Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

America is often said to be a great cultural melting-pot, and so it is. Except for the Native Americans everyone is descended from immigrants, whether early or more recent. Here I’d like to tell the story of the meeting of two different cultures: those of the Portuguese Azores and of Lancashire in England. It’s the story of Arlena Grisdale and Manuel da Silveira and their families in Oregon.

The Azores

The Azores

The Azores is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is located about 850 miles west of Portugal. ‘The islands were known in the fourteenth century and parts of them can be seen, for example, in the Atlas Catalan. In 1427, one of the captains sailing for Henry the Navigator, possibly Gonçalo Velho, rediscovered the Azores… ‘

‘In “A History of the Azores” by Thomas Ashe written in 1813 the author identified a Fleming, Joshua Van der Berg of Bruges, who made land in the archipelago during a storm on his way to Lisbon. Ashe stated that the Portuguese explored the area and claimed it for Portugal shortly after. Other stories note the discovery of the first islands (São Miguel Island, Santa Maria Island and Terceira Island) were made by sailors in the service of Henry the Navigator, although there are few written documents to support the claims.’

I start with this mention of Flemings because the subject of this story is a certain Manuel Caetano da Silveira, whose family had been settled on the island of São Jorge (St George) from the earliest times. In fact the family name da Silveira is the Portuguese rendition of the name of a ‘noble Flemish native’ called Wilhelm Van der Haegen, who was the first to settle the island in a major way. Haag means forest in Flemish and thus William became known as Guilherme da Silveira to the islanders. Azorean families with the surname Silveira generally descend from the Fleming Willem van der Haegen. ‘By 1490, there were 2,000 Flemings living in the islands of Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge and Flores. Because there was such a large Flemish settlement, the Azores became known as the Flemish Islands or the Isles of Flanders.’

Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry the Navigator

I reproduce much of the Wikipedia entry for Wilhelm van der Haegen below. It is rather long and those who are not interested in deep history can skip it.

As part of his inheritance, King Edward of Portugal bequeathed the islands of the Azores to his brother, the Infante D. Henriques (Henry the Navigator), in 1433. This was subsequently left to Henry’s nephew and adopted son, Infante D. Fernando, in addition to Henry’s title as Grand Master of the Order of Christ. A grant was made by the Infante to his aunt, D. Isabella of Portugal (Edward and Henry’s sister), the Duchess of Burgundy, in the Low Countries. For many of the Flems (sic) who were recuperating from the Hundred Years’ War, this grant offered an opportunity of alleviating their suffering.

Van der Haegen, a wealthy entrepreneur, was invited by Josse van Huerter (for four-years Captain-General of the island of Faial) to settle the island with him, in an archipelago that was becoming known as a New Flanders or the Flemish Islands. Consequently, in 1470, with his wife Margarida da Zambuja and at his own expense, he offloaded two ships carrying his extended family, slaves and professionals of various services, to begin what was characterised as a “second-wave” of immigration to the island (the first having been pioneered by Van Huerter in the 1460s).

Van der Haegen, by his virtues and distinguished personality, became popular on the island. But, sensing a level of bad faith on the part of Huerter and a growing rivalry, he abandoned his holdings on Faial, to settle in Quatro Ribeiras, on the island of Terceira. He begins to cultivate wheat and gather woad plants for export (specifically Isatis tinctoria which was also produced in the Picardy and Normandy Regions of France until that time). These plants, along with other species, were essential in the production of many of the dyes popular with mercantile classes. Most islands in the archipelago were populated, and the plants commercialized by the landed gentry for their exportable nature; early settlements were founded on the basis of agricultural and dye-based exports, such as woad. Van der Haegen’s colonies were no exception.

Ruins of the Solar dos Tiagos in Topo

Ruins of the Solar dos Tiagos in Topo

On a trip to Lisbon he encounters D. Maria de Vilhena (widow of D. Fernão Teles de Meneses, the Donatary of the islands of Flores and Corvo, then administratively one fiefdom) and his son Rui Teles. After some negotiation, D. Maria would cede the rights to the exploration of the islands to Van der Haegen, in exchange for monthly payments.

Around 1478, Willem van der Haegen settles in Ribeira da Cruz, where he built homes, developed agriculture (primarily wheat), collected more woad species for export, and explored for tin, silver or other minerals (under the assumption that the islands were part of the mythic Ilhas Cassterides, the islands of silver and tin). Owing to the island’s isolation and difficulties in communication his crops became difficult to export. After several years, he decides to leave the island and return to Terceira.

But, his return was brief; after seven years he leaves Quatro Ribeiras and settles in the area of Topo, São Jorge Island, effectively establishing the community with other Flemish citizens. He died in 1500, and was buried in the chapel-annex of the Solar dos Tiagos, in the villa of Topo, today in ruins.

So Wilhelm had eventually settled and died in Topo on São Jorge Island, which is precisely where his descendants mostly lived for the next four hundred years. The American immigrant Manuel Caetano da Silveira was born in 1879. His parents were Topo-born farmer Martinho Caetano da Silveira and his Topo-born wife Ana Vitorina.

Island of St George

Island of St George

The local Azorean records report:[1]

Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario in Topo

Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario in Topo

Aos treze dias do mez de Abril do anno de mil oitocentos setenta e nove, nesta egreja parochial Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario, da Villa do Topo, concelho da Calheta, Ilha de São Jorge, diocese de Angra, o reverendo beneficiado Francisco Pimentel de Noronha, baptisou solemnemente um individuo do sexo masculino, a quem deo o nome de Manoel, que nasceo nesta freguesia, às duas horas da manhã do dia oito do mez corrente, filho legitimo de Marthino Caethano da Silveira, lavrador, e Anna Victorina, e que se ocupa em arangos de sua caza, naturaes, recebidos e moradores no lugar da  Lomba de São Pedro, desta freguesia, neto paterno de Caethano Silveira Leonardes e Francisca Victorina da Silveira e materno de João António Gonçalves e Maria Benedicta. Padrinho dito Caethano Silveira Leonardes, lavrador, cazado, que sei serem os próprios. E para constar lavrei em duplicado este assento, que dipois de lido e conferido, perante o padrinho, só assigno por elle não saber escrever. Era ut supra.

