Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

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.

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

The Azores

The Azores

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

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

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

Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry the Navigator

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

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

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

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

Ruins of the Solar dos Tiagos in Topo

Ruins of the Solar dos Tiagos in Topo

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

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

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

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

Island of St George

Island of St George

The local Azorean records report:[1]

Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario in Topo

Matris de Nossa Senhora do Rosario in Topo

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

O vigário Francisco Monteiro de Amorim

Précis:

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

silvers ancestry

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

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

Lomba de São Pedro

Lomba de São Pedro

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

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

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

The Vega

The Vega

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

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

vega

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

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

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

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

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

John Day, Grant County, Oregon

John Day, Grant County, Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

The Express Ranch in Durkee

The Express Ranch in Durkee

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

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

Martinho Caetano da Silveira/Silvers  with some grandchildren in California

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

EUGENE “GENE” THOMAS SILVERS

Posted May 11, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Leslie's shipbuilding yard in Hebburn

Andrew Leslie’s shipbuilding yard in Hebburn

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

The Vega after it became the Benguela

The Vega after it became the Benguela

 

 

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

When Wilfred Grisdale and his family arrived in Canada from Cumberland in 1816, they probably had no idea what the future would bring.[1] They just hoped for a better life. Over the years Wilfred’s children spread out from North Monaghan all over Canada and into the United States. Some helped build the first Welland canal and fought the Irish.[2] Others became farmers in Isabella County in Michigan.[3] Some worked on tug boats. Later several were to die fighting in the First World War.[4] A whole group of the family made their way from Canada to Bay City in Michigan in the second half of the 1860s. They were sawyers, loggers and ‘boom men’. Rather than tell their individual stories I would here just like to give an impression of the life and town they found in Bay City. Of course I have never been to Bay City (and only once to Michigan) and thus I’d like to acknowledge the work of many fine local historians for enabling me to give a flavour of what this Grisdale family probably  saw and experienced.

We are primarily concerned with the fifth child of Wilfred Grisdale and his wife Jane Bell: James Grisdale, who was born in 1812 in Carlisle in Cumberland and arrived in Canada aged about four.[5] Like some of his siblings James moved away from the woods of North Monaghan and Peterborough County to Thorold in Welland County, Ontario. Sometime around 1833/4 James married Jane Eliza Green, either in Fort Erie or Thorold. Children followed, born in Fort Erie and later, for sure, in Thorold. What James initially worked as we don’t know. His older brother Gideon had helped build the first Welland canal and later became a lock keeper on the canal.[6] Maybe James did this too. Whatever the case, by 1861 at the latest James was working as a sawyer in a sawmill In Thorold.

But in the 1860s America’s mid-west was witnessing a logging boom. One of its primary centres was Michigan and particularly the Saginaw Valley.

Michigan logging crew

Michigan logging crew

Geographic factors played an important part in the development of Michigan’s lumber industry. White pine, the wood most in demand for construction in the nineteenth century, grew in abundance in northern Michigan forests. The state was also crisscrossed by a network of rivers which provided convenient transportation for logs to the saw mills and lake ports.

By 1840 it was apparent that the traditional sources of white pine in Maine and New York would be unable to supply a growing demand for lumber. Michigan, the next state west in the northern pine belt, was the logical place to turn for more lumber. The first commercial logging ventures in the state utilized eastern techniques, capital, and labor, but Michigan lumbering soon expanded beyond the scope of anything previously known and established itself as one of the state’s most important industries…

The production of Michigan lumber increased dramatically during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The Saginaw Valley was the leading lumbering area between 1840 and 1860, when the number of mills in operation throughout the state doubled, and the value of their products increased from $1 million to $6 million annually. Rapid growth continued, and by 1869 the Saginaw Valley alone was earning $7 million yearly…

By 1869 Michigan was producing more lumber than any other state, a distinction it continued to hold for thirty years.[7]

Workers flooded into Michigan from all over the United States, from Canada, from Poland and from Germany and elsewhere.

