My Granny on Dad’s side was Eliza Hotchkiss of Chirk – a lovely apple-cheeked lady with a memorable chuckle, always dressed in black.
Eliza’s mother, Frances, was unmarried and only 16 when she had Eliza. There are rumours in the family that the lord of the manor had his wicked way, but I doubt we’ll ever find out for sure. Frances reputedly died of milk fever, but it has not been possible to verify this as no record of her death has been found.
Frances’ Dad was William Hotchkiss, who was born in Westwood, near Much Wenlock in Sep 1840. William married Mary Jones in a tiny village in Wales called Pont-y-Blew, near Chirk. William’s father was Francis Hotchkiss, who married Eliza Tilley in St Leonard’s church in Broseley.
Robert Jones (Mary’s brother) may have met his future wife Hannah Hotchkiss (William’s sister) at William and Mary’s wedding. In 1881, they lived with their two children at Francis and Eliza’s house in Bourton Road, Much Wenlock.
In finding this double family bond, I have also found a new third cousin once-removed, Malcolm Fox—we continue to research the Hotchkiss / Jones family.
William Hotchkiss ended up in Oswestry workhouse with ‘softening of the brain’, an old term for a stroke. He died in 1911.
As for Francis Hotchkiss’ parents, the IGI has a record of John Hotchkiss marrying Catherine Owen on 1 Jul 1799 in St Leonard’s church in Broseley. Next door to Francis and Eliza in 1841, there was a weaver called John Hotchkiss with his wife Jane and two sons. Living with Francis is Margaret Molineux, aged 40 and two sons. She was most likely the widow of John Molineux and their marriage is recorded in the IGI in 1820 in Much Wenlock. Margaret’s maiden name was Hotchkiss and her parents were William Hotchkiss and Susanna née Pugh, who married in 1766 in Cound, which is six miles up the road past Cressage. If John Hotchkiss was also the son of William and Susanna (as recorded in IGI) with a christening date of 1778, this would make Margaret the aunt of Francis and a good reason why she would have lived with him after her husband’s death.
The only possible problem with this theory is that the IGI record for John Hotchkiss’ christening also includes a date of death of 30 Apr 1791. I think this is assigned to this John Hotchkiss in error – it is also assigned to John Hotchkiss, son of William & Hannah Hotchkiss née Ashwood. From the friendly and helpful Shropshire Archives, I have since learned that t he burials for 1791 state that on the 30th April ‘John Hotchkiss, an infant’ was buried. This points to the child born in 1789 to William and Hannah.
William Hotchkiss is sure to have known a terrifying local character called Nanny Morgan, who lived in a smelly cottage in Westwood Common in the 19th century. She was the archetypal witch with hooked nose and peering eyes in a wrinkled face, crouching over her hell-broth, while live toads and fifteen cats looked on. She made a few bob fortune-telling for servant-girls and even some educated ladies. Nanny was finally stabbed to death with an eel spear by a young man called William Davies who was supposed to marry her, but they had a furious row over the ownership of a watch. Davies was found guilty and was duly transported for life. Nanny’s evil eye must have followed him, because he drowned when his ship sank. The witch’s charms and spells were publicly burnt in Wenlock market place in 1857.