It was now broad daylight and the situation in Suvla Bay was verging on chaos.”  (Captain Cecil Aspinall-Oglander)

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
(Rudyard Kipling)

I guess everyone is aware of the horrendous debacle and needless loss of life that was the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Here I’d like to tell the story, as best I can, of the trip that one young Keswick man called Norman Atkinson Grisdale made to Gallipoli, never to return.

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
(A. E. Housman)

Norman Grisdale was born in Grasmere in Westmorland in 1895, the second child of Joseph Grisdale and Jane Atkinson. Joseph had been working in Grasmere as a shepherd and later gardener, but in 1899 his young wife Jane suddenly died, leaving four year-old Norman and his older brother Joseph without a mother. Joseph soon took the family back to Keswick, where this part of the Grisdale clan had been living and working, mostly as pencil makers, since the 1770s. Before that of course the family had been in Matterdale. Joseph married Eleanor Mumberson in Keswick in early 1901 and a baby daughter christened Mabel soon arrived. Norman went to school in Keswick, but in his early teens he started work as an apprentice with Mr Postlethwaite, a grocer in the Brigham part of Keswick.

norman grisdaleJust after the Great War started Norman and his brother Joseph, like so many other Cumberland Grisdales, joined the Border Regiment. Norman’s battalion was the newly-formed 6th (Service) Battalion. Just before the Keswick brothers left for war they posed with their parents and sister for a photograph. See here.

In what follows I would like to credit Richard Overton whose work on the 6th Battalion at Gallipoli I have rather extensively quoted.

In early 1915 things were going badly for the French and British in France and Belgium while the Russians were doing even worse on the Eastern Front. If Russia collapsed many German divisions would be freed to fight in the West. ‘A Gallipoli expedition remained the only feasible method of directly assisting Russia by means of opening up the Dardanelles.’ A first British division reached Gallipoli in June, but General Sir Ian Hamilton asked for more. ‘At successive meetings of the War Council on 6th and 17th June Kitchener was authorised to offer Hamilton, firstly, the three remaining divisions of the New Army not yet detailed for use on the Western Front, namely the 10th, 11th and 13th and, secondly, urged by Churchill, two Territorial divisions, the 53rd and 54th. To speed up the transportation of these divisions three of the biggest passenger liners were chartered, this despite the scale of the loss that would result if they were sunk by submarines.’

Norman Grisdale’s 6th Battalion of the Border Regiment were part of the 11th Division, so rather than heading for France they were set for Turkey. One of the passenger liners chartered was the Empress of Britain. ‘Thus it came about that 33 Brigade of 11 Div, with 6th Borders in it, sailed from Liverpool on the Empress of Britain escorted by two destroyers on 1st July and reached the base in Alexandria on the 12th. Here it was necessary to carry out reorganisation of stores and equipment – involving much physical work for soldiers unused to the heat.’ The Empress of Britain reached Mudros harbour on the Greek island of Lemnos on 18 July 1915.

EMPRESS_OF_BRITAIN_442

Here is a poem written by Lt. Nowell Oxland of the 6th Border Regiment while aboard the Empress of Britain (with Norman) bound for Egypt and Greece, and ultimately Gallipoli.

Outward Bound

There’s a waterfall I’m leaving
Running down the rocks in foam,
There’s a pool for which I’m grieving
Near the water-ouzel’s home,
And it’s there that I’d be lying
With the heather close at hand,
And the Curlew’s faintly crying
‘Mid the wastes of Cumberland.

While the midnight watch is winging
Thoughts of other days arise.
I can hear the river singing
Like the Saints in Paradise;
I can see the water winking
Like the merry eyes of Pan,
And the slow half-pounders sinking
By the bridges’ granite span.

Ah! To win them back and clamber
Braced anew with winds I love,
From the rivers’ stainless amber
To the morning mist above,
See through clouds-rifts rent asunder
Like a painted scroll unfurled,
Ridge and hollow rolling under
To the fringes of the world.

Now the weary guard are sleeping,
Now the great propellers churn,
Now the harbour lights are creeping
Into emptiness astern,
While the sentry wakes and watches
Plunging triangles of light
Where the water leaps and catches
At our escort in the night.

Great their happiness who seeing
Still with unbenighted eyes
Kin of theirs who gave them being,
Sun and earth that made them wise,
Die and feel their embers quicken
Year by year in summer time,
When the cotton grasses thicken
On the hills they used to climb.

Shall we also be as they be,
Mingled with our mother clay,
Or return no more it may be?
Who has knowledge, who shall say?
Yet we hope that from the bosom
Of our shaggy father Pan,
When the earth breaks into blossom
Richer from the dust of man,

Though the high Gods smith and slay us,
Though we come not whence we go,
As the host of Menelaus
Came there many years ago;
Yet the self-same wind shall bear us
From the same departing place
Out across the Gulf of Saros
And the peaks of Samothrace;

We shall pass in summer weather,
We shall come at eventide,
When the fells stand up together
And all quiet things abide;
Mixed with cloud and wind and river,
Sun-distilled in dew and rain,
One with Cumberland for ever
We shall go not forth again.

The plan was, as it evolved, to enable a breakout from Anzac, ‘where the Australians and New Zealanders had been hanging on since April encircled and overlooked by the Turks’. ‘With this force substantially increased a breakout might be achieved but the beachhead at Anzac was so cramped that there was a strict limit to the number of additional troops that could be brought in, particularly as they would have to be landed secretly and hidden out of sight. Hence it was decided to make a landing at Suvla simultaneously with the breakout so that the operation could be launched on a broad front and the Turks could be attacked from outside as well as from within the circle.’

Mudros Harbour 1915

Mudros Harbour 1915

On the island of Mudros Grisdale’s 33 Brigade ‘was singled out from the other two brigades of 11 Div to proceed to Helles and relieve the Royal Naval Division in the line for ten days from 20th July’ where the 6th Borders  did ‘good work done in improving trenches’.

On 2 August the Battalion rejoined the Division on the island of Imbros, their jumping off point for the Suvla landing, which was scheduled for the night of 6/7 August. (Sooner would have been better but this was the first night for a month to offer suitable conditions, when the attacking troops could approach the coast in the dark but have the advantage of moonlight after getting ashore.) The night attack would be made by 11 Div and would be followed up at dawn by 10 Div who would be leaving from the island of Mitylene.

The few days spent on Imbros by 6th Borders in hot and dusty camps proved to be very trying and debilitating. Dysentery was rife, reducing the strength of the Battalion for the forthcoming landing, and many of those who stuck it out were weakened by diarrhoea. The men were kept hard at it until the last minute but even as late as the day of departure, 6th August, junior officers were in ignorance of the plans and their part in them beyond the landing itself, so insistent were Hamilton and his staff at GHQ on secrecy. For the same reason, maps were issued too late to be studied properly. It was not until midday of the 6 August that the men were told the landing was to take place that night. Secrecy was important but Hamilton and his staff at GHQ seem to have overdone it.

Soon after 3 pm the troops fell in on their battalion parade grounds and an hour later the Division began to embark, some (including 6th Borders) on to destroyers with lighters in tow, some straight on to lighters. These were motor lighters specially designed for landing troops. Capable of carrying 500 men they had armoured sides, drew only seven feet of water, and had a ramp to allow quick, dry exit under enemy fire.

As part of the 33rd Brigade the 6th Border Regiment were set to land at Suvla bay an action that was to turn into chaos. Here is a full report by Richard Overton of the landing at Suvla Bay in which Norman Grisdale and his battalion took part:

The fleet set off from Kephalos Bay, Imbros for Suvla an hour after sunset which was 7.15. Apparently confident and in good heart – trusting in its commanders. This trust, as the Official History show only too clearly, was sadly misplaced. The trouble started at the top with the appointment of a wildly unsuitable person to command IX Corps in Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford. Hamilton had asked for a General who had proved himself on the Western Front, perhaps Byng or Rawlinson, but Kitchener ruled this out. Instead by an argument which had everything to do with seniority and nothing to do with fitness for the post, he settled on General Stopford who was 61 years old, in semi-retirement, and had never commanded large bodies of troops in the field. This combination of disqualifications was evident at the time of the appointment but what was not evident was that he was a weak man who would be dominated by his chief of staff, Brigadier General Reid VC. The latter had a fixation about the importance of artillery in offensive operations, a sound principle on the Western Front against an organised system of trenches but one which did not apply at Suvla where the Turks were few and their trenches negligible. Want of adequate artillery support would become a regular excuse for inaction.

