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Part 1



 1852 -1887

    This work is dedicated to the memory of my brother, John Crispin Potter,1930-1998


The following letters were handeddown in the Potter family and originally arrived in the early 1940?s in myfather, William Potter?s house in Blackpool following the death of his stepmother, his father John?s third wife.

I was an early reader and oftentimes read the more legible of the letters especially those of the youngerCaroline Bimson with whom, at some sixty or seventy years remove, I felt someidentity.

After my father?s death, mymother set aside the letters and these accompanied her when, she came fromEngland to New Zealand to be under the care of my brother John and his family.

Following my mother?s death mybrother and I decided to research the family history, there were many otheritems, birth, death and marriage certificates, known relatives on my fathersside, WW 1 discharge records etc and photographs. Both my brother and I had aproportion of family ?legends? mainly from my mother?s family but somefrom my father?s side.

When it came to setting out aformal Potter family tree on paper however, we were distressed to find out howlittle we had of proven established lineage.

A letter from Isabel (Potter)Owen, my Aunt and written in 1976, was in response to my sympathy letterfollowing, her older sister and my Aunt Mabel (Potter) Davis?s death with anenquiry about the Potter family history, she wrote, amongst other more recentfamily news;

?I?mafraid there are no letters or papers about our ancestors – they were given toyour Dad  (WilliamPotter) in the workbox) and I regret wewere never allowed to read them or discuss them, though I believe my father (John Potter) had twelve cousins in New York, one a theatre manager! It must have beena hazardous journey when my grandfather (Richard Potter who married JuliaAnn Clarke) decided to take his family toAmerica. My father was born in 1860 as they arrived back in Preston. A sisterwas crippled our there (John?s older sister Ellen) havingbeen attacked by a wild boar! We often wished we had known more?


?Iheard from your mother and Janie in Cornwall?.


Janie Mildren was the daughter of Isabel?s Aunt Polly,  MaryElizabeth Potter, the cousin to whom the last letters from Caroline BimsonJunior were written in 1887.

There appeared to be no rush, mybrother was about to retire and, we felt that the genealogy trail could form amutual interest in our later years. Sadly, this was not to be the case.

I was however intrigued by the oldletters and keen to decipher them and sort them into date order and it waslargely due to my sister in law Margaret and a co-operative neighbour in thecopying business that the frail old paperwork was carefully colour copied and Iwas able to bring them to Australia for easier examination.

The letters themselves were not indate order, many had no date at all and often the individual pages were mixedwith others.

The approach adopted, after apreliminary reading and ordering of the more legible letters was to take eachsheet, transcribe it and keep the clear text on a word processor.

A clear text copy was thenattached to each sheet. I initially made the mistake, according to more academicadvisers, of bringing the prose to proper spelling and punctuation and smoothingout the grammar. This made the letters more understandable and easier to sortbut they lost the flavour of the original letters, as, for instance the style ofhandwriting, paper and ink used, the spelling and deterioration of handwritingall gave a clue as to the educative standard of the writer, the deteriorationthrough state of health, conditions and age.

For the time being, I have settledfor, as accurately as possible, copying the exact spelling and format of eachletter, occasionally offering a clarification of words.

The letters where undated werethen adjusted to try to follow sequence of events and known historic references,i.e. the assassination of President Garfield etc. It is quite possible that someerrors have occurred.

Some explanation is needed toclarify the various family names and circumstances.


My own direct ancestors on themale side, as far as current genealogical researches have proceeded, commencewith William Potter, my 3rd great grandfather, who married SarahChambers at St Paul, Bedford in December 1799. Sarah was christened in 1783 andwas the daughter of Richard Chambers and Ann Sedgwick of Wilsted , Bedfordshire.They had at least two sons, Richard (1st) b 1801 and John (1st) b 1802. Thisinformation is drawn from the Parish registers of St Paul, Bedford. The mostthat is known, at the date of this edition, is that William nominated himself atthe christenings of both sons as a ?Soldier of the 14th Foot?.This is probably the Bedfordshire Regiment. Further enquiry is proceeding.

