Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Methodist Missionary Couple Identified, 1890 Kobe Japan

Willard Elmer Towson and his wife
Emily/Emma Hatton and daughter
Manie Cooper Towson.  Kobe Japan June 1890.
Manie was born in Healdsburg, CA, Dec 3, 1889.
According to the announcement in the paper she was
"a 10 pounder!"
Several months ago I had come across an entry in the Dresden Enterprise dated June 29, 1883 that said "Miss Emma Hatton of Nashville, assistant state librarian, is visiting her cousin Mrs. J.W. Moran."  Neither my husband nor I had ever heard of any Hattons in his family tree so I filed the information away for another day in order to follow more pressing leads in the Moran family genealogy.

On November 3, 2011, I had posted an image of a man, woman, and Japanese child taken in Kobe Japan, 1890, and posted it to The Victorian Hoarders blog.  The picture was taken by a rather famous Japanese photographer named S. Ichida.  We had no idea who the people were.  Friends? Family?  Missionaries was a sure bet but other than that, no clue.

Brig. Gen. Robert Hatton
Then last night I came across the Enterprise entry again and wondered who Emma Hatton was and how she was a cousin to Sophia Riley Gunn Moran.  So I took a few minutes to see what I could dig up. I wasn't able to find their ancestor in common as yet but  I did find that Emma Hatton had married Willard Elmore Towson, a Methodist Preacher, and that the couple had spent a considerable amount of time in Japan as Missionaries, along with Emma's mother Sophie K. Reilly Hatton. Sophie Hatton was married to General Robert Hopkins Hatton.  There is an excellent article about General Hatton including genealogical information about his parents, siblings, wife and children.

Sophie K. Reilly Hatton
According to the Handbook of Methodist Missions published in 1893, Rev. W.E. Towson and wife of the Pacific Conference arrived February 20, 1890 as part of the missionary reinforcements for Kobe Japan.  "In addition to the duties of Treasurer, Brother Towson had charge of Osaka Circuit.  Four regular services were held each week.  He had a class of bright young men who met daily for Bible study."  His wife was not able to devote time as a full missionary due to taking care of and schooling their three children.  However, according to the obituary of her mother that appeared in the Confederate Veteran her mother, Sophie Hatton, took over the duties of schooling her grandchildren so that her daughter Emily could fully embrace and enter life as a full missionary.

Bells and whistles were going off all over the place for me.  I immediately was struck by the similarity of names for Sophia K Reilly and Sophia Riley Gunn.  The next thing I remembered was a picture taken in Japan of a missionary couple that I had written about in November.  I think it is safe to say that the couple in the picture is Willard Elmer Towson and his wife Emma Hatton Towson.  On a side note, census records list her as Emily H. Towson.  Emily was probably her given name but she was probably called Emma by family and friends.

With that mystery cleared up I am now on the trail of the Moran/Gunn/Reilly/Hatton family connection.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. They are my great-great grandparents - his name was Willard Elmore Towson and her name was Emily Peyton Hatton Towson. The child is my great aunt, Manie Cooper Towson, whom I kew well.