One rung lower down, Major General Frederick Hammersley commanding 11 Div would also prove to be inadequate, at age 57 having lost the resilience of youth. In the letter to Kitchener leading to the superseding of these two officers (when it was too late) Hamilton compared the combination of new troops and old generals to putting new wine into old bottles with results that turned out equally unfortunate.

The voyage from Imbros took less than two hours and the leading battalions of 32 and 33 Brigades were safely on shore at B beach by 10 pm. The troops on the destroyers had to wait for the return of the lighters to the ship and this applied to 6th Borders who landed about midnight with 6th Lincolns. These two battalions were initially in divisional reserve. The landing had achieved complete strategic surprise. The local Turkish forces only amounted to three battalions and their nearest reserves were known to be 30 marching miles away at Bulair.

British troops at Suvla Bay August 1915

British troops at Suvla Bay August 1915

Turkish posts had been located at the two horns of the bay at Lala Baba and Ghazi Baba, also at Hill 10 midway between the two. A battalion of 32 Brigade dealt with the former (though at considerable cost) and the latter was soon knocked out as well, but there was difficulty and delay in dealing with Hill 10, the specific responsibility of 34 Brigade whose landing had gone disastrously wrong. Unlike the other two brigades, 34 Brigade had landed within the bay itself, the lighters struck hidden reefs and could not be got to land, and the troops had to wade ashore through deepish water. Furthermore, by a navigational error, the destroyers had anchored south of the Cut and about 1,000 yards south of their intended station. The battalion charged with the task of dealing with Hill 10 was misled by the wrong landing place and could not even locate the hill.

This was a severe setback no doubt. Yet the best part of two brigades (32 and 33) were standing by at or near Lala Baba, and had either brigade commander taken the initiative an attack on Hill 10 could have been mounted from this direction. The failure to do so may be attributed partly to lack of impetus from above – Stopford had not come ashore and so did not even know what was going on – and partly to poor briefing due to excessive secrecy.

As it was, by dawn the only success achieved was the capture of the two horns of the bay, and the situation was verging on chaos. The beach was under persistent rifle fire and two or three Turkish guns were dividing their attention between the troops ashore and the numerous vessels in the bay. The confusion was if anything increased by the arrival at daybreak from Mitylene of the two brigades of 10 Div.

Sulva Bay August 1915

Sulva Bay August 1915

Hill 10 was finally taken about 8 am, its hundred defenders retiring eastwards, and with the bay safe at last it should have been possible to move against objectives further inland, initially Chocolate Hills. But lack of leadership at the top was again evident. By mid-morning a stream of contradictory orders and reports was being passed between Hammersley and his brigade commanders as he strove to organise the attack on Chocolate Hills. Stopford, nursing an injured knee, was still ineffectually on board the sloop Jonquil, IX Corps HQ to date.

When eventually Chocolate Hills were assaulted that evening 6th Borders was in on the action. They and 6th Lincolns were brought out of reserve at Lala Baba to lead a general attack. To save time as daylight was already fading they wisely ignored orders to skirt the Salt Lake and marched boldly across it and assaulted the west end of the hill, Lincolns leading and Borders in close support, while two Irish battalions from 10 Div attacked the east end. At last Chocolate Hills were captured, not before daybreak on the 7th as intended, but after nightfall.

The Battalion got off relatively lightly in the matter of casualties with two officers wounded, four other ranks killed, three missing and 51 wounded. Next morning it was ordered back into divisional reserve at Lala Baba.

Norman Atkinson Grisdale was one of the 6th’s battalion’s 51 wounded, probably on the assault on Chocolate Hills as the light was fading on 7th August. Norman would have been taken down to the beach for evacuation. While waiting there he wrote back to his parents at 13 Wordsworth St, Keswick, saying that, as the local newspaper, the Carlisle Journal, reported on 31 August:

Pte Norman Grisdale of the 6th Border, who left the employment of Mr Postlethwaite, Grocer, Keswick to enlist soon after the war started, has written to say he is wounded in the shoulder, but does not think his condition is at all dangerous. He was wounded on the 7th at the Dardanelles and is expected to proceed to a Cairo Hospital.

Wounded being evacuated at Suvla Bay

 

Norman was indeed evacuated to a hospital in Cairo, but whether from an infection of his shoulder wound or from other causes he died there on 16th August 1915, before his letter had reached his parents and the Carlisle Journal. Norman’s brother Joseph also served with the Border Regiment in France but survived the war and went on to marry. Norman is buried in the Cairo War Cemetery at Al Qahirah, Plt: D.33.

norman grisdale grave

Grave of Norman Atkinson Grisdale in Cairo

 

The Landing at Suvla Bay

You may talk of Balaclava,
Or of Trafalgar Bay,
But what of the 11th Division,
Who landed at Suvla Bay?

They were part of Kitchener’s Army,
Some had left children and wives,
But they fought for England’s freedom,
And fought for their very lives.

It was on the 6th of August,
We made that terrible dash,
And the Turks along the hillside,
Our boats they tried to smash.

The order came, “Fix bayonets!”
And out of the boats we got,
Every man there was a hero,
As he faced the Turkish shot.

Funnels of the ships got smashed,
Whilst the sea in some parts was red,
But we fought our way through the ocean,
To the beach that was covered with dead.

Creeping, at last, up the hillside,
Whilst shot and shell fell all around,
We made one last desperate effort,
And charged o’er the Turkish ground.

The Turks at last gave it up,
When our bayonets began to play,
For they turned their backs to the British,
And retired from Suvla Bay.

There were the Lincolns, Dorsets, and Staffords.
Notts and Derbys too,
The Border Regiment was there,
The rough and ready crew.

Then we had the Manchesters,
With the Lancashire Fusiliers by their side,
The lads who come from Lancashire,
Who fill your hearts with pride.

The Yorks, East Yorks, and West Yorks,
The Yorks and Lancs as well,
Who fought for good old Yorkshire,
Were amongst the lads who fell.

The fighting fifth were fighting,
The Northumberland lads you know,
Whilst the good old Duke of Wellington’s,
Were keeping back the foe.

And far away o’er the hillside,
Beneath the bloody clay,
Are some of the 8th Battalion,
Who tried to win the day.

So remember the 11th Division,
Who were all volunteers you know,
But they fought and died like heroes,
Going to face the Turkish foe.

—Anonymous

cairo use

On the 30th of October 1921, the Mayor of the small Ontario town of Thorold in Welland County was unveiling a cenotaph in the new Memorial Park to honour the young men of the town who had died in the Great War. According to historian Alun Hughes, ‘the Mayor was barely able to speak, since his two sons… were among the 54 names of fallen soldiers listed’.

Thorold Cenotaph

Thorold Cenotaph

The Mayor was called Grisdale, to be precise Frederick Gideon Grisdale; his family had been living in Welland County for about a hundred years. Frederick’s Grandfather Gideon had helped build the first Welland Canal and then been one of its lock keepers. His father Robert John Grisdale had won a medal for fighting the Fenian Raiders in 1861. But now Frederick was ‘barely able to speak’ as he saw the names of his sons, Arthur and Lionel, carved in stone in front of him.

Both Arthur and Lionel had been carpenters when they joined up within a few weeks of each other in late 1915. Arthur, aged 21, joined the Canadian Field Artillery, while Lionel, aged 18, enlisted in the Canadian Mounted Rifles; he would later transfer to the 1st Hussars, Canadian Light Horse.

At the start of August 1918, the Canadian army in France was participating in the Battle of Amiens.

‘The Battle of Amiens (8 – 28 August, 1918) would see the start of a string of successes for the allies that would leave the German Army a shadow of its once mighty self. To spearhead the upcoming attack, the strongest and freshest formations were called upon to spearhead the attack and so the Canadian and Australian Corps moved up to the front at Amiens. The Canadians deployed with three divisions forwards… Each division had attached to it a battalion of 42 British tanks. Also deployed was the Cavalry Corps to exploit the expected breakthrough.’

