Art/work: Samuel Atcherley and the designs for his future

An assessment of Samuel Atcherley’s future prospects, based on the first two census returns in which he appeared, does not paint a promising picture. In 1871, at the age of 6, Samuel was the youngest of four children who were being cared for by their widowed mother, Jane Atcherley. Jane, working as a laundress to make ends meet, was supporting not only her four youngest children, but also her 75-year-old mother. Over the next ten years Jane’s mother passed away, and two of her children moved out having found work elsewhere. The remaining daughter, Martha, joined Jane as a laundress, but in 1881 Samuel – although old enough to be at work – was still at school. Samuel’s schooling, however, was the key to a brighter future than might otherwise have been in store for him.

Samuel had some surprising skills, and these were being developed at an educational establishment which might have been tailor-made for his talents: Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. To find out more about this school, and the movement of which it was a part, we must turn to another source of information from 1881. A report in the Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal published on 23 February that year provides a handy history:

Quote The Great Exhibition of 1851 led to the formation of Schools of Art a few years later, and the Shrewsbury School of Art was founded in 1855. It originated in a public breakfast at the Royal Free Grammar School given by Dr. Kennedy to a body of gentlemen who had been invited to meet Dr. Lyon Playfair and inaugurate the movement.

Shrewsbury - Museum and Art Gallery (Vaughan's Mansion)About the same time ‘Vaughan’s Mansion’ formed one lot of the Talbot property, and when it fell under the hammer was bought by a few noblemen and gentlemen, who had subscribed £1,330 for the purpose of preserving the old building from destruction in the first place, and with the laudable object, in the next place, of providing proper rooms for art instruction, and ample accommodation for the antiquities and curiosities collected in the Museum. Unquote

Thus the 13th-century Vaughan’s Mansion (the surviving parts of which now form part of Shrewsbury’s Museum and Art Gallery, the Victorian front of which is pictured left) became the home of the Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. The above newspaper report also mentioned Samuel Atcherley. His name appeared in several other copies of Eddowes’s Journal too. The earliest that I have found dates back to August 1878, when Samuel was approaching his 14th birthday. It indicates that Sam had been a pupil for several months at least, and that he had made a strong start:

Quote Shrewsbury School of Science and Art.—The committee announce that they have received from the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington, the following results of the examination held in the various subjects, in Shrewsbury, during the month of May, 1878:—Results of the second grade examination in drawing. Passed with honours and prize: Freehand, Samuel Atcherley … Unquote

In December 1878, when an exhibition of drawings and paintings was held along with the distribution of awards, the list of students who had passed Art at second grade was headed by “S. Atcherley (‘excellent’ certificate and prize)”. The results from May 1879, announced in August, were described as “the most successful yet achieved by the Shrewsbury School of Art”, with “S. Atcherley” making his mark again. He won a prize in national competition, gained a distinction in the elementary section, and passed (without honours) in model drawing.

Samuel continued to develop his artistic abilities. At the annual distribution of awards in February 1880 he gained a certificate in the second grade examination, for model drawing, a prize – Moody’s Lectures and Lessons on Art – for his freehand work in the third grade exam, and also won one of several local prizes, which were paid for by special subscriptions. Samuel’s prize, for his “Outline of Madeline Pilaster”, was a copy of Manual of Geography by W Hughes.

Samuel was then successful in the geometry category of the second grade drawing exam held in April 1880, and received his certificate for this at the annual prize-giving event in February 1881. At the same event, he won what was to be the first of several prizes for his “designs for ribbons”, the reward on this occasion being Poynter’s Ten Lectures on Art and Lanzi’s History of Painting (3 volumes). As if he did not have enough to carry home, he also won the Vacation Art Club’s first prize (Chevreal on Colour) for his freehand work. He must have been delighted, and I hope his mother was proud. How incongruous his art books must have appeared in the Atcherley family’s little cottage, out ‘in the sticks’ at Tiddicross.

This does beg the question, how were Samuel’s lessons paid for? Attendance at the School of Science and Art was not free. A notice published in Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal of 14 January 1874 gave the fees for the Gentlemen’s classes as £1 1s per quarter, while the Artizan’s evening classes (which took place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 9pm) cost 5 shilling a quarter. What a huge financial sacrifice this would have been for Samuel’s mother Jane if she was footing the bill.

I wonder if the local Board of Guardians paid, as a means of setting Samuel up for a career and reducing the risk of him ending up in the workhouse and becoming a burden on the local rate payers? The headmaster of the school, speaking in 1883, stated that “the primary object of Schools of Art was to produce good designers to improve the Art manufactures of this country”. The production of good designers would of course be of benefit not just to manufacturers but also to the designers themselves, and the wider community.

The exact circumstances in which Samuel Atcherley found his way into Shrewsbury School of Science and Art will probably never be known for sure. What is known is that Samuel made the most of the opportunity that was he was given. The work which he completed and which was sent to South Kensington in April 1881 meant that he was among the students of that year who won “Third grade prizes,book - Painting Popularly Explained consisting of handsomely bound books on Art subjects and portfolios of photographs”. Meanwhile, in the local examinations of 1881, Samuel “gained a prize in perspective”. More awards were to come Samuel’s way in January 1882, when Sir Baldwyn Leighton, MP, presided over the prize-giving ceremony.

Samuel’s success on this occasion was staggering, with prizes garnered from the second grade examination, the third grade examination (for ornamental arrangement of plants at stage 22a, and designs for ribbons at stage 23c), the Vacation Art Club awards (for ornamental arrangement of plants) and the local prizes (for a design for wrought iron gates). This artistic young Atcherley went away with copies of Wornum’s Analysis of Ornament, Lindley’s School Botany, Bell’s Anatomy of Expression, Penley’s Sketching from Nature, Gullick and Timbs’s Painting Popularly Explained, and Dresser’s Principles of Design.

A further three years of work at the school of art followed, with more prizes won and examinations passed. Designs for ribbons were recognised once more in 1882 and 1883, while in the latter year Samuel also passed the Art Pupil Teacher’s Examinations (in “Outline from the cast”). Third prize in stage 23c came in 1884, and the following year Samuel completed the intermediate certificate of the school’s art department.

Samuel Atcherley reached the age of 21 towards the end of 1885, and it was probably around that time that his education at Shrewsbury School of Science of Art came to an end and the world of work beckoned. Sam’s mother Jane died in May the following year, and was buried at Wrockwardine St Peter on 21 May 1886. Was Samuel still living with Jane, at Tiddicross, at the time of her death? I don’t know, but by 1891, when the next census was taken, Sam was lodging with the Rogers family in Oxford Road, Altincham, in Cheshire. His years of study in Shrewsbury had paid off, as his occupation was recorded as “Designer (Cotton Prints)”.

While he was living in Altrincham, Samuel Atcherley met and married Knutsford-born Olive Gidman. The nuptials took place at Altrincham St John (pictured below) on 14 June 1900. It is interesting to note that in the entry made in the marriage register, Samuel ‘promoted’ his late father Thomas from Labourer to Farmer! The register also shows that, prior to their wedding, Samuel and Olive had been next door neighbours: Samuel’s address was 13 Byron Street while Olive’s was number 11. By 1 April 1901, on which day the nation’s census schedules were collected, Sam and Olive had moved to 9 Linden Avenue in Altincham. Living with them was Olive’s brother George Gidman, a soldier.

Cheshire - Altrincham St John

On 12 March 1903, Sam and Olive’s only child, Vera Mary Atcherley, was born. The family was by this time living in Hawthorn Road in Hale, but Samuel was still working as a designer. Sam remained in Hale for the rest of his life, living there with Olive and, until her marriage in 1933, Vera. The Atcherleys resided at various address including Ashley Road (numbers 178, 188 and 182), 7 Bancroft Road and finally 16 Hawthorn Avenue.

Unfortunately for Samuel, his skills as an artist and designer did not guarantee him constant work. In July 1908, he placed several advertisements in the Manchester Courier seeking a position as an art class teacher, either at a school or in private tuition. Samuel stated that he was certified (South Kensington) and could provide “highest references”.

These ads were evidently unsuccessful, because in October 1908 Samuel placed another advertisement: “DESIGNER to Calico Printer REQUIRES SITUATION; 23½ years’ reference.” He seems to have had better luck with this attempt to regain employment, as he was recorded on the 1911 census as working once more as a designer, in the calico printing industry.