O vigário Francisco Monteiro de Amorim

Précis:

Manuel, legitimate son of Martinho Caetano da Silveira, farmer, and Ana Vitorina, housewife, both native of Topo, where they married and live in Lomba de São Pedro, paternal grandson of Caetano Silveira Leonardes and Francisca Vitorina da Silveira and maternal of João António Gonçalves and Maria Benedita, was born at 2 am, on 8 April 1879 and was baptised on the 13th, in Topo. Godfather was the paternal grandfather Caetano Silveira Leonardes, farmer, married. The godfather cannot write.

silvers ancestry

Manuel was the couple’s third child. Maria was born in Topo in 1876 and Francisca in 1878. Both were born in Topo and baptized in Topo’s Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario church, as had been all their ancestors. Martinho and Ana had been married in 1875:

On 13 October 1875, in Topo, Martinho Caetano da Silveira, single, 31, worker, native of Topo, legitimate son of Caetano Silveira Leonardo and Francisca Vitorina, married to Ana Vitorina da Silveira, single, 25, native of Topo, legitimate daughter of João António Gonçalves and Maria Benedita. They cannot write. Witnesses were Pedro Benedito da Silveira and Joaquim Silveira Leonardes, landowners and living in Topo.

Lomba de São Pedro

Lomba de São Pedro

But shortly after Francisca’s birth in 1878 the family moved to farm in Lomba de São Pedro on the nearby island of São Miguel. Over the coming years six more children were born in Lomba de São Pedro, all of whom were brought back to Topo shortly after birth to be baptized in the family church: João (1880), Rosa (1883), António (1885), Ana (1886), José (1889) and Francisco (1891).

Martinho’s mother, Francisca Vitorina da Silveira, ‘wife of Caetano Silveira Leonardo, veteran soldier,’ died in 1898 in Topo. Her husband Caetano was charged with ‘going to the local judge to give information on his children and his belongings (properties, animals, tools and furniture), but he couldn’t do it, because, due to his age (91) he barely could stand, (never mind) …  walking to the judge’s office. This was told by his maid Ana Rita. The person that went to the judge instead of him was the one that was representing his sons. It was said that the couple owned nothing, nor had any debts’.

Here we find mention of Caetano’s other son: João Caetano Silveira Leonardo. Although João was four years Martinho’s junior (born in 1847), at the age of about 18 he had emigrated to America and seems to have first established himself in California before moving on to Grant County in Oregon.

The Vega

The Vega

By 1893 Martinho and his large family decided that they would join João in America. On 1 April while still in Lomba, and just before boarding ship, Martinho ‘issued a document, giving full power to be represented in any occasion by Isidro de Bettencourt Correia e Avila’. A few months later in October his, by now married, brother João ‘issued a proxy to the same above at the notary William H. Kelley, in Grant County, Oregon’.

Having probably sold his farm in Lomba, Martinho bought tickets for himself and his family from the Empresa Insulana de Navegação (EIN) line of Lisbon to travel on their English-built cargo ship Vega from the Azores to New York.

vega

The family arrived at Ellis Island on 19 April 1893. Martinho gave his occupation as ‘Proprietor’ and said the family were bound for California. They crossed the continent by train and seem to have only passed through California before moving to Oregon. Brother João (by now married) was already in Oregon when Martinho and his family arrived in America and Martin and his family went to join them. What is clear is that in 1890 João was certainly in John Day in Grant County, Oregon, as probably was Martinho’s family too by October 1893. From now on will now call João and Martinho John and Martin and use the English names which all the family adopted, at least officially. The family name changed too, from Silveira to Silvers.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Martin and John were both farmers and I imagine they knew that they could buy farms cheaply in Oregon. John settled to start with in John Day in Grant County, where he was with his family in 1900 and 1902 (he had married Francisca/Juanita (known as ‘Jessie’) de Moura in about 1889). Martin went to farm at ‘Express’ i.e. Durkee in Bay County where we find him also in 1900 (his son John Martin is living near his uncle John in John Day, Grant County) and 1910.

Durkee was originally a stage stop called Express, and by the 1860s it was the only transfer point between Umatilla and Boise. It prospered as a water stop and telegraph station for the railroad, and even later as a stop on Highway 30, the only paved road in the area. It was platted in 1908, even though the population had already peaked.

I won’t follow all Martin’s family in detail here. Suffice it to say that Martin’s children started to marry and have children of their own (as did John’s): Francisca married Bernadino (Barney) Moura, Rosa first married Manuel Burgess and then Joseph A Moura, Ana married Joseph A Amada, Antonio/Tony married Grace Mae Francis, Jose/Joseph married Mary and Oregon-born Mary married Haven G Ross.

John Day, Grant County, Oregon

John Day, Grant County, Oregon

In 1902, when he was 23, Manuel Silvers married local girl Arlena Grisdale. Here we have a typically American meeting of cultures: the Portuguese Azores meets Lancashire! We can easily guess how Arlena and Manuel met because in 1900 Manuel was working as a ‘servant’ for the family of Arlena’s older married sister Mary Lucinda (Grisdale) McKinney,  who also lived in Express/Durkee, as did Manuel’s family. It was no doubt in the McKinney household that Manuel first met Arlena.

Actually Arlena had been born in America. She was the fifth child of English immigrant Thomas Grisdale and his Indiana-born wife Elmira Jane Clements. Thomas had arrived in America in 1850 aged just eleven with his Bolton cotton-weaver father Doctor Grisdale and mother Mary Greene, together with his brother Joseph. Having originally moved to the cotton mills of Pennsylvania to work, Doctor Grisdale and his family set off on a long trek across the States. I told their story in an earlier article (see here). When Arlena was born in 1875/6 the family was already in Oregon and her father Thomas was working as Brick Maker. Doctor Grisdale had died in Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa in 1878 and never reached the West Coast, but the rest of the family finally made it to Oregon in about 1871, about twenty years after the family’s arrival in America and about 22 years before Martinho Silveira set sail from the Azores.

