Udall Genealogy


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David King Udall's Missionary Miscellany

By Geoffrey D. Copus



Like most family history and genealogical undertakings, research on the Udalls is exciting, fascinating and frustrating and often very much a puzzlement.  We are fortunate that David King Udall kept a missionary so that from it we can get a good picture of his visits with his English relatives and it also helps us place him in the history of the times and gives clues and ideas on other areas to look into.


It is of course a privilege and a pleasure for me to be here and thus be able to do and guide the research activities.  I have enjoyed particularly tracing down and meeting some of our contemporaries and I find we all feel an instant kinship.  We have always been in touch with the descendants of David Udall (1852 – 1912), David King Udall’s cousin.  David King Udall, Jr. and Pearl Udall met them before the First World War; King Udall stopped by en route to serve a mission in South Africa before the Second World War; Harry Wayne Udall looked them up during that war; and many of us since then.  Pearl Udall (Nelson) and Lou Udall (Baker), daughter of David above, carried on a correspondence the rest of their lives and at their instigation Mollie Baker (Buckle), daughter of Lou, and Inez Udall (Turley) corresponded over a period of some 15 years.


In addition as of now I have established contact with at least a dozen other individuals who are descendants of John and about 20 who have Dorset origins via John’s brother William and their cousins and uncles.


Elma Udall, Sep 1977




On 20 May 1875, David King Udall (1851 – 1938) arrived in London from Liverpool, after sailing from New York to serve a mission in the land of his father’s birth.  As well as doing missionary work, he covered a considerable amount of ground, seeing relatives in Putney and Wandsworth (London suburbs) and in many parts of Kent.  The parish of Goudhurst, where his father David (1829 – 1910) and his grandfather Jesse (1788 – 1865) had been born, drew him most of all, and he records in his journal three visits which he made there.


At the end of Jul 1875 he walked from Maidstone to Yalding, a large village a little further up the Medway Valley, and then walked on through Marden to the village of Staplehurst where “I called at Cousin David Udall’s (1852 – 1912)…and had a bite to eat.  They are very poor indeed.  David does not believe in royalty.  He is a Republican and says he is too smart for his own good….”  Such views were fairly uncommon in Victorian England, even among the poor, although they gained ground during the period in question when the Queen was living in seclusion following the death of the Prince Consort in 1861.


Cousin David figures a good deal in the journal, and David King seems to have had great respect for him, describing him as “the greatest man to argue I have come in contact with.”  In spite of his poverty and his Republican views, he had in full the Udall gift of triumphing over adversity.  Around 1880 David achieved a good position on Mereworth Castle Estate as woodreeve.  His views obviously didn’t militate against him here and he still remained a bit of a firebrand and was beaten up by the conservative brewery men from Wateringbury in an election.  (His sons were very proud of their father for standing up for his convictions.)


David’s respect for education had a great effect on the family fortunes, and all of his children did well, six of the eight becoming qualified teachers.  Stewart, born 1881, and said to have been so named as a compliment to David King’s wife whose maiden name was Stewart, became a civil engineer.  Gordon became a valuer of property and was Chairman of the Urban District Council of Sidcup, Kent, at the same time that Nicholas Udall was Mayor of Phoenix.  It is pleasing to find that this English line and the American branch of the Udalls never lost touch with each other, and the friendship between them has continued from generation to generation, and flourishes still today.


Cousin David accompanied David King to Goudhurst parish, where they visited the former’s sister, Sarah Suitters.  Here we can expand the information in the journal from reminiscences in that wonderful storehouse of local lore, the Goudhurst Coronation Book (1937).  On page 719 Miss L. Suitters recalls “my mother Mrs. Sarah Suitters (she was a Udall before her marriage) was born at Cranbrook.  She ahs been dead 21 years, but she lived with old Mr. William Vousden, whose farm was just beyond the Peacock.  I have the old grandfather clock he gave her for a wedding present.  It was made at Ticehurst and is over 150 years old….”  There are photographs of Sarah (otherwise known as Sally) and of her husband Charles Suitters.  David King Udall says that Sarah is “a nice little woman” and another Goudhurst villager in the Coronation Book says “she was my grandmother’s servant at Angely Farm, Glassenbury.  She was a fine strong girl and a very good worker.  When grandmother died, Sally went to look after Mr. William Vousden, who is described as a farmer of 104 acres, aged 76, but by the time David King visited her she had married and, as stated above, was living at Hawkenbury, Staplehurst.


On the following day, David took his American cousin to see his father, John Udall (1822 – 1898) – “We passed through some beautiful fields and some large groves of timber…we passed the house where grandfather Udall (Jesse) lived before he went to America.  It was a two-storey frame building with brick in between the framework.  The name of the place is Curtisden Green, Goudhurst parish.  We passed the farm where great-grandfather John Udall lived.  He owned it, but some of his sons drank the place up and then had to work for a living.  We passed Goudhurst Gore where people in olden times were gibbeted.  I saw the old farmhouse where father was raised and the places where he spent his youth….”


