Archive for April, 2014

William R Grisdale was an English-born coal miner who had arrived in Bellville, St Clair County, Illinois before the Civil War, and had then served and fought in three separate Illinois infantry regiments until the Union forces were victorious. He then was part of the Grand Review of the Union armies, which paraded in front of President Andrew Johnson in Washington in May 1865. I’ll tell this story at a later date. Here I’d like to jump forward to 1878, when William was about 52.

Grand Review of the armies, 1865

Grand Review of the armies, 1865

Sometime prior to 1878 miner William had arrived with his wife Anna Lee, whom he had married in Belleville Illinois in 1865, to work in the coal mines in Coal Greek and Stringtown, in Wabash Township, Fountain County, Indiana.

The History of Fountain County published in 1881 describes the area thus:

“String Town” is a mining place close to Snoddy’s mill. It is a collection of cheap houses mostly erected by the coal companies to be used by the miners. It is of mushroom growth, and an immense business is done, especially in liquors, there being about seventeen saloons at this point. It is hoped that the better element will become stronger, and that at some time this intemperance will cease. There are about 600 men employed in the mines, and the demand for coal is far beyond the ability to supply on account of the scarcity of conveyance. There are religious organizations here, but mostly composed of foreigners engaged in mining.

Map of Wabash and Coal Creek

Map of Wabash and Coal Creek

It was a rum old place and life was hard for the mostly ‘foreign’ miners. In the excellent Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class and Conflict, 1780 – 1980, Ronald Lewis tells us the story of some events in Coal Creek in 1878.

At Coal Creek Indiana… black imports were brought in to break a strike of the Miners’ National Association in 1878. It was not long before violence erupted between local residents and some of the new arrivals. On April 18 a company of militia retired to a local saloon after drilling all day. When an altercation occurred between them and several of the scabs, the militia men grabbed their firearms, shot four blacks to death, and wounded a white blackleg named “Buffalo Bill”. The incident quickly polarized the contending factions in the dispute, and the passions of local white citizens were fanned to a white heat. As a precaution, the operators placed seventy-five rifles in the hands of the black scabs with directions to defend themselves if threatened. From the white unionists’ point of view, importing blacks was a loathsome act, and arming them was dangerous, but when the company began to pay the scabs in the all-white town of Knightsville, they added insult to injury by bringing the pariahs into unavoidable contact with the white miners’ families.

Tensions were heightened to the point of explosion the following month during the trial, when Frank Kelly, the leading witness for the defence of the white militiamen, passed several black miners and, without a word drew a revolver, shot one of them dead, and wounded two others. Pursued by the armed blacks, Kelly then ran up a ravine where he took refuge in a friend’s house. The irate blacks surrounded the building and peppered it with bullets, wounding Kelly and another of the occupants. A major race riot appeared imminent as forty-five blacks from Joliet set out for Coal Creek to help the outnumbered blacks defend themselves, but a large number of deputized citizens intervened and arrested the principals in the affray.

The other ‘occupant’ of the house where Kelly sought refuge was William Grisdale, who, as mentioned, was wounded by the black miners.

Indiana Coal Miner

Indiana Coal Miner

Following the events in April when a company of local militia had ‘shot four blacks to death’, we know that Frank Kelly had been the ‘leading’ witness for the defence of the militiamen. We even know the names of three of the four black miners killed: Philip Cozzens, Thomas Cooper and John Miles. It seems that there were fourteen white militiamen who stood trial for the murders, and one of these was William Grisdale. Reporting on the acquittal of the defendants in Covington, the Rochester Independent wrote on 4 May 1878 that William Grisdale was accused of killing Thomas Cooper but despite the fact that the judge probably believed him to be guilty he was released on bail. So the black miners probably held a grudge against William Grisdale as well as Frank Kelly.

Returning to events in June, The Huntington Democrat reported on 20 June 1878:


The Troubles between the White and Colored Miners in Fountain County Renewed. A Bloody Riot Inaugurated by the Black Blood Hounds. A War of Races.

By Telegraph to Indianapolis Sentinel.  Covington. Ind, June 15.

The trouble between the white and colored miners broke out afresh this morning at Coal Creek, 10 miles from here. At 11 o’clock the people living In the vicinity of McVey’s saloon were alarmed by shots being fired from guns in the hands of the negroes who came running down the street whooping and hallooing “kill every damned white son of a bitch there is”. The first person who they met in their road was one Frank Kelly whom was a very important witness for the white miners in the trial for the killing of Phil Cozzens last April. Kelly was standing in front of Russell’s store when he was charged upon by ten or twelve negroes armed with Springfield and Henry rifles, who opened fire upon him, and were soon joined by 20 – 30 or more, all fully armed and equipped.