Were Samuel’s skills rewarded with work post-1911? Records for this part of Sam’s life are few and far between, but the years in question were difficult for many. The turmoil of the Great War was followed by a decade in which Britain’s economy struggled – then came the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. When the 1939 Register was taken at the beginning of the Second World War, Samuel, formerly a calico print designer, was unemployed. He died the following year, aged 75, and was buried at Hale Cemetery on 11 January. He did not leave a will and no administration of his effects was granted.

Olive Atcherley went to live in Manchester after Samuel’s death and died there on 27 January 1945; she was buried with her husband at Hale Cemetery four days later. Administration of her effects was granted to her daughter Vera; they were valued at £692 11s. From this it appears that although this Atcherley family was not wealthy, it was not destitute either: Samuel’s skills had, I hope, kept him, and Olive, afloat during troublesome times.

Vera’s husband Geoffrey Dixon Walmsley had skills of his own: he was (according to the 1939 Register) a watch and clock repairer and jeweller’s agent. When Geoffrey died in 1951, he left effects valued at over £3127, a sum which must have enabled Samuel and Olive Atcherley’s daughter to live comfortably until her own death, at the age of 87, in 1991.

Picture credits. Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery: Adapted from a photo by Gnesener1900, taken from Wikimedia Commons and used, and made available for re-use, under a Creative Commons licence. Painting Popularly Explained: Image from a digital copy at the Hathi Trust website, the book was published 1859 and is in the public domain. St John the Evangelist, Altrincham: Adapted from a photo which is © Copyright Bill Boaden, taken from Geograph and used, and made available for re-use, under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] 1871 census of England and Wales. Tiddicross, Wrockwardine, Shropshire. Piece 2808, folio 123, page 14.
[2] 1881 census of England and Wales. Tiddicross, Wrockwardine, Shropshire. Piece 2680, folio 110, page 10.
[3] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 23 Feb 1881, page 10. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 28 Aug 1878, page 7. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[5] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 25 Dec 1878, page 8. Shrewsbury Science and Art School. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[6] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 13 Aug 1879, page 7. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[7] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 18 Feb 1880, page 12. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 14 January 1874, page 4. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[9] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 17 Jan 1883, page 8. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search name Atcheriey).
[10] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 3 Aug 1881, page 7. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[11] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 25 Jan 1882, page 5. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search name Atcheriey).
[12] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 16 Aug 1882, page 5. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 17 Jan 1883, page 8. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atcheriey).
[14] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 15 Aug 1883, page 5. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[15] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 13 Aug 1884, page 5. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[16] Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, Aug 1885, page 8. Shrewsbury School of Science and Art. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[17] Death of Jane Atcherley registered at Wellington, September quarter 1886; volume 6a, page 505; age given as 61.
[18] Wrockwardine, Shropshire, burial register covering 1886. Entry for jane Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I04338-4, Film 1702245, Ref ID item 13 p 82.
[19] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2822, folio 55, page 46.
[20] Marriage of Samuel Atcherley and Olive Gidman registered at Bucklow, June quarter 1900; volume 8a, page 339.
[21] Altrincham St John, Cheshire, marriage register covering 1900, entry for Samuel Atcherley and Olive Gidman. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Cheshire Marriages. Indexed at FamilySearch, Film 1655304, Digital Folder 4018309, Image 486.
[22] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece 3321, folio 165, page 10.
[23] Birth of Vera Mary Atcherley registered at Bucklow, June quarter 1903; volume 8a, page 169.
[24] Altrincham St John, Cheshire, baptism register covering 1903, entry dated 15 Apr for Vera Mary Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Cheshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Digital Folder 4018839, Film 2068973, Image 225.
[25] Slater’s Directory of Altrincham, Bowdon, Sale, Brooklands and Dunham Massey (1906), page 7.
[26] Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 11 Jun 1908, page 2. Wanted. (Advert also published on 3 Jul 1908, 7 Jul 1908, 8 Jul 1908, 9 Jul 1908, 13 Jul 1908, and 14 Jul 1908.)
[27] Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 3 Oct 1908, page 2. Unemployed Advertisements. (Advert also published 5 and 8 Oct 1908.)
[28] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 21541, Schedule 183
[29] Slater’s Directory of Altrincham, Bowdon [etc] (1914), page 11.
[30] Marriage of Geoffrey D Walmsley and Vera M Atcherley registered at Manchester South, June quarter 1933; volume 8d, page 276.
[31] Lancashire BMD shows marriage of Geoffrey Dixon Walmsley and Vera Mary Atcherley at Whalley Range, St. Edmund, 1937. (Marriage search page.)
[32] Great Depression in the United Kingdom. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 27 May 2015).
[33] 1939 Register of England and Wales. Piece 3974A, Item 008, Lines 10 and 11. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[34] Death of Samuel Atcherley registered at Bucklow, March quarter 1940; volume 8a, page 622; age given as 75.
[35] Hale Cemetery, Manchester, interment details for grave reference M/312 viewed at Deceased Online.
[36] Hale Cemetery, Manchester, burial register covering 1940. Entry for Samuel Atcherley. Copy viewed at Deceased Online.
[37] Death of Olive Atcherley registered at Manchester, March quarter 1945; volume 8d, page 44; age given as 72.
[38] National Probate Calendar (1945): Entry for Olive Atcherley. Copy viewed at Ancestry.
[39] 1939 Register of England and Wales. Piece 4450H, Item 020, Lines 17 and 18. 317 Barlow Moor Road, Manchester (Manchester C.B., Lancashire). Geoffrey D Walmsley, born 5 Oct 1904, married, Watch & clock repairer Jewellers Agent. Vera M Walmsley, born 12 Mar 1903, married, unpaid domestic duties. Copy viewed at Findmypast (surnames transcribed as Wahusley, corrections submitted May 2016).
[40] Death of Geoffrey D Walmsley registered at Manchester, June quarter 1951; volume 10e, page 133; age given as 46.
[41] National Probate Calendar (1951): Entry for Geoffrey Dixon Walmsley. Of 268 Barlow Moor-road Chorlton-cum-Hardy Manchester. Died 6 May 1951. Probate London 25 July to Vera Mary Walmsley widow. Effects £3127 13s. 2d. Copy viewed at Ancestry.
[42] Death of Vera Mary Walmsley registered at Stockport, January 1991; 39 / 1253 / 191; date of birth given as 12 Mar 1903.
[43] National Probate Calendar (1991): Entry for Vera Mary WALMSLEY. Of Ross Hse 11 St Lesmo Rd Edgeley Stockport. Died 26 December 1990. Probate Manchester 14 February. Not exceeding £115000 9151916372D Copy viewed at

Hope and Hester Atcherley’s World War Two

As she stood in the grounds of the Roodee, between the River Dee and Chester’s ancient city walls, Mary Elizabeth Hope Atcherley might well have experienced a feeling of déjà vu. She had been here before, back in 1914 when, almost on the eve of the Great War, she and her sister Hester had taken part in an exercise organised by the British Red Cross Society. Now here she was again, in 1939, commanding the BRCS Cheshire 46 Voluntary Aid Detachment, and collecting her first aid bar, home nursing bar and anti-gas proficiency badge and bar. A second global conflict was only a few months away.

After the end of the Great War in 1918, life for the Atcherleys of Chester was comfortable and largely uneventful. Hope and Hester continued to live with their widowed mother Caroline (or “Mrs Richard Atcherley” as a male-orientated world referred to her) at 44 Hough Green. In contrast to the war years, their names rarely (if ever) made it into the local newspapers. Their lives were not completely uneventful however.

It appears that Hester was the more adventurous of the two sisters. I have yet to find a record of her departure, but some time in 1934 she travelled to Kenya. She most likely went there to visit her cousin Muriel Hemsted, née Atcherley, and probably stayed with Muriel’s family at their cottage beneath the Ngong Hills (see Muriel Hope Atcherley: In and Out of Africa for Muriel’s story). The passenger list for the Dunluce Castle, which arrived at London on 3 January 1935, shows that 39-year-old Hester (her forenames recorded as Eleanor Hester Mary rather than Hester Mary Eleanor), who had embarked at Mombasa, was returning to her family’s home at Hough Green.

