Edward was one of the four sons of Major General Edward Lawford (1809-71) and was first cousin to my grandfather [Capt Vincent Lawford 1871 - 1959 ]. However, while General Edward married young, in 1828, and his children were born in the next ten years or so, my great grandfather, John Lawford, did not marry until 1852, and my grandfather, Vincent Adrian, the second youngest of thirteen children, was not born until 1871.
It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the descendants of John have inherited very little information about the offspring of his brother General Edward. In fact, our family records include no dates for the birth, marriage or death of the younger Edward. My uncle Valentine’s chart of the General’s descendants has no information about his son’s marriage – just the names of two daughters, Clara and Ellen, of whom the former married “Kitton of …….., Australia” and the latter married “Devine”. Again, there are no dates.
I started my search for Edward Henry Acland in the India Lists. His father, a Royal Engineer, had been Chief Engineer in Mysore in the 1860s, and I knew that one of his sons, Frederick (of whom Valentine had inherited, rather surprisingly, a daguerrotype portrait) had died absurdly young on his way home from India on a hospital ship, and had been buried at Capetown.
The India Lists filled in some of the gaps. Ensign Edward Henry Acland Lawford, 15th Regiment Native Infantry, appears in the Madras list from 1847. India Office Cadet Papers show that he was born at Arcot on 15th October 1829, baptized there on 14th November, and accepted as a cadet in the Madras Infantry in 1846. In the 1853 military list he is recorded as a casualty, and the date of his resignation is given as 9th July 1852.
Next I turned my attention to the daughters. Of Ellen I could find no trace at first; but a Clara Lawford is recorded in the 1881 British Census. She was aged 21, employed as a governess, and boarding with Mr and Mrs Robert Postle, a retired farmer and his wife, living at 1 Trinity Place, Essex Street, Heigham, Norfolk. And, intriguingly, she was born in Australia, towards the end of the 1850s, at a time when there seems to be no news of Edward. It seemed at least possible that she might be his daughter.
My next discovery was made on the website of the Bowdoin College Library in Brunswick, Maine. In their Department of Special Collections and Archives they preserve the papers of one Frederick George Kitton, a writer born in Norwich and noted for his work on Charles Dickens, author of “Dickensiana, a Bibliography of the Literature Relating to Charles Dickens and his Writings” (1886), of “Charles Dickens, His Writings and Personality” (1901), as well as of the memoirs of John Leech and of others. Most importantly, from my point of view, the website informed me that he married Emily Clara Lawford in 1889. There were no children of the marriage. So now I at least had confirmation of the existence of Clara, married to Kitton – and an Australian connection, albeit hers, rather than his.
In March 2002 I happened on a website maintained by Bill and Cynthia McWilliams of Madison, Wisconsin. Bill’s great grandmother was a certain Agnes Maud Lawford, who was born on 12th September 1866 in Calcutta, and died on 7th April 1928 in Los Angeles. According to the website, she had two sisters and a brother, all born in India between 1863 and 1868. One of the sisters was christened Margaretta Acland Lawford, and was thus presumably a descendant of my great great grandmother, who was born Margaret Sarah Acland, and known as Margaretta.
The children’s father was Edward Henry Acland Lawford. Bill McWilliams’ cousin, Paul Nichols of Salt Lake City, Utah, has the original certificate recording Edward’s marriage on 26th August 1862 to Ann Amelia Kayes at St John’s Church, Calcutta. Edward is recorded as a widower, and his father’s name is given as Edward Lawford. Ann Amelia was a spinster, the daughter of William Kayes.
The Gentlemen’s Magazine for 1862 provides confirmation of the marriage: “Aug 26. In Bengal, E.H.A.Lawford esq., son of Col Lawford, R.E., to Amelia, dau. of the late Capt. Kayes, H.M.’s 73rd Foot”.
So the Edward who married in Calcutta in 1862 was without doubt the son of General Edward, and the grandson of Samuel and Margaretta Lawford. Recent research has shown that Edward went to school in Blackheath, so he may well have lodged with his grandparents at No 13 The Paragon during that time.
