John Trenear's in Mexico






Mining during the 1800's became rather precarious in Cornwall and in 1824 many Cornishmen left the county and went to work in Mexico. Only a proportion of their pay was given to the men - the rest being sent home to their families. One such miner was a Capt Trenear who went to the Real Del Monte mine. I have no concrete evidence that this was our Capt John but the responsibilities and nature of the tasks he had to undertake are so alike the job our Capt John undertook at Levant Mine that it provides good circumstantial evidence for them to be the same person.(More on the Cornish in Mexico)

The entrepreneur responsible for this Mexican venture was called Vetch. His plan was to take Cornish mining engineering skills to improve some existing mines to make them more profitable. Whilst in Mexico he took on extra responsibilities and had to leave much of the main construction to the three experts he had taken with him - Capt Mitchell, Capt Morcom and Capt John Trenear. John appears to have been especially trusted and respected as he was sent to negotiate contracts for operating two mines and had the responsibility for all the engineering which included installing the boilers from Cornwall.

One of his tasks was to devise a mechanical method to drain the lower levels of a mine which had been abandoned. The levels had previously been drained by a device called a malacates that required 5000 mules to keep it turning. John solved the problem with a single water wheel turned by water obtained by a series of leats from a river some 3½ miles distant. The achievement was all the more noteworthy because the water had to be taken underground for a mile in a canal 6 feet and four feet deep. Vetch was so pleased with John's work that he raised his pay to £300 per year which compares to the £50 or so per annum the ordinary miners were getting.

An interesting dimension to the Mexican adventure arose recently when I found the baptism on 20th Jan 1874 at Zacatecas Mexico of an Enrique Asket Trenear. He was the son of an Enrique and Emilia Trenear. Now while Asket is undoubtedly one of our family names, Enrique most certainly isn't. The appearance of the name could support the belief that the Capt John in the story above was indeed our ancestor but the big mystery is "who is our Mexican cousin descended from?"

The answer was provided in November 2011 when an Australian Trenear relative - Donna Best - contacted me. She is descended from Peter Trenear whom I mentioned on an earlier page. Peter's son Henry was also a distinguished miner and he, with his wife Emily, went to Zacatas in Mexico. It would seem that in addition to the two daughters they had there they likely had a son, Enrique, who did not survive. When Enrique and Emilia are given the English versions of Henry and Emily it all seems so simple.

Donna's line is most probably descended from Henry and Joan and a brief account can be seen here.

Zacatecas is some 300 miles north of Real del Monte. (map) It was a large mining town (30,000) with a big Cornish population. Referring to the line on the Trenear Families list showing the family of John and Elizabeth Luke and see that John had a brother called Asket. The next line down shows an Asket and Grace with sons called Asket and John. It has to be admitted that any two of these cousins could be the players in the Mexican story.

The Mexican Mining information I have used above comes from a book called "The Search for Silver, Cornish Miners in Mexico 1824-1947" by A C Todd. It mentions Captain Trenear and John Trenear. I had assumed that they were one and the same person. However, I have now come across the work by Dr Sharren Schwartz whose database lists only a Captain James Trenear as going to Mexico. The question is now whether The Captain in the book is our Captain or either his brother James or (less likely because of age) his cousin James (son of Asket and Grace).

I have found a James Trenear who died in Mexico in 1860 aged 35. Todd mentions a Mary Trenear who went to Mexico and I do have a record of a James and Mary who married in 1818 at Redruth who had a son named James in the same year. He was too young to have ultimately died at the age of 35 in 1860 but then I discovered that James and Mary had moved to Halkyn, Flint Wales where they an Asket in 1824. Clearly the first one did not survive. The sums fit exactly now and they are obviously the ones who went to Mexico - but did his brother (our Capt John) go as well? If so, who did what over there? Either Todd or Schwartz has got something wrong and they have managed to muddle me.

So the mexican link looks like this. James (brother of Capt John) married Mary Harris. They produced a John (1817), James (1818), Mary (1820), Elizabeth (1822) and Asket (1824). James was thought to be 35 when he died but this age could have been inaccurate. John, James. or Asket could have married over there - produced children who married local girls and little Enrique could be their grandchild.

What I do know for sure is that the Cornish introduced pasties to the Mexicans and they are still a popular meal in that country. I am less proud of the fact that the Cornish miners apparently also introduced them to football. Cornwall is a rugby county and we should keep quiet about this aberration. I can only ascribe this to a mental condition brought on by homesickness, excessive heat and lack of good beer

- The Trenear-Harveys of St Just-in-Penwith -