This cotton-weaving Grisdale family weren’t the only ones to come to America, I wrote of just some of the others who followed them to Pennsylvania here and here. Of course all these Grisdales found their roots in Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale (see here).

In 1880 we find the family of Thomas Grisdale in Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon. Thomas’s sister Mary Ann was also there, having by this time married Timothy Ford. But also Doctor Grisdale’s widow Mary had moved with them to Oregon. As said Thomas was working as a “Brick Maker”. He then moved to Bridgeport, Baker County, Oregon with yet more of his children and was listed there in the 1900 US Census as a “farmer”. So maybe after more than a century it was back to the land! Thomas Grisdale was still living in 1903 because he paid a substantial council tax in Baker, Oregon, in 1903; but his mother Mary died on 26 June 1901 and was buried in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Oregon, as was his sister Mary Ann Ford. Thomas’s wife Elmira married Amos Carson following Thomas’s death and died in 1940 In Baker County, Oregon.

So Thomas Grisdale, who was working as a farmer in Bridgeport in 1900, would no doubt have been present at the marriage of his daughter Arlena with farmer’s son Manuel Silvers in 1902, which probably (though not definitely) took place in Durkee. He wouldn’t have been able to talk much with Manuel’s parents because as the censuses make clear Martin and Ana Silvers couldn’t yet speak English.

The Express Ranch in Durkee

The Express Ranch in Durkee

Manuel and Arlena (Grisdale) Silvers started life together on Manuel’s father’s farm in Express/Durkee. Two sons soon followed: James in 1903 and Thomas Martin Silvers in 1905. There was also a daughter called Anna M Silvers born in 1908 who would marry Arthur Edward Powell in 1923 but died after having two children in 1935. But while the children were still small, for some reason Arlena died in 1908 aged just thirty-four. Perhaps she died giving birth to Anna? Manuel must have been devastated and not being able to cope on his own he sent the two boys to live in Baker City where we find them in 1910 with Arlene’s mother Elmira and her unmarried sisters. Baby Anna was sent to be brought up in the house of her Aunt Anna Almada.

But in 1913 Manuel remarried. His new wife was forty-year old widow Malinda Anderson (nee Glassley). They had a child they called Eva in 1915, who later married Keith Chaffin. Manuel lived to the great age of 93, dying in Baker City. (His father Martin also died aged 93 in 1936!) Malinda died in 1960 aged eighty-seven.

Martinho Caetano da Silveira/Silvers (?) with some grandchildren in California

Manuel and Arlena Grisdale’s children married too. I have mentioned Anna already. James married Vivian Helen Voris but the couple had no children. Thomas Martin married Sadie Irene Craven and they had two sons. Many of Thomas’s descendants still live in Oregon and other states to this day. I’ll just highlight one here. Eugene Thomas Silvers was Manuel and Arlene’s grandson and Thomas and Sadie’s son. His 2001 obituary reads:

EUGENE “GENE” THOMAS SILVERS

Posted May 11, 2001

Wasilla resident Eugene Thomas Silvers, 72, passed away at Patsy’s Assisted Living Care on March 19, 2001.

As per his wishes, he was cremated and no memorial services will be held. His ashes will be scattered over a large body of water in Alaska early this summer.

Mr. Silvers was born July 24, 1928, in Baker, Ore., to Sadie (Craven) Silvers and Thomas Silvers.

He moved to Alaska from Idaho in 1975 and resided in Wasilla until his death.

He enjoyed a varied career — from logging, ranching, industrial construction, carpentry and general contracting — and retired in 1997.

Throughout his years, Gene taught his sons the value of hard work. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Sadie I. Silvers and Thomas M. Silvers, of Grants Pass, Ore.

Surviving are his former wife and friend, Irene Silvers of Wasilla; sons, Michael G. Silvers of Lacey, Wash., Patrick T. Silvers of Challis, Idaho, and Clifford Silvers of Wasilla; brother and his wife, Donald and Patricia Silvers of Hauser Lake, Idaho; nieces, Becky McGill and family of Oak Harbor, Wash., Peggy Magnuson and family of Vancouver, Wash., Jeanette Tingstrom of Wasilla; and nephew, Robert Silvers of Guam. He is also survived by his caregiver, Patsy Long, of Wasilla.

Andrew Leslie's shipbuilding yard in Hebburn

Andrew Leslie’s shipbuilding yard in Hebburn

One final coincidence. The Vega, the ‘cargo’ ship that brought the Silveiras to New York, was, as I said, English-built. In fact it was built by Alexander Leslie’s shipbuilding yard in Hebburn, Northumberland in 1879. After several owners in England it was sold to the Lisbon-based Empresa Insulana de Navegação (EIN) in 1890 before changing its name to the Benguela in 1900. It was wrecked in 1907 ‘at Mossamedes when inward from Alexandria with a cargo of dried fish’. And here’s the thing: when the Vega was being built in Hebburn a certain Joseph Grisdale was living right next door to the Leslie yard and would have seen it being built; indeed he also helped manufacture some of its components. Joseph was a distant relation of Arlene Grisdale, having common ancestors in Matterdale. I might tell Joseph’s story another time.

The Vega after it became the Benguela

The Vega after it became the Benguela

 

 

[1] I am grateful to an unnamed American Silveira descendant who visited the Azores to find the local records and posted them on the internet. I thank him/her.

At the end of the eighteenth century the pressures forcing rural people off the land were reaching a peak. One of the few options besides emigration and joining the army was to move to work in the dark satanic mills. In the north of England this often meant the cotton mills of Lancashire. Several Grisdale families from Matterdale followed this route. This is the story of just one of them. It is also a story of how part of the family then emigrated to Pennsylvania and from there, via Montana and the coal mines of Iowa, to Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. A story of pioneers maybe and a little example of “How the West was Won”.

The story is best started with Thomas Grisdale, who was born in Matterdale in 1772, the eighth and penultimate child of Joseph Grisdale and Ann Temple. Sometime in the 1790s Thomas  moved to Bolton in Lancashire (then called Bolton Le Moors); he married an Elizabeth Crossley there in September 1796. Between 1799 and 1817 they had nine children in Bolton. The fifth of these, born in 1809, was called Doctor Grisdale – for reasons that are not known. It is he who we will follow to America.