SO ENTIRELY SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED was the attack that no time was given to effect an escape; but heroic as a martyr he stood his ground, and only fled after emptying the contents of his revolver at the infuriated mob. Three of his shots took effect in as many different negroes. Tom Mims received a wound in the left side, passing through his bowels, from the effects of which he has since died. The other two were only slightly wounded. Immediately after Kelly had emptied his revolver he, with old Billy Grysdale, attempted to seek shelter and safety in the house of Charles Habberton, but with no degree of success, for after gaining an entrance and locking the doors and windows he went up stairs where Grysdale received a wound in the left leg, but not of a serious character.

THE NEGROES SURROUNDED THE HOUSE and completely riddled it with bullets breaking almost every window glass, one end presenting the appearance of a nutmeg-grater. One of the villains more daring than the rest forced an entrance through a window, carrying a bundle of straw saturated with kerosene, which he placed against a door and set on fire, remarking that he would scorch the son of a bitch out and get a fair shot at him, but before he could accomplish his diabolical scheme they were frightened away by the rumour that the sheriff, with a large posse from Covington, were on the road to quell the disturbance. Billy Grysdale succeeded in extinguishing the .fire before any serious damage was done and then fainted from weakness and loss of blood.

THE SHERIFF INTERFERES. At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon Deputy Sheriff Potts, with an efficient posse of twenty men, arrived on the battle field, and without more trouble, succeeded in dispersing the mob, only two or three making any attempt at resistance, but through the coolness and candour of T. M. Rinn and Peter C. McMahon all were disarmed and arrested. Up to the present forty have been arrested, mostly negroes; also Henry Phelps, bookkeeper, and John Barrowman, pit boss of the Fountain coal company, who are now having a hearing in the courthouse.

THE TROUBLE BEGAN more than a year 1 ago, but nothing of a serious nature transpired until last August, when the negro miners made a raid on Stringtown, but did not do any damage beyond frightening the women and children. The trouble last April culminated in a riot, in which three negroes were killed and one wounded, for which fourteen of the white miners were indicted, but upon trial were not convicted. Since then the more desperate of the blood hounds have made repeated threats upon the lives of those who were discharged, saying that if they wanted to live many more days they had better get out of town. Only last week two boxes of arms were shipped to S. W. Phelps, superintendent of the Fountain coal company and marked “DIAMOND DRILL.” This morning 45 negro miners from Brad wood, Illinois, were received by Phelps, most of whom were armed before they had been in the town 20 minutes, and a number have been identified as participating in the shooting. The people of Covington and the surrounding country are on the tiptoe of excitement, but should any further attempt at lawlessness be made there is a sufficient number ready and willing to squelch it. At 10 o’clock everything is quiet. The town is being patrolled by the Wabash guards, under their leader, Captain James Tipton. They are armed with the improved Springfield rifles. The sheriff and assistants have returned with seven or more prisoners, all negroes.

Black Coal Miners

Black Coal Miners

Here we hear again about ‘Old Billy Grysdale’ who had sought ‘shelter and safety in the house of Charles Habberton’, only to ‘receive a wound in the left leg, but not of a serious character’. ‘Billy Grysdale succeeded in extinguishing the fire before any serious damage was done and then fainted from weakness and loss of blood.’

According to this report Frank Kelly was ‘standing in front of Russell’s store when he was charged upon by ten or twelve negroes armed with Springfield and Henry rifles, who opened fire upon him’. This reporter portrayed Kelly as being ‘heroic as a martyr’ because ‘he stood his ground, and only fled after emptying the contents of his revolver at the infuriated mob’.

We get a somewhat different, and perhaps fairer, version of events that day from a report in The Republican which also appeared on 20 June:

Another miners’ outbreak occurred at Coal Creek, Fountain county, last Saturday, in which one colored man, named Thomas Mims, was killed, and two colored men and two white men slightly wounded. There are many conflicting statements in regard to the origins of the affray. The negroes say that Frank Kelley, the man who gave the testimony that resulted in the acquittal of the rioters who were arraigned for the murder of Philip Cozzens, last April, commenced the firing without any provocation, and mortally wounded Mms, and slightly wounded two others, after which they ran to their houses, got their guns and pursued him to Habberton’s house, where he took refuge, and they continued firing until he and a man named Grysdale were slightly wounded. Kelley says that he had been threatened with death if he passed between two rows of houses, where he has been in the habit of passing, that he was met by several negroes, who ordered him back and threatened to kill him, he drew his revolver, but before he could use it, was shot in the left arm, that he then fired, mortally wounding Mims. Twenty-nine negroes and eight white men are under arrest. The real cause of the trouble seems to be a determination to drive out the negroes who are working at less wages than the old miners were willing to take.

Also on the 20th June, the Logansport Pharos reported that ‘a warrant was issued against over 30 people for the shooting of William Grysdale’. It referred to 6 other white men being arrested for the killing of John Miles and Thomas Cooper and noted that they were 6 of the 14 who were acquitted last quarter of the killing of Phillip Cozzens.