Ship - RMS Queen Mary, 1945RMS Queen Mary in 1945, arriving at New York carrying US troops

After the death of Caroline Atcherley in December 1935, Hope and Hester moved to Laburnum Cottage, situated in Private Walk, Dee Banks. Hester took another sea voyage in 1938, this time heading for New York aboard RMS Queen Mary. She left Southampton on 30 March and arrived at the ‘Big Apple’ five days later. The manifest completed for the US immigration officials showed that Hester, who was 5 feet 10 inches tall,  with a fair complexion, fair hair and grey eyes, was going to join a friend, Miss M Davies, in New York’s East 42nd Street. I suspect a few months of sight-seeing followed, before Hester returned to Britain on the Empress of Australia. She arrived at Southampton on 26 July 1938.

Hope Atcherley may have been a ‘stay-at-home’, but she was far from inactive – particularly during the war years. While both Hope and Hester had been VADs during the First World War, Hope was the only one of the sisters who renewed her active association with the British Red Cross Society as the Second World War approached.

In February 1939, Hope attended a British Red Cross Dance at Chester Town Hall in her capacity of Assistant Commandant of the Cheshire 46 V.A.D. By 27 March 1939, when the BRCS Chester Division’s new headquarters was opened in Watergate Street, Hope was Acting Commandant of her detachment. By the end of April, when she was part of a committee which organised a Flag Day to raise funds for the BRCS, Hope was full Commandant of Cheshire 46.

Hope Atcherley received her bars and badge for first aid, home nursing and anti-gas proficiency during a War Office inspection of the BRCS Chester Division on 17 May 1939. Many other proficiency badges and bars, merit badges and advance certificates awarded for first-aid, anti-gas, and home nursing were also awarded that day. In all, six Voluntary Aid Detachments – numbers 7, 12, 16, 24, 46 and 88 – were on parade. War had not yet been declared but preparations, by Government and by civilian organisations, was well underway.

Although the prospect of war with Germany loomed large, everyday life continued. On 16 June 1939, when a concert programme took place at the Assembly Rooms in Chester, a charity auction was also held to raise funds for the Chester Orthopaedic After-care Clinic and the British Red Cross Society. “Socialite”, a correspondent of the Chester Chronicle, reported on the event and in particular on the outfits worm by the ladies who were present. One of those ladies, doing her bit for the Red Cross, was Hope Atcherley, “who looked smart in an originally designed gown of pink and black.”

Just a few weeks later, on 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. Plans had already been made for the compilation of a national identity register, and National Registration Day took place on 29 September. Hope and Hester Atcherley were recorded at Laburnum Cottage, along with a lady by the name of Susanna P McAlister. The Atcherley sisters were of ‘Private Means’, with Hope in addition shown as Commandant Cheshire 46 V.A.D., B.R.C.S., and also as a member of the C.N.R (Civil Nursing Reserve). (See Census etc: 1930s, and Atcherleys on the eve of World War Two – the 1939 Register.)

WW2 - Red Cross nursesA report in the Chester Chronicle of 21 October 1939 revealed that nursing training by the BRCS was “in full swing”, with 120 women taking part in a successful home nursing examination on the 19th, and several VADs and Civil Nursing Reserve members already claimed for military work. Miss Atcherley – Hope – was named as one of those “in charge of Red Cross detachments in and around Chester”. The report stated:

Quote The Red Cross Society in Chester is working most efficiently and with unflagging enthusiasm. Nowhere in the city is there a greater hive of industry than the Hospital Supply Service rooms in Watergate-street, which are run jointly by the Red Cross Society and the St. John Ambulance. Nor is this the only centre of such activity. Scattered all over the city and its environs are parties of women doing their work diligently. […]Hospital supplies are urgently needed, and busy fingers work rapidly throughout the day at the Watergate-street depot. Not merely military needs, but the needs of local hospitals, who will care for civilian casualties, will have to be met. Unquote

The housewives of Cheshire were also encouraged to play their part and were encouraged, “in the quiet of their own home of an evening, [to] knit socks, mittens, gloves, mufflers, and helmets for the troops.” Others in Chester had their eyes on an even larger contribution to the war effort, and Hope (or possibly Hester) Atcherley was involved in that too.

During the course of her term of office as Mayor of Chester in 1939-40, Mrs. Kate Clarke established the Chester Fighter Plane Fund. The citizens of Chester responded magnificently, with various committees set up and events organised to raise the money needed. The Women’s Voluntary Service was also involved, at it appears to be connection with that organisation that tribute was paid to the work of “Mrs. Knowles, Miss Atcherley, Mrs. Musgrave and Mrs. Sanders.” Almost certainly the Miss Atcherley in question was Hope, but the possibility that Hester was involved cannot be ruled out. Nearly £8,000 had been raised by the time the fun was closed in October 1940, and a cheque was to be “forwarded to Lord Beaverbrook, with the request that the ‘plane be called the ‘City of Chester.’”

The Mayor of Chester had stated that her Fighter Plane Fund was “a personal tribute to the gallantry of our airmen.” Two of those airmen were of cousins of Hope and Hester, the RAF’s ‘flying twins’ Richard and David Atcherley. It is therefore no surprise to find that reports on Richard or David, when they appeared in the Chester or Cheshire newspapers, mentioned that the Atcherley twin concerned was “a cousin of Miss Atcherley” or more specifically a “cousin of Miss M. E. H. Atcherley”.

WW2, Dig for Victory poster“Digging for Victory” was another way in which people could contribute to the nation’s strength during the war, and Chester held its own annual “Dig for Victory” Show. Citizens were urged not only to grow their own vegetables, but also to rear rabbits, poultry and pigeons for meat (and, in the case of poultry, eggs). These events, as well as promoting greater self-sufficiency, raised funds for the Red Cross Agriculture Fund too. In competition at the 1943 show, “Miss H. Atcherley” (Hester?) took second place for her “First cross leghorn cross R.I.R. female”, while “Miss Atcherley” (Hope?) was runner-up in the categories “Duck or drake of any variety” and “Eggs, best plate of three, white”. “Miss Atcherley” had also taken second place for a “First cross hen or pullet” and was highly commended for her eggs at a Rabbit Show which took place at Chester earlier that year (the event raised over £300 for the Red Cross).

Meanwhile, the focus of Hope Atcherley’s voluntary work, within and without the Red Cross, was focussing more and more on the younger generation. At a BRCS competition held in May 1943, “Saltney Wood Memorial School attached to Cheshire 46, trained by Miss Atcherley” won the Junior Links section. The following year, Miss Atcherley of Laburnum Cottage – there can be little doubt that this was Hope – was advertising in the Cheshire Observer for a part-time Youth Leader (salary £80 a year) for the Chester Boys’ and Girls’ Club. By 1945 Miss Hope Atcherley was Chester Youth Organiser of the BRCS. She was no doubt pleased to see Saltney Wood Memorial School take second place in the finals of the Chester Junior Red Cross Competitions, held in April that year.

As we have seen, Hope’s sister Hester Atcherley kept a much lower profile during the years of the Second World War. When her name did appear in the Cheshire press, it was usually given alongside that of Hope and in connection with a funeral service which the sisters attended. One exception was a notice which Hester placed in the “Lost” column of the Chester Chronicle of 13 January 1945, offering a reward for the return of a Gent’s “Strap Wristlet Watch (metal case)” (a gift for a male relative perhaps?).

1945 of course also saw the end of the war, in Europe and in the East, but there was no quick return to ‘normal’ life in Britain. Just as the Mayor of Chester had forecast at the 1943 Dig for Victory Show, “home-produced food would be needed even when hostilities ceased.” Food rationing continued into the 1950s with meat being the last commodity to be ‘de-rationed’ in 1954. Hester Atcherley, who had been unable to attend the funeral of her uncle Llewellyn Atcherley in February that year, died on 7 June 1955. She was buried in the family plot at Overleigh Cemetery three days later. Mary Elizabeth Hope Atcherley joined the rest of her family at Overleigh on 4 March 1963, following a service at Chester Cathedral, having passed away at Laburnum Cottage on the last day of February.

