The story begins when a photograph was discovered amongst some papers being tidied up from the Newquay Old Cornwall Society archive.
This aroused considerable interest as the Society knew a considerable amount about William and Elizabeth Ould who lived with their three daughters at Vine Cottage, Trenance at the end of the 19th century.
Three of the Society's members followed differing lines of research; Chris Shinner reviewed the Society's existing records, Rachel Parry worked on parish records and census returns and Mervyn Mitchell studied US military records and newspapers.
Richard's father was also a Richard, born In Summercourt he worked as a tailor and on 1st October 1820 married a local girl Elizabeth Truscott. They had four children; Richard, William Isabel (given his Grandmother's family name), John and Jacob who died within a few days of his birth. Shortly afterwards on 29th November 1832 Elizabeth passed away. Some years later in 1841 Richard remarried this time Ann Tregiglas of St. Enoder. They too named their first child Jacob and by sad coincidence he also died within a few weeks of birth. However in 1843 they had a second son Thomas.
The 1840s, the "Hungry Fourties" were a time of great privation in Cornwall. Grain prices were high following bad harvests, wages were low 7 shillings (35p) a week for an agricultural labourer and the winter of 46/7 was exceptionally severe. The potato blight which struck Ireland also devastated the crop in Cornwall further reducing the supply of food. In Cornwall as in Ireland the answer found was to leave Cornwall. Richard's younger brother William and his wife moved to London, Shoreditch where their daughter Catherine and son John were born. By 1855 they had moved back to Cornwall living in St. Columb Minor.
Richard took the bold decision to emigrate to the United States of America. He went , probably around 1841. He is quite likely to have sailed from Padstow which, at that time, was third only to Liverpool and London as a port for emigrants. He settled in Madison, New York county and continued his trade as a tailor. In 1842 he married a Cornish girl Mary Varcoe at Schenectady.
In around 1848 he was joined by his father Richard, his wife Ann and brothers John and Thomas. Certainly by the time of the US census in 1850 they were settled in the town of Lennox in Madison County, New York.
In 1862 Richard was living in the Canstota district of Lennox and became Secretary of Canastota's Masonic Lodge No. 231.
By 1873 Richard's brother John had married Susan Shepard and moved to Oswego, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario. There he developed a very successful manufacturing tailoring business. Richard then moved to Oswego to take charge of the mechanical department of his brother's business.
In the 1880s he returned to Britain to visit his brother William Isabel and, presumably, stayed at Vine Cottage. It would seem that the photograph dates from this visit.
He died on the 13th April 1893, two years after his wife Mary, leaving four sons and two daughters.
Despite all the information discovered the photograph remains a mystery. We have little evidence of his whereabouts in the period 1861 to 1865; he was in Canastota in 1862 and still in Madison at the time of the 1870 census. Richard became a naturalised American in 1855 and is named in the military draft of 1863 but there is no evidence that he ever entered military service. (The draft defined eligibility but a businessman aged 42 was unlikely to be called up) Indeed an extensive review of records of Civil War soldiers fails to find the name.
Perhaps more significantly there is no record of military service in his obituary.
The uniform worn in the picture does not conform to that of any Civil War regiment; there being no regimental or rank badges to be found. The sword is described as "masonic" and we know he was Secretary of a lodge in Canastota at the beginning of the Civil War. It seems possible that this was a "Masonic uniform".
Richard Ould the brother of John Ould, Merchant Tailor, and father of W. V. and Byron S, died at the home of his son W.V. Ould yesterday afternoon at 3.30 o'clock in the seventy seventh year of his life. Mr. Ould was born in Cornwall, England on August 28th 1821. He was a son of Richard Ould and Elizabeth Truscott. He came to America at the age of twenty years and lived at Fort Plain, Oneida and Canastota where he was in business until 1873, when he came to Oswego to take charge of the mechanical department of his brother's tailoring business. Two years ago Mr. Ould's wife died. Since then he has been in feeble health and members of his family and friends have been aware for some months that his days were drawing to a close. He was a man of a social disposition, kind hearted, quiet and unassuming and well informed upon all public questions. He is survived by a family of four sons and two daughters. W.V. and Byron S of this city, Richard and Mary E of New York and Blanche and Arthur F of Shelton, Connecticutt. Besides three brothers, John Ould of this city, Thomas of New York and I.O.Ould of Cornwall, England.
The funeral will occur from the home of Mr. W. V. Ould, 190 West Sixth Street, tomorrow.
Transcribed from The Oswego Daily Palladium Thursday Evening April 14 1893
Vine Cottage is one of the three Trenance Cottages located in Trenace Leisure Gardens.