Six sons of Richard CORTIS and Jane SMITHSON reached adulthood. Five crossed the Atlantic and ended their days in the United States after experiencing mixed fortunes. From information received and uncovered thus far, it appears that the first young man to Go West was Richard John in 1856. He had married Jane Hannah MAPLES in Hull in 1850 and they sailed from Liverpool with two infant boys. When they were caught by the 1860 US census they had been joined by Harold Graeme (aged 6 months) – and RJ’s brother Samuel Smithson. I don’t know for sure if the other three brothers had made the crossing by this time but eight years ago I was offered a reason for them all leaving home.
Here is a post from Looking at Filey, 6 May 2012 – in full, errors included but footnoted. (The archived Looking at Filey has still not been made available again at The British Library. The web links should still “work”.)
Photographer unknown, no date1, courtesy Elizabeth Kennard
Richard John2 CORTIS senior, born about 1788, was a master mariner and later a shipping agent. He also owned the Minerva public house hard by the River Humber. (Recent photos here, here, and here.) With Jane SMITHSON he had at least ten children. I had found eight of them on FamilySearch but Elizabeth supplied two more – Henrietta, who died in infancy, and Joseph who was killed in Tennessee during the American Civil War. Seven Hull born children made it to adulthood but none breathed their last by the Humber. Six3 died in the United States and one in Australia. Elizabeth asked me what happened in Hull around the 1850s that prompted a whole brood to fly a long way from the nest. Despite being a Hull lad, I didn’t have a clue and so asked a man I hoped would know. Peter Church explained that 1849 was a cholera epidemic year and some of the city’s water came from Spring Head in Anlaby along an open channel which passed Spring Bank cemetery where 700 cholera victims were buried. Minerva opened in 1851 and Richard John CORTIS senior was responsible for “masterminding the trans-migrants passing through Hull from mainland Europe to America”. I reckon he was therefore in a good position to advise his children to seek a healthier life across the Atlantic and to facilitate their journeys.
The odd one out was William Smithson CORTIS who was enumerated in Queen Street Filey in 1851 with a wife, three children and three servants. Ten years later he was a widower in a mixed John Street household containing three of his children, a widowed sister in law and nephew (on his wife’s side), a pupil in his medical practice, four servants – and his old dad, 74 year old “Richard, formerly Master Mariner.”
The Cortis presence in Filey comes to an end at some time during the next ten years, before 1869 probably because the old master mariner dies in Hull that year, his age given as 83. Two of his Filey born grandsons made their way to Australia and William Smithson went out there too, dying in Manly in 1906.
I wonder if any letters passed between Filey and the United States. Was the man on the horse (above) aware of his older brother’s passing in Australia, four years before his own death?
Elizabeth has told me that Richard John Junior worked as a shipping agent for the White Star Line and did well enough for himself to have four servants and a coachman in the house. The photograph was taken in Brooklyn, New York City, which is not, as Elizabeth writes, “a noted pastoral green, horse riding area any longer”. (William GEDNEY pictured Brooklyn as I imagine it.)
- Date about 1895.
- I do not think Richard senior had a middle name.
- Five brothers and, perhaps, sister Jane.
Elizabeth’s photograph came with the following information attached.
Richard J Cortis 1823-1910, an Englishman who with his wife Jane (Maples) came to NY City permanently about the middle of the 1850s. He was the father of Jessie V. Cortis (1865-1937) who married Wm. Kennard in 1889. The maternal grandfather of Wm. Cortis Kennard (1893-1975) and the great grandfather of Richard Cortis Kennard (1920- 2001.
R J Cortis always kept a horse or two in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY and this picture taken about 1895 shows him on his horse “Rex” at the Cortis home, 66 Lennox Road, Flatbush, which the Kennard family and R J Cortis left in 1908 for 1722 Albemarle Rd, a home built by Wm M Kennard.
Find Richard John on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.