Richardsons in America and Elsewhere

Richardsons emigrated as the world opened up, first to America and then to Canada and Australia principally.  This page covers their progress in these new lands..


Many of the early English emigrants to America were Puritans, seeking a religious and political escape from the tensions of the time. Included in that number were three brothers, Ezekiel, Samuel, and Thomas Richardson, from Hertfordshire.  They joined Winthrop's fleet on the Arbella for New England.  The eldest, Ezekiel Richardson, arrived in 1636, settling in Charlestown, and his two brothers followed six years later.  Their descendants can be traced to this day and include, via Thomas, Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico.

The Quaker Influx.  A larger number of Richardsons probably came to America in the early days as Quakers.  When William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681, it became a refuge for Quakers.  And it is remarkable how many of these Quaker Richardsons had personal ties with William Penn.

Quaker Richardsons in Pennsylvania
Origin                         Arrival
William.                               England                       1655
Francis (via New York)           Newcastle                   1681
John                                   Co. Armagh                  1684
Samuel                                London                       1687
John                                   Yorkshire                     1700

William Richardson had arrived on the Constant Friendship from England in 1655.  He was a close friend of William Penn, as evidenced by the marker that can be found near his home in Arundel county, Maryland.

"William Penn visited his Quaker friend William Richardson near this spot after the conference at Colonel Thomas Tailler's on December 13, 1682."

Francis Richardson was granted one of the first tracts of land in Pennsylvania by William Penn.  His widow married Edward Shippen, a wealthy Quaker who later became mayor of Philadelphia.  And his son Francis, with his shop on Front Street, became a celebrated silversmith in the town.  This craft was handed down through two generations.

Samuel Richardson was appointed by Penn as the first alderman of Philadelphia.  He played his part tin the building of the town
, from which he gained much wealth.
The last-named John didn't stay.  He was an itinerant preacher, publishing an autobiography at the end of a long and active life.

“More than half of his book is devoted to his trip to America from 1700 to 1703, during the course of which he stayed with William Penn, was present at a council with Indians, disputed with George Keith, met Thomas Story on Long Island, and preached in Maryland before the governor and his wife, Lord and Lady Baltimore."

He travelled the Eastern Seaboard and was evidently a charismatic preacher, as the Nantucketers in New England would attest. 

In 1701, William Penn helped establish a Quaker community in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Naturally Richardson was one of its founding families.  A little later on, Joseph Richardson set up a trading post outside Philadelphia in Langhorne, Bucks County.   Quaker neighbors thought that the house that he built, in 1738, was too grand.  But it stayed with his family for almost two hundred years and still stands today.  Samuel Richardson, who was born there, lived onto 1951.

Other Arrivals.
America provided economic opportunity, as well as religious freedom.  This brought other Richardson immigrants, many from Scotland.

Robert Richardson had arrived from Scotland in 1666.  He started a 2,000 acre plantation at Mount Ephraim in Maryland.  Much of this land stayed with his descendants until the late 19th century. 

William Richardson, from Quaker roots, owned a large plantation at Gilpin Point in the late 1700's.  In the days before the Revolution, he had a part interest in a sloop, The Omega, which carried cargoes of corn to the West Indies.  On return trips quantities of coral stone were brought as ballast.  From these stones his slaves built a wall surrounding his Gilpin Point home.

There were a number of Richardsons in Virginia as well by the first half of the 18th century.  Some stayed.  Robert Richardson, a recent Nobel prize winner, is a descendant of one of these families.   Other moved on, such as Isham Richardson to Kentucky, Jonathan Richardson to Tennessee, Richard Richardson to South Carolina, and Daniel Richardson to Georgia.  

Dr. William Richardson was an early schoolmaster in Maysville, Kentucky.  His academy, built in 1829, stood until recently.  The descendants of Shadrach and Betsy Richardson from Virginia were pioneers in Oregon and Utah.

African Americans. African Americans bearing the name Richardson, many of them "free mulattos," can be found in Virginia and North Carolina from the mid-18th century. 

"Postilion Joe," who took the name Richardson, was George Washington's driver in Philadelphia.  He and his family were among the 124 enlaved African Americans owned by Washington who were freed after his death. They were fortunate.  So too was James Richardson who came to Texas from Philadelphia in 1832 and made a living by serving oysters and refreshments to the travellers between Velasco and San Luis.

But slavery would hold onto other African Americans for many years to come.  Charlie Richardson, an ex-slave from Warrensburg Missouri, had some very blunt comments about the institution:

"We called it 'putting them on the stump.'  But the 'stump' was neither a block or a stump, it was a big wooden box.  We always knew when they were going to sell because they would let them lay around and do nothing.  Fattening them up for market."

Some ran away.  Susan Richardson was lucky.  She was a runaway slave from southern Illinois who secured her freedom in 1843.  "Aunt Sukey," as she was known, became involved in the Galesburg underground railroad for other runaways.  Her story is narrated in the book Escape Betwixt Two Suns.