In the second half of the 19th Century, Bay City was the lumber capital of the world. The booming lumber mills were providing Bay City with wealth and jobs and many people flocked to Bay City and West Bay City to make a living.[8]

James Grisdale and his family were one of these; they arrived in Bay City in 1865/6. With his experience in a sawmill in Thorold James no doubt expected to find similar work in Bay City, which he did. In 1870 he is working as a sawyer in a sawmill in the Portsmouth township of Bay City, living with his wife Jane and some of his children (Gideon, Anna and John) in a house worth $400. Some of his older children (David and Jane) had stayed behind in Canada, while sons James and William Champion had also, I believe, come to Bay City at the same time.

birdseye-bay-city

James was also joined by his older widowed brother Gideon (who married widow Hannah Raby in 1869 in Bay City and stayed a few years before returning to Welland in Canada), plus his younger brother Joseph with his family. In 1873 we find all these Grisdales living and working in Bay City. James was a ‘laborer’ probably still in a sawmill. His son William Champion Grisdale was a sawyer in the ‘Pitts and Cranage’ mill and living at Bay City’s first hotel, the Wolverton House, with his wife and two children. His newly married son Gideon was working as a ‘piler’, i.e. a pile driver, for ‘Watrous Brothers & Co.’. His son John was a labourer with ‘Richards, Miller & Co.’, as was his older brother Gideon, his younger brother Joseph and Joseph’s son, also called Joseph. A veritable Bay City Grisdale clan!

But what was the Bay City they had come to?

Bay City was a boomtown, with lumbering and sawmills bringing in fortunes. With the immediate prosperity came all the vices of human nature. Hells Half Mile included saloons, sporting houses, (places where gambling and prostitution co-existed), and variety theaters where bawdy performances were common. The area contained a network of underground passages that connected of the buildings leading to the nickname “catacombs” for the entire area. Often lumberjacks, who spent all of their money, could sleep in the passageways where the owners put down blankets and mats for 5 cents a night. [9]

Eddy Brothers sawmill, Bay City

Eddy Brothers sawmill, Bay City

But ‘jobs in the mills were dangerous, and before long small strikes started breaking out as laborers tried to improve their working conditions. Most of the strikes were short-lived and were failures. Then, in 1870, a more serious strike shut down production in a few mills, signifying that the workers were becoming restless and unified.’[10] James Grisdale and his family were no doubt either involved or at least witnesses to this strike.

The 1870 strike drifted into memory and still the mill workers were unsatisfied. Over the years their mood grew worse, fifteen years later a devastating strike would hit Bay City because labor issues had been ignored for so long.[11]

This was the famous Bay City strike of 1885.

When Bay City’s sawmills opened in 1885, mill owners notified workers that wages would be 12 to 25 percent lower than in 1884. On July 6, 1885, Bay City millhands began to walk off the job. Their slogan, “Ten Hours or No Sawdust,” represented the demand for a ten-hour day, higher wages and semi-monthly pay.[12]

But this is to run ahead of ourselves.

In 1907 Stewart Edward White published a wonderful book called The Blazed Trail, in Chapter 26 he tells us about Bay City ‘the Lumber Town’. I will quote him in full because I think it gives us a feel of what the Grisdales found in Bay City.

 

A Bay City saloon

A Bay City saloon

A lumbering town after the drive is a fearful thing. Men just off the river draw a deep breath, and plunge into the wildest reactionary dissipation. In droves they invade the cities, — wild, picturesque, lawless.

As long as the money lasts, they blow it in.

“Hot money!” is the cry. “She’s burnt holes in all my pockets already!” The saloons are full, the gambling houses overflow, all the places of amusement or crime run full blast. A chip rests lightly on everyone’s shoulder. Fights are as common as raspberries in August. Often one of these formidable men, his muscles toughened and quickened by the active, strenuous river work, will set out to “take the town apart.” For a time he leaves rack and ruin, black eyes and broken teeth behind him, until he meets a more redoubtable “knocker” and is pounded and kicked into unconsciousness.

Organized gangs go from house to house forcing the peaceful inmates to drink from their bottles. Others take possession of certain sections of the street and resist “a l’outrance” the attempts of others to pass. Inoffensive citizens are stood on their heads, or shaken upside down until the contents of their pockets rattle on the street. Parenthetically, these contents are invariably returned to their owners. The riverman’s object is fun, not robbery.

And if rip-roaring, swashbuckling, drunken glory is what he is after, he gets it. The only trouble is, that a whole winter’s hard work goes in two or three weeks. The only redeeming feature is, that he is never, in or out of his cups, afraid of anything that walks the earth.

Michigan loggers

Michigan loggers

A man comes out of the woods or off the drive with two or three hundred dollars, which he is only too anxious to throw away by the double handful. It follows naturally that a crew of sharpers are on hand to find out who gets it. They are a hard lot. Bold, unprincipled men, they too are afraid of nothing; not even a drunken lumber-jack, which is one of the dangerous wild animals of the American fauna. Their business is to relieve the man of his money as soon as possible. They are experts at their business.

