Chapter 2

The Story of Jacob Mitchell


In the Nineteenth Century...........

A few short months ago when I first published this web page, I said that I really knew very little of Jacob. Since that time a fair bit of information has come to light. You can read it here, but be aware that while the writer is confident the information is accurate, the details have yet to be verified.

Jacob Mitchell's wife was Mary Crosby, daughter of William Crosby and Mary McGlashan. Census information indicates that Mary was born in the Parish of Closeburn, Dumfries circa 1813. Jacob and Mary lived a long and happy life together. Jacob died at Leith on the 29th of June, 1886. Mary died at Kilwinning the following year on the 2nd of December.  Her son William, her daughter Catherine and one of Catherine's daughters, took care of her during her final days. The family register on the right details the birth dates of Jacob and Mary Mitchell's children. The children were Janet, John, John, Elizabeth, Catherine, George, Charles, Mary, Jacob and William.

The repetition of the name John probably indicates the loss of a child and the giving of the same name to the next born; however, there is some uncertainty here, as a number of letters from John Mitchell in New Zealand include references to "brother John" at home. What we do know is that a  John Thorrat was brought up as one of the family by Jacob and Mary.

Of the remaining 9 children, the 3 eldest immigrated to New Zealand in the 1860's, while the younger ones remained at home in Scotland. Subsequently another of the sons, Charles, traveled to North America. He was last heard of at an address in Toronto.

Janet, John and Elizabeth fared well in New Zealand. Their letters to their parents in Scotland contain a lot of interesting information about conditions in New Zealand in addition to details about themselves and their families.

Elizabeth, the first to leave her home country, set sail for New Zealand in 1863. You can read Elizabeth's letter telling of her journey and of her first impressions of New Zealand. Within a matter of weeks, Elizabeth was married to John Runciman. The Runciman family had sailed to New Zealand some 10 years earlier in the "Rajah". When John Runciman left Scotland in 1853, he was only 15 and Elizabeth was 12. The newly-married couple wrote regularly to Elizabeth's parents. The letters are well written and are well worth reading. The Runcimans had a number of children.

Following Elizabeth's death in 1882, John Runciman re-married. His second wife, also named Elizabeth, had a son, Archie, in 1885. Archie's wife's name was Doris.

The information contained in Elizabeth and John Runciman's letters may have influenced Janet and John in their decision to leave Scotland and set sail for New Zealand, which they did on the 15th of April, 1864 on the "Andrew Jackson". What we do know for certain is that the Runciman's were there to welcome their brother and sister and their families, and to give them a place to stay and work until they found their feet. Letters to home at this time were full of joy at the re-union of the brother and sisters. Their parents, Jacob and Mary back home in Scotland, must have been glad to know that their 3 eldest children were together and prospering in New Zealand, while at the same time grieving their absence.

The eldest Mitchell girl, Janet, had already been married several years before she set sail for New Zealand. With her went her husband, Hugh Muir, and their 4 daughters, Mary, Agnes, Lizzie and Janet. The Muir family continued to grow. William, their son and heir, was born on New Zealand soil on May 21, 1865. Catherine Grace ("Katy"), Hugh Alexander, John and Jessie (the twins), George and Nina, soon followed. The elder children, as they matured, took turns in writing home to their grandparents, Jacob and Mary Mitchell. You can view the Muir family correspondence. The known birth dates of their family are included

John Mitchell, too, was married at the time he left Scotland. On April 27, 1860, at St. Quivox Church in Ayr, John wed Janet Caldwell Smith (b 1840 at Tarbolton). When John and Janet Mitchell set sail, their little daughter Elizabeth accompanied them. Subsequently, they were to produce 10 more children. A record of John and Janet Mitchell and Descendants was compiled and distributed by their grand-daughter, Lillian McCarthy, in 1973. John and Janet Mitchell wrote fairly frequently over the years to John's parents in Scotland and excerpts from those letters can be viewed.

Catherine Mitchell, just 2 years younger than Elizabeth, made family history by getting married at the age of 16 (permissible in Scotland). Catherine was married on August 19, 1859 at Kirkmabrech, Kirkcudbrightshire, to Andrew Fergusson, later employed as game-keeper at Dunskey, Portpatrick in Wigtownshire. Catherine and Andrew had a brood of little ones. At one point, the Fergusson family were considering a move to New Zealand to follow Catherine's brother and sisters, but Andrew's mother tried to dissuade him, and in fact there is some indication in the Fergusson correspondence (although nowhere else) that Hugh and Janet Muir regretted their move to New Zealand. Letters to Catherine's parents mainly give details of the children and their health.

George Mitchell and his wife Mary lived at No. 26 Caledonian Place in Motherwell. From 1869 to 1871, George and Mary wrote a number of letters to George's parents. You can view excerpts from those letters. George died in 1872, leaving Mary to bring up the children on her own.

Not too much is known of the next three children, Charles, Mary and Jacob. Charles worked as a "flesher" in Douglas, Lanark. He was married, with two children. His marriage seems to have been an unhappy one and his business was run down. There is reference to Charles' wife receiving a free passage to America from her brother, and some indication that Charles would accompany her. All that is known for sure is that Charles left Scotland for America and was last heard of at an address in Toronto, Canada.

There is no information on the next daughter in the family, Mary Mitchell, who may have died at birth or as a young child.

Jacob, the second youngest, had poor health. During 1868 he stayed for a time with his sister, Catherine at Portpatrick, in the hope that the climate there would improve his health, but to no avail. He died before the end of that year (confirm). See extracts from his letters written from Dunskey.

William Mitchell, the youngest of Jacob and Mary Mitchell's children, married Jane Marshall Burnett at Bathgate on April 27, 1882. Their first child, Jean, was born in 1883; the next child, a boy, died. They had 3 more daughters before finally producing a son, William Alexander, to carry on the family name. There is only one letter of William Mitchell's on file, written before his marriage to Jane. The names and birth dates of their children are available.

Chapter 3 - In the Twentieth Century

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1998 Irene Mitchell.   marrcoll@yahoo.ca

2000-07-31