Picture credits. RMS Queen Mary at New York, 1945: Adapted from a public domain image (US Navy photo 80-GK-5645 / U.S. Defense Visual Information Photo HD-SN-99-03026) taken from Wikimedia Commons. British Red Cross volunteers training in WW2: Adapted from a photo by the British Red Cross (image ref 0929), taken from their Flickr photostream and used under a Creative Commons licence. Dig for Victory poster: Adapted from an image at Wikimedia Commons, Crown Copyright in original work expired.


[1] Chester Chronicle, 20 May 1939, page 7. Red Cross Society. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] Chester Observer, 1 Aug 1914, page 10. Ladies With A Lamp. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1914, page 252 (Chester Private Residents) shows: Etcherley Mrs. 44 Hough green. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946.
[4] Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1923, page 263 (Chester Private Residents) shows: Etcherley Mrs. 44 Hough green. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946.
[5] Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1934, page 84 (Chester Private Residents) shows: Etcherley Mrs. 44 Hough green. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946.
[6] Passenger list for the Dunluce Castle, arriving London, England 3 Jan 1935. UK National Archives document Class BT26. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960.
[7] Death of Caroline M W Atcherley registered at Chester, December quarter 1935; volume 8a, page 504; age given as 75.
[8] National Probate Calendar (1936) shows: ATCHERLEY Caroline Mary Wynne of 44 Hough Green Chester widow died 19 December 1935 Probate Chester 11 February to Robert Townshend. Effects £12664 0s. 3d.
[9] Chester and North Wales and then Chester Area telephone directories dating from 1936 – 1964 show: Miss M E H Atcherley, address Laburnum cott Private walk Dee Banks (abbreviated to Laburnum cott Pte walk Dee Banks 1936 – 1958), telephone number Chester 332 (1936 – 1948) / Chester 24332 (1950 – 1964). Copies viewed at Ancestry – British Phone Books, 1880-1984.
[10] Passenger list for the Queen Mary, departing Southampton, England 30 Mar 1938 for New York. UK National Archives document Class BT27. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960.
[11] Passenger list for the Queen Mary, arriving New York, USA 4 Apr 1938 from Southampton, England. US National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication T715, roll 6135. Copy viewed at Ancestry – New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
[12] Passenger list for the Empress of Australia, arriving Southampton, England 26 Jul 1938 from Quebec, Canada. UK National Archives document Class BT26. Copy viewed at Ancestry – UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960.
[13] Cheshire Observer, 18 Feb 1939, page 4. British Red Cross Dance. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] Cheshire Observer, 1 Apr 1939, page 12. Great Day For Red Cross Society. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atchcrlcy).
[15] Cheshire Observer, 6 May 1939, page 7. Red Cross Flag Day. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atcheriey).
[16] Chester Chronicle, 17 Jun 1939, page 15. Things I Hear. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[17] 1939 Register of England and Wales. Piece 3929J, Item 013, Lines 6 and 7.
[18] Chester Chronicle, 21 Oct 1939, page 14. Cheshire Women’s Example. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[19] Cheshire Observer, 19 Oct 1940, page 8. Chester Fighter ‘Plane Fund. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[20] Cheshire Observer, 4 Jan 1941, page 6. New Year Honours. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atcherlev).
[21] Cheshire Observer, 12 Aug 1944, page 8. Air Commodore R. L. R. Atcherley’s New Appointment. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atcherlcy).
[22] Chester Chronicle, 11 Sep 1943, page 7. Chester’s “Dig For Victory” Show. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[23] Chester Chronicle, 13 Feb 1943, page 5. Two-Day Rabbit Show At Chester. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[24] Cheshire Observer, 8 May 1943, page 6. British Red Cross Society. Results Of Competition At The Town Hall. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Alcherley).
[25] Cheshire Observer, 13 May 1944, page 4. Chester Boys’ And Girls’ Club. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[26] Chester Chronicle, 28 April 1945, page 6. Children’s Red Cross Competitions. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[27] Chester Chronicle, 13 Jan 1945, page 1. Lost. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[28] Jessica Talarico (ed.) (undated), What You Need To Know About Rationing In The Second World War. At: Imperial War Museums website (accessed 26 May 2016).
[29] The Times, 22 Feb 1954. Funerals. Copy viewed at Times Digital Archive.
[30] Death of Hester M E Atcherley registered at Chester, June quarter 1955; volume 10a, page 190; age given as 60.
[31] Cheshire MIs.
[32] The Times, 2 Mar 1963. Deaths. Copy viewed at Times Digital Archive.
[33] Death of Mary E H Atcherley registered at Chester, 1963; volume 10a, page 296; age given as 69.

Putting the genes into genealogy – Part 2

< Back to Part 1.

Almost a year has passed since I wrote about my initial foray into the world of genetic genealogy. Back in June 2015, I had received the results of my Ancestry DNA test and had downloaded the data to find out what Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch would reveal. Where has my dabbling with DNA taken me – and my Atcherley family history research – since then? It is going to take more than one article for me to tell you!

Let’s start from where I left off last time. Ancestry DNA had given me estimates of my ethnicity, and a dozen DNA matches in the 4th to 6th cousin range. A little online research had told me that I could download my raw DNA data from Ancestry, and then upload that data to other websites providing genetic genealogy services. This would give me ‘more bang for my buck’ by yielding more DNA matches, some of which might reveal previously unknown ancestors.

other - Ancestry DNA settings

Downloading raw DNA data from Ancestry is a fairly straightforward process. The first step is to click on the ‘settings’ button on your DNA home page (shown above). This takes you to a page other - AncestryDNA download raw datawhere, under the ‘Actions’ heading, you can click on a button to get started (see image right). Choose a folder on your computer to save the downloaded file in, and away you go. The data comes in the form of a ‘zip’ file, which reduces the file size and makes for a faster download: mine weighed in at 5.86 megabytes. Remember where you saved the file and what the file was named, so that you can find it again when you need it!

Family Tree DNA (or FTDNA) pioneered ‘consumer genomics’ and have been offering the ‘Family Finder’ test (equivalent to Ancestry’s autosomal test) to customers worldwide since early 2010. The company also allows Ancestry DNA (and 23andMe) customers to carry out an autosomal transfer (an upload of raw DNA data), which can then be used to find matches in FTDNA’s own extensive database.

other - FTDNA autosomal transfer

Although it is possible to see some basic details of those matches for free, to get the most out of this process you need to pay a fee. Currently the charge is $39, which compares very favourable with the $99 cost of taking FTDNA’s own Family Finder test. (Bear in mind that this system does not work in reverse – although you can download your raw data from FTDNA, Ancestry does not allow DNA data from third parties to be uploaded to its site.)

The transfer does not generate immediate results of course, but as FTDNA only has to analyse your raw data rather than starting from scratch, the process does not take long. One of the first things I did once my data had been processed was to look at how my ethnicity estimates (accessed via a ‘myOrigins’ link on my DNA ‘dashboard’ page) compared with those from Ancestry. I was prepared for the results to vary, as I knew that the two companies do not use the same ethnic ‘regions’. Even so, the differences were bigger than I expected.

other - FTDNA ethnicity 2

FTDNA’s take on my genetic heritage (see picture above) was 53% ‘British Isles’ (Ancestry gave 50% ‘Great Britain’ and 14% ‘Ireland’, a total of 64% British isles), 22% ‘Western and Central Europe’ (Ancestry gave 31% ‘Europe West’), 16% Scandinavia (Ancestry gave less than 1%) and 9% ‘Southern Europe’ (Ancestry gave 5% ‘Iberian Peninsula’ and less than 1% ‘Italy/Greece’). All this shows that ethnicity estimates should be treated as guidance, not gospel.

As for matches, given that FTDNA’s Family Finder test was available to UK customers far earlier than Ancestry’s offering I was not surprised to find that I had a good number of matches from the British Isles. Some of these matches had basic family trees available to look at (FTDNA’s trees do not have the same level of detail as Ancestry’s trees, but they are definitely better than nothing), while some others listed ‘Ancestral surnames’ and the places they came from. All could be contacted by email.

other - FTDNA matches

One match of particular interest, given my ethnicity result of 14% ‘Ireland’ at Ancestry, was a man with decidedly Irish ancestry over several generations. He was one of several matches ranked by FTDNA as a possible 2nd to 4th cousin, and with ‘Shared cM’ greater than 50. (cM, or centiMorgan, is a unit of measurement for matching DNA; the greater the number of cM shared, the closer the genetic match.)