Richard (1st) born,1801, is my 2nd great grandfather. Richard (1st),described on various records as a gardener, married Ann Eastham, of Fishwick inPreston, Lancashire in 1820. When or why he left Bedford to settle in Fishwick,Preston is not known. Ann?s father was probably, Richard Eastham, (Censuses1841-1851), a salmon fisherman and net maker of Ribble Bridge. The Ribble Bridge is historically notable in that it was a focus of theBattle of Preston in England?s Civil War. Until about 1890, the Potterdescendants lived in a group of cottages on the north bank of the Ribble Riverimmediately west of the Ribble Bridge. They had several children including mygreat grandfather Richard Potter (2nd) b. 1830. During this period themechanisation of the cotton industry burgeoned, and eclipsed the moretraditional flax and linen making cottage-based industry. By 1851 almost halfthe population of Preston were engaged in some form of employment in the cottonmills and this reflects in the Census records of the Potter family who, whilstalways, it would seem, keeping the seasonal salmon fishing and net makingindustry business as the main reliable source of income, were all at varioustimes readily employed in the cotton making or associatedengineering/railway/gas manufacturing industries. From 1842 however, wagesdeclined drastically, and there followed a period of industrial unrest, strikes,and lock-outs etc, culminating in a year long strike from 1853-4. At the 1841Census Richard Potter (1st) is listed as a gardener. His son Richard (2nd) alime burner at his 1850 marriage, is, by 1851 census an agricultural labourerand Julia a power loom weaver, both, with daughter Ellen (b.1852) were lodgingwith Richard?s parents. Given the uncertainties of the day the opportunity toemigrate must have been enticing which they did in 1853, the year also ofRichard Potter (1st) death.

The date of emigration has yet tobe found but they almost certainly sailed from Liverpool.

The choice of Adams County as thearea in which they settled is almost certainly due to the fact that Julia?smother Margaret Clarke and sister Caroline were also there together with otherClarke cousins. From mentions within the letters it seems possible that variousfamily groups originating from the Preston, Lancashire area had emigrated atmuch the same time. Caroline married William Bimson who also had variousbrothers. William Bimson, at the time of the letters appears to be quitesuccessful.

While there, Richard and Julia hada son William who was born in 1857, from the letters there is evidently anotherson, John James who does not survive, his grave is described in the letters.There is no indication in the letters that Richard was particularly successful,received a land grant or how he supported his family whilst in Illinois, thereis only an insubstantial comment by Margaret Clarke, Richard?s mother in law,that he had worked for a Joseph Beck.

A letter from Richard (2nd)?smother Ann Eastham (Potter) from Preston to him in Illinois gives an indicationthat he is already considering returning to England in 1858. This letter refersto their loss, I assume to be the baby son John James, and general ill health.Their daughter Ellen, as mentioned by Isabel, and handed down in familyfolklore, was apparently attacked by a wild boar, and was left partly crippledfor life. Richard had apparently already enquired about the amount of income hewill receive from property he has inherited from either his father or father inlaw.

Other letters are received fromfamily in the U.S. offering advice or assistance however, in 1860, Richard,Julia Ann, Ellen and William arrive back in Preston. The christening of sonJohn, my grandfather, by family legend, born on the boat bringing them back toEngland, takes place on the 26th April 1860 at St John in Preston.

The first of the letters, writtento Richard and Julia a couple of years after their return to England, is fromAnn Bimson, eldest daughter of William and Caroline (Clarke) Bimson, written in1863.

There are of course no lettersavailable from Richard and Julia Ann (Clarke) Potter. Apart from Ellen, bornbefore they emigrate and William born in Illinois, they have more children.John, my  grandfather, was born1860, both he and his brother William, by then 3 yrs old, were christened at StJohn, Preston in 1860. John was followed by Caroline Ann Margaret Potter b 1862(thus neatly preserving all significant close family female names) and MaryElizabeth (Polly) Potter b 1883.

Sadly, Ellen Potter dies in 1874,as does Caroline Ann Margaret Potter in  1886,neither married.  Mary Elizabethdoes marry and survives into the 20th century, she has a daughter Janie Mildren,as referenced in Isabel?s letter to me.

