Robert Knott Orchard and Eliza Clay – Crimean War Vet and Pioneers

Robert Knott Orchard Family pedigree charts and records

Robert Knott Orchard

Robert Knott Orchard, 1934-1919
He was age 80 at the time of this photo. The medal was presented to him by Queen Victoria for his valor and service in the Crimean War.

Robert Knott Orchard and Eliza Clay were both born in Somersetshire, England, and both were the children of merchants.

Launch of HMS Amamemnon

Launch of HMS Agamemnon

As a young man, Robert participated in the Crimean War fought against Russia near the Black Sea from 1853 to 1856. You may have heard of the “Charge of the Light Brigade” or of Florence Nightingale, who pioneered modern nursing while treating the wounded during that war.  Robert was a gunner on the H.M.S. Agamemnon, a Royal Navy 91-gun battleship which participated in bombardments during the war.  No doubt Robert was in the middle of action. He received a medal of honor presented to him personally by Queen Victoria which you can see on his chest in his portrait.

Holy Trinity Church, Taunton

Holy Trinity Church, Taunton

Robert and Eliza were married March 15, 1859 in the parish church of Holy Trinity in Taunton.  The marriage certificate lists his father as William Orchard, a cooper (barrel maker), and her father as James Clay, butcher.  Robert had finished his military service and most likely had finished his vocational training as a Master Baker.

bakeryRobert is listed as a Master Baker in the 1860 census of Taunton, and is shown living on a street called East Reach (see map below), which is still the main road through town and filled with shops.  Becoming a Master Baker would have taken many years — starting as an apprentice for typically seven years, then hiring out as a journeyman, and then finally applying for membership in the guild. If his training and performance met the approval of the guild leader and other masters, the journeyman would advance to a master.

Eliza Clay Orchard 1841-1884

Eliza Clay Orchard 1841-1884

After they buried their one-year-old baby girl, Mary Ann Elizabeth, they immigrated to Elgin, Ontario, Canada in 1861 where they added six children to their family, though another daughter, Carrie, passed away at age 12.  Robert’s uncle, John Orchard, had immigrated and lived in a nearby area, Shedden, Ontario, Canada, since 1832, so there were several Orchard relatives to greet them in the new land. I’m sure there were plenty of challenges having been raised in a merchant family and learning a trade, and then becoming a farmer on the frontier.

Our grandparents, Bill and Stell Orchard, went to visit the Shedden, Ontario Orchard’s in about 1962, and maintained contact with those cousins, particularly Marion Orchard and Ad Orchard who still lived on the Orchard homestead there.

But pioneering wasn’t over, and soon after the death of the second daughter, the family packed up the five children and became pioneers and farmers in Nebraska.

Robert Clay Orchard - cute baby

Robert Clay Orchard – cute baby

Our direct ancestor, Robert Clay Orchard was born in Exeter, Nebraska, on Feb. 5, 1884, but never knew his mother.  Giving birth was high risk on the frontier, and Eliza passed away exactly two weeks after his birth on Feb. 19, 1884, most likely from an infection or other childbirth complication.  She had crossed oceans and continents with her husband as they sought a better life. This tragedy left Robert K. Orchard with a brand new baby and a house full of young ones to raise in the frontier on his own.

In his older age, Robert K. was living with his daughter, Laura Orchard Garner in Norwalk, California, according to the 1910 census. He is buried at the Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach, California and his headstone recognizes his service in the war.

A very unusual connection happened in Nebraska, as four brothers from the same Garner family married four Orchard girls (three daughters of R. K. Orchard, Laura, Emma, and Maude, and one of his granddaughters, Jennie Humphrey).  I haven’t heard the story of how that all happened, but it must have made for great family reunions!

Name Address Description
East Reach, Taunton, Somerset, England East Reach, Taunton, Taunton
Somerset TA1 3ES, UK

Robert's parents, William and Mary Ann, had a tavern and inn on this road, East Reach, in the village of Taunton.  This is where Robert was born.

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    Elgin, Ontario, Canada Elgin
    ON K0G, Canada

    Robert and Eliza immigrated to Canada in 1861 and were pioneers in Elgin.

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      Exeter, Nebraska Exeter
      NE 68351, USA

      Our great-grandpa, Robert Clay Orchard, was born in Exeter. His parents, R.K. and Eliza Orchard, were pioneers in this area and arrived around 1880. Eliza died shortly after his birth, and is buried here.

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        Sunnyside Cemetery, Long Beach, CA Sunnyside Cemetery, 1095 East Willow Street, Long Beach
        CA 90806, USA

        Robert Knott Orchard is buried here.

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