Not a Single Man

I wrote about John OAKDEN over two years ago (Leader of the Band) and remarked that my “diligent searching” had failed to come up with a helpmeet in his short Filey retirement. I thought that the Mary Oakden residing on The Crescent may have been his wife – and a couple of days ago discovered that she was, and not his first.

I had taken another look at John because of his connection to Thomas SWIFT, the lawman on the side of injustice in the Maybrick Case. I had long wondered what circumstances turned a bachelor (on the face of it) into the great uncle of little Mary Alice Swift? Of course, I suspected Mary’s niece Emma SAMPSON held the key but without the elusive marriage source…

Marriages Dec 1853  

OAKDEN John & SAMPSON Mary, Manchester 8d 398.    

Free BMD

How had I missed this?

Mary was 45 years-old and single when she married but may have known John for many years if, as seems likely, he had been a “brother in arms” to Thomas Swift. Mary was an aunt of Dinah Swift nee Sampson, and great aunt to Mary Alice.

I then found another report of John’s retirement from the 1st Royal Dragoons that contained information cut from the Staffordshire Advertiser’s account shown in my earlier post.

John Oakden and Hannah TRAVIS were minors when they married. John’s guardian, Robert Wagstaff, and Hannah’s father, Samuel, gave their permissions and William was born the following year (1825), when Hannah was just nineteen. If they had more children I have yet to find them, though it appears Hannah may not have died until 1851. If that had been the case she would surely have attended William’s wedding in 1848 and perhaps her daughter in law Emma’s funeral in the spring of ’51.

William’s second wife, Anna WAGSTAFF, hailed from Derbyshire and his father’s guardian had farmed at Snelston in that county until his death in February 1851 at the age of 81. Robert’s relationship to Anna has yet to be determined. William prevailed upon Anna to give two of their children, John and Louisa, the middle name ‘Travis’ and they christened their fourth child William Robert. John Oakden may have dandled three of his grandchildren upon his knee.

William buried his firstborn child, Elizabeth Gray, in the summer of 1875 and Anna buried him at the end of the following year.

Anna carried on William’s “music dealer” business for a while, assisted by daughter Louisa Travis, and then sailed to the other side of the world with two of her sons. Anna died in Auckland in 1917, Frank in Dunedin (1931), and Harry Percy in the Waikato (1941).  Harry married into the VALPY family in New Zealand, bringing distinction to the Oakden/Wagstaff pedigree. I wonder if there are any among them who had a hand in condemning an innocent woman to death.

Bird 95 · Tufted Duck♀

Glen Gardens Boating Lake

Leader of the Band


John OAKDEN joined the British Army in 1826 at the age of 19, according to his service records. An infant bearing his name, born to Anthony and Ann, was baptized in Alsop en le Dale in 1805. The village is near enough to Ashbourne as to make little difference. If the parents waited for a twelvemonth before baptism, the date fits the inscription on his headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.

In affectionate remembrance of JOHN OAKDEN, who departed this life Sept. 14th 1857, aged 53 years.

‘Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not,

The Son of Man cometh.’

Matt XXIV v44.


John drew his pension for five years. I don’t know how much of this time was spent in Filey and diligent searching online didn’t turn up a faithful companion with whom he shared his days by the sea. The gravestone only records a great-niece who died a few months after he did.

Also of MARY ALICE, daughter of THOMAS and DINAH SWIFT of Prescot and great-niece of the above, who died at Filey, June 20th, 1858, aged 1 year and 3 months.

Dinah was born SAMPSON in Lincolnshire in 1832 and her mother, also Dinah, birthplace not yet known, was a BROOKS. Young Dinah died in Prescot while giving birth to her seventh child, or shortly afterward. The new life and the old were registered in the same quarter year. Thomas married again and, with Emily Mary DAFT, produced another seven children. He was successful enough as a barrister to employ three servants at the family home in Linnet Lane, Toxteth Park in 1891.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA clue to where bandsman Oakden may have lived in Filey is found in the 1861 census returns. Widow Mary Oakden, 52, was recorded at 1, The Crescent, living on her own means and sharing the substantial property (inset) with her niece, Emma SAMPSON, 24. As Emma was a younger sister of Dinah, mother of the infant Mary Alice SWIFT,  it is possible that widow Mary was John Oakden’s wife, but I have been unable to find a  record of the marriage. Both of these women leave the Crescent, and Filey, during the next ten years and I don’t know what became of them.

Little Mary Alice Swift wasn’t on the FamilySearch Tree, but most of her siblings were, though their mother was given as Emily Mary DAFT. I tried to make things right this afternoon and hope I’ve succeeded.

My first search on FST failed to find a likely John Oakden. Then I happened upon Anthony and Ann with four children, including ‘Ashbourne John’. The parents have several duplicate IDs and I haven’t had time to deal with those today. Find John here; three siblings are Ann, Frances, and Georgiana but there may be more.

Men of War?

Thomas and Dinah’s second child was born a few months after Mary Alice died and they named him John Oakden Swift. It would seem that there had been a strong bond between the two families, three if you include the Sampsons. While researching I happened upon a number of Thomas Swifts who were in the British Army. At first glance, I couldn’t find the regimental connection, and a young solicitor taking the Queen’s shilling seems unlikely, but I nonetheless like to think of Thomas and John being brothers in arms. (One of the Thomases was awarded an Indian Mutiny medal in 1857 and this may explain why Mary Alice was living with her great-uncle in Filey at that time.)

Talking of War

As I was writing this post, I received a notification that the US had just attacked a Syrian town, dropping white phosphorous bombs. These weapons are banned under the Geneva Convention for use against civilians or enemy combatants in areas with a large civilian population.  No word on casualties yet, but truth has been “walking wounded” in Syria for years now. Choose your purveyors of news wisely in the coming days and weeks.