Things did start to get better in Coal Creek. Ronald Lewis writes: ‘By the following year, however, circumstances in the Coal Creek district had improved dramatically. A union official wrote in the National Labor Tribune that he and a fellow organizer had stopped at Coal Creek, he was proud that:

Organization is progressing there even beyond our most sanguine expectations among both white and colored, for now the two colors meet on the most fraternal terms, and all express their firm determination to pull together and work in harmony for the future, without any distinction of color. This is as it should be, for our interests are identical. We must meet the colored men on fraternal terms, for we must not elevate ourselves by trying to keep them down. We must try to bring them up to our level, and it will not take so great an effort as many might imagine, for to our shame be it said, the colored men (according to their chances) are ahead of our white men in the principles of organization, and they do not seem to be so much afraid of it.

Walnut Hill Cemetery, Belleville

Walnut Hill Cemetery, Belleville

And this is more or less the last we hear of Old Billy Grysdale; almost but not quite. William continued to work as a miner in Indiana despite his wound, but by November 1883, aged about 56, his hard life had caught up with him, and from Indiana he applied for a US Civil War Pension, writing his name William R Grysdale. All his Civil War service is listed on his application. When and where William died isn’t known, it was probably a little before 1890, because on 13 October of that year his wife widow Anna, now back in her home town of Belleville, Illinois applied for a Civil War widow’s pension. Anna died in Belleville on 4 Dec 1895 and is buried in Belleville’s Walnut Hill cemetery.

I’ll return to William’s mining life in Belleville and his Civil War at a later date. There is in fact a link with the first US coal miners’ trade union:

Belleville Illinois around 1865

Belleville Illinois around 1865

‘In 1861, a group of miners met at Belleville, Illinois, and established the American Miners’ Association. This organization was the first nationwide union for miners in the United States. During this period, mineworkers faced numerous difficulties. During the late 1800s, industries were in great need of coal, iron ore, and other raw materials. Many mine owners saw an opportunity to garner great wealth by paying their miners low wages, while supplying other industries with raw materials. Mineworkers commonly earned less than one dollar per day for a twelve to fourteen hour workday. Workers also routinely received no health insurance, workers’ compensation, or vacation time.

To protest the poor conditions, workers formed unions, such as the American Miners’ Association. Before this point, numerous miners belonged to local unions, where the workers of a single mine or for a single company might have formed a collective bargaining organization. The American Miners’ Association hoped to unite miners across the United States together to bring more pressure on mine owners to improve conditions. In 1864, the American Miners’ Association published the following song to publicize its views:

Step by step, the longest march
Can be won, can be won;
Single stones will form an arch
One by one, one by one
And, by Union what we will
Can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none.

Despite its lofty goals, the American Miners’ Association had limited success…  As a result of its poor membership, the American Miners’ Association ceased operation in 1868. Over the next several decades…, organizations, such as the Ohio Miners’ Amalgamated Association and the United Mine Workers, experienced greater success in uniting miners together.’

‘There is a clear pool, whose waters gleam like silver. It is not tainted by shepherds, or by their she-goats grazing on the mountain. Nor is it muddied by cattle, or by birds or wild animals, or by a branch fallen from a tree.’

Lead mining had been going on in the Pennines for hundreds of years. Much of this early mining was carried out by a process known as ‘hushing’. It was a type of opencast working using water. ‘This involved building a small turf dam at the top of a hill above the area to be worked. When it was full the water was released and rushed down the hillside scouring the soil and any loose rock away. Once the vein was uncovered, crowbars, chisels and hammers were used to loosen the rock and extract ore. In this process, which was repeated over and over again, broken rock accumulated on the floor of the hush and was eventually washed away.’ Later on shaft and levels were dug.

map 5One of these Pennine lead mining areas was around Dufton and Milburn in the Eden Valley in Westmorland. The mines here were owned by the local nobility such as the Tufton family, the earls of Thanet. It is, as one writer put it, a place of ‘open moorland, bleak, windswept and inhospitable at the best of times’. The story goes that ‘travelling through this area at the end of the 17th Century two Quaker women were so concerned by the conditions of the lead miners and their families that they sponsored the involvement of the Quakers in lead mining with the formation of the Quaker Company.’

A group of Quakers duly set up such a company, known commonly as the London Lead Mining Company, but more fully as The Company for Smelting Down Lead with Pit coal. ‘The company was set up by a number of Quakers in 1692 with mining interests in Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as the North Pennines, mining coal and silver as well as lead and at one time (1705-37) supplying so much silver to the Royal Mint that coins were known as the Quaker coinage.’