The towns of Bay City and Saginaw alone in 1878 supported over fourteen hundred tough characters. Block after block was devoted entirely to saloons. In a radius of three hundred feet from the famous old Catacombs could be numbered forty saloons, where drinks were sold by from three to ten “pretty waiter girls.” When the boys struck town, the proprietors and waitresses stood in their doorways to welcome them.

“Why, Jack!” one would cry, “when did you drift in? Tickled to death to see you! Come in an’ have a drink. That your chum? Come in, old man, and have a drink. Never mind the pay; that’s all right.”

And after the first drink, Jack, of course, had to treat, and then the chum. Or if Jack resisted temptation and walked resolutely on, one of the girls would remark audibly to another. “He ain’t no lumber-jack! You can see that easy ’nuff! He’s jest off th’ hay-trail!”

Ten to one that brought him, for the woodsman is above all things proud and jealous of his craft. In the center of this whirlpool of iniquity stood the Catacombs as the hub from which lesser spokes in the wheel radiated. Any old logger of the Saginaw Valley can tell you of the Catacombs, just as any old logger of any other valley will tell you of the “Pen,” the “White Row,” the “Water Streets” of Alpena, Port Huron, Ludington, Muskegon, and a dozen other lumber towns.

The Catacombs was a three-story building. In the basement were vile, ill-smelling, ill-lighted dens, small, isolated, dangerous. The shanty boy with a small stake, far gone in drunkenness, there tasted the last drop of wickedness, and thence was flung unconscious and penniless on the streets. A trap-door directly into the river accommodated those who were inconsiderate enough to succumb under rough treatment.

The second story was given over to drinking. Polly Dickson there reigned supreme, an anomaly. She was as pretty and fresh and pure-looking as a child; and at the same time was one of the most ruthless and unscrupulous of the gang. She could at will exercise a fascination the more terrible in that it appealed at once to her victim’s nobler instincts of reverence, his capacity for what might be called aesthetic fascination, as well as his passions. When she finally held him, she crushed him as calmly as she would a fly.

Four bars supplied the drinkables. Dozens of “pretty waiter girls” served the customers. A force of professional fighters was maintained by the establishment to preserve that degree of peace which should look to the preservation of mirrors and glassware.

Bay City's Arlington Hotel opened in 1883

Bay City’s Arlington Hotel opened in 1883

The third story contained a dance hall and a theater. The character of both would better be left to the imagination. Night after night during the season, this den ran at top-steam. By midnight, when the orgy was at its height, the windows brilliantly illuminated, the various bursts of music, laughing, cursing, singing, shouting, fighting, breaking in turn or all together from its open windows, it was, as Jackson Hines once expressed it to me, like hell let out for noon.

The respectable elements of the towns were powerless. They could not control the elections. Their police would only have risked total annihilation by attempting a raid. At the first sign of trouble they walked straightly in the paths of their own affairs, awaiting the time soon to come when, his stake “blown-in,” the last bitter dregs of his pleasure gulped down, the shanty boy would again start for the woods..[13]

The main hub of all this revel was Water Street, known as Hell’s Half Mile. ‘It was a notorious strip for lumberjacks too let loose after many long months in the woods.’

Water Street, Bay City

Water Street, Bay City

After the spring thaw, shanty boys wandered out of the woods and hitched a ride to “Hell’s Half Mile,” along the river in Bay City. Thousands of dollars were made off these foolish shanty boys. Most of the locals condemned this “yearly torrent of wickedness.” Others took advantage of it, draining the men of most of the money that they had made over the winter.

It was not just saloons that raked in the benefits of this yearly onslaught of lumbermen. Dance halls, gambling dens, resorts and, of course, brothels tapped into their pockets.

Saloons even hired “runners” to entice the shanty boys to their businesses. There were plenty of saloons to choose from. In 1880, Bay City had a population of 27,000 with 162 saloons opened day and night in the city, and even 26 more on the other side of the river on the West Side. Water Street, “Hell’s Half Mile,” contained the raunchiest, most prostitute laden, and the most popular saloons in town.

Brothels also ran along the infamous Water Street. “Ma Smith” ran a home of 12 to 20 girls and even the town marshal in 1875 owned a brothel. Prostitution was legal during this time and saloon keepers, businessmen and law enforcement did little to regulate it because it was good for business, anything to get the $150-200 a shanty boy would bring into town.

