Little Waldingfield History Society was delighted to welcome Geoffrey Robinson, secretary to the Worlingworth Local History Group and Recorders Secretary to the Suffolk Local History Council, to talk to us about Henry Adams Cupper, a pioneer who emigrated with his family to America during the latter part of the 19th century.
Henry Adams Cupper was born in 1845 at Benhall, a small hamlet 10 or so miles distant from Geoff's home of Worlingworth. Piquing Geoff's interest, Henry was a direct descendant of a Worlingworth churchwarden; he was brought up in Benhall and then Framlingham, educated at a private school in Yoxford and then trained in farm management by his uncle, William Mudd. He married Cordelia Harriet Capon in 1872 - see below. Cordelia was born at Red House Farm in Framlingham in 1849, hailing from a well-respected farming family, so the marriage merged two Suffolk farming dynasties.
In 1873 Henry went into partnership with his brother-in-law William Miles Page, renting 330 acres at Virtue's Farm in Hollesley. The country was suffering from a long agricultural depression, whilst since 1850 emigration had become popular, peaking from the 1870s as British markets were flooded with foreign corn. Encouraged by newspaper adverts offering large tracts of good quality farming land at cheap prices, Henry decided to leave Britain to seek a new life in the New World.
Geoff told us that in January 1877, Henry, pregnant wife Cordelia and their three young children boarded the steamship Abyssinia, a British mail liner operated by Cunard, in Liverpool. Henry had to say farewell to his mother and four sisters, so their recent Christmas celebrations were probably somewhat subdued. The fare for the family was 60 guineas, approximately £7,000 in today's money and a huge amount; it also seems that the winter weather was the worst in decades, so the family had to endure a 14-day storm-ridden journey across the Atlantic.
Arriving on January 29th 1877, the intrepid pioneers then took the railroad across the New World on a nine-day journey: NY to Chicago, Omaha, Laramie, Salt Lake City, Sacramento and finally to Redding in California; Cordelia gave birth during this journey, on the 2nd February.
From Redding, Henry and his family took a wagon train north to explore potential settlement sites, before moving into the wild expanses of Oregon. Geoff advised us they stopped at Ashland, where Henry took a job of sorts; sadly the newborn baby died aged just three weeks. As spring arrived, Henry bought a wagon and team to take the family north once more; he was looking for an ideal place to put down roots, but in this process, he realised they had travelled too far north, so they had to turn southwest. In all, the journey took some 18 months.
They eventually settled at Monument in Grant County, obtaining a ranch with some land by “squatters rights”, a few miles northwest in what is now known as Cupper Creek. We were told that a Native Indian uprising forced the family into Fort Heppner in 1878, where Henry helped in the defence of the fort. At this time, Geoff told us that Custer had made his “last stand” just two years earlier, so clearly times were dangerous, particularly for a large young family. The ranch was subsequently re-built, though it is not known if this was because the original had been burnt down during the uprising. Personal connections forged by Geoff with Cupper descendants have unearthed family photographs from these early days in Oregon, which was taken around 1895.
Henry returned to Suffolk in the mid 1880s with his family, which now included two more children, to deal with the estate of his mother who died in 1885. He also took stock back to Oregon, which included three Suffolk Punch horses, some cattle and other animals purchased at the sale of Robert Capon's Dennington Lodge Stud in 1887. Henry spent over 100 guineas, or some £13,000 today, but unfortunately the two stallions died on the journey back, ending hopes for a stud.
During the 1890s Henry had two relatives with their families join them in the community in and around Monument, and in 1900 he gained the water rights to Cupper Creek (some 3,000 acres), satisfying the needs of a very large herd of cattle, a herd of sheep and a comfortable home.
Lastly Geoff told us that the “Suffolk” ranch on Cupper Creek remained the home of Henry and his family for nearly 40 years, until he retired to Salem; the couple's sixtieth wedding anniversary at Salem was then also captured on film - below.
The talk represented a personal success for Geoff, who personally unearthed the tale following meticulous research over many years, and was hugely enjoyed by the 35 plus audience; as he said “it's the wonder of local history, going down branch lines (of research” with hope but no certainty of success”.
Our next events will be at 7.30 in The Parish Room on:
19th April: The brilliant Ashley Cooper will tell us all about the myriad connections between Suffolk and India - it should be absolutely fascinating.
17th May: Mark Bills, a director of Gainsborough's House, will discuss the life and art of the great man - it should be really interesting and informative.
Both events are going to be great and we look forward to welcoming guests new and old to the Parish Room.