Archive for the ‘Grisdale’ Category

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

New York Draft Riots, 1863

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

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

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

Child Labour in Bolton Cotton Mill

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

For those of you more interested in genealogy rather than social history, I will briefly outline the brothers’ family line. Jonathan Grisdale (1832) and John Grisdale (1836) were the fourth and fifth children of Bolton cotton weaver John Grisdale senior (born 1799) and his wife Mary Wellsby. John Grisdale senior’s and Doctor’s father was Thomas Grisdale, who was born in Matterdale in 1772, the eighth and penultimate child of Joseph Grisdale and Ann Temple. Sometime in the 1790s, Thomas moved to Bolton in Lancashire (then called Bolton Le Moors); he married an Elizabeth Crossley there in September 1796. Between 1799 and 1817 they had nine children in Bolton, including in 1799 John, the emigrant brothers’ father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Views of Norristown in 1881

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

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

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

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

Jamison Mills, Norristown, 1883

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

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

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

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

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

SS City of New York

SS City of New York

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

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

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

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

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

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

Long Island Cotton Mill

Long Island Cotton Mill

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

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

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

McAden’s Mill, McAdenville, North Carolina

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

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

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

McAden Mill

McAden Mill

In a number of earlier articles I discussed the undoubted fact that the earliest Grisdales of Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale had originally came from a place called Grisdale in Cumberland. There are several Grisdales or Grisedales in Cumberland. My conjecture was and is that at some time prior to the later 1400s one or more people hailing from ‘Grisdale’ came to farm at Dowthwaite. I thought that this Grisdale was most likely the Grisedale Valley/Beck/Tarn area just south of Matterdale on the eastern slopes of Helvellyn. However, while this is still possible, I now think it much more likely that the Matterdale Grisdales originally hailed from present day Mungrisdale, which lies west of Penrith in the parish of Greystoke.

1576 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1576 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

The present day parish of Mungrisdale is made up of eight hamlets –Mungrisdale, Bowscale, Mosedale, Heggle Lane, Haltcliffe Bridge,  Hutton Roof,  Murrah and Berrier. It is well known that Mungrisdale was once simply known at ‘Grisdale’ and was historically a part of the barony and parish of Greystoke. Going back to the thirteenth century we find repeated mentions of Grisdale in the Greystoke parish and manorial records. There is no doubt that this Grisdale is present-day Mungrisdale and not Grisedale near Helvellyn and Patterdale. Grisdale started to be called Mungrisdale sometime after 1600. In the Penrith museum you can see a chalice from the Grisdale chapel inscribed, ‘Mounge Grieesdell 1600’. It is generally believed that this means Mungo’s Grisdale, as the church in Mungrisdale is dedicated to the sixth-century Celtic St. Kentigern, often called Mungo.

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

1747 Map of Grisdale/Mungrisdale

Maps of the area tell the same story, i.e. that Mungrisdale was originally known as Grisdale and continued to be so long after 1600. I include a map engraved by Augustinus Ryther in 1576 included in Christopher Saxton’s Westmorlandiae et Cumberlandiae Comitatus. Here we see ‘Grisedalle chap’ (i.e. chapel). Maps continue to show Mungrisdale as Grisdale at least until the mid 1700s. The second map from 1747 shows ‘Grisdale Chap(el)’, ‘Grisdale’ and ‘Grisdale Beck’.

There are two reasons I now believe that it is from this Grisdale that the Matterdale Grisdales derived their name. First, (Mun)grisdale has always been part of the barony and parish of Greystoke (the earliest records of this are from the thirteenth century). Matterdale too was part of the same barony, whereas Grisedale near Patterdale never was. As the barons of Greystoke were the lords and owners of Matterdale (including Dowthwaite) it was no doubt one of them (or less likely one of their vassals) who originally granted the ‘free’ tenancy of Dowthwaite Head Farm to one of their men from Grisdale. Second, while we know that (Mun)grisdale was a small hamlet, it was a significant enough settlement not only to have an early chapel but also significant enough to be mentioned as the place of birth, death and origin of many families recorded in the registers of Greystoke and to be included in the early manorial records of Greystoke. On the other hand it doesn’t seem that the Grisedale on the slopes of Helvellyn was ever more than a ‘chase’ or private hunting ground.

Mungrisdale Church - St. Kentigern's

Mungrisdale Church – St. Kentigern’s

For the time being I can’t prove this conjecture, but the evidence seems persuasive to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mungrisdale

Some of the Grisdales I write about have left no known descendants. Others have hundreds, even thousands. One of this latter group is Wilfred Grisdale (b. 1782 in Matterdale). He was an early pioneer settler in Canada. His numerous family were to spread throughout Ontario, into neighbouring Michigan and beyond. I wrote about Wilfred’s family’s arrival in Canada in 1816/7 in an earlier article, as I did about some of his descendants who moved to Thorold/Welland County in Ontario. Here I will tell of those who moved to Michigan. It might take several articles to do the subject justice. Here I’ll stick to the bare facts.

Jenny Hill, Matterdale. Where Wilfred Grisdale the Canadian settler was born and raised

Jenny Hill, Matterdale. Where Wilfred Grisdale the Canadian settler was born and raised

We can begin with Wilfred’s third child, who was also called Wilfred. He was born in Carlisle in Cumberland in 1807 and baptized at Saint Mary’s Church on 30 June. He arrived in Canada with his family aged about nine or ten. With his siblings Wilfred spent the rest of his childhood in North Monaghan in the now County of Peterborough in Ontario.  In about 1829 he married the Irish-born Catholic Mary Maloney and the couple started to farm in Douro , only a few miles southwest on the other side of the emerging town of Peterborough. One significance of Wilfred marrying Mary Maloney was that, as was and is usual, he would have had to promise to bring up their children as Catholics. This the couple did and hence many of their descendants are Catholic to this day. The Grisdales had been Anglicans since the Protestant Reformation in England in the early sixteenth century. At least nine children followed over the next fourteen years: James (1830), Margaret (1834), Wilfred (1836), Edward 91839), John (1840), Catharine (1841), twins Ann and Mary (1843) and Ruth 1844.

In 1861 we find the family still in Douro. Twenty-three year old Wilfred (or Wilford as he is often now called in an Americanisation of his name) has become head of the family; father Wilfred having died in about 1844. He is farming 100 acres of wheat, peas, oats, potatoes and turnips. With him are his mother Mary, his brother John and his sister Ann. Sister Ruth is living nearby. Mary’s children James, Edward, and Mary had in the meantime died and daughter Catherine was living elsewhere. The farm was estimated to be worth $1,700.

Early Ontario Settlers

Early Ontario Settlers

The Douro farming community was predominantly Irish and Roman Catholic. The Grisdales’ neighbours included dozens of mother Mary’s Maloney family and many families with whom the Grisdales would soon marry, such as the Griegs, Tobins, Torpeys, O’Briens and McCues. The family in fact soon started to marry. In about 1864/5 Wilfred married Eliza Tobin, Ann married John Torpey, Ruth married John Grieg and soon John married Ellen O’Brien. Catherine would marry London-born James William Couchman and move to Saginaw, Michigan.

For reasons that I for one do not know, the family decided to sell up in Canada and in 1877 moved to Deerfield Township in Isabella County in Michigan. The move involved siblings Wilfred, John and Ann (Torpey), their mother Mary, plus Wilfred wife’s mother, and all their many Canadian-born children. Sister Ruth had earlier moved with her husband John Grieg and their family to nearby Midland County, Michigan, while sister Margaret (Prendergast) would also move with her family to Union Township.

So in total all of Wilfred Grisdale and Mary Maloney’s children had made the move to Michigan.

It might have been that they had heard about the opportunities to claim new ‘homesteading’ plots from Wilfred the Immigrant’s other son James (1812-1884). James with his wife Jane Green and their children had already moved to the Bay City area of Michigan in about 1869 from Welland County in Ontario (where other members of the family had moved to too).

Deerfield Township 1879

Deerfield Township 1879

With the money made from selling their Canadian farm Wilfred and his brother John bought plots of virgin land in the new Deerfield Township in Isabella County. We can see where they were from an 1879 plot plan of Deerfield (Click on the image and you can enlarge it. Wilfred’s (Wilford’s) plot is on the right two-thirds of the way up. John’s smaller plot is a little to the southwest). Unfortunately John was to die on 3 August 1880, aged only 40. He left behind a wife and several children who soon moved back to Peterborough County in Ontario.

Wilfred built a house there; a picture of which is shown below.

So it is this Wilfred Grisdale and his wife Eliza Tobin who are the ancestors of the Grisdales of Deerfield/Isabella County/Mount Pleasant. Wilfred, son of Wilfred, son of Canadian settler Wilfred Grisdale. And, just to confuse you more, the Canadian settler Wilfred’s father was also called Wilfred! He was an eighteenth-century Blacksmith in Matterdale. Wilfred like his father and grandfather was a farmer. He and his wife Eliza had twelve children of whom nine were still alive in 1900 and 1910: Jane (1865-1944), John (1865 – ), Wilfred Joseph (1870-1949), Mary (1872- ), Martin Joseph (1880-1955), Catherine (1882- ), Francis Joseph (1887-1952), Stephen (1889-1911) and Arthur Joseph (1894-1957).

Wilfred Grisdale's house in Deerfield

Wilfred Grisdale’s house in Deerfield

Wilfred died of chronic hepatitis in January 1900 and is buried in the Mount Pleasant Catholic Cemetery. His wife, Eliza Tobin died in 1916.

Here I’ll leave things for now. I might write later about the experiences of some of these early Michigan immigrants.

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

New York Draft Riots, 1863

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

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

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

Child Labour in Bolton Cotton Mill

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

For those of you more interested in genealogy rather than social history, I will briefly outline the brothers’ family line. Jonathan Grisdale (1832) and John Grisdale (1836) were the fourth and fifth children of Bolton cotton weaver John Grisdale senior (born 1799) and his wife Mary Wellsby. John Grisdale senior’s and Doctor’s father was Thomas Grisdale, who was born in Matterdale in 1772, the eighth and penultimate child of Joseph Grisdale and Ann Temple. Sometime in the 1790s, Thomas moved to Bolton in Lancashire (then called Bolton Le Moors); he married an Elizabeth Crossley there in September 1796. Between 1799 and 1817 they had nine children in Bolton, including in 1799 John, the emigrant brothers’ father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Views of Norristown in 1881

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

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

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

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

Jamison Mills, Norristown, 1883

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

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

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

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

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

SS City of New York

SS City of New York

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

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

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

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

Mountain Island Cotton Mill

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

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

Long Island Cotton Mill

Long Island Cotton Mill

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

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

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

McAden’s Mill, McAdenville, North Carolina

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

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

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

McAden Mill

McAden Mill

At eight o’clock on a fine tuesday morning in late May 1805, a young London lawyer called John Campbell climbed on top of a stage-coach outside the White Horse tavern in Fetter Lane. John, who would later become the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, was accompanying his close friend and legal colleague John Grisdale to Cambridge. Grisdale was to be admitted as a fellow of the university having achieved high academic distinction there on his graduation three years earlier. He had in fact been the Second Wrangler in mathematics; an honour later awarded to physicists James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin and economist Alfred Marshall.

Christ’s College, Cambridge

John Campbell was somewhat in awe of his brilliant friend and he wrote to his father about their “pleasant excursion” to Cambridge shortly after his return to his chambers in London. The letter gives us a real flavour of young John Grisdale’s world, so I will quote from it at some length.

The weather was delightful. I cannot describe to you how much I was exhilarated by once more breathing the fresh air and viewing the green fields. It is now near a year and a half since I entered with Tidd, and during that time I had been only one day absent from the office, when I had gone down to the House of Commons. I am of opinion with Dr. Johnson that human life has few things to offer better than travelling at a good pace in a post-chaise, or upon a stage-coach. We took the same road as the celebrated Mr. John Gilpin, through Islington and Edmonton to Ware. We observed his adventures recorded upon several sign-posts as we passed along. About a quarter before three we came in sight of King’s College Chapel. I was very much struck with this noble building, one of the most perfect specimens of Gothic architecture extant. In a few minutes we were in the streets of Cambridge—narrow, crooked and dirty.

John Grisdale was obviously expected because Campbell continues:

 As soon as we alighted we walked up to Christ’s College, where there was a numerous party of Grisdale’s friends drawn up to receive him. He introduced me to the circle, and from that moment till my departure I met with every kind of attention and politeness.