How did “Hell’s Half Mile” get its name? History often focuses on the violence in the Wild West, but lumber towns were just as bad, if not worse. Bay City was notorious at the time for tolerance of and association with vice and violence, even the town marshal owned a brothel. Since it was the first stop on the railroad, the city got its fair share of shanty boys, even giving the city the nicknames “Tramp Heaven” or “Bum City.”

One thing that Bay City had that Western cities lacked was brawling. “Free fights” (for absolutely no reason whatsoever) were common between 20 to 30 men, often leading to serious injury and death. Bay City had less homicides than Western cities, just more fighting for no reason.

After the shanty boys ran out of money, things quieted down. They went to work in mills and farms over the summer, later to return for more fun the next year.[14]

Bay City sawmill

Bay City sawmill

Returning to the sawmill workers’ strike of 1885.

Less is known about the backgrounds of the men who labored in the sawmills in the late nineteenth century, but it is likely that they followed the same general pattern as the loggers. Like the men in the woods, mill hands worked long hours. They did not face the isolation of the logging camps, but their working and living conditions were often worse: noisy, dirty mills and dingy, cramped housing. Although mill workers received higher wages than loggers, from $30 to $50 per month, they had to provide their own room and board. They were also more likely to have families to support than were the loggers.

Like workers in other American industries, those employed in lumbering made attempts at organization during the decades following the Civil War. Union organization was most successful among the mill workers because they were concentrated in the towns. Prior to 1884 there were scattered unsuccessful strikes in Michigan mills. They did little to unite the workers but which effectively consolidated the mill owners against the workers.

The largest strike occurred in the Saginaw Valley in 1885. Mill hands demanded an immediate shift to a ten-hour day (which was due to occur soon anyway as the result of a recently enacted law) and more importantly, that the change not be accompanied by a reduction in pay. Within a month, in many mills in Saginaw and East Saginaw, the strike had been broken, but the workers in Bay City, the source of the strike movement, held out for another month. The mill hands had shown a willingness to cooperate in relieving some of the financial hardships caused by the strike; they were less successful in uniting to negotiate with the mill owners. Nor did this strike spur the growth of the labor movement. By the mid-1880s the forests of the Saginaw Valley were nearly exhausted, and as jobs became more difficult to find, disruptions became fewer.[15]

markerIn 1884, James Grisdale, the ‘head’ of the family, had died aged 72. His son William Champion Grisdale had worked for the Pitts and Cranage Mill in 1873, and was probably still there in 1880 when he was  a ‘sawyer’ in a sawmill. But William had moved on to other things by 1885, he became a wholesale fish merchant. Nevertheless, William would no doubt have watched the events of the strike unfold, including at his old employer Pitts & Cranage:

By the end of the first day the crowd had swelled to over four hundred men. They gathered at Madison Avenue Park to listen to several men who claimed leadership of the strike. One of them, D.C. Blinn would become the force behind the strike. He would be present at nearly all the major events and was constantly rallying his men. Blinn was a firebrand, the editor of a newspaper called the Labor Vindicator, and on that night he was calling for the men to shut down all of Bay City’s industries.

The crowd must have been energized, because the next day they used even more pressure. The workers at Pitts & Cranage had resisted them the day before, but now they stopped work and joined the ranks. As time went on the crowds became more aggressive and those still working began to worry about their safety. Many joined up, but later said they did so out of fear.[16]

So this was the life these Grisdales had come to in Michigan. Was it a better life than in Ontario or even Cumberland? Who knows? But at least it was a springboard for some of the family, as I will show at a later date. James’s son James, for example, eventually became a logging millionaire in Kitsap in Washington State. Of course all this logging, here as elsewhere in the United States, was just another case of freewheeling American capitalists coming into an area, stripping it of its resources (whether via mining or logging) and moving on, leaving behind an ecological disaster. But that is the story of America, as indeed it is of elsewhere in the world.

In their haste to move on to new cutting sites, loggers usually gave little thought to the lands they were leaving. By the 1870s stumps and branches already littered much of northern Michigan. There was no longer any barrier to erosion on cutover land, and the dried debris created an enormous fire hazard. At the end of the dry summer months fires frequently broke out, sometimes moving into still uncut timberlands or settled areas, as in 1871 and 1881, when fires broke out across the state. These dangerous conditions in the former logging districts inspired, in large part, the first attempts to conserve Michigan’s natural resources.

Lumber companies had no desire to own already logged parcels of land and thus found themselves trying to sell large tracts of land in the 1880s and 90s. They vigorously promoted the former forests as good farmland, ready for the plow, but experience soon proved that this was not the case. Most of the land simply could not support continuous farming, and its fertility was soon exhausted. Families that had put all their savings and hopes into such a farm often had no alternative but to give it up when they could not pay their taxes. Tax delinquent land as well as acreage simply abandoned by lumber companies was thus acquired by the State of Michigan, forming the basis for its early efforts toward reforestation and land management…[17]

Michigan logging camp

Michigan logging camp

Perhaps I should finish with the first two lines of one of the many sons the lumber workers of Michigan sang:

Come all you sons of freedom and listen to my theme. Come all you roving lumberjacks that run the Saginaw stream.[18]

And just by way of genealogical interest, in 1885 at exactly the time of the famous Bay City strike my great grandmother Agnes Grisdale, the granddaughter of William Grisdale the brother of the Canadian immigrant Wilfred, married my great grandfather Frederick Lewis in Southport, Lancashire.

 

Notes and references:

[1] https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/a-pioneer-settler-in-canada-the-story-of-wilfred-grisdale-and-his-family/

[2] https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/building-canals-and-fighting-the-irish-the-tale-of-two-gideon-grisdales-2/

[3] https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/the-grisdales-move-to-michigan/

[4] https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/five-canadian-light-horsemen-the-story-of-lionel-grisdale/

[5]  https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/a-pioneer-settler-in-canada-the-story-of-wilfred-grisdale-and-his-family/

[6] https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/building-canals-and-fighting-the-irish-the-tale-of-two-gideon-grisdales-2/

[7] Maria Quinlan, Lumbering in Michigan: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-54463_18670_18793-53133–,00.html

[8] Victor J. Mobley, BAY CITY’S LONG SUMMER: The Labor Strike of 1885, June 11. 2011: http://bay-journal.com/utl/ml/articles/mobley-bc-long-summer-1106.html.

[9]  Bay City History: http://lhgifts.com/contact/baycity.html.

[10] Victor J. Mobley. BAY CITY’S LONG SUMMER: The Labor Strike of 1885, June 11. 2011.

[11] BAY CITY’S LONG SUMMER: The Labor Strike of 1885.

[12] Ten Hours or No Sawdust: http://www.michmarkers.com/startup.asp?startpage=L1413.htm.

[13] http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3413/3413-h/3413-h.htm

[14] Jana Irving, Hell’s Half Mile: Shanty Boys, Brothels and Geysers of Booze (2013): http://fallintoyesterday.com/2013-5-hells.html.

[15] Lumbering in Michigan.

[16] BAY CITY’S LONG SUMMER: The Labor Strike of 1885

[17] Lumbering in Michigan.

[18] Songs of the Michigan Lumberjacks, Library of Congress, Washington, 1960.

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 FIRST REPORT.

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.’

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

It is perhaps not a well known fact that between one-half and two-thirds of white immigrants to the American colonies between the 1630s and the American Revolution had come under indentures. Indentured servitude was a form of debt bondage, established in the early years of the American colonies and elsewhere, including in the Caribbean. It was in many ways a form of voluntary or involuntary slavery. The belief that most early American immigrants were akin to the Pilgrim Fathers is a myth. One Cumberland man who sold himself into such bondage to the planters of Jamaica was Joseph Grisdell.

A half million Europeans went as indentured servants to the Caribbean before 1840.

Most were young men, with dreams of owning their land or striking it rich quick would essentially sell years of their labor in exchange for passage to the islands. However, forceful indenture also provided part of the servants: contemporaries report that youngsters were sometimes tricked into servitude in order to be exploited in the colonies. The landowners on the islands would pay for a servant’s passage and then provide them with food, clothes, shelter and instruction during the agreed upon term. The servant would then be required to work in the landowner’s (master) field for a term of bondage (usually four to seven years). During this term of bondage the servant had a status similar to a son of the master. For example they were not allowed to marry without the master’s permission. They could own personal property. They could also complain to a local magistrate about mistreatment that exceeded community norms. However, his contract could be sold or given away by his master. After the servant’s term was complete he became independent and was paid “freedom dues”. These payments could take the form of land which would give the servant the opportunity to become an independent farmer or a free laborer. As free men with little money they became a political force that stood in opposition to the rich planters.

White Indentured Servants in America

White Indentured Servants in America

But indentured servants were exploited as cheap labour and could be severely maltreated. ‘The seventeenth-century French buccaneer Alexander Exquemelin reported malnourishment and deadly beatings by the servants’ masters and generally harsher treatment and labour than that of their slaves on the island of Hispaniola. The reason being that working the servants excessively spared the masters’ slaves, which were held as perpetual property as opposed to the temporary services of servants.’

The Caribbean landowners’ reputation as cruel masters became a deterrence to the potential indentured servant. In the 17th century, the islands became known as death traps, as between 33 to 50 percent of indentured servants died before they were freed, many from yellow fever, malaria and other diseases.

But this reputation didn’t deter Joseph Grisdell. On 16 October 1736 Joseph signed a four year indenture bond with the London ‘chapman’ William Burge to serve in Jamaica, no doubt on a sugar or tobacco plantation. It must be said he must have been desperate.

Joseph gave his age as 19, his occupation as ‘sawyer’, and his place of residence as Blackhill in Cumberland. He said that his mother lived in Dublin.

The fact that Joseph gave his origin as Cumberland strongly suggests that his name was in fact Grisdale. Grisdell was not an unusual spelling of the name, particularly when people moved away. As far as I can tell the ‘Blackhill’ in Cumberland most likely refers to a small village two miles south of Carlisle, variously called Blackhill, Blackhell, Blackhall or Blackwell, the name deriving from the black heathy district, being part of the Inglewood forest.

Under the terms of these Agreements, the “Master” would provide the “Servant” with his passage to Jamaica, clothes, food and drink, washing, lodging, and a small annual salary, and the “Servant” would agree to serve in Jamaica for a certain number of years, in Joseph’s case four. One such agreement made in 1739 by Patrick Burke of Dublin reads as follows:

INDENTURE AGREEMENT
PATRICK BURKE 1739
London, the 30th Day of June
One Thousand, Seven Hundred and 1739

Be it remember’d that Patrick Burke of Dublin in the Kingdom of Ireland Bookkeeper his Father and Mother being dead, did by Indenture bearing like Date herewith, agree to serve Joseph Whilton of London Chapman, or his assigns four years in Jamaica In the Employment of a Bookkeeper at 30 li [i.e. £30] per annum Current Money of Jamaica and did declare himself to be then of the Age of Eighteen Years, a single Person, no Apprentice, nor Covenant or Contracted Servant to any other Person or Persons. And the said Master did thereby Covenant at his own Cost, to send his said Servant to the said Plantation; and at the like Costs to find him all necessary [crossed out – Clothes] Meat, Drink, Washing, and Lodging as other Servants in such Cases are usually provided for, and allowed, excepted provided he understands the business of a Bookkeeper.

Patrick Burke
Allow’d the 28th of July 1739
before me Micajah Perry, Mayor
[then Lord Mayor of London]

indentured servant advertisement

indentured servant advertisement

Now a ‘chapman’ like Joseph Whilton in Patrick Burke’s case or William Burge in Joseph Grisdell’s case was a buyer or merchant. They entered into indentures with multiple poor English and Irish people, shipped them to America or the Caribbean and there sold them on to the planters. When the ship arrived, the captain would often advertise in a newspaper that indentured servants were for sale. One example of such an advert in America read:

Just imported, on board the Snow Sally, Captain Stephen Jones, Master, from England, A number of healthy, stout English and Welsh Servants and Redemptioners, and a few Palatines [Germans], amongst whom are the following tradesmen, viz. Blacksmiths, watch-makers, coppersmiths, taylors, shoemakers, ship-carpenters and caulkers, weavers, cabinet-makers, ship-joiners, nailers, engravers, copperplate printers, plasterers, bricklayers, sawyers and painters. Also schoolmasters, clerks and book-keepers, farmers and labourers, and some lively smart boys, fit for various other employments, whose times are to be disposed of. Enquire of the Captain on board the vessel, off Walnut-street wharff, or of MEASE and CALDWELL.

This was the fate awaiting Joseph when he arrived in Jamaica. Whether Joseph died in Jamaica or ever returned home is unknown. But what Grisdale family of Cumberland did he come from and what was the Dublin connection? There was a Dublin connection with the Matterdale Grisdales at this time, a subject to which I will return.

Patrick Burke's Jamaican Indenture, 1739

Patrick Burke’s Jamaican Indenture, 1739

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 FIRST REPORT.

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.’