ANNIE ELIZA SOAL & ALEXANDER DONALD HENRY FOSSEY
From Margate to Miami and Return
A visit to England by Their American Descendants
by Beverly Carr
This article was originally published in the December 2008 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
The story goes that Annie was not in good health so in the 1890s when she was in her 20s she moved to Margate, Kent.
At the time this was quite a common thing to do especially for young people living in the smoky London atmosphere of Hackney as did Annie. The salty sea air of the Thanet coast was believed to overcome many health conditions. However Annie took lodgings at 40 Addington Street and in so doing sealed her destiny of leaving the UK for the USA where she and her husband raised a large family in Florida.
By moving to Margate, Annie was almost returning to her parents’ home as her father Richard had been born in the village of St Peters and her mother Eliza in Ramsgate, both within a few miles of Margate. Richard and Eliza had married locally before setting out to further his career in the London district of Hackney.
In the house next door in Addington Street lived the Fossey family. Annie soon became friendly with and very soon wanted to marry Alexander Donald Henry Fossey. But Alex (or ADH as he was often known) was in the British Merchant Marine and Annie would not marry him until he quit the sea. We do not know how long she took to convince him but they eventually became Mr and Mrs Fossey on February 11th 1903 at Holy Trinity Church in Margate.
His travels in the Merchant Marine had taken Alex to Florida and he longed to return there. So soon after their marriage they decided to emigrate to America where they settled in the fledgling community of Miami, Florida. He first set up an orchard and then moved into what became a very successful real estate business.
News that the Fosseys were prospering in Miami must have impressed Annie’s parents as although they traveled a few months apart Richard and Eliza Soal, who by 1908 were both in their sixties, with their other daughter Helen, also emigrated to join Alex and Annie. On the shipping records Richard is described as being 5 feet 8 inches, with blue eyes; his wife Eliza as 5 feet 4 inches, brown eyes and hair and their daughter Helen was 5 feet 6 inches with blue eyes and dark brown hair. Soon after their arrival Helen met and married Richard Tattam, an ex British soldier who had left the army in India in 1889 and somehow made his way to Florida.
Meanwhile Annie and Alex had their first child Herbert Henry in 1906 followed by Ralph Alexander in 1908. Then in 1914 they had twins Thomas Richard & Clifford Donald, and finally in 1917 Constance Margaret. Sadly Annie developed breast cancer and died just two years after Constance was born.
By the late 1920s, Alex had become quite wealthy, only to lose it as a result of the Great Depression in 1929; but that did not defeat him as he became Commissioner of Dade County 1933-35 and Mayor of Miami 1935-37.
Annie’s father, Richard died in 1915 and her sister Helen lost her husband Richard Tattam in 1917 leaving her a widow with four children. For reasons we do not know, she and her children and widowed mother Eliza decided to return to England where they again lived in Hackney. Eliza died in 1933 and Helen in 1958.
Many of Annie's descendents continue to live in Florida. Son Ralph was elected a Dade County Commissioner in the 1950s. Son Thomas continued with the real estate business as did Ralph and Constance. Son Cliff (still living in Orlando, Florida) worked for the State of Florida. Son Herbert Henry died in a car accident after his freshman year at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He had been elected to be President of the sophomore class. A plaque dedicated to him is in the library of the university.
In December 2007 the Fossey family in Florida organized a Fossey reunion. Many of them had not seen their cousins for 30 years or more. At the reunion they decided it would be fun to see England and to visit where Annie and Alex and their families lived. It was agreed that Sole Society member, Beverly Carr (the writer) would organize a tour in July 2008 for her American cousins to follow the footsteps of Annie Eliza Soal and her husband ADH Fossey in southern England.
The party consisted of four of Annie’s granddaughters and one great-granddaughter; Margaret Thaler (with her husband Ron), Joanne Robinson, and Rene' Fossey all live in Florida, Lindsay (with her husband Parker) live in California, and Beverly Carr in Toronto, Canada. They also arranged to meet and to travel with two Fossey relatives who live in Poole, England.
On arriving in London a mini-coach had been hired with a driver-guide. The six day tour mostly followed the line of Annie's husband's Fossey family. For example, two of the Fosseys owned a pub in 1810, called the Horn and Chequers, right by Canary Wharf on Westferry Road in London.
The party started following the Soal family when we arrived in Canterbury. William Soal (1710-1760) married Ann Tanner (1710-1750) in October 1733 in Canterbury, at St. Alphege the Martyr Catholic Church (still standing). It was not uncommon for couples from outlying areas of Kent to marry in one of the twelve parish churches of Canterbury. William and Ann came from Reculver about 9 miles to the north.
So we continued our tour through the village of Reculver where William Soal’s son William (1737-1824) and his son John (1776-1837) had lived. John Soal married Sarah Ann King at Reculver in 1800 and raised two girls, Marianne (b 1800) and Anne (b 1803) about whom nothing more is known. They also had a son John (b 1807). John obviously had an urge to travel and so set off for the ten mile journey to St Peters where in 1835 he married Ann Jordan. John was, like so many of his family before him, an Agricultural Labourer. He and Ann had four children in this small farming village, John and Elizabeth who both died when young, Edward Thomas (1844-1917) and Richard William (1846-1915) who was the father of Annie Eliza Soal.
So the tourists proceeded to St Peters where Bob Sheldon of the Sole Society met us and gave us a tour of the church and cemetery, then back in the coach to drive through the areas where the family had once lived, ending with a wonderful lunch at a seaside restaurant. While walking in the cemetery there, we actually found a tombstone that had not been noticed before, one with the name Soal on it, but sadly it was not one of “ours”.
We also visited nearby Margate where Annie lived and got married, although the church is no longer there having been destroyed by bombs dropped during 1943. We did notice that 40 Addington has an engraved stone on it that says "Griffin House." Because of the Griffin brewery and her father Richard being a wine cellar-man, there might be a connection as to why she moved to that house. We also went to Ramsgate where Annie's mother was born.
From the Thanet towns we proceeded to Hastings and finally Poole where the English Fossey members of the party left us before we returned to London. We all had an enjoyable time visiting and pausing for thought those areas where our long gone ancestors lived and worked and raised their families so many miles from where we now call home in America. Having Bob meet us and talk about the Soal families was a very special treat.
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