The industrial revolution was getting under way and Lancashire villages were being transformed from small rural settlements into huge cotton producing centres. They quickly became massive sinks of misery, squalor and exploitation for the rural poor – who were to become a new urban proletariat. They were to remain so throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century.

An early Power Loom

Thomas became a cotton weaver. Whether at first he was a hand-loom weaver or whether he started work immediately on one of the new power looms that had recently been invented and patented by Edmund Cartwright we don’t know. Hand loom weavers were a type of urban working class elite and they could earn good wages for their skills. But once mechanised power looms were introduced demand for hand weavers fell and their numbers dwindled. It was precisely against the brutal and inequitable effects of this process that the original Luddites were to fight and this certainly in and around Bolton. One of the most infamous repressions of the Luddite protests took place in nearby West Houghton in 1812. Garth Ratcliffe in the ‘The Burning of Westhoughton Mill by Luddites in 1812′ writes:

On Friday afternoon April 24th 1812 a mob of Luddites from Chowbent/Atherton attacked Westhoughton Mill, a cotton weaving mill situated opposite the White Lion Inn. This Mill was one of the first steam driven in the locality. The Mill was broken into and set fire to and burned down. The Scots Greys stationed in the area, rounded up the suspects who were identified by various witnesses from Hag Fold and other areas of Chowbent which is only about 2 miles from Westhoughton.

The suspects, who were mainly disaffected weavers, were “examined” by Ralph Fletcher and other magistrates and subsequently taken to Lancaster Castle prison to await trial for the charge of burning looms and a factory.
In addition, there were other Luddites mainly from Bolton town centre, who were charged with various aspects of “illegal oath taking/attending illegal meetings”.

Both sets of Luddites were tried on 23rd May 1812 and the results of the trail sentenced four men to be hanged and nine others transported to Australia for seven years.

The executions were at Lancaster Castle. The transported prisoners were taken to Portsmouth to await the next ship to Australia which took about 8 months.

These prisoners had to work for seven years on govt projects or for a landowner. After this period they could apply for ownership of land.

Luddites in Bolton in 1812

Maybe Thomas Grisdale witnessed this? If not he certainly will have heard about it because it was his fellow weavers who were killed, executed and transported to Australia.

But with the Luddite protests crushed by the army and militia, the grim life of the power loom weavers in Lancashire went on. In 1841the family are still working in the cotton mills: Thomas, now aged “65”, living with two of his sons, and Doctor Grisdale with his young family. They were all “cotton weavers”.

Doctor Grisdale had married Mary Greene and their son Thomas was born in 1839. Another son called Joseph was to follow in 1842.

Anybody who would like to get a flavour of the unimaginable squalor and poverty experienced at this time in the Lancashire mill towns would be well advised to read Frederick Engels’ “The Condition of the Working Class in England” published in 1845. Engels had visited Bolton on more than one occasion and made this comment:

Among the worst of these towns after Preston and Oldham is Bolton, eleven miles north-west of Manchester. It has, so far as I have been able to observe in my repeated visits, but one main street, a very dirty one, Deansgate, which serves as a market, and is even in the finest weather a dark, unattractive hole in spite of the fact that, except for the factories, its sides are formed by low one and two-storied houses. Here, as everywhere, the older part of the town is especially ruinous and miserable. A dark-coloured body of water, which leaves the beholder in doubt whether it is a brook or a long string of stagnant puddles, flows through the town and contributes its share to the total pollution of the air, by no means pure without it.

Such was the place in which this Grisdale family lived and worked.

A Delaware Woolen Mill

Some were destined to suffer this cruel fate for decades to come, but some tried to get out. Doctor Grisdale was one of these. Some Lancashire weavers had already emigrated to the United States, there to help in the development of America’s cotton and woollen mills. One place where they had ended up was in Pennsylvania and it was to there that Doctor and his young family headed. They boarded the ship Plymouth Rock in Liverpool and arrived in Boston on 16 January 1850. Just months later the family were established in Upper Darby. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Doctor was working as a weaver in the mills. Local historian Thomas J. DiFilippo tells us this about Upper Darby:

The growth rate of the township changed about 1830 when textile making moved from the homes into mills. Before 1830, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth was mostly performed at home by the women and primarily to satisfy the family’s needs. About 1830, some old grist mills were converted to spin yarn that was sold to individuals who wove their own crude cloth. About 1840, the mills became “integrated,” meaning they spun the yarn from raw material, then wove, finished and dyed the cloth. This was the beginning of a prosperous large textile industry in Upper Darby that lasted into the mid-1900s.

What became this country’s massive textile industry began in New England then spread to the Delaware Valley. Philadelphia became a major textile center with many mills in Germantown, Manayunk, Kensington, and Blockley. Realizing the potential market for textiles, descendants of the Garretts, Sellers, and Levis, followed by the Burnleys. Kellys, Kents, and Wolfendens, built or converted to textile mills. This expansion occurred after the flood of 1843 because that event destroyed nearly everything along the creeks.

Most of the mills employed Immigrants from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and later Irish Catholics. Although the managers and skilled workers were male, the laborious jobs were performed mostly by women and children. The mills owned the nearby “mill houses” and rented them to their employees. Workers were expected to follow the politics of the mill owners. Very few owners had compassion for the workers and thus the working conditions were poor, the salaries meagre and the working hours long. These conditions bred frequent labor disputes and were the cause of the early child labor laws and unionization.

By 1860 the family had moved to the mills in nearby Upper Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where Doctor was still employed as a weaver in a woollen mill. What happened to Doctor Grisdale and his wife in the few years after 1860 is unclear, I’ll mention his death later. But the family’s long trek from Bolton to the west coast of America was only just beginning.

A Coal Mine in Oskaloosa. Iowa

What is clear is that Doctor’s son Thomas set off west, probably accompanied with his American born sister, Mary Ann. Perhaps Doctor’s son Joseph had already died? In 1862, Thomas married a very young Elmira Jane Clements, who came originally from Porter, Indiana. Their first child, Dora Mae Grisdale, was born in Montana Territory in 1868. But in 1870 the family was living in Oskaloosa in Mahaska County, Iowa. Thomas was now a “Miner” living with his family and his sister.