In Dufton the company not only developed the lead mines but also built mine workers’ cottages and farmsteads. ‘The company had a smelt-mill to the south of the village and it built a water supply system in the form of a syke, which is still visible on the south side of the village green, and later a piped supply with supply points and central fountain/trough erected in the late nineteenth century.’ The Quaker capitalists were always well intentioned. In Dufton they had a fountain constructed on the village green with a Latin inscription which reads in English:

There is a clear pool, whose waters gleam like silver. It is not tainted by shepherds, or by their she-goats grazing on the mountain. Nor is it muddied by cattle, or by birds or wild animals, or by a branch fallen from a tree.

Clean water or not, the ‘reality for most was a life cut short by lung disease and a constant struggle to make ends meet’.

John Wesley preaching in the north of England

John Wesley preaching in the north of England

Not surprisingly the whole of the Pennines become a stronghold of Methodism and other forms of non-conformism. One of the earliest Methodist preachers in the North Pennines was Christopher Hopper: ‘the apostle of Methodism through a large section of the North country’. John Wesley said that Hopper and John Brown first came to nearby Weardale in 1748 but met with no encouragement. Hopper wrote in his diary: ‘It was in a storm of snow that we crossed the quagmires and enormous mountains. When we came into the dale we met with a very cold reception. The enemy had barricaded the place, and made his bulwarks strong.’ He returned the next year when four people ‘found peace with God and agreed to meet together’. Hooper and others kept coming and by 1772 there were one hundred and twenty Methodists in Weardale. One preacher, George Story, wrote:

I exerted myself much above my strength both in preaching and travelling, often venturing in tempestuous weather over those dreary fells when even the mountaineers themselves durst not. I was frequently in danger of being swallowed up in the bogs, or carried away by the torrents. Sometimes I have rode over valleys where the snow was eight or ten feet deep, for two or three furlongs together.

Hopper wrote about his work:

My little substance soon failed, and I saw nothing before me but beggary and great afflictions. Sometimes I was carried above all earthly objects, and had a comfortable view of the heavenly country. At other times I was much depressed, and I could see nothing but poverty and distress.

One family who were eventually to become Methodists was a Grisdale lead-mining family in Dufton/Milburn. Who were they and how had they come there?

North Pennine Lead Miners

North Pennine Lead Miners

In the early 1700s, these Grisdale lead miners were, without much doubt, working for the Quaker-owned London Lead Mining Company. By the late 1730s, John Grisdale and his wife Jennet Robinson were having their first children: daughter Mary was born in 1735, followed by Ann in 1738 and Richard in 1743. John had three brothers, Anthony, Richard and William, who were lead miners too. Their father, another John Grisdale (‘senior’) was probably born in Milburn in the early 1670s, although I can find no record of such a birth. I believe his parents were Anthony Grisdale and Dorothy Hasty who married in nearby Melmerby in July 1671. Anthony died in Milburn. The reason I believe Anthony was the father of John and his brothers (and sisters) is because John named his first born son Anthony in Milburn in 1697, and the name would recur in the families of some of his descendants who became lead miners in nearby Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales in later times.

Anthony is in fact an extremely rare name in the Grisdale family, both at this time and later. Except for the Milburn/Swaledale Anthonys, the only other family where the name crops up at all is in the family of an Anthony Grisdale who was born somewhere in Cumberland around 1600, but by 1627 at the latest was living in the town of Wigton. His son Alexander was the father of the Harrington coal miner Henry Grisdale I wrote about in an earlier article (see here). Several of Henry’s descendants were also called their children Anthony. So I believe that Anthony Grisdale of Milburn, the putative father of John Grisdale Senior, was either another unrecorded son of Anthony Grisdale of Wigton or, less likely though still possible, the son of this Wigton Anthony himself.

Leaving aside these genealogical considerations, there can only have been one thing that brought Anthony Grisdale to the Milburn/Dufton area around the year 1671: to work in the lead mines.

Dufton today

Dufton today

We can get a feel for the Dufton mine from a report entitled ‘A geological account of the Lead Mine in Dufton in Westmoreland’ written by geologist T. Allan to The Journal of Science and the Arts in 1813:

Dufton is situated near the great road from London to Glasgow, and is, consequently, to be visited with less inconvenience than any other mining district in the north of England. It lies three miles north of Appleby in Westmoreland, on the west side of a range of hills which extends from the borders of Scotland, and includes Cross Fell, and the mining district of Alstone Moor. Along the western verge of this range, there are several detached and remarkably regular conical hills, the appearance of which had often attracted my attention, when passing along the road between Penrith and Kendal. It is on the west side of one of these, which is called Dufton Pike, and which I should guess to be about 600 feet high, that the village of Dufton is situated; and the hill is so placed, that the ravine in which the mine occurs is entirely concealed from view…..

The ravine in which the mines are wrought, may be about half a mile wide at the entrance, and extends from Dufton Pike about a mile and a half: the ascent to the mines is steep, but such as to be practicable with carts…

The vein was originally wrought on the summit of the western front of the precipice; and the lead produced by hushing; that is, by bringing a stream of water to run over the place where it crept out. Subsequently a level was constructed…

Augustine Washington Snr.