After dining with a Mr. Kaye, “a young man scarcely of age, who had been at once a senior wrangler and first medallist (the highest mathematical and classical honours), and who in consequence had been immediately elected a fellow”, the pair took a stroll along the “grand promenade belonging to Clare Hall” where they found “crowds of townsmen and ladies”. After another supper they adjourned to their lodgings: Campbell to an inn but John Grisdale to the rooms of a famous jockey which Campbell found highly amusing:

Nothing that I saw amused me more than the manner in which they were fitted up. Not a book was to be seen in them. The walls were hung round with portraits of Eclipse, Hambletonian, and other famous racers. From each side of the looking-glass depended a fox’s brush. Behind the door were several hunting caps and (upon my honour) ten different whips, which the bedmaker assured us were not half the number this gentleman possessed.

John Campbell as Lord High Chancellor

The next day was the day of the election, and, says Campbell “considerable anxiety prevailed”. But the fellows unanimously elected Grisdale to a fellowship and after he had taken an oath with the Vice-Chancellor the revels began. John Campbell tells his father: “Dinner was given in the hall. I was taken to the fellows’ table, and was asked to sit next the master. As soon as the cloth was removed we all retired to what is called the combination room, where there was such a drinking bout as I have seldom witnessed. ‘Alma Mater lay dissolved in port.’ Each man must have had above two bottles. Of course those who remained to the last were most excessively tipsy. There was afterwards a supper given by Grisdale, the particulars of which I am not at all able to describe. By some means or other I got safe home to my inn, but several of the fellows continued reeling through the streets for a great part of the night.”

Later on Campbell comments:

You can scarcely form an idea of the sumptuous manner I fed and soaked at Christ’s, and it seemed to be their common mode of life. This being a small college, the men belonging to it form but one society, and at every meal they are feasting with each other. If they dine in the hall, one of them regularly gives wine and fruit after dinner at his rooms. It is impossible they should spend less than £300 or £400 a year. How different from St. Andrews, where the whole expense of the session may be defrayed for £10 or £15! But I scarcely ventured to whisper that I had been at a Scots university.

The next day, no doubt nursing hangovers, the two young men occupied themselves with sight-seeing, Grisdale being Campbell’s guide to Cambridge. Campbell wrote:  “From breakfasting in one place, dining in another, and supping at a third, I mixed with all the classes of which the University is composed.” But the one thing that most gave him cause for thought was a visit to the county goal. They went to visit a friend, and possibly former tutor, of Grisdale’s called Dr. Fisher, who was a fellow of Christ’s College where Grisdale had studied. He was, says Campbell, a “senior doctor at Doctors’ Commons, often sits there as a judge, and is intimately acquainted with Sir William Scott, Lord Eldon, Lord Ellenborough, and all the leading men of the day”. “Do not suppose, however”, says Campbell, “it (his imprisonment) was for housebreaking or any such enormity.” Fisher had been imprisoned for debt. He had provided a guarantee for his brother whose business had failed. Goals In England were at the time sink-holes of squalor, disease and brutality; but not if you had money or a “name”.

We went to drink wine with Dr. Fisher…. We had here a proof of how much there is in a name. There was nothing to tell that we were not in a well-furnished private house.

The latter part of the friends’ stay “was somewhat clouded” when news arrived of the death of John Grisdale’s Cambridge tutor, the very eminent Dr William Paley – a man to whom I will return. Dr Paley’s son also worked as a lawyer in London, indeed in the same chambers as John Campbell:

Young Paley, I believe I have told you, is in Tidd’s office. On Monday night I parted with him in the highest spirits, and it was shocking to think of the news to be brought to him by Tuesday’s post. Besides I was uneasy to think of the inconvenience Tidd might be suffering, being thus deprived of the man he chiefly relied upon in my absence.

So after a visit of some delight, though tinged with sadness, on Sunday morning Grisdale and Campbell set off “upon the top of a coach” on their return journey to London. They arrived at the Blue Boar Inn in Holborn at five in the afternoon.

And for seven years this is the last we hear of the brilliant scholar and promising young lawyer John Grisdale; a man who his friend John Campbell, the future Lord High Chancellor, had told his father proudly, “had been second wrangler about three years ago, and had thus acquired no mean fame in the University. To take such a degree requires reading that in Scotland we have hardly any notion of. If there are greater instances of idleness in English seminaries, there are likewise more astonishing proofs of application”.

So who was John Grisdale? How had a member of this Cumberland family risen to such heights?

Carlisle Cathedral – Where John’s father was Chancellor

John was born in Carlisle, Cumberland, in 1780. He was the son of the Rev. Dr. Browne Grisdale, the “Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle, and Chairman of the Cumberland Quarter Sessions”. He was also the nephew of the Rev. Benjamin Grisdale who was captured by the Americans at the Siege of Yorktown, about whom I wrote recently.  His father’s story is also of great interest but I will leave it for another time. Browne Grisdale, like most of the Cumberland Grisdales who were to go to University, studied at Queen’s College, Oxford. John went to Christ’s College, Cambridge and won the second highest prize in mathematics. John had first entered Trinity college in 1799 but switched the following year to Christ’s. His decision to move to Christ’s was probably connected with Dr William Paley. Paley had graduated from Christ’s in 1763 as “senior wrangler”, became a tutor at Christ’s and since 1782 had been Archdeacon of Carlisle Cathedral and a colleague and friend of John’s father Browne Grisdale.

John had attended Carlisle Grammar School where we are told “he gave promise of extraordinary attainments in literature, his mind was stored with much acquired knowledge, and he possessed a judgement clear and comprehensive, which enabled him to select the most useful parts of science; while his superior taste led him to choose for the objects of his imitation the most pure compositions in ancient and modern literature”.

 While at the Grammar-school at Carlisle, his compositions were admired for possessing force, elegance and beauty, far beyond his years; and his friends could not help expecting anxiously, that powers of mind so highly gifted, with application so steady, and a demeanor at once gentle and manly, might achieve a distinguished situation in the learned profession which he had chosen.

As the writer of John’s obituary would later say, his life had opened “most auspiciously”. “His friends beheld with joy the dawn of uncommon talents. There seemed nothing in literature too difficult for his attainment; his application was unwearied; and he was not merely a student by profession; he brought to literature an ardent and noble mind, fraught with all the enthusiasm of a poet; and all the subtleness of a critic.”

Lincoln’s Inn

When John Grisdale graduated as second wrangler in 1802 he found a position in chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, one of the London Inns of Court. From the little we know his life was progressing nicely. We have heard a little about (part) of the life he led from his visit to Cambridge to receive his fellowship in 1805.

But unfortunately John’s great promise did not have time to flower. In The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, on Tuesday, 11th February, 1812, local Cumbrians read of John’s death: “The 29th ult. at his chambers in the Temple, London, aged 31, after a short illness, John GRISDALE, Esq. only surviving son of the Rev. Browne GRISDALE, D.D, Chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle. At Cambridge he obtained very high academic honours; and in his profession was much distinguished.”

Slightly later the London-based Monthly Magazine, Volume 33, published John’s obituary, almost a eulogy, from which I have been quoting. Coming to John untimely death the author continues:

Alas! how false are our hopes!

Not only his parents and relatives must deeply lament a fate so lively distressing, but the numerous acquaintances which his superior understanding and excellent qualities had procured him, must deplore a stroke which has cut short the career of one who, had he lived, it is no exaggeration to say would have been one of the brightest ornaments of the nineteenth century.

When a sap, who has attained celebrity in science, fails, we lament his departure, but we regret his loss the less because he has perhaps left a monument behind him, which will not speedily perish; but, when a young man of promising talents… is cut off in the very prime of life, it is truly lamentable…

John Grisdale was buried on February 7th 1812 at the Church of Saint Dunstan in the West in the City of London. His address being given as Elm Court, North Vault.

Dr William Paley

What type of man John would have been and whether he would have put his talents in the service of the mass of the people, as had his teacher and mentor Dr William Paley, we can never know. When Dr Paley’s name was mentioned to King George the third he shouted “Pigeon Paley? Not sound, not sound”. One can’t get higher praise than that! But why Pigeon Paley? In Paley’s book titled Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy he had included a fable of the pigeons:

If you should see a flock of pigeons in a field of corn; and if (instead of each picking where and what it liked, taking just as much as it wanted, and no more) you should see ninety-nine of them gathering all they got, into a heap; reserving nothing for themselves, but the chaff and the refuse; keeping this heap for one, and that the weakest, perhaps worst, pigeon of the flock; sitting round, and looking on, all the winter, whilst this one was devouring, throwing about, and wasting it; and if a pigeon more hardy or hungry than the rest, touched a grain of the hoard, all the others instantly flying upon it, and tearing it to pieces; if you should see this, you would see nothing more than what is every day practised and established among men. Among men, you see the ninety-and-nine toiling and scraping together a heap of superfluities for one (and this one too, oftentimes the feeblest and worst of the whole set, a child, a woman, a madman, or a fool); getting nothing for themselves all the while, but a little of the coarsest of the provision, which their own industry produces; looking quietly on, while they see the fruits of all their labour spent or spoiled; and if one of the number take or touch a particle of the hoard, the others joining against him, and hanging him for the theft.

I wonder whether those involved in the Occupy movement know when they chant their slogan “We are the 99%” that William Paley had said the same thing over two hundred years ago?

Saint Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street – where John Grisdale is buried

My recent article about William Booker and his family, who were early New Zealand settlers, has caused a small flurry of interest from some of his descendants in New Zealand. They have also provided me not only with a lot of information about some of his descendants but also more about how the family came to New Zealand.

Mary Booker

I had suggested that the reason William and Jemima Booker had emigrated with their children in 1856 was probably connected with of their daughter Mary Booker. I wrote:

 The answer I think must be connected with the couple’s first daughter, Mary Booker, who had been born in Saint Pancras, London in 1833. Somehow Mary had made her way to Melbourne in Australia where she arrived on the 5 October 1853 on the Statesman. She met and married George Ishmael Clarke there in 1854. The couple like many others had joined the Victoria Gold Rush and worked in the “diggings”, but George had quickly contracted a chest infection and before he died he had asked Mary, who was pregnant, to go to his parents (Ishmael and Mary Clarke), who were living in Nelson in New Zealand, to have their baby. After George’s death this Mary did and their child, George William Ishmael Clarke, was born in Nelson in April 1855. So I don’t think it beyond the realms of reason to think that it was perhaps Mary who had written to her family in London and encouraged them to join her down-under?

It turns out that this was indeed the case. Mary’s descendants have provided me with the text of a very poignant letter written by her to her parents on February 10th 1855, after she had moved to New Zealand following the death of her husband in Australia:

 I write these few lines hoping they will find you well. I am glad to say they leave me well at present (considering the circumstances in which I am placed) I have written one letter to you but as yet have received no answer which makes me feel very anxious. After my arrival in Melbourne I became acquainted with George Ishmael Clarke, and was married and then proceded to the diggings, but we have not been there about three weeks when he caught a severe cold which settled on his lungs and soon terminated in death. He was a kind and faithful husband to me the short time that we were permitted to enjoy each other’s society which was not for more than five months and only two out of them he was in the health. It was his wish that I should come to his parents here in Nelson who are very kind and affectionate towards me. Before the bearer arrives with this letter I expected to be confined the latter in of April, and I thank the Gracious Providence I am places along with kind and affectionate hearts who respect and honour me on account of their dear son and my husband who died at the age of 24 years. I hope and trust that this letter will find you in good health and that you will write as soon as possible. I have sent this letter by care of the bearer a friend of Mrs Clarke on board the ship Monsoon for London who has kindly promised to call upon you on his arrival. Give my love and plenty of kisses to my dear brothers and sisters. I will enclose a piece of my husband’s hair and a piece of mine. The darkest is his. I must now conclude with my dearest wishes for your welfare and should we not meet again on this earth I hope and trust we shall have a happy meeting where parting is not known and death can never sever. I will wish you good bye my dear parents and no more at present. Your affectionate daughter. Mary Booker.

In addition:

 The Booker Family…  arrived in New Zealand aboard the ship Cresswell in October 1856. New son-in-law, Jock Fraser, (he & Mary were married in March 1856) stood surety for William, Jemima and their seven children.

