the USA, with or without Clara is not certain, and was living at Rush County, Kansas, where his restless life, flitting to and fro across the Atlantic, finally came to an end two years later.

3 thoughts on “Redruth: America’s 51st state

  1. Hm. Your work shows that a lot more emigrants went to US than to ANZ. Yet in the USA their numbers were overwhelmed. I call Victoria Aus the “capital of Cornwall” because it may have a higher proportion of people of Cornish descent than Cornwall does. South Australia is much the same.

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