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... an interesting life ...

Greene, Iowa, 1915.jpg

Main photo: Greene, Iowa, in 1915.  Jane lived in Greene County in 1885.

NOTE: I do not usually post incomplete research, but if anyone is able to access the relevant American records and fill in the text I have marked in red, please let me know.  

My 3rd great grandmother was Jane Scargill, and what an interesting life she led.  It was certainly different to the lives of most of my ancestors, yeomen farmers who tended to stay in the same parish for generations.


Jane was born in the Yorkshire town of Barnsley in 1833 to Christopher Scargill, a man who was in and out of prison, and Hannah Winterbottom, a woman who already had two (maybe three) illegitimate children before her marriage to Christopher in 1831.


Jane went on to have 11 children, three of whom were born before she married.  Her third child died when still a baby, and was the subject of a Coroner’s Inquest.  Her husband was killed in an accident, and he too was the subject of an inquest.  After his death she had three more children out of wedlock – possibly to her husband’s brother – before marrying again.  Another child was born before she abandoned this husband and made her way, with most of her children, across the Atlantic to live in Iowa.  Whilst there, she married for a third time, but after a few years she left him and returned to live with her daughter Sarah Ann Roebuck in Stocksbridge.  The 1901 census records her as being “imbecile, feeble minded” and she died in 1902 at the age of 68 leaving an enormous number of descendants both in England and in the United States.

She packed an awful lot into those 68 years.



Christopher Scargill was a weaver by trade.  He was also a bit of a rogue, a well-known prize fighter, and a thief, being in trouble with the law and no stranger to the Wakefield House of Correction.  In 1833 he served two months (with 14 days’ solitary confinement) for stealing a winding wheel, a winding wheel frame and a wooden barrel worth 4 shillings from William Oxley of Barnsley.  The following year he committed a felony [in English law, this means a more serious crime] at Huddersfield and was sentenced to six months.  Two years later, in 1836, he and a man called Thomas Cherryholme were in trouble for stealing valuable plants and pots from the garden of a Mr. Haxworth; a reward of £3 had been offered.  A Constable found the items at the house of a Martha Haigh, and a lodger in that house, Henry Winterbottom (most likely Christopher’s step-son) stated that the two men were out most of the night in question, and he had seen them putting some plants into the pots the next morning.  The two men were committed to Wakefield prison for six months with hard labour.  Christopher was back in Wakefield prison when the 1841 census was taken (though I have been unable to find out why), and his wife and three children were living at West Gate, North Pavement, in Barnsley (behind where the Town Hall now stands).  Hannah was taking in washing to make ends meet.  There is no trace of the family on the 1851 census, perhaps because a lot of the Barnsley pages are illegible.  In 1861 Hannah was living with her daughter Harriet and her family, but there is no sign of Christopher.  He wasn’t in the Barnsley Union Workhouse, and I don’t think he was in Wakefield prison (the entries only have initials, but nothing matches CS and his age).  He died in the Barnsley Workhouse in 1869 at the age of 67.



In 1852, when she was about 18 years old, Jane gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Sarah Ann.  Two years later, in 1854, she had an illegitimate son, Alfred.  A third illegitimate child was born in the March quarter of 1856 (unnamed, but possibly called William) who died in the same quarter.  Coroner’s Inquests were often held in public houses, and this one was held at the Three Crowns Inn at Barnsley.  The inquest heard how the child had been found dead in bed on Sunday 24th February from what a post-mortem deemed to be congestion of the brain.  It appeared that Jane had been in the habit of giving the child some cordial every evening, and this might have hastened the congestion.  Although the circumstances sound odd to us today, the Jury decided that the child died “from natural causes, hastened by the administration of cordial.”  I have not found it easy to find an explanation for this.   “Congestion of the brain” could have been meningitis, which usually meant an excessive or abnormal accumulation of blood or other fluid.  And as to “Cordial”– well, the London Science Museum has an interesting theory.[1]  In the early Victorian Period opium was readily used as a cure for a bad cough, or aches and pains, but it is less well known that opium was also given to children and even babies. Restless or teething babies and small infants would be given concoctions such as Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, which contained morphine, an opium derivative.  There were at least ten brands of mixtures aimed at children and infants including Atkinson’s Royal Infants’ Preservative, and Street’s Infants Quietness. The most famous preparation of children’s opiates was Godfrey’s Cordial, which was a mixture of opium, treacle, water and spices.  So perhaps the child was accidentally given too much of something to keep it quiet?



In 1857 Jane married Matthew Day.  They lived at Wood Street, Barnsley, and Matthew was a carter for Clarkson’s brewery, which was a few streets away.  Three sons were born to the couple: Edward (1857), George Henry (1859) and Samuel (1861) and a daughter Mary Ann (1863).  Matthew Day was killed in an accident whilst driving his cart along New Street in 1865. 

Below: 1906 Ordnance Survey map showing Wood Street, where Matthew lived, Union Street, where he had his accident, and the brewery.  The Maltings were in Duke Street.  Also an old Clarkson's brewery sign.  The brewery was founded in 1839 and was registered as Clarkson’s Old Brewery Co. Ltd. in 1902.  