Lionel Grisdale was with these divisions. He was a Trooper with the 1st Hussars, Canadian Light horse, and part of the ‘Cavalry Corps’.

Canadian Light Horse, 1918

Canadian Light Horse, 1918

Lieutenant George Stirrett was a troop commander in the 1st Hussars. He wrote a detailed account of the activities of the Canadian Light Horse throughout the war. When we get to the summer of 1918 he tells us:

At the end of July, 1918, in preparation for the Battle of Amiens, the Canadian Light Horse was ordered to move by night to Saleux, south of Amiens. Here we were broken up and a squadron attached to each of the attacking brigades. LCol Leonard took command of the Hotchkiss Gun Detachment (18 guns) which worked along the Amiens – Roye Road and helped maintain liaison with the French on the right.

During the early part of August I was attached, with my troop, to the Canadian Third Divisional Headquarters. As the attack should be on August 8th, the Brigade Major came to me and said that the first thing they had to do was to get over a small creek about ten feet wide. There were three bridges in the Third Division sector. Our job was to determine as soon as possible after the attack started, whether or not these bridges had been destroyed. As soon as this was determined, my troop would have to deliver messages to the advancing elements of Third Division. That was right at dawn.

By 9:00 A.M., the brigade Major came to me and said, ‘Stirrett, we’ve got so far that they have passed their objectives. Now we have lost our troops and haven’t any communication with them.’ He said that I was to take all the men I had and send them out. They were to try and contact anyone from the Third Division and bring back a message telling where they were and what they were doing. There being not yet any radios and the signals had not yet had time to get out their signal wire. We spent the rest of the day trying to contact advancing elements…

The next day, August 9th, Skirrett tells us:

We got a report that a German artillery unit had disappeared into a hollow about a mile away. A squadron of the Scots Greys was in the area and was asked if they wanted to go after these Germans, who were to the right, on the French side of the road. The Scots officer said that he could not go. Lieutenant Freddy Taylor, a First Hussars Officer, and a bit tight at the time, commanding the 1st troop, took five men and headed out towards where the Germans had been seen…

Germans at Amiens

Germans at Amiens

Trooper Grisdale was one of these five men who headed out with the ‘tight’ Lieutenant Taylor.

They found the Germans about 2000 yards ahead of the advancing French infantry. It was a German artillery ammunition column, hidden in an excavation, and their horses had nose bags on as they were on a rest stop. One man held the horses while Taylor and the others moved forward with their rifles to the edge of the bank. From there, they were able to shoot every horse and a few men so that the German column couldn’t move. Then Taylor said every man for himself, and to get back the best way you can. They went back, losing one man while two were wounded.

I’ll come back to Skirrett’s account soon, but let’s continue with the account of these events written by James McWilliams in his book Amiens: Dawn of Victory:

“On the extreme right flank where the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles advanced along the Amiens – Roye Road there occurred an incident, insignificant strategically but typical in many ways of the events of Friday, August 9. The 5th had by-passed Arvillers, a town to their right in the French sector, and assisted by four tanks had pressed on to take their own objective, Bouchoir.”

“The French south of the road had been stopped in front of Arvillers despite the support of Brutinel’s Independent Force. Around 5:00 the men of the two motor machine gun batteries fought their way into Arvillers and captured twenty-five prisoners… The 5th CMRs, looking over their right shoulder and seeing groups of the enemy retreating from Arvillers in the French sector, dispatched a platoon and one tank to occupy and mop up the village at 5:30.”

At 5:40, in the words of the War Diary of the 5th CMR.

A considerable number of enemy vehicles (a German ammunition convoy, as it turned out) were noticed retiring South eastwards from Southern outskirts of Arvillers. This was pointed out to a squadron of Imperial Cavalry who had just moved up in close proximity to our H.Q., and we suggested that they could with very little difficulty, make a good capture, but they were either unable or unwilling to seize the opportunity.

The Wrecked Church of Arvillers

The Wrecked Church of Arvillers

“Instead, five volunteers from the Canadian Light Horse offered to tackle the ammunition convoy. Lieutenant F. A. Taylor and his men had been sent forward from Brigade Headquarters to deliver a message. Now Taylor, Sergeant Duncan, and Privates Dudgeon, Grisdale and Hastie mounted and galloped to a line of old trenches south of the road. There they dismounted and worked their way along the trenches.”

Here we can hear what Lieutenant Freddy Taylor himself wrote about what happened:

I decided to rush the convoy and left the trenches. Some resistance was offered so I opened fire and shot the officer and 12 or 15 men. The remainder, about 20 men, surrendered. Heavy rifle and M.G. fire was opened on us from the trenches so we seized the lead horses and rushed them toward our own lines. The enemy advanced some machine guns within 400 yards and as I realized there was no chance of getting the convoy clear, I shot some of the horses and rushed my prisoners into the trench… as a body of the enemy were advancing with the intention of cutting us off.

Canadian Troops at Amiens 1918

Canadian Troops at Amiens 1918

McWilliams continues:

Meanwhile another platoon of the 5th CMR and a tank had been dispatched to help the five Light Horsemen bring in the captured ammunition convoy. But while they were on their way the French put down a belated rolling barrage on Arvillers where the CMRs first platoon was mopping up with the aid of a tank. Both platoons and both tanks were hastily recalled. Taylor and his four men were split up and forced to abandon their prisoners. When they reached Canadian lines, two were missing – Hastie and Grisdale. It is believed that Grisdale stayed with his wounded comrade. That night a search was carried out and the body of Private Hastie was found having apparently died of wounds. There was no trace of Grisdale.

And thus it was that Trooper Lionel Grisdale died: staying behind to help a wounded comrade.

There is one final thing to add. There were several versions of these events, though not regarding Lionel’s death. Lieutenant Skirrett writes:

LCol Leonard asked me to determine exactly what had happened and to determine whether or not Taylor should get a decoration. After I turned in the full story, Taylor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the surviving men… were awarded Military Medals (MM). When I had talked to the men involved, each had told a different story, as if they had not all been in the same place at the same time. They all said they had never seen anything so ridiculous or so foolish in the whole war. I conclude that I thought the whole action quote reckless.

Whether Lionel’s father Mayor Frederick Grisdale knew these scanty facts regarding his son’s death three years later when he unveiled the cenotaph in Thorold, I don’t know.

What about Frederick’s other and older son Arthur? As I mentioned, Arthur had joined the 8th Battalion of the Canadian Field Artillery as a Gunner. He died on the killing fields of the Somme, ‘near Courcelette’ on 4 November, 1916. Maybe I’ll tell his story later.

In 1911 the following report appeared in Washington State’s Tacoma Times:

 Girl of 15 Disowned By Rich Uncle When She Elopes. SEATTLE, June 22.

Early this morning, as the steam schooner Redfield, bound out of Seattle for Nome, passed the three-mile limit that marked the vessel’s entrance Into the domain of the ‘high seas, there occurred a strange wedding.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Grisdale became the bride of C. G. Pike, 35, first engineer of the boat. The knot was .tied by Captain McKenna, master of the vessel.

James Grisdale, the girl’s grand uncle and nearest relative, followed them to the pier and caused the girl to be detained by the police. A superior court judge heard the story, however, and ordered the girl turned over to the expectant bridegroom. The grand uncle is a pioneer of the Puget Sound country and is worth $100,000.

He disowned the girl when she decided to go to Alaska with Pike.

I won’t here go too much into Grace’s ancestors, suffice it to say that both she and her grand uncle James were descended from the early Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale, who had arrived in North Monaghan in 1816/17 (see here).

Seattle Harbor

Seattle Harbor

Grace was born in 1895 in Bay City, Michigan to ‘Contractor’ Robert Grisdale and his wife Jessie E. Defoe. She was christened Dolores Grisdale but obviously she was known as Grace. Grace was the couple’s fourth and last child. For a reason we do not know shortly after Grace was born Robert and Jessie divorced and Jessie disappears from view. Several surviving children were sent to live with various relatives. But Grace was sent to Saint Vincent’s Orphanage in Detroit. But at some point we know she went to live with her rich great uncle James in Washington. He had made his money in just a few years by operating logging camps and who was at the time living in Eagle Harbour, Kitsap.

