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Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Cornish Gidleys' diaspora to Mexico

The Traveller supplement of September 26th 2015 to the Independent newspaper has inspired this post. Gidleys in Cornwall in the mid 19th century mainly worked in the mining industry and their skills in a dying industry at home were much in demand abroad. Their most exotic destination must be Mexico, and the Independent's supplement featured an article entitled "Cornwall in the Sierras" on the town of Pachuca and its Cornish heritage. This heritage includes the introduction of football to Mexico with the first ever match in the country held at Pachuca in 1900 and also the introduction of the pasty, paste in Spanish, which the Mexicans have adapted to their own taste with a range of spicy sweet and savoury fillings. There is a huge range of paste shops in Pachuca, plus a Museo del Paste. In 2008 Redruth in Cornwall was twinned with Pachuca to commemorate their common heritage.
Dr Sharron Schwartz's Exeter University project on the Cornish in Latin America has provided me with much extra information.
The main square in Real del Monte
The first Gidley to emigrate to Mexico was William Gidley born in 1808. William was the favourite male name for Gidleys in Cornwall and I have 23 of them on the Cornish tree; many of them married a Mary or Mary Ann and called their children after themselves. This makes identification difficult and occasionally the evidence conflicts, so I may have come to some wrong conclusions, but I think this particular William was the son of William Gidley and Thomasine Thomas. In 1841 he was a miner at Carharrack, near Gwennap, about 2 miles from Redruth. By the late 1840s Cornwall was arguably the most important mining district in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of total recorded global copper ore output, but by the 1860s, being so far from the coalfields, the industry in Cornwall was in decline. But Cornish mining technology and skilled labour was in great demand throughout the world, and many residents emigrated in search of work. William Gidley must have seen the writing on the wall sooner than most, or perhaps he was attracted by the higher wages, for by 1847 he was in Mexico as an employee of the Real del Monte Mining Company; homepay £20 in September 1847. However, by the 1850s it seems that Wlliam had moved on to the mining region of California. His wife (just one of the Mary Ann Gidleys) never seems to have left Cornwall and died there in 1881, but his son William Henry Gidley born in 1840 in Cornwall was also in Township 8, Calaveras, California in 1860. I haven't found a death for William Henry Gidley (he was in Mariposa, California in 1870), but his father, the older William, is approximately the right age for the William Gidley who died in yet another mining area, Gold Hill, Storey County, Nevada, USA in 1872. The cause of death was asthma.
Other Gidleys were resident in Mexico for short periods. A second William Gidley was probably the nephew of William Gidley of the previous paragraph, was born in 1839 in Gwennap, the son of John Thomas Gidley, a copper miner of Carharrack, and his wife, Mary Ann Allen. This William was successful in his enterprises. His mining career began at the Poldice Mine. He emigrated to Mexico in 1867, was still there in 1871, but it also looks as though he too moved on to Nevada, where he was in 1880, although his obituary gives the impression his stay in Mexico was uninterrupted for 20 years. By 1891 he had returned to his wife in Cornwall, was living on his own means, and was proud to call himself a (mine) captain, which was inscribed on his tombstone in St Day. He left the respectable sum of £4780 19s 9d on his death in 1907, which was inherited by the only remaining member of his family, his daughter Eliza Gidley. His obituary, kindly sent to me by Gill, a Cornish-Mexican expert, records that he too died of a lung disease, an occupational hazard for miners. His obituary ends that he was "always open-hearted and willing to help all societies for the welfare of the community."
William and his wife, Mary Ann Craze, had three children, William John, Nanny/Nannie Jane and Eliza, born between 1864 and 1867. Only wife Mary Ann and younger daughter Eliza were never resident in Mexico. Son William John Gidley had two separate spells there, the first being in the 1870s. The Cornish in Latin America database records that in 1897 William John Gidley returned to Pachuca from Cornwall after an absence of 19 years to be the Mine Secretary of the Santa Gertrudis mine, but his sudden exposure to Pachuca's rarifed atmosphere killed him. It also records intriguingly that he had brought with him a ram and two ewes from the Prince of Wales' farm at Sandringham.
His sister Nannie Jane Gidley also emigrated to Mexico. She married another Gwennap man, John Odgers, in 1885 in the Southampton registration district, presumably near their port of embarkation, and they set off for the San Pedro Mine, Real del Monte, Pachuca. Their time there was short. John Odgers died on 22 January 1887, and Nanny Jane followed him a few weeks later. Both are buried in the Panteon Ingles, the English Cemetery, where all headstones apparently face towards Great Britain. A separate cemetery was necessary in the predominantly Catholic country. In the early days swamp fever was a terrifyingly swift and unpleasant death, but it is not known what carried off the Odgers couple.

The Panteon Ingles

The grave of John and Nannie Jane Odgers
So what sort of life would the Gidleys have had in Pachuca? It was a small town in the mountains about 50 miles from Mexico City, and Real del Monte, the mining district, was just outside the main town. The silver mines were redeveloped from the 1830s onwards by British financed companies, and by the 1870s there were 350 Cornish residents in Pachuca. As well as the pasties and football, the Cornish folk brought other sports with them including cricket - William Henry Gidley was a member of the cricket team in 1886. They brought Methodism too, although a chapel was not built until 1901 and all services before then took place in people's homes, just as in the early days in Cornwall. Their cottages were built in the Cornish style with red corrugated iron roofs, and the men would stroll of a Saturday evening in the town square, repairing to a hotel bar to sing Cornish songs and hymns. The Cornish women formed Ladies' Aid societies and organised a picnic each year on Queen Victoria's birthday. Not until 1906 when the mines were taken over by an American company, and 1910 when there was a revolution in Mexico, did the Cornish population in Pachuca go into decline. Much money had been sent home to Cornwall by then, an important contribution to the Cornish economy. Mexican remittances had helped to build the Wesleyan Chapel in Redruth, Cornwall. In return, parcels of fragrant saffron would arrive regularly at the Pachuca Post Office.

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