This entry raises some interesting points.  The farm where great-grandfather John (1727 – 1801) lived was Hammonds, an ancient building with 25 acres attached to it.  However, as is proved by reference to the title deeds, David King was misled when he was told that John had ever owned it – or, indeed, any property in Goudhurst.  Research in the Churchwardens’ Account Book of Goudhurst shows that, in fact, he became tenant of the holding in 1782 and lived there until his death in 1801.  His two oldest sons, John and Gaius, were made executors of their father’s will but eventually they and their brother William left Goudhurst and lived and died elsewhere.  His wife Catherine (daughter of John King, parish clerk of the neighboring village of Lamberhurst), who was more than 20 years younger than he, is shown continuing as tenant until 1829, when she died leaving no will.  It seems likely that some of her sons helped to run the farm, although the youngest, Jesse, was only 13 when his father died.  In 1819 he and his brother George are shown as tenants.  In 1823, however, John Johnson and Benjamin Wickham are given as tenants, with the comment “late Udalls”.  It is difficult to piece together exactly what happened after that but we know both from the journal and from parish records that at least some of the Udall family continued to live at Hammonds.


John Johnson and Benjamin Wickham were large farmers and Hammonds formed only a small part of their holdings.  We can but accept the story told to David King that “some” of John Udall’s sons “drank the place up” (elsewhere he uses the expression “the old farm that grandfather and his brothers squandered”), which presumably means that they let the farm go downhill so much that they could no longer pay the rent.  Thereafter they made the swift and terrible transition from farmer to farm laborer.  The sad story shows up in the stark simplicity in the parish records, where the brothers paid poor rate of 15s 6d on their property in 1820; before the end of the decade both they and their families were on parish relief receiving regular payments of money and doles of gallons of flour.


No wonder poor Catherine, then in her seventies, was “crazy the last few years of her life”, as David King records.  The contrast between the miserable existence of a pauper, dragging out her life on parish relief and the palmier days of the 1780s and 1790s when her husband John was a substantial local figure, must have been painful indeed.  Still, her son Jesse at least did not meekly accept his new lowly station in life, and 1829, the year of his mother’s death, he left behind his wife and family and went off to the United States apparently to prospect with a view to their following him, although nothing more is known about this, the earliest Udall connection with the New World.


Whilst Jesse was away, as we know from the journal, his family went into the Workhouse and were supported by the parish.  Unfortunately, the poor law records are deficient for that year, so we are unable to add any further details; at this period, poor relief was still administered in a comparatively humane way, either by “outdoor relief”, that is, by subsidizing the low wages paid to laborers with payments of money or doles of flour, or else, if there were nowhere for a family or individual to live, housing them in a local workhouse.  At least this meant that paupers – the vast majority of whom were hardworking and honest – did stay in familiar surroundings, close to their friends and families.  The “Union Houses” which came into existence a few years later under the new Poor Law Act were bleak buildings where the poor from a large union of parishes were herded together and the whole emphasis was punitive.  The old Goudhurst workhouse, still in existence, is situated on Clay Hill, the steep hill between Hammonds and Goudhurst village, and there David Udall, David King’s father, was born.


Jesse duly returned, but either from lack of funds or for other unknown reasons, the family did not then emigrate, and in the ledger book of the Goudhurst overseers of the poor in Apr 1830, Jesse Udall is described as a laborer living at Hammonds, with his children John, aged 7, Ann, aged 5, Kittina (really Keturah), aged 3, and David, aged 1.  It was at Hammonds, then, that David spent his childhood, and in spite of difficult circumstances, his memories, as passed on to his son David King, were vivid and happy ones.  In a letter to his old friend William Doust, written in 1848, David says, “I often think of our younger days how happy we was at work in the fields and of the love we had for each other….” And the journal reflects this joyous spirit rather than the pinched years on parish relief.  It is depressing to work through the poor law documents from Goudhurst parish chest – it seems incredible that in such a smiling and fertile area so high a proportion of the population should have lived more or less permanently “on the parish”.  David King says tellingly “the laboring class of people in England are afraid to stand and talk to anybody 5 minutes at a time…” and it is not surprising that emigration should have been so much in the air.  It is noticeable how many of the relations David King met in England had spent at least some time in America.  David we know had emigrated for compelling religious reasons; but this did not apply to his father Jesse, or to Benjamin and Lucian Stanley of Bredhurst, Charles Suitters and Benjamin Udall of Goudhurst or Lucy Udall of Ightham, all of whom are mentioned in the journal as having been in America at one time or another.  Benjamin Udall went twice, once to New York and the second time to Chicago where he learned to be a butcher.


After his first look at Hammonds (which he evidently did not enter on that occasion). David King and his cousin turned back up the steep hill into Goudhurst village and had lunch “just as you go into the old churchyard…where lie my great-grandparents, and my grandparents and two or three great uncles and aunts.  I look around the place in silence thinking what the passing of time brings about.  I visited the church they attended which is similar to other churches here.  I went to the top of the tower and into the belfry.  It is the most beautiful sight I ever saw.  The deacon took us about and the feeling I felt while in and around the place I cannot express.  It was as though some power had hold of me that I could not see or describe.  I thank God that I have the privilege of coming to this land, the place of my fathers before me, the privilege of visiting and walking on the same ground they trod….”  These sentiments have been echoed by most of his American descendants who have also visited Goudhurst.


Afterwards, the cousins went to see David’s father, Uncle John, “and he was very glad to see me.  I think I have never seen anyone so pleased.  He talked about the last night that father was here when he said that he would not come back to England to live.  He said ‘what time brings about’.  He has no home of his own, no wife and no children only those to take care of themselves, so he had no place for me to stay or sleep, so he gave me ten shillings to go to a hotel in Cranbrook.”  The gift of ten shillings was certainly a generous one, representing almost a week’s wages for a laborer, and David King was obviously not unmindful of this, for he adds, “O, I love that man.  The spirit he has is a great deal like father’s….”


G. D. Copus, Sep 1977






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