Mahaska County was rich in bituminous coal and in the 1870s coal mining became part of the local economy. In 1883, the area had 38 mines and an annual output of over a million tons. In the prime days of mining, Mahaska County surpassed all other Iowa counties in tonnage and number of mines. The advent of transcontinental railroads was also a boon to Mahaska County. The locomotives moved coal out of the area year round as demand for coal increased.

The earliest settlers mined coal among the hills of south central Iowa. They used coal to heat their homes and cook their food in areas were timber was not available.

Not until 1870 did the industry of coal mining begin to rapidly grow in Iowa. By that time the major Iowa railroads reached from the Mississippi River in the east to the Missouri River in the west. The railroads leased land in coal producing areas and operated mines which produced coal for the use of the railroads. These were the largest and most productive mines in the state.

We are also told the following about the Iowa mines of the time:

Usually a coal camp had several hundred small homes, a company store, a tavern or pool hall, and a school. Most coal companies required that miners shop only at the company store which sold everything from “cradles to coffins.”  Most mining families didn’t like this restriction. Because the average coal mine lasted only ten years, little care was given to the appearance of these camps

The history of one of these mines tells us:

One of the best remembered and most unusual coal camps was located in Monroe County in southern Iowa. Buxton, as it was called, was a thriving coal community during the early 1900s.

At first the camp was located at what was called Muchakinock about five miles south of Oskaloosa in, Mahaska County. For at least two years mining was good in this area. But then in 1875 labor troubles began. The workers went on strike. In 1881 black workers recruited from the south were hired as strike breakers.  In a few years the mines of Muchakinock were nearly exhausted. The Chicago and Northwestern railroad, which owned the Consolidation Coal Company, bought more land south in Monroe County. The community moved south where they began to build the town of Buxton.  It was named after J.E. Buxton, the superintendent of the Consolidation Coal Company.

Buxton was a thriving community for at least twenty years. By 1920 the mines began to run out of coal. By 1927 the last mine was closed. Buxton soon became a ghost town like the many other mining camps dotting central Iowa.

We don’t know how long Thomas and Elmira were in this Iowa mining community, their second daughter, Mary Lucinda, was born in Montana in 1870 and by 1873 their third child Thomas Edward was born in Oregon, so maybe they were just passing through? However I think it likely that they remained until at least 1878 because on 25 April in that year Thomas’s father Doctor died and was buried in Oskaloosa. Perhaps he and his wife had come to join them. In any case Oregon was the family’s next stop in the great move west. In 1880 we find them in Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon with several more children. Thomas’s sister Mary Ann was also there, having by this time married Timothy Ford. But also Doctor Grisdale’s widow Mary had moved with them to Oregon. Thomas was working as a “Brick Maker”. He then moved to Bridgeport, Baker County, Oregon with more of his children and was listed there in the 1900 US Census as a “farmer”. So maybe after more than a century it was back to the land!

The grave of Doctor Grisdale’s widow Mary In Oregon

Thomas Grisdale was still living in 1903 because he paid a substantial council tax in Baker, Oregon, in 1903; but his mother Mary died on 26 June 1901 and was buried in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Oregon, as was his sister Mary Ann Ford. Something of the immediate history of Thomas’s family can be found on my (evolving) tree on Ancestry; although I have yet to find Thomas’s own death or that of his father Doctor. Thomas’s wife Elmira had married Amos Carson following Thomas’s death and died in 1940 In Baker County, Oregon.

I know this little history is somewhat lacking in detail and is rather skeletal, but it is, I think, another interesting example of the spirit of endurance and survival of so many English people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families – wherever in the world they had to go to do this. The Grisdales in this respect were no different to thousands or millions of others. But I don’t apologize for this. This family is after all the subject of this site. Sometimes I think that while this is family history it is perhaps something more. It can illustrate important social, economic and political realities about English history and the history of the English-speaking world.

Finally, although many members of this Grisdale family were to stay in Bolton (and their stories are interesting too) one other son of the Thomas Grisdale who came from Matterdale, a brother of Doctor, and also called Thomas (1804-1879), also led a very adventurous life. He found his way to Madras in India (possibly with the British Army) and from there, with wife and children, to Melbourne in Australia.

Towards the end of 1921, gold miner Fred Grisdale was dying of pulmonary tuberculosis in hospital in the mining community of Kingman in Mohave County, Arizona. He told people he was from Oregon and gave the names of some friends there and in Los Angeles, but he refused to name his parents or even mention his wife and child. What was Fred’s story?

Fred died on Christmas Eve 1921. His death certificate gives his age, 43, and his Oregon place of birth, but regarding the names of his father and mother it says that he ‘refused to tell’ and ‘information refused’. Six days later the Mohave County Miner (Kingman, Arizona) announced:

Fred Grisdale a miner aged about 43 years died at the county hospital in Kingman last Saturday after an illness covering a long period. Death was due to tuberculosis. Deceased gave the names of friends in Oregon and Los Angeles but so far nothing has been heard from them and it is probable that burial will take place here.

So Fred was buried in Section 17, Lot 2, Grave 31 of Kingman’s Mountain View Cemetery.

We know that exposure to silica dust increases the risk of pulmonary tuberculosis, particularly among gold miners who drill through hard rock. And Fred was a gold miner. Where had he come from? Who were his family? And why did he refuse to name them?

Baker City, circa 1900

Baker City, circa 1900

Frederick Grisdale was born on 8 November 1878 in Oregon, probably in the town of Roseburg in Douglas County. He was the fifth child and second son of Thomas Grisdale and Elmira Clements. Thomas had arrived in the United States in 1850, aged 11, with his brother Joseph and parents Doctor Grisdale and Mary Greene. They came from the cotton mill town of Bolton in Lancashire, England. I wrote about the family previously; how they had first moved to the cotton mills of Pennsylvania and how, later, Thomas set off on a long journey across the breadth of the continent, via Montana, Iowa and Missouri, marrying and having children on the way. By 1873 the new family had reached Salem in Oregon and then moved to Roseburg, where Fred was probably born, and from there to their final destination in the gold-boom town of Baker City, Oregon. In 1880 Thomas was a brick layer in Baker City and the children were in the local school.