 Finally:

 George Ishmael Clarke was the first born to Mary Booker on 10 April 1855 at Nelson, after being widowed at the Goldfields in Australia. When she came to Nelson at her husband’s wishes, Mary lived with Ishmael and Betsy (nee Steeden) her in-laws until the baby was born and for the first year or so of George Ishmael’s life. It appears that the Clarke’s were neighbours of Jock Fraser in Nelson, and so not surprising Jock and Mary became acquainted and were married at Nelson on 27 March 1856. 

George Ishmael Clarke Jnr

In 1816 Gideon Grisdale was only about twelve when he arrived with his family in Canada. The family were early settlers in North Monaghan, Ontario and I told something of their journey from Cumberland and their early years in Canada in a previous article. This is a brief story about Gideon (and later about his son who was also called Gideon) after he moved to help build a canal.

Gideon Grisdale Senior

Gideon was born in Carlisle, Cumberland, England in 1804, he had been named Gideon after his father Wilfred’s brother.   

Building the Welland Canal

While some of Gideon’s family remained in and around Peterborough County for a long time after the family’s arrival in 1816, he, together with his brother James, soon sought work elsewhere. It was probably in the late 1820s or maybe the early 1830s, when Gideon was in his early or mid twenties, when he moved to Allanburg in Welland County, near Niagara and the American border. Allanburg was at first a shanty town which had sprung up to house the mostly English and Irish workers who had arrived to build the first Welland Canal linking Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. A village was later laid out in 1832 by Samuel Keefer and originally named Allanburgh to honour two men: William Allan, a Toronto banker who was vice-president of the Canal Company, and John Vanderburgh, the first settler. On November 30, 1824, approximately 200 people gathered near Allanburg to witness the sod-turning for the construction of the canal.

The construction of the Canal was beset with challenges and underwent several revisions of its route, but a mere five years after incorporation, on November 30, 1829, the first vessels passed up the completed canal from Port Dalhousie to Lake Erie.

It is highly probable that it was to find work as a labourer on the canal that Gideon trekked from the forests and lakes of Peterborough County all the way to Allanburg. Besides to work on the canal there was no other reason to go there. Gideon probably first lived in the shanty town.

The life of the canal builders was hard. We are told that “undoubtedly the most challenging part of the entire project was digging through the earlier miscalculated 18-metre height of land between Allanburg and Port Robinson”.

This involved excavating a cut of more than 3.2 kilometres in length, at times to a depth of 21 metres from which over 760,000 cubic metres of earth were removed.

The construction was very labour-intensive, with from 250 to 600 men being employed at one time, at a wage of 63 cents a day.

The work was very heavy and difficult, accomplished by human brawn helped only by crude tools and animals. The earth was loosened by pick and shovel, moved from the excavation site by wheelbarrow and then loaded onto ox-drawn carts, or wagons pulled by horses.

If the banks were too steep for the animals to climb, mud had to be shovelled into sacks and with much struggling carried to the surface upon men’s backs.

The work was not without danger. Unstable soil, some sources even describe quicksand, was encountered in many places. Rock had to be drilled by hand and then blown apart by gunpowder. The company once boasted that there had only been three deaths “in a considerable period of time.”

Disease also took a heavy toll. Due to the conditions of moving huge quantities of wet earth, many labourers fell ill with fever. Cholera, likewise, was a grave problem.

Even the work animals suffered. Numerous oxen were killed sliding down the steep banks that became slippery after heavy rains, and many horses died from injury and infection.

Work continued on a southern extension, which was finished in 1833. In the same year Gideon married  Mary Ann Green (called Ann). Two children followed: Gideon Junior in 1834 and Robert John in 1837, both born in Allanburg itself. We next find the family in the 1850 Canadian census in Thorold, in which Gideon is listed as a labourer. Whether he was still labouring on building canals we don’t know, although the second Welland Canal which had been started in 1841 was still not fully completed.

In 1860 Gideon was to be found back in Duoro Peterborough County. He was widowed and living with his farmer nephew Wilfred McCue. How long he stayed in Duoro isn’t known, it’s also unclear how long he had lived in a house his son had bought and sold to him in Allanburg. The Thorold records contain information regarding the purchase of some land and a house in Allanburg, right next to the canal, in 1857 and 1860:

On 20 Jul 1857 (Reg 22 Jul 1857) John Harper et ux sold to Gideon Grisdale ½ acre upon which is erected and known as All Nations House in the Village of Allanburg in Allanburg in Lot 119 Thorold Twp. For £300.

Three years later Gideon Junior sold this to his father:

On 16 Jun 1860 (Reg 26 Jun 1860) Gideon Grisdale Jr. sold to Gideon Grisdale Sr. ½ acre in the Village of Allanburg in Lot 119 Thorold Twp. for £300.

So it seems that Gideon’s son Gideon Junior had by the age of 23 been able to buy land and a house which he sold three years later to his father for the same amount he had paid.

This piece of land had an interesting history. Originally it was part of William Hamilton Merritt’s large plot called “Lot 119”. Part of this land he sold to Captain Ogden Creighton, whose widow Eleanor Creighton sold it to John Harper in 1854. It was from this John Harper that Gideon Grisdale Junior bought the land and house before selling it to his father.

An early survey map of the first and second Welland Canal in Allanburg drawn in the 1860s clearly shows a John Harper’s Tavern on the canal as well as a Lock Tender’s House, both in Lot 119.

In any case by 1881 at the latest Gideon Senior was back in Thorold and continued to live there, possibly (but by no means certainly) in All Nations’ House in Allanburg, until his death from diarrhea in September 1889. This is his obituary:

Welland Tribune, September 27, 1889, p. 4.
Gideon Grisdale, Sr., aged 86 years, died at the residence of his niece, Mrs. Tewsley, Low Banks, on Sunday. His body was interred here on Tuesday. Mr. Grisdale has resided in this section about fifty years and for a long time lived at Allanburgh. He served twenty years as locktender, and was employed on the first Welland Canal that was excavated. Deceased was father of Messrs. Robert Grisdale of this place and Gideon Grisdale of the Ontario police, Niagara Falls.

Gideon Grisdale Junior

Turning now to Gideon Junior, from his birth in 1834 until his death sometime after 1891 but before 1901, Gideon Junior lived in and around Allanburg and later in Port Robinson, in Welland. The censuses always refer to him as a “carpenter”. His work very probably was also connected to the canal; he might also have been a lock keeper on the canal.

Gideon Grisdale Junior married Margaret Bell in 1856 in Niagara, Canada. They were to have four children: William (1857), Margaret Ann (1859), Alexander Latimer (1861) and Gideon Chatfield (1863).

Perhaps we will never know much more about Gideon Junior’s life, unless his descendants have kept stories or have documents, but as we have seen he had done well enough by 1857 to buy land and a house.

Yet there was one incident where we know that he was present and that was the “Battle of Fort Erie” on June 2nd, 1866. This was a small side event in what have become known as the Fenian Raids.

When the American Civil War ended, the “Fenian Brotherhood, who were based in the United States” started to raid “British army forts, customs posts and other targets in Canada to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland”.

Canadian Militia during the Fenian Raids

While these raids, which lasted from 1866 to 1871, were perhaps not of great import in the larger scheme of things, they were to be of great significance to the development of Canada’s own national identity. I will not recount the history of the raids as there are many excellent telling of the events. Suffice it to say that usually a mixture of Regular British/Canadian troops and locally raised Canadian militia generally saw off the Irish raiders. Except that is for a defeat on the 2nd June, 1866 at the “Battle of Ridgeway”.

Before news of this rare Canadian defeat became known orders were given for the tugboat W T Cobb to embark. Gideon Grisdale was a Sergeant in the volunteer Welland Field Battery and he was aboard the Cobb. One history of what happened puts it as follows:

In response to the Fenian occupation of the township of Fort Erie, Ontario on the night of June 1, 1866, militia units throughout the Niagara Peninsula had been mobilized or put on alert. At Port Colborne a detachment of 51 gunners and N.C.O.s, British Royal Artillery bombardier Sergeant James McCracken and 3 officers (Captain Richard S. King M.D., Lieutenants A.K. Schofield and Charles Nimmo [Nemmo]) taken under command by Lieutenant-Colonel John Dennis, boarded a tugboat, the W.T. Robb carrying the Dunville Naval Brigade, consisting of 19 men and 3 officers (Captain Lachlan McCallum, Lieutenant Walter T. Robb, Second Lieutenant Angus Macdonald) (a total of 71 men and 8 officers) and steamed east to the Niagara River, then scouted downriver as far as Black Creek. The Welland Field Battery did not have its four Armstrong guns with it, and were only half armed with Enfield muzzle-loading rifles while the other half with obsolete smooth-bore “Victoria” carbines that had a limited range of approximately 300 yards at best.

The Fenians apparently gone, Dennis turned back upriver to secure the village of Fort Erie and deny them an easy escape route. Dennis and a company of the Welland Field Battery, landed without difficulty, rounding up a number of stragglers. But when John O’Neill returned with the bulk of his force from his victory at Ridgeway, the volunteers – expecting to encounter only scattered bands of defeated Fenians under close pursuit – were unable to resist them. A fierce firelight followed, in which the militia soldiers and sailors were swept off the shores by the better-armed Fenians and most of the Canadians who had landed were captured. While his men were making their stand, Dennis ran away on foot and hid in a house, shedding his uniform and shaving off his luxurious sideburn whiskers. He would later be court-martialled for deserting his men but he was acquitted by two of the three officers serving on the tribunal.

The “Battle” of Fort Erie 1866

Gideon Grisdale had been involved in this fight and was one of those captured. (Some histories have mistranscribed his name as Griswold). They were released by the Fenians a few days later.

The last thing we know about Gideon Junior before his death in Port Robinson in October 1892 is that in 1891 he was living with his wife Margaret in Niagara Falls Town in Welland County. He was it seems by then a member of the “Ontario Police”!  How this came about is a mystery.

The Grisdales of Matterdale it seems went everywhere: to Canada, to the United States and to Australia. They also fought in England’s armies. But the son of one Grisdale woman was also an early New Zealand settler.

In a previous article I wrote about Levi Grisdale and his life as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars.  After returning from Spain, where he had taken the French General Lefebvre prisoner, Levi and his first wife Ann Robinson had a son, who not surprisingly was also called Levi. He was born in March 1811 in Arundel, Sussex. At the time of their son’s birth it’s very likely that Levi and his wife were visiting Levi’s sister Jane who had moved to Arundel some years before and married a local stonemason called John Booker. It’s possible Levi’s wife had been living in Arundel while Levi was away fighting Napoleon in Spain. Whatever the case it’s a good guess that Jane was present at the christening of her brother’s child.

But this child was to meet a sad end. In the London Morning Chronicle of 5th March 1814 there appeared this notice:

ACCIDENT: Saturday a fine boy, the son of Serjeant Grisdale of the 1oth Hussars, who so gallantly took General Lefebre (sic) prisoner in Spain, and afterwards presented the General’s pistols to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, was killed in Romford by a gentleman’s carriage, the wheels of which went over his body. The child lingered in great agony twenty-four hours. The mother of the boy was so much affected by the fatal accident, that on Monday and yesterday she appeared to be in a state of mental derangement.

This is the story of one child of Jane Grisdale and John Booker who was to emigrate to New Zealand and found there a long line of New Zealand families.

Jane Grisdale was born in 1784 in Greystoke, Cumberland, one year after her brother Levi. On the 25th March 1805 she married a stonemason called John Booker in Arundel in the County of Sussex. How they came to meet we have no idea, but between 1808 and 1814 they were to have six children in the town. They then moved with their children to London where they had a final child called Jane in 1817. This is pretty much all we know of them. Jane died aged just 34 in early 1819 and was buried in the Church of St James, Piccadilly. Whether John Booker looked after the young family or whether they went elsewhere is unclear but they definitely stayed in London.

William Booker, Jane Grisdale’s Son. A Stonemason and early New Zealand Settler

The second Arundel born child was called William Booker and was born in 1808. In 1826 he married Jemima Neave in Saint Mary’s Lambeth, London. Ten children were to be born over the next 22 years: James (1827), Mary (1833), Frances (1834), Jane Ann (1834), Sarah (1837), Emily (1838), Elizabeth (1842), William (1844), Jemima Annie (1846) and John (1848).

In 1841 the family was living in Dorset Place, Westminster; William like his father was a stonemason. By 1851 the family was living in Hollings’ Cottages in Kensal Green, in the Parish of Chelsea. Did William ever meet his actor cousin Walter Grisdale in London? (see earlier blog).