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

A Steam Schooner in Alaska

And so aged fifteen (actually 16) she had wanted to elope with ‘35’ year-old Calvin Greene Pike, for that was his full name. Having ‘tied the knot’ on board the F. S. Redfield, Calvin and Grace were on their way to Alaska. But then in August 1911:

The 469 ton 160 foot wooden gas screw F S Redfield stranded and was lost near Cape Prince of Wales at 10:00 p.m. Saturday August 19, 1911.  The vessel departed Unalaska July 19, 1911 bound for Cape Prince of Wales.  There were 23 crewmen and 350 tons of general merchandise aboard.  She had about a third of a deckload of freight.  The following are excerpts from the wreck report filed by James McKenna, master of the F S Redfield:

“3 mi. east Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska”  “South gale, rainy, dark, cloudy”  “South gale and current setting in to shore, could not head to sea”  “Stranded”  “Anchors let go; dragged until she struck”  “One day after vessel went aground, the mate went ashore and telephoned for the Revenue Cutter Bear at Nome, who arrived 48 hours later and rendered all possible assistance by helping lighter cargo and carry crew to Nome”  “Total loss”

The F S Redfield, valued at $25,000 was a total loss.  The cargo, which was worth $10,000 was damaged $5,000 on the report.  The F S Redfield had insurance of $12,500 on the vessel and $3,500 on the cargo.  There was no loss of life.

It seems that Grace was still on board when the ship was lost because another report reads:

The vessel stranded and lost when anchors dragged in gale; it was transporting supplies to Government schools in Alaska. Cutter Bear came to the rescue and carried crew and cargo to Nome. Grace Grisdale, 15, who had stowed away on the trip, ended up marrying First Engineer, C.G. Pike, with the ceremony conducted by Captain McKenna.

Now Calvin seems to have been both a trickster and womaniser, and there’s nothing much wrong with either. In the 1910 Census he is found in Seattle listed as a steamship captain aged 36 and born in Kansas of parents from North Carolina. The age fits more or less with the newspaper report and it must be what he told people. But there are two lies. First, he was born in Staley, North Carolina not Kansas, and his parents were Solomon Franklin Pike and Martha Staley, so he was 30 not 36. Having been brought up in Chatham, North Carolina it’s true that in 1900 he had gone to live with his uncle Lawson Pike and his family in Kansas, but Kansas-born he was not. More interestingly, in 1910 Calvin, although living alone, was said to be married, and this just months before his elopement with young Grace Grisdale.

Calvin and Grace seem to have had one son: John Calvin Pike, born in 1913. In the future John Calvin would give his birthplace at either Oklahoma or Missouri, following in the path of his father in this regard. In 1914 Calvin and his wife Grace are listed in a Seattle directory and he was said to be an ‘engineer’, on a steamship no doubt. In 1918 Calvin is still listed as an engineer in Seattle but no wife is mentioned. It seems however that sometime after 1914 he had left young Grace Grisdale because in December 1916 he married (for a third time) Lena E. Baettner in Seattle.

His lying about his age continued. When Calvin was drafted on 12 September 1918 in Seattle he gave his address as 117 Clay, his occupation as a Bridge Foreman and his employer as Monson Construction. He even gave the name of his father as Solomon F. Pike. But he continued to add 6 years to his age, giving his date of birth as 29 March 1874, when it was in fact 29 March 1880. Later when he registered for service in WW2 in Edmonds, Washington in 1942, he’d given up this lie and gave his correct date of birth. He said he was ‘self employed’.

His relationship with Lena Baettner didn’t last long either, because by 1920 he had moved on to his fourth ‘wife’ Myrtle Beatrice McPherson. Actually he might not have married Myrtle as he was probably still married to Lena, but Calvin and Myrtle had and lost their first child called Tupper McPherson Pike in 1920. Tupper died in Cle Elum near Lake Kittitas which is far away from Seattle. It looks like Calvin and Myrtle had had to flee. His parents brought him back to Edmonds to be buried.

Calvin and Myrtle's Grave in Edmond's Memorial Cemetery

Calvin and Myrtle’s Grave in Edmond’s Memorial Cemetery

Three more children were to follow: Calla B. Pike (1926), Solomon A. Pike (1927) and Martha R. Pike (1930), the births it seems being nowhere recorded. In 1930 the family were living in Currie, Snohomish, Calvin first being a concrete contractor and then a building labourer. But even now although Calvin gives his age and place of birth correctly it seems his dissembling hadn’t finished. In the 1930 census the place of birth of 17 year-old John Pike’s mother (Grace Grisdale) was given as California! I wonder what Calvin had told his son about his mother?

Calvin’s wife Myrtle died on 29 December, 1848 in Edmonds, Snohomish.

But Calvin Pike’s serial womanising was not over yet. Here was man in his sixties who had had at least four ‘wives’ and had slipped down from being a ship’s captain, through being a ‘bridge foreman’ to working as a building labourer; a man who was continually lying and trying to evade the authorities. You’d have thought he had had enough! But good on him, no! In Omak, Douglas County, Washington State, on the 14th May 1949, just a few months after Myrtle’s death, when Calvin was 69, he married again. This time his wife was a married mother of 49 called Ida Ellen Kopsala. There must have been something of urgency because on the day they married Calvin had to apply to the court to waive the usual three day waiting period before a wedding licence could be issued, which the court duly did. Why the rush?

But Calvin’s exploits were nearly over. He died on the 10th of  June 1950 in Everett, Snohomish in Washington State. Ida died in 1958.

But let’s go back. What happened to Grace Grisdale who had eloped with Calvin aged 15 (16) aboard his steamer in 1911? Not too long after she split with Calvin Pike, Grace married Richard Edward Cantwell in Tacoma, Washington on 7 September 1920. She gave her name as Dolores Grace Grisdale (not Pike). But something must have happened because in the 1920 US census we find her married but living alone in Tacoma: as ‘Grace Cantwell’. She was a hotel ‘servant’. Richard, it seems, was back in Charleston, South Carolina living with his mother! What was going on? The answer is that Richard was an Epileptic. We find him in the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia in 1930 and he died there in 1941 of ‘epilepsy’, which the records say had it’s ‘onset’ in 1918! Poor Richard and poor Grace.

And what of Grace? What happened to her? Well I’m still investigating that.

‘Es war ein Ereignis geradezu apokalyptische‘n Ausmaßes, das Kassel im Zweiten Weltkrieg heimsuchte: das Flächenbombardement vom 22. Oktober 1943.’

‘It was an event of almost apocalyptic proportion that visited Kasssel in the Second World War: the carpet bombing of 22 October 1943.’

Remembrance Day is nearly upon us. I was wondering what I should write. I’ve written many stories about Grisdales who fought, and often died, in the many meaningless wars over the centuries – with, I hope, much respect. My own father served and fought with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. Other close relatives lost their lives serving with the RAF. But at least WW2 had some meaning. Finally I decided to write a story about RAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Charles Leslie Grisdale, but not really. I won’t try to reconstruct Charles’s war or his life after the war when he settled down with his family on the Wirral in Cheshire. You will see what I mean.

Charles Leslie Grisdale was born n 1911 in Birkenhead, Liverpool. He was the second son of clerk William Walter Grisdale and Sarah Corless. I won’t tell the family history here, though there is much to tell.

Without getting Charles’s RAF records, I don’t know exactly when he joined the RAF or what he did in his first few years of service. So let me jump to 1943, by when Charles was a Flight Lieutenant flying Lancaster bombers with 103 Squadron out of RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire.

This was a time when the RAF was undertaking the mass carpet bombing of German cities instigated by Air Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris. As you can see from the squadron crew list below for August to October 1943, Charles’s crew bombed Mannheim, Nurnberg, Milan, Peenemunde, Berlin, Hannover, Bochum, Hagen and Munich. The attack on Peenemunde was to try to disrupt the production of Wernher von Braun’s V2 rocket. Von Braun of course would later surrender to the Americans, and he and his team of German scientists would go on to put the Americans on the moon.

