Entries in Ball (13)


Abington, Jedidah Louisa (1837 - 1914) HARD TIMES?

Jedidah Louisa Abington (1837 – 1914)


Jedidah is something of an enigma. Her Christian name caused Census officials, and more recently transcribers a good deal of trouble. It is only with some effort that we can recover her from the official records and then we only get a hint of the turmoils of her life. She saw the life of a shoemaking village with its gossip and interbreeding where most people had a reason to like or dislike a neighbour. She also saw life in one of the first great industrial cities of the world visited by people from all over the Europe to study these wonderful but terrible new phenomena.

She was born in Ringstead in 1837. The 1841 Census shows that her father, Herbert J Abington, was a tea dealer. He had been born in 1809 in Sommerstown in Middlesex but her mother Kezia Bull was a local girl born some two years later. By 1851 there were five other children besides Jedidah: Leonard (abt 1839), Edwin (abt 1841), Mary Jane (abt 1843), Edmund (abt 1845), and Herbert (abt 1848).

Already in her first census she is causing trouble for she is recorded as Julidah Abington but by 1851 she is transcribed by Ancestry as Isdadah although the Census writer has her right. We will use Jedidah in this story, the name that was mainlly used and the one on her tombstone. Her father has become a tea dealer and grocer and all his family is still around him. There are signs of the modern world intruding into Ringstead. The old system of parish constables was not able to cope with the ever more mobile criminals of the railway age and in 1839 County Councils were allowed to form their own police forces. It was opposed by many because of the percieved great cost to the ratepayers but it survived. Superintendent Knight was appointed to the area which included Ringstead and he obviously took his role seriously.

One of his tasks was the important one of making sure that shopkeepers were not cheating their customers. Imperial standard weights had been introduced in the 1825/6 period and County Inspectors had been appointed in 1834/5. The new police force gradually took over this function. In 1843 alone four Ringstead shopkeepers were fined at Wellingborough Petty Sessions for “deficient weights”. These included Thomas Lee, the baker; Henry Weekley, butcher and James Whiteman, grocer. Also fined twelve shillings was Herbert Joseph Abington, grocer, Edidah’s father. It was likely that some of the lawbreaking was caused by the sellers not keeping up with the legislation and not using the properly approved and stamped weights. There must have been much grumbling about government interference by the small shopkeepers of the village. Nevertheless some of them were not fined but only had to pay the "cost of the summonses in cases where the deficiencies were trifling” which implies that the people fined were selling seriously short measures. Herbert’s fine of 12s was small, however, compared to his grocery competitor in Ringstead, James Whiteman, who was fined £3 12 s.

The same report on the Wellingborough Petty Sessions does give a small insight into the way standardisation was rapidly entering villagers' lives but, as yet, lack of access to the technology was still a defence:

Mr. Hill, a beer-shop keeper, at Ringstead, was charged with keeping his house open after ten o'clock. It was proved that the church clock at Ringstead was not going on the night in question, and the Magistrates gave Hill the benefit of this circumstance and dismissed the charge. 

By 1861 Jedidah Abington had disappeared from Ringstead and it seems from England. Her sister, Mary Jane has become a servant to an old farmer John Williamson, who was 83 years old, and his three daughters. She has not moved far for the house is only three doors away from her parents. Herbert is now a plain “grocer” and his wife a dressmaker. Herbert, their son, is, at thirteen, a baker and there are two more sons, Joshua, nine years old, and Samuel just four. Kezia had her last child when she was 46 years old. There is a gap of some five years so there is just the suspicion that Samuel could be the son of Jedidah and that is why she is away from village and the gossip. 

Finally, in 1861, we locate Jedidah in Manchester. Well not Jedidah but a Louisa J Abington a servant at the house of Carlos Chamberlin in Manchester. Manchester had become one of the first great industrial cities. In 1861 the parish of Manchester had a population of 529,245 people and the borough had some 300,000. Engels, who later helped write the Communist Manifesto, and many others came and wrote about this city where the sun never shone through the smoke pall, and cotton specks clouded the air: where the noise of the cotton mills started up at 5.30 in the morning like the boom of Atlantic breakers. A place where working people, crammed into substandard housing with little or no sanitation, lived in poverty and died young: where typhoid and cholera and infant diarrhoea meant that life was cheap. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote about it in Mary Barton and Dickens in Hard Times. One of the places where modern capitalism as well as English socialism were born.

 View of Manchester 1850 by Lenz

By kind permission of Manchester Archives and Local Studies

This shows the countryside and the old country ways about to be swallowed up by the industrial city, the smoking chimneys of which can be seen in the distance. It does recall the first chapter of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, where the Wilsons and the Bartons meet, away for the grime of the city, before tragedy strikes

It was also a time when men made great fortunes and gated estates of large villas were built for this new class of factory owners and professionals. One of the first to be built in the world was the Victoria Park Estate in the Rusholme area of Manchester. It was in parkland on the edges of the city, away from the prevailing smoke stream from the mills. The first residents moved in, in 1837, and in the 1861 Census we see living on the Victoria Park Estate, Henry Salomonson, a shipping merchant born in Holland, William R Callender, a JP and merchant, George Hadfield a Member of Parliament,  Arthur Sief, a cotton manufacturer employing 950 men and women. Here also we see Richard Cobden the Chartist politician and Charles Halle, the German born founder of the famous orchestra. It was a radical stronghold where members of the Anti-Corn Law League and Whig politicians lived. Later, Emmeline Pankhurst and her husband lived in a Victoria Park villa. It was to here also that a wealthy American called Carlos Chamberlin and his family moved. He was a “Commission Agent” buying and selling commodities for people and taking a percentage as his fee. Carlos had been born in Vermont, USA, in 1811 and lived with his wife Elizabeth and their seven children in Sunbury from 1856 to 1875. I think that he re-named it Vermont House for so it is named in the 1861 Census. He had just become a naturalised British citizen in 1860 and business was doing well for he had five servants, including Louisa, living on the premises.


"Sunbury" or "Vermont House" in Victoria Park, Rusholme

By kind permission of Manchester Archives and Local Studies

How do we know that Louisa Abington is our Jedidah? Well, she is shown as having been born in Ringstead, Northamptonshire, she is the correct age and, when she appears again in Ringstead with her father after missing two Censuses, she calls herself Louisa. It seems proof enough but we also have the diary of her younger brother Herbert (see separate biography) to confirm it as fact. One may also ask, how did she get there? We hear of the poor being shipped up to Manchester for work by canal boat. There would also be stage coaches which would take some twenty-four hours. It is more likely that she went by one of the wonders of the steam age, the new railway system which was becoming affordable to all but the poorest.  The London and Birmingham Railway Company had built a line between Blisworth and Peterborough and as part of this Ringstead had its own station which was opened on the 2ndJune 1845. A little earlier the London Euston to Manchester route had also been built by the same company and, bypassing Northampton, had a station at Blisworth. Lord Grafton had agreed to fund a new station at Blisworth as long as it was "first class" which meant that all trains stopped there. In 1846 it had become part of the London and North Western Railway.

In 1850 she could have left Ringstead at 7.35 am and, if travelling 2nd class, after changing at Rugby, would have arrived at Manchester London Road at 4.45 pm. Third class which stopped at all stations would have not arrived until 9.15 pm. By 1863 the times had been reduced by some two hours and three-and-a-half hours respectively. Second class would have cost her some 20 shillings(£1.00) and third, 13 shillings (£0.65). To give some comparison £1.00 is roughly equivalent to £43 today (but five days of an 1860 craftsman's time because wages have risen more than costs). By this time the carriages were roofed and glazed although the third class would still have had plain wooden seats.  The picture below shows the type of engine, painted green, that would have pulled the train in 1852. One can only imagine that, although a long and wearisome journey it would also have been an exciting one for Jedidah.



( )

As we have said, Jedidah would probably have arrived at London Road Station, which was later rebuilt and renamed Piccadilly. Perhaps her new employer had arranged for someon to pick her up or arranged for a cab. Otherwise she would had to walked nearly two miles or used one of the horse-drawn trams that you can see in the photograph below, of Piccadilly, taken towards the end of the century. Her route would probably have avoided the worst of the industrial  and slum areas, with terraced houses giving way to the spacious surroundings of Victoria Park. She would have had to get past the gate keeper and then been confronted by the grand villas, including Sunbury House (re-named Vermont House by Carlos).

She had been fortunate in reaching Manchester after the building of Longendale reservoir and the provision of relatively clean water which begun the elimination of the waterborne diseases, such as cholera, from the area although it was not until the end of the century that they were virtually eliminated. Manchester was also a place full of people equally as radical as the shoemakers of Ringstead. From 1845 there had been Ladies' Day Classes at the Mechanics' Institute for intending governesses, young wives and the daughters of respectable artisans

Manchester Piccadilly in 1892 showing the horse-drawn trams, the crowds and the new tall buildings of the modern city

By kind permission of Manchester Archives and Local Studies

Ten years later, 1871, the Census shows Carlos was still living in Vermont House with four of his children but there were only three servants and none of them remained from the original group. Louisa however, as she now is, is not far away. She is living with one of the older servants from her former employment called Elizabeth Spence who came from Dalton-in-Furness, and her daughter Mary Ellen and a one year old visitor Fanny Watterson. Elizabeth was the widow of William Spence, who had been a groom at Clayton Hall. She had become a grocer and around her small shop, at 45 Wilmslow Road Rusholme, are a basket shop, and an ironmonger and gas fitter. These were small local shops, a world away from the grand department stores and wharehouses that were growing up in the centre of Manchester. Elizabeth Spence's shop is just a stone's throw from Vermont House but the two younger women are not shown to have any work. This would be a little concerning for her father and mother but as we gather from Herbert's diary (see separate biography) thery are progressive women who take part in the intellectual life available in Manchester. We also know from the diary that this was a time when she was constantly visiting her sick brother. It may be that the Census just comes at a time when she is not working and we know from the sam source that Elizabeth Spence and her daughter were good friends to Jedidah and her family.

Herbert' diary tells us that in the1869-1870 period Jedidah, usually with Herbert and the Spences went to Belle Vue Gardens, Manchester Flower Show at the Botanical Gardens, saw A Winter's Tale, Richard III, the Royal Institution and probably many others where her brother just puts 'We went  to . . . '.

At the same Census her father, Herbert, is shown as a grocer in Shop Street, Ringstead. He is now about sixty two years old and his wife is a couple of years younger. Not far away, in Shop Street, John Ball is living with his wife and granddaughter, Florence E Smith. He is still a butcher but is also a farmer of 43 acres and has a labourer working for him. The trouble of the fifties and sixties, when his brother William had brought scandal to the family with his accusation and finally acquittal of the murder of his pregnant mistress Lydia Atley, are now in the past. John's wife, Rebecca (nee Wilson), was the sister of William Weekley Ball’s wife, Hannah, so it would have been difficult for the whole family. But William now lives and prospers as a butcher in Ramsey in Huntingdonshire and John too is doing well.

In 1879 Kezia Abington, Jedidah’s mother, dies, but it may be that she has alreadyshe moved back to look after her two brothers last years and her ageing father. In 1881 Herbert is shown as a Chemist and lives in High Street with his daughter Louisa, as she is still calling herself. In the same census John is till living with Rebecca but she is shown as an invalid and there is a live-in nurse, Sarah Hackney as well as a servant, Louisa Truelove. In the few months following the Census Rebecca died aged 62 years.

The grieving was not long for John because that same autumn he married 'Edidah' Louisa Abington. Her father dies a few years later in 1884. It seems that they settled down for a comfortable retirement together. An advertisement in the Wellingborough News on 4th October 1884 gives notice of an auction on the Wednesday 15th '...upon the Premises at Ringstead, the property of Mr John Ball, who is giving up his land.' The sale gives some idea of what a small farm would have llooked like. It lists

SHEEP - 30 half-bred two-shear down ewes, 13 theaves, 42 lambs

BEAST - Three cows in-calf in-profit, I barren cow, ditto heifer, 1 heifer in-calf, 1 21/2 year-old steer and 2 calves

HORSES- Two active powerful cart mares

IMPLEMENTS - Two Scotch carts, 1 cart, 1 narrow-wheel wagon, 2 ploughs, 2 set iron harrows (Page), Scuffler, 5-coulter drill, horse hoe, 12 doz hurdles, 10 sheep troughs, 2 turnip mills, cake mill, etc etc.

We see the end of one of the small farmer-butchers which were a feature of many villages. By 1891 John and Jedidah are living together in High Street in Ringstead.

The Register for the Ringstead Cemetery shows the death of John Ball on the 26thNovember 1894 aged 75 and the burial some two days later. The service was conducted by the Baptist Minister, the Reverend J Bates and under the heading “Trade” he is classified simply as “Gentleman”. On the same solid, respectable grave it also remembers “Louisa, Jedidah Ball, beloved wife of the above who died on 24th July 1914 aged 77 years”. There is no sign of Rebecca. The Baptist Minister again took the service. Jedidah was 77.

The two Wilson sisters who married John and William Ball were not productive. Rebecca had one child Joseph some five or six years after their marriage and Hannah had no children as far as we can tell. William, it appears had at least one child, (although it disappeared before birth with its mother, Lydia Atley). Jedidah also appears to have had no children. She, of course, married very late. Such things are not uncommon but one senses that there is somewhere, perhaps other unrecorded sadnesses.

What about Carlos Chamberlin, or 'Chamberlain', as he is put in some Censuses? He was part of the American 'aristocracy' based on chronology rather than  English bloodline, although perhaps both emanate from the claims of the first principal invaders, one Norman one English. His grandson, George Howard Chamberlin, was an architect in Yonkers, New York. George is listed in the Roll of Associates of The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Register of 1911. To be an associate one had to trace ones ancestry back to the first colonists and to have forefathers, in the same male ancestral line, who served in the American Revolution. The qualifying generations are given, including Carlos and then back to William and Rebecca Chamberlin who must have been those 'first colonists'. Why somone in that revoluionary line should become a naturalised British citizen and live out his life in England is another story to be told.

By 1881, now some seventy years old, he is living in Dunham Road Altrincham in Cheshire with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Mary now a spinster of thirty three. They have three servants, once again all different. It may be that they were bad employers but servants, because they had to live in, tended to be younger women. When they married they moved out and found other employment. It seems that he died in Hastings in 1890 and by 1891 his widow, Elizabeth is living at 39 Harrington Road, Kensington.

Although worlds apart both mistress and servant became the widows of “gentlemen” who could live comfortably in their old age.

There is one final small mystery. If you walk down the cemetery toward the road from the fine  headstone of John Ball and Louisa Jedidah (as she now finally is) you come to the grave of Benjamin Lovell and Mary Jane, his beloved wife. At the bottom of the gravestone it also remembers Louisa Jedidah Ball. Mary Jane was Edidah,s sister, who she is shown living next door to, in the 1901 Census. Benjamin Lovell died a few months after Edidah and Mary Jane died some 7 years after, in 1921. Who wanted her remembered again?

Ringstead Cemetery 2009



Censuses 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901

Ringstead Parish Registers (Northampton Record Office)

Northampton Mercury 13th May 1843

Victoria Park Manchester.  Maurice Spiers (printed for the Chetham Society 1976)

Building Jeruselem: the rise and fall of the Victorian city.  Tristram Hunt (Weindenfeld and Nicolson 2004)

Mary Barton,  Elizabeth Gaskell (Oxford World Classics) First published 1848  for the Currency Converter. {But beware it does not work below £1.00 in old money in either direction so £1.00 (1860) = £43.16 but £43.00 = £1 19s 11d (1860)}  article on London and North Western Railway.

Wellingborough News 4th October 1884 transcribed by Kay Collins ( )

My thanks to George Turnbull, Co-ordinator of Heritage Information at Manchester Archives and Local Information (2006) for his help with the travel in Manchester and other local details.

My thanks to Harry Jack, via Simon Fountain, of the LNWR Society for all the information on Edidah's possible rail journey

The Order of the Founders And Patriots of America Register 1911. ( )





Ball, Daniel (c 1827- ), Ball, John (c1825- ) & Nobles (nee Ball), Sarah (c1823- ) NEW WORLD EMIGRANTS

Ball, Daniel, (c1827 - ), Ball, John (c1825 - ) and Nobles (nee Ball), Sarah (c1823 - )


Daniel Ball and Phebe Whittering were married on 7thAugust 1817 in Ringstead Parish Church. Daniel was a shepherd and over the next twenty years they produced their own flock of eleven children. It seems an ordinary, sedentary family welded to the country side of its birth but, as in the nursery rhyme, many of the sheep were lost, and it seems that only the youngest, Elisha, came home with his tale to tell.


Of George the eldest, I have, as yet found no sign and Elizabeth, the second child was born in 1820 and I believe died in 1840. John, the second oldest boy had been born in 1825 and died just one year later. Ann, the second oldest girl survived and married George Mays and stayed in the village Then followed Sarah, Daniel and  a second John and it seemed that these formed their own group and broke the mould of a settled pastoral family and it is their story that we will be trying to piece together here.

 It is worth remembering that, of the younger siblings, James born in about 1831 married Emma Storks and stayed locally and Samuel born in 1836 was buried aged just 7 on November 9th 1843 but that Thomas and Elisha whose stories we have also told left the nest before 1871, one to join the army and the other to seek his fortune in the New World and come back disappointed.

                 Chart to show where the three siblings sat in family tree

                                                 Daniel Ball …………………..Phebe Whitteringl


     l                      l                            I                      l                 l                l              l                 l                   l                  l                     l

George       Elizabeth           Anne           John       l             l                l         James    Thomas      Samuel      Elisha

b 1818-?   b 1820-40            b 1822      1825-6     l             l                l         b1831      b 1834         1836-43        b 1836

                                                                                    Sarah     Daniel      John

                                                                                      b 1827          b 1827/8          b 1830 

              All birth dates are approximate (and vary through the Censuses in most cases).

     I have noted the dates of those who died very early and highlighted Thomas and Elisha

                               who also left the area (although Elisha returned)

Of all Daniel and Phoebe’s children, by 1861, only Ann (now Mays) and James were still alive and living locally. Why this scattering of the family? We can only speculate but we do know that in 1839 Ringstead was “Enclosed”. It was a very late Parliamentary Enclosure but it had much the same effect as the earlier ones. Small farmers were bought out, cottagers and those with rights on the common land lost them. The labourers lost the perks of the crops, the grazing and firewood that were part of their lives and became totally dependant on paid employment. Mechanisation also reduced the need for labourers and the new industrial towns and cities drew them in.

High prices and low wages were bringing many families to the breadline and the New World, a place of opportunity and goldmines, with cheap passages advertised in the local papers must have been an exciting if fearful prospect.

We know that, in the 1851 Census, Daniel and Phoebe are living in Ringstead with their children; Daniel, the son, is 22 and an agricultural labourer; Mary (24) is Daniel’s new wife and a lacemaker; John (21) is an under gardener; Thomas (17), an agricultural labourer and Elisha, the youngest, is a scholar. We also know that Sarah (26) has married Thomas Nobles and is also living in Ringstead. She is an “Ag Lab’s wife” with her daughter Phoebe who is two years old. Thomas is away, possibly with his parents in Pilton.

By 1861 only Elisha is living with his parents and, apart from those we have mentioned, the others are nowhere to be found in England

On 28th June 1852 the packet-ship Jacob A Westervelt arrived in New York from Liverpool. It had been built in 1849 and was a wooden hulled sailing ship named after its builder. It was part of the American Black Star Line and had first put into Liverpool on 10thJanuary 1850. She was a large three-decker, able to take 900 passengers, and was well equipped with a surgeon’s room, bath rooms and separate hospitals for men and women. We know that in 1852 it did its fastest run from New York to Liverpool of 14 days 12 hours but that was with the prevailing westerly winds. Journeys to the United States could be much longer.

The sailing packets, unlike most passenger ships, ran to a timetable, whatever the weather, and had three, rather than the usual two, crossings a year. These fast times, in sailing terms, meant that as much sail as possible was maintained in all weathers. This did mean that the crossings could be rough and fraught with danger

In the previous year, on 31stMay 1851, the ship, with 800 passengers on board, bound for New York, grounded on the Old South Shoal within sight of Sankaty,(where a lighthouse had begun operation just a year earlier) in Nantucket. Luckily, the steamboat Massachusetts managed to put a pilot on board and she was guided to safety. In the following year, in December 1853, the Jacob A Westervelt foundered on the coast of Newfoundland but all 700 passengers survived. Later, on 12th April 1860, the New York Times reported on a fire, which had happened the day before on the ship while it was in the harbour, which it thought had probably destroyed it. In fact, it appears that in 1862 it was sold to the Black Bull Line and renamed Southern Empire and used on the long England to Australia emigrant route

Incidentally, it reveals something of the times, both the fear of new technology and the violence of the new cities that in this report the New York Times tells of one of the members of a fire service going to the blazing ship.

A brutal assault was made upon JOHN ROSS, a member of Manhattan Company No. 8 and a clerk in the General Post Office, who was running through Chatham-street to overtake his Company. When near the corner of Pearl street, his uniform attracted the attention of a gang of “Dead Rabbits”, who are hangars-on of an Engine Company who entertain sentiments of envy toward the steam-engines and one of the scoundrels dealt him a blow from behind with a heavy club, that laid him prostate on the walk…

Those that disembarked from that 1852 voyage were, therefore, lucky that they had arrived without serious incident. It still would have been an unpleasant and frightening journey for passengers, many of whom had probably not seen the sea before they reached Liverpool. There were conmen in Liverpool,  known as the Forty Thieve, who preyed particularly on the Irish families that were escaping from the “Famine”. They worked for crooked shopkeepers, money changers (for dollars) and landlords who tried to take what little money the emigrants had. The vast exodus of the Irish famine victims was beginning to wane and regulation was starting to improve the conditions for the waiting emigrants as well as the resident population. Liverpool still had vast slums and cholera and typhus were rife. The emigrants had to keep their wits about them if they were not to lose their health and their money before they embarked on their journey.

Even the boarding of the ship could be a frightening experience for some captains made sure the cargo was stored and the cabin passengers installed before they allowed the steerage passengers on board. The captain would also, by then, be making ready to cast off and there was oten a mad scramble up the gangplank by the poor passengers, carrying their few boxes and possessions. Some did “miss the boat” and some were drowned in the dock.

The crossing was planned to take between sixteen and thirty days according to the weather conditions. The Saloon or First Cabin of the Jacob A. Westervelt was lined with satinwood, zebrawood and rosewood, with brilliant pier-glasses, and painted white and gold> These fortunate few would be provided with meals and all services. The steerage passengers, on the other hand, were only provided with “coals, water and bread stuff” for their £5 ticket. They were crammed together in the lower decks with fourteen square feet of space allowed per passenger (half that for children and nothing for infants). They had to cook their own meals in the few places provided on deck and generally fend for themselves. The New York Daily Times of 13 December 1891, comparing the new steamships with the old sail packets, describes the accommodation:

The steerage occupied the whole of the 'tween decks. Single and double and upper and lower berths were arranged all around the sides of the ship. As far as possible families were placed together and the women passengers given all the privacy possible in the limited space available. The steerage was reached by ladders at the fore and main hatches which were always open except in bad weather, and ventilators through the deck and a windsail or two {a sail designed to funnel  air to the lower decks} furnished the fresh air of the steerage. Should weather become stormy and the sea heavy the hatches were closed and the poor emigrant had to make the best of his surroundings until the weather moderated.

It was a harsh world where crew and stowaways could be flogged and beaten but certainly the Irish passengers were known to try to make the best of it, and help the time to pass, with music and dancing.

When they finally arrived the emigrants would have looked at the new city with awe and, one would guess, with fear. It too had people trying to rob and cheat them but, by 1848, the State of New York had established immigrant reception centres and licensed boarding houses and in 1852 Emigrants’ Homes made from converted warehouses, were offering reasonable, clean temporary accommodation.

Among the passengers shuffling off that ship in June 1852 were a group of young country men and women who were listed briefly on the Passenger List. (it is not clear to whom the”Labourer” description applies)


            John Ball                     22        Male               Labourer

            Eliza Ball                     21        Female            Labourer

            Mary Ball                    22        Female            Labourer

            Daniel Ball                  25        Male                Labourer

            George Ball                 infant   Male                5 months old

            Thomas Noble             24        Male               Labourer

            Sarah Noble                24        Female           

            Phoebe Noble              2          Female

As we have seen, Sarah Ball had married Thomas Nobles (13thJune 1849) so here we have the siblings and their spouses together in the port of New York. There is only one problem. Who is Eliza Ball, aged 21? Unfortunately the list does not include the marital status so we do not know if Eliza is a wife or a relation. We know that Daniel’s wife was Mary, born in Warmington, from the 1851 English Census but we can find no sign of a marriage for John. He had a sister, Elizabeth, who was baptised in 1820, so she would have been some ten years older and we also believe that she is the Elizabeth Ball who was buried on 15thDecember 1840 aged 20. The Register does not give parents but she does seem to be the only Elizabeth Ball of this age in the parish. There is an Eliza Ball, daughter of Edward Ball, born and living in Denford in 1851. She may be a cousin, although we have not proved this. Could she have gone with the Balls and Nobles? We must look to America, to see if it provides any answers

As Eliza is an enigma at the moment we will look at the three siblings first, to see if we can find their progress in their new land. So far, their movements in those first eight years, has not been established. Had they made plans before they left? Did they stay together at first until they could decide what to do?

We first find Daniel and Mary in the 1860 Federal Census living in Schroeppel, Oswego, New York State. Mary is 30 which is what we would expect but Daniel is 43 which is some ten years too old. With them is George, now 8, and shown, like his parents, as born in England. There are now two further children, Mary, 6, and James, 4, both born in New York State. Daniel is a described as a farmer

The 1870 Census confirms our suspicion that the 1860 Census gives the wrong age, because he is now 44. Mary is 44 too, which is also the age we would be expect from the 1851 English Census. George is 19 and his occupation is now “Farming”, Mary is 17, with no occupation shown but James 13 and also in farming. There are also Clara 7 and William 5 who are both at school. The family are living in the town of Palermo in the county of Oswego.

It seems that Daniel and Mary had found their home. In 1880 he is still farming in Palermo and all their children are still at home. George is at home in farming and his yunger brother James is a labourer. Mary is a servant and the two youngest children Clara and William aged 16 and 13 are still at school. There is only one obvious cloud in that beside George, now aged 27 is the word "Insane". It may be that he had learning difficulties but we cannot be sure.

The 1890 USA Federal Census is largely lost, burnt in a fire, but in1900 Daniel and Mary. both 73 years old, are still in Palermo Township. He is still a farmer and William, now 31, is a labourer and living at home. It records that Daniel cannot read or write but both Mary and William can. Daniel also has not naturalised but as the couple come up to their golden wedding anniversary it seems that the family is now American.  



Let us now look at Daniel’s brother, John. It seems certain, because of the evidence of his age and companions that John Ball did go to New York with his siblings. After his arrival the position is a little less certain than with Daniel and, at present, we have a lot of detailed fragments and like shards dug up from the past they could turn out to be from different pots. Gradually, however, the shape of a single human being seems to be emerging.

We will start with his early life. We first saw John at his baptism in Ringstead in 1830 when he was ten months old. The other details of the date of the christening are omitted. By the 1841 Census he is aged 12 and living with his parents and siblings, a few doors from the Vicarage, before the great dispersal of the family begins. He, like his older brother has followed his father as a shepherd. At first, Enclosure along the Nene valley had the effect of creating more pastoral land but sheep farming was not so labour intensive as arable in that time, still, mainly dependent on horsepower and limited but increasing mechanisation.

By 1851 he is aged 21 and an “Under Gardener”. His older brother, Daniel, is married but he and his new wife are still living with the family. Only James has left to seek his living I believe - by a process of elimination - that he is wrongly put as John Ball, aged 19, born in Ringstead, a shepherd at Wold Lodges in Tansor which is downstream on the Nene, on the other side of Oundle. James moves first to Titchmarsh and then back to Ringstead by 1871.

John, on the other hand seems to disappear from all the censuses. There is no sign of a burial either.

In desperation I began to scan the websites for news, however belated. Finally I came on a site, which has since disappeared which had digitised a book called, A memorial and biographical history of the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura, California. It was published in1891 and in it I found the following short passage. 


JOHN BALL, whose fine ranch borders the Santa Ynez River, was born in Northamptonshire, England in 1831

His father, Daniel Ball, was a farmer, and subject lived at home until 1850, when he came to the United States and first settled at Lockport, New York, where for three years he was servant in a hotel. Then, in 1853, he went to Oswego County and farmed up to 1856, when he came to California, by way of Panama.


He then went to the mines in Nevada County and mined for three years with good success, but on account of failing health he was obliged to leave; so went to Monterey County where he rented from 200 to 400 acres and raised grain for sixteen years. In 1876 he came to Lompoc, and bought eighty acres of land, paying $35 per acre. The land was covered with brush and timber, but is now cleared and highly improved. He carried on general farming up to 1885, but since then has been an extensive breeder of hogs, of the Poland-China, Essex and Berkshire breeds, keeping about 150 head and fattening for market. He is about reducing his stock, to return to the cultivation of beans and mustard, and thus change his farming. Mr. Ball was married at Castorville {sic?}, Monterey County, in 1863, to Miss Elizabeth Staley, a native of Missouri. They have but one child living, Charles Ball, who was born July 6 1869, and he still lives at home. They lost their two daughters in 1879, with diphtheria, dying within four days of each other.

On the balance of evidence it seems this is our John. The date of birth is a couple of years wrong and he emigrated not in 1850 but in 1852 as we have seen. On the other hand, his father was Daniel Ball from Northamptonshire. It says Daniel was a farmer but that is an understandable upgrade. We cannot be certain, but looking at the lives at some of his siblings, it does seem very possible

His brother, Daniel was in Oswego County as a farmer, where John’s biography says he also farmed. It looks as if the two brothers were together at the start but either they fell out or John decided to try his luck in California. In the biography it also states that he had been mining in Nevada County, California. It seems likely that he went to seek his fortune in the gold mines that were in the county. At this time, the use of water to separate and find the gold had begun, with devastating effects, as this extract from a University of California website makes clear:


The Gold Rush, positive for California in so many ways, had a devastating effect on the state’s environment. Many of these problems were directly related to gold-mining technology. The process of hydraulic mining which became popular in the 1850’s caused irreparable environmental destruction….. California’s largest hydraulic mine {was} Malakoff Diggings in Nevada County.


Dams (such as the English Dam in Nevada County) . . . which were constructed to help supply water to the mines during the dry summer months, changed the course of rivers. The sediment washed away by hydraulic mining clogged river-beds and lakes, threatening agriculture throughout the Central Valley. Conflicts arose between mining and farming interests. Hydraulic mining essentially came to an end in 1884. . .


Checking the American censuses, I have not yet found John  in 1860 but, according to the biography he married Elizabeth Staley in Castroville in 1863 and, in 1868, in Monterey County, he became a naturalized United States citizen. In 1870, we find the family in Castroville Township, in the county of Monterey. There is Elizabeth aged 39, with the children, Mary 6, Narcissa 4 and Charles 1. John is away but all around are farmers and farm labourers. It states that Elizabeth was born in Kentucky but this is possible, although it does introduce some uncertainty. There is also the possibility that this Elizabeth is John's second wife although, as yet, we have no evidence except his late marriage and the enigma of the Eliza Ball who was on the Jacob A. Westervelt with him.

We know, from the biography, that John moved to Lompoc in 1876. It seems that Lompoc was only founded in 1874 when the Lompoc Land Company bought and sold 43,000 acres to establish a temperance colony. The Lompoc History site reports that:

A land rush ensued with fierce bidding forcing land prices to skyrocket in just one day. The temperance colony flourished, despite being located on the stage line midway between the "wicked" cities of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Liquor inevitably found its way into the town via passing stagecoaches. Local druggists were also known to stock alcohol "for medicinal purposes". The city of Lompoc was incorporated on August 13th 1888. At that time the courts ruled that the temperance clause included in all deeds to that time was unenforceable, since there was no reversion clause. The lands could not revert to the Lompoc Valley Land Colony, since it was disbanded years earlier. Temperance, therefore, ended with the incorporation of the City

The biography tells us that in 1876 he bought land near the Santa Ynez River which he cleared and farmed there. The farm was on the river edge, west of Lompoc, and had a river crossing which is still called Ball's Crossing. By good fortune Armilda Carter Douglass also moved to Lompoc in 1876 and she has left her memories of that time. She tells of the droughts when, "During that winter {1876-7}not enough rain fell at any one time to lay the dust". and the floods that meant the early farmers lived, in those early years, on the edge of starvation. She also tells of the farmers' inexperience that caused them great hardship:

When first beans were planted in the valley, no one knew just how ripe pods had to be before they should be picked. Consequently, the farmers waited until the pods were so dry that the beans would pop out if any effort to pick them was made during the day time. In order to gather the crop, pickers waited until night fogs moistened the pods and crawled down the furrows on their hands and knees in the dark picking beans all night long.

She also tells, however, of people helping each other in times of trouble and sharing surpluses during those early times of famine.

In 1879 we know, from the biography, that John and Elizabeth's two girls died of diphtheria, which was during an epidemic which took the lives of other Lompoc children, and in the 1880 Census, Charley aged 10 is now on his own. We find him with his parents in Santa Barbara County, California. Elizabeth is 49 and born in Kentucky and John, now returned, is aged 50 and is a farmer. The Census was taken on 4th June 1880 so John must have been born between June 5th1829 and June 4th 1830. This would mean that his birth comes within the time span we would expect from his baptism in Ringstead rather than the one quoted in the book. It is a small point but it does show that many dates in family histories are not facts but best guesses.


Lompoc 4th July 1909 West Ocean

with kind permission od Lompoc Historical Society

There is at least one further twist in the story of John Ball. Myra Manfrina has informed me, from the Lompoc Local History resources, that Elizabeth divorced John in 1892 and took back her maiden name. On September 28th 1895 the Santa Maria Times of Santa Barbara reported

MARRIED Mr John Ball of Lompoc and Mrs. Della Gale of Santa Maria, September  25th 1895 at the residence of Rev. Jas. M. Smith

The Santa Barbara County marriage register 1887-1897 has been transcribed and digitised and it shows that John was 64, which is about the age that we would expect, and Della 49

In the 1900 Census a John Ball, aged 70, born in England in March 1830 is a widower and living by himself in Township 3, Santa Barbara, California. His marriage to Della was not a long one. The Census also records that he he had come to the USA in 1850 and was now a teamster. His son Charles married Alice Brookshire in about 1890 and they had two sons and brought up their family in the Santa Barbara area. Elizabeth is buried in the same plot as her two daughters.

John died on March 9th 1905 and the Morning Press newspaper on the following day was a brief statement:


John Ball, an old resident of this county passed away yesterday afternoon at the county hospital at the age of 75 years. He was a native of England but had lived in this locality for many years. He has been confined in the hospital for two years, the cause of his death being the natural decline of old age. He leaves a widow in Lompoc and a son in Santa Maria.

I think that the assertion of a widow may be an error and may refer to Elizabeth  Two John Balls half a world apart who between them have crossed the Atlantic and then sailed around the USA through the Panama Canal to California. They have married and had the tragedy of the death of their two girls. It seems almost certain, with the evidence of the crossing with his brother and sister, the stated coming form Oswego County in New York State and his father being a Daniel Ball from Northamptonshire, that the two are in fact the same person.


Let us finally look at Sarah and her husband Thomas Nobles (or Noble). In 1860 Sara aged 39, the age that we would expect from the 1851 Ringstead Census, was living in Lysander in Onondaga County in New York State. Thomas (34) is a Farmer and Phebe (13) has two siblings, William (6) and Elizabeth (6). By 1870 they are living in Avon, Livingston, in New York State. Thomas is still a farmer, Sarah is “keeping house” and the two younger children, William T (14) and Elizabeth (13) are still at home, both born in New York State.

In 1880 they are at Henrietta, in the county of Monroe, still in New York State and Thomas is 53 and Sarah 58. William, their son, is 24 and a farmer, presumably with his father and Elizabeth is a dressmaker. Sarah is still keeping house. We next see Sarah aged 74, now a widow, living with William, and his wife and children, in Rush also in Monroe county. William, like his father, is a farmer and his son Elwin is a “farm labourer”. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the hard life that she must have had that is not our last sighting of her in the Federal Censuses. In 1910, aged 87, she is living with her eldest daughter Phoebe (60) and her husband Mathew Flowerday apparently some ten years her senior(although only 6 years older in earlier censuses), in Brighton, Monroe County, New York State. None of them are working and let us hope that they were able to live comfortably in the land they had played a small part in making. Matthew and Phebe have been married 40 years but have had no children




We cannot be completely certain, but it appears that the three siblings, Daniel, John and Sarah all stayed in the United States and made their lives there in farming. Their younger brother, Elisha, who came a decade later, went first to Elmira in New York State and then on to Canada. For some reason, he and his family returned to Ringstead. Perhaps, as we have speculated in his biography, he came too late to get the land and the life that he wanted.

There is another important fact that we have so far not mentioned. The American Civil War raged from 12th April 1861 to April 1865. The War claimed some 620,000 lives, which is more than the combined American dead from all other wars between 1775 and 1975. New York State was not in the area of conflict between the Union and Confederate forces but volunteers were recruited from the area and many died in the vicious battles that characterised the war. As the History of Oswego County, written in 1877, states:

No portion of the Empire State exhibited more patriotism or responded with greater alacrity to the president’s call for volunteers than the county of Oswego.

Many families in the area, as also in California, where John and his family were living, would have lost sons. The same book also reports on the boom years after the war and the great financial crisis which began in the autumn of 1873, and from which America was just emerging in 1877.

We cannot be sure how all this affected the Ringstead emigrants but certainly it would have been difficult times and any success in the New World would have been hard won. one wonders how their children and grandchildren fared but that is another story in another country and in another century. We must leave it there.





1841, 1851 and 1861 Censuses for England


1870, 1880 1890 & 1900 1910 United States Federal Censuses


Passage to the New World: Packet Ships and Irish Famine Emigrants 1845 – 1851. David Hollett (P.M. Heaton Publishing 1995) memorial and biographical history of the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura, California (page 609) History of Oswego County New York (L. H. Everts & Co. 1877)


New York Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957 ( Ships List/2004-08/1093459813  Jacob A. Westervelt   Fire Upon a Packet Ship New York Daily Times Dec 13 1891  Santa Barbara Marriages 1887 - 1897 (Transcribed by Linda Diane Jackson)

My special thanks to Myra Manfrina who provided me with a raft of information on John Ball in the Lompoc area and to Helen Rydell in Santa Barbara who found details of his death.




Ball, Elisha (c1839 -1908) & Childs, Sarah Elizabeth (c1849 - 1936). NEW WORLD & BACK

Elisha Ball is one of the those Ringstead inhabitants whose life cautions us not to think that all the villagers were born, lived and died in one small corner of Northamptonshire. It is by following the Censuses through the years, that we begin to discover a little of the truth about his years away from everything and everyone that he had grown up with and come to expect.

He was baptised in Ringstead Parish Church on 12 September 1841. Often a baptism is a good indication of a birth date but in this case he was baptised in a, not uncommon, 'job lot' together with his brothers, James, Thomas and Samuel so we must look elsewhere for a more accurate estimate of his coming into the small village world.

Elisha’s parents were Daniel Ball, a shepherd and his wife Phoebe. Unfortunately I have not been able to find Daniel’s baptism but I believe that he was the brother of John Ball who was killed when a wall fell on him during a fire at Denford in 1821. Daniel married Phoebe (or Phebe as she is sometimes called) Whittering, who came from nearby Denford, on August 7th 1817. The couple then had children on a very regular basis with some 11 baptisms, and one burial, in the eighteen years up to 1836. It was perhaps the large number of children that meant that some had to fly further from the nest.

In the1841 Census. Elisha is two years old and living in Ringstead with his parents, and his siblings, John, James, Thomas and Samuel. Already the older children, George, Elizabeth, Anne, Sarah and Daniel have left home. By 1851 another child, Elizabeth, aged 8 is shown as a daughter but it seems odd that a second child should be named Elizabeth while the first is still alive. I can find no baptism for her although there is an Elizabeth baptised on 11 September 1842 the daughter of John Ball and Sarah Smith. Elisha is eleven years old and at this comparatively advanced age still a scholar

In the 1861 Census Elisha is 21 years old, still living with his parents and there is also a granddaughter, Elizabeth aged 18, so it appears that the girl we met in 1841 was not a late daughter of Phoebe after all. But whose daughter was she? We have discovered that she is the illegitimate daughter of Anne born  before her marriage to George Mayes. In the 1861 Census, Daniel, the father is 71 years old but still a shepherd but Elisha is a humble agricultural labourer. All the rest of the family have left home. (See their separate biographies)

Farming was constantly going through difficult years with the New World imports causing falling grain prices. In 1841 the common land around Ringstead, had been enclosed, as had already happened in the neighbouring Parishes, destituting many cottager families. The better wages in the towns were also attracting the young labourers and throughout Victoria’s reign there was a rapid drift away from the countryside into the new industrial towns and cities..

Elisha also had personal reasons for changing his life. His father, Daniel aged 73 was buried on 20th April 1863 and a few months later Elisha had married Elizabeth (or sometimes Sarah Elizabeth) Childs. His mother Phoebe also died at the good age of 79 years in 1868. Perhaps these events, together with his uncertain prospects caused him to make the great leap into the unknown. At first all we know is that Elisha and his new wife disappear from the Ringstead Censuses and parish registers.

Elisha does not appear in the 1871 and 1881 Censuses and it is only in 1891 that he suddenly reappears and some of the mystery of the missing years is solved. The1891 Census finds the family in Carlow Street in Ringstead with their children Ida and Samuel. It is only when we scan along the Census sheet to the children’s places of birth that we realise that something quite momentous has happened. Samuel, aged 20 is a shoemaker and was born in New York State, United States. Ida aged 12 was born in Upper Canada. The world is changing and even in small villages like Ringstead people are seeking their fortunes far from home, although it seems that Elisha did not find his.

Perhaps we also ought to record that Ringstead had had, from the very start people, who left its tight little community and ventured into the unknown. William Tuttle was born on 26 December 1607 in Ringstead and, on a ship called the “Planter”, he and his family, including three children also born in Ringstead reached Boston, America in April 1635. They settled in Connecticut and never returned. If you google 'Ringstead' you will find people from the New World tracing their ancestors back to this small Northamptonshire village.

Shoemakers have always been known for their radical tendencies and to 'infect' the communities in which they worked, so perhaps it was the democracy of the New World that beckoned. It is more likely that it was the same cause that drove village people into the slums of London and other big cities; the poverty and uncertainty of being an agricultural labourer in the Victorian period.

With Elisha, there is one more factor that we have discovered since we first wrote his and Sarah's story. Three of his older siblings had emigrated iin 1852 and two of them, Daniel and Sarah (Nobles), had remained in New York State. One imagines that Elisha and his family may have stayed with one of them when he first arrivedin this vast unknown country

We now have to find out where the family had been in those missing years by looking at the American Census for the 3rd Ward of the City of Elmira in the County of Chemung in the State of New York. There we find Elisha Ball aged 30 born in England with his wife Sarah E., 26, and children, George, 7 and Samuel 3. George was born in England before they left but Samuel was born in New York State. Elisha seems to be a C Laborer (or could it be General Laborer). I wonder when the Americans started dropping their “u’s”. The ages do not quite match up but this is not unusual and this is undoubtedly our family.

Elmira Map (1860)

(click on map to enlarge)


Postcard of Elmira City in Nineteenth Century


Early Elmira Photo from Stereoscopic View
Submitted by (the late) Norma Jenkins 

Elisha’s neighbours are mainly from New York or New Jersey with a few born in Ireland. Of the forty people on their Census page only Elisha, Sarah and George are born in England. There are labourers like Elisha but also painters and carpenters and a stone mason. George, who is seven years old, is shown as having attended school that year.

Mark Twain, who wrote many of his most famous books in Quarry Farm, overlooking the Chemung River valley, was often seen roaming the streets of Elmira looking for a billiards game or someone to chat to. Did the Balls stroll, unaware, past Elmira’s most famous resident? Perhaps, they even passed the time of day.

Elmira City itself was a fast growing settlement. In the Hamilton Childs Gazetteer and Business Directory for Chemung and Schuler Counties for 1868 it tells us that Elmira City had four banks, two daily and two weekly papers, a book and printing office, 12 churches, a synagogue, a female college and a water cure establishment. It also had a number of public schools It had changed its name from Newtown in 1828 and by 1870 there was a population of 20,538 the vast majority of whom lived in framed houses.

Chemung County was still mainly rural with a vast range of crops and animal products from honey and maple syrup to corn, wool and from wheat, barley and oats to milk and butter and cheese. It also grew tobacco and made wine and cider. The county also had 346 factories including 32 saw mills, 17 flouring mills, 13 copper shops, 26 carriage and wagon manufacturers, 9 tanneries and 4 boot and shoe establishments and 4 woollen factories. There was also a rolling mill in Elmira.

It must have been a shock to Elisha and Elizabeth after Ringstead. At the moment we can only speculate as to why Elisha and his family ended up in Elmira which is some distance from the coast. It was a railway centre so perhaps this was the reason. It is also possible that he knew someone from the Ringstead area who had moved there, perhaps in the boot and shoe industry. It may be that it was always just a stopping off point, a place to gain funds and become acclimatised before the next part of their journey to a new life.

Whatever the reason, by 1881 we find that Elisha and his family have left the United States and he is now described as a 'farmer' in Southampton, Bruce North, Ontario (Upper Canada).This is a journey of some four hundred miles, not a huge distance by American standards but we do not know how he and his family made the journey. Did they travel overland to Buffalo and then by boat through the Great Lakes to Bruce or was it all by land, perhaps via the railroad which had been built to Southampton in 1872.? We can only guess. The Census records that both Ida (now aged 2) and Samuel were both born in Ontario but one would expect the 1891 English Census to be right. Why would Elisha bother to give two birth places for his children if it was not correct? His eldest son, George who was born in England just before they left and is now 16 years old is also recorded as a farmer.

The Bruce Peninsular was a territory controlled until the middle of the nineteenth century by the Saugeen Ojibway Nations which included the Chippewas who had defeated the Iroquois. Like many other Native American tribes they were pushed into signing away their land rights to the Peninsular in the period from 1836 onwards. The lands were divided up by the Indian Department and sold, with the interest from the sale going to the local tribes. The Saugeen Peninsula was ceded in 1854 with the “Indians” retaining certain Reservation areas. The Chippewas believed that the white men would look after their lands. Settlers then poured in, attracted by the rich fisheries and the lush forests, both of which were destroyed over the next 70 years.

It may be that Elisha was granted a piece of land and set up a homestead there with his family. The Canadian County Atlas Project only records two E. Balls, one in 1876 in Norwich South in the County of Oxford, and one in 1878 in Clarke in the County of Durham. It seems unlikely that either is Elisha because the Gazetteer and Directory of Bruce County published in 1880 has Elisha in the village of Southampton as a “labourer”. This lists over 200 people and as it only gives heads of families unless a person also held land it must have had some 800 inhabitants. Certainly the 1881 Census records 1,141 people in the village. (Ringstead had some 950 people in it at this time).

We see included in the list, “laborers”, fishermen, (and a fish inspector), farmers machinists, carpenters, coopers, tailors, teamsters; brakesmen, a station master and track inspector; a harbour master and agent for the Inman ocean steamers, a customs officer; a crown land agent, a postmaster, a meteorological station manager and a barrister; a brickmaker, a miller a printer, a weaver, butchers, confectioners, a grocer, two hoteliers, a cabinet maker and photographer. It also lists the land that people own. Elisha has none. It may be this was before he managed to acquire some but possibly he came too late to stake his claim.

Southampton had originally been called Saugeen and in 1848 the Crown Lands Department decided to lay out a town at the head of the Saugeen River. It was surveyed in 1851 and by the end of the year it was a small village of some dozen or more families. A storm on Lake Huron sunk the supply ship and it was a difficult first winter in the cold with the heavy snow falls of an Ontario winter. Nevertheless it grew rapidly and by 1871 it had a school and churches as well as banks and shops. The real pioneer days were over and land was not available as once it had been

Under the advert for “Strong’s Lung Syrup which cures lung diseases”, D. Cascaden advertises as an agent for the “North-West Transportation Co. and the Inman and White Star Line of Ocean Steamships”. He states that “intending Emigrants for the North-West will find it advantageous to write for information which will be cheerfully given”. Already the movement is further away from the well established states into the newer, unclaimed areas. Certainly the Northampton Mercury was still continually advertising the opportunities for free farms in Western Canada in the early 1900s.

 Northampton Mercury 10th March 1905

Whatever the truth, for some reason it did not work out for the Ball family. Perhaps they were homesick for Ringstead or perhaps they could not make a living and they struggled in poverty away from their friends and family. Farming was not easy in Bruce County and it was in logging and fishing that people mainly made good money. It would be interesting to know when Elisha and his family left Southampton because on November 4th 1886, fanned by high winds, a disastrous fire broke out which destroyed fifty buildings and left over thirty families homeless. There was a collection made to help the victims but, for Elisha, was this the end of his dream?

We know that by 1891 they were back in Ringstead and Elisha is a farm labourer, Samuel is a shoemaker and Ida is a scholar. There is also a niece, Elizabeth Sykes aged 9, living with them who is the daughter of Rachel (nee Ball) and the great granddaughter of John, Elisha’s father. It seems almost certain that Daniel and John were brothers as we thought

One wonders how the family got home and how they told their friends and neighbours of their experiences of the strange peoples and places that they had encountered. Did they bring postcards back of the places they had been? Did they have their own photographs taken before they left Southampton by Thomas Davis, cabinet maker and photographer? Perhaps life seemed a little humdrum after that.

By 1901 the whole family, including George, are now living in 6 Barritt’s Yard in Ringstead. Elisha and George are “Ordinary Farm Labourers”, Samuel is a shoemaker and Ida a boot closer. There are also two boarders, William Wyman and Henry French. Henry, at twenty-four, was two years older than Ida. He was a Railway Bridge labourer, born in Paulerspury near Towcester, who moved to Blisworth as a young child. Ringstead was on the railway line from Blisworth to Peterborough. Obviously the stranger appealed to Ida and they were married within weeks of the Census.

Elisha died aged 72 (?)on 3 September 1908, possibly after being struck by lightning and his son, Samuel died just two years later on 6th April 1910. Sarah Elizabeth, Elisha's wife, has been somewhat overlooked in this account. It is often dificult to find details of women's lives through official documents. Luckily her great granddaughter Rachel Henderson was told a little about her by her father. She was known as "Air Granny" and, by his account, she was one of those women that people send for in time of trouble. One can surmise that her time in Canada would have increased her natural hardiness and resilience. I will set down the tragic story, which is one example of how Sarah had to show this resilience, in Rachel's own words.

It wasn't until I was in my forties that [my father] told me of one instance [of being sent for in a time of trouble]. It was during WW1, that there was a man in Ringstead whose wife had recently died, leaving him with two small boys and a baby girl. In the midst of all this trouble, his call-up papers came. I think that at that time Ringstead was a singularly hard place to live; people were very poor, and the 'local gentry', such as they were, obviously were indifferent to his plight (he would have qualified for exemption). The night before his departure, his daughter was being looked after by relatives. He waited until his sons were asleep before cutting their throats and then his own. (All this is quite true!) Dad accompanied his granny to the house where she helped to wash the bodies and lay them out before taking the sheets home to launder.

Sarah Elizabeth too was struck by lighning in 1910 but like many women who have had hard lives she lived to a good age and was 85 when she died, on 2nd February 1936. She and Elisha are buried in Ringstead Cemetery although I have not found a headstone.

The connection with Canada was not entirely lost because Henry French also went to work in Canada although it is not thought that Ida went with him. They also called their daughter Veve, a French name perhaps recalling Ida’s birth in Ontario. Could it have been a hidden pun? Long live the French!



Ringstead, Northamptonshire, England

1841, 1851, 1861, 1891, 1901, Censuses (via

Ringstead BMD (Northampton Record Office)

Northampton Mercury 10th March 1905 (Northampton Library) Canada advertisement

Elmira City, New York State, USA (including digitalised text of book: History of Tompkins, Schuyler,   Chemung, Tioga 1879 Chapters 35 & 46)

 1870 USA Federal Census (via

 Southampton, Bruce County, Canada which has digitalised versions of

Gazetteer and Directory of Bruce County (published 1880)

The History of the County of Bruce: and of the minor municipalities therein, province of Ontario, Canada by Norman Robertson (Bruce County Historical Society)

1881 Canadian Census for Southampton, Bruce North, Ontario (via

 Rachel Henderson, granddaughter of Henry and Ida French (by e-mail


Ball, John (1783 -1821) FARM LABOURER

John Ball (1783 – 1821)


John Ball is one of those “ag labs” nearly lost in the carelessness of history. He died before the first Census that began to put names and places and ages to our ancestors. Even the 1841 ages are often rounded to the nearest five and the place of birth is not given. We have to piece their lives together from scraps of information and the laws of probability. It surprises me that people confidently trace their ancestry back to some noble lord when one wrong piece of information, one unrecorded "one night stand" would send the roots off into much commoner soil.

At first I thought that he was the John Ball who married Sarah Lackson in 1807 in Ringstead but they were widow and widower and the children of John and Sarah did not start appearing until 1817. Then I discovered another John Ball (one of many) who married Sarah Burkett on the 6th June 1816, I realised  that for all those years I had the wrong man.

As was often the case in those comparartively contraceptiveless years the children then came tumbling one after another. John was baptised on the 18th May 1817, Thomas on the 19th July 1818, Ann on the 16th April 1820 and Daniel Clarke Ball on the 4th November 1821. Then just as suddenly the children stop. John and Sarah have no more baptisms recorded in the registers. It is only when we turn to the entries of burials that we see a possible reason. The register states in unusually full detail:

John Ball killed 13th March 1821 at Denford by the falling of a wall at a fire at Thos Fouscutts aged 38.”

1830 was the year of Captain Swing when groups of agricultural workers and their sympathisers went around the countryside burning ricks and machinery of farmers who had brought in the new steam threshing machines. Wages were poor and the new machines threatened even this meagre income. Land was being enclosed and the family use of the common land, for animals or wood gathering, was disappearing. There was unemployment and pauperism. Even as early as 1816 there was some machine breaking and rick-burning. Northamptonshire was never as much affected as Norfolk but as the book Captain Swing points out riots were more prevalent where there was a large population of shoemakers. Shoemakers, like tailors, were known to include many dangerous radicals. Was this just an accident or was there insurrection in progress?

If the latter, on which side was John Ball?

Many may find that this is fanciful stretching of the known facts. There is, however, a bill which was posted around the district, a copy of which is in the Northampton Record Office. As the emerging police force was unable to cope with large scale problems Associations were set up. The wealthier members of an area paid a subscription and if one of their number suffered harm the Association would send out reward notices and also pay the court costs. The “Thrapston Association” sent out such a notice offering a reward of sixty guineas (including fifty from the County Fire Office), on the conviction of the culprits, to anyone (except the perpetrator) who shall “discover” them. As Richard Cowley points out in his book “Guilty M’Lud!”, sixty guineas would pay an agricultural labourer’s wages for at least two years. In this case someone had set fire to “A Range of Hovels and Sheds partly covered with beans and partly with straw, standing in a Farm Yard in the Parish of Ringstead”. The date of the fire was 24th April 1824, just three years after John’s death.

With kind Permission of Northampton Record Office

It is only the death entry in the Parish Register which gives us some idea of John’s birth date because it means that he was born in about 1783. There are other John Balls in Ringstead and the villages around but none seem to be the correct year. Like the people of prehistory we only know a few details of their lives through their deaths.

On 25th April 1831 a Sarah Ball (widow) marries John Cheney (widower) BOTP at Ringstead. This I believe is John’s widow. The 1841 Census now help to offer some evidence for what we have so far surmised. John Cheney, (60) and his wife Sarah (50) are living together and it appears that John (20) and Thomas Ball (20) are living with them. Given the fact that the ages are mostly rounded to the nearest 5 this seems to be compelling if not conclusive evidence for the pattern of events I have given being true.

John Cheney (72), tailor and his wife Sarah (62), tailor’s wife are there together in 1851. By 1861 John is dead and Sarah has her granddaughter aged 14 living with her. By 1871 she is living on her own in Carlow Street, a few doors down from her son Thomas and his family. She is aged 81 and on Parish Relief. In 1873, aged 83 she dies.



Captain Swing  E.J. Hobsbawm & George Rude {Lawrence & Wishart 1969}

Guilty M’Lud. The Criminal History of Northamptonshire. Richard Cowley (Peg and Whistle Books 1998)

Ringstead Registers (NRO)

1841,1851,1861,1871 Censuses for Ringstead


Ball, John (1852 – 1886) and Phillips, Susannah (1855 – 1944) QUARRIES & CLOSING

Susannah Ball was one of those nineteenth century women, not uncommon, for whom marriage was a short interlude between maidenhood and widowhood. Her husband was born and died in the heart of Victoria’s reign but Susannah lived to see another terrible world emerge.

John Ball was the grandson of another John Ball who had been killed in a fire in farm buildings in Denford some thirty years before his birth. He was baptised on the 16th January 1853, the fifth of seven children of Thomas and Ann Ball. His father was an agricultural labourer.

In the 1861 Census he is living with his family in Ringstead; parents, Thomas and Ann Ball and his six siblings, Sarah, Hannah, Esther, Rachel, Anne and Susan. Next door is another namesake, the butcher John Ball. Again in 1871 he is there in Carlow Street, now an agricultural labourer, with his parents and siblings. The older girls of the family who were doing lacework in 1861 are now doing shoe work 

On 14thSeptember 1874 John married local Raunds’ girl Susannah Phillips in Ringstead Parish Church. Neither can write their signatures. He is stated to be a labourer which probably means he is still an agricultural labourer but at some point over the next decade John becomes a labourer in one of the limestone quarries in the area.


John and Susannah

Limestone and ironstone quarrying had been carried on in the Nene valley since Roman times. There were quarries in the parishes of Ringstead and Woodford but it was at Islip that John seems to have obtained work. How and when this happened we do not know. Many agricultural labourers left the land at this time. Pamela Horn gives figures of a decline in agricultural workers for the forty years from 1861of between 8.9% and 19.5% per decade. There were many reasons including mechanisation and a decline in agriculture leaving many farm workers without a job. Also important was that jobs in the new industries were often better paid and less tied to the whim of the “master”. Education was raising the aspirations of the rural working class.

So John walked each day, we must presume, from Ringstead to Islip , a distance of some three-and-a-half miles each way. The first thought would be that the quickest route would be along the road through Denford to Thrapston and across the old stone bridge to Islip. We must be careful, however because the Islip quarries covered a wide area and were not in the village itself. Eric Tonks tells us that there "was also a little quarrying in the middle 1880s between Thrapston Road and the main tramway - possibly when the Slipton area was difficult to access in winter storms - and a branch of the tramway was laid under the road to a limestone quarry on the north side. This was worked generally clockwise from 1883 onwards up to 17th January 1934 and was referred to as Peray Pit or Peray Hole." It seems likely that John was working in the quarries close to the furnace and possibly in Peray Pit. He would have probably gone to work via Woodford, perhaps using the railway viaduct to cross the Nene. He would have often had smoke from the furnaces belching across the skyline to guide him on his way. It would have been a weary trudge home at the end of the day after a hard shift moving earth at the quarry.

 A very rough map showing the relative position of Ringstead, the Peray Pit and the Nene and Railways

As I have said, iron ore was mined in the area in Roman times but the cutting of the railways showed clearly to the mining engineers that good seams of ironstone lay close to the surface in the area. Also the railway gave another easier route for the ore, other than the poor roads and the Nene barges. There were a number of small local quarries including one at Ringstead owned by Thomas Walters This, like many others, was soon exhausted and was only active from 1873 to 1881. The Islip area, however, contained good deposits and but for the opposition of the local major landowner, it could easily have replaced Corby at the major steel town of the region. The Islip Iron Ore Company had a number of quarries in the Islip, Slipton, Lowick area. A Derbyshire coalmine owner, C. H. Plevins  with his partner, John Kidner, formed the Islip Iron Ore Co. Ltd and four blast furnaces were planned. The coal came from Plevins' mines in Derbyshire by the new rail system. At first, the ore was transported also by rail, to be smelted elsewhere but quite quickly, by 1873, the first two blast furnaces were built and two more were added later. They were open topped furnaces and only made pig iron in sand casts, 200 tons at a time This became a real industrial site with, finally, 10 locomotives and 10 miles of track.

Mechanisation changed the work dramatically over the next fifty years but, at the time John was working,  it was very labour intensive. In this period, as we have said, the main quarry was up the Slipton Road in Islip. After the initial trench or "gullet"  the gangs would work along the face removing the overburden, limestone and ironstone keeping a "batter" The overburden  would be barrowed off across planks to the back of the gullet and dumped. Once an area of limestone or ironstone had been uncovered by the labourers it would be broken up by a mixture of mechanical means and explosives and then loaded into narrow gauge horse-drawn trucks to be taken to the iron smelting furnaces.


 Photograph by E.A. Ward from “Northamptonshire” by Malcolm William Brown (1911)

(In the picture you can see the dark upper layers of the overburden, then the pale limestone

and at the bottom the darker ironstone).

It is likely that John was part of a gang removing this overburden. The simplest, quickest way of doing this was to undermine the soil with picks and shovels rather as the sea undermines a cliff. Then the soil above would slip and fall and could be shovelled up and carted away. It was an easier as well as being a faster method of working, and the labourers would almost certainly be on very hard piece rates. In 1930, although working practices were safer, workers were still paid by how much they moved in a fortnight and if it rained, and they could not work, they would be sent home and were not paid. It was an inherently dangerous dangerous way of working forced on men trying to make a living. It is easy to see how there was always the temptation to remove too much from the foot of the overburden. Bill Warren, who has helped me with this section, has told me that his great grandfather's nephew, Lewis Warren was killed on the 6th June 1881 by a fall of earth in the Slipton quarry. He was only 22 years old and he is remembered on a gravestone, in Twywell churchyard, erected by his fellow workers. We also know, from his death certificate, that, on the 21st September 1886 at Islip, John Ball was “accidentally killed by a fall of earth in a limestone pit”.

Searching the Northampton Mercury we find on October 2nd 1886 that a brief paragraph reports the Inquest. It was held just one day after his death. It states:

 ACCIDENTAL DEATH. – An Inquest was held at the Bakers Arms, Woodford on the 22nd inst., before Mr. Parker, on the body of John Ball, labourer, who was accidentally killed by a fall of earth. It appears that the deceased, who was 34 years of age, was engaged in removing earth in a pit, in the parish of Islip, along with several other labourers. On the morning of the 21st he had undermined a piece of earth and several tons fell suddenly on him, killing him on the spot.- A verdict of accidental death was returned.


The Bakers Arms in Woodford in late 1930s (photograph kindly provided by Bill Warren)

Note: The Baker's Arms is not far from the church in Woodford. There was a bakery in the building adjoining it. Today it is a private house but can be picked out by the large boulder, which was used for mounting horses, which stands beside it. There is also a large barn where, in the early twentieth century. drowned bodies found in the Lower Shott between Denford and Woodford would be brought by four men on a sheep hurdle ready for the Inquest. Information given to Bill Warren by his father.

Is this how John Ball was brought there? It seems more likely, given the distance, that he came on a cart but he too may have been left in the barn for the doctor's post mortem examination. 

John, in his quest to better himself and his family had lost his life. For his wife Susannah there was not only the grief and emotional loss of a young wife with a young family but also the prospect of grinding poverty with the spectre of the workhouse hanging over their lives. It is her life we must now follow to see how she coped with this tragedy and its financial consequences.

In 1881 Susannah, or Susan, as she usually calls herself in the censuses, had no paid job recorded but by 1891, some five years after her husband’s death, she is an Army Boot Closer. In the early part of the century it was to lacemaking that the women looked to help them avoid the workhouse. As this declined they went on to the tough work of closing boots, for the Raunds and Ringstead area’s main work was for the army.

Closing Room 1869

(It appears that in Raunds and Ringstead most closing was done at home).

With kind permission of Northampton Museums and Gallery 

She had moved back to Finding Terrace, Raunds, where she lived with her three sons. George Henry at 13 was an errand boy, but Thomas, aged 12, has as his occupation “Rivetter and school” and John is at school. Eliza is away in Knotting Bedfordshire  where she is listed as a visitor and an "army Boot Closer".It is likely that Susan, like most of the women would collect, or get one of her children to collect, the  cut leather pieces, or perhaps they would be brought  by a sort of outwork agent, and the completed uppers  would be taken back to the factory.

H.E. Bates writes of this period in The Feast of July. He tells of family competing with family to get the work in one of the depressions that the industry suffered between conflicts. The father sends his daughter to find them work:

By chance, every few days, Wainwright would hear of a hope of work in towns across the Valley: a pair or two in Orlingford, a dozen at Nenborough, something at Evensford, A chance at Addington, nine miles away. "Git the truck out. Nip through Chapel Yard. Go down by Long Hedges or somebody will twig you. And git back before dinner if you can."....

There were factories that began at six in the morning and sometimes she was out in the darkness running with bread in her hands.

Bates was writing of the Higham Ferrars/Rushden area so we can only guess that it was a similar story in Ringstead. and Raunds. Certainly in Woodford Richard Roe, who was born in 1826 was a spriggging boy for his father at the tender age of 6, he was flat-seam sewing at 8 and putting tongues in jockey boots when nine. He walked each day to collect his work. Incidentally later Richard became a prominent politician in Northampton (from Eric Humphries)

Susan continues until 1911 in Hill Street Raunds as a boot closer living with her two unmarried children Eliza, 36, and George, 33, a boot closer. Susan is still described as working at home which implies that the grown-up children did not.

This photo is wrong in many ways. It is the wrong county (Norfolk), is not army boots work, is a little later than our period and the woman is using a sewing machine which Susannah probably did not. Nevertheless it gives a feeling of the way women had to fit the work into the domestic routine - and such photographs are rare - so is worth including for that reason.

For details of photgraph see References section at end of article

She lost her son Thomas, who was killed in the First World War in Belgium on Tuesday 15th October 1918 aged 38. George also died in 1932. Susan was my great grandmother and was known in the family as “Little Granny” She died  on 19thJuly 1944 and is buried in Raunds Cemetery with her son George. Her husband was buried in Ringstead but is remembered on the gravestone at Raunds. She lived with John for some ten years and without him for a further forty-eight


Susannah in old age

(Her younger self looks down on her)



 Supplement to the Northampton Mercury Oct. 2nd 1886 (Northampton Central Library).

 The Ironstone Quarries of the Midlands: History, Operation and Railways. Part V The Kettering Area.  Eric Tonks. (Runpost Publishing, Cheltenham)pages 89 - 108

 The Changing Countryside in Victorian and Edwardian England and Wales. Pamela Horn (The Athlone Press). Pages 89- 108

 Northamptonshire. Malcolm William Brown C.U.P. (1911) (out of copyright at .

 Islip Northamptonshire. Allan Gray (1993)

 H. E. Bates The Feast of July (Michael Joseph 1954)

Richard Roe - Shoemaker. Eric Humphries Woodford (Northampton Museum)

Photograph of Outwork. I first saw this on cover of Local History magazine March 1985 which was featuring a review of History of Norfolk by Susanna Wade Martins (Phillimore 1984. 2nd Edition 1997). The acknowledgments stated that photograph was used with the permission of Local Studies Library, Norwich. I have contacted Clare Everitt, the Picture Norfolk Administrator and there is no trace of it, perhaps being destroyed in fire of 1994. I have therefore put it in with proxy permission of the Norfolk and Norwich Millenium Library. If anyone know different to this please let me know.

 Also my thanks to Tom Love of Islip and Bill Warren of Barton Seagrave for all their help


Bill Warren has kindly sent me some photographs of the Islip Quarries and Furnace which are a little later than the period covered in this life story but show the conditions that the men worked under. The captions are from Bill.



About 1910. This picture shows a large gang of men working in one of the quarries removing the overburden. There is a lot of trestles and planks bridging the quarry providing access to the dump side where the overburden spoil were tipped from the barrows.




This later photograph (1930s) is at Long Hills Quarry at Weldon. You can see right at the back a man crosssing the planks with a barrow


Islip Furnace in the 1920s taken from the Thrapston to Kettering Road. The small 3 ft. gauge wagons loaded with ironstone were parked on top of the bays where they are tipped. The view shows the eight stoves with the four furnaces and two lifts behind them. The building to the right with the large water tank above is the blast furnace engine house.