Richard and Julia Ann Potter, withdaughters were interred at St Leonard Church, Walton le Dale, about twokilometres from the family cottages near the Ribble Bridge at Fishwick. Thegrave is close to the path on the south side of the church.


Julia Ann was the daughter ofJames Clarke, mechanic, and Margaret (Whinfield) Clarke, James was evidently aPrimitive Methodist, see English documents in the Appendix.

Virtually all I have found of theClarkes is gleaned from these letters and documents, the exception only is thatan exhaustive search of the 1841 British Census revealed that Caroline Clarke,Steam Looms, Julia Clarke, Steam Looms, ages rounded to 15, and William Clarke,Student, are lodging at the house of  OlafLavery, Weaver, and his wife Mary, at their house in High Street, Preston. Thereare references to many other Clarke?s in England and the U.S. only a few ofwhom can be identified.

From the letters, it is not clearwhether James Clarke in fact emigrated at all He may have died before thedecision to emigrate was taken. A letter from William Clarke, James?s brotherin 1834, see English letters in Appendix, could indicate James was already inill health. Little more is known about him apart from his contributing to thebuilding of a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Preston in 1823, see record inAppendix.

The timing of arrival of thevarious families has not been established though some painstaking examination ofthe shipping lists will eventually better demonstrate the dates of settlement.

Margaret (Whinfield) Clarke, wasevidently lonely and to some degree manipulative in attempting to persuadeRichard and Julia to return to Illinois. Her advice to Richard and Julia on howto return at least cost is comprehensively cunning, note especially her adviceto have nothing to do with, presumably, the Marshalls in New York. She, and herdaughter Caroline (Clarke) Bimson are the primary correspondents, though Williamalso writes advisory notes particularly when it appears likely Richard and Juliaare contemplating their return to America.

Margaret has a fairly criticalattitude to her son in law, William Bimson, the early letter recovered from herprivate papers after she died from her brother Joseph Whinfield is placed indate order but out of context with the run of the correspondence between theBimsons and Potters. I haven?t located South Andover of the various Andoversin America.

Joseph Whinfield?s letter is farfrom encouraging in providing whatever relief Margaret had sought, the pompouspiety of his response must have disappointed Margaret greatly.

John C. Clarke, a cousin, and anapparently prosperous Timber Merchant living in Wausau, Wisconsin keeps intouch, also possibly Mary Clarke, is married to W.C. Marshall, ProvisionMerchant of 2nd Avenue, New York. He appears to be a brother in law of Juliathough the relationships are often blurred. Mrs. Marshall drafts anadvertisement seeking news of Samuel Clarke from Nottingham who ?fought at theBattle of Waterloo?. The Marshalls are undoubtedly the New York cousins of herfather John, Isabel (Potter) Owen mentions in her 1976 letter.

Caroline (Clarke) Bimson, as afarmer?s wife writes fully of those topics most dear to farmers hearts theworld over, weather, crop growth and prices obtainable for produce. She emergesas hard working protective daughter, wife, and mother.


William Bimson?s mother ismentioned, they also appear to have emigrated as a family group. Bimson namesexist around the Preston, Fishwick area in England. Other Bimson?s, probablybrothers or cousins are referenced in Illinois and can be traced particularly bytheir role in the Civil War. I have checked those mentioned from the IllinoisState Archive web site which provides the Muster Roll of Illinois for the CivilWar era.

Of various old photographssurviving, there are none as yet found of the large number which appear to havebeen sent to England. Elijah Lentner, the Civil War veteran and photographerappears to have taken many of the family photos referred to. Each side seems tohave relied on sending newspaper copies for more general news, again none ofthose have been found in the Potter family papers.

William and Caroline Bimson had anumber of daughters, Ann, who married George W. Stauffer on the 18thMarch 1866, and moved to Missouri. Elizabeth (Libby) Julia Alice, who marriedJames W. Veach on the 15th June 1875, Mary Ellen, who married JohnGrammer on the 25th December 1877, they have a son Karl, Paula andfinally Florence Caroline.

There are letters from thedaughters but the final mantle of chief correspondent is taken up by FlorenceCaroline Bimson (Carrie), who after being born in 1863 is subsequently describedas ?a sickly humpen backed child, unlikely to live? there is no record ofher marrying.