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Then on 22 October at 17.58 Charles and his crew, with included a Squadron Leader called Clifford Wood, took off from RAF Elsham Wolds in Lancaster JB276, code PM-F, to join hundreds of other bombers. They never made it back. The target this time was the beautiful medieval city of Kassel.

A force of 569 heavy bombers dropped 1,800 tons on the Kassel. This included nearly 0.5 million magnesium incendiary fire sticks designed to ignite fires. Hitting specific targets at night was virtually impossible so the RAF set out to destroy the city and largely succeeded. Damage to the city’s water system made it difficult to fight the fires. Among the civilian casualties were large numbers of wounded soldiers recovering in several hospitals. About 10,000 people were killed. Estimates suggest that about half the city’s population were made homeless.

The city of Kassel, in the region of Hesse, in west-central Germany, was subjected to an ongoing bombing campaign that began in early 1942 and went on almost until the end of WWII in 1945. During the heaviest and most intense bombing raid, on the night of 22-23 October 1943, the British Royal Air Force deployed 569 bombers over Kassel’s city centre. The concentrated explosion of 1,800 tons of bombs – incendiaries among them – resulted in a lethal firestorm. At least 10,000 people died in the explosions and ensuing fires, and the flames were still burning seven days later. The city was targeted so vehemently largely because of its important military-industrial sites: the Fieseler aircraft plant, Henschel tank-making facilities, railway works and engine works were all based there. When the Americans liberated Kassel in April 1945, there were only 50,000 inhabitants; in 1939 there had been 236,000.

As this report says the ostensible aim of the raid was to attack two important armament factories, but really the aim was to destroy the city by fire.

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Kassel after the fire bombing

In the rather restrained words of Kassel’s own website (my translation):

It was an event of almost apocalyptic proportion that visited Kasssel in the Second World War: the carpet bombing of 22 October 1943.

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Fire-storm in Kassel

At 20.17 the sirens warned the 225,000 people of the town, only a few minutes later the allied air forces attacked. Within one and a half hours the bombers dropped more than 400,000 fire bombs – that amounted to two bombs per square metre in some areas of the old town. The massive firestorm during the night could be seen from 50 kilometres away. It would burn for several days to come.

After this attack Kassel was no longer the same town: 85 percent of the houses and 65 percent of the industrial areas were destroyed. In the medieval Old Town a fire storm broke out that annihilated 97 percent of the houses. The victims were estimated to have been 10,000 dead plus numberless injured. The extent of the bodily and spiritual suffering in that single night of bombing is unimaginable from the perspective of today… Almost everyone who survived the bombardment had lost relatives or friends. For the greater part of the population the bombs had left them with nothing. ‘The town was a pile of debris and most of what the people loved about Kassel was no longer there.’

When I lived and worked in Germany I visited Kassel. It is a beautiful and peaceful place, but everything you see is new, even if it looks old! The whole city had to be rebuilt from the ground up after this terrible night. So on Remembrance Day when I fall silent for a minute to remember the victims of two world wars, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, I will remember too the dead citizens of Kassel consumed by fire unleashed from above.

For the RAF this raid was one of its most costly. Out of 569 aircraft taking part 48 failed to return, including three Lancasters from 103 Squadron, one of which was Charles Grisdale’s.

I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Lancaster Charles was flying, it was pretty obviously hit by flak or shot down by a German nigh- fighter; although during this raid the RAF began ‘Operation Corona’ to jam German night-fighter communications.

Lancaster crew 103 Squadron, RAF Elsham Wolds 1943

Five members of the crew of Lancaster JB276 were killed: Sqn-Ldr C. S. F. Wood MiD, F/Sgt W. R. Brown, F/Sgt J. F. Craig DFM, Sgt C. Kershaw and Sgt H. R. Wilson. They are buried in the Hanover War Cemetery. Having no doubt bailed out, two members of the crew survived the crash, Flight Lieutenants W. H. Hopkins and Charles Grisdale. They were taken prisoner and soon sent to the POW Camp called Stalag Luft 1.

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POWs marched through Barth to Stalag Luft 1

Stalag Luft I consisted of a strip of barren land jutting into the Baltic Sea about 105 miles northwest of Berlin.  Two miles south of the main gate a massive Lutheran church marked the northern outskirts of the village of Barth.  A large pine forest bordered the west side of the camp and, to the east and north, the waters of Barth Harbour slashed against the shore less than a mile from the barbed wire fence.

Enclosing the camp there stretched miles of barbed wire, in two rows four feet apart, attached to 10-foot posts.  Every hundred yards, a Guard Tower mounting a machine gun and a pair of spotlights provided constant vigilance and permitted an unobstructed view of all within the confines of the enclosure.

The Stalag was divided into five separate areas, called compounds.  There were four for prison compounds: South or West, North 1, North 2 and North 3.  The fifth area consisted of the German buildings, in the centre, well constructed buildings, green grass, and attractive shrubbery, “The Oasis” as the prisoners called this area, was in sharp contrast to the prison compounds.

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Charles lived in the South compound, in Barrack 5, Room 20. He was, it seems, the Choirmaster of the camp, or at least of the compound. While Stalag Luft 1 was a pretty grim place there were distractions such as theatre groups, choral events, sports and a lot of writing of poetry – in between escape attempts. One anonymous poem I like written when Charles was there reads:

 KRIEGIE THOUGHTS

Barbed Wire! Barbed Wire! Barbed Wire!
To the North, South, West and East
Will it always hold me captive
Without hope or joy or peace

Must I ever curve this eager flame
That burns within my chest
Or know once more the joy of home
With pleasant hours of rest

Such questions to my mind do crowd
When deep in thought I sit
But ever with it comes the cry
It won’t be long, don’t quit

And so it goes from day to day
A never changing scene
But someday soon I will leave it all
As though it were a dream.

I won’t attempt to describe the POWs’ life in Stalag Luft 1, there are many fine works that do that on the internet. But as the war was nearing its end the Red Army was closing in on the camp from the east. Here is what happened:

555In late April, 1945 as the war in Europe was nearing its end, the Russians were approaching from the east and the British and Americans from the West in a race to get to Hitler’s headquarters in Berlin.  Stalag Luft I was north of Berlin, so it was unsure at first which of the Allied fronts would reach them first.  As the reports came in and the fighting got closer and closer to Barth, they soon realized that the Russians would be the ones liberating them.  They soon began to hear the heavy cannon fire sounds of the Russian artillery getting closer and closer to them.

At night the POWs would lay in their darkened barracks and there would be shouts of “Come On Joe” (for Joseph Stalin – the Russian leader) coming from all over the camp.   At this time it became apparent to the German Commandant and the guards at Stalag Luft I that the Russians were at their doorstep and they must make a move. So they approached the Senior Allied POW Officer of the camp, Col. Hub Zemke, and told him to prepare his fellow prisoners to march in an effort to escape the approaching Russians.  Col. Zemke refused to do so.

He informed the Commandant that even though there were over 200 of them with guns, that there were 9,000 POWs and they were prepared to fight rather than march.  He told the commandant that he realized this may cause high losses among the POWs but ultimately they would overcome the Germans and with the Russian allies so close he knew this was an acceptable risk.

The German command evidently realized that the end of Germany was near and so he accepted this decision by Col. Zemke.  The German command then informed Col. Zemke that he and the guards would be leaving the camp at midnight that night (April 30, 1945).  Col. Zemke had made plans in case such a scenario arose to take over the camp, as it was evident to him that as Senior Allied Officer he would be responsible for of the safe return of the POWs to Allied control.  He had already organized a group of hand selected men which he called the “Field Force” to help him keep the camp in order until they were all safely back in Allied hands.

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Russians at Stalag Luft 1

So when the POWs at Stalag Luft I awoke on May 1, 1945 they looked around and noticed that all the Germans were gone and now there were POWs with armbands that said “FF” manning the guard towers.  Col. Zemke explained that the POWs could not just start leaving the camp on their own, as there was a war going on all around them and they could be shot.  He felt it best to keep the camp secure in an effort to protect the POWs.  (You can imagine not many of the POWs liked this idea, they were tired of being imprisoned behind barbed wire!)

