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  • English Origins: More on Empson of Yorkshire Emigration

    Francis James Dallett, F.A.S.G.

    Published Date : August-September 1988
    On 12 December 1710 was proved the will of Cornelius Empson, gentleman, of Goal (sic Goole) Grange, New Castle County, Pennsylvania, later Delaware (A Calendar of Delaware Wills - New Castle County, 1682-1800 [1911, p. 16). This was the very year that, according to Dr. George Redmonds, Charles Empson, the “great farmer” of Snaith, West Riding of Yorkshire, petitioned in Quarter Sessions Court for permission to settle with his creditors and emigrate to Pennsylvania, where be had “near Relations” (see NEXUS 5[April-May 1988]:51).

    Cornelius Empson, from the Snaith township of Goole, itself at the conflux of the rivers Ouse and Dutch, and England’s farthest port inland, 50 miles from sea, was already a convinced Quaker on 24 of 6 month 1680, when the Hull Monthly Meeting of Friends registered the birth of Richard Empson, his eldest son of four by his first wife Mary (Sanderson?) (Gilbert Cope’s abstracts of English Friends Records, Quarterly Meeting of Yorkshire Births, A to L, np., in Collections of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, Fgn. E. 27, f.2). As early as 1648, administration was granted in the estate of Ann Empson of “Gowle House” in Snaith (YorkshireArchaeological Society Record Series 35[1905]:15 1), and in 1673 Katherin Empson, wife of James, had been buried as a Quaker, in “Richd Empson’s ground, Gowle” (Cope abstracts, Yorkshire Marriages, Births & Burials, Supplementary Registers, vol. IV [Collections GSP, Fgn. E. 3fF], p. 142). The latter was probably the Richard Empson, of Golle, yeoman, whose will was proved in 1675 (Y.A S. Record Series 68[1925]:37). Two years later George Empson (ca. 1615-1677), gentleman, died. He appears in the third generation in an abbreviated pedigree of the armigerous family of “Empson of Gowle” (sic), recorded by Dugdale in 1665 (The Genealogist New Series, 27[1910-1911]:216). The latter describes George as a Royalist, whereas in the recent pedigree of Empson of Yokefleet Hall (Burke’s Landed Gentry, 18th ed., vol. Ill (1972), pp. 292-93), the same George is described as a Parliamentarian. More on this gentry line is evidently in print in a local history, Goole Hall, Yorkshire, and in other English local history works not consulted by this contributor.


    Cornelius Empson was in 1684 described as of Booth (perhaps Goole misread?) in County York, “gent.,” when he acquired from another Yorkshireman of nearby North Cave, part of a 1/24 share in West New Jersey (New Jersey Archives, series 1, vol. XXI [1899], pp. 425, 443), but he emigrated within a year with wife and several children to New Castle County on the opposite shore of the Delaware. He began there his public service as a Justice of the Peace (Pennsylvania Archives, series 2, vol. IX (1880), pp. 648-49), and was soon appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of the Province (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 3(1879):2 17). His son Richard, who died 7 of 5 month 1728 (Collections GSP, Sophie Selden Rogers Papers, Lo.3.4/Rol6, p. 45), represented New Castle in the first legislative Assembly of the “Three Lower Counties upon Delaware” in 1704 (Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsvlvania, vol. V, no. 3 [1914], p. 246. Father Cornelius became a yeoman at his farm of Goole Grange, on Brandywine Creek in New Castle County (New Jersey Archives, series 1, vol. XXI[1899], p. 438).


    Cornelius made three subsequent marriages in the New World, his second wife, Elizabeth Sanderson, being “his late Wife’s sister” and his third wife, Sarah Wilson (1673-1700), a native of Scarborough, Yorkshire. His will names a fourth wife, Mary ____, four sons (including Richard), and five daughters. Cornelius may have had a sister who married Christopher Watkins, a sea captain of Gloucester County, New Jersey, who died in 1690, and for whom the well educated Cornelius was administrator in the name of “brother in law.”


    Other descendants of a line of the Empson family were represented in Burlington County, New Jersey, by the children of Joshua Wright of Howden, four miles north of Goole, member of the West Jersey Assembly in 1682, 1683, and 1685, who died in 1695, and his wife Elizabeth Empson (died 1705), “daughter of William Empson, of Gowle Field House,” whom Wright married, contrary to the discipline of Friends, at nearby Cave, County York, in 1669, prior to their emigration. A recently printed and much advertised genealogy of this Wright family is, for the early generations, a direct copy, almost verbatim, inaccuracies and “typos” carefully reproduced, of the 60-year-old unpublished work on the same clan by Sophie Selden Rogers (in Collection GSP Gm. Ro. 42), but lacks any mention of the Rogers typescript source. The present contributor has again not consulted another new work, namely Donald L. and Amy E. Empson’s The Empson Families in America (1984), which may possibly be very pertinent to Dr. Redmonds’s topic.

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