But the family was obviously interested in starting a new life because in late June 1856 William and Jemima Booker, with seven of their children, boarded the sailing ship Creswell  bound for a new life and new adventures in New Zealand. They arrived at the little settlement of Nelson in the north of the South Island on 6 October 1856.

The Creswell, a barque of 574 tons, was a superior craft to most of the vessels sent out by Messrs. Willis, Gann and Co., and on each voyage to New Zealand made a fair average run for a ship of her size. She brought out a large number of our early settlers. Judging from the brief reports of the passages published in the papers during the fifties, nothing of an eventful nature occurred on any of her voyages.

In 1856 the barque arrived at Nelson on the 6th October, after making the passage in 104 days, and on this occasion landed 172 passengers.

The Bookers among them.

The small settlement of Nelson had been founded in 1842 by the New Zealand Company and it is possible this company paid for the family’s voyage. But why New Zealand? The answer I think must be connected with the couple’s first daughter, Mary Booker, who had been born in Saint Pancras, London in 1833. Somehow Mary had made her way to Melbourne in Australia where she arrived on the 5 October 1853 on the Statesman. She met and married George Ishmael Clarke there in 1854. The couple like many others had joined the Victoria Gold Rush and worked in the “diggings”, but George had quickly contracted a chest infection and before he died he had asked Mary, who was pregnant, to go to his parents (Ishmael and Mary Clarke), who were living in Nelson in New Zealand, to have their baby. After George’s death this Mary did and their child, George William Ishmael Clarke, was born in Nelson in April 1855. So I don’t think it beyond the realms of reason to think that it was perhaps Mary who had written to her family in London and encouraged them to join her down-under?

It’s interesting to imagine whether or not Mary crossed the path of the family of William Grisdale about whom I wrote in a previous article: . They were distant relatives and William Grisdale and his family were certainly in the Gold “digging” town of Mansfield, Victoria, by 1855. Even if they did meet would they have known that they were related?

Nelson, New Zealand in the 1840s

Actually the young widow Mary had already remarried in Nelson some months before the arrival of her parents and siblings in New Zealand. She married the widower John “Jock” Fraser on the 27 March 1856 in “the residence of John Carter, Waimea Road, Nelson”. Jock was a Gaelic-speaking Scottish shepherd and he and Mary were to go on to have a large family before Mary died aged only 43 in 1876 in the Mount Cook region. But that was still years away and we can imagine Mary greeting her newly arrived family when they stepped ashore in the little settlement of Nelson.

What sort of place had they come to? For Europeans New Zealand was a new land:

In 1839 there were only about 2000 Pakeha (Europeans) in New Zealand. However the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which saw New Zealand become a British colony, had an enormous effect on the New Zealand population. British migrants were offered a paid passage to New Zealand, and 40,000 arrived here between 1840 and 1860.

Regarding Nelson:

 The New Zealand Company was set up by merchants, bankers and ship owners to sell plots of land to eager people in England and then transport them via ships to the new colony of New Zealand. The New Zealand Company established Port Nicholson as its first settlement, but wanted a second settlement in the South Island and had discussions with Governor Hobson about which land they could have.

The New Zealand Company knew there was going to be a place called Nelson and they knew they wanted it to be in the South Island, or Te Wai Pounamu as the Maoris called it. In May 1841, the New Zealand Company had three exploration ships ready to sail to New Zealand for this second settlement. The three ships were the Whitby, the Will Watch and the Arrow and they were under the command of Captain Wakefield. The ships arrived in Wellington in late August- early September 1841.

In October 1841, Captain Wakefield had successful discussions with the leading chief at Kapiti, regarding land available for settlement. The ships set out looking for a place suitable for settlement in the top of the South. Boats were sent out every day. The surveyors of the ship had decided upon what is now known as Kaiteriteri, but Wakefield wanted to look further. He sent out men to look in the far South-East corner of the bay and it was there that the site was discovered. The natural harbour which is now Nelson made it the preferred place for the new settlement. The Arrow entered Nelson on 1 November 1841.

Lack of an actual site for Nelson did not slow The New Zealand Company down in its quest to populate the settlements. In October 1841 it had arranged for the next four ships to set sail for Nelson. These four ships were the Fifeshire, captained by Captain Arnold, Lord Auckland with Captain Jardine as its head, Captain Bolton with the Mary Ann and lastly the Lloyds, with Captain Green. All of these ships ended up in Nelson, the first to arrive being the Fifeshire, on the 1st February 1842.

The Bookers lived in a Mud House like this in Blenheim

At first the Booker family lived in Nelson but later moved to the settlement of Blenheim, where William and Jemima were to remain until their deaths. Life was rude. The New Zealand National Museum tells us that William Booker was a “stonemason and his name can be found at the base of early head stones around Marlborough.” And that:

The Bookers lived in a mud house in Grove Road, beside Peddie’s and opposite Ball’s malthouse.

In the years to come we can find William and some of his sons in various New Zealand Electoral Registers. In 1876, for instance, both William Booker Senior and William Booker Junior were owners of allotments in Wairau, Blenheim and later Registers show them being “Bricklayers”.

I won’t trace here all that I presently know about William and Jemima’s children. I leave that to others – possibly their New Zealand descendants? But perhaps just a few facts: their daughter Jemima Annie Booker married William Henry Attwood in 1864 and went on to have many children before dying in 1928 in Blenheim. Their daughter Frances married William Hannam in 1857 and died in Blenheim in 1920. Son William married Rose Ann and John married Rachel, both had children as well. Daughters Elizabeth and (Violet) Emily it seems never married.

But finally, regarding their daughter Mary, who I have suggested was probably the reason the family came to New Zealand, one family historian has told us the story after she married John “Jock” Fraser. I will reproduce it here in some detail, with thanks, because I think it can give us a little flavour of the life and times of those early New Zealand settlers:

Jock/John Fraser…. came to New Zealand about 1840 with his younger brother Hugh.

On reaching New Zealand Jock and Hugh first settled in Nelson. In 1856 Jock married Mary (nee Clarke) Booker, a young widow (37 years his junior) with babe in arms. Before her premature death in 1876 they would have 8 children.

The Frasers and others left Nelson (the oldest settled corner of South Island) seeking clean, free sheep country free from the taint of scab. Their search took them to the Canterbury Region, home of “Mackenzie Country”. Mackenzie Country was one of the most celebrated pastoral areas in New Zealand. A great inland plain, noted for its pastoral richness and lakes.

About 1857 Jock took ownership of a large area (20,000 acres) in South Island from Pleasant Point to Marlborough. The Fraser brothers (Jock and Hugh) were the only highland Scots to take up sheep runs in the area. Most of the other men working the Mackenzie sheep runs were from England or low-land Scots. Jock and brother Hugh were the first to overland sheep from Nelson to Canterbury in the 1850s….

Jock’s brother Hugh sold their land in 1860 to Andrew Patterson and moved to North Island. In the 1860s Jock and Mary moved to Mt. Cook Station, one of Mackenzie Country’s historic sheep runs.

In May of 1876 Mary and her 18 year old daughter Jessie die within a week of each other and are buried in Pleasant Point Cemetery. Jock lived until 14 April 1893 when he died at the Timaru Hospital. His funeral notice was published in the Timaru Herald on 17 April 1893:

“FRASER – The friends of the late Mr John Fraser, are respectfully invited to attend his funeral, which will leave the Timaru Hospital at 11 o’clock this Morning, for the Pleasant Point Cemetery, which will be reached about 1 o’clock.

Brother Hugh’s family (after moving to the North Island) branched out of farming and ran a box factory in Eketahuna before moving to Wairau (Hawkes Bay) and owning Willowflat Saw Mill. 

William and Jemima Booker’s Grave in Blenheim

In terms of the Grisdale family, although Jane Grisdale Booker had died at a young age in 1819, when her children were still small, I like to think that maybe in London and later in New Zealand her son William Booker just perhaps kept her memory alive. Did the family also know that they had a famous “Uncle” Levi Grisdale who had “saved England and Europe from Napoleon”?  It’s pretty certain that William Booker had met his uncle when he was a boy in Arundel, but whether he remembered anything and told his children we will probably never know.

It was probably with a mixture of hope and trepidation that William Grisdale boarded the 1300 ton sailing ship Genghis Khan in Liverpool docks on 23rd of March 1853. Accompanied by his wife Sarah and their recently born baby Elizabeth, they were bound for Australia and a new life – a life that would take them via Melbourne to the newly discovered gold fields of Victoria. But first they had to survive the journey, which, as we will see, they nearly didn’t.

The Genghis Kahn

William was the second child of William Grisdale, originally of Matterdale, and his wife Elizabeth Charter. William senior had become a “Dancing Master” in Penrith and William junior was born and christened there in 1817 – he himself became a “drainer”. William senior was the brother of the Wilfred Grisdale who had emigrated to Canada in 1816/7 and about whom I wrote in the last article. The older brother of William the Australian emigrant was another Wilfred Grisdale, he is my own 2nd great grandfather.

The family were assisted emigrants; the Colony of Victoria paid their fares, perhaps sponsored by early Melbourne settlers who were short of labour.

What had prompted William and his wife to make this hazardous journey we don’t know. All around England posters were appearing in villages and towns offering the prospect of a new life down-under. Newspapers had also recently started to print stories of gold diggers who had got rich quick, such as this one which appeared in the Liverpool Echo:

Men that were never worth five pounds in their lives are now possessed of fortunes, and the yoke is burdensome, and they scatter their money like chaff. The whole country for hundreds of miles is one immense goldfield.

Whatever the Grisdales’ reasons there was quite a procedure to be gone through. The Victoria Colonial Secretary’s Office worked in conjunction with the British Emigration Agent in London, “assisted by locally appointed Immigration Agents”.

These agents had to ascertain that the applicants were “of sober habit, industrious and of good moral character, and have certificates to this effect, signed by two respectable persons (but not by publicans or dealers in wines and spirits)”.

They had to give the agents their dates and places of birth, literacy, their trade if they had one, their present employment and any debts they may have.  Also they needed to produce a doctor’s report confirming that “they were free from infectious or contagious disease, had either had or were vaccinated against smallpox”.  Adult males were also required to be physically capable of the labour of their trade.

 Once the emigration Commission received and accepted the application, with its various forms and affidavits, the next thing was to wait for an embarkation order.  Applicants were advised not to give up their employment until they received this order, as it may be some time before passage space became available.  When this order was received, it was accompanied by a list of things they were required to supply for the journey, clothes for both hot and cold climates, towels sheets, etc.

Obviously William had been able to supply all this because on 15th March 1853 William and his small family boarded the Genghis Kahn with all the other passengers.

It was to be over a week before the ship sailed. On 22nd March the livestock for the voyage was brought on board: “ducks, fowls and sheep”, and the next day, the 23rd, the ship cast off and was towed into the Mersey by a steam powered tug.

All these details of the voyage, and the ones that will follow, are the result of one passenger named Joseph Tarry who kept a very detailed diary; his observations were subsequently published: A voyage to Australia in 1853 : the diary of Joseph Tarry. I don’t yet have an original copy of this book and thus I have relied heavily on, and am indebted to, a précis written by a family historian researching another Genghis Khan passenger called William Lee. I think it worth quoting this précis at some length:

The moderate easterly soon died down, leaving the vessel briefly becalmed in the Irish Sea, with a memorable view of the Welsh mountains.

 The first few days at sea were horrific, storms and gales tossed the ship about, water poured down the main hatchway into the steerage, and crockery and tin ware, clothing and food, were scattered in confusion all over the passengers’ deck.  This would have been a terrifying experience for William and Elizabeth, as they would never have been to sea before in their lives.  The damp conditions added to the emigrants’ discomfort, for most were miserably sea sick.  “If we did not sleep in boxes”, wrote emigrant Joseph Tarry, “we should be tossed out of bed…”

 As the weather and their health improved, passengers adjusted to shipboard life.  The men made out a roster so that two were awake at all time during the night to assist any sick passengers and prevent irregularities. Soon passengers and crew were reporting thefts to the Master, who announced a thorough search of all luggage on arrival at Melbourne, the thefts stopped immediately.

