Webb to USA

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Webb to the United States

Thomas Webb    by Barb Dembinski

Tom was born on December 3, 1881 in Merriott in the county of Somerset, in southern England. The Webb home was on Sandy Hole just across from All Saints Church. Tom was the fourth of fifteen children born to John Webb and Emma Osborne. Father, John (b. January 1852), was a carpenter and wheelwright. John was the son of William Simeon Webb (b. 1824) and Ann Rousell (b.about 1824). William’s father William S. Webb (b. January 1875) was from nearby Hinton St George.

Emma (b.January 1856) was the 14th child of William Osborne and Ann Lawrence.

Tom reported that in the school of his time, all children learned useful things such as how to darn their stockings. Tom was left-handed, but in his time, educators felt everyone must be right-handed, so his schoolmasters tormented him by insisting he work with his right hand. This all ended in the fifth grade when the male schoolmaster wrapped Tom’s hand with a ruler for using the wrong hand. Tom took the ruler, punched the teacher, and left school forever.

Tom recalled that his father may have occasionally spent time in the pub and upon coming home, John would open the kitchen door and toss his hat inside. If it stayed inside, he was welcome. If it was tossed back out the door, Emma was not pleased. This became a habit that Tom would also use in his future married years.

Tom was an amateur boxer. He enlisted in Her Majesty’s army and fought in Africa during the Boer war. Upon his return home, he could often be found in the local pub, frequently in a fight. One of his younger brothers related that once he was passing the local pub and a man came flying backward, out the door, and fell into the street. Next, Tom came out the door ready for the next punch. Tom’s stories of rowdiness seem in keeping with the reputation Merriott had for a rough-and-tumble village.

After returning from the Boer War, Tom traveled north to the city of Bristol to find work. He became a delivery man for the Fulton Laundry, using horse and wagon to pick up dirty laundry and deliver the clean product back to the fine homes of Bristol. One day, when delivering at the service entrance of a well-to-do home, the servant girl who usually answered the door was absent, so the upstairs maid opened the door to Tom. When Tom returned his wagon to the barn at the end of his route, he told his fellow workers that today he met the girt he would marry. The girl was Marian Heard. Tom did court Marian and they became engaged. Marian was the eldest daughter of William and Jane Heard. Marian had been born in Queensland, Australia, but was raised in Somerset and Bristol. Marian’s father was a mason, whose specialty was brick ovens. In Queensland, he built the ovens for the sugar cane plantations. During one of William’s journeys, he met one of the meat packing moguls from Chicago. He was offered a job building his ovens for the Chicago stock yards.

The Heard family would immigrate to Illinois, and Marian was included, although she was engaged to Tom Webb.

Tom was told, “If you want Marian, come and get her”. In 1907, the Heard family boarded ship for America. Tom saved his money for a full year, in order to book passage. He brought with him, his best friend from Merriott, Walt Pattemore. [ See Pattemore to USA and back again].  The 2 boarded the Empress of Briton and arrived in Quebec,Canada on October 26, 1908, then entered the US via the Grand Trunk Railroad, passing through Detroit to Chicago. They found the Heard family in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, and Marian and Tom were married on April 11, 1909. Tom and Marian held a number of jobs, doing what they were used to in England, serving the well-to-do families, and Oak Park had quite a few such families. The most interesting families they served were the Edwin Conway family, owners of the Kimball piano business, and Dr. C.E.Hemingway’s family, where son Ernest was usually away in Michigan. At the former, Tom was the gardener and chauffeur. At both homes, Marian was the maid. Tom’s friend Walt, meanwhile, had fallen in love with Marian’s younger sister Elsie. They were soon married and began a family. Both the young families returned to Somerset in 1914. Walt settled in Crewkerne. There, they were the proprietors of the Antelope Inn and were pioneers in motor haulage transport trade. They raised six children and both lived long, full lives.

Tom and Marian also planned to remain in Somerset, but with the outbreak of war in Europe, Tom made a hasty retreat with his family back to America, as he had no desire to be drafted. His memories of trench warfare were still strong from the Boer war, and he felt that fighting once for the Queen was enough. They departed so quickly, that Marian had left her rings on a window ledge while washing dishes at a relative’s home and never saw them again. On their crossing of the Atlantic, aboard the Scandinavian, it was rumored that a submarine periscope followed them for days. Back safely on US soil, 3 weeks after their journey, came the shocking news of the sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania, by a German submarine. Tom never returned to his homeland but spoke of it often, with pride.

Tom was a milk delivery man for many years, his route was in infamous Cicero. Delivering milk in the early morning hours, he frequently was witness to mobsters just coming home. Tom loved to garden and gardened a large lot near his home for many years, supplying the neighbors with vegetables. Tom and Marian had 3 children, 9 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren. Marian used to reminisce of the time she lived with her husband in Somerset. She said that even though she herself was raised in Somerset, she could never understand the accent of those people in Merriott.

Tom died peacefully on November 30, 1969, and was laid to rest next to his wife Marian, who had left him over 36 years earlier.

The wedding of Tom Webb & Marian Heard,  with
Tom’s friend Walter Pattemore,
Marian’s sister Elsie Heard, and her mother Jane Heard (nee Wright)
[Photo courtesy of Barb Dembinski]

[Photos & story courtesy of Barb Dembinski, a descendant of Tom &Marian]

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