An employer’s letter of reference for a WW1 Cavers soldier

I’ve blogged before about finding unexpected gems on eBay related to my Cavers one-name study. Recently I was able to buy another, this time a letter of reference dating from 1916. The letter was written by a hop merchant in London, England.

1916 letter of reference for soldier Harold CaversTranscribing the letter it reads as follows:

9 Southwark Street, London
December 7th 1916

This is to certify that Harold C. Cavers, now a private in the 1/7th Battalion London Regiment (No. 8234, Lewis Gunner), has been in our service since 1907 and will, we sincerely hope, return to our service when the War is over. We have always found him truthful, faithful, attentive to business, most punctual and as honest as the day, and from our knowledge of him during the time he was with us, we know that under no circumstances or under any temptation would he wittingly commit any breach of trust.

(Signed) Arthur Morris Co.
of Arthur Morris & Co., Hop Merchants

I was curious about the circumstances in which such a letter might have been written for a serving soldier. Sadly this soldier’s detailed army service records don’t survive. Many soldier records were lost in the bombing of WW2. But another record reveals that he received the Silver War Badge, given to invalided soldiers to wear to show what had happened to them. This record also reveals that he enlisted in the 7th London Regiment on 15th November 1915, and was discharged on 11th July 1918, due to “Wounds”. At this time he was 26 years old, and had served overseas. An army pension record notes that he was living at Redcar in the northeast of England.

Harold Charles Cavers belonged to the large London Cavers family, probably of Scottish descent originally. He was born at Camberwell in 1892, son of licensed victualler (publican) Augustus Cavers and his wife (and cousin) Alice Fussell. In the 1891 census, the year before Harold was born, this Cavers family appear running the Black Raven pub in Bishopsgate, London.

Harold’s father Augustus Cavers died in 1895, aged just 39. By the 1901 census Harold, now aged 7, was living at the Licensed Victuallers School in Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, S.E. London.

By 1911 he was back living with his widowed mother Alice at 23 Cavour Street, Kennington, S.E. London. His occupation was noted in the census as “Junior Clerk, at Hop Merchant”. He was only 18 at this point, so must have started working for the hop merchants when he was 14 or 15, if the date in the letter is accurate.

Harold Charles Cavers survived the war, and in 1921, now aged 29 and a commercial traveller, he married 26-year-old Florence Winifred Elsie Davies. Both were living at 181 Dalling Road, Hammersmith, London.

Harold Charles Cavers died on 9th December 1935 at Hounslow Hospital, Hounslow, Middlesex. At the time he was living at 52 Paddenswick-road, Hammersmith, Middlesex. His wife Florence survived him.

A century old USA Cavers baby photo

I keep an eye on eBay for Cavers related artefacts. Usually my saved search for “Cavers” emails me about potholers, or – and surprisingly frequently! – “carver” chairs. But sometimes real gems turn up.

One item I got hold of recently was a baby photo of a young James Frederic Cavers, the photo taken in North Dakota, circa 1907. On the back of the photo a handwritten note says “To Aunt Mulla, Aint I kute in my pants & blouse?”. And above is noted “James Frederic Cavers age One year old”.

Photo of baby James Frederic CaversThese clues were enough to identify the child, because he shows up in the 1910, 1915 and 1920 census returns for North Dakota, USA with his parents James and Martha, and younger siblings William, George and Ruth. The family were living in Churchs Ferry, Ramsey, North Dakota, with James Frederic born in North Dakota in 1906. His father James William Cavers was born in Iowa.

Although some American Cavers references around this period remain something of a mystery, I can confidently identify this family. The father was born in Iowa in 1870, the son of Scottish emigrants James Cavers (born Roxburghshire, son of Adam Cavers and Janet Clark) and Isabella Broomfield (born Berwickshire, daughter of James Broomfield and Janet Armstrong). For more information about this extensive Roxburghshire Cavers family see Jim Richmond’s Cavers site, including its page about the baby’s grandfather James who emigrated from Scotland.

From Ancestry.com member family trees here is a photo of baby James Frederic Cavers all grown up:

Photo of James Frederic Cavers as an adultAncestry trees also reveal that James Frederic Cavers married, and had several children, before dying in Minnesota, USA in 1974.