 The early April days were pleasantly warm as they approached the equator.  Most passengers had written letters, in case they met a homeward bound vessel, but none were sighted.  Entering the South Atlantic so as to follow the Great Circle Route, the ship once again ran into bad weather.  About 30 feet of her top mizzen mast being lost in a storm on April 7th. Soon icy gales and mountainous seas caused the loss of 60 feet of her main mast and damaged her foretop mast.  Even experienced seamen were afraid to go aloft and eventually the Master himself began to climb the rigging, calling on his crew for “the best men among you” to follow him.  Much later, in better conditions, the Master told the passengers that in twenty years at sea he had never experienced such a storm.  The deck was strewn with smashed and splintered timber, torn canvas and broken ropes.

 Passengers were confined below as heavy seas washed over the upper decks, frequently splashing down the main hatch in spite of its canvas cover.  They were cold, often hungry and frequently ill.  The cooks could not keep water in their boilers because of the tossing of the ship.

 The cooks’ fires were constantly being doused with sea water.  When hot food could be prepared, the English emigrants complained that puddings cooked in sea water were unpalatable.  The Scots and Irish were sometimes able to bake oatcakes from their ration of oatmeal, on a griddle provided for their use.  

 The t’weendecks was overcrowded.  The passengers became tired of each other, and even such minor and familiar nuisances as lice contributed to make conditions intolerable

 There was a great deal of illness at sea. Many of the small Scottish children were suffering from malnutrition before the voyage began, and had little resistance to the measles, scarletina, diarrhoea and typhus which swept through the steerage compartments, taking 30 lives

 On May 23rd , a large piece of floating ice struck the ship.  Visibility was poor, and when Prince Edward Island was passed it was completely hidden in thick fog.  Antarctic gales increased, breaking a yard arm.  Waves struck the ship with the thunder of cannon balls.  An officer described the “Genghis Khan” as being “almost a wreck”.  The Chief Mate, held in esteem by all the passengers for his seamanship and courage, was suddenly demoted.  After too much alcohol he had become insane, threatening to sink the ship.

 The Great Circle Route was terrifying not only for the rough weather, darkness, and prospect of meeting icebergs and uncharted islands, but also for its intense loneliness.  No other ships were seen on this route, no friendly greetings, no visits of crews from passing ships.

 As the “Genghis Khan” neared Port Phillip, Joseph Tarry wrote of the growing excitement amongst the emigrants “and no wonder after being shut up in this floating prison for a quarter of a year without      having seen a speck of God’s fair earth or a green leaf and for many weeks not even a ship.”

 On the evening of June 24th the cry of “Land Ho!” brought everyone on deck.  Cape Otway was clearly visible to the north, bathed in moonlight.  Next day the  “Genghis Khan” with the aid of a pilot entered the Heads, anchoring at the Quarantine Station on Ticonderoga Bay, where two families suffering from scarletina were taken on board the hospital ship “Lysander”.

Ticonderoga Quarantine Station used when the Grisdales passed through

The Portsea Quarantine Station (“Ticonderoga”) on the Mornington Peninsular had been established the previous year as a response to the arrival of the “fever ship”, the Ticonderoga. The Health Officer based there was Superintendent of the Sanitary Station. He was charged with boarding every inward bound ship to ascertain the state of health of its passengers and crew and where necessary to place the ship in quarantine.

 Fresh beef was brought aboard, and appetites revived amazingly.  Their strength renewed six seamen deserted during the first night, bound for the goldfields.  A day of absolute calm at the Heads had been followed by a storm so rough that it was impossible to sail, and the “Genghis Khan” finally reached Melbourne a week later, on a beautiful clear winter day.  In spite of the storms and epidemics 256 of the passengers could count themselves fortunate that they had lived to arrive in the colony.

Melbourne in 1854

Passengers were then transferred to land in small boats and then either paid for transport up the River Yarra to the small town of Melbourne or they had to walk.

The Melbourne that confronted the Grisdales was a rough old place. In the same year they arrived William J. Wills wrote home to his father:

I do not like Melbourne in its present state. You are not safe out after sundown and in a short time you will not be safe during the day. There were some men taken out of the river drowned, suspected to have been murdered, and several attempts at robbery, while we were there.

It was in this Melbourne that immigrants such as the Grisdales completed the formalities of their passage in the Immigration Depot on Collin’s Street and here they usually found their first work.

William and his family had survived all the perils of the journey to Australia but their adventure was only just beginning.

William and Sarah Grisdale’s grave in Mansfield cemetery

Whether William first worked in Melbourne or moved straightaway to the booming gold digs in and around the Upper Goulburn River is unclear. But by 1857 at the very latest he and Sarah were living and having more children in the gold fields, first in Mansfield and then in Jamieson, both entrepôts servicing the exploding gold rush settlements. In total William and Sarah had seven more children in Australia and many of these were to work in some of the many “diggings” in the area, including Wood Point, Ten Mile and Gaffney’s Creek. They weren’t only miners, but farmers, lumbermen and labourers as well. Near Wood Point there is even a “Grisdale Creek” – not a coincidence I’m sure!

But that story is for another time.

William Grisdale died in Mansfield in 1886 and is buried in the cemetery there with his wife Sarah. They must have done well because such a grave stone would not have come cheap.

As throughout much of its history, Britain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars was an unforgiving and brutal place for ordinary people trying to make a living.  Quite a number chose to emigrate to the New World, to find a better life. The life they found wasn’t always easy, it was often hard in the extreme, but their courage and fortitude often paid off, at least for their descendants. This is the story of one Matterdale man and his family who did just this: Wilfred Grisdale.

The area of North Monaghan in Ontario as Wilfred Grisdale might have first seen it

In the early nineteenth century much of Upper Canada was still a land of virgin forest and lakes. Of course there were natives Indians but in much of Ontario, for example, many of the forests had no settlements. When there was any path at all it was just, as early pioneer Charles Fothergill put it in 1817, “a windy way through the forest made by the Indians”.

One small piece of this vast land became the Township of North Monaghan, which is situated in the southwest corner of what is now known as Peterborough County.

The latest history of the township, published in 1990 by the North Monaghan Historical Research Committee and titled A History and Story of North Monaghan Township 1817-1989, says this:

Prior to 1817,  few humans had set foot on the Township soil or gazed from the Otanabee river at its heavily forested shores.

Although “a few tracks were testimony to the presence of Indian hunting parties in the past”.

But in 1817 the surveyor Samuel Wilmot had already completed the first survey of the area, the land being divided into lots to which early settlers would stakes claims. One of the very first 11 settlers in North Monaghan was a certain Wilfred Grisdale. In 1817, he staked a claim to Lot 4 (East ½) of concession number twelve.

Wilfred and his family are the founders of a veritable Grisdale dynasty in Canada and the United States.

Jenny Hill Farm, Matterdale. Wilfred Grisdale was (probably) born and raised here

Wilfred Grisdale was born in Matterdale in Cumberland in 1782, probably at Jenny Hill Farm. He was the fourth child of the old blacksmith in Dockray, Matterdale: also called Wilfred Grisdale, and his second wife Ruth Slee. Wilfred Senior had been born in 1711 to Joseph Grisdale and Agnes Dockray. He had married Ann Brownrigg in 1733 but the couple had no children. But when Ann died in 1775, Wilfred wasted no time in marrying again. He married a young Ruth Slee (48 years his junior) in 1776, at the age of 65. But children soon followed, six in all: Gideon, Charlotte, Bilhah, Wilfred, Joseph and William. It is this second Wilfred that is the centre of this story.

Wilfred was to marry Jane Bell in the village church of Hutton in the Forest near Carlisle, the Cumberland county town, on the 6th November 1803, aged 21. The family settled in Carlisle itself and seven children followed, all baptized in Saint Mary’s Church, Carlisle: Gideon (1804), Ann (1805), Wilfred (1807), Ruth (1809), James (1812), Jane (1810) and Joseph (1816).

I wrote about Wilfred’s brother Gideon and his ballet dancer daughter in my last article. For parochial interest, his brother William was my 3rd great grandfather.

In 1816, or in early 1817, Wilfred emigrated with his whole family to Canada to start a new life.

We don’t know the precise reasons for the family’s decision or which ship they travelled on to the “New World”, but the Carlisle newspapers of the time were full of advertisements trying to attract people to move to North America offering the prospect of land grants and assistance with the passage. Perhaps Wilfred was attracted by one of these?

Whatever the truth, Wilfred and his family arrived in North Monaghan in Upper Canada in 1817, perhaps following the route taken in 1825 by Peter Robinson who brought many Irish settlers to the area. Robinson had “sailed from Liverpool to New York and proceeded from thence to Toronto by way of Niagara”. Only later were more direct and less “roundabout” routes to Toronto available.

The settlers from the “Old Country” came by boat as far as Cobourg. From there some found their way by ox cart to Rice Lake and then by smaller boats to spots along the Otanabee River. Others walked, carrying their possessions, north through the forest by way of Port Hope.

Once there, there were two methods of staking a land claim:

By lot or by following the surveyors trails until a lot of land which pleased them was found. Taking note of the number and concession from the marked posts of the surveyors, they returned to Port Hope to make the required application to the land agent in order to secure their lot. During this expedition visit, one or more nights had to be spent in the forest.

Where having kindled a fire, they lay down to sleep beneath the branches of a group of trees, wearied and fatigued, and worse, perhaps wet and torn with the mishaps of the journey.

A Pioneer Settler House in Canada

Wilfred had to stake his claim. “The first requisite to procure land in those days was to take an oath of allegiance, on which a certificate was issued as evidence of the fact.” Usually no payment was needed due to the unsettled nature of the area. Once he had staked his claim in North Monaghan in 1817, the hard work began for Wilfred and his wife and young family: clearing the forest, building a rude wooden hut or “shanty” before the onset of winter and trying to grow or procure enough to survive.

We are lucky to have a book written by a Peterborough County man in 1867, called A Sketch of The Early Settlement and Subsequent Progress of the Town of Peterborough and Each Township in the County of Peterborough. This man was Dr Thomas W Poole and he had both experienced much of what he described or, for the very early settlement years, he had relied on first-hand accounts from the surviving first settlers. He writes:

The first settlers… encountered difficulties and privations of which we, in after time, can have but a faint conception. Unaccustomed as many of them were to the new scenes in which they found themselves placed; with scant provisions, and separated by long wastes of wood water from their fellow-kind, their situation, with their wives and little ones must have been at times appalling; and by less indomitable spirits, would have been relinquished in despair.

Wilfred Grisdale was one of these settlers and was, indeed, with his wife and “little ones”. Dr Poole continues the story:

During the first few years, great difficulties were often felt in procuring the necessary provisions with which to support life. These had to be brought all the way from Port Hope or Cobourg, in the most laborious manner, and in the total absence of even the most ordinary roads; the only guide being the “blaze” upon the trees through the interminable forest, in which they seems entombed. Under these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that whole families were often for weeks without tasting bread, and that the herbs and succulent roots of the rich woods were often called into requisition to lengthen out their scanty fare.

But as Dr Poole tells us from the testimony of the settlers themselves:

Gradually the blue smoke from the settler’s shanty, and the tiny opening in the forest, began to appear here and there, at intervals, often of miles between… But the number of shanty fires gradually grew larger, as giant trunk and tender sapling groaned and fell beneath the sturdy strokes of the settler’s axe, then the huge heaps appeared, rolled together by united effort. The flames crackled and roared.

Far away into the gloom of the dark forest shot the gleam of the evening fires, which told that a conqueror had come, and that civilization and the luxuries of comfort and refinement were on the way to cheer and enliven these rude fastnesses of nature, and bid them smile with a new growth and a more prolific harvest. The first rude shanty gave way to a substantial and comfortable mansion. Flocks and herds increased; and as time progressed and the population grew, the rude wilderness became a comparative garden.

Mercifully during the first hard years in Canada all of the Grisdale children survived. Wilfred and Jane even had one more child called Maria born in North Monaghan in about 1822 – the first Grisdale of this family to be born on North American soil.

We can only hope that Wilfred and his wife were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour in the manner evoked by Dr Poole:

Well may the veteran pioneer pause now in the evening of his days and look around on the wonders wrought by time and industry. Proudly may he point to the spot where he first reclined beneath the spreading trees, wet with the morning dew, during that first visit to his future farm, and contrast the scene with the present, with its broad acres and cultivated fields, its neat farm houses and thriftly barns, which he expects soon to leave a rich heritage to his children.

I hope so.

