PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS: Thomas and Charlotte Quaife Wickenden

Thomas Wickenden, father of Thomas Rogers Wickenden, married Charlotte Quaife near Rochester, Kent, England, in 1849. He died in 1861 when his ship was wrecked near the mouth of the Humber River. She supported their three sons until they moved to Toledo, Ohio, where she died in 1904.


Charlotte Quaife first came from England to Canada with her father and family but they struggled and had to return to Rochester, Kent.  The dramatic story of their emigration and return is told in the chapters of the Memoir book.  Many years later, after her husband, Thomas Wickenden, died at sea, Charlotte sent two sons, James and Thomas Rogers to live with her brother, Robert, who was serving as a minister in Toledo, Ohio, and then came over herself with her youngest son, Robert John.  

The picture on the right, taken in the fall of 1888,  shows the Thomas Rogers Wickenden family on the left, James, his wife and 3 boys on the right, Charlotte, and her brother Robert and his wife Sara in the middle.  The identity of the top row of individuals has been a mystery, but informed guesses include the identical twin sisters of Ida, Jennie and Jessie on either end (in the same dresses), Roberts two sons and their wives in the middle, and Sara Quaife's son Stephen Jarrett and his wife standing  behind Sarah. 

At the time, Charlotte's other son, Robert John Wickenden, and his wife Ada were living in Paris and beginning their move to Auvers, where they lived for 20 years.


The short biography of Charlotte Quaife Wickenden attached here was written by her granddaughter, Lottie Wickenden Ogden.  It was originally included as part of Chapter I of the Memoirs of the Thomas Rogers Wickenden Family.  Memoirs, Charlotte Quaife Wickenden.pdf


Charlotte, her siblings and parents traveled across the Atlantic in 1832 and then back again to England several years later.  In letters to family and friends dated November 15, 1832, her parents, J.E. and Mary Quaife described their voyage to Canada and their life in the new country.  These letters were included in the Memoirs as an Appendix:  Memoirs, Quaife Letters.pdf 

Return to England

After several years, the family returned to England.  According to Homer Wickenden's account in the chapter on Family History (included in the Family History page, below) :  "After four or five years they returned to England destitute on the last ship sailing before winter set in. They were shipwrecked on the Northern coast of Ireland and had to work their way back to Rochester as best they could. Charlotte Quaife was red‑headed and was described by her mother in a letter from Canada as being "careless"."


In Lottie Wickenden Ogden's paper on Charlotte Quaife Wickenden and Her Family, a link to which is included above, she describes the dramatic story of the shipwreck: 

They had passage on a sailing vessel carrying rough lumber back to England. Even the deck was piled high with lumber and they had very little space in which to move around. It was a long journey, two months or more, and by the time they reached the other side the crew was drunk. In drawing near to Ireland, the ship foundered on the rocks and all their possessions were lost except the clothes they were wearing. They were rescued by people from the shore and given shelter, but having no money or anything they had to wait until a letter could reach their relatives in Chatham and money could be sent. Grandmother remembered how poor the people were and how glad they were when they finally reached England. She remembered especially how her only pair of shoes was stolen by their rescuers.

In an end note to his Family History paper (included below), Homer relates Ida Wickenden's recollection of this event, which contains some additional detail about events before and after the shipwreck:   

As Ida remembers Grandmother Wickenden's story of her family being shipwrecked, they were returning to England because her father was ill and he wanted to get his family back among friends and relatives before he died. After the disaster Robert Quaife then 12 years old, walked all the way to Rochester and arrived there before the letter telling of their plight. The family was taken from one parish to the next by someone going that way with a wagon, with a letter from the parish minister commending them to the care of the next parish. Shortly after they reached Rochester the father died but he got his family home.

Letters (1832 - 1880)

Charlotte's descendant and relatives have collected ten letters

  • two from J.E. and Mary Quaife, the first of which is included above, 
  • a letter of passage written by the lighthouse owner and a minister in  Inishtrahull Island, Ireland, where their ship was wrecked, 
  • two from her sister Elizabeth Quaife Phillips living in Toronto, Canada, 
  • and five others from Charlotte.  The letters range in time from 1832 to 1880.

 Grace Wickenden Colby of Knowlton, Quebec (a descendant of Charlotte Quaife and Thomas Wickenden) and Dave Abbott of Sheffield, England (a descendant of Sarah Quaife and Henry Heavens) provided the letters, scans and transcriptions, and Ken Watson (a descendant of Thomas and Charlotte) compiled them into the attached document. They are rich in detail and convey with emotion the hardships and joys of Charlotte and family.

