Having been an amateur student of Melton Mowbray local history for more of my mis-spent latter years than I would wish to admit to, I recently came across this rather attractive gentleman and his lady wife whilst searching for a other things in the American newspapers. Expatriates both, William and Hannah Mowbray – how could they be forgotten with a name like that – seem to have slipped out of the old town over 130 years since and today, almost without trace in their home town, whilst their celebrity appears to be lauded and lionised in the USA for their pioneer efforts in the settling of the then new and semi-wild red indian dominated city of Tulsa in the State of Oklahoma.
George William Mowbray was the second child born to John and Catherine Mowbray in 1843. One of seven siblings born over a period of 20 years, the family began their life in Norman Street Melton Mowbray where his father, originally from nearby Loughborough, worked as a journeyman maltster. By the 1860’s, the family had moved on to New Street in the town, possibly to find extra room for the growing family, which, as a matter of pure interest included their final offering to the world in the name of John Robert Mowbray who was born in 1863 just twenty years after his older brother and first-born child, Thomas. It was in the middle of the 1860’s when, then in his 20’s, George’s fancy was to be taken by a young servant girl who was working at the Sandiland’s residence in the nearby village of Coston. His life was apparently being dominated more and more by the church at the time, but marriage was definitely on his agenda and he was not to be deterred.
Hannah Elizabeth Mowbray
William and Hannah courted awhile and were soon to marry in the summer of 1867 at Melton Mowbray; the following year their first born child arrived, a daughter, Anne Catherine (Annie). Next born and their first son was given the same names as his father and he was followed by Mary, 1873, Grace 1875 and Lillie in 1879. Mary Ann Harley was to know nothing of her daughters far-away adventures, nor apparently, to see the remainder of her grandchildren as she died in 1869 at the age of 66 and when the family had all departed the domestic hearth William, who at some time had become a grocer in the village, returned to spend his final days with his sister and brother, a frame knitter, in his birth town Loughborough, eventually passing on in 1885.
To the New World of America
Wikipedia tells us that Oklahoma is a state located in West South Central United States and is the 20th most extensive and the 28th most populous of the 50 United States. The state’s name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning “red people”. It is also known informally by its nickname, ‘The Sooner State,’ honoring the European settlers, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory. The name was settled upon statehood when Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged and Indian was dropped from the name. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the union. Its residents are known as Oklahomans or, informally “Okies”, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.
In fact, our Meltonians were arriving as pioneers in the semi-wild and dangerous area known as Tulsa which was by now linked with the main communication routes and desirous of becoming a city and part of the expanding United States of America. Similar to the Aboriginal lands of Australia, the Red Indians of North America were being asked to amalgamate with the ever-growing influx of white, European settlers who were looking for land with opportunities. The Rev. George Mowbray went to Tulsa as a pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church.
In relation to the very interesting history of this part of the New World, there is a nice little blog written by Tulsa Gal which is well worth a visit and is from where I have filched some of my information. I have discovered that the Mowbrays went from strength to strength in the nascent State, but their only son George Jnr. was to forge a successful business and political career for himself remaining amongst the tall buildings of New York. By far the most feted of his daughters, who all helped in the Church in different ways, was Annie, their oldest child who famously married a local pioneer and legend, Thomas Jefferson Archer. The above blog tells of her short marriage to ‘Jeff’ who was later to be murdered by a drunken Red Indian youth. Tulsa Gal (Nancy) writes in her blog:
‘When Ann Mowbray arrived at the Tulsa train station, having been summoned by her father to come play the organ at his church, T.J. Archer and some other citizens were sitting on the porch in front of his store. As Reverend Mowbray escorted his daughter past the store, T.J. said, “There goes my wife.” One of the other fellows said, “I’ll bet you a box of cigars that she’s mine.” Archer took the bet and sure enough, about a year later they were married. To meet Annie, Archer attended the Methodist church where her father pastored. After they were married, they lived in a room in the back of Archer’s store for the first 3 years, where their first child was born. He then bought 32 acres in North Tulsa and built their first house in the 500 block of North Main.About 14 years later, a larger brick home was built in the lower lot at the corner of Easton and Main. It had 7 bedrooms, a parlor, a library, a dining room, a kitchen and one of the first modern bathrooms.’
To list all of the creditable achievements of William George Mowbray would entail a longer blog than I first envisaged but suffice to say that he had a hand in many Tulsa pies, not only owning a general store, a real estate business (Mowbray Realty) and an undertakers, he was very active in all aspects of local civic society being the town’s 5th Mayor in 1905. All of this of course was alongside and shared with his abiding and lifelong passion for the Episcopal Methodist Church and the construction of two of their churches.
Near to the end of his life, George gave up most of his life’s church work and civic and businesses to superintend the very successful Archer Stores, which had been inherited by his daughter on the tragic and unexpected death of her husband. He died in 1910 at the age of 63. Not a lot more is told of Hannah who lived on until 1927 and is now buried alongside her life’s love in a place far away from their native Leicestershire.