As Baker City grew in population—300 in 1870, 1,200 in 1880, 2,600 in 1890, 6,600 in 1900–all the downtown frame buildings were replaced by buildings constructed of brick and native tuff stone quarried at Pleasant Valley. The most impressive brick building still standing on Main Street is the elegant Geiser Grand Hotel, which the Warshauer brothers, Jake and Harry, constructed in 1889. It went by the name Hotel Warshauer until purchased by the Geiser family about 1900.

Thomas Grisdale probably worked helping to construct some of these buildings. One local historian writes, ‘Baker City was a bawdy place in the late 19th century. One block of Main Street boasted five saloons and several brothels, yet more refined tastes also had a place in the “Queen City of the Mines.” An opera house lent the Oregon hinterlands a little taste of Europe, and the ornate Geiser Grand Hotel was considered the finest between Salt Lake City and Seattle.’

The growth of the town was all due to the discovery of gold. ‘The area had been a mere way station for pioneers on the Oregon Trail, but the region’s fate changed in 1861, when the discovery of gold in nearby Griffin Gulch sparked decades of frenzied mining in the Blue Mountains. Towns sprang up, among them Baker City, named for Edward Dickinson Baker, the U.S. senator from Oregon who died fighting in the Civil War. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baker City was home to 6,700 people… ‘

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

To start with the Baker City mines were so-called ‘placer’ mines. ‘Placer mining is frequently used for precious metal deposits (particularly gold) and gemstones, both of which are often found in alluvial deposits—deposits of sand and gravel in modern or ancient stream beds, or occasionally glacial deposits. The metal or gemstones, having been moved by stream flow from an original source such as a vein, is typically only a minuscule portion of the total deposit. Since gems and heavy metals like gold are considerably more dense than sand, they tend to accumulate at the base of placer deposits.’

In Baker City, the placer operations involved running water and gravel through sluice boxes to sift out the heavy gold flakes and maybe also a few valuable nuggets. By 1900 both Fred Grisdale and his older brother Thomas Edward were working as placer miners near Baker City.

We don’t know if Fred and his brother spent any money they made in the taverns, dancing houses and brothels of Baker City, though it might be a good guess. But something must have happened to estrange Fred from his family. Whether it was his marriage in 1904 to Wisconsin-born Laura Hamblin, or something else, remains a mystery. Whatever the case, Frederick moved from Oregon sometime in the first decade of the twentieth century, either before or after his marriage. One historian of the family wrote that Fred had, ‘left home at an early age and was never heard from again’. He had simply disappeared from his family’s lives.

A Missoula Mine

A Missoula Mine

But we can follow him. By 1910 he was living in the Montana gold-mining town of Missoula with his wife Laura and Montana-born daughter Evelyn. Here we find the first clear signs of his refusal to say anything of his parents. In the Federal census, while his wife Laura gave the places of birth of her parents (New York and Canada), Fred refused to say. The entries read, ‘unknown’.  Freddy was still a miner, though by now working underground. Like Baker City, Missoula was a gold and silver boom town. The town was founded in 1860 and named Hellgate Trading Post while still part of Washington Territory. By 1866, the settlement had moved five miles upstream and renamed Missoula Mills before being shortened to Missoula. In 1910 one downtown part was still called Hellgate Township and this is where the family lived.

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

But being a miner was a precarious business and miners were constantly moving in search of work. Sometime over the course of the next few years the family moved again, this time to Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada. In 1918, Fred was working for the Tonopah Extension Mining Company and living in East Pine Street. A History of Nye County gives a little flavour of how miners were hired in Tonopah:

In the era when miners worked for a day’s pay, a person obtained a job by “rustling” at the collar of the shaft. That is, he put in an appearance at the shaft, making it known that he was looking for a job. The old-time mine foreman did the hiring, not the manager or superintendent, although they might recommend someone to the foreman. The person who was hiring seldom used an employment agency, preferring to look at the man he might hire. The foreman wanted to see how healthy the prospective miner looked and whether he seemed capable. If the foreman did not personally know the miner, and if the man did not come well recommended from someone whom the foreman respected, he would take the man into his office and quiz him. He might not even ask about mines, but he could tell by the way the man talked whether or not he knew anything about mining. Mines had varying hiring times, but a lot of miners rustled at noon when the foreman came out of the shaft for lunch, though some miners tried to catch the foreman as he went down into the mine in the morning. Sometimes an unemployed miner would learn about a job from relatives or perhaps a friendly person in a bar might say, “Christ, there’s a bunch of guys quit last night. You’d better get out there tomorrow morning.” One thing that would finish a miner in search of a job faster than anything was for him to follow an ambulance up to the mine. People in town knew when there was an accident; they would hear three blasts on the bell or whistle and the ambulance would head for the shaft. Though foremen were sometimes gruff, had rough exteriors, and might not be able to give a man a job, some were known to give their lunch to a hungry man.

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

Fred was drafted into the US Army on 12 September 1918 in Tonopah. He gives his occupation, employer, date of birth and his wife’s name and address, but no mention of his parents of place of birth. Whether Fred actually had to serve I don’t know. It’s possible he was sent to Los Angeles, (as his brother was to be), and there met the ‘friends’ referred to in the newspaper notice I started with. But in any case, the First World War was over and with it the demand for many of the war materials mined in Spokane was drying up. The family had to move again, this time to the mining town of Spokane in Washington State.

In the 1920 trade directory for Spokane, Fred is listed as a miner living in College Avenue and his wife is given as Laura. But this information was probably already out of date, because in the 1920 census his wife Laura and 11 year-old daughter are living without Fred in Douglas Crescent, Spokane, and Laura is said to be ‘divorced’! There is no trace of Fred anywhere. Had Fred left Laura? Had she thrown him out? Was Fred already ill? Who knows.