Augustine Washington Snr.

But what about George Washington? What connection could the Grisdale lead miners have had with the future first President of the United States? The answer lies in the local market town of Appleby, which is situated only three miles from the Dufton lead mine. It was in Appleby that George Washington’s father Augustine Washington (called ‘Gus’) had spent several ‘unhappy years’ at Appleby’s Grammar School as a boy. Despite his unhappiness, in 1729 he decided to send his sons Lawrence and Augustine Jnr there too. They came all the way from Virginia. Lawrence was to stay at the school until 1738 when he returned to Virginia. George Washington was the son of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball. He too was all set to come to the Grammar School in Appleby when his father died in 1743.

When the American War of Independence was nearing its end in October 1781, the captured English captain of the frigate Guadeloupe was questioned by George Washington. On hearing that the captain was from Appleby, Washington replied:

I am very glad to meet a Westmorland man, my family sprang from that country and my brother was at Appleby School.

Appleby Grammar School

Appleby Grammar School

Perhaps when John Grisdale and his wife Jennet visited Appleby from time to time to make purchases or join in the fun of the fair, they might just have seen George Washington’s brothers around the Grammar School? Paths do cross, but the Washington and Grisdale families lived in parallel universes. By chance, George Washington didn’t come to study in Appleby and went on to great things. This Grisdale family were set for centuries of mining poverty and death.

It was probably a cold and windy day in New York’s docks in late October 1872 when two young English mothers stepped ashore. Both women had young children and they probably were holding their hands tightly as they walked down the gang-plank. Helen and Mary Ann Campbell had made the two week voyage from Liverpool on Cunard’s steamship Batavia without their husbands, Joseph and John Campbell, who had already been in America for three years. Did the women have any inkling that they would soon be in the heart of the faraway Dakota Territory and witness some of the most famous, and sad, events in the final stages of the ‘winning of the American West’? They would see General Custer depart for his expedition into the Black Hills of the Lakota Indians and the subsequent gold rush that ensued. They would be close to the last resistance of the Native Americans, their victory over General Custer and his Seventh cavalry at Little Big Horn, and the brutal massacres that followed.

Helen’s husband Joseph Hugh Campbell was a former gunner in the British Royal Marine Artillery, and a wheelwright by trade. Her sister-in-law Mary Ann was married to Joseph’s younger brother John Hugh Campbell. It’s most likely that the husbands were in New York to greet their families. Joseph would not even yet have seen his son Charles, who had been born after he had left for America. There was a third brother, Robert, who was in America too, and more than likely he came to New York’s docks too.

Great Yarmouth in the nineteenth century

Great Yarmouth in the nineteenth century

All three brothers were born in the bustling maritime town of Yarmouth in Norfolk, children of millwright Hugh Campbell and his long-term partner Martha Midsummer Callf. Hugh wouldn’t be able to marry Martha until 1874 after his first wife Mary Ward had died. As the family name suggests, the Campbells were originally from Scotland, but Hugh’s grandfather, also called Hugh, had come to Yarmouth from Killin in Perthshire in about 1760. The family were always involved with the sea and some of them went off to London to build ships in the docklands of East London before returning to Norfolk. I might tell this fascinating story at a later time.

Joseph was born in 1839 and probably joined the Royal Marines in the late 1850s. We don’t know the exact date or the cirumstances. But we know that in 1861 he was serving as a gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery based at Fort Cumberland on Portsea, near Portsmouth in  Hampshire on the south coast of England. Fort Cumberland was ‘first built in 1746 on the eastern tip of Portsea Island, protecting the flank of Portsmouth some miles west across the marshes, the fort was later rebuilt in a star-shaped design’.

Fort Cumberland, Portsea, Hampshire

Fort Cumberland, Portsea, Hampshire

‘After the formation of the Royal Marine Artillery in 1804, the Companies that were attached to the Portsmouth Division of Royal Marines required a base to exercise and train with their field artillery and naval cannons. From 1817 Fort Cumberland was used, and from 1858 it became the Head Quarters for the RMA Division until Eastney Barracks was completed in 1867.’

Sometime in 1863 Joseph had either been discharged from the Marines or was back in Norfolk on leave. Whatever the case, he struck up a liaison with a local girl in Norwich called Ellen Dye, the daughter of shoemaker Robert Dye. Ellen became pregnant and delivered a baby daughter in Norwich in April 1864. Joseph and Ellen called the child Constane Campbell Dye. It was a usual pratice for unmarried mothers to give the father’s family name as a middle name. There must have been something real between Joseph and Ellen because two years later they had another child, this time a boy whom they called Robert Hugh Campbell Dye: Robert after Ellen’s father and Hugh after Joseph’s father. Why Joseph and Ellen never married we will never know. What we do know it that less than one one year after the birth of his son Robert, Joseph abandoned Ellen and married someone else: another Norfolk girl called Helen Eastoe. Helen was the daughter of Sprowston wheelwright Edmund Eastoe; she was two years Joseph’s senior. Given that Joseph too became a wheelwright it might well be that he was working with Helen’s father. Joseph and Helen married towards the end of 1867 in Norwich, and their first child, Joseph Hugh Eastoe Campbell, was born the next year.

