OXFORDSHIRE-L ArchivesArchiver > OXFORDSHIRE > 1998-10 > 0907739618
From: "Beverley McCombs" <>
Subject: Ascott Martyrs - How mobile were we
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 1998 18:53:38 +1300
I have just returned from a fortnight away from my computer and on my return
was thrilled to catch up with my e-mail again and more particularly to find
some discussion about migration and the Ascott Martyrs.
Two books that I have found useful are: Arnold, Rollo (1981) "That Farthest
Promised Land", Victoria University Press, Wellington, NZ and Simpson, Tony
(1997) "The Immigrants", Godwit Publishing Ltd, Auckland, NZ.
On a more personal level, while in Shipton-under-Wychwood in May, I came
across an article in "Wychwoods History" Number Eleven, 1996 which solved
one of my longstanding mysteries. Elizabeth Pratley, one of the Ascott
Martyrs who was imprisoned with her 7 month old baby, was the first wife of
my great-grandfather Eli Pratley. But between June 1873 and May 1874 it was
apparent she had died because Eli remarried as a widower in May 1874. But
we could not find a death record anywhere. But thanks to an article written
by Duncan Waugh and the late Tom McQuay the mystery was solved. The article
entitled "A Determined Emigrant" includes part of the annual report of the
Medical Officer of Health for Oxfordshire in 1873 describing an outbreak of
fever in Ascott-under-Wychwood following a "tragic and abortive attempt to
emigrate to America."
The report states that "In November a limited outbreak of typhoid fever
occurred at Ascot-under-Wychwood under very remarkable circumstances. A
man, named Eli Pratley, who had previously emigrated to America, having
there lost his wife, returned with his three children, all in a very
wretched condition, and took up his abode in his mother's house at Ascot on
November 20, bringing with him several boxes containing clothes and bedding,
many of them old and filthy. The remaining inhabitant of the house, viz.
his brother, was attacked with typhoid on November 29, and his mother (who
died of it) on the following day. Eli Pratley, on being questioned, at once
said that his wife had died of typhoid fever. The only other case in the
neighbourhood occurred on Dec 5, in the person of Pratley's married sister,
who had been up to the house and taken away some of the dirty things to
wash. It was suggested that the brother had taken the fever at another
place (Foden's Hill), where he had been to work after Pratley's return; but
further enquiry quite negatived that idea; for it appeared that he did not
go to Foden's Hill until the 24th, and that though there had been fever in
the house in July last, yet the house had changed tenants in the interval,
and there had been no recurrence of fever amongst the new inhabitants.
Moreover, in this case the mother must be supposed to have caight the fever
from the son, and she was, as we have seen, attacked the very next day.
There can, I think, be no reasonable doubt that the source of infection in
this case was in the clothes and bedding brought by Pratley from America".
The authors suggest that it was not typhoid but typhus, a louse-borne
infection also known as army-, camp-, famine-, ship- or trench fever, and
recognised as a 'barometer of human misery'. Typhoid is usually spread by
human faeces or urine and the typhoid bacilli would die rapidly on
contaminated clothing whereas Typhus rickettsiae could survive for several
months in the dried faeces of the louse and are highly infectious if
inhaled. The authors go on to write that it was not until early this
century that microbiological tests made a differential diagnosis definite so
that confusion between these infections is understandable.
Eli's father, William, was an Ascott woodman, whose first wife, Lucy Harris
had died in childbirth forty years earlier. His second wife, Eli's mother,
was Jemima Moss and the brother mentioned in the article was probably 15
year old Charles, who was living with his mother in the 1871 Census. Eli's
three children were Elizabeth, Ellen and Eli. Evidently little Eli also
died of typhus in February 1874.
It seems that at some stage, probably after February, Eli went to work as a
groom on the Nightingale farm, in Bishampton, Worcestershire, where he met
Jane Malins, "eloped" with her back to Ascott-under-Wychwood, married her
and together with Ellen left for NZ on the clipper ship "Crusader", which
left Plymouth on September 26, 1874. Eli's daughter Elizabeth was left
behind with her maternal grandparents, William and Maria Osman in Burford.
Eli and Jane arrived in NZ , December 31 1874, after a journey of 97 days.
They went on to have 11 boys and one girl.
Altogether, a party of 101 Oxfordshire emigrants, led by George Allington,
left on this sailing and some of the other Ascott-under-Wychwood families on
that particluar trip were Eli's brother Frederick, his wife Mary (another
Ascott Martyr also imprisoned with her baby) and their six children; Eli's
half-brother Edward; Peter Honeybone, his wife Miilicent and two children.
Peter is Fanny Honeybone's (the youngest Ascott Martyr) brother; and John
and Caroline Timms with six children.