It came as quite a surprise, I think, to Bill McWilliams and Paul Nichols that their great grandmother was the child of a second marriage. It was equally a surprise to me that my grandfather’s cousin had had a second family.
There was more information on the McWilliams website, most of it provided by Bill’s uncle (and Paul’s father) Roy Nichols. Edward, it seems, became ill in India, and according to Nichols family tradition, was advised by physicians in India and England to live in California for the sake of his health. He was an attorney in San Francisco and died in 1873. The idea that he practised as an attorney seems improbable, and it is not clear to any of us why California should have been the ideal place for him to go for his health! So far as the first of these two hypotheses is concerned, there may perhaps be confusion with Edward’s son William, who did indeed become an attorney.
Nonetheless, it seems certain that Edward died in California. According to Nichols tradition, after his death, Ann Amelia was unable to support her four children, who went to foster families. Agnes was in an orphanage in Napa Valley when she met Emmer Nichols, her future husband, but she was aged 18 at the time and may have been an employee. Roy Nichols says that there was much discussion amongst Edward’s orphaned children, and subsequently among their children, as to why Edward’s family in England did not come to the rescue. They were “rumored to have plenty of money”.
How accurate the story of foster families and orphanages is I do not know. What is certainly true, because it is recorded in the 1880 United States Census, is that in that year a divorced nurse named Ann Osborne, aged 38, was living at Cherry Creek, White Pine, Nevada with a 13 year old daughter, Agnes Lawford, and an 11 year old son, William Lawford. Both children were born in India. So it seems that Ann Amelia had married again, and divorced, since Edward’s death. Of the two elder daughters, Amy and Margaretta, I have so far found no further record.
Yet more interesting documents came from Salt Lake City, early in 2003. The first was a copy of a photograph of a rather distinguished grey haired gentleman aged, I would judge, about 60. On the back of the original is written “Sir Henry Edward Ackland Lawford RT. “Baron of Essex”. Roy Nichols thought that the portrait, which was taken by W Hall, 21 North Street, Brighton, was of Edward. But if the Nichols story was correct, Edward can have been no more than 44 when he died - and was in San Francisco - and this was a picture of an older man, in Brighton. General Edward died in Brighton in 1871: it seems much more likely that the photograph was of him. After I made this suggestion to Paul, he found a further inscription on the back of the photo, which read “Agnes Maud Lawford Nichols (grandfather)” which seems to prove the point.
Fig. 1 Major General Edward Lawford (1809-1871)
Another photograph, taken at F W Baker & Co, Wellesley Place, Calcutta, is of a much younger man with two girls who could possibly be aged about 13 and 11, but might also be a few years older. On the back is written “Edward Henry Acland Lawford” and “Daughters, Nellie & Clara”.
Fig. 2 Edward Henry Acland Lawford with the daughters of his first marriage
And a third photograph is of four children, three girls and a boy, who are named on the back as Agnes Maud Lawford, Amy Violet Alice Lawford, Margaretta Acland Lawford and William Edward Lawford. Judging by the apparent ages of the four, the picture may have been taken about 1872. The photographer was W P Dodge, but the address is incomplete: “63 Grove Road, Holloway Road, N.”
Fig. 3 Edward Henry’s children by his marriage to Ann Amelia.
The next development was heralded in an email from Paul in May 2003. His sister Cathi, who was in the process of moving house, had found a number of letters written to Agnes by her half-sisters in England: one from Clara and four from Ellen (Nelly). In due course Paul transcribed all five, with a little help from me – there were a few English expressions, and several English relations, that were unfamiliar to him!
The letters effectively confirmed most of what we knew already, or had surmised. Clara writes from Essex Street, Unthanks Road, on 24th March 1882, and talks of her work as governess to the children of the Rectory across the road. She has news of Nelly, of her aunt Mrs Alfred Lawford and of her cousins the Priors.