In 1886, Carrie Bimson Jr writesinquiringly to all her cousins and survives at least until her last letter inNovember 1887. At time of this compilation the various issue of the offspring ofWilliam and Caroline Bimson have not been pursued.

Random evidence, presently derivedfrom the L.D.S. International Genealogical Index, indicates the Bimson namesurvived through William Bimson?s brothers and cousins.

The Marshalls of New York have notbeen researched.

Alan William Potter, Sydney,Australia, 2001.

Document REF : A/1

This letter is written by JosephWhinfield to his sister Margaret (Whinfield) Clarke and is amongst papers foundby her daughter Caroline (Clarke) Bimson and sent to her sister Julia (Clarke)Potter in Ribblebridge following Margaret Clarke?s death. Although includedhere in date order, strictly speaking it does not form part of the general runof correspondence but indicates that Margaret, a widow is experiencing difficulttimes and is writing to her family for support.

SouthAndover   October 24th/52




Iwrite to you oping these few lines will find all well as they leave us atpresent, my daughter wont leave Philadelphia as yet I cannot get her Inticed tocome to me as for Brother John I dont think he will write to Either of us, sinceI receivd your last Letter I have thought a great deal about you what wonderfulNotions you have in your head it seems rather strange to me that you cannot livewith your son in Law your Vitals there would not be much cost to them, I wonderhow you can prefer living in such a way, yet there may be something that makesyou, you cannot live with any of your children, it hurts my feelings to thinkthat you are in such a way I hope you will consider and live with your son inLaw when you write again let me know if you get any word from them in England,when you write to your own Daughter or see them give out Love to them, this partof the country is a great deal backwards than Illinoise all the Fruit is notpulled here yet I have got mine pulled I had about 16 Barrels of appels


sisteryou must pray to the Lord every Evening for your Everlasting happiness, for hepromised that whosoever seeks shall find and them that knocks it shall be openedunto them, we have but a short time here knowing(?) if we are permitted, for OldAge is upon us if we are not prepared it is time for us to prepare


Maythe Lord bless you and may you seek consellation in him for there you will findit, seek here it is to late so I will conclude


withour Love and well wishes to you all


                                                               Joseph & Mehitable Whinfield,

on the rear fold of this letterare two notes written in a different hand each vis;

Horizontal note

wecant get any thing in this cuntry or do any thing we cant get out it has notfrose up yet and it has been so dri

Vertical note

sendme word wether that plant is a round one or if it is along one for i have 3 or 4difernt kinds and in the spring will send another kind if they dont freas


This letter is from Richard Potter?s mother, Anne (Eastham) Potter toRichard and Julia from England while they were still in America and probablybrought back by them when they returned in 1860. It is included here so that acontinuity of the situation can be appreciated.


Bridgeend,Fishwick, June 4 1858 near Preston, Lancashire


MeDear Son and daughter,


iright these few lines to inform you that i received your kind letters and wosvery sorry indeed to hear of your Little Boys death but i would advise you to resign your  selves to it  ashe will be much better provided (then crossed out) for than you can provide for him  i  ham sorry to inform you that i have truble almost as grate asyour day by day for the are almost continual i was taken very poorly on  mondayLast but thank God is somethings better now and all tha rest of family are quitewell in health except  Ann [2] she is gone very thin and is not over wellrather she has been at home all winter your Brother william [3]and his wife are also quite well and i wishalso to inform you that he has spoken to me on saterday (might  crossed out) nightLast just being twelve Month silence,  asyou spoke about your property you no what your share is and it is ready for youat anay time but I so (faint) assureyou that the rents have been very Bad indeed to get during (during crossed out) the winterand i have not got my money yet for Mc (?)  cowen (?) netingbut ham expecting to get it in twelve Month after his death but at Present I hamneting for the association at Present thay have the (illeg.crossed out) woleconsern your uncle thomas [4]has profferred to net for ten shilling Less than i wold do but thank God I still have it as usualJohn  [5](illeg.crossed out) is fishing for them also butthare are but very few fish caught yet, your friend Artha Heaton is dead alsoElisebeth Melling and Ann Latham and John Latham has got Married to SarahCrosdell , Brother william [6]is working at the limekells(?)your cusen John [7]is still working at the cole yeard and himselfand famley are quite as usual your aunt Betty [8]and Elisebeth [9]and the rest of her family are quite well inhealth and as usual and sends thare kind love to you both, you was speakingabout the garden I have still the garden and this year there is a very goodprospect more them has been for 3 or 4 years Back as you wos talking of comingover to see us next March we shall be glad enough to see you for i assure you Ilook for you through the windows ware your grandfather [10]used to set sitting every day for this fiveyears but I have never had that plesure yet but i hope it will some day be myhappy lot to see you and all they family but if that cannot Be i should like tosee Ellen [11]with yourself. Isabella [12]is Lerning to be a Dressmaker and has serve 7month and is Lerning very well and is a very good girl indeed to (mecrossed out) me, Julia[13]wished to no about margred Rigby, i have seenher and she has got married to a Railway man and a very good