Yet the most remarkable 19th century African American must be William H. Richardson.  The son of a slave from Baltimore, he patented and developed the first baby carriage in America.  How generations of mothers should be thankful to him!
Heading South, We find a sizeable Richardson presence in North and South Carolina during the 18th and 19th centuries, and in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. 

Richardsons can be traced to Stokes, Randolph, and Moore Counties in North Carolina from the 1750's onward. 

James Richardson had come to Bladen County from New England in the 1770's  He built his plantation home, Harmony Hall, on the banks of the Cape Fear river.  This house still stands.  The British General Cornwallis had occupied the house during the War of Independence.  Local legend has it that James's wife, Elizabeth, was instrumental in Cornwallis's defeat at Yorkville by secretly passing on his war plans to the American forces. 

Later, John G. Richardson from this area headed south to the Gulf Coast where he purchased the Bayside sugar plantation in New Iberia, Louisiana in 1829.  He was by some accounts a humane slaveowner.  One slave (Leah) stayed with his family for over eighty years until her death in 1877.

Richard Richardson had arrived in South Carolina from Virginia in colonial times.  He owned a plantation in Clarendon County where he entertained local society.  One member of the Richardson family, who played by ear, came up with a melody which became a favorite.  This waltz, known as "the Richardson waltz," was handed down from generation to generation by ear until 1985 when an arrangement was created by Mary Richardson Briggs.  These Richardsons had an eventful Revolutionary War.  In the 19th century, two Richardsons from this family, father and son, became Governors of South Carolina ante and post bellum.  

Another Richardson family owned a plantation in Hampton county, Georgia at the time of the Civil War.  Hattie Richardson was a child at that time.   When interviewed some eighty years later, she could recall the day her brothers left to join the Confederate Army and the day Sherman's army arrived and plundered their house from attic to cellar.

And To Texas.  The state of Texas had, by the end of the 19th century, the largest number of Richardsons in the United States. 

Many plantation owners had fled there, escaping Unionist retribution in the South.  These included:

A number of these Richardsons settled in East Texas, in and around Henderson County.  Madison Richardson and his family had arrived by wagon train from South Carolina in the late 1850's.  Charles Bruce Richardson bought a farm there and became in later life a noted horticulturist.  Farming was to be the principal occupation of the area until the 1930's when the East Texas oilfields started gushing.  Oil made Sid Richardson from these parts his fortune.

An earlier arrival in Texas, in 1837, had been Willard Richardson.  He espoused the Southern cause and later guided his local newspaper, the Galveston News, to a position of prominence in Texas during and after the Civil War.  He was a town booster as well, building an opera house next to his newspaper offices.  After his death, the Richardson name continued in the town.  Eight Richardsons perished in the great storm of 1900.  Willard's grandson was a long-time professor of obstetrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.  And numerous Richardsons are on the faculty today.

The town of Richardson in Texas was named, according to the practice of the time, after the railroad contractor E.H. Richardson who built the line from Dallas to Denison.


The earliest Richardson settlers in Canada were Scots active in the fur trade.  Their sympathies were British rather than American during the War of Independence and they moved to Canada:

A Scots/Canadian connection has continued since that time.

However, perhaps the best-known Richardson name in Canada is that of James Richardson & Sons, whose large offices dominate the Winnipeg skyline.  This grain business was started in Ontario by the company founder, James Richardson, in 1857.   His son was an aviation pioneer whose company was later incorporated into Air Canada.  Winnipeg international airport is named after him.

Three other 20th century Richardsons are commemorated in Canada:. 


The first Richardsons in Australia, it must be said, were convicts.  There were five Richardson convicts, all sentenced in London, on the initial convict convoy to Australia in 1787.  Others followed and their lives went mainly unrecorded.

But John Richardson, sentenced tor life in 1822, is remembered as one of the pioneer horticulturists in Australia.  His background as a gardener gave him exposure to those who wanted to explore the fauna of this new and intriguing continent.  As a result, he accompanied a number of botanical expeditions in the 1820’s and 1830’s and was able to secure his conditional release as a prisoner in 1837.  He lived on for another forty five years.

Free Settlers.  Many more Richardsons came as free settlers in Australia’s period of “long boom” in the second half of the nineteenth century.  One successful immigrant was Robert Richardson who had arrived from Liverpool in 1850.   He built up a business in Sydney based on wool and real estate.  His obituarist described him as follows:

“As well as having a keen eye for wool and real estate, Richardson was a natural salesman.  He was also a strict Presbyterian who set great store on the strength and loyalty of his family.  Within the firm he was punctilious and demanding, but fair in his treatment of both customers and employees.”  

Walter Richardson had arrived from Dublin during the Victorian goldrush in the late 1850's.   He was successful for a time but then developed a long degenarative illness which saw him committed to a lunatic asylum.  He might not have been remembered had he not had a daughter Edith who, writing under the pen-name Henry Handel Richardson, characterized him in one of her novels.   Another of her novels, The Fortunes, is an archetypal story of the country, written about the great upsurge of nineteenth century capitalism that was fuelled by the gold discoveries.
An interesting memento of these times is the brooch worn by Fanny Richardson, the daughter of a Scots physician in Australia, that was re-discovered a hundred years later.