Whither Thou Goest . . .

In 1906 my grandfather, Richard Walker Phillips, was granted a land patent in the tiny hamlet of Magnet, Manitoba, Canada. The town was surrounded by 3 lakes; Lake Dauphin to the west, Lake Winnipegosis to the north and Lake Manitoba to the east, as you will see below.

Magnet, Manitoba Location

When it was first settled in the 1880’s, it was primarily inhabited by Ojibway and Cree people who proved to be of invaluable help to the early settlers. In fact, I have often thought on how the line was blurred between my mother’s upbringing and that of a native child. Of course, a certain social divide was maintained but growing up on the land was something they all had in common. One of my aunts just recently told me that she used to gather seneca root (snakeroot) to sell when she was a child. Seneca was used initially for snake bite but was later used as part of medicinal formulas to treat bronchitis. During the depression it was gathered to provide income for the farmers.

To obtain a land grant you first had to register and meet the requirements of the “Dominion Land Act“. That stipulated that you must clear 10 acres within 3 years or lose the land. Since Richard was working on a farm in Portage la Prairie in 1911, I assume he found time to clear the land in Magnet while he was working there. By 1915, he and my grandmother, Jane Gartshore Smith, were living in Wellwood, Manitoba and were married at the Methodist Church in Neepawa.  By this time, Sophie Phillips, Richard’s sister, had come to the area and married Richard Mason. Now, you had George, Sophie and Richard all living in the same area.

Sophie Phillips Mason and family

Sophie Phillips Mason and family

By 1916, Richard and Jane had come by wagon to the homestead with their new baby, George Holmes, the third. I have seen a picture of the log house they built with laundry hanging on the line outside of it.  Whatever, my grandmother felt about the new life she had signed up for, she apparently was not lowering the standards she had learned in Glasgow. Her house never did fall into that state of country homeliness that I found in so many of my friends homes. Rather, it had a somewhat spartan air about it, comfortable but everything in it’s place. Of course, I only knew her when she was in her 70’s, what her house was like when she had 7 children running around I don’t know. Somehow I don’t see it being too different. Later in life, she acquired some lovely furniture, but kept it all tucked away in her tiny front room. No one could enter unless it was time for Don Messer’s Jubilee or the Tommy Hunter show.

There are a few things to think about here. One is how one makes it in these circumstances, not just physically but mentally. I have moved many times in my life and each time was full of expectation and hope for the future. AND a leaving behind of the problems that got you moving in the first place. So it goes that the hardship in setting up a new place is an adventure and a fresh experience. Leaving a life of service and the grime of an industrial city for the fresh air and freedom of a new land would be a great incentive for Jane. For my grandfather, Richard, the loss of both his parents and a beloved grandfather, would drive him and his siblings overseas.

But first, you had to worry about shelter, heat and water. My grandfather got the shelter built, they would probably have had a wood stove of some kind (with the accompanying threat of fire) and water hauled from the creek . There was still a leg-hold trap under the sink when I visited as a teen-ager which my crawling brother almost got into.  For food, everything was there, if you wanted to go and get it. There was fish in the lakes, deer and moose to be hunted, and berries to be picked in spring.

I cannot be sure if my grandmother’s cooking was the same when she was older as before but we had some pretty plain food. She always gave a farm breakfast, eggs, porridge, toast and tea. But you were likely to get crabapple preserves with cream for lunch, including the stem and all (with a few cloves thrown in for good measure). At night you might have a meal of “mince”, which was basically simmered ground beef thickened with flour.  As a ravenous teen, I did not appreciate my mother carrying on this tradition! Jean would have had to cook for the men during harvest as well. Her later house in Ochre River, only had a tiny root cellar in it where her preserves were stored. At times it would fill with water if the sump pump failed.

Meeting Gramma Jean (I'm the baby)

Meeting Gramma Jean at 4 months

In 1916, Richard and Jane had the brother in law, George living with them. He spent most of the remainder of his life with them; though he had his own farm and when he wasn’t travelling back to Ireland or making trips to Winnipeg. He did meet a girl and marry once, but she wasn’t for that kind of life. The sister, Sophie took up residence on a neighboring farm. She had taken up nursing when she was young and delivered some of her nephews and nieces. When her husband died, she even ended up marrying a man from a neighboring farm. So, by this time they were surrounded by the people they would know for the rest of their lives.

By 1921, Dick and Jean were living on a different section of land with the 3 oldest children. Sometime around this period, a little girl was born who lived to be 4 years old (this told to me by my grandmother). I don’t know how she died and I have no certain record of her. Diphtheria was rife at that time and many families lost children to it.

George, Heather and Sheila Phillips c.1836

George, Heather and Sheila Phillips c.1936

At times like those, the community banded around each other. That is part of how you survived out there. They created there own social times, played hockey (even if a few eyes got knocked out) , had a women’s committee, which my Aunt Sophie belonged to and seasonal dances, played baseball in the summer when they weren’t swimming in the lakes. When my grandfather finally built a house, he had help from the neighbours. When it burned down, taking all my grandmother’s memories and money she was saving for a trip home, they helped him put another one back up. Later on, Dick and George would buy and sell cattle and horses, an activity they would have known something about since some of their Irish relatives did the same. In 1918, Dick belonged to the Orange Lodge in Wellwood.

Lodge-membership-R.W.

 

 

Uncle George St. Rose

George Phillips (dark suit on the right) at a Cattle Auction

In that environment, everything was new. The train line didn’t come into Magnet until 1924 and on that day there would have been great celebration, after all the work it took to clear the land and make way for it. It was 1921 when a pay phone was installed in the local store but it would be 1959 before home phones could be installed and 1996 before private lines were installed. I actually remember living in Dauphin, the nearest main centre in 1968 and finding out that other people were listening into my teen conversations!

Mail was of course delivered by horse and buggy in summer and sleigh in winter. Eventually post-offices were set up in private homes with the owners making bids for the privilege but eventually, in 1970, the mail was moved to the post office in Rorketon a near by town and you had to pick it up there. I remember my grandmother actually getting dressed up to walk down to the post office after she moved to Ochre River, another small town. It was only a block away but it was an outing for her. She was “going into town”. There she would meet and have a small conversation with the post mistress and meet her other neighbours. They always called her “Mrs. Phillips”.

Jane Smith Phillips c.1942

Jane Smith Phillips c.1942

My grandmother’s last pregnancy, with my mom, was a difficult one. She was 46 and the years had taken some toll on her health. My mother was the first child to be born in hospital ( if you want to call it that, it was part of the doctor’s house). My grandmother started to hemorrhage and it was a close call for both of them. I think that is one reason my grand mother called her Sheila JOY Richard Phillips. She was probably so glad to just get through it. Here is a pic of the darling little girl.

Sheila kitten 1942 c.r.

Sheila Phillips c. 1940

The horse below, Jessie, was the horse that my mother and her siblings rode to school. I say rode but Jessie (so named after Gramma’s oldest sister) knew the way back and forth. She would walk home by herself and come and get Mom when school was over. Mom rode her bareback. Mom never was afraid of horses, unlike her daughter!

Jessie and Mae Rev 2014

Jessie and Mae                      Sheila’s School Horses

 

Richard and Sheila c.1943

Richard and Sheila c.1943

Magnet School c.1942

Magnet School c.1942, Sheila top left

Magnet School c. 1945

Magnet School c. 1945   Sheila 3rd back right

By 1957, Dick and Jean had retired to Ochre River, Manitoba. I don’t know why they picked Ochre River, but there seemed to be many families of British extraction there. My grandfather bought half of an airport hotel (re-purposing buildings was a major activity there) and they set up house on a very pretty piece of property which sat on the highway going into Dauphin. There was a small river over to the side of it, called Ochre because the rock under it had that colour. That little river still wreaks havoc in the spring if it gets plugged with ice. In the late 60’s they were still pumping water and using the outhouse.

Richard, George and Jean Phillips c.1960

Richard, George and Jean Phillips c.1960

In Ochre River, they made many friends and lived out the rest of their lives. Family came and went including myself.  I remember sitting on the floor beside my grandmother as she sat knitting. I knew I would probably never get another chance to ask what it was like. She did not like talking about the past.
She said  ” Londa, the wind blew and the wolves were throwing themselves at the door. Your grandfather was away and I had to go out to see to the animals.”
“What about the kids? I asked her.
Well, there were 6 of them and I left them with the oldest.”
The oldest boy, George who had to help deliver one of her babies.
“But what about the wolves?”
“I just opened up the ” blammed” door and shot at them!”
There were always two guns in the house, one above the door and one standing in the corner.

In 1967, my grandmother was awarded a Pioneer Certificate of Recognition for her contributions to the settler community.

Pioneer Award for Jane Richard had passed away in 1964 at age 74. She joined him in 1975 at age 88. Until then, she lived in the little house by the river. This is one of my favorite photos of her, though poorly taken. It is Jane as I knew her.

Jane in front yard c.r.

This is my grandfather, Richard Phillips as I knew him.

Richard Phillips

They are both buried with old Uncle George in the Magnet Cemetery.

Headstone, Jane Phillips, Magnet, MB 2007

Headstone, Richard Phillips, Magnet, MB. 2007 Headstone, George Phillips, Magnet, MB. 2007

Who Are These People?

Aside

One has to wonder who some of the people that collected census information were. That is the case with many records online and off. As I come nearer to writing about my maternal grandparents lives in Canada, I am once again looking at the various records available for them. Two of the census records for my grandfather are ridiculously incorrect, not to mention the handwriting alone. I mean, how hard is it to add an s onto the end of a name? Were they hard of hearing? Also, the transcribers; one wonders how much effort they actually put into reading a document. When does ” —-ger”  turn into “son”? Thankfully ancestry.ca lets you correct the index supplied with the image ( or rather, add alternative information). It may be a little more difficult with other websites.

But what if you are looking at the actual document? These things can throw you off the trail. My grandfather’s death certificate is a blithering mess! They have his name as Richard Walter instead of Walker. His birth date is wrong. There is no known birthplace in Ireland for both the parents. Thank you very much Uncle George! It’s hard to believe that he would mistake his brother’s second name. So you have a combination of clerical error and the unknown. But Uncle George went back to his home in Ireland he knew where it was. One has to make allowances for trying times.  That is why you need more than one source of information.

So, my grandfather who was a LODGER at a farm became the SON of the farmer and who knew where he came from because it was all blotted out when the writer tried to overwrite his mistake. His birthplace was transcribed as England not Ireland. That was the 1911 Canadian census. In the 1916 Prairie census, George is spelled Gorege, Anglican is spelled Anghica! Those are straight forward mistakes to correct and the fact that they are transcribed on ancestry is a bonus. But if they are wrongly transcribed that is a problem. I have other records which help but many other people might not.

That being said, the census records are wonderful because they tell you so many things which I will not go into here. There is an almost psychological effect created. For example, why did my grandfather say he came over in 1905 on the 1916 and 1921 census when it was 1907 (He says on the passenger list he had not been across before). His older brother George, whom he was very close  to, came in 1905. One wonders if he thought it would be better to say they came over in the same year for some reason. My grandmother says she is the same age as him. She was in fact 3 years older. She says she came over in 1914 one time and 1915 the next. And that’s great because the closest passenger list I have for her is in 1911!

You get to see who their neighbors were. I read the names on the lines above and below and I hear the varying emotions in my mother’s voice as she talked about them, laughter, sarcasm, sadness and wistfulness as she looked back at her girlhood. You could take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl.

I think that one of the best ways to get on the path of your family is to get the actual birth, marriage and death certificates. That gives you something solid to start on. For the main part, family stories are just that, stories. They alter as they are passed on though there is always a thread of truth in them  What they told the law is another thing. Time to “fess up” as they say!

 

The Family of Jane Gartshore Smith 2

One might think of Glasgow, Scotland as being a perfect example of the effects of the Industrial Revolution, why the very catalyst for it was a Scottish invention. James Watt, the mechanical engineer and inventor had improved upon the Newcomen steam engine allowing for greater production levels than ever before. However, along with the great prosperity came unprecedented population growth that led to poverty, disease and squalor. You can get a sense of the situation here.

Initially, James and Marion lived at William Millers Land in Airdrie, New Monkland along with their first born Jessie and Marion’s sister Elizabeth Gartshore.  My grandmother, Jane was born at 7 Paddock Street on December 13, 1887. I believe Paddock Street still exists, and 7 Paddock would have been where there is now a care center. In the 1891 census, the family was at 6 Sykeside .Sykeside is a continuation of Paddock Street but though I contacted the map department of the National Library there, no location for that address could be found on a map of that time. Paddock was there but no #7. Perhaps, the two addresses were in the same location.

Paddock and Sykeside Streets, Coatbridge

Paddock and Sykeside Streets, Coatbridge

After the death of Jane in 1975, my aunt and uncle went to Scotland to try to find these places. My aunt said they had gone to a large house which I believe would have been at 3 School Street. I am not sure whether she knew that it was a multiple dwelling. They then went to visit my grandmother’s two youngest sisters who were quite elderly and did not want to let them in. That behavior was also typical of my grandmother. No one got past the door unless they were invited in!  I remember her telling me to never live in a “port city”, glad she doesn’t know where I am now!

Here is a picture of my grandmother, taken at Studio Cecil on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. That studio operated between 1901-14 which would put her age at between 14-25 years. She looks very young though and her clothing shows a modicum of affluence.

Jane Gartshore Smith

Jane Gartshore Smith

One of the ways that people survived these times was through family and acquaintances. That being said, once you were old enough, generally around 14, you were out in the world. My grandmother was not at 6 Sykeside in Coatbridge in the 1901 census nor any that followed very likely out at work. I do know that she came to Canada with a trunk full of beautiful gowns which she “made down” for her oldest girl Heather.

Marion Smith died in 1913 of a cerebral hemorrhage at 4 School Street in Coatbridge. James, surprisingly, in view of his profession, would not die until 1934, aged 77, from heart problems. That was at 3 Reid Street in Coatbridge, the home of Margaret his youngest daughter. There were murmurings of the coming war with Germany. Whatever Jane was doing, she packed up her trunk and left Scotland for good. She left behind the following siblings:

Jessie born in 1880, was the oldest of the Smith children. She went to work as a domestic at the home of the Montgomery family who were grocers at 6 Cecil Street in Govan, Glasgow. She spent all of her life with that family, finally marrying the son, Alexander in 1914 when she was 34 and he was 36.  One wonders what the impediment might have been previous to that. One of the witnesses is Jeannie Smith, one would suppose to be my grandmother.
The couple had no children. So Jessie rose to becoming a woman of some means, passing some money on to close members of the family and the remainder of her estate to another sister upon her death in June of 1949.

Annabella, the second child, born in 1883,  spent her young years in the same way (in service) until she met Joseph Collins Peat. It is likely that Joe was an acquaintance of her brothers since he was an iron worker as well. They were married in 1908. Joe served in the machine gun corps during the war. In 1920, they left Scotland for New South Wales, Australia. At that time, they had 4 children, Marion, Joseph, James and George. Marion was 7 years old which would mean that they had no children until 1915 unless some stayed behind. Like my grandmother, Annabella would be leaving her family behind to start a life in a strange and hard land, especially with her husband working in the mines. You can find them at Linlithgow, McQuarrie, NSW, in the Australian Electoral Rolls.

Joe and Annabella Smith Peat 1908

Joe and Annabella Smith Peat 1908

I have always been fascinated by the bodice of Anna’s wedding outfit. It shows such an intricate celtic design. She was obviously proud of her heritage. Now if we only knew what colour her dress was!

Annabella's Wedding Dress

Annabella’s Wedding Dress

To Be Continued …..

The Family of Jane Gartshore Smith

In previous posts, I had talked about my grandfather, Richard Walker Phillips, being sent to Canada by Walter Bates, his uncle. Walter and Sophie, the youngest McDowell girl had taken over the farm at Lisheenamalausa in Tipperary when Alice McDowell died in 1904. It has been difficult to gauge the exact circumstances of the family at that time. William, the patriarch, had died under very unusual circumstances, his throat being cut by a scythe in a cart accident. The resulting hemorrhage did not kill him immediately but rather debilitated him until his death some months later. He left a substantial estate including houses, land and insurances by which all the family benefited including Richard and his siblings. There was enough money for Richard (called Dick of course) to come to Canada via New York on the maiden voyage of the Lusitania in 1907. Neither brother, Richard or George brought a lot of money with them and took labouring jobs when they came to Canada. There is no sign of them actually working together but George is listed as Richards contact in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The main purpose for both was to earn enough to “land a homestead” which they eventually did in the Lawrence municipality.

In the meantime, Jane Gartshore Smith, my grandmother, worked and saved enough to go to New York to meet her intended. As you might guess, her name is a logistical nightmare when looking for genealogy records. Her claim was that she arrived in Canada in 1913. The engagement did not last however, because she did not get along with her fiance’s sister.After that, she took work as a domestic and in that way, met my grandfather who was working on either the same farm or one close by.

Jane (called Jean) came from a large family of iron-worker. The Smith family originated in Muirkirk, Ayrshire, the Gartshores in Dunbartonshire. Like most people of that time, they were originally farmers until the mines came in. Then they traveled to where the work was.

Jane’s paternal grandparents, John and Annabella Smith were married on the 5th of August, 1836 in Muirkirk, Ayrshire.

Marriage of John Smith and Annabella McGhee

Marriage of John Smith and Annabella McGhee

By 1861, they had 8 children, James my great-grandfather being the youngest. In 1863, Annabella died of uterine cancer. John was still alive on the 1881 census at the age of 65.

On April 11th, 1879 James Smith married Marion Reid Gartshore in New Monkland, Lanark.

Marriage of James Smith and Marion Gartshore

Marriage of James Smith and Marion Gartshore

Marion’s parents, John Gartshore and Janet Gray were from Coatbridge. He too was an iron-worker. They married on the 28th of November, 1847.

Marriage of John Gartshore and Janet Gray

Marriage of John Gartshore and Janet Gray

John and Janet had 10 children, my great-grandmother, Marion being the seventh. Janet died in 1875 of gastritis (so easily treatable today) . The story in our family was of how Marion had to help raise the family after her mother died. By following the Scottish censuses you can see John, her father moving around from one child’s place to another, possibly lost after the death of his wife. He lived for a period of time with James and Marion so my grandmother would have known him well. John died in 1901. Here is a chart with my Gartshore family line on it. Thanks to Sondra Gartshore Jernigan.

Family Line for John Gartshore

Family Line for John Gartshore

In the next post I will talk about my grandmother and her siblings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Without and Within

When the Romans left Scotland in the early 400’s, they left behind the remains of forts along Hadrian’s Wall, a system of roads and a series of buffer states they hoped would keep order in Britain. They had more pressing issues in Europe that would eventually lead to the decline and fall of a mighty empire.

The tale of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland, being invaded by Gaelic tribes from Ireland who then absorbed the Picts, has recently been challenged by archaeologists. There is no evidence on the ground of a struggle or of a different way of life than the one already there. It is now believed that Dal Riata (Dalriada), as the area was known, had a native population who spoke the same language (Gaelic) as their neighbors across the sea in Northern Ireland (some 12 miles away). The Romans used the term “Scotti” or “pirates”  to describe the Gaels in a derogatory way. They were known for harassing the Roman merchant ships along the coast. Around 563 A.D.,  the Irish monk, Columba followed and began to convert the Picts to Christianity.

Kingdom of Dal Riata  580-600 AD

Kingdom of Dal Riata 580-600 AD

During the Viking raids, in 839, the king of Dal Riata was slain and Kenneth Mac Alpin began his fight for the throne which he won in 847. Under Kenneth, the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts would unite and become known as Alba. During the late 900’s, many violent struggles for the throne began. One of these struggles was between Duncan I and Macbeth, one of his generals, familiar to us in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.  In 1057, Macbeth was killed by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III. Malcolm allowed people in England who opposed the rule of William the Conqueror, the Norman king, to settle in Scotland. This he did under a system of feudalism whereby land was granted in exchange for things such as military service. After Malcolm’s death in 1093, the Scots continued to fight England for their freedom often becoming allies with France.

During the reign of Malcolm’s successor, Alexander III (1249-1286), there was a time of piece and prosperity for Scotland. He married Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England but refused to recognize Henry as overlord of Scotland. He then went to war against the Norwegian king Haaken to regain control of the Western Isles. Haaken died and the Treaty of Perth was signed with his successor, Magnus which granted him the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Scotland retained the Western Isles and the Isle of Man .  An agreement was also made with the MacDonald Clan who had fought with the Norwegians. They were able to keep their lands in the isles by recognizing Alexander as their overlord. From this they greatly profited and soon became “Lords of the Isles”, strong enough to remain independent of the monarchy to a great degree.

Alexander’s wife Margaret died along with the three children he had by her and this left him with only his granddaughter Margaret as heir. She was being raised in Norway with her paternal family. Alexander remarried in 1285 to Yolande de Dreux who belonged to a powerful French family. Tragically, on his way to meet her in Fife, he met with an accident which killed him. Yolande, apparently pregnant at the time, had a child who was stillborn. This left the throne to Margaret, the granddaughter. Tensions rose when many of the Scottish nobles, including Robert Bruce I, protested rule under a Norwegian queen.

Alexander III

     Alexander III

The Norwegians applied to Edward I for help in gaining the throne. Edward agreed to do this with the condition that Margaret would marry his son. To this the Scots would not agree.The problem was solved when the child Margaret died on her way from Norway to Scotland.

During this time period, we know two things about my family although further research would without doubt uncover more. One, the family of my great great grandfather, William McDowell, had its origins in Galloway, home of the Lords of Galloway. And two, that John Gartshore, ancestor of my maternal grandmother, was granted land by exgambion by Alexander II, father of the above, for land in Kirkintilloch, Scotland between the years 1211 and 1231.

 

 

The Gartshore Estate

It is really thrilling to see how your family might have been connected to historical figures. Right now I am looking to see if the Gartshore family had any connection to Robert the Bruce. We do know that the family goes a long way back in Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Information on the Gartshore Estate is at this link.

The original land was granted in the 14th century. A house was built in the 17th century which was demolished and rebuilt by William Whitelaw in 1887. It was a beautiful place which included stables and a Quaker burial ground for the Gray family who had married in. Again, part of my grandmother’s family. Sadly, the house was demolished in the 1950’s. Their are ruins there but the stable block has been kept and converted into residences.

Gartshore House

Gartshore House

Gartshore Stables

Gartshore Stables

Interestingly, the owner of Gartshore had interests in the coal and iron industry in Coatbridge where the Smiths and Gartshores lived and worked.

Heaven and Hell

As I stated previously, the names my great-grandmother, Marion Reid Gartshore carried were very old and well-known in the Coatbridge area. The earliest relative in the Gartshore line I have currently was John Gartshore, born about 1650 . I assume this was in Kirkintilloch as he married there in 1673 to Elizabeth Wood. Below, a map showing where these places are in Scotland.

Muirkirk and Coatbridge

Muirkirk and Coatbridge

In the Smith line, I have only gotten as far back as John Smith born in Muirkirk, Ayrshire in 1813. He married Annabella McGhee in Muirkirk in 1836. Below, their marriage record :

John and Annabella Smith Marriage Reg muirkirk , ayr

In the 1861 census, they had 9 children.
John Gartshore and Janet Gray, my grandmother’s other grandparents were married in Glasgow in 1847. Below, their marriage record:

John Gartshore and Janet Gray OPR 1847

They too had 9 children.
My great grandparents, James Smith and Marion Reid Gartshore were married in New Monkland in 1879. They had 13 children, but only 9 survived, my grandmother Jane Gartshore Smith being one of them.
Below, a map of Coatbridge in the 19th century.

Coatbridge

                   Coatbridge

The stories of Muirkirk and Coatbridge are similar but perhaps on a different scale. Both were basically pastoral communities, though Muirkirk is described as being quite bleak, having been a forested area in ancient times and cleared just enough to allow grazing and some agriculture. Like Coatbridge, there was temporary prosperity during the time of the iron works which were established there. When they ran out, the place was left with few prospects.

Muirkirk, Ayrshire

              Muirkirk, Ayrshire

From the Undiscovered Scotland website:

“The 1799 Statistical Account for the thinly populated parish containing what became Coatbridge said: “Beside a vast quantity of natural wood, there are more than 1,000 acres planted. This beautifies the country and improves the climate. We have many extensive orchards. A stranger is struck with this view of the Parish. It has the appearance of an immense garden. Here are produced luxuriant crops of every grain, especially wheat. The rivers abound with salmon in the proper season and trout of every species. There is also plenty of pike and perch in the Monklands Canal.”

By the 1840s the view of Coatbridge had changed from the “immense garden” of 1799: “There is no worse place out of hell than that neighbourhood. At night, the groups of blast furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes at most of which smelting is continued on Sundays and weekdays, day and night, without intermission. From the town comes a continual row of heavy machinery: this and the pounding of many steam hammers seemed to make even the very ground vibrate under one’s feet. Fire, smoke and soot with the roar and rattle of machinery are its leading characteristics; the flames of its furnaces cast on the midnight sky a glow as if of some vast conflagration. Dense clouds of black smoke roll over it incessantly and impart to all the buildings a peculiarly dingy aspect. A coat of black dust overlies everything.”

Summerlee1

         Summerlee Iron Works

By the time my grandmother was born in 1887, the waste heap for the iron works was a big as the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The Gartshores and Smiths had migrated down to Coatbridge, very likely to find work. All the men in my grandmother’s family worked at the iron works and one of her brothers, Samuel came over to New York to work in the rolling mills there.

The other side of the story would also be about how this employment brought prosperity to the area and to the family. We will talk about that next.