Other matches had distinctly Scottish heritage. I have yet to find any non-English ancestors through traditional genealogy research, so these Irish and Scottish DNA matches are intriguing. Are there clues here to the ethnicity of my two unknown 3x great grandfathers, the fathers of the two ‘illegitimate’ great great grandfathers (one of whom was Henry Atcherley) on my mother’s side?

The total cM shared with a match is something which can now be seen at Ancestry as well as FTDNA. However, one cool tool available at FTDNA which Ancestry does not offer is a ‘chromosome browser’. This enables you to see on which chromosomes, and whereabouts on those chromosomes, the DNA you share with your matches is located.

other - FTDNA chromosome browser

In the screenshot here, you can see where I share matching DNA segments with 4 other FTDNA members, on chromosomes 10, 11 and 17. Note the extent to which the two matches on chromosome 17 overlap. If the two people concerned know who their shared ancestors are, there’s a good chance that the segments of DNA which they share with each other – and with me – came from those ancestors.

The match on chromosome 10 which you can also see in the screenshot is with a man who, according to the details provided on FTDNA, has Staffordshire ancestry. My late mother’s ancestors were predominantly from Staffordshire, so I made contact with the administrator for this DNA match. I emailed a basic ancestor chart, and a comparison of our family trees revealed a known common ancestor, from whom I am descended on my maternal side. A result! Or was it?

Having tested only myself, how could I tell for sure which of my DNA matches were maternal relatives and which were from my paternal side? Mum passed away in 2013 so the answer was to ask Dad to take a test. Thankfully he did not take much persuading, and I ordered another Ancestry DNA kit.

One of the first things I discovered once Dad’s results were available – apart from the fact that our father-son relationship was confirmed (phew!) – was that he and I both matched the aforementioned guy with the Staffordshire ancestry! Our shared DNA therefore comes from a forebear on my Dad’s side, not Mum’s. And that forebear is unknown, as we cannot find a link through traditional genealogy.

other - GedMatch File Uploads

After getting Dad’s DNA analysed at Ancestry, I did not upload his raw DNA data to FTDNA. Instead, I used another website where I had also uploaded my own data: GedMatch. Originally created to find matches in  family tree files (known as Gedcom files – hence the site’s name) this service is free, with ‘extras’ available in return for a donation. I highly recommend it. After registering, you can upload your raw DNA data (from Ancestry, FTDNA, 23andMe or WeGene – see image above), and your Gedcom file too if you wish. Once processing is complete (again, patience required as this is not immediate!) you can use the tools available to look at ethnicity results (in a bewildering variety of ways), check for matches with other GedMatch users, compare matches using a chromosome browser, and more besides.

I’m going to skip the Gedmatch ethnicity (or admixture) tools for now and go straight to the matches. These can be accessed via the ‘One-to-many’ matches link in the Analyze Your Data section of the GedMatch home page. Data provided for each match includes total cM of shared autosomal DNA, the size of the largest matching segment (in cM) and an estimate of the number of generations to your most recent common ancestor. Also, from the first letter of the Kit Number of each match, you can tell which company they tested with (A = Ancestry, M = 23andMe, T = FTDNA). Of course, not everyone who has tested with these companies has uploaded their data to GedMatch. A large number have though, making GedMatch a great site for seeking DNA matches.

other - GedMatch Matches

In the screenshot here, you can see Dad at the top of my list of matches, all my other matches are more distantly related with over four generations to our most recent common ancestor. The kit number highlighted in green is a new match (not-so-recent matches are highlighted with paler shades of green). A name or ‘handle’ is also given for each match, along with an email address for contacting the match or the administrator of the kit (I have omitted these from the screenshot).

other - GedMatch Analyze DataAnother useful feature available at GedMatch is the Phasing tool. As GedMatch has my raw DNA data and my father’s, this provides the means for creating two new sets of data (or kits): one with all the DNA data I share with Dad – my paternal DNA – and one with the DNA data I don’t share with him – my maternal DNA. Using these two new kits through the one-to-many matches tool is a quick and easy way to find matches for each side of my ancestry.

So, by using a combination of websites and tools I have been able to increase the number of my DNA matches and, in many cases, distinguish maternal from paternal DNA cousins. How does this help with my genealogy research though? And more specifically, how has DNA helped with my Atcherley family history work? The answers to these questions will have to wait for Part 3 – I did warn you that it would take more than one article to tell you where my dabbling with DNA has taken me and my Atcherley research!

Picture credits: All images used in this article are screenshots from Ancestry (first two images), Family Tree DNA (next four images) or GedMatch (last three images). Personal details in the images are blurred for privacy reasons.

James Roger Atcherley’s American Civil War – Part 4

< Back to Part 3.

Quote Camp Four Miles South of Corinth, June 2, 1862. Mr. Editor:—I write to you, if not from the depths of my heart, at least from the depths of a wilderness. Wilderness. Ugh, that doesn’t imply half the horrors of this wretched, deserted, god-forsaken, ‘skeeter-inhabited region. From the time we reached Pittsburg Landing up to the present, which is a little more than six weeks, we have never been out of the woods. —Nothing but woods, woods, and bugs, bugs, continually and eternally. Unquote — Newark Advocate, 20 June 1862.

events - American Civil War - Pittsburg Landing, 1862Pittsburg Landing, around April 1862.

Following their arrival at Mill Springs, too late to take part in the battle there, the 31st Ohio Volunteers remained in the area for some three weeks before moving on. This time, instead of marching, the regiment travelled by steamboat. Aboard the Magnolia, the men headed down the Ohio river and then up the Cumberland, reaching Nashville, Tennessee, on 18 February 1862. Writing in 1881, N N Hill Jr stated:

Owing to the inconveniences to which the men were subjected, much sickness ensued, so that on disembarking less than one-half were fit for duty. After a short rest, however, the health of the men improved greatly, and the regiment moved southward with Buell’s army. The regiment advanced with the army toward Corinth, and during the march was engaged frequently in skirmishing with the rebels. After the evacuation of the city it marched in pursuit of the rebels about forty miles, and then returned and went into camp near Corinth.

As we have seen, James Atcherley also wrote of the 31st Ohio’s time at Corinth. His words were written at the time of the events and, in contrast to his humorous description of camp life back in January 1862, the tone of his letter of June 2nd was – understandably – far from upbeat. James wrote about the disappearance of Confederate forces from Corinth, and he expressed his views on those who were pushing for an end to slavery rather than concentrating on the restoration of the Union. There were other problems too, which were closer to home – the pesky bugs of Tennessee’s woods.

Quote Did you ever see a wood tick? but of course you didn’t, Ohio would not countenance such ‘varmin.’ Well, I wish I was innocent of any such knowledge. But I ain’t. They have picked me completely clean; and everyone knows that I could but ill spare it, for I never had much, so that I now go by the delightful cognomen of ‘Bones,’ ‘Spindle,’ or ‘Shanks.’ But then there’s one consolation, even for me. I don’t have so much to carry, and that’s quite a consideration when you remember that we have a knapsack, sixty rounds of ammunition, canteen and haversack to carry.

Of course you have heard of the evacuation of Corinth. We heard the explosion of the magazines on the morning of the 30th of May, and  suspecting they were going to leave us without saying good bye, an advance was ordered and made. Of course you have heard how we arrived ‘in time to be too late;’ in time to know that the weeks of labor, and hard labor, too, which we had performed, was all for nought; in time to see that they had given us the slip and gone, baggage, guns and all.

events - American Civil War - evacuation of Corinth, 1862Evacuation of Corinth, Mississippi, June 1862.

And, oh! didn’t someone receive a blessing when we found out how weak their defences were; how easy it would have been to carry them. But they were gone; had escaped, and so there was no use crying over spilled milk. But where were they gone, was the all absorbing and interesting question, a question which no one could answer. Meantime we were marched through the dust, and then countermarched, but for what purpose I’ll never tell, for I have not the remotest idea.

About three o’clock, P. M., we were marched out into an open field. Here the whole division was formed in line of battle, stacked arms and waited there until about half past eight o’clock, when the bugles sounded forward, and regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, moved forward slowly and with many delays, for the roads were blocked up with artillery. We made but little progress, and at two o’clock, A. M., we were ordered to rest on our arms until daylight. Tired and exhausted as we were, it was no hard job to lie down in that dirty road and sleep soundly. When we were roused a few hours later to cook our breakfast, I must say we were as dirty a looking set as you ever saw. Our clothes covered with dust and our face smeared with the same, we gazed into one another’s faces and then made a break for water.