Ellen and Joseph’s two other children were left to live with Ellen’s parents in Norwich.

Helen became pregnant again in the spring of 1869 and a son called Charles Alfred Campbell was born in Norwich in early 1870, but by this time as we will see Joseph had already left for America.

While all this was going on, Joseph’s three-year younger brother John had married as well. John had been given the name John Hugh Campbell Callf when he was born, because, as mentioned his parents weren’t able to marry while Hugh’s first wife was still alive. Joseph too had been given the name Callf at birth but all the family used the name Campbell in later years. John married under his full name of John Hugh Campbell Callf in late 1866 in Norwich, his wife was Mary Ann Hunn, the daughter of carpenter William Hunn. It’s probable that their first daughter Susana (later called Susie) was born in 1865 before their wedding. Two more children followed: Joseph Hugh in 1867 in Norwich and John in 1869 in Holborn in London. Mary Ann’s parents had moved to London and she had moved with them when her husband went to America with his brothers sometime in 1869.

What took Joseph, John and their unmarried brother Robert to America? Did they know people there? Had Joseph been to the United States while in the Marines? Or had they just heard of the opportunities there? We don’t know. But went they did in 1869. The date of their emigration is found in a book published in 1881 called History of southeastern Dakota, in which there are short ‘biographies’ of the prominent citizens of the town of Yankton in that year. Here we find both Joseph and John; they were the owners of the only ‘foundry’ and ‘iron works’ in the town, trading under the name J & J Campbell. John Campbell, it is said, came to America in 1869 and having ‘located in Sioux City in 1872, he removed to Yankton in 1874’. Joseph’s entry tells us he ‘came to America in company with his brothers’. In the English census of 1871, John, Joseph and Robert are absent. Joseph’s wife Helen is listed living in Norwich with their two children and was said to be the ‘wife of wheelwright in N. America’.

New York Docks in 1872

New York Docks in 1872

I believe that the three brothers first lived in New York. There is an entry in the 1870 US Federal census for an English-born ‘carpenter’ called Joseph Campbell, aged 30, living in Ward 20 District 3. This might or might not be our man. Most likely what happened is that the brothers were in New York and once established there wrote back home asking their wives to join them; possibly sending the money for the trip too. When their families arrived in October 1872 they then moved west, possibly first to Sioux City in Iowa and then to Yankton in the Dakota Territory. It is of course possible that the brothers had already made their way out west and that their families had to make the overland trip to join them alone. Remember John’s ‘biography’ says he located in Sioux City in 1872.

The families probably went west by train, first to Sioux City then to Yankton. The railway had reached Sioux City in 1868: ‘The first train rumbled into town. The date, March 9, 1868, was the cause of much local celebrating. “SAVED AT LAST!” read the Sioux City Journal headline.’ By 1873 it had reached Yankton: ‘In 1873 a railroad line was expanded to Yankton, Dakota Territory. Yankton then became the end of the railroad line and much of the business growth Sioux City had gained moved up river.’

The Dakota Territory was established in 1861. It didn’t become a state (actually two states) until 1889.

The Dakota Territory consisted of the northernmost part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase of the United States. The name refers to the Dakota branch of the Sioux tribes which occupied the area at the time. Most of Dakota Territory was formerly part of the Minnesota and Nebraska territories. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the leftover area between the Missouri River and Minnesota’s western boundary fell unorganized. When the Yankton Treaty was signed later that year, ceding much of what had been Sioux Indian land to the U.S. Government; early settlers formed an unofficial provisional government and unsuccessfully lobbied for United States territory status. Three years later soon-to-be-President Abraham Lincoln’s cousin-in-law, J.B.S. Todd, personally lobbied for territory status and Washington formally created Dakota Territory. It became an organized territory on March 2, 1861. Upon creation, Dakota Territory included much of present-day Montana and Wyoming.

Yankton in 1876

Yankton in 1876

The Territory’s capital was the town of Yankton; in size it was bigger than most European countries. In the early 1870s the white population only amounted to about 12,000 and Yankton itself, the biggest settlement, had just 3,000. This was still very much the land of Native American Indians, particularly, though not exclusively, the Lakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne. As elsewhere the Americans would soon start ethnically cleansing the territory and reducing the Native people to a small underclass.

In 1868 the United States Government had signed a Treaty at Fort Laramie in Wyoming (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868) with the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota, and Arapaho Nation. This was to guarantee ‘Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites’.