Col. Zemke sent a scouting party out to meet the approaching Russians to inform them that there was a POW camp of Allies located in the area, so the Russians would not be shelling them!  Later in the day the Russian commander entered Stalag Luft I and meet with Col. Zemke and the British Senior Officer.  The Russian commander did not like the idea of the Allied POWs still being behind barbed wire, so he ordered that Col. Zemke have the fences torn down.  Zemke refused at first, but was later convinced (some say by force, with a gun) to tear down the fences.  The POWs enthusiastically tore them down.   Many POWs then left camp and went into Barth and the surrounding areas.  Some of them (approximately 700) took off on their own to make their way to the approaching British lines (my Dad being one of those!).  In the ensuing confusion of a war still in progress all around them some of the POWs were accidentally killed.

It was the 2nd White Russian Front of the Red Army that entered Barth on May 1, 1945 and liberated the prisoners of war at Stalag Luft I.   After the fences were down the Russians then learning of the meagre food supply the POWs had been existing on soon rounded up several hundred cows and herded them into the camp for the hungry POWs to slaughter and eat.  This they did immediately.   At night they entertained the POWs with their “USO” type variety show that travelled with them.   There was much joy and celebration among the newly freed POWs and the Russian soldiers.

The Russian Army stayed in Barth for only a couple of weeks.  After the POWs were evacuated from Barth, the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) took over the empty barracks at Stalag Luft I and used them for a repatriation camp for their countrymen that had been used as slave labour by the Germans.  Those slave workers that were in the territory occupied by the Western Allies were transferred to the territory occupied by the Soviets.  They came into repatriation camps where they were interrogated by the Soviet Secret Service (GPU) and this organization decided whether the former slave workers were sent home to their families or into stalinistic camps (Gulags) to do slave work in coal mines in Siberia or somewhere else.  Even some of the newly freed concentration camp survivors which were Soviet citizens were transferred into Gulags because they had been forced to work in the German warfare industry, like in Barth where they were forced to work in the Heinkel plane factory and were imprisoned in the small concentration camp at the territory of the Barth airfield.

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Also what the Russians did

Actually one British officer described the Soviets as “drunken barbarians”. When we think of what the Russian soldiers inflicted on the women of Germany we can well imagine – and shudder. We should remember these women too. But the Russians were of course better disposed to the English-speaking airmen in the POW camps.

One Soviet officer who was there for the liberation of the camp, Vasily Bezugly, recently wrote:

Yes, I’m a live witness of the events of those days. As I remember today, it was May of 1945 on the coast of the Baltic Sea in Barth. We had a great fraternization with the English and American POWs there. At first time in my life I saw a chocolate bar. It was a big box of chocolate with the sign of the Red Cross and Half-moon.  I think that was English or American POWs (I don’t no actually but it was nearly 9000 of POWs in Stalag Luft 1). We exchanged our addresses. One of the POWs (his name was Tobby or Bobby but I don’t remember now) gave me his one, but I lost it – I was very young (at least 19 years old boy).   After that all of us – Soviet, American and English – three great nations – sang famous Russian song “Katyusha”. At the end I remember big airliner which took all POWs on its board.

It all sounds very amicable, but “the Russians wanted the prisoners transported by land to Odessa, a port on the Black Sea, then by ship to the United Kingdom and then on to the United States, but the idea was rejected and further negotiations followed. Much to the disappointment of almost 9,000 liberated POWs, it took almost two weeks to repatriate the prisoners by air”. And so May 12,13 & 14, 1945 approximately ‘9,000 prisoners of war at Stalag Luft I were flown out of Barth, Germany and back into Allied control.  Royal Air Force POWs were flown back to England and the American POWs were flown to Camp Lucky Strike in Le Harve, France, where they were processed and waited for a liberty ship to return to the states’, including Flight Lieutenant Charles Grisdale. Amazingly there is even some film footage of the POWs departing for home, one part of which is below.

After Charles arrived back in England he returned to his wife and young children in Wallasey. He had been in some ways lucky. His brother and father were less so. His brother Donald was an RAF Flight Lieutenant and bomber pilot as well, with 254 Squadron. But in February 1945, just weeks before Charles was liberated by the Russians, Donald was killed in action aged just 26. He is buried in Runnymede Memorial Part VII. Charles father’s was a clerk in Wallasey, but during the war he was a Fire Warden and was killed in a bombing raid on Liverpool in 1941. Charles other brother, William Herbert Grisdale, was to die in 1948 in interesting circumstances in Sierra Leone in Africa. But these are other stories for another time.

Charles Grisdale died on the Wirral in 1972 aged 61.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam

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When two young Bolton cotton weaver brothers came ashore in New York from the steamer Melbourne on the 15th of June 1863, perhaps they thought that they had stepped out of the frying pan into the fire. The American Civil War was still raging – Gettysburg was only a couple of weeks away – and New York was a toxic cauldron of racial and social violence and discontent. Irish and other gangs roamed the streets, illegal slave trafficking still flourished and large swathes of the population would, within the month, literally be up in arms against the war draft. Whether young John and Jonathan Grisdale were still in New York on July 13 when the New York City Draft Riots broke out we don’t know. Perhaps they were and had witnessed what New York historian Edward Robb Ellis called “the most brutal, tragic, and shameful episode in the entire history of New York City”. Or perhaps they had by then already reached their destination in the cotton mill towns of Pennsylvania, where they would undoubtedly meet up with their weaver uncle Doctor Grisdale, who had emigrated from Bolton, Lancashire, thirteen years earlier.

New York Draft Riots, 1863

Whatever the case, the two brothers soon headed south to start a new life. Both were married and had young children back in Bolton – who were to join them shortly – but for now they were on their own. Perhaps first staying for a time with uncle Doctor and his family in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, they would soon have gone to look for work in the rapidly expanding cotton mills of Pennsylvania. Like their father and grandfather before them, both young men had already spent years in the hell-holes that were the Lancashire cotton and woollen mills.

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.

Child Labour in Bolton Cotton Mill

Such was the place in which these brothers had lived and worked. They would find that the conditions in Pennsylvania’s mills really weren’t much better. Indeed many of the mills had been founded or were run by their Lancastrian compatriots.

For those of you more interested in genealogy rather than social history, I will briefly outline the brothers’ family line. Jonathan Grisdale (1832) and John Grisdale (1836) were the fourth and fifth children of Bolton cotton weaver John Grisdale senior (born 1799) and his wife Mary Wellsby. John Grisdale senior’s and Doctor’s father was 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, including in 1799 John, the emigrant brothers’ father.

The family’s earlier history is relatively easy to trace back to the first half of the seventeenth century – in Matterdale of course. Back to another Thomas Grisdale, a farmer, born in 1654 in Ulcatrow in Matterdale. This early Thomas was one of 54 tenant farmers who fought the local lord Andrew Huddleston all the way to the House of Lords in 1690 (see: Walking to London for Justice). I will leave aside the question of who was this Thomas Grisdale’s father for the time being. Those of you who are interested in such minutiae are invited to contact me.

Despite their youth both men had already had years of work in the Bolton mills behind them. This was a period when a type of child factory slavery was still the order of the day. In the 1861 census John is found living in Queen Street in Farnworth, Bolton, with his new wife and daughter. He was already a “Cotton Power Loom Manager”, quite an achievement at the age of 25. John was obviously quite proud of this fact because in A History of Delaware County Pennsylvania and its People, edited by John W. Jordan and published in 1914, when John was possibly still alive, we read:

The Grisdale family of Clifton Heights, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, are of English origin, England having been the home of the family for many generations….  (John) was educated in the common schools of his native country, and obtained his first employment in a cotton mill. His rise in the business was rapid, and when only twenty-two years of age he was promoted to the position of manager.

John Grisdale junior had married local girl Catherine Taylor in 1860, and a daughter, Sarah Jane, followed a few months later. His elder brother Jonathan was also working in the Bolton mills in 1861, as a cotton power loom “overlooker”. He had married Sophia Bamber in 1854 and before he emigrated to America with his brother the couple had had three children: Mary (1856), Richard (1860) and James (1862).

Many Lancastrian cotton mill workers were to emigrate to America, and particularly to Pennsylvania, during this period. But perhaps it is not too far-fetched to imagine that it was the brothers’ uncle Doctor Grisdale who had encouraged them to take the plunge and join him in America?

