Lost woman: found bruiser

A while back I found on my Ancestry DNA page a Shared Ancestry Hint.  These hints are developed from the starting point that two contributors have linked DNA, with additional information from the respective trees to find the connection.  In this case the link was to kbhofman’s tree, third cousin once removed, and a connection to second great grandparents Henry Dennis and Dorothy Hogg.

sah kbhofman
Shared Ancestor Hint, showing most direct lines in connecting trees.

In the other tree was their daughter Mary, who married Henry Poxon.  I had them in my tree, but their daughter Anna Maria was missing.  How could this be?  True, for a couple with eleven children, there was a suspicious gap between daughters Mary and Sarah Ann in 1860 and son Henry in 1867.  Then I looked at the 1871 census, and there she was:  “Hannah M”, aged seven.  It was clearly the right family, as mother Mary was born at Bagworth, Leicestershire.  They lived on Brownhills High Street, where Henry was “Coal Miner and F …”.

coal miner and f
Detail from 1871 England Census

Flint Maker?  I thought flintlock firearms had been superseded by 1873, but what else would flints be wanted for at the time?  Matches for firelighting were commonplace by then, but perhaps lighters for pipe tobacco were using flints at the time – they are still in use today for smoking materials.

I wondered if the newspaper archive would help with Henry’s occupation, but it revealed only his, and more so, his son’s violent nature.  For example, this unfortunate gambling experience:

From Tamworth Herald – Saturday 11 October 1873

District News
PETTY SESSIONS, Wednesday. — Before General Phillips, C.Inge, and J. James, Esqs.

SPORTING COLLIERS. — Henry Poxon, Brownhills, miner, was brought up on remand, on a charge of assaulting a miner named Thomas Corbett, on the 6th of September last. According to the evidence of complainant, who appeared with his arm in a sling, on the day in question he was in company with the defendant. They had just received their week’s wages and were on the road for home when they commenced tossing for 1s. a toss. From this they went up to 10s. a toss and continued gambling about one hour and a half, with an understanding that one or the other should go home penniless. Eventually, Poxon’s money was getting very low at which he showed symptoms of fighting and struck the complainant several times, knocked him down and kicked him, and broke his arm. Poxon had offered him £4 down and 5s. per week until he got well, but he would not accept this offer and had put him in the County Court for £10. — The Bench said a most brutal assault had been committed and fined defendant £5 and costs; in default two months, with hard labour.

A second charge was preferred against the defendant by Mr. Supt. Hill for being drunk and riotous at Brown Hills, on the 21st. September, for which he was fined 10s. and costs.

At the time Henry Poxon was married with eight children and another on the way. Thomas Corbett was also married, but his wife and four children lived at Wellington, Shropshire.

Like father like son (Henry snr died in 1890):

Lichfield Mercury 14 August 1891


ASSAULT. — Henry Poxon, miner, was charged with assaulting Abraham Foster, also a miner, both of Brownhills, on the 3rd August. — A long list of convictions was brought against the defendant, and the Chairman said he seemed to have passed his whole life in committing assaults. Fined 20s and 11s6d costs.

Lichfield Mercury 10 March 1893

SIX MONTHS FOR ASSAULT: BRUTAL CONDUCT OF A MINER. — Henry Poxon, miner Brownhills, was charged on information laid by Benjamin Smith, Watling Street Road, Brownhills, with assaulting Sarah Smith, a widow, on March 6th. — Defendant said he was very drunk at the time, and had no recollection of the assault. — Complainant, who lives on the Watling Street Road, and attended the Court with her head bandaged, said that on Monday last, between 9 and 10 o’clock, defendant, who lived near to her, came to her house in a drunken condition and began to assault her son, Benjamin. Afterwards without any provocation whatever, defendant violently assaulted complainant by striking her several times on the head and body with a stick. In consequence of the blows she had several deep cuts on her head, which bled profusely, and she was obliged to seek the medical aid of Dr. Maddever, who attended to her injuries and at that time informed her that if defendant had gone much further she would be a dead woman soon. Complainant now produced an apron she was wearing at the time, which was covered with blood stains. Her arms were badly bruised and discoloured. He was drunk, and threatened to knock witnesses brains out. He afterwards struck witness twice with a stick, without the least provocation. Complainant was present, and defendant began assaulting her. He struck her with a stick on the head, body, and arms, several times, and inflicted serious injuries. Witness could give no explanation why defendant came to the house. — Defendant: I can’t think how I got there. I knew nothing about it until the next morning. — On referring to the record book it was found that the defendant had been convicted on 14 previous occasions. — Mr. Madan [on the bench] said the defendant had been guilty of a most unprovoked, deliberate, and cruel assault, and the case was one of the worst the Magistrates had had before them for a long time. Defendant had a long list of previous convictions against him, and he would have to go to gaol for 6 months with hard labour. He would also have to pay 13s 6d costs, or be imprisoned for and additional 14 days in default.

Perhaps the Magistrates hoped this would put an end to this scourge of Brownhills, but it was a forlorn hope. The Lichfield Mercury 25 May 1894 reported that Henry Poxon and Henry James, miners, Brownhills, were charged with being drunk and disorderly, having been turned out of the Boat Inn, Walsall Road, Stonnall. Poxon was fined 5s and 6s costs and James let off with 6s costs.

And on 27 March 1896 the same paper reported that a number of persons had been summoned for having unmuzzled dogs: Henry Poxon was ordered to pay 5s 6d.

This is all the more astonishing when bearing in mind that Henry was only 29 years of age by this time.  At the time of the article transcribed above he was just 26, but already had 14 convictions.  A one-man crime wave, indeed!

So this compulsive bruiser was Anna Maria’s brother.

What became of Anna Maria

Anna was married in 1888 to George Henry Johnson at Walsall.  Six children followed and in 1901 they were at Bank Street, Heath Hayes.  From kbhofman’s tree they arrived at St John, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1906.  From there they travelled from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City, before settling in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania.  In 1914 they petitioned for naturalisation, Anna known as Maria, and became American citizens. Sometime in the 1920s Anna and George moved to Pinellas, Florida where they ended their days, George in 1929 and Anna in 1944.  Both were buried at Wilkinsburg.

five ways os 1900 1901 1903
Five Ways, Heath Hayes, Staffordshire. Ordnance Survey. Surveyed 1900-1901, published 1903. Ends of Bank Street highlighted.  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

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