Dakota Territory

Dakota Territory

When the Campbells arrived in Yankton, which in Joseph’s case I would date to 1873 because his daughter Charlotte was born in Yankton in January 1874, Dakota was witnessing the first years of a huge wave of immigration called the Great Dakota Boom.

As the economic depression of 1873 abated, the railroads took a new interest in this virgin territory.  Although the federal government made no land grants in Dakota as in other territories, there were plenty of opportunities for profit in the founding of new towns.  Town lots came dear in railroad terminus, and since the companies had the advantage of knowing where the track would be laid next, they invariably held title to the choicest lots.  Of the 285 towns which were platted during the Boom period, 138 of them were founded by the railroads.  89 more were platted along the railroad right of way by private land companies.

These were placed every seven to ten miles along the tracks to provide a market-place for the farmers within driving distance by team and wagon.  While the presence of a railroad meant instant prosperity for the community there was often distrust of the giant monopolies which could place the depot, tracks and outbuildings to their best advantage rather than the town’s.  For this reason, future town sites were often discreetly bought up by agents of the company and a certain amount of skulduggery was not uncommon in the rush for profits.

The influence of the railroads cannot be overemphasized in both the rapid settlement and ultimate success of Dakota Territory.  They tended to neutralize the negative weather and conditions by bringing in fuel, food, fencing and building materials – all unavailable on the treeless plains.  And of course the railroads brought the farmer closer to his marketplace.

People flooded in from the East and from Europe, particularly German Russians, Scandinavians as well as Irish and English. ‘Many a Scandinavian or northern European immigrant first heard of this new land of opportunity from a railroad brochure, poster or flier printed in his own native language.’

‘Unlike earlier pioneers who formed caravans of prairie schooners across the plains, these settlers came by rail, often to within just a few miles of their final destination,’ as most likely did the Campbells. But while the Scandinavians tended to become rural farmers, the English tended to settle in Yankton and other growing settlements.

But in 1873/4 most of the land in Dakota, and particularly the Black Hills, still belonged to the Native American Nations. They had, for sure, already suffered many a defeat at the hands of the U.S. Army, and were on the path to almost total subjugation and annihilation, but they could still live and hunt in the Black Hills, a land sacred to them. This would soon change; the reason being, as usual, gold.

Custer's Black Hills expedition in 1874

Custer’s Black Hills expedition in 1874

As Ernest Grafe writes in The 1874 Black Hills Expedition:

There had always been rumors of gold here, however, and by 1874 the frontier settlements were putting pressure on the government to permit exploration. A financial panic was adding to the pressure, and it’s possible that the railroads were working behind the scenes to generate more business. It was in this atmosphere that Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan ordered a reconnaissance of the Black Hills, allegedly to look for a site on which to build a fort. The reconnaissance would be led by Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who brought along a photographer, several newspapermen and two prospectors — but who never once mentioned building a fort.

Custer’s expedition triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush. But Custer had first come to Dakota in April 1873 ‘to protect a railroad survey party against the Lakota’. He and his Seventh cavalry were first stationed in Yankton, whose citizens had rescued them when they were caught in a tremendous snow storm. They would stay in Yankton until May 1874 when they set out on their expedition to the Black Hills. There is no doubt that Joseph Campbell and his family would have seen Custer, his officers and the men of the cavalry on many occasions. Little would they know the fate that awaited them.

After the expedition miners kept arriving to try their luck in the diggings in the Lakota’s Black Hills. They usually come via Yankton, and Joseph and John Campbell would, as the only ‘founders’ and iron workers in town, have supplied many of them with the iron tools and machinery they needed.

General Custer

General Custer

The U.S. Government made noises about stopping this invasion of miners into the Indians’ reservations, but once mining and money was involved their resolve flagged. I won’t retell the whole sorry tale here, but in 1876 General Custer attacked an Indian settlement at Little Big Horn. It was a mistake: there were many more Lakota and Cheyenne warriors there than he had imagined and Custer’s Seventh Cavalry companies were killed to a man. Sitting Bull and his warriors had secured the last victory Native American Indians would ever have over the invading Americans.

News of the death of Custer and his men would have soon reached Yankton. The population of the town were scared, including the Campbell brothers and their families. But their fears were unfounded. The American government despatched more troops and over the coming months started piteously to hunt down the various Indian groups which had dispersed after Little Big Horn. Sitting Bull fled north and found sanctuary for a time in the ‘Land of the Great Mother’: Canada. The U.S. government seized the Black Hills land in 1877.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

You can read about this sad and brutal history in many books, or watch PBS’s excellent documentary series The West. The battle of Little Big Horn was the last time Native Americans were able to resist the American invasions of their land. From now on the Lakota and the other local tribes were herded into smaller reservations and had to rely on patchy deliveries of ‘rations’ to survive. Their children were to be shipped off to faraway schools to be deracinated; stripped of their language and culture and introduced to the dubious benefits of Christianity. ‘How the West was won’ is a brutal and sad tale. It tells us more about American savagery than it does about the ‘barbarous’ Indians.