Kingman Arizona

Kingman Arizona

So Fred, divorced from his wife, estranged from his family, set off one last time to seek work in the mines. This time he found himself in Kingman in Mohave County, Arizona. Kingman was founded in 1882, when Arizona was only a ‘Territory’. There were gold, turquoise and other mines. Being at an elevation of around 3,300 feet, it’s not quite as hot as one might imagine. But Fred was probably already ill and if he worked in the Kingman mines it can’t have been for long.

And here it is that I end this sad tale. Poor Fred would never mention his parents to his last breath. He didn’t even mention his former wife and his only daughter. When his ‘friends’ in Oregon and Los Angeles were contacted there was no reply. Did his daughter ever know what happened to her father? It seems his family back in Oregon did not.

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

So if you’re ever passing Kingman, Arizona, pop into the Mountain View Cemetery and think about lonely Freddy, the grandson of an enterprising Bolton cotton weaver, a descendant of the Matterdale Grisdales; a man for whom life didn’t seem to go quite right.

At the end of the eighteenth century the pressures forcing rural people off the land were reaching a peak. One of the few options besides emigration and joining the army was to move to work in the dark satanic mills. In the north of England this often meant the cotton mills of Lancashire. Several Grisdale families from Matterdale followed this route. This is the story of just one of them. It is also a story of how part of the family then emigrated to Pennsylvania and from there, via Montana and the coal mines of Iowa, to Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. A story of pioneers maybe and a little example of “How the West was Won”.

The story is best started with Thomas Grisdale, who was born in Matterdale in 1772, the eighth and penultimate child of Joseph Grisdale and Ann Temple. Sometime in the 1790s Thomas  moved to Bolton in Lancashire (then called Bolton Le Moors); he married an Elizabeth Crossley there in September 1796. Between 1799 and 1817 they had nine children in Bolton. The fifth of these, born in 1809, was called Doctor Grisdale – for reasons that are not known. It is he who we will follow to America.

The industrial revolution was getting under way and Lancashire villages were being transformed from small rural settlements into huge cotton producing centres. They quickly became massive sinks of misery, squalor and exploitation for the rural poor – who were to become a new urban proletariat. They were to remain so throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century.

An early Power Loom

Thomas became a cotton weaver. Whether at first he was a hand-loom weaver or whether he started work immediately on one of the new power looms that had recently been invented and patented by Edmund Cartwright we don’t know. Hand loom weavers were a type of urban working class elite and they could earn good wages for their skills. But once mechanised power looms were introduced demand for hand weavers fell and their numbers dwindled. It was precisely against the brutal and inequitable effects of this process that the original Luddites were to fight and this certainly in and around Bolton. One of the most infamous repressions of the Luddite protests took place in nearby West Houghton in 1812. Garth Ratcliffe in the ‘The Burning of Westhoughton Mill by Luddites in 1812′ writes:

On Friday afternoon April 24th 1812 a mob of Luddites from Chowbent/Atherton attacked Westhoughton Mill, a cotton weaving mill situated opposite the White Lion Inn. This Mill was one of the first steam driven in the locality. The Mill was broken into and set fire to and burned down. The Scots Greys stationed in the area, rounded up the suspects who were identified by various witnesses from Hag Fold and other areas of Chowbent which is only about 2 miles from Westhoughton.

The suspects, who were mainly disaffected weavers, were “examined” by Ralph Fletcher and other magistrates and subsequently taken to Lancaster Castle prison to await trial for the charge of burning looms and a factory.
In addition, there were other Luddites mainly from Bolton town centre, who were charged with various aspects of “illegal oath taking/attending illegal meetings”.

Both sets of Luddites were tried on 23rd May 1812 and the results of the trail sentenced four men to be hanged and nine others transported to Australia for seven years.

The executions were at Lancaster Castle. The transported prisoners were taken to Portsmouth to await the next ship to Australia which took about 8 months.

These prisoners had to work for seven years on govt projects or for a landowner. After this period they could apply for ownership of land.

Luddites in Bolton in 1812

Maybe Thomas Grisdale witnessed this? If not he certainly will have heard about it because it was his fellow weavers who were killed, executed and transported to Australia.

But with the Luddite protests crushed by the army and militia, the grim life of the power loom weavers in Lancashire went on. In 1841the family are still working in the cotton mills: Thomas, now aged “65”, living with two of his sons, and Doctor Grisdale with his young family. They were all “cotton weavers”.

Doctor Grisdale had married Mary Greene and their son Thomas was born in 1839. Another son called Joseph was to follow in 1842.

Anybody who would like to get a flavour of the unimaginable squalor and poverty experienced at this time in the Lancashire mill towns would be well advised to read Frederick Engels’ “The Condition of the Working Class in England” published in 1845. Engels had visited Bolton on more than one occasion and made this comment:

Among the worst of these towns after Preston and Oldham is Bolton, eleven miles north-west of Manchester. It has, so far as I have been able to observe in my repeated visits, but one main street, a very dirty one, Deansgate, which serves as a market, and is even in the finest weather a dark, unattractive hole in spite of the fact that, except for the factories, its sides are formed by low one and two-storied houses. Here, as everywhere, the older part of the town is especially ruinous and miserable. A dark-coloured body of water, which leaves the beholder in doubt whether it is a brook or a long string of stagnant puddles, flows through the town and contributes its share to the total pollution of the air, by no means pure without it.

Such was the place in which this Grisdale family lived and worked.

A Delaware Woolen Mill

Some were destined to suffer this cruel fate for decades to come, but some tried to get out. Doctor Grisdale was one of these. Some Lancashire weavers had already emigrated to the United States, there to help in the development of America’s cotton and woollen mills. One place where they had ended up was in Pennsylvania and it was to there that Doctor and his young family headed. They boarded the ship Plymouth Rock in Liverpool and arrived in Boston on 16 January 1850. Just months later the family were established in Upper Darby. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Doctor was working as a weaver in the mills. Local historian Thomas J. DiFilippo tells us this about Upper Darby:

The growth rate of the township changed about 1830 when textile making moved from the homes into mills. Before 1830, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth was mostly performed at home by the women and primarily to satisfy the family’s needs. About 1830, some old grist mills were converted to spin yarn that was sold to individuals who wove their own crude cloth. About 1840, the mills became “integrated,” meaning they spun the yarn from raw material, then wove, finished and dyed the cloth. This was the beginning of a prosperous large textile industry in Upper Darby that lasted into the mid-1900s.