With their experience and skills they soon found work. In the 1870 US census we find Jonathan, perhaps as we might have expected, living in Middletown Delaware and working as a “loom boss”.  John his younger brother, however, although not far away in Philadelphia, was by now working as a “grocer”! In the History of Delaware County Pennsylvania and its People, we read:

In 1863 he (John) immigrated to the United States and worked for two years at the machinist’s trade, later serving an apprenticeship and learning the trade of a mason and bricklayer. In 1883 he retired from active labor and has since lived a quiet life of ease.

Yet in 1880 he was certainly back in a cotton mill in Clifton Heights, Delaware County as a “loom boss” and is listed in the same place in the US censuses of both 1900 and 1910 as a real-estate agent! So perhaps he could turn his hand to anything?

John and his wife Catherine were to have three daughters: Sarah Jane, Mary Ann and Elizabeth. The report of John’s life continues:

The old school house of Clifton Heights was erected upon land sold by him to the borough. He has held several prominent political positions in the borough, having been a member of the council for eight years and for two years was treasurer. When the local fire department was organized he was one of the charter members and contributed his most earnest efforts to raising it to its present high plane of efficiency. He is at present inspector for the borough. Both he and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

His wife Catherine, we are told, was “a trained nurse” and “she is president of the Women’s Club and a strong advocate of woman’s political equality; she is the present efficient treasurer of the borough poor fund and active in promoting all good causes”.

John died in sometime after 1914 but before 1920.  As it seems that John only had daughters – which is no bad thing – his Grisdale name died with him.

Views of Norristown in 1881

With his brother Jonathan it was quite different. As I said earlier, he and his wife Sophia had had three children in England: Mary Ann (1856), Richard (1860) and James (1862). They arrived in America with Sophia aboard the steam-ship City of London on the 5th October 1863. Five more American-born children were to follow: Jonathan (1866), William Henry (1868), Thomas (1871), George (1874) and Sofia (1878).

As I have mentioned, by 1870 Jonathan and his family were living in Middletown, Delaware, where he was working as a “loom boss” in a cotton mill. By 1880 they had moved to nearby Norristown, Pennsylvania and Jonathan was still working in a cotton mill.

Norristown was incorporated in 1812 on the east bank of the Schuylkill River and expanded in 1853. It was named after early mill owner Charles Norris. When the Pennsylvania canal system connected Morristown with Philadelphia in 1826, the town prospered as a trade center. Mills began to emerge along the waterways.

Many of Jonathan’s sons, and indeed grandsons, were to follow him into the cotton and woollen mills of Norristown, where an untold number of his descendants still live to this day.

Jamison Mills, Norristown, 1883

In which Norristown cotton mill did Jonathan Grisdale work? It’s of course possible he worked in more than one. Let’s first ask where he lived in the town. In 1880 he was living around Main Street. Various city directories and (after his death in 1888) the 1900 census show that the family house was at 320 Hamilton Street “below West Main Street”, so right in the heart of the original town and very close to many of the town’s largest cotton mills straggling along the Schuylkill river. The nearest mills was probably Washington Woollen Mills near the Montgomery Cemetery, but Jonathan could easily have walked along the river to Bullock’s Mills, Simpson’s Mills, De Kalb Street Mills/Jamison’s Mills or even to the Ford Street Cotton and Woollen Mills.

While not perhaps quite on the scale of some of the Bolton cotton mills in which the Grisdale brothers might have previously worked, a couple of these Norristown factories were pretty large operations, as the drawing of the Jamison Mills factory clearly shows.

Jonathan’s brother John had just perhaps fared slightly better. He was after all deemed worthy of an entry in the Montgomery County history, which said that “in 1883 he retired from active labor and has since lived a quiet life of ease”. I am sure that with a bit of local research more can be discovered about both Jonathan and John Grisdale’s lives. Perhaps their descendants can add more? I hope so.

Jonathan Grisdale died in 1888 in Norristown at the age of just 56.

I will leave Norristown and Pennsylvania now and very briefly tell the tale of one other member of the same cotton weaver family who also came to America and founded his own little Grisdale tribe in and around Gaston County in North Carolina.

SS City of New York

SS City of New York

Jonathan and John Grisdale had an older brother called Thomas, born in 1821 in Bolton. He had married Maria Howarth in Bolton in 1841. Two sons followed: James in 1845 and John in 1846. It seems that shortly thereafter Thomas died. At first the two young boys lived with their mother Maria, but maybe it was too much for her, because by 1861 James was living with his uncle John (the American immigrant) and Catherine his wife. He is clearly listed as John’s nephew in the census. What became of James’s mother and brother is unknown but what we do know is that James also decided to make the voyage to Pennsylvania. He arrived in New York from Liverpool on the 21st December 1866 on the ship City of New York. Like his relatives before him he made his way to the Pennsylvania mills, because he too was of course a cotton weaver. James soon married Dealware-born Annie Cannon and by 1870 with their new son, also called John, they were living with James’ uncle John in Philadelphia, and James was back in a cotton mill. I hope you’re keeping up! (see here)

But, for whatever reason, sometime between 1871 and 1879 James and his growing family moved on; to live and work in and around Gaston, North Carolina.  I will probably have to return to explain James’ family in more detail at another time. But for now why did James move to North Carolina? Well, as we might expect, it had to do with cotton mills.

In addition to its rail connections, Gaston County was a prime location for water-powered cotton manufacturing on account of its many fast-flowing rivers and streams, its location in the midst of a cotton growing region, and the availability of cheap labor. By 1897 Gaston County had the largest number of cotton mills of any county in the state, twenty-two total, representing 10.6 percent of the state total of 207 cotton mills.

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

In 1880, James was living in Mountain Island Village, Gaston, North Carolina, and working as a “Superintendent in a Cotton Mill”.

A cotton mill, said by some authorities to be the first in Gaston County, was established on Mountain Island in 1848 by Thomas R. Tate and Henry Humphreys, owners of the Mount Hecla steam-powered mill near…. They hoped to take advantage of the less expensive water power from the Catawba River. The site at river’s edge featured a partially completed canal around the shoals that could be used for a mill race, and a steep island whose top now rises from the lake. Machinery was moved from the Mount Hecla mill by mule-drawn wagon and operations began in 1849. A village of brick houses grew around the mill. The mill and village were destroyed on July 15, 1916 in a flood caused by a hurricane.

Long Island Cotton Mill

Long Island Cotton Mill

By 1882, James had moved to the Long Island Cotton Mill in Catawba (which is now under Lake Norman). A letter to The Landmark newspaper dated 1882, tells us that the mill had been recently acquired by the Turner Brothers and that ‘James Grisdale, an Englishman of vast experience,’ had ‘the general supervision of the factory’.

By 1900, James and his family were in McAdenville, Gaston, North Carolina, still working in a cotton mill, almost certainly in the huge McAden Mills. McAden Mills claimed to be the first textile mill in the South to install electric lights. According to historian Billy Miller:

In 1884 Thomas Alva Edison came to McAdenville to oversee and help install the first electrical generator in the South…The lights hung from the ceiling of the mills and were spaced about thirty feet apart. People came from everywhere to gawk at the miraculous new lighting technology.

McAden’s Mill, McAdenville, North Carolina

The couple had at least seven children, either born in Pennsylvania or, later, in North Carolina: five boys and two girls. Many of their descendants still live around there to this day.

So this is my brief history of three Bolton cotton weavers who “went America”. As we (sometimes) say in England, “The boys done good”.

I guess that next I’ll have to write a bit about another Thomas, the brother of Doctor and John Grisdale, who went to India with the British army, married there, and then moved on to Australia – where he arrived in Melbourne from Bombay on the Strathfieldsaye  in November 1853. Maybe I might even write about the members of the family who stayed in Bolton. Or perhaps I should come more up-to-date and tell my own Grisdale family story? Let’s see.

McAden Mill

McAden Mill

After Sergeant Major Levi Grisdale left the army in 1825, having completed twenty-two years of service that had seen him capture Napoleon’s favourite general, fight in thirty-two battles and lead the Prussians onto the field of Waterloo, he eventually settled down back in his home town of Penrith. There he had five children with his second wife Mary Western. Thomas was the fourth of these. He was born in 1841 in Penrith and was to become a clerk in the Postal Service, a decision that would take his family far to the south – to the London suburb of Barnes in Surrey. It was in the nearby suburb of Wandsworth that Thomas’s grandson, Philip Thomas Grisdale, was born in 1917.

