Saturday, 1 October 2011

James Wood

A childhood dream….
James was born in a small village in Middle England in October 1866, the fifth of seven children.

Throughout his childhood years  his constant ambition was to travel to and explore  America….To a child I suppose the grass always looks greener on the other side, and he wasn’t going to be swayed from pursuing. this dream. He left school at an early age and went to work as a servant on a farm nearby, impatiently saving every penny he could from his meagre wage, until he reached the age when he was thought old enough to undertake his solitary journey across the Atlantic Ocean .

James must have had a very independent and resolute nature to even consider undertaking such a venture on his own  in 1885 at the tender age of 19, not knowing if he would ever see any of his family again. I imagine he was filled with burning optimism tempered with a certain amount of trepidation as to what the future held.
After what must have been quite an uncomfortable two week sea voyage from Liverpool on the ‘Indiana’ he arrived in Philadelphia in June 1885  and finally set foot in this land which held the promise of a better life.

 A new chapter in his life had begun …..
He became a naturalised American in 1893.

James worked his way toward Chicago where he met Mary a daughter of Irish immigrants -  she was born in Cook County in 1865.
They married in Chicago in December 1891 and settled in Cook County, Illinois.
It is said that the population of Chicago increased by 600,000 in the 1890’s - a great many of them immigrants…The city itself saw many changes too -  horse and cable cars began to be replaced by electric street cars, and the bicycle boom of the 1890’s accelerated the construction of  ‘proper’ roads leading in and out of the city.....To be a part of this vibrant city must have filled James and his new bride with great excitement!

In 1894 twin sons were born to James and Mary  followed in 1896 by another son…they also had a further child before 1900 which tragically died. ..A daughter Katherine was born in 1901  and a son the following year - there was also a another child born before 1910 which sadly didn’t survive.     
     At this time James was working on the land – the type of work he’d had some experience of back in England.

It’s obvious that James possessed no refined skill in the workplace for he was employed doing various jobs throughout his working life…In 1910 he was employed as an Engineer – what this actually meant I don’t know as he had no qualified engineering expertise. In 1920 he was a labourer at an Ice(?)Plant and toward the end of his working life in 1930 James was working as Yard Foreman at a Lumber Yard  - all  very diverse occupations.

 There’s an adage which says *Jack of all trades but master of none* I think this may well have applied to James. He must be applauded though for seeking out work whenever the need arose.

In 1925 his daughter Katherine married Raymond Harold Scherer – a motor mechanic by trade who by the year 1930 had progressed to becoming a garage proprietor. Katherine gave birth to a son in the November of 1925  who was  named Leroy Harold Scherer
….this son, Roy as he was known in the family, was later to become internationally known as the movie star Rock Hudson.
It’s not known if Katherine’s husband died or whether they were divorced but it’s reported  that in 1937 she married a Wallace Fitzgerald
..Katherine died as the result of a stroke in October 1977 in Newport Beach, California., (where she was known as Kay Fitzgerald)…

Unfortunately I have no information when James passed away, one report says he died in the late 1930’s but at this moment this is uncorroborated. A fact which is known, is that he and his wife Mary lived all of their married life in Cook County Illinois.
     It’s sad that James didn’t get to realise his dream of exploring America, as it appears he didn’t venture far beyond the state of Illinois, but I like to think having a loving wife and children gave him all the happiness and contentment  he needed to quell his wanderlust.


  1. I adore reading stories like this.. it always leaves a sense of awe that someone would take a journey as huge as that alone and so young.
    As you said, it's a shame he didn't realise his dream but he did have an amazing life.

  2. Thank you, I'm always amazed at the fortitude of some of our ancestors.