Sophia Wainwright was born in 1814 in Kent. Her father was a military man who had served in Gibraltar and the West Indies but retired to Leeds, where Sophia’s brother ran woollen mills. In 1837 she met the Reverend William Towler, a Wesleyan preacher. Methodist records tell us:
At the (Wesleyan) conference of 1837, William received an appointment to Haiti, and for nearly sixteen years faithfully and zealously laboured in Haiti and St Domingo. For the greater part of that time he was resident in the town of Puerto Plata, and, in consequence of the hostilities subsisting between the empire and the republic, was cut off from all personal intercourse with his brethren, and subjected to many and grievous privations, both personal and domestic. But, notwithstanding all, he fulfilled his course with diligence; his work was his delight. His death was a fitting sequel to a holy and devoted life. For him death had no terrors. He died on the 25th August 1853, in the forty-second year of his age, and the sixteenth of his ministry.
Letters tell of natural and man-made destruction, with earthquakes punctuating the fighting. In the midst of those horrendous conditions, Sophia brought up four daughters. After William’s death, Sophia and the girls returned from Haiti to England.
Although a non-conformist minister, William had provided well for Sophia and their daughters. By 1871, Sophia and the girls were running a ‘school for ladies’ in Station Road in Settle with enough money for a servant. Two of the daughters married good Methodist men. Sophia died in 1874.
Amazingly and tragically, during the first week of October 1885, three of Sophia’s four daughters died. Sophia and Eliza both died of pneumonia on 1st and 5th respectively; their sister Mary Ann followed on 9th October, dying of typhoid.
Their remaining sister Emily and her husband William Walker, a chemist, continued to serve the Methodist church in Settle. His business continued until 1978, on the site now occupied by Boots Chemist.