The first of Nelly’s letters is dated 30th December 1884. She refers to her stepmother in America as Mama, mentions Margaretta and Willie, and most importantly, gives news of her marriage to a mariner called Charlie on the 31st August. She is living with her mother-in-law at 6 Winterbolton Street, South Shields. She signs the letter “Nelly Divine”.
The next letter is written from 11 Durham Road, Seaforth, near Liverpool, on 17th April 1890. Now Nelly has two children, Charles Lawford Divine aged 2½ and Margaret Frances, aged 5 months. Clara had been living with her for two years, but is now married to “a Mr Fred G Kitton, an artist and writer, a great admirer of Charles Dickens”, and is living at St Albans. Nelly gives the wedding date as 29th January 1890, incidentally, rather than 1889 as recorded on the Bowdoin College website. Nelly’s life is far from easy: her husband has only been employed “by fits and starts” and is often away from home. She sends news of her Prior cousins, and mentions Edward Lee “a cousin of Grand Papa’s”. As for Agnes, we learn that she is married and has three babies to look after.
On 18th January 1892 Nelly wrote to Agnes again from 11 Durham Road. Charlie had been out of work for a year, from September 1890 to September 1891, and they had been dependent on Nelly’s “little income”. Her four year old son, who was “Charley” in 1890, is now referred to as “Lawford”.
Fig. 4 Fragment of Nelly’s third letter, showing her address
Life is hard, but Nelly does not complain, nor envy Clara her happiness and her comfortable middle class existence. Indeed, she says, “there would not be a happier woman in England were Charlie only in some berth at home and not compelled to go to sea.”. It seems clear that Agnes, too, is happy with her lot.
The 1901 census shows Nelly Divine (spelled “Devine” by the enumerator) and her family still at Durham Road. Charlie is recorded as a master mariner, and there are now three children: Charles L (aged 13), Margaret (11) and Edward (8). Frederick and Emily C Kitton were at Childwick, near St Albans. Her birthplace is given as Castlemaine, South Australia.
Nelly’s last surviving letter was written on 20th June 1909. There is thus a 17 year gap since the previous one, and there is a suggestion that the correspondence may only recently have been resumed. Nelly refers to a letter which she had written around the previous Christmas-time, and to a letter from Agnes dated 10th May. Her address is 41 Sandringham Road, Waterloo, Liverpool. There is news of her three children: Ted (aged 15) is already at sea, Lawford possibly in Australia, and Margaret is ‘away’ while times are bad, but coming home soon for a four week holiday. Nelly is out of favour with Clara, and she has seen neither her nor the Priors for fourteen or fifteen years. She fears that “it will be some time before my husband goes for another voyage”. She is taking in lodgers.
What is striking about Nelly’s letters, in particular, is the intimacy and affection which she displays towards her distant half-sister. It seems clear that their relationship was based on more than correspondence, and this, together with the evidence from the photographs, and Nelly’s reference to her stepmother as “Mama”, suggests that they were brought up together in India. Why, then, did Edward’s two children from his first marriage settle in England, while he, his second wife and their family, went to California? We may never know.
We do, however, know more about Nelly and her family, thanks to Dr Giles Russell, her great grandson, who has inherited an impressive collection of family photographs and a fascinating series of letters of appointment tracing the career of Major General Edward Lawford, his 3 x great grandfather.
Fig. 5 Nelly Divine
It seems that Nelly and her daughter Margaret travelled together to the Pacific, and were caught in Australia by the outbreak of the First World War. Nelly may never have returned, and Giles thinks that she died in the 1930s. Charlie’s ship was badly damaged by enemy gunfire in 1916 and limped back to port: Charlie himself died soon afterwards, on 20th December 1916. Lawford died in the Dardanelles in January 1918. Ted survived the war which killed his father and brother, but died in World War II.
Margaret remained in Australia, where she married and raised a family. She died in Canberra in 1989, just two weeks short of her hundredth birthday.
Agnes and Emmer Nichols settled in Montrose, Colorado and brought up five children, all of whom married in their turn. Emmer died in 1925, and Agnes three years later. Their descendants are numerous.
15th March 2005