Obituary - Charlotte Quaife Wickenden funeral card.pdf  



Biographical information about Thomas is included in many of the chapters written by his eight children.

Thomas was master of the three-masted topsail schooner named "Mary Caroline."  He was heading around the Sand Hale Flats at the mouth of the Humber River, on New Year's Eve, 1861, when the ship was driven onto the flats and broken up by a fierce storm.  All hands were lost.  Thomas' body was recovered 15 days later, and buried in a cemetery at Great Grimsby.  The Mary Caroline was most likely headed for or back from the Port of Hull at the confluence of the Hull River and the Humber estuary.  It's likely that Thomas and his crew had hoped to return to Rochester in time to celebrate Christmas with their famlies but were delayed due to bad weather. The Port of Hull is UK’s leading softwood timber port and the focus of the offshore wind sector on the Humber, the UK’s energy estuary. Most likely the Mary Caroline was carrying a load of timber harvested from the Weald north to Hull when it was hit by squall winds which today power England's wind turbines.  

These are pictures of the "Mary Miller" a 3 masted topsail schooner at sail off Mevagissey (in Cornwall).  It is the type of sailing vessel that Thomas  was sailing.  The wooden, engineless ship built in 1881 was bound for Runcorn (in Cheshire), a similar route to that taken by the Mary Caroline only on the West Coast of England instead of on the East Coast.  It was carrying a load of china clay, also known as Kaolin, a soft white clay that is mined in England as well as on the continent and serves as an essential ingredient in the manufacture of china and porcelain and is widely used in the making of paper, rubber, paint, and many other products.   

Thomas Rogers lived on Morden Street in Rochester with Charlotte and their two sons.  The Mary Caroline probably sailed out of the Chatham Dock.  This map shows how close the center of Rochester was to the historic dockyard in Chatham.  It also shows other locations where the Wickendens lived, including Strood to the West and Rainham to the East.


Indenture, February 12, 1845, of Thomas Wickenden of Halling, Kent, apprentice,  to Thomas Wickenden (2nd cousin) of Frindsbury, Kent, owner of the ship Caledonia: Indenture 1845.pdf

Master Mason Letters & Certification, November 4, 1859:TW Master Mason 1859.pdf

Thomas Wickenden's Father, Samuel Wickenden

Samuel Wickenden was the father of Thomas Wickenden.  He was the son of James Wickenden and Elizabeth Gardener and was born in Rochester, Kent, England in 1798.  He married Eliza Wellbeloved (b. 17 January 1808) on 17 April 1826 in Halling, Kent England.  Thomas Wickenden (b. 29 December 1826) was his oldest son.  He married Charlotte Quaife (b. 26 October 1827) on 31 October 1849 in Rochester, Kent, England. 

Documents relating to Samuel were compiled by Ken W. Watson in 2004.  They include digital images and transcriptions provided by Janice Halls, a descendant of Samuel and Eliza's youngest daughter, Eliza Wickenden, and two articles written by Janice's father, Brian O'Leary.  

These documents include the following:

Indenture to James Wickenden - 1805

Indenture to Arthur Adams - 1813

City of Rochester Freeman Oath - 1823

City of Rochester Freeman Oath - 1858

Rochester in the early 1800's

[Samuel] Wickenden - Background to his life

These items may be found here:  samuel-wickenden.pdf

Thomas Wickenden's funeral notice

This funeral notice tells the story of Thomas's last voyage.

It reads as follows:

In Affectionate Rememrance of


Master of the Ship "MARY CAROLINE," of Rochester,

Who, with the whole of his Crew, perished on the Sand Hill Flat,

at the Mouth of the Humber,



His body was washed on Shore 17 days after, and was buried at

Marsh Chapel, near Great Grimsby

A poem is printed at the bottom of the notice.  It reads as follows:

Our brother the haven hath gained,
Out-flying the tempest and wind:
His rest he hath sooner obtained,
And left his companions behind.
Still toss'd on a sea of distress,
Hard Toiling to make the blest shore,
Where all is assurance and peace,
And sorrow and sin are no more.

There all the ship's company meet,
Who sail'd with the Saviour beneath;
With shouting each other they greet,
And triumph o'er trouble and death;
The voyage of life's at an end,
The mortal affliction is past;
The age that in heaven they sped'
For ever and ever shall last.