husbandand she sends her kind  Love to youyour Brother John’s[14]doughter Bettsy  has got  (mariedcrossed out) married a few mounth ago and all the rest of thare famley are quite well(inserted above line) (expt crossedout) except Ann [15]she is not well at present. I felt quite sorryto hear that you had been poorly all winter i thinks sometimes the climet dosenot agree with you but difference of food  asa grate thing and you must look to (b crossed out) getting as neeras you can the same food as you have been brought up with but if you feel asever pain be sure to apply a musterd plaster to it the are a good thing for i have had 3 on this week so i will conclude with sending you all myBlessing and wishing this (fcrossed out) may find you all quite well and happy and all the rest of the famleyjion in sending you all thare kind  Loveand Best respect as also Richard  andAnn heaton and thare famley jion in sending you the same and Jane has beenconfined about a month  sence and it(insert above line) is a girl Alice sends her kind love also all inquire frinds Cecily and Ellen Heydock sends thare kind lovealso and your mother [16]wished




From John C. Clarke to Julia  (Clarke)Potter  and while she Richard ,Ellen and William  are still inAmerica  and just before returningto Preston, their young son John James has died and Julia is prossibly pregnantwith John at this time oversize writing  onthe outside fold of letter appears to be the address vis:

Wausau,Wisconsin, April 4th 1859 (the 5 is indistinct)


MyDear Cousin Julia,


Iwas very glad to hear you was still alive and well and I hope you are doingwell, I should be very happy to hear from you and know how and what you aredoing for I have not heard anything of you since I see you in Preston. If youare not doing well you had better move and come here and I will let you havesome land to live on if you want it and help you get a start all I can. I havenot heard from home lately but when I did they was all well. Write to me whenyou have time and tell me all about your circumstances and whether you are happyor not. Me and my wife are quite well and getting along nicely, Mary Ann wasmarried last fall and is now living near Manchester, she is married to a mannamed Ainsworth, a pawnbroker. We have not heard from Charley in three or fouryears and Mother thinks he is dead but I hope not. I think he will turn upalright after a while. William, poor fellow, is having a hard time of it, he iscome home from India and is now at Chatham in the barracks. He is very sicklyand has lost 3 or 4 of his children. I have not heard anything of them lately.Betsy and her husband are getting along nicely but have a large family ofchildren, I do not know of any more news to write so will close with kind loveto you and family, I remain your affectionate cousin,


JohnC. Clarke.


PotterCounty lines County of North Ri..(faded,is written on the reverse of the letter)



Part letter cut with long andshort scissor cuts from larger lined brownish sheet with three vertical creases,app. 188mm x 80 mm

Handwriting reasonably matchesthat of John C. Clarke of Wausau, Wisconsin, and in context written 1860-1861i.e. fairly soon after Richard and Julia arrived back in England. Possibly thereference to Ellen?s health is the result of her injuries from the boar.

?that you and yours arrived in safety at home in so short a time and without anyserious trouble, but we were in hope the trip across the water would have beenof some benefit to Ellen and am sorry to hear that she is no better. we are allin good health at present and hope that this may find you all in the enjoymentof the same blessing, you said that you had not written to Aunt Mary yet I hopewhen you do write to her that you will give our love to her and also ouraddress,

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