The Zimapanners







A Cornish Mining Engineer
in Zimapan

Charles Rule Williams (1849-1919)

Mining engineer

The purchaser of the Tregullow Offices was Charles Rule Williams, a Cornish mining engineer. Charles was born in Tolcarne Street, Camborne, Cornwall on 25 May 1849. His parents were Thomas James Williams (1st), a mining engineer, and Jane Rule1. Charles Williams had two sisters and a brother.

At the age of 23, Charles Rule Williams married Hannah Knotwell, a 19-year-old spinster of St Day, at the Parish Church in the Parish of St Day, on 7 December 1872. The marriage certificate indicates that the banns of marriage had been read out in church before the wedding, and also shows that Charles's profession at the time of the marriage as engineer. His wife did not work. Their pre-marriage residences are both given as St Day, but unfortunately no street addresses were recorded. Hannah's father, James Knotwell, was a miner.

Charles and Hannah
on their Wedding Day, 1872

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Williams, 2012

St Gluvias, Penryn (1881)
In 1881, Charles and Hannah Williams were living at 90 Helston Road, St Gluvias, Penryn. Their son Thomas James Williams (2nd) was already three years old. They shared their accommodation with Mary Williams, an aunt, a 63-year-old former dressmaker. Charles Williams is described then as an "engine fitter and machinist".

Emigrates to Mexico
Some time after 1881, Charles Rule Williams emigrated to central Mexico, where he lived for 15 years working in the small silver-mining district of Zimapán.2 It is assumed he emigrated with his wife.

Returns to St Day
Charles and Hannah Williams returned to Cornwall from Mexico probably around 1885, and in 1901 were living at 61 Church Street, St Day. Williams, who was 51, is described in the census as a mechanical engineer living on his own account, which means he was self-employed. The couple shared their home with a 17-year-old domestic servant called Emily T. Tangye. None of their children were lodging with them.

Buys home in Scorrier
In 1902, aged 53, he bought the nearby 'Tregullow Offices' in Scorrier from Charles and Florence Conybeare, and renamed them Zimapan Villa3 after the town in Mexico where he had lived and worked.

Zimapàn sign

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Williams, 2012

Active civic life
Charles Williams played an active role in the life of his community by becoming both a district and a parish councillor. He took a keen interest in all work concerning the welfare of St Day and district, and was for many years a member of the Redruth Board of Guardians, Chairman of the School Management4, and was elected twice onto the Gwennap Parish Council in April 1910 and in April 1913.5 

In 1903, Charles Williams, who had been a great traveller, gave a lecture entitled "Mountain Memories" about his life and times in Mexico, to the St Day Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Class.6 
A newspaper in St Day recorded the lecture as follows:
Mr. C. R. Williams gave a very interesting paper on ''Mountain Memories'' at the Wesleyan Mutual Improvement class on Wednesday evening. Reminiscences and incidents of his fifteen years away in Mexico, and description of the country was listened to with great attention. Mr. R. H. Chynoweth occupied the chair. The discussion was joined in by Messrs. J. T. Letcher, C. James, E. Bawden, J. Jennings and the chairman.7 
If you have a copy of the Mountain Memories paper, or if you know anything more about this person, please contact the author  
England & Wales Census 1911
On 2 April 1911, C. R. Williams was not registered as living in Zimapan. Instead, he is registered as a 'visitor' staying with Florence Maud Hewitt (40) in Vogue. No sign of Hannah. It is thought that Hannah was one of the many women during that census year who, in protest against women not having the right to vote, decided not to be counted by the enumerator. On that day, Eliza Bawden Hambly (80), a retired cook-housekeeper, was registered as head of the household  in Zimapan Villa, Scorrier Road, but none of the Williams family. This arrangement was probably of a very short duration.
Household expands in 1913
Charles R. Williams's son, Thomas James Williams (2nd) (b. 1877) married a Mexican woman called Soledad Yanez in Mexico in ca. 1905. In about 1913, Soledad and her four sons emigrated from Mexico to Cornwall and spent about six years living in Zimapan with her parents-in-law Charles and Hannah. After leaving his post in Mexico until the outbreak of the Revolution, Thomas was posted to Egypt in 1915, leaving Soledad to fend for her family at Zimapan Villa with her parents-in-law. Thomas died in Egypt at sea on Christmas Eve 1918.8

Soledad and the four boys (ca. 1917/8)
James Christian (13) far lt. | William Julian (9) far rt.
Thomas Franciso (6) lower lt. | Soledad | George Liluanos (4; b. 1913)
 Ages are estimates
Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Williams, 2012

Dies shortly after selling Zimapan
Charles Rule Williams sold Zimapan on 29 March 1919, and moved with his wife to a house in Scorrier Street, St Day, where he died exactly four months later on Saturday, 26 July 1919 aged 70. He left a widow and a brother, Rev. William F. Williams (b. 1848), who was in Australia at the time of the funeral, and two sisters: Miss Susan J. Williams, Penryn (b. 1854), and Mrs J. Sanders, Bristol. His only son, T. J. Williams, had died six months earlier in Egypt.

The funeral took place in the St Day Churchyard on Tuesday, 1 August, and was officiated by the Rev. W.W. Bickford. The mourners were: Messrs. A. Andrew, A. Bray, J. M. Collins, S. Goldsworthy, Capt. Hall, F. J. Hart, A. Kinsman, J. Kinsman, J. T. Letcher, G. Michell, C. Paull, H. Paull, Rev. S. Prater, Messrs. J. Richards, F.V. Rowse, R. Rowse, T. Sara, A. Thomas, J. Thomas, P and H Thomas, J. Tregonning, H. B. Veal, W. Williams and others. It is quite likely that the "others" referred to in the obituary were Soledad and sons.

1. Birth certificate of Charles Rule Williams, 23 June 1849, GRO.
2. The Cornish in Latin America, by Sharron P. Schwartz, 1999.
3. Charles Rule Williams's obituary mentions Zimapan Villa in The Cornubian newspaper of 31 Jul 1919. Kelly's Directory of Cornwall, 1910, recorded a Zimapan House. 
4. CRW is recorded in the St Day Parish Registers 47-1-16, entry No. 31: "Scorrier Street, late of Zimapan", Sheila Moyle, 2009. 4 Obituary.
5. Cornwall Records Office, Truro, Cornwall, 2009.
6. Obituary, Conubian, 31-7-1919. 

7. The Cornish And Mining Post, 26 March 1903.

8. The Cornish in Latin America, a PhD thesis by Sharron. P. Schwartz, University of Exeter, 1999-2009. Emigration database.

9. Obituary, Conubian, 31-7-1919.