Spitfire of 72 Squadron Biggin Hill

Spitfire of 72 Squadron Biggin Hill

Philip’s father, Charles Philip Grisdale, had also joined the post office, passed exams, and done well for himself and his family before becoming a successful ‘commercial traveller’. The family lived at 21 Quarry Road in Wandsworth in a solidly middle-class house. It was here that Philip grew up with his twin brother Thomas Grover Grisdale. In 1938, when he was twenty-one, Philip married Averil Bush in Wandsworth. The couple had  one son: Carroll P Grisdale.

Without consulting the RAF records I don’t yet know when exactly Philip joined the RAF, what squadron he was initially posted to and whether or not he fought as a pilot in the Battle of Britain. However I do know he arrived at 72 Squadron on July 26th 1941 from 234 Squadron at RAF Warmwell – flying Spitfires. He had the rank of Flight Sergeant in 72 Squadron, which had just returned to the famous Biggin Hill airbase in Kent. The squadron had been reformed in 1937 and in 1939 Spitfires replaced its aging Gloster Gladiators. It had assisted in the evacuation of Dunkirk and fought in the Battle of Britain.

Spitfire in colours of 234 Squadron

Spitfire in colours of 234 Squadron

72 Squadron at Biggin Hill in July 1941

72 Squadron at Biggin Hill in July 1941

By the autumn of 1941 the RAF had shifted from defending Britain towards ‘offensive sweeps’ over mainland Europe. On the 29 August 1941, 72 Squadron’s Spitfires escorted a formation of Blenheim bombers on a raid to the important railway yards at Hazebrouck, a small town near Dunkirk in the Flemish region of France.

The raid, or ‘Circus’ met stiff resistance from German anti-aircraft fire and engaged a large body of German fighters. And so, it would appear, it was near here at half past eight in the morning that Philip Grisdale had the misfortune to encounter one of the Luftwaffe’s veritable fighter-aces, Oberleutnant Hermann Seegatz, flying a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Hermann was the same age as Philip; he was born on 24 June 1917 in Fuerstengrube in German Silesia (now in Poland). His first air ‘kill’ was during the Battle of Britain when he shot down a Spitfire ‘south west of Dover’ on 7 July 1940. By August 1941 he was with no 4 Squadron of the second group of the 26th Fighter Wing (4.11/JG26) based at Abbeville airfield in northern France. JG26 was commanded by the famous ace Adolf Galland. They were known as either “The Abbeville Boys” or “The Abbeville Kids” by both the British and Americans who flew against them.

Due to the quality of leadership, attention giving to training replacement pilots, and the professionalism shown by these Luftwaffe pilots the Allied pilots came to respect the “Abbeville Boys”. Any yellow nosed Messerschmitt or Focke-Wulf 190… ever seen was reported as being flown by JG26. Bomber crews especially were respectful of them due to their ability to penetrate the fighter screen and shoot them down. JG26 is regarded as having some of the best pilots in the Luftwaffe throughout the War.

Douglas Bader with Adolf Galland

Douglas Bader with Adolf Galland

Only three weeks before on the 9th of August, RAF ace Captain Douglas Bader had bailed out over St Omer in France. ‘Bader was well known to the Luftwaffe and at the time of his capture had been credited with 22 aerial victories. Galland himself claimed two Spitfires on that date. Galland and JG 26 entertained Bader over the next few days. Owing to the significant stature of the prisoner, Galland permitted Bader, under escort, to sit in the cockpit of a Bf 109. Apparently, despite losing one of his tin legs in the aircraft, Bader, in a semi-serious way, asked if they wouldn’t mind if he took it on a test flight around the airfield. Galland replied that he feared Douglas would attempt to escape and they would have to give chase and shoot at each other again, and declined the request.’

Seegatz already had 14 confirmed victories to his name the day he fought Grisdale in his Spitfire; a total that would eventually reach forty.

Seegatz's ME-109 'Beware Novices!'

Seegatz’s ME-109 ‘Beware Novices!’

Hermann was the ‘Squadron clown’. At one early stage he had the words ‘Beware Novice(s)!’ (‘Achtung Anfaenger!’) emblazoned on his ME-109, either as a warning to his adversaries or more probably as a tongue-in-check reference to himself. (See picture). His personal emblem was a Tyrolean Eagle, which can just be seen in the second picture of him with his Messerschmitt . Maybe Philip Grisdale caught a glimpse of this Eagle of the yellow-nosed ME-109 on that day in 1941, or maybe he never saw Hermann coming. We will never know. But in any case Philip was shot down and died while attempting a forced-landing (see below). The place was Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast. When his squadron returned to Biggin Hill Philip was reported missing in action. Seegatz claimed his 15th air victory, reporting that he had shot down a Spitfire near Nieuwpoort and had seen it crash.

Was this Spitfire definitely Philip’s? We can never be 100% sure, but all the evidence points in that direction and all the ‘experts’ who investigate such things concur that it was. The authoritative JG 26 Luftwaffe Fighter Wing War Diary, Volume 1; Volumes 1939-1942, by  Donald Caldwell, clearly shows that the Spitfire shot down by Seegatz belonged to 72 Squadron, while 72 Squadron’s records indicate that only one of their planes failed to return that day: that of Sergeant P. T. Grisdale.

Tom Docherty in his definitive Swift to Battle: No 72 Fighter Squadron RAF in Action, 1937 – 1942 writes:

On the 29th (August) it was back to Hazebrook marshalling yards as escort to the bombers of Circus No 88. Twelve Spitfires, led by Sqn Ldr Sheen, took part, and as they crossed the coast near Hardelot a large number of Bf109s were sighted. Sqn Ldr Sheen decided that they were a distinct threat to the squadron, and led the Spitfires into a running battle, which stretched into the middle of the Channel. During the fight Sqn Ldr Sheen (W3380) damaged a Bf109, Plt Off Rosser (W3441) destroyed one, Flt Lt Kosinski (W3511) destroyed one Bf109 and possibly destroyed another. On the debit side of the battle Sgt Grisdale (P8713) called up on the R/T informing his squadron mates that he was force-landing in France. Grisdale was killed. Sheen recorded. ‘Circus!? 1 Me109 damaged. Attack on N. France. Sqn versus 250 + 109s. 30 miles inland.’

Philip Thomas Grisdale is buried in Zandwoorde British Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium.

Like many allies airmen shot down during the war maybe Philip had first been buried locally and only later reinterred at Zandwoorde.

Hermann Seegatz with his Tyrolean Emblem in Abbeville

Hermann Seegatz with his Tyrolean Eagle ME-109 in Abbeville

What became of fighter-ace Hermann Seegatz? He claimed his next victory only two days later – another Spitfire. Later he was posted to Russia where his victories continued, before returning to Germany to help in the defence of the Fatherland. He became a Captain, then an Adjutant and finally, in 1944, a ‘Group Commander’. On 8 March 1944, Hermann scored his 40th, and last, victory. He shot down an American B-17 Flying Fortress at ‘Luben north of Luchnau’ before being shot down himself, probably by an American fighter. The German records tell us that Hauptmann Seegatz of the First Fighter Wing crashed in his Focke Wulf 190 after an ‘air battle’ with a fighter (‘Absturz nach Luftkampf mit Jaeger’). His aircraft was totally destroyed and he was ‘tot’ – dead.

Hermann Seegatz, Luftwaffe fighter-ace, is buried in Bernburg/Saale Cemetery.

The Grisdale family had gone from Waterloo to WW2, fighting for ‘King and Country’. ‘Hero’ Levi Grisdale had survived to tell his tales, his great grandson Philip had not.

Philip Grisdale, third from left, with 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill shortly before his death.

Philip Grisdale, third from left, with 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill shortly before his death.

I’d like to end with a poem much beloved of pilots everywhere. It’s called High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee, and adorns the wall of my own flying club:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I hope both Philip and Hermann did manage to ‘touch the face of God’.

The Abbeville Boys

The Abbeville Boys

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.