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TOWCESTER FAMILIES

 

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A drowning, 1868

 

John Pilgrim was born in 1804, the son of Elizabeth Pilgrim. Married 3 times, he had a total of 7 children. He was apprenticed to John Hands of Towcester in 1817, as a tailor, and married his first wife Ann in 1828. Baptised as an adult in Towcester Baptist Church in 1842, followed by his second wife Ann a year later, he rose to the position of deacon in February 1864.

 

He lived for many years in what is now 105 Watling Street, at the south end of the High Street.His son William lived close by, but had been declared bankrupt some 6 years before, which had distressed his father.

 

 

 

 

Northampton Mercury 7 Mar 1868

Lamentable Tragedy at Towcester

On Tuesday morning last the report that a respectable inhabitant of the town had committed suicide caused a great sensation in Towcester. The circumstances are particularly distressing. In a country lane leading by the Bear, at the southern extremity of Towcester, to Burcote, is a cottage which has been occupied for the better part of a century by a family named Pilgrim. At no great distance, but in the High-Street, lived the deceased John Pilgrim, a brother of the occupant of the cottage. He was a tailor, who had brought up a large family, the wife now living being his third. In the garden at the rear of his house he cultivated flowers, which he turned to good advantage, and his window was always attractive with a profusion of the finest blooms. His only son kept a grocers shop at no great distance from the father's house. About seven years ago he failed, but continued in business and was generally supposed to be doing well. It appears that he again became involved, and despairing of extricating himself, he left his home with the intention of emigrating. He told his wife he would be home to dinner, but he did not return. On Monday his wife received a letter, stating he had taken a berth on board the Siberia for New York. the event greatly distressed his father, who had severely felt his son's first failure, and he became so distressed as to cause serious apprehensions on the part of his wife and friends that his mind would give way. On Sunday, the Rev H Hardin the Baptist Minister, of whose congregation he was a member, thought it necessary to caution his wife as to his condition. On Monday night, he got up and insisted on leaving the house. His wife went with him, until about four in the morning when he ran up the back lane. She then aroused Mr Hardin, who immediately went in search of him, but he was not found until next morning, when his body was discovered in the harvest meadow brook. An inquest was held at the Peacock on Wednesday morning.

 

The first witness was called, the wife of the deceased. Some minutes elapsed before she was able to attend, being almost in a fainting state. When she came she was much distressed.

 

I am the wife of John Pilgrim a tailor. He was 63 last birthday. I last saw him on Tuesday morning at 4 am in the street. On Monday he was better than he had been and went to bed at his usual time. At 1 o'clock he got up, being very much distressed in his mind. He gave me his keys and his money, about 12 s. He looked very wild. He was so distressed I wouldn't leave him. We had a cup of tea, and talked about his son. This is the second time his son had failed. He ran down the street and I ran after him, and took him into the house. I asked him if I should ask someone to call Mr Hardin. He said he would go with me. He went as far as the bridge and stopped, I took him home again. We went out again as far as the Bear, where he pulled away, and ran up the back lane. I ran down the lane and called after him, screaming all the way, but it was so dark I could not see him. It rained heavily. I went to call his brother, who lived in the back lane, but I couldn't make them hear, and then I ran to Mr Hardinís and rapped at his door and rang the bell. I then came home, but he wasn't there. I called up Mr Gardner and another neighbour. I think it was about 10 next morning when he was brought home dead. If he had been in his mind he would never have left me screaming like that. He's been too good and kind a husband for that.

 

Rev Henry Hardin, Baptist Minister:

Mrs Pilgrim came to me yesterday morning about half-past four and begged me to get up as her husband had run away. I ran up to the Plank house and by the side of the brook, but I could see nothing. I was told his hat had been found, on its crown, on the bank of the brook. I saw a bundle in the brook, and found it was Mr Pilgrim. He was lying on his face, a bush was holding him up. With the aid of two others I got him out. I went to where the hat was. There were no marks of a struggle. The water when I got in was up to my hips - about three feet. There were no marks of violence on him. I am satisfied it was his own act. I had hoped it was accidental. The night was very dark, and I nearly fell in myself, but finding the hat does away with that supposition. I have known the deceased nearly 7 years. For the last three months he has been very much depressed on account of some of his friends. He got better, and then his son ran away.

 

Thos Gardner: I am a grocer. I heard that Mr Pilgrim was missing about 4.30 am. I and William Worth went together to search. I investigated the brook every step, but couldn't find anything. I came to the Plank house and into the Plank house meadow, and coming further down I saw a hat lie on the bank, which I knew to be his. Afterwards, I found the body in the brook, under a bundle of thorns. I saw no appearance of a struggle on the bank. The water was not so deep, about 2 feet.

 

The Coroner remarked that he had seldom heard such compelling evidence of the sate of mind of the deceased. The jury brought in a verdict of suicide while in a temporary state of derangement.