After breakfast we resumed our march, and after a great deal of delay pitched our tents in the center, as near as I can judge, of this immense swamp you hear so much about. There are so many conflicting reports in relation to the same subject in circulation, that a person can hardly tell what to rely upon. However, they all agree that Pope and perhaps Mitchell is in hot pursuit of the enemy, and on the afternoon of the 30th we hear heavy cannonading in the direction in which it is supposed the rebels have gone, and yesterday three trains loaded with prisoners arrived.

It is now the belief that our grand army will be scattered once more, as it was before the grand junction was made here, some to Arkansas, Missouri, East Tennessee and Virginia, and some, perhaps, will be left here. To which of these points we shall go is pretty difficult to say, for I have heard each mentioned in turn as the place of our certain destination. I saw some members of Capt. Nichols’ company a short time since, and was sorry to learn that a few days before, while out on a reconnoisance, twelve of their number were sun-struck, among them Josh. Griffith of Newark; otherwise the company is well.

The conviction is gradually forcing itself upon us that as soon as we can dispose of the rebels, that is, bring them back once more behind the old flag, there will be one more task for us to perform, before our duty of punishing traitors is finished. That task will be to march, Cromwell like, upon Washington, and purge both Houses of the traitors or idiots, (I hardly know which to call them,) who now disgrace the seats where once great men sat; who have awakened the echoes of those halls which once echoed back great thoughts and pure sentiments. If Congress could be induced to adjourn till after the war, and play with less dangerous tools, things might work out better.

The fact is, you can’t imagine how mortifying and discouraging it is to think that while we are exerting ourselves to the utmost, suffering all the horrors which a tropical climate imposes, to advance our cause and advance our country, a large party at the North who claim to love the same banner and country for which we are fighting, seem to be doing all they can to hold us back. As one of the army I would say, For God’s sake let the n____ alone, at least for the present. Let us first save ourselves and the country, which seems to me to be of more importance than all the n____s in Christendom, and settle this question afterwards.

Our company are enjoying good health, with but few exceptions, and those not serious. The mails are very irregular, and a letter quite a rarity. I hope our friends at home are not subject to the spring fever.

Our address is still Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.  Respectfully, J. A. Unquote

As you can see, in presenting James’s words I have ‘censored’ two of them: the singular and the plural forms of ‘the N word’. It was of course in common usage back then (and for many years after) as a term for those of African origin or descent. My desire to “tell it like it was” however is overridden by recognition of the great offence given by the use of the word today.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

James Atcherley clearly saw the cause of abolition as a hindrance to those like himself who were fighting for what they saw as a much greater cause: bringing the United States of America back together under ‘the old flag’. In this he was not alone. But does this mean that he was against abolition, or even pro-slavery?

Dan Fleming is a reference librarian at the Licking County Library, in James Atcherley’s home town of Newark, Ohio, and I am very grateful to him for providing me with copies of James’s letters to the Newark Advocate. In his book on the role of Licking County in the American Civil War, Dan has characterised the views expressed by James as “anti-abolition attitudes” which were “typical of a great many folks in the county at the beginning of the war, who harbored fears that blacks moving up from the south would either take their jobs or become a burden on society.”

There is no doubt in my mind that James Atcherley did not want the abolitionist cause ‘holding back’ the efforts of Union forces in their fight against the secessionists (an unrealistic desire perhaps, given that it was fear of abolition that had driven the southern states to break away in the first place). Maybe I am being as naïve now as I fear James was then, but I cannot find in James’s words evidence that he was either pro- or anti-abolition. He simply wanted the question put aside until after the war had been won.

In the absence of any further letters from James Atcherley, I will return to the 1881 account of N N Hill Jr for a summary what the 31st Ohio did next:

On the twenty-second of June the regiment marched toward luka [in Mississippi], and on the twenty-sixth continued the march toward Tuscumbia [in Alabama]. Here the fourth of July was celebrated. The Declaration of Independence was read, and speeches were made by several of the officers. The regiment was divided into detachments, and two companies were sent to Decatur, and one company was sent to Trinity. On the nineteenth the brigade marched for Huntsville by way of Decatur, arriving at the latter place on the twenty-second. After the brigade had crossed the Tennessee river a messenger arrived with the information that the detachment at Trinity had been attacked by a large force of mounted rebels. The rebels were repulsed, but one-half of the detachment was killed or wounded. The regiment moved with the army to Huntsville, and thence to Decherd, Tennessee.

The splitting up of the regiment makes it difficult to be certain of James Atcherley’s exact whereabouts during July 1862. The US National Park Service’s Civil War website states that it was Company E which saw action at Trinity (on 24 July), and that the move to Dechard took place on 27 July. More uncertainty then follows, because by the end of August 1862, James had separated from his regiment and was back in Newark. The Advocate reported on the 29th of that month that:

James R. Atcherly, whose occasional army letters over the initials ‘J. A.,’ have afforded much pleasure to our readers, has returned to Newark for the purpose of securing a few recruits for Captain Putnam’s company. He has opened a recruiting office over McCune’s Hardware Store and will be glad to see and converse with any one who may feel disposed to join a pleasant company in a crack regiment.

I suspect that following his return to Newark, James did not return to the front line. Before the end of 1862, he had left the army altogether. Records show that he was discharged at Columbus, Ohio, on 1 November, by order of the War Department. By that time he had been promoted to the rank of Corporal.

Although James’s involvement in the Civil War was then over, the conflict itself continued until 1865 and claimed the lives of 625,000 soldiers from both sides. At the end of that year, on 6 December, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted, which outlawed slavery.

Picture credits. Pittsburg Landing, around April 1862: From an image at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue, no known restrictions on publication. Evacuation of Corinth, Mississippi: From an image at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue, no known restrictions on publication. Abraham Lincoln: From an image at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue, no known restrictions on publication.


[1] Newark Advocate, 20 Jun 1862, page 1. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.
[2] N N Hill, Jr. (1881), History of Licking County, O., Its Past and Present. Pages 308-9. Copy viewed at Hathi Trust website.
[3] Dan Fleming (2011), Shall Licking County Raise a Regiment? The Role of Licking County, Ohio, in the American Civil War.
[4] 31st Regiment, Ohio Infantry. At: The Civil War (website, accessed 6 May 2016).
[5] Newark Advocate, 29 Aug 1862. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.
[6] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861—1865. Volume III. Page 457 (under the name James R Acherly). Copy viewed at Hathi Trust website.
A Brief Overview of the American Civil War. At: Civil War Trust website (accessed 7 May 2016).
[8] Slavery in the United States. At: Civil War Trust website (accessed 7 May 2016).

James Roger Atcherley’s American Civil War – Part 3

< Back to Part 2.

Quote Camp near Somerset, December 29, 1861. Mr. Editor:—Once more I take my knapsack upon my knee, in order, if possible, to give you a faint idea of the state of affairs here in Kentucky. Two days after sending you my last letter, we started on a long and tedious march from Camp Dick to Somerset, a distance of fifty one miles, and although it was made at a double-quick, as the correspondent of the Commercial thinks, yet it partook greatly of the manner in which forced marches are said to be made; in that by the time we arrived here we were pretty well tired out. Unquote — Newark Advocate, 10 January 1862.

Records confirm that the 31st Ohio Volunteers marched from Camp Dick Robinson to Somerset, Kentucky, on 12 December 1861. There, the Union forces dug in and prepared to fight, but it seems the Confederates – although apparently greater in number – were unwilling to engage. In a relatively short communication to the folks back home in Newark, Ohio, James focussed on the strength and position of the force he was a part of, and the characteristics of Somerset, his temporary home. (The image below shows the uniform and kit of a Union infantryman when marching.)

Quote We events - American Civil War - Private, US Infantry (Fatigue Marching Order)had often read of the marches of great armies, and always imagined it to be more of an imposing procession; something of a Fourth of July parade, in which we used to have any amount of fun. But we have come to the conclusion that ‘That which in theory we laud and praise, in practice is quite another thing.’

The correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial misrepresents both our force and that of the rebels. He states our force to be eight regiments, and that of the enemy about the same. While the truth is that although our force consists of the 35th, 38th, 17th and 31st Ohio, the 12th Kentucky, with Standart’s and Hewitt’s batteries, in all we have not over 4,200 effective men. On the other hand, I am told by our Sergeant Major, who says he has seen General Zollicoffer’s army that he has fourteen regiments under his command, and has two cannon more than we have; thus, you see, he is two to our one.

Our position, naturally strong, has been so fortified as to render it almost impregnable, so that with our present force we can bid defiance to Zollicoffer and his rebel followers. The position of the 31st Ohio is in a piece of woods on the Clifton road, half a mile south west of Somerset. Back of the camp some 150 yards is an open field slightly elevated above the camp and road, and by cutting an opening through the woods we have the full command of it from this place.

Here we have dug rifle pits enough to hold the whole regiment, and from which we can sweep with the breath of destruction any attempt to advance by any of the avenues leading to our camp. Each company has its appointed place, so that we all know where to go and what to do in case of an attack.

Company H, or the star company’s position, is on the extreme left, and commands the Cumberland road. If an attack is made, this, most probably, will be the road upon which the hardest part of the fight will take place; but as yet there has been none, although we marched two miles to see if they would not accommodate us with a small one, but they wouldn’t, so like the bold lads of Canada, we ‘marched back again.’

Somerset is a place of about 2,000 inhabitants, or was, before the war broke out, but it has now scarcely that many hundred. Like nearly all the towns of Kentucky, the business portion of it is confined to one street, which runs North and South. The place looks as though it had been built some time in the year 1; the houses are built without any regard to beauty or regularity, and look just ready to cave in. But although those who were wont to walk its streets, or stand on its corners and discuss Southern rights, have left for parts unknown, the streets are by no means deserted, but are thronged from morning to night with officers and soldiers. But our friends in Newark know by this time the busy scene which even one regiment presents.  Respectfully, J. A. Unquote

A little over two weeks after penning the letter above, James composed another update for his readers in back home in Newark. This time he wrote at length, and his writing was more relaxed. From looking outwards at the surroundings of his camp, and the enemy forces beyond it, James now turned his gaze upon the camp itself and the daily routine of its soldiers. (The photo below, showing officers of a Union infantry regiment at camp, actually depicts officers of the 80th New York Infantry and is used for illustrative purposes only.)

events - American Civil War - 80th NY Infantry officers

Quote Somerset, Kentucky, Jan 15th, 1862. Mr. Editor:—Having at various times given you an account of our movements, position, &c., I will now endeavour to give you some idea […] of the pleasures and inconveniences of camp life.

In all compositions where it is required to describe simple every day life, it necessarily brings into play all the energy and descriptive powers of the mind in order to make these simple occurrences convey to the mind of the reader the pleasure which the participants experience while engaged in them. And now when I commence to describe camp life, with its thousand and one little nothings, all of which go towards making it not only endurable but pleasant, it is with the distinct understanding between myself and my pen that I am unable to do justice to it. But there, this is preface enough, and if I can but describe one day of this wicked, wicked life half right, I shall be satisfied.

But to begin. The first gray streaks of dawn are just perceptible in the east, and with the exception of a few sleepy guards the whole regiment is enjoying that deep, peaceful sleep which only soldier boys can. All at once the shrill notes of the fife, accompanied by the rattle of the snare drums with three long, loud flourishes, awake the soldier from his hard pallet to welcome the god of day, which is done with a deal of grumbling for be it known that the maxim,

Early to bed and early to rise,

is not so fully carried out as it might be.—But then there’s that despisable roll call to be attended to, for if it isn’t—well, most of us know by this time what extra duty is.—So we tumble out, answer to our names, and then with the exception of two, whose turn it may be to get breakfast, we all of us lay and wait for the bell (or its substitute;) and when it is heard, Oh! what a scampering, and I was going to say swearing. But no, we are a very moral set of young men, and would not make a profane remark, not even to gain possession of the one fork which the mess possesses.

Breakfast over, each one goes to work fixing up his traps or amusing himself as best he may. But let us look about us and see some of the sights. Here is a young gent I have seen when in Newark issue from a fashionable hair-dressing saloon, with a fine black broadcloth suit on, his face carefully shaved and his hair beautifully curled, going to see some of his lady friends. Here he is mending a pair of breeches. See how systematically he threads that needle. There, now he begins, when all at once, “Darn the luck” he exclaims, and away goes the article in question flying across the tent with a polite invitation for them to go a little further; while he sucks his finger, shakes it, and finally wraps a rag around it. And so ends that job.

Here again sit four young men arguing the point as to who shall get dinner, High, Low, Jack and the Game; the point is decided and the two unlucky ones go to work. Here again are two more of our old friends with their coats off, their shirt sleeves rolled up, engaged in the gentlemanly occupation of washing clothes. Bugle sounds—time for drill, heavy marching order, Fall in! Fall in!

Now the sick list increases wonderfully; but here comes the Captain. Open flies the tent flap and in comes the Captain with ‘Why ain’t you out?’ ‘Impossible, captain, got the rheumatism awful bad,’ exclaims a sickly looking young man with his face all drawn up by the pain his is suffering. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ addressing a forlorn looking youth who is groaning in the corner. ‘Got the sick headache, captain, didn’t sleep a wink all night.’ Here is another with a dreadful sore toe, who finds it impossible to get his boot on. Away goes the captain complaining at the many ills that flesh is heir to.

Battalion drill over, our time is our own for the apace of three hours. The first thing we take under consideration is dinner, and oh, ye mothers! if you could see our young hopefuls engaged in the interesting work of making “slap-jacks,” well might your parental bosoms swell with honest pride to see with what ease, grace and even elegance they by a slight twist of the wrist and pan send the cake flying into the air and cause it to alight neatly turned in the pan again. I wish I could send one to you, they are delicious. Why, even the poor invalids who found it impossible to attend Battalion drill come forth on the call to dinner at a double quick, and generally manage without much trouble to worry down three of them eighteen inches in circumference by one and a half in thickness.

Dinner over, letter writing commences, and at this time you can find nearly all of us with our knapsacks on our knees, and our favourite weapon, a lead pencil, between our fingers, scribbling away, some to father, mother, brother or sister; others

‘To the girls they left behind them.’

At three o’clock there is another drill of two hours, at which time the same interesting programme is gone through with as before. After drills comes supper, this over, we adjourn to our tents. The candle is lighted, we seat ourselves in a semi-circle and draw forth our pipes, for be it known that the ‘Henry Clays’ and ‘Havanas’ have been thrust aside, and the fragrant, soothing pipe substituted in its stead.—The graceful smoke curling around and above us drives dull care away.

A song is called for, and that young man in the corner, with hair all over his face, is asked to favor the company with that song about the sleigh-ride, which he does with great effect, and without any of those excuses which I have heard him make when in Newark about colds, etc. He sings the air and the mess join in the chorus. Here is one who glories in his deep bass voice, salutes our ears with a flood of melody which sounds like distant thunder. Another very patriotic individual thinks that a little of ‘Johnny is gone for a soldier’ would be an improvement, so he tries it.

Zollicoffer, Felix KirkSong follows song, until we tire of music, when we try story-telling. Nearly all can tell a good yarn, indeed, I have heard some of the most marvellous tales, things of which I never even dreamed before I came soldiering; but then soldiers are generally well versed in this branch. The stories exhausted, we generally wind up by talking about home, and laying plans for the future, and I can assure you that we have plans laid for our amusement for a whole year after the war, if that event ever does take place.  Respectfully, J. A. Unquote

On 19 January 1862, just four days after James wrote cheerfully about camp life, he and his fellow soldiers were on the move again – with the prospect of combat ahead of them. The 31st was marching to lend assistance to General Thomas at the Battle of Mill Springs, but the poor condition of the roads slowed their progress. By the time they arrived the battle was over, and General Felix Zollicoffer (pictured above) had become the first Confederate General to be killed in the Western theatre of the American Civil War.

James Roger Atcherley’s American Civil War – Part 4.

Picture credits. Uniform and kit of US infantryman when marching: From a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons. Officers of a Union Infantry Regiment (the 80th New York Infantry): Adapted from a public domain image taken from Wikimedia Commons. Felix Zollicoffer: Adapted from a public domain image taken from Wikimedia Commons.


[1] Newark Advocate, 10 Jan 1862, page 3. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.
[2] Newark Advocate, 24 Jan 1862, page 3. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.
[3] 31st Regiment, Ohio Infantry. At: The Civil War (website, accessed 6 May 2016).
[4] N N Hill, Jr. (1881), History of Licking County, O., Its Past and Present. Pages 308-9. Copy viewed at Hathi Trust website.
[5] Felix Zollicoffer. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 6 May 2016).

James Roger Atcherley’s American Civil War – Part 2

< Back to Part 1.

Quote Camp Dick Robinson, Nov. 10, 1861. Mr. Editor:—If there is any truth in the old adage, ‘Laugh and grow fat,’ I advise those of my friends who are in a delicate state of health to travel with all speed for Camp Dick, take their stations under one of the trees, and watch our boys as they are engaged in the somewhat hazardous task of breaking mules. Unquote — Newark Advocate, 22 November 1861.

Buell, Maj. Gen. Don CarlosJames Roger Atcherley’s Letter from a Newark Boy was addressed to the editor of his local newspaper back home in Newark, Licking County, Ohio. James was at Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky with Company H of the 31st Ohio Volunteers. The 31st was part of the 12th Brigade of the Union’s Army of Ohio, which was then commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell (pictured left). James’s service was in its early weeks, he was yet to see action in the Civil War.

Encounters with Confederate secessionists, or sesech as they were known to James and his compatriots, would come soon enough. But in the meantime there were mules to be broken and, for the officers at least, dancing to be done and good food to be had. All of these activities provided entertainment which James was happy to report in his correspondence to those left behind in Newark . Once again I have transcribed verbatim, but have added extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading.

Quote Here is a mule with a long rope tied to his head, his fore feet thrown forward, resisting the persuasive influence of the boys at the other end of the rope.  Yonder is another whose hind feet can be seen for a moment raised horizontally in the air, and then off he goes at a double quick, kicking at any and everything which happens to be in his way.—There again are four mules attached to a wagon, said wagon being full of soldier boys, with a boy riding one of the fore, and another one of the hind mules, dashing through the camp at railroad speed, and only coming to a stand-still when brought up by the fence or a tree.

We have been having some fine times here between the mules and dancing.  Oh yes!  I must tell you about that dance, it was a grand affair I can assure you, and one in which the good of all who were connected with it was shown by the neatness which was visible in all they did.

The platform was built just outside the line; arches were built over this and tastefully festooned with evergreens, while the whole was covered with canvass. On one side of the stage, upon a raised platform, sat the orchestra, consisting of two violas, two guitars, and a violencello. It was about eight o’clock, I think, when our officers and their fair partners began to arrive, and at about nine

‘Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spoke again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.’

I believe I did caution the young ladies of Newark and vicinity who may be interested in the doings of the officers of Company H; and after seeing the captivating creatures by whom they were surrounded, I would recommend them to keep a sharp look out for the hearts of the sweet fellows, (I mean the officers.)

Quadrille after quadrille was danced, (for it seems that they do not indulge in any fancy dances here,) until after 12 o’clock, at, or about which time the windows of heaven were opened, and the earth was visited by rain. But I forgot to tell you that the table upon which the supper was spread, had been placed just outside the tent, so that when the committee of arrangements heard it rain, they made a break for it.

Calling on some privates who stood near to assist them, they seized it and were carrying it inside the tent, when crack it went right in two, forming platoons, upon which the privates gallantly charged, and ‘tis said that when the list of casualties were summed up, it was found that they had sustained the loss of three turkeys, three hams, one bucket of pickles, some almonds and raisins, and some small cakes.

Now I could pretend to say where they went to, or what became of them, but I know that mess No. 1 drew extra rations for two or three days after. But most of the supper was conveyed safely inside, upon which the dancers feasted; when again the dance was resumed with renewed vigor, and kept going until three o’clock, when the darling creatures who had contributed so much to the pleasures of the evening, were conducted home by the pleasure tired officers.

I have heard it said that the society of ladies has the same effect as music, which is to soothe even the savage. But since the day after the dance I have doubted the truth of this assertion, for I know that our officers have been as savage as—as mules. (they will please excuse the simile, for I can think of nothing else just now.) But the dance was a complete success, and we, that is the high privates in the rear rank, hope they will have another on the strength of it. Unquote

USA, Kentucky, Camp Dick Robinson - the farmhouse

The state of Kentucky was supposed to be a neutral party in the Civil War, a consequence of having a pro-Confederate Governor but a pro-Union Legislature. But its location within the Western theatre of the war made Kentucky a critical state for both sides, and its neutrality was largely ignored. The Union side had the upper hand, but by no means did everything go its way in these early days of America’s fight with itself.

The following letter, sent from Lancaster, Kentucky by James Roger Atcherley on 10 December 1861, gives an indication of some of the backwards-and-forwards movements the Union forces were obliged to make as the year drew to an end.

Quote The day after posting to you my last letter, our regiment received orders to march for Somerset, where Madame Rumor had it that biggest kind of a fight was raging. We were, as you know, at the bridge at this time; but shouldering our muskets and strapping on our knapsacks, we did some tall walking and arrived at camp about 9 P.M. The next morning the whole regiment moved southward, but when we arrived at this place, an order was received countermanding the one we were executing, ordering us back to camp Dick Robinson.

We staid here all night, and the next morning we were drawn up in line and the order was read to us, which was received with numerous groans and shrieks. But march back we did, and that through mud about six inches deep. But it was a cheerful march after all, for rumors were afloat to the effect that the reason of this backwards march was that our forces had thrashed the rebels and were no longer needed; and, as we could account for it in no other way, we were forced to believe it.

But after we had been in camp a few hours, I was told by one of our officers that a dispatch had just arrived to the effect that our forces had been compelled to retire, having been outnumbered, so that there had been a great blunder made by somebody, but I suppose when it comes to be investigated no one who is responsible will be found.

Yesterday, the 9th, companies H, K and B were ordered back to Lancaster, where we now are.

It seems that the same report that we had heard concerning the success of the rebels had reached this place, upon the strength of which the secesh here took it into their heads that they would drive all those who yet love and stand up for the old flag out of town, but the appearance of our troops wonderfully cooled their ardor.

USA, Kentucky, Lancaster - Garrard County Courthouse

Garrard County Courthouse in Lancaster, Kentucky, as it appears today.

We are quartered here in the Court House; it is an ancient two story brick building, and looks as if a good strong wind would blow it over. However, we are very comfortable.

Lancaster is wonderful for nothing, except it may be that it has several good looking girls, which in this part of the Western hemisphere is something. It is about the size of Granville, and is built much after the style of Newark, having its square with the Court House in the center, which is enclosed by an iron fence, or rather was before it was broke down.

Nine secesh who we have captured here have just been sent to camp under a guard, where they will have their trial, and it is to be hoped that they will not let them off by their simply taking the oath, for they mind it no more than I do telling a white lie.

Capt. Bowing started for Somerset with his company about an hour ago, for the purpose of guarding some government property, so that there are now but two companies left here.

P.S. Since writing the above a message was received from Camp Dick, upon receipt of which, a man was despatched to tell Captain Bowing to return with his company. We all go back to Camp Dick to-morrow. There is a vague rumor that Zollicoffer has outflanked us, but nothing certain is known. Respectfully, J.A. Unquote

> On to Part 3.

Picture credits. Major General Don Carlos Buell: Adapted from a public domain image (original from United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division, digital ID cwpbh.01154) at Wikimedia Commons. Camp Dick Robinson — The Farm-House: Adapted from an image in the British Library Flickr Photostream (original from page 411 of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, published 1887), no known copyright restrictions. Garrard County Courthouse, Kentucky: Adapted from a photo by W Marsh, taken from Wikimedia Commons, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Newark Advocate, 22 Nov 1861, page 3. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.
[2] N N Hill, Jr. (1881), History of Licking County, O., Its Past and Present. Pages 308-9. Copy viewed at Hathi Trust website.
[3] Western Theater of the American Civil War. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 2 May 2016).
[4] Newark Advocate, 20 Dec 1861, page 1. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.