In an earlier post, I related how Jane Allan Cupples, the daughter of Alexander Cupples and Ann Simpson, emigrated to the United States with her family, however she wasn’t the only child of Alexander’s to emigrate. Alexander and Ann’s third son, William, born on 21 March 1855 in Maryhill, Lanarkshire, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1882 and settled in Venango Township in Butler County.
William married Mary Wilson on 12 November 1880 in Slamannan, Stirlingshire, and he became an instant father as Mary had already given birth to an illegitimate son, Thomas, on 19 July 1878. Mary, the daughter of Thomas Wilson and Mary Steed, was born in Falkirk on 29 June 1856 and had worked as a domestic servant before her marriage.
William and Mary settled in Coaltown, Lawrence, where Mary gave birth to her eldest daughter, Mary, on 27 March 1882. Mary would be the first of ten daughters born to the couple before the arrival of a second son, William George, on 9 June 1900 by which time the family had moved to Hilliards, Venango County. William had worked as a coal miner in Slamannan before emigrating to America so he was no stranger to mines. Anthracite coal was first discovered in Pennsylvania in the 18th Century and it is not surprising many of the counties and townships would have coal themed names. After the end of the Civil War, mining boomed in the region along with the railways and it attracted many immigrants looking for a fresh start. Over 10 billion tons of coal were mined in the Pennsylvania counties over a 200 hundred year period which is one-fourth of the total coal production in the United States.
The Cupples family would have lived in a typical house provided for miners by the companies who owned the mines. As mines were often found in remote rural areas, it was a necessity for mining companies to encourage the growth of towns to cope with the influx of workers who were often stranded there due to a lack of transport routes. These houses were usually wooden two storeys which were built in rows along a main road with a company store, providing everything from food to mining supplies, would have been built in the centre of town. As the number of immigrants increased, the population would often sort itself out into distinct areas ruled by nationality. The houses were often cheaper with heavily subsidised utilities such as electricity, heat, and water, but the families would be heavily dependent on their employers who often extended credit to ensure their workers toed the line.
William and Mary remained in Coaltown for about twelve years watching their family expand, however two of their daughters would die in infancy, Betsy in 1899, and Bessie in 1892. Bertha Rebecca Cupples was the last daughter to be born in Coaltown in August 1896 before the family moved to Hilliard where their last child, a son, was born in 1900. Since the 1890 US Census no longer exits, the family make their first appearance in the US census records in 1900 which reveals 11 children have been born but two have died. Since Mary would still have been pregnant with the youngest, William George, the numbers fit what we know about the family. The census also reveals William and Mary can both read and write, while William is still working as a miner.
On the 1910 US Census, William’s circumstances have changed dramatically as he has become a farmer and is employing workers of his own, although he doesn’t appear to own the farm as it is listed as rented. Two of William and Mary’s daughters, Martha and Elizabeth, are employed as domestics in a hotel, while Jennie is working as a housemaid. The eldest son, Thomas, and the other girls have all married and have families of their own.
On 2 June 1910, William, aged 55 years, died from asthma which was probably a result of the years he spent working in a mine. In the 1920 US Census, Mary, now widowed, is living with her youngest son, William, and her son-in-law, Michael McBride, who are both employed in the mines. Mary’s daughter, Agnes, is also living next door with her husband, Charles Leonard Gladd, who is also a miner. Mary makes her last appearance in the 1930 US Census where she is living alone, however some of her children are living nearby. Mary, aged 76 years, died of a stroke on 2 July 1932.