1906 OS map Barnsley.jpg
Screenshot 2023-04-25 220503.jpg

Matthew was 34 years old when he died.  Jane gave evidence at the Coroner’s Inquest, which was held at the Gardeners Arms Inn, Barnsley, on the day he died, Monday 7th August.  On the previous Saturday, Matthew had left home at 8.30am, returned home at 8.30pm, had something to eat, and gone out again, telling his wife that he had to go to deliver beer to Burton Grange (a village in Monk Bretton), where there was a “feast” taking place, and that he would be late home.  In the West Riding of Yorkshire, a feast was an annual holiday or festival, often on the anniversary of the dedication of the parish church. Feast days or “tides” were days for celebrating and having fun, and often the workers got a day’s holiday.  Matthew was seen by witnesses in New Street, Barnsley, leaning against the end of his wagon and standing on the shafts.  One witness said that he was smoking and that he appeared to be “tipsy.”  Apparently one of the wheels hit a stone and he was thrown forwards, his feet becoming tangled in the harness.  His right foot was under the wagon and his leg was over the shaft and he had dropped the reins.  He was dragged some distance until the horse stopped, sustaining serious head injuries.  He was taken home at just past midnight, and died at 8am on the Monday. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned by the Jury. 


A son, Matthew, was born at Barnsley in the September quarter of 1866 (which covered July, August and September) and named Matthew, after Jane’s husband, but it is unlikely that Matthew was his father.   


Jane moved her family to Deepcar, about ten miles away, between 1866 and 1871.  This could have been because her sister Ann, who had married Henry Padgett, were living there too; perhaps Henry had moved from Barnsley to Deepcar for work.  In 1871 he was living at Wood Royd and working as a smith's striker but by 1881 had moved back to Barnsley to work as a collier.  Whilst she was living here, Jane had Matthew baptised at Bolsterstone church on the 7th April 1871.  His date of birth was given as 5th November 1866 and his father’s name as Matthew.  If this date of birth of is correct, Matthew Day could not have been his father because he died on the 7th August 1865, 15 months before.  I have had correspondence with Day family descendants who tell me that his birth certificate gives a date of birth as 7 August 1866, a year to the day that Matthew senior died, and that his father was given as George Day (his uncle!).  Jane also baptised a daughter Harriet, born 25 December 1868, at the same time, parents also stated to be Matthew and Jane Day of Deepcar.  I haven’t been able to find a birth registration for Harriet but again, her father wasn’t Matthew.  Another son, William, was born later that year, in the December quarter of 1871; no father was named on his birth certificate.  


BACK TO BARNSLEY; MARRIAGE TO THOMAS SIMPSON - a bigamous marriage?          

Jane’s eldest daughter Sarah Ann married Walter Roebuck in 1872 and stayed in Stocksbridge but Jane moved back to Barnsley after marrying for a second time to Thomas Simpson of Worsbrough.  Jane moved over to Worsbrough with her family, adding to her growing brood with the birth of her 11th child Fred in 1878.  In 1881 they were living at George Street, Worsbrough where Thomas worked as a coal miner.  It was quite a household – as well as Thomas and Jane, six of Jane’s children were living with them, as well as young Fred, Jane’s grandson Ernest Roebuck and a lodger.  Thomas had been married before, to Eleanor Hill nee Woodhead.  They wed in 1861 and on the 1871 census they were living with three lodgers, James and William Padgett (probably brothers) and a Mr. Collins.  What is odd is that when Thomas married Jane Scargill in 1875 he said he was a widow and did not name a father, but in fact his wife was still alive.  Coincidentally, one of the witnesses was a Henry Padgett, Jane’s brother-in-law.  Two years later, in 1877, the Barnsley Independent published a marriage notice for Mrs. Eleanor Simpson to James Padgett.  Findmypast holds these registers but there are five missing years - 1875-1879!  So I can’t check the details.  In 1881 Eleanor and James were living at Ilkeston in Derbyshire.  All the facts match up to this being Thomas’s first wife.  In 1881 Thomas Simpson was living with Jane and her children at Worsbrough; Jane emigrated in about 1883 and I can find no trace of Thomas in later records.  I suppose there’s always the possibility that he emigrated and died soon after, but I can find no evidence of this either and I think the fact that she reverted to her earlier married name of Day might be significant. 


Jane seems to have abandoned her husband Thomas Simpson, but I have been unable to find out what happened to him despite an extensive search.  In 1882 Jane’s son George Henry Day emigrated to the States; one source says that he was the first of the Day siblings to do so.  In 1883, Jane’s daughter Harriet and her sons Samuel, Matthew and William followed, sailing from Liverpool to Philadelphia aboard the SS Pennsylvania, arriving in July.  At some point between 1882 and 1885 Jane and her youngest son Fred Simpson joined them, but I have been unable to find them on any passenger list, nor have I found George Henry.  I have checked the passenger list for the ship that the others took, and I cannot find Jane or Fred under any surname but they were definitely in residence by 1885 because they were recorded on the 1885 Iowa State Census.  They all settled in Polk County, Iowa, but Jane came back home in 1897.  She reverted to her previous married name of Day, and occasionally her maiden name of Scargill (and its variants) crops up in the records.  Samuel (24) and Matthew (19) were employed as coal miners.  William was 14 and Frederick 6.  I can’t find Harriet on this census.

SS Pennsylvania ship.jpg

Some of the Day siblings emigrated to the U.S. aboard this ship in 1883, the SS Pennsylvania, which had been built in 1872, a 3,104-ton ship belonging to the American Line.  The engraving above is by Lauderbach.  The ship is seen here embarking on her trial trip on the 5th May 1873.  The citizens of Philadelphia were given a half-day holiday, and 50,000 people are said to have attended. Note: There were two other ships with this name.  One was built in 1896 and was a ship of the Hamburg-American Line and the other was built in 1929 for the Panama Pacific Line.

Below is a painting of the same ship by Alexander C. Stuart (1831-1898).  Source: Independence Seaport Museum, