The American Dream that ended in Tragedy
Part 8: The Amazing Lewis and Hatch families!
This, the eighth of nine parts, is based on two letters found in the loft of Rowland's marital home in New Malden, Surrey in 2009, fifteen years after he died and a few months before a flood was to devastate the property. Fortuitous to say the least especially as these lettters complement the chronology of the documents purchased in Pennsylvania in 2007.
The first mention of James C Hatch was on Thomas William's death certificate followed by records obtained in Westmoreland County; Greensbrough and New Kensington during our visit of 2005; in all instances, he is referred to as Thomas William's cousin. In his recently obtained obituary (see above), posted in the Altoona Tribune, it is Mrs James Hatch (Esther (Lewis) Hatch) who is described as his cousin and only relative living in the USA. When I first started to research Thomas William, ostensibly using the information from his death certificate, I assumed verbatim, that Esther Lewis and Thomas William were cousins. In fact, it was with some disappointment when I learned, that Esther was a cousin of Thomas William's stepmother, Mary Elizabeth Bowles and therefore they did not share a bloodline.
It is somewhat poignant in considering that the Lewis/Hatch family supported Thomas William and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Rowlands whilst they lived in Altoona, maintained a friendship with him during his working life in Pennsylvania; cared for him in death; ensured that his son, Rowland secured in due course, his entitlement to his estate, yet Rowland, made no attempt to visit his place of birth and thank the Lewis/Hatch family for their loving care and ensured that he had his financial entitlement.
During the early years of research, it was assumed as written above and from subsequent correspondence, that Esther (Lewis) Hatch was in fact the cousin of Thomas William. Sadly (I say this because it would have been gratifying to have a bloodline in Pennsylvania with the possibility of connecting with descendants of Esther and James). It is remarkable how they both supported Thomas William from his arrival in Altoona, to the time of his death and communicated with his father, William Henry Thomas as well as with his son.
Nigel recalls that his father told him that his main Christmas present when he was a boy was a Happy Holidays Annual, so, it is assumed that this came from Altoona as 'Happy Holidays' is an American term for Christmas.
'In 2009 whilst clearing the loft at my parent's home in New Malden I found correspondence from Esther and James Hatch as well as from some of Esther's siblings (see Archive). It was a letter from James dated 23rd July 1923 on the headed notepaper of your late father James Lewis Hatch that gave me an insight into the life of my grandfather in Pennsylvania, the support they gave him as well as their involvement in his estate, my father being the sole beneficiary from the trust fund established' (Nigel Thomas, 2014)
There were two significant letters which I have transcribed. Unfortunately, the second letter written in pencil has proved impossible to photocopy.
Rowland's mother, Elizabeth Ann (Rowlands) Thomas (1883-1910) had died in Glyneath, Glamorganshire, Wales. She returned to Wales with her young son, Rowland in 1910 dying soon afterwards at the home of her parents in Glynneath. The orphaned Rowland, lived with his maternal grandparents Ruth and William Rowlands in Glynneath. The initial correspondence was from James C Hatch to William Henry Thomas, the paternal grandfather of Rowland. Thomas William Thomas was the son of William Henry Thomas and stepson of Mary Elizabeth (Bowles) Thomas, the cousin of Esther Ann (Lewis) Hatch. He settled in Altoona in 1907 with his wife Elizabeth. Their initial destination according to the ship's manifest was Pittsburgh so they may have initially stayed with Dorothea (Lewis) Rollands, the sister of Thomas Lewis as she lived in Pittsburgh at that time.
William Rowland Thomas * (1909-1994) is recorded on three censuses:
- Pennsylvania Miracode 1910
- United States Census 1910
- UK Census 1911
* - His name was registered as that of Thomas Rowland Thomas, which he only realized in 1938, when he applied for a passport to travel to Czechoslovakia.
Addressed to William Henry Thomas, father of Thomas William presumably through an intermediary, Noah Bowles posed various questions to James C Hatch relating to the death of his son at the Valley Camp Mine and this is the response.
Mr William Thomas,
Mountain Ash, Wales
Dear Mr Thomas: Your kind letter to hand and you certainly have our sympathy to the very fullest extent.
We will advise you immediately as soon as anything turns up though my idea is that a guardian will be appointed for Roland and that he may not get his money until he is 21 though they would likely grant him money for educational purposes. However, these things remain to be seen. It may take a few years to get the matter straightened out entirely. Rest assured that I will do everything in my power and that is possible to look out for his interests. I know that if the case were reversed you would only be too pleased to assist us and feel that this is the least we can do in a small way. My small expenses incurred in going to New Kensington is about all that I incurred and can be settled at any time. They are a small item and will advise you later in regard to same. Roland's address to hand and will send this at once to the British Consulate General in Philadelphia, Pa who desires same.
2 Will also send the address to the Logan Trust Co. trust that they will then get to work on matters and get things in shape.
I will not know for a little while yet whether there will be some benefits from his lodge but will use all my influence to procure same if at all possible.
I imagine that the British Consulate General will look after the compensation side of the questions. As soon as I send on Roland's address will advise what he has to say in regard to same.
Note also that Noah Bowles is the writer of your letter. You have our kindest wishes and love from all. Perhaps as you say we may yet meet each other. I trust we do and believe me we would forward with pleasure to seeing any of you.
I believe that this is all at this time, if anything further transpires will write immediately. Kindest wishes from all.
3 P.S. I will not be able to learn at this time while in New Kensington whether Tom was working under ground regularly or not. I had so many things to tend to such as selecting a casket, seeing about shipping the body and having it received, you can understand the many little details so that I could not seem to meet with anyone in a position to exactly know. However, I intend to find out and of course if the British Consulate General takes up the compensation case for you we will get all the details. These will be brought out in the investigation so that any blame if there is any from carelessness or such will be properly fixed and reprimanded. As far as I can see and ascertain however it was an accident. No one's fault.
When Tom was here last summer he said that he worked above ground at the pumps so he must have gone in for some reason and got hit by the cars coming around a curve.
This is the nearest I can get at the matter. Give Roland also our kindest sympathy for his loss. Nothing can compensate for this.
James C Hatch
1008-21 Avenue, Altoona Pa.
NB. The headed notepaper promotes the business of James Cromwell Hatch's son.
This was written on March 18th, 1925 from their home in Altoona, Pennsylvania to an unknown recipient in Mountain Ash, Glamorganshire, Wales. It may well have been Noah Bowles. He had presumably written on behalf of William Henry, Thomas William's father querying information about Thomas William's estate who had died intestate.
Left: Esther Ann (Lewis) Hatch (1874-1970)
Right: James Cromwell Hatch (1874-1940)
March 18th, 1925
This is in answer to your welcome letter we received some time ago and in regard to T.W. Thomas's Estate I have written to the officer at the Bank at New Kensington where Thomas had his money and who was appointed Administrator of his Estate, but I have not had any word from him.
I gave him Thomas's father's address and also that of his wife's father where the boy is staying. The last I heard was that he wanted to know from War records was if Thomas was a Naturalised Citizen of the United States and I was not able to tell him that. If you know anything about it and the place he was Naturalized at, kindly let me know.
I think the law in this country and especially in Pennsylvania is that when money or an Estate is left to an orphan a guardian is appointed by the Cort of the Country were the deceased died and what money is left is held in Trust for the Heir until he or she reaches the age of 21 years.
I have not employed an Attorney to look after this but if you wish me to do so kindly advise. I did not do this because I did not wish any more expense than required. I can employ one here at Altoona if you think this necessary.
We have not seen Cliff since he came back but our Son has had letters from him, and they are writing back and forth.
Thomas's trunk was sent here to us. When they wrote me to find out if he was a Naturalized Citizen I opened the trunk but there were no papers in it only a few old tools and suit of Overalls. If you want this trunk sent on let me know but it will hardly stand the journey and the cost of sending it would be a waste of money.
Tell Cousin Billy and everyone that we send our love and hope they are all well. Charlotte buried her eldest girl Annie right after Christmas and she feels pretty upset. We hope you are all well as everyone here is pretty good at present except Emily's girl, she is an invalid and will never get well, they live a long ways of from here out in California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Now give Mr Thomas and Mr Roland's families all our best love and tell them if anything new develops I will let you know but don't forget to let me know if you want me to hire an Attorney to look after this here for you as then he can explain the law to you and let you know the facts and also let me know if you have had or Mr Thomas or Mr Rolland's have had any word from the Administrator about this.
James & Esther Hatch
Please Answer Soon.
Tell Billy if he has not already been informed that Aunt Dora's Son, Bill Rolland died last Summer he lived in Johnstown. He was the fellow that picked you and Mr Thomas out on 11th Avenue when you were here; you remember him I am sure.
The content of the letter relates to:
- The trust fund established for William 'Rowland' Thomas (1909-1993) on the death of his father Thomas William Thomas (1883-1923) at the Valley Camp Mine, near New Kensington, Pennsylvania on the 7th June 1923.
- As Rowland was a minor, Esther and James suggested that a guardian would be appointed to oversee the estate until Rowland attained the age of twenty-one.
- Legal representation: an attorney had not been appointed due to cost that this would have incurred (a).
- Thomas William's citizenship: in fact, he was not a naturalized American citizen.
- Trunk delivered to 1008-21 in Pittsburgh containing Thomas William's possessions; especially poignant as contents just tools with no personal mementos such as photographs.
- Siblings, cousins and descendants of Esther Ann (Lewis) Hatch (b)
In writing this part of the demise of Thomas William Thomas, I was uncertain as to the source of Rowland's inheritance; assuming that a compensation payment would have been made into the Estate of his father, by the Valley Camp mine, because he was killed in one of their mines.
However, after further scrutiny of the documents purchased, this appears not to have been the case. James C Hatch suggested in his letter of the 13th July 1923 that the British Consulate General (in Philadelphia) could have sought compensation if there was evident negligence. Whatever investigation was undertaken it was with haste as a week after Thomas William's death, six Jurors declared under oath to the Coroner that the death was as the result of an accident:
Thomas W Thomas of Parnassus, Pa. aged 41 years 9 months 7 days came to his death on the 7th day of June 1923 at Citizen's General Hospital, New Kensington, Pa. in said County, from we, the undersigned jurors in session in Deputy Coroner Hemer's office, New Kensington, Penna., Friday evening, June 15th, 1923, find that Thomas W Thomas came to his death on June seventh, 1923, in an accidental manner through being crushed between a pit car and a rib in Valley Camp Coal Co., Mine number three Parnassus, Penna.xx
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, as well the said Coroner as the Jurors aforesaid, have to this Inquisition set their hands and seals. Dated the day and year and at the place first above written.
James Harkins, Coroner
Jurors:-M F Horne, Foreman, James N Blose, H K Caldwell, W T Shaffer, H B Artman, W L Lawrence Witnesses
William Whalen and Vernon Thomas, Parnassus and John Black
Filed- July 9, 1923. C Curtis Foight, Clerk (3)
Nothing was forthcoming from Valley Camp Coal Company. The Logan Trust Company had been appointed by the Parnassus National Bank, which Thomas William had deposited his wages.
Thomas William as far as we can ascertain, was living frugally in Parnassus in a barrack block for itinerant miners. We visited in 2007, looking for the area where he had lived in 1923. I recall talking to the manager of a convenience store, but he couldn't help us. It is sad to think that Thomas William's sole ambition was to support Rowland in Wales and to provide him with a home in Pennsylvania when he came of age.
When, Rowland received his inheritance in 1930, he used some of the money to pay to study for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree at the University of Swansea.
'My father graduated from Swansea University in 1932 and later moved to London, where he was a schoolmaster. He married my mother Mary (Maisie) Pardoe in Aberdare in 1940. Serving in the British Army 1942-1946, he received a commission but was wounded in Rimini, Italy in 1944. He returned to teaching and died in New Malden, Surrey in 1994. My mother, also a school-teacher died in 2009' (Nigel Thomas, 2014)
- Mpbrisd60, 10th Nov 2013 (Ancestry website)
- Mpbrisd60, 10th Nov 2013 (Ancestry website)
- Coroner's Report, Ref. 387: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County (9th July 1923)
a. If representation had been made to the British Consulate for legal representation with the appointment of
an attorney, issues of safety within the Valley Camp Mine Number 3 could have been investigated. However, it is difficult to apply the norms of today to an incident of almost a hundred years ago.
b. Names Referenced in Letters:
William Henry Rowlands 'wife's father' (1861-1936): b. Aberdare, d. Neath
Ruth (Thomas) Rowlands wife's mother (1862-1932): b. and d. Mountain Ash
William Henry Thomas (1852-1930): b. Rogerstone, nr Newport, d. Mountain Ash
William George Bowles, 'Cousin Billy' (1859-1937) b. Beaufort, Monmouthshire, d. Mountain Ash
Noah Bowles (1880-1960) b. Mountain Ash d. Cardiff
Walter Samuel Clifford Bowles, 'Cliff'(1896-1962) b. Mountain Ash d. Ohio
James Lewis Hatch, 'our son' (1900-1980) b. Altoona d. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Dorothea Lewis, 'Dora' (1842-1913) b. Glascomb, Radnorshire, d. Johnstown, Pa.
William Joseph Rowland, 'Bill Rolland' (1863-1924) b. Merthyr Tydfil d. Johnstown
Charlotte Elizabeth Lewis (1861-1940) b. Aberammon, Glam. d. Pittsburgh
Anna E Andrews 'Annie' (1881-1924) b. Pa. d. Pittsburgh
Emma Lewis, 'Emily' (1868-1941) b. Wales d. Los Angeles
Myrtle B Ritz, 'Emily's Girl' (1890-1925) b. Pa. d. Los Angeles
NB-all, apart from the first four were direct descendants of William Lewis (1807-1871) b. South America d. Gaysport, Pa. (See part 9)
SEE ALSO ALTOONA (PA) POSTCARD