What became this country’s massive textile industry began in New England then spread to the Delaware Valley. Philadelphia became a major textile center with many mills in Germantown, Manayunk, Kensington, and Blockley. Realizing the potential market for textiles, descendants of the Garretts, Sellers, and Levis, followed by the Burnleys. Kellys, Kents, and Wolfendens, built or converted to textile mills. This expansion occurred after the flood of 1843 because that event destroyed nearly everything along the creeks.

Most of the mills employed Immigrants from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and later Irish Catholics. Although the managers and skilled workers were male, the laborious jobs were performed mostly by women and children. The mills owned the nearby “mill houses” and rented them to their employees. Workers were expected to follow the politics of the mill owners. Very few owners had compassion for the workers and thus the working conditions were poor, the salaries meagre and the working hours long. These conditions bred frequent labor disputes and were the cause of the early child labor laws and unionization.

By 1860 the family had moved to the mills in nearby Upper Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where Doctor was still employed as a weaver in a woollen mill. What happened to Doctor Grisdale and his wife in the few years after 1860 is unclear, I’ll mention his death later. But the family’s long trek from Bolton to the west coast of America was only just beginning.

A Coal Mine in Oskaloosa. Iowa

What is clear is that Doctor’s son Thomas set off west, probably accompanied with his American born sister, Mary Ann. Perhaps Doctor’s son Joseph had already died? In 1862, Thomas married a very young Elmira Jane Clements, who came originally from Porter, Indiana. Their first child, Dora Mae Grisdale, was born in Montana Territory in 1868. But in 1870 the family was living in Oskaloosa in Mahaska County, Iowa. Thomas was now a “Miner” living with his family and his sister.

Mahaska County was rich in bituminous coal and in the 1870s coal mining became part of the local economy. In 1883, the area had 38 mines and an annual output of over a million tons. In the prime days of mining, Mahaska County surpassed all other Iowa counties in tonnage and number of mines. The advent of transcontinental railroads was also a boon to Mahaska County. The locomotives moved coal out of the area year round as demand for coal increased.

The earliest settlers mined coal among the hills of south central Iowa. They used coal to heat their homes and cook their food in areas were timber was not available.

Not until 1870 did the industry of coal mining begin to rapidly grow in Iowa. By that time the major Iowa railroads reached from the Mississippi River in the east to the Missouri River in the west. The railroads leased land in coal producing areas and operated mines which produced coal for the use of the railroads. These were the largest and most productive mines in the state.

We are also told the following about the Iowa mines of the time:

Usually a coal camp had several hundred small homes, a company store, a tavern or pool hall, and a school. Most coal companies required that miners shop only at the company store which sold everything from “cradles to coffins.”  Most mining families didn’t like this restriction. Because the average coal mine lasted only ten years, little care was given to the appearance of these camps

The history of one of these mines tells us:

One of the best remembered and most unusual coal camps was located in Monroe County in southern Iowa. Buxton, as it was called, was a thriving coal community during the early 1900s.

At first the camp was located at what was called Muchakinock about five miles south of Oskaloosa in, Mahaska County. For at least two years mining was good in this area. But then in 1875 labor troubles began. The workers went on strike. In 1881 black workers recruited from the south were hired as strike breakers.  In a few years the mines of Muchakinock were nearly exhausted. The Chicago and Northwestern railroad, which owned the Consolidation Coal Company, bought more land south in Monroe County. The community moved south where they began to build the town of Buxton.  It was named after J.E. Buxton, the superintendent of the Consolidation Coal Company.

Buxton was a thriving community for at least twenty years. By 1920 the mines began to run out of coal. By 1927 the last mine was closed. Buxton soon became a ghost town like the many other mining camps dotting central Iowa.

We don’t know how long Thomas and Elmira were in this Iowa mining community, their second daughter, Mary Lucinda, was born in Montana in 1870 and by 1873 their third child Thomas Edward was born in Oregon, so maybe they were just passing through? However I think it likely that they remained until at least 1878 because on 25 April in that year Thomas’s father Doctor died and was buried in Oskaloosa. Perhaps he and his wife had come to join them. In any case Oregon was the family’s next stop in the great move west. In 1880 we find them in Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon with several more children. Thomas’s sister Mary Ann was also there, having by this time married Timothy Ford. But also Doctor Grisdale’s widow Mary had moved with them to Oregon. Thomas was working as a “Brick Maker”. He then moved to Bridgeport, Baker County, Oregon with more of his children and was listed there in the 1900 US Census as a “farmer”. So maybe after more than a century it was back to the land!

The grave of Doctor Grisdale’s widow Mary In Oregon

Thomas Grisdale was still living in 1903 because he paid a substantial council tax in Baker, Oregon, in 1903; but his mother Mary died on 26 June 1901 and was buried in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Oregon, as was his sister Mary Ann Ford. Something of the immediate history of Thomas’s family can be found on my (evolving) tree on Ancestry; although I have yet to find Thomas’s own death or that of his father Doctor. Thomas’s wife Elmira had married Amos Carson following Thomas’s death and died in 1940 In Baker County, Oregon.

I know this little history is somewhat lacking in detail and is rather skeletal, but it is, I think, another interesting example of the spirit of endurance and survival of so many English people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families – wherever in the world they had to go to do this. The Grisdales in this respect were no different to thousands or millions of others. But I don’t apologize for this. This family is after all the subject of this site. Sometimes I think that while this is family history it is perhaps something more. It can illustrate important social, economic and political realities about English history and the history of the English-speaking world.

Finally, although many members of this Grisdale family were to stay in Bolton (and their stories are interesting too) one other son of the Thomas Grisdale who came from Matterdale, a brother of Doctor, and also called Thomas (1804-1879), also led a very adventurous life. He found his way to Madras in India (possibly with the British Army) and from there, with wife and children, to Melbourne in Australia.