Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994

T I U XPIL. LEM. - .. W

The Pontefract Story: From Yorkshire to Texas
By: Martha Pontefract Hodges, March 7, 1944

My father, Richard Pontefract, was
born on "June 8th, 1831, at twenty minutes
past 11 o'clock in the morning," so the old
family Bible states, where a record was kept
of the births of Joseph Pontefract's children:
nine of them, beginning with Betty (1809)
and ending with Richard. They were all very
tall and considered handsome, anyway
Father was.
He was very dark, always wore his
hair parted on each side of his well-shaped
head with a curl through the center. He
turned gray in his early 40's, but Mother's
hair, while it grew thin, kept its lovely
color. She was a decided blonde.
Mother, nee Anne Mellor, was born
Dec. 2, 1832. The family record gives the
birth of Anne's grandfather, William Turton,
as Dec. 14, 1774 and her mother, Mary,
April 10, 1808.
We have a line of seven generations
on Mother's side and six on Father's. I do
hope someone will keep the record up, as it
is an unusual thing to be able to go back so
far on both sides.
To begin, the time from 1878 to the
present is quite a long jump, but so many of
the events stand out very clearly to me. In
the fall of 1878, a group of land sharks induced
numberless families to invest in land
in Texas. The place was called "New Philadelphia."
It is now known as "Lissie." I do
not remember how many acres our parents
bought before they left England. I remember
coming home from school and seeing a
strange man talking to Father. He said, "It's
a land overflowing with milk and honey." To
my childish mind that seemed a rather
sloppy, sticky place to live.
It was not long before all arrangements
were made for our leaving Huddersfield,
Yorkshire, which we did early in February
1879. Our family consisted of five
daughters: Eva, Mary Jane (Jennie), Sarah,
Martha Anne, and Emma. We ranged in age

from 18 to 6, so it must have been some undertaking
to get such a brood in readiness for
such a big venture.
The ship we were to sail on was a
very old one, The Memphis, belonging to the
Dominion Line. It was delayed for several
days so we had to stay at a hotel in Liverpool.
I imagine to our parents consternation
as our resources were none too plentiful, but
to our joy anyway. I still recall several
things that stand out in my mind.
We finally got off, but such awful
places we were put into! We were traveling
steerage, which in those days was very
crude. There was great disorder among the
crew. Some said that Captain Mellon had
been drunk for several days.
We had been out for three days and
were in the Bay of Biscay during the hours
toward morning when the ship gave a terrific
lurch. The call was made for everyone to get
up on deck as soon as possible. Mother must
have had her hands full getting five children
dressed and to pick up what she could. The
next thing I remember, I was standing behind
a heavy rope which had been securely
fastened to keep the passengers from sliding
off the deck. It was bitter cold, and a good
many had not been able to find all of their
clothes. Jennie had lost her shoes and had a
pair of slippers on.
When daylight came, we could see
where we had run into a rocky island. The
captain had mistaken it for the lights to get
into the harbor and ran aground. It was almost
six miles from Coruna, Spain. Rockets
were sent up for help as the few lifeboats
they tried to launch sank immediately, so we
had to depend on help from the shore. A few
hours later, large lifeboats came and the passengers
were taken off. On arriving in
Coruna, we were placed in whatever accommodations
could be had, which were
very meager. It was two weeks before an

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Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994. San Antonio, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/. Accessed April 18, 2015.