William de Gruchy

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William de Gruchy


William de Gruchy was taken by his widowed mother to the USA after his grandfather deserted his family and married again bigamously and his father was killed by bandits in Nicaragua

William de Gruchy was born in Jersey in 1850, the son of Matthieu de Gruchy (1814-1851) and Jane Eliza Le Capelain, a first cousin of the artist, John Le Capelain.

His father was abandoned by William's grandfather, also Matthieu, when he was only about ten.

Matthieu snr was the brother of Abraham, one of Jersey's most successful businessmen. A banker, builder and timber dealer, he became in 1825 bankrupt, abandoned his wife and two children and fled the Island. However, in London, he reinvented himself as a bachelor, married again (bigamously), and had there a second family, which was more successful. Members of this new family emigrated, in the next generation, to Australia, where they also flourished. Ironically, the elder son of Matthieu snr, Henry George de Gruchy, the first of these Australian emigrants, became in 1879, Manager of the Land Credit Bank of Australasia, succeeding in the world of banking where his late father had failed.

Matthieu jnr went to sea and became a ship's master. After being wrecked on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, he was murdered by bandits while trying to cross the country to the Caribbean. He was carrying a chest containing the ship`s papers, which may have contributed to his murder, as he was assumed to have been returning east from the Californian goldfields. Alexandre Le Cornu, a member of the ship`s crew, survived the attack. Matthieu`s widow married again and took William to the USA, where the family settled in Virginia and farmed in Stafford County. William never married and died at Mount Holly.

These photographs were sent by William to his cousin Lydia de La Perrelle, née Much, in England. Her family also originated in Jersey.

In 1897, when the photograph of him in the box on the right was taken, he wrote: 'Just dismounted from a young half-broken horse after a 50-mile ride, which acts to some extent for my dilapidated appearance.'

The photograph on the left, below, taken in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is believed to show a younger William. We have not been able to positively confirm this. However, Fredericksburg is in Spotsylvania County on the opposite side of the Rappahannock River, and adjacent to, Stafford County, Virginia.

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