The Grave of Maria Grisdale in Thorold, Ontario. Maria was the first and only Canadian born child of Wilfred Grisdale

We don’t know when Wilfred and his wife Jane died but we do know that his children soon started to move to, and settle in, other parts of Ontario (Upper Canada) as well as across the border into Michigan.

I won’t go into the marriages and children of Wilfred and Jane’s own children here because it would involve writing a book. For those who are interested, please refer to my own family tree on ancestry.com, mentioned in the “About” page of this blog.

What, however, is clear is that there are alive today in Canada and the United States literally hundreds and probably thousands of Grisdales (and others) who owe their existence to the decision of Wilfred and his wife Jane to leave Cumberland, where the family had lived for centuries, and to make the hazardous voyage to Canada to start a new life.

I hope some of Wilfred and Jane’s Canadian or American descendants will write some of the fascinating stories of their children.

Sources

North Monaghan Historical Research Committee, 1990,  A History and Story of North Monaghan Township 1817-1989.

http://www.ourroots.ca/e/page.aspx?id=911774

Thomas W. Poole M.D, Peterborough Review, Peterborough, 1867, A Sketch of The Early Settlement and Subsequent Progress of the Town of Peterborough and Each Township in the County of Peterborough.

http://books.google.fr/books/about/A_sketch_of_the_early_settlement_and_sub.html?id=orMNAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y

 

On the 22nd July 1812 near the Spanish city of Salamanca the Duke of Wellington’s British and Portuguese army was fighting a major battle with Napoleon’s French, commanded by Marshal Marmont. It turned out to be significant victory for the British and helped to consolidate Wellington’s growing reputation as a winning General. The price of course was, as usual, thousands of dead and wounded on both sides. One of these was Lieutenant Bethel, the Adjutant of the 40th Regiment of Foot (South Lancashire). Bethell was “severely wounded” and died of his injuries shortly afterwards.

The Duke of Wellington inspects his Foot soldiers before the Battle of Salamanca

The consequences of such personal tragedies always spread further. Bethell left a widow called Martha back home in Malpas Cheshire. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars the House of Commons regularly granted “relief” i.e. payments to the families of soldiers who had been killed in the wars and had been left in difficult even penurious situations. Though it has to be said the families of officers tended to fare better than those of “common” soldiers. In 1815 the House granted £30 to Martha Bethell:

Widow of the late Lieutenant and Adjutant Bethell of the 40th Foot, who died of the wounds he received in the Battle of Salamanca, in consideration of his meritorious services, and the destitute situation in which she is left.

The award was “back-dated” to 22 October 1822, possibly the date when Martha had appealed for help.

And this brings us to the issue of money. In order to pay for the wars against Napoleon the British crown and government needed as always a lot of money. They introduced many new taxes on an already suffering populace. By the turn of the nineteenth century tax collecting in Britain had taken on many of the features we would be familiar with today, including a nationwide network of tax Inspectors and “Collectors of Customs”.

Being a customs collector was, locally, a prestigious, well remunerated, though still much despised, profession. One Collector of Customs active throughout the wars, and thus helping to finance British battles such as Salamanca, was a certain Benjamin Grisdale. He was born and baptized in Matterdale in September 1764, one of the many children of Joseph Grisdale and Ann Temple.  On 7th September 1791 Benjamin married Jane Maddock in Malpas, Cheshire. It’s quite likely that he had already started his Tax career, a life that took him and his growing family from Malpas (where he had stayed awhile) to Whitchurch in Shropshire, then to Bolton Le Moors in Lancashire and thence to Halifax in Yorkshire. Benjamin and Jane had at least nine children, the last being baptized in Halifax on 16 April 1813 – so she was conceived it seems at around the time Lieutenant Bethell was being fatally wounded at Salamanca.

Whitehaven Harbour in the nineteenth century

Sometime at the end of the Wars or shortly thereafter Benjamin was appointed “Collector of Customs” for Whitehaven, so it was back to Cumberland, before moving again to Carmarthen in Wales. Jane his wife died there. She was buried on 29th September 1827 in Saint Peter’s Church, Carmarthen.

And so for some years the lives of these two people at the heart of this story, Benjamin and Martha Bethell, continued in their very different ways. Benjamin was quite well-to-do whereas, we might surmise, Martha was still probably struggling to avoid “destitution”. We don’t know how or where Benjamin and Martha met but they were married in Carmarthen on 23 Nov 1830; Benjamin being 56 and Martha 55.

It seems that Benjamin with his new wife and some of his children stayed in Carmarthen for a few more years. Maybe Benjamin had already retired from his tax collecting job, we can’t be sure.

In August 1834, Sarah, Benjamin’s youngest child was married in Liverpool, as reported in the Carlisle Journal:

On the 13th inst., at St. Bride’s Church, Liverpool, Mr Thomas WILLIAMS, youngest son of Mr. Wm. WILLIAMS, Ty-Brith, Vale of Clwyd, to Sarah, youngest daughter of Benjamin GRISDALE, Esq., Carmarthen, and late Collector of Excise, Whitehaven.

But sometime after 1834 they moved back to Whitehaven, to the little village of Hensingham. It is here we find the end of their story. Beneath a bush in the Old Churchyard at Hensingham there is a gravestone with the following inscription:

Sacred to the memory of Benjamin Grisdale Collector of Excise who departed this life 28th of July 1848 aged 84 years.

 Also Martha his wife who departed this life on the 5th June 1865 aged 90 years. And formerly widow of Captain and Adjutant Bethel who was killed at the Battle of Salamanca.

Also Ann daughter of the above Benjamin Grisdale died on the 11th May 1865 aged 70 years.

Frances the widow of John Heylin and fourth daughter of the above Benjamin Grisdale who died Novr 29th 1865 aged 65 years..

Thy Will be Done.

Hensingham Church, Whitehaven, Cumberland

It is pleasing to know that both Martha and Benjamin had led such long and full lives, we hope they were happy together.

Such are the little connections that are English history.

On the 19th October 1781 the British and German forces besieged at Yorktown, Virginia commanded by General Lord Charles Cornwallis “having little ammunition, food and supplies left” agreed to surrender to the French and American armies, the latter under General George Washington. Cornwallis had been waiting for a relief force under General Henry Clinton, but it came five days too late. The British and Germans marched out into captivity with their colours furled, the drummers playing a British march, reputedly (but in no way proved to have been) The World Turned Upside Down. This defeat led to Britain eventually acquiescing to American independence and the creation of the United States. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783. But not far from Cornwallis on this day in 1781 would have been his good friend Benjamin Grisdale from Matterdale in Cumberland. One more example of how members of this small rural family seem to have spread throughout the world and been present at some key moments in history.

Surrender at Yorktown 1781

Benjamin Grisdale was born in Threlkeld in Matterdale and was baptized there on the 21st February 1744. He was the son of Benjamin Grisdale and Ann Browne. Benjamin followed a route already well trodden by the clever children of poor Cumberland families. He was probably a pupil at the Free Grammar School at Barton in Westmorland and entered Queen’s College, Oxford University in 1760 to study Divinity, aged 15. His maternal uncle Joseph Browne had been educated at Barton School and Queen’s College and was later to become the University’s Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy.

Benjamin received his BA from Oxford in 1764 and his MA in 1767. His brother the Rev Dr Browne Grisdale would follow the same route to Oxford and to ordination and was subsequently to become “Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty”, “Chancellor” of Carlisle and a powerful Justice of the Peace.

On the 22nd February 1768, shortly after receiving his MA, and probably through connections he had made at Oxford, Benjamin became the Chaplain of the British army’s elite infantry regiment: the 33rd Regiment of Foot, commanded by Colonel Charles Cornwallis, the “Earl Cornwallis”. For its conduct, professionalism and discipline during the War of Independence the regiment was later given the nickname ‘The Pattern’. One Sergeant commented:

I am bound to record here that I have felt a certain shamefacedness, on visiting the barracks of the 33rd Regiment, who were commanded by the young Earl of Cornwallis, to compare their high state of appointment and the steadiness of their discipline with the slovenly and relaxed bearing of most of our own companies. One can always correctly judge a regiment by the behaviour of its sentries. I have seen men go on duty in the 9th dead drunk and scarcely able to stand, but with the 33rd the sentry was always alert and alive in attention; when on duty, he was all eye, all ear… During the two hours he remained at this post the sentry continued in constant motion and could not have walked less than seven miles in that time. The 33rd thus set a standard of soldier like duty which made me secretly dissatisfied with the 9th, and which I have never since seen equalled but by a single other regiment [the 23rd RWF] which was brigaded with the 33rd under the same Cornwallis in the later campaigns of the American War. – Sjt. Roger Lamb, 23rd RWF

We know nothing of Benjamin’s early years in the army but when the American colonies rebelled the 33rd of Foot was sent to help in their repression. Benjamin Grisdale went with them. The 33rd landed at Cape Fear, North Carolina on the 3rd May 1776.

Cornwallis wrote this aboard the HMS Bristol about two weeks before their arrival in America:

I have nothing to inform your lordship of but that our passage has been very tedious and that we are still 370 leagues from our rendezvous at Cape Fear. We have with us twenty ships in company, besides two artillery-ships and four victuallers…. The troops are in general healthy…

The 33rd Regiment of Foot Guards

The regiment saw action almost immediately after landing; starting at the first siege of Charleston, South Carolina in June-July 1776. They then fought in many of the engagements of the American War of Independence: Long Island, NY (August 1776), Harlem Heights, New York (September 1776), Fort Washington, New York (November 1776), Brandywine, Pennsylvania (September 1777), Germantown, Pennsylvania (October 1777), Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania(December 1777), Monmouth, New Jersey (June 1778), the defence of Newport and Quaker Hill, Rhode Island (August 1778),  Old Tappan, New York (September 1778), Charleston, South Carolina (March-May 1780), Camden, South Carolina (August 1780), Wetzell’s Mill, North Carolina (March 1781), Guilford Court House, North Carolina (March 1781), Green Spring, Virginia (July 1781), before arriving in Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781.

Benjamin Grisdale was there throughout.

There is much to tell about the exploits of Cornwallis’s regiment over the course of the war, but this story is not about the Americans’ struggle for independence but rather about Benjamin Grisdale himself.

General the Earl Cornwallis

Cornwallis himself was quickly “paroled” after Yorktown and returned to England but many of the men of the 33rd were not so lucky and were to remain in captivity until 1783. It is not known exactly when Chaplain Grisdale was released. But after returning to England and leaving the army, through the benefaction of Queen’s College he was given the “living” of the parish of Chedworth in Gloucestershire in 1785 and, through the intervention of the Cornwallis family, he also received the living of Withington Gloucestershire in 1791.

Benjamin Grisdale and Charles Cornwallis had obviously become good friends during their time together both in England and America, because they were to exchange numerous personal letters when Cornwallis was subsequently posted all over the world and until his death in India 1805. Here is one written by Cornwallis to his friend Benjamin from a “Camp near Banglalore” on September 8th 1791:

Dear Grisdale

In the same packet of letters which contained yours of the 18th December, I found one from Mrs Cornwallis, informing me that she had given you the living at Withington. I trust you will know me too well to doubt the sincerity of the joy which I felt on that occasion: may you long enjoy every comfort and happiness of domestic life.

God know when our war will end, I hope and trust it will be soon, or it will end me; I do mean that I am sick, I have stood a burning sun and cold wind as well as the youngest of them, but I am plagued, and tormented, and wearied to death.

God bless you my dear Grisdale, I have no time to send you news, but can only assure you that I am with great truth,

Your most faithful and affectionate friend,

Cornwallis

Benjamin didn’t marry until 1791 when he was 47 His wife was Elizabeth Unwin  the daughter of William Unwin of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. They had seven children: Charles (1793), William (1795), Elizabeth (1797), Edmund (1799), Henry (1800) and William 1807/8. Of the boys only the second William was still alive in 1841 when he died at Cubberley Rectory in Gloucestershire where he was curate, aged just 34. He had attended Rugby School and followed his father to Queen’s College Oxford.

The Rev Benjamin Grisdale died on 18 June 1828. He had a full life indeed.

Robert Grisdale was born in 1664 (or possibly in 1667) in Matterdale in Cumberland; I will return to his family connections later. He was the founder of Matterdale School. The Trust deeds of the School were established in 1716 and the School itself opened for business in 1722 was a yearly endowment of £200 provided by Robert. By this time Robert had for many years been a clergyman at the church of Saint Martin in the Fields in London. How did he get there? What was his story? I can’t reconstruct it all, but at least a little of his life can be told.

In those days, as indeed is still the case today, you couldn’t just jump from a simple rural family, as the Matterdale Grisdales were, to the dizzying heights of being a clergyman in one of London’s most illustrious churches. You needed an education and a bit of luck.

Queen’s College Oxford in 1675

Robert entered Queen’s College in Oxford University in 1683, aged supposedly nineteen. In March 1689 he received his BA and by 1692 his MA. He later became a Fellow of the college and received his Doctorate in Divinity. It seems pretty clear that he must have attended the Free Grammar School in the nearby village of Barton in Westmorland. The school had been established by 1649 by Dr. Lancelot Dawes and Dr. Gerard Langbaine  and had many links with Queen’s College, Oxford – Dawes and Langbaine was both born in Barton and had both studied at Queen’s.

Rev Dr William Lancaster

The reason why I think it is pretty certain that Robert attended this school is because of his close association with Dr William Lancaster. William was born in 1650 the son of William Lancaster of Stockbridge in Barton. He had also attended Queen’s College and later on was to become its Provost and Vice Chancellor of the University. But for now the important thing to know is that for some time he was a school master of Barton Free Grammar School – a note in the Barton registers says that in 1669 William Lancaster “schoolmaster” became a Church Warden. A mean competitor was later to jibe that he had once been “a little petty schoolmaster in Westmorland”. Not only that, but when Robert entered Queen’s College in 1683 William Lancaster was teaching there. “In college, he became celebrated as tutor. From the beginning of 1686 till 1 August he was junior bursar, for the next four years he held the post of senior bursar.” Finally, William became Vicar of Saint Martin’s in the Field Church in London in 1692, and low and behold Robert Grisdale became a ‘clerk’  and curate there, a post he held until his death in 1723 (William died in 1717). I think it not unreasonable to summise the Robert was taught by William Lancaster at both Barton School and Oxford University and that it was William who gave him his post at Saint Martin’s in the Field. There are in fact many records in London linking the two men.

Robert married Phoebe King on the 29 October 1697 at Saint Martin’s Church in London. They had four children all born in London and baptised at Robert’s church: Elizabeth (1698) John (1700) Luke King Grisdale (1702), and Robert (1703). It seems that only Elizabeth survived. She gave a collection of theological books to Matterdale School in 1723 and is the only child named by Robert in his will in 1722. It seems she never married, so I think Robert’s line died out.

There is much more information available about Robert but one thing that has remained a mystery to those interested in Matterdale and the Grisdale family is: What is the connection of Robert to the other Grisdales of Matterdale in the seventeenth century? The problem is that there are large gaps in the Matterdale records around the time of his birth. Remember this is the time of the Civil War and the troubles afterwards. So there is absolutely no record of a birth of a Robert Grisdale in or about 1664 in Matterdale or elsewhere. This has led people to conjecture other birth dates and different parents. But I think several things can get us nearer an answer.

First there is Robert’s will. In his will his main concern is with his daughter Elizabeth but he also leaves money to Edward “my brother” and to his sister Mararget Judson and to the children of his sister Mary Judson. Now a Mary Grisdale married John Judson “of Askham” in Matterdale Church in 1699. They went to live in Askham and had several children. Mary died there in 1720. I think this Mary can only be the one baptized in Barton in 1677 – the daughter of  Thomas Grisdale – there is no other Mary Grisdale. Thus I think Robert’s father was a Thomas who had moved temporarily to Barton to be close to his son Robert in the Free School there.

Regarding Margaret Judson, I can find no record of a Margaret Grisdale marrying a Judson (but obviously she did). I think this Margaret was the one baptized in Matterdale in 1667  the daughter of Thomas Grisdale of Troutbeck.

Next there is Edward Grisdale, Robert’s brother. I can find no Edward Grisdale son of Thomas in Matterdale, however he was certainly Robert’s brother because not only is he stated as such in Robert’s will but an Edward Grisdale (of Douthwaite) is noted as being a brother in the 1716 Deed of Trustees of Matterdale School. So Edward remains a bit of a mystery? Although two of his children did move to London and had connections with Saint Martin’s in the Field!

Also added to the list of Matterdale Trustees is the note that William Wilson (Trustee) was the “nephew in law” of Robert. I take this to mean he was the husband of Robert’s niece. Now William Wilson married an Elizabeth Grisdale in 1722 in Matterdale. The only Elizabeth this could be is the one born to a Thomas Grisdale in 1699, again in Matterdale. If this is so it implies that Robert also had a brother called Thomas and if Robert’s father was Thomas as well then the brother Thomas was either born of a father Thomas in 1666 or 1672 (there are two listed in the Parish records). Perhaps Elizabeth’s father Thomas had died before Robert made his will in 1722?

Finally, in support of the idea that Robert’s father was a Thomas Grisdale is the entry in the much later record of Oxford University Alumni:

Robert Grisdale: Son of Thomas, of “Crostormount in Barton,” Westmorland, pp. Queen’s Coll., matric. 23 May, 1683, aged 19; B.A. 22 March, 1688-9, M.A. 1692; of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, clerk; licenced 29 Oct., 1697, to marry Phœbe King of same, spinster.

See London Marriage Licences, ed. Foster.

This clearly states that at the time of his marriage (maybe) Robert’s father was a Thomas. Crostormont is actually Cross Dormant, a farm in Barton! The fact that “Crostormont in Barton” is in quotation marks implies I think copying from Robert’s college entrance records.

But still there is no record of either a Robert or an Edward being born with a father Thomas at about the right date!

One other point is worth mentioning. The entry in the list of Oxford Alumni gives Robert as being 19 when he “matriculated” (i.e. entered) in 1783, implying a date of birth in about 1664. But this seems a bit old given the customs at the time. And in fact in one copy of Robert’s marriage records in 1697 his age is given as 30! This implies a birth year of 1667 not 1664. Maybe the “19” could have been “16”? Of course sometime approximate ages were given but his new wife Phoebe King was said to be 19 (exactly) so maybe Robert was actually 30.

So if Robert’s father was a Thomas as I am tending to believe, then who was his mother? Naming patterns are important. Robert named his only daughter Elizabeth and if he had a brother called Thomas (as I am suggesting) then this Thomas also named a daughter Elizabeth. So was Robert’s mother called Elizabeth?

One possibility is that the Thomas Grisdale who married an Elizabeth Atkinson in 1657 in Matterdale. But then again maybe this couple were the parents of Wilfred Grisdale the Brewer I discussed in an earlier article in this blog?

I would welcome other ideas.

In an earlier article entitled ‘ Old Soldiers don’t always fade away’, I wrote about one of my own ancestors: Levi Grisdale.

See: https://grisdalefamily.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/208/

This was picked up by Who do you think you are? magazine. They interviewed me and wrote about Levi in the latest edition:

Walter Grisdale was a famous actor in both Britain and New York. He was born in 1823 in London the son of Thomas Grisdale (1773-1852) and his second wife Sarah Barker. Thomas came from Greystoke Cumbria and was the brother of the famous Levi Grisdale I wrote about in the previous blog.

Walter was his stage name, he was born and christened Solomon Grisdale. Starting in around 1840 he became a ‘tragedian’ and toured extensively in the north of England and in London. After a first marriage to Elizabeth Sweetson in York in 1852 he movd to New York in 1867 and married Caroline Carman (‘Miss Carman’) a famous member of Wallack’s Theatre Company. After an extensive acting career in New York Walter and Caroline came back to London in 1871 and Walter continued to tour. He died on February 15th 1883 in Scotland.

Did a Cumbrian soldier “save England and Europe” from Napoleon?

In the mid-nineteenth century in the small Cumbrian market town of Penrith there was a public house called the ‘General Lefebvre’. Locals jokingly referred to it as the ‘General Grisdale’, after its publican, an old ex-Sergeant Major called Levi Grisdale. It seems that Levi was quite a character, and we might well imagine how on cold Cumbrian winter nights he would regale his quests with tales of his exploits as a Hussar during the Napoleonic Wars. How he had captured the French General Lefebvre in Spain, as the British army were retreating towards Corunna, or even telling of how it was he, at the Battle of Waterloo, who had led the Prussians onto the field; a decisive event that had turned the course of the battle and, it is usually argued, led to Napoleon’s final defeat.

Scouts of the 10th Hussars During the Peninsular War – W B Wollen 1905

Numerous individual stories survive from these wars, written by participants from all sides: French, British, German and Spanish. Yet a great number of these come from the ‘officer classes’. Levi was not an officer and, as far as is known, he never wrote his own story. Be that as it may, using a variety of sources (not just from the British side) plus some detailed research in the archives, undertaken by myself and others, it is possible to reconstruct something his life. Levi spent 22 years in the army, fought in 32 engagements, including at the Battle of Waterloo, rose to be a Sergeant Major and was highly decorated. There is even an anonymous essay in the Hussars’ Regimental museum entitled: How Trooper Grisdale, 10th Hussars, Saved England and Europe! This suggested, possibly with a degree of hyperbole, that it was Levi who caused Napoleon to leave the Spanish Peninsular in disgust! But the events of the Peninsular War were decisive. Many years later Napoleon wrote:

That unfortunate war destroyed me … all my disasters are bound up in that knot.

I greatly enjoyed discovering a little about Levi. What follows is my version of this Cumbrian’s life and deeds. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Levi Grisdale was born in 1783, near Penrith in Cumberland’s Lake District. He came from a long line of small yeomen farmers. His father, Solomon, and his grandfather, Jonathon, had both been farmers. They were born in the nearby small hill village of Matterdale; where the Grisdale family had lived for hundreds of years. Although obviously a country boy, Levi somehow found his way to London, where on 26th March 1803, aged just 20, he enlisted for “unlimited service” as a private or ‘trooper’ in the 10th Light Dragoons, later to become ‘Hussars’ – an elite British cavalry regiment. How and why he enlisted in the army we do not know. His older brother Thomas was probably already a soldier based at the cavalry barracks on the outskirts of Canterbury, and maybe this contributed to Levi’s decision. We know nothing of Levi’s first years in the army; but in October 1808 he, with the 10th Hussars, embarked at Portsmouth for Spain.

A Charge of the 10th Hussars under Lord Paget

The regiment, having passed through Corunna, joined up with the now retreating British army, under its Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Moore, at Zamora on December 9, 1808. Under Sir John Slade, they became part of the army’s defensive rear-guard. They arrived at Sahagun in Spain on the 21st December – just in time to take part in the tail end of a successful action known as the Battle of Sahagun. Before the battle, Levi had been made a ‘coverer’ – a sort of bodyguard or ‘minder’ – for the fourteen year old Earl George Augustus Frederick Fitz-Clarence. It wasn’t unusual for wealthy and well-connected young men to become British officers at such a tender age, and Fitz-Clarence was certainly well-connected. He was the bastard son of the future King William IV and nephew of the Prince of Wales, the future King George IV – who was the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief.

During the battle Levi was wounded in the left ankle by a musket ball. It can’t have been too serious a wound because only a few days later he was to take part in another engagement. His exploits there were, in large part, responsible for us being able to reconstruct Levi’s story today. I will take some pains to explain what happened. The account I will present is based on numerous sources and on several eyewitness accounts; not just British, but also German, French and Spanish. There are some inconsistencies but when taken together they provide a coherent enough picture.

The British Retreat to Corunna 1808-1809

Despite the victory at Sahagun, the British army had continued its retreat towards Astorga and Corunna. But Napoleon had heard that the British were intent on a crossing of the River Esla, two miles from the Spanish town of Benavente. He sent his elite cavalry, the Chasseurs à cheval, commanded by one of his favourites, General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, to cut them off and prevent the crossing. But due to dreadful weather they had been slowed down and they arrived just too late. Sir John Moore had already crossed the river on the 24th and departed with the bulk of the British army. He had, however, left a strong cavalry rearguard in the town of Benavente, and a small detachment was watching the river fords. Early on the morning of 29th December, British engineers destroyed the bridge at Castrogonzalo. When Lefebvre and his force of about 500 – 600 cavalry arrived, we are told that this was at nine in the morning, there seemed no way to cross, because the river “was swollen with rain.”

Lefebvre could see that “outlying pickets of the British cavalry were stationed along the Western bank of the River Esla.” He thought, wrongly as it turned out, that the few scouts to be seen were all that remained of the British at Benavente. Eventually he managed to find one place to ford the river and, according to one report, first sent across “a peasant mounted on a mare” to see find out what response there would be. Seeing there was none, Lefebvre crossed the river “with three strong squadrons of his Chasseurs and a small detachment of Mamelukes” – though not without great difficulty.