In 1880 – 1882 Joseph and John Campbell were still in Yankton running the ‘Yankton Iron Works’. Since his family’s family arrival in Dakota Joseph and Helen had had four more children: Charlotte in 1874, John Robert in 1877, Constance Elizabeth in 1880 and Helen in 1882. His brother John and his wife Mary Ann had had two: Martha Caroline in 1878 and Robert Hugh in 1879.

Where had their younger brother Robert been all this time? Although he had come to America with his brothers, the first mention of him I can find is in 1895 in Sioux City, Iowa. He would marry seventeen year-old Kansas-born girl Ada Maud Parsons in Sioux City in 1898 and have a son called William Herbert the next year. Perhaps Robert had spent more than twenty years seeking his fortune, first in the Black Hills and then elsewhere before marrying in Sioux City aged thirty-eight? We don’t know. Sometime before 1910 Robert and Ada ‘divorced’ and she took their son to live with her parents in Marshall, Iowa, but by 1915 she was back in Sioux City with her parents, by now, she said, a ‘widow’. In 1920, still with her parents, she said she was ‘single’. But Robert wasn’t dead, he was back in Sioux City living with Ada in 1925 and 1928 before disappearing again by 1930 when Ada was back with her parents but still said to be ‘married’. Nothing more is heard of Robert. Ada eventually moved to California where she died in 1969 aged eighty-eight.

Sioux City, Iowa in 1873 as the Campbells first saw it

Sioux City, Iowa in 1873 as the Campbells first saw it

But what of Joseph and John and their families who we left in Yankton? John took his family back to Sioux City in the mid 1880s where he and Mary Ann had two more children: William Arthur in 1887 and Mildred in 1889. He was still there in 1910, aged 66 and unemployed, living with his widowed daughter Martha Gardner and her children and his divorced daughter Mildred Lowe. After that there is no trace of John, but his wife Mary Ann (nee Hunn) died in 1915 and is buried in Sioux City’s Graceland Cemetery.

Joseph too left Yankton. Possibly by way of Sioux City the family moved to Chicago in 1891. In 1900 the family are living in Chicago’s 12th Ward and Joseph is working as an ‘engineer’ in a stationer’s printing shop. Helen was said to have had eleven children (I can only identify six), of which five were still alive. Perhaps it is not surprising therefore that Helen died two years later aged sixty-three of ‘Hemiplegia’, most probably brought on by a stroke.

Joseph lived on. He was by now in his sixties, a former Royal Marine gunner, a wheelwright, a founder, a machinist and an engineer. After thirty years in America did he ever, I wonder, think of the family he had abandoned back in England? In Dakota he had christened a daughter Constance. It was a family name and he had given the same name to his first child with Ellen Dye back in 1864. Did he ever think of his first two children: Constance Campbell Dye and Robert Hugh Campbell Dye? Maybe yes, maybe no. I sometimes think about this because Joseph was my 2nd great grandfather, and his first child Constance Campbell Dye was my great grandmother. Already by the time his wife died in 1902, Joseph had ten grandchildren back in Norfolk, another was to follow in 1905.

Mankato in the1920s

Mankato in the1920s

Whatever the case, Joseph’s amazing life was far from over. In 1910 he was still working as an engineer in a Chicago ‘water works’. In 1920, aged seventy-nine, he was living with his son John’s family but still working as an engineer! Sometime in the 1920s Joseph had to call time on his long working life and he moved to North Mankato in Nicollet County, Minnesota. He spent his last years living with his granddaughter Grace Michel, her husband Bernard, and their children. It was here in Mankato a long way from Norfolk that Joseph Hugh Campbell died on 26 October 1931 aged ninety-two; he was buried with his wife and son Charles back in Chicago’s Forest Home Cemetery.

Joseph has a lot of descendants in the United States plus many in England too, including myself. What had become of Joseph’s first ‘love’ Ellen Dye and his two children Constance and Robert? Ellen married Norwich shoemaker Henry Bell and had five children with him. She continued to work as a silk weaver in Norwich until her death in 1920 aged seventy-six. Joseph’s son Robert married Flora Hoy Davidson in 1892 but they had no children. He died in Norwich in 1948. Joseph’s first born child Constance Campbell Dye on the other hand married Norwich shoemaker Henry Allen in 1882 and had eleven children over the next twenty-three years, while also, like her mother, working as a silk weaver. Her fourth child, my grandfather, was born in 1887; he was named Robert after Constance’s grandfather Robert Dye.

Joseph Hugh Campbell led an amazing life!

Robert Allen (Joseph's grandson) with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin

Robert Allen (Joseph’s grandson and my grandfather) with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin