Posts Tagged ‘Gold Rush’

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

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

Great Yarmouth in the nineteenth century

Great Yarmouth in the nineteenth century

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

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

Fort Cumberland, Portsea, Hampshire

Fort Cumberland, Portsea, Hampshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Docks in 1872

New York Docks in 1872

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

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

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

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

Yankton in 1876

Yankton in 1876

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

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

Dakota Territory

Dakota Territory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Custer's Black Hills expedition in 1874

Custer’s Black Hills expedition in 1874

As Ernest Grafe writes in The 1874 Black Hills Expedition:

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

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

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

General Custer

General Custer

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

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

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mankato in the1920s

Mankato in the1920s

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

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

Joseph Hugh Campbell led an amazing life!

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

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

An Ohio local newspaper, the Marion Morning Star, published the rather breathless article below in March 1878. You’ll see that not much has changed with regard to what fascinates journalists.

Okanagan Elders

Okanagan Elders

‘Killed for Being a Sorceress’

Advices received from British Columbia report a singular murder there of an aged white woman by an Okanagan chief named Red Berry. The old woman was the widow of James Grisdale, one of the first white settlers in the Okanagan district. She was reputed to be wealthy, and was accounted a sorceress by the Indians around about. Several of Red Berry’s horses had died of a murrain, some weeks ago, and the medicine men of the Okanagans held that Mrs. Grisdale had afflicted them with disease. Red Berry at once started for her abode, and finding her on her knees at prayer, concluded that he had caught her in the very act of practicing her black art, and with one blow of a club he dashed her brains out. He then informed the white settlers nearby of what he had done, and asked them to reward him for ridding their flocks and herds of an evil spirit. He was arrested, and taken to the jail at Okanagan. Red Berry, beyond doubt, thought he was doing the community a meritorious service.

Map of Okanagan B. C.

Map of Okanagan B. C.

What a great, though sad, story!

But who were James Grisdale and his murdered ‘sorceress’ wife?

Okanagan is a mountainous area in present-day British Columbia, half way between Calgary and Vancouver. For centuries it was a land of native peoples, in this area the Okanagan tribal group. During the early decades of the nineteenth century European fur trappers and traders appeared, as did trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company. But it was gold that brought the first large numbers of whites to the region.

The first gold obtained by the Hudson’s Bay Company was brought to Fort Kamloops by a native in 1852. He was said to have found it while taking a drink of water from the lower Thompson River. Donald McLean, the Chief Trader at Fort Kamloops informed his superiors in Victoria and they decided to keep it secret so the fur trade would not be disrupted. The traders encouraged the natives to mine the gold and use it for trade at the forts.

Miners in Okanagan

Miners in Okanagan

The Native people quickly realized the value of gold and began to mine it using iron spoons obtained from the Hudson’s Bay Company. They did not have miner’s tools such as pans or rockers and only small amounts of gold were traded. Gold was then worth $17 an ounce, which was more than a Hudson’s Bay employee earned in a month. Nevertheless fewer than 4 ounces of gold were sold at Fort Kamloops in 1856. In 1857, many more miners rushed to the Thompson River area.

The arrival of white miners quickly led to conflict because the native people felt the gold was theirs since it originated from their lands. They also believed the mining activities would prevent the salmon from completing their migration up the Fraser and Thompson Rivers. Salmon was the main source of food for many of the tribes and they blamed the miners for the small salmon runs that year. Rumors of gold deposits quickly spread south and in the spring of 1858, over 30,000 miners, mostly American, rushed up from California to the Fraser and Thompson Rivers searching for gold. A few miners returned to Fort Victoria with over $150,000 worth of gold, a huge fortune in those days. Gold fever struck and the mad gold rush was on.

Fraser River Gold Rush

Fraser River Gold Rush


The gold rush never affected life in the Okanagan directly until gold was discovered in Rock Creek around 1859. By 1860, about 500 miners, mainly Americans who had abandoned their claims in Washington and Oregon had settled in the area. The Okanagan gold rush ended as quickly as it started. The gold rush had a significant impact on life in the Okanagan. The large influx of miners and their families resulted in a demand for goods and services that previously didn’t exist. The new market for goods and services drew merchants, farmers and ranchers interested in meeting that demand and who required land and more permanent settlements in order to do so. The demand for land required for agricultural development and permanent settlements meant that the aboriginal population had to be removed from the land that was needed.

Overlanders Crossing A Swamp

Overlanders Crossing A Swamp

Most of miners didn’t say long, the next major influx came in 1862 when a group of about 150 settlers ‘travelled from Ontario to the BC interior, led by brothers Thomas and Robert McMicking of Stamford Township, Welland County, Ontario’. ‘They went in groups by ship and American railway to Fort Garry [Winnipeg]. Leaving there in early June 1862, equipped with Red River carts and a few horses, they reached Fort Edmonton on July 21 and traded their carts for pack horses. With the help of Indian guides they crossed the Rockies. All but 6 survived the perilous descent of the Fraser River by raft to Fort George [Prince George]. Most went on to the Cariboo goldfields, and many, including the McMickings, had successful careers in BC. The only woman Overlander, Catherine O’Hare Schubert, took her 3 children with her and gave birth to her fourth only hours after arriving at Kamloops in October.’

Overlanders' Cart at Red River

Overlanders’ Cart at Red River

There are several fascinating first-hand accounts of this long and perilous trip of the ‘Overlanders of 1862’; I commend them to you.

So did James Grisdale, who was ‘one of the first white settlers in the Okanagan district,’ arrive there as a miner or later as a ‘settler’ with the Overlanders? The fact that when Mrs Grisdale was clubbed to death in1878 she was referred to as an ‘aged white woman’ and as ‘the old woman’ might argue for an earlier mining arrival, as does the fact that ‘she was reputed to be wealthy’. You didn’t get wealthy as an early farm settler in British Columbia! Maybe James had been one of the lucky few miners who had ‘returned to Fort Victoria with over $150,000 worth of gold’? While this is possible, I tend to think that James was more likely one of the 1862 Overlanders, which I think would probably still qualify him as ‘one of the first white settlers’. The main reasons for this belief are as follows:

First, there were only two large Grisdale families established in North America before 1862 (there is one small caveat). These were the Grisdale family which arrived in Quebec in about 1824 (see here) and the family of Wilfred Grisdale that arrived in Peterborough County, Ontario in 1816/17 (see here). Regarding the first group, I know what became of them and their descendants and there was no ‘James’ who could fit the bill. Regarding the second family, there is indeed one James Grisdale who just might be our man: James Grisdale (born 1830) was the son of Wilfred Grisdale and Mary Maloney, and the grandson of the immigrant Wilfred Grisdale (born 1782). It might be that this James died young (possibly in Peterborough in 1857), or, before he appeared in any records, he might have set out to the West. Being born in 1830 he would have been both old and young enough to have participated in the arduous trek of 1862, which we are told consisted mostly of young farmers. He would also have been old enough to be a gold rush miner in 1858 or somewhat earlier. A problem with this putative identification is that he died before his wife was slain in 1878 and thus he would have been either in his thirties or forties. Does this square with his wife being an ‘old woman’ in 1878?

The second fact that might argue for James having been one of the 1862 Overlanders is that they were mostly, we are told, young farmers from Ontario. The Grisdales were farmers and Welland County was precisely where some of the family had ended up. For example Gideon Grisdale (the uncle of our putative James) had moved to Welland County in the 1820s to help build the first Welland Canal (see here); another uncle called James was also in Welland by 1861 with his family. So maybe ‘our’ James had joined the Overlanders in 1862 while visiting them?

Okanagan Indians

Okanagan Indians

Yet the fact remains that I can’t positively identify which James Grisdale was the early settler in British Columbia and whose wife was clubbed to death by Chief Red Berry.

I mentioned one caveat. There were a few other people named Grisdale in North American before 1862 who don’t seem to have belonged to the two families I have highlighted. Their appearance in the records is so fleeting that nothing much can be established about them or their origins. In Illinois there was an ‘English-born’ miner William R. Grisdale who fought in the Civil War and was later on involved in the murder of several black miners in Indiana. I’ll return to him at a later date. Then also in Illinois there is a family in 1855 headed by a G. Grisdale; who he was I can only guess. There are a few other mentions of early Grisdales in the United States.

So James Grisdale and his wife remain a bit of a mystery.

Okanagan Valley Today

Okanagan Valley Today

I’m not an expert on native American/Canadian Indians, but in Okanagan B. C. they were, as elsewhere, subjected to violence and disappropriation. Regarding the Okanagan gold miners:

A company of about 300 miners travelling north along the west side of Okanagan Lake destroyed the winter provisions of an unattended Okanagan Indian village. The following day they ambushed and massacred a group of unarmed Indians. These acts demonstrated the miner’s hostile attitude towards the Indians. The conflict increased as the population of miners mushroomed and by July of 1858 there were over 8,000 miners on a 60 kilometre stretch of the Fraser River.

James Douglas, the governor of the colony, feared a war between the feuding parties, especially after the Cayuse Indians defeated the US troops in Oregon. Throughout the summer, trouble brewed at Hill’s Bar and Boston Bar on the Fraser River. At Boston Bar there was fighting involving over 140 miners, where reportedly 7 Indians were killed. The miners viewed the Indians as obstacles while the Indians viewed the gold as theirs since it came from their lands. Also, the traditional Indian food supplies of game, salmon and berries were being taken by the miners.

A vigilante force of 167 armed miners who were led by Captain Snyder went up the Fraser river ready to fight Indians to quell the unrest, but the tension had eased by the time they reached the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. Governor Douglas heard about the skirmishes and travelled to the area with some troops. His fact-finding mission blamed the miners for the problems since the armed miners had driven the Indians from the river, which prevented them from gathering food and mining gold. The Indians stated that the miners interfered with their village sites, took their salmon and were disrespectful of their families. Chiefs from many areas expressed their concern to Governor Douglas who gave stern warnings to the American miners; he also claimed all the gold within the Fraser and Thompson Rivers for the British Crown.

In order to prevent the Americans from expanding their borders and to enforce British law, Douglas declared the mainland a British colony. This action ended the Hudson’s Bay Company Charter and any control it had over the region. In November of 1858 British Columbia was officially declared a colony and Douglas was named Governor. He could now regulate law and order to protect British interests on the mainland and on Vancouver Island.

The gold miners were the forerunners of white settlement in British Columbia. The settlers, unlike the miners they followed, came to stay. But like the miners, the settlers had little respect or tolerance for the Indian peoples. The conflict was clear. The First Nations had the land and the settlers wanted it for farming, ranching and business. The Shuswap traditionally migrated to different areas of their territory as the seasons changed, thus the settlers believed that they were not making use of their land. More changes were forced on the Shuswap as overwhelming numbers of settlers arrived and took over the land.

The ownership of the land remains an unresolved dispute between the Shuswap and the present levels of government to this day.

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

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

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

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

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

Baker City, circa 1900

Baker City, circa 1900

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

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

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

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

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

Placer Mine, Baker City, Oregon

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

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

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

A Missoula Mine

A Missoula Mine

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

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

Tonopah Extension Mine, 1912

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

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

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

Spokane, Washington, circa 1920

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

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

Kingman Arizona

Kingman Arizona

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

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

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

Mountain View Cemetery, Kingman, Arizona

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

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.