One account, drawing on a number of sources, nicely sums up what ensued:

The French forced the outlying pickets of the British cavalry back onto the inlaying picket commanded by Loftus Otway (18th Hussars). Otway charged, despite heavy odds, but was driven back for 2 miles towards the town of Benavente. In an area where their flanks were covered by walls, the British, now reinforced by a troop or squadron of the 3rd Hussars King’s German Legion, and commanded by Brigadier-General Stewart, counter-attacked and a confused mêlée ensued. The French, though temporarily driven back, had superior numbers and forced the British hussars to retreat once more, almost back to Benavente. Stewart knew he was drawing the French towards Paget and substantial numbers of British reserves. The French had gained the upper hand in the fight and were preparing to deliver a final charge when Lord Paget made a decisive intervention. He led the 10th Hussars with squadrons of the 18th in support, around the southern outskirts of Benavente. Paget managed to conceal his squadrons from French view until he could fall on their left flank. The British swords, often dulled by their iron scabbards, were very sharp on this occasion. An eyewitness stated that he saw the arms of French troopers cut off cleanly “like Berlin sausages.” Other French soldiers were killed by blows to the head, blows which divided the head down to the chin.

The French fought their way back to the River Esla and started to cross to its eastern bank – swimming with their horses. But many were caught by the pursuing British cavalry, and either killed or made prisoner. General Lefebvre, however, did not escape. His horse had been wounded and when it entered the river it refused to cross. He and some of his men were surrounded by the British cavalry under Lord Paget, which consisted of the 18th Hussars and half of the 3rd Hussars, King’s German Legion. During this encounter Lefebvre was wounded and taken prisoner, along with about seventy of his Chasseurs.

General Lefebvre is Captured at Benaventa. Painting by Dennis Dighton. Royal Collection, Windsor

So who was it that captured General Lefebvre? Some British sources claim simply that it was Private Grisdale. In Levi’s own regimental book we read that Lefebvre was pursued by the “Hussars” and “refusing to stop when overtaken, was cut across the head and made prisoner by Private Levi Grisdall (sic).” Other witnesses suggest that it was in fact a German 3rd Hussar, called Private Johann Bergmann, who captured the General, and that it was he who subsequently handed over his captive to Grisdale.

Any continuing mystery, however, seems to be cleared away by later witness statements made by Private Bergmann himself. His statement is corroborated by several other German Hussars who had taken part in the action, and by letters written by some German officers who were also present. Bergmann’s extensive testimony, taken at Osterholz in 1830 , is recorded in the third person. It states that there were:

three charges that day… at the third charge, or in reality the pursuit, he came upon the officer whom he made prisoner. He was one of the first in the pursuit, and as he came up with this officer, who rode close in the rear of the enemy, the officer made a thrust at him with a long straight sword. After, however, he had parried the thrust, the officer called out ‘pardon.’ He did not trouble himself further about the man, but continued the pursuit; an English Hussar, however, who had come up to the officer at the same time with him, led the officer back.

Bergmann went on to say that he hadn’t known that the officer was Lefebvre until after the action, when he was told he should “have held fast the man.” He added that he was young and “did not trouble” himself about the matter.  All he remembered was that the officer “wore a dark green frock, a hat with a feather, and a long straight sword.”

All the other German witnesses and letters confirm Bergmann’s story, but we also learn that the General had fired a pistol at Bergmann “which failing in its aim, he offered him his sword and made known his wish to be taken to General Stewart.” But Bergmann “didn’t know General Stewart personally, and while he was enquiring where the general was to be found, a Hussar of the tenth English joined him, and led away the prisoner.”

So this it seems is the truth of the matter: Lefebvre was surrounded by a German troop and captured by Private Johann Bergmann. Levi Grisdale, with the 10th Hussars, might have arrived at the scene at the same time as Bergmann or very slightly after, opinions differ. Lefebvre asked to be taken to General Stewart and so Bergmann, “not knowing General Stewart personally”, handed him over to Private Grisdale who “led the prisoner away.”

Lefebvre was delivered to the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Moore. Moore, who, we are told, treated the General, who had suffered a superficial head wound, “kindly” and “entertained him at his table.” He also gave him his own sword to replace the one taken when he surrendered. “Speaking to him in French”, General Moore, “provided some of his own clothes; for Lefebvre was drenched and bleeding.” He then “sent a message to the French, requesting Lefebvre’s baggage, which was promptly sent.”

Napoleon, who had viewed the action from a height overlooking the river, didn’t seem too put out by the losses of what he called his “Cherished Children.” But he was very upset when he heard of Lefebvre’s capture. He wrote to Josephine (my translation):

Lefebvre has been taken. He made a skirmish for me with 300 Chasseurs; these show-offs crossed the river by swimming, and threw themselves into the middle of the English cavalry. They killed many of them; but, returning, Lefebvre’s horse was wounded: he was drowning; the current led him to the bank where the English were; he has been taken. Console his wife.

In the aftermath of the battle, a Spanish report from the town of Benavente itself, tells us that on:

The night of the 29th they (the British) used the striking pines growing on the high ground behind the hospitals as lights, at every step coming under the fire of French artillery from the other side of the river, answered feebly by the English, whose force disappeared totally by the morning, to be replaced by a dreadful silence and solitude….

The British cavalry had slipped away and, with the rest of the army, continued its horrendous winter retreat to Corunna. Levi Grisdale and the 10th Hussars were with them.

General Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes

General Lefebvre himself was later sent as a prisoner to England, and housed at Cheltenham where he lived for three years. As was the custom, he gave his word or “parole” as a French officer and gentleman that he would not try to escape. He was even allowed to be joined by his wife Stephanie. It seems that the couple: “were in demand socially and attended social events around the district.” Other reports tell us that General Lefebvre was in possession of a “fine signet ring of considerable value which had been given him years earlier by his Emperor Napoleon. Lefebvre used this ring as a bribe to get escape and was thus able to escape back to France, where he rejoined his Division.” This was, says one commentator, “an unpardonable sin according to English public opinion.” So much for a gentleman’s word!  The Emperor reinstated him as commander of the Chasseurs and he would go on to fight in all Napoleon’s subsequent campaigns, right up to Waterloo – where he would share the field once again with Levi Grisdale.

I have kept us a little too long in Spain. This is, after all, not the story of the retreat to Corunna, much less a history of the first Spanish chapter of the Peninsular War. After the so-called March of Death and the Battle of Corunna, Levi Grisdale was evacuated back to England by the Royal Navy – with what was left of the 10th Hussars. Here his fame started to spread. The Hampshire Telegraph of 18th February 1809 announced that Grisdale was back in Brighton with his regiment and described him as: “tall, well-made, well looking, ruddy and expressive.” He was promoted to Corporal and awarded a special silver medal by the regiment, which was inscribed:

Corporal Grisdale greatly distinguished himself on the 1st day of January 1809 (sic). This is adjudged to him by officers of the regiment.

The years passed. The regiment moved from Brighton to Romford in Essex, but was once again back in Brighton in 1812. Of this time we know little; only a few events in Levi’s life. Soon after his arrival back in England, he somehow arranged to get away to Bath, where on 29 March 1809, he married Ann Robinson in St James’ Church. Their only son, also called Levi, was born and baptized at Arundel on 12 March 1811 – sadly he was to die young. On 17 February 1813, he “was found guilty of being drunk and absent from barracks.” But, it seems, he was neither reduced to the ranks nor flogged. Other evidence suggests that the whole regiment was “undisciplined and tended to drunkenness.” Whether the leniency of his treatment was due to his record at Benavente we will probably never know.

But by February 1813, Levi, by this time a Sergeant, was back in the Iberian Peninsula, serving in a coalition army under Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, who was later to become the Duke of Wellington. With the 10th Hussars, he fought his way through Portugal, Spain and France and, so  his regiment’s records tell us, was actively engaged at the Battles of Morales, Vitoria, Orthes and, finally, at the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814. Here the British and their allies were badly mauled. But news soon reached the French Marshall Soult that Napoleon had abdicated and Soult agreed to an armistice.

It is said that Levi Grisdale led Bluecher's Prussians onto the field at Waterloo

It is said that Levi Grisdale led Bluecher’s Prussians onto the field at Waterloo

And that should really have been that as far as Levi Grisdale’s military campaigning days was concerned. Yet one more chapter lay ahead. A chapter that would no doubt later provide Levi with another great story to tell in his Penrith public house. Napoleon, we might recall, was to escape from his exile on the Island of Elba in February 1815. He retook the leadership of France, regathered his army, and was only definitively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815. It has often been said that the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo “hung in the balance” until the arrival of the Prussian army under Prince von Blücher. One writer puts it thus:

Blücher’s army intervened with decisive and crushing effect, his vanguard drawing off Napoleon’s badly needed reserves, and his main body being instrumental in crushing French resistance. This victory led the way to a decisive victory through the relentless pursuit of the French by the Prussians.

And here it is that we last hear of Levi’s active military exploits. According to his obituary, published in the Cumberland and Westmoreland Advertiser on 20 November 1855, Levi had been posted on the road where the Prussians were expected to arrive, and he led them onto the field of battle! We are also told that during the battle “his horse was shot from under him and he was wounded in the right calf by a splinter from a shell.” Finally, according to a letter written by Captain Thomas Taylor of the 10th Hussars, written to General Sir Vivian Hussey in 1829, Levi, who was a by now a Sergeant in No1 troop under Captain John Gurwood, and “who was one of the captors of Lefebvre … conducted the vedettes in withdrawing from French cavalry during the battle.

Of course, Levi Grisdale certainly did not “save England and Europe” from Napoleon. But, along with thousands of other common soldiers, he played his part and, unlike countless others on all sides, he survived to tell his tales in his pub.

What became of Levi? After he returned to England, he was promoted to Sergeant Major and remained another nine years with the 10th Hussars. When he left the army in 1825, aged only 42 but with twenty-two years of active service and thirty-two engagements behind him, his discharge papers said that he was suffering from chronic rheumatism and was “worn out by service.” Hardly surprising we might think. The army gave him a pension of 1s 10d a day. His papers also state that his intended place of residence was Bristol. He was as good as his word as and he was to become the landlord of the Stag and Star public house in Barr Street, Bristol.

Christ Church, Penrith – where Levi Grisdale is buried

Yet by 1832 Levi and his family had moved back to his native Penrith. His wife Ann died there in July of that year. It seems that Levi was not one to mourn for too long. Within about two weeks he had married again. This time a woman called Mary Western – with whom he had four children. He continued his life as a publican and, as I have mentioned, christened his pub the General Lefebvre; he even hung a large picture of the General over the entrance. During his last years, Levi Grisdale gave up his pub and worked as a gardener. He died of ‘dropsy’ on 17 November 1855 in Penrith, aged 72, his occupation being given as “Chelsea pensioner.” He was buried in the graveyard of Christ Church in Penrith.

Despite what we know about Levi’s life, we will never know what was most important to him – his family, his comrades? Nor will we know what he thought of the ruling ‘officer class’? What he thought of the social and political system that had led him to fight so many battles against adversaries he knew little about? Nor whose side he was really on? We will never know these things, though we can imagine!

As General Macarthur once said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” ‘General’ Levi Grisdale certainly died but, thankfully, his memory has not yet faded away.

Sources

Mary Grisdale. Levi Grisdale. Unpublished research 2006; David Fallowfield. Levi Grisdale 1783-1855, Unpublished article. Penrith; Philip J. Haythornthwaite. Corunna 1809: Sir John Moore’s Fighting Retreat. London: Osprey Publishing 2001; Lettres de Napoléon à Joséphine, Tome Second, Paris 1833, Firman Didot Freres; Christopher Hibbert. Corunna, Batsford 1961; Michael Clover. The Peninsular War 1807-1814. Penguin Books 2003; North Ludlow Beamish. History of the King’s German Legion, Harvard 1832; Christopher Summerville. The March of Death: Sir John Moore’s Retreat to Corunna. Greenhill books 2006; Brime, D. Fernando Fernandez. Historical Notes of the Town of Benavente and its Environs.  Valladolid 1881; Wikipedia.  Battle of Benavente. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Benavente.; The Museum of the King’s Royal Hussars. http://www.horsepowermuseum.co.uk/index.html .