Mystery surrounds why pub boss fled town for New York

A family mystery has been unearthed in a haul of old photos - do you hold the key to solving the puzzle?

Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 9:01 am
The Lawrenson Hotel in Northgate - once run by mystery man Henry Campbell. Can you solve the mystery of why he left his family for America?

Paul Wilkinson devoted years to drawing up his family tree, tracing ancestors on both his mother and father’s side back to Ireland.

But, while sorting through vintage snaps sometime later, he stumbled across a mystery surrounding his great-grandfather Henry Campbell.

This is the portrait of Henry Campbell which was taken in New York.

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“He was the manager of the Lawrenson Hotel in Northgate at one point, and had a wife and around eight children,” said Paul.

“But, among some old photos, I found one of him taken in New York. He obviously left his family to go to America, but I don’t know why.”

Henry Campbell was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, in around 1848, but made his way to England to find work as a young man.

By the time of the 1871 census he was a grocer’s assistant and renting a room at 12 Middlegate Street, on Hartlepool’s Headland.

The Home and Colonial Stores - where one of Henry Campbell's daughters worked in Hartlepool.

“This was the home of grocer and ale merchant Henry Magoris, who was also manager of the Lawrenson Hotel at the time,” said Paul.

“The Magoris family hailed from the same part of Ireland as my great-grandfather, so it is probable they all knew each other beforehand.”

Henry met wife-to-be Sarah Ann Conway while working in Hartlepool and the pair married on June 5, 1873.

By the 1881 census the couple had several children and were living at 8 Cleveland Street. Henry was also managing the Lawrenson by then.

Sarah Ann Campbell (nee Conway) - wife of Henry Campbell.

But, within a year of the 1884 birth of youngest daughter Dora, it appears Henry left his family and the hotel for a new life in America.

An Irish-born gentleman with the same name is registered as arriving in New York in November 1885. It is not known if he ever went home.

“By profession Henry was a master grocer and his wife, Sarah, carried on their Cleveland Road business in her own name,” said Paul.

“How on earth she managed to survive and bring up eight kids by herself on the Headland is beyond me. She must have been a strong woman.”

This is the portrait of Henry Campbell which was taken in New York.

Paul only unearthed the mystery of Henry’s move to America after finding his US photo in belongings left by the death of a maiden aunt.

“I used to have lots of aunts on the Headland, but they were very reticent whenever I mentioned I was doing the family tree,” said Paul.

“But, when one passed away, I came across the photo. It was taken at 98 Sixth Avenue, New York, and I presume he sent it to his family.

“Unfortunately I have been unable to trace Henry’s movements after that, but would love to know what happened to him.”

Back at home, Sarah continued in the grocery business and, by 1911, was living at 35 Watt Street, Central Estate, with several children.

By this time, however, she was listed as a widow - although it is not know how, or when, Henry died.

The Home and Colonial Stores - where one of Henry Campbell's daughters worked in Hartlepool.

* Can you shed any light on this family puzzle? Email [email protected]

Sarah Ann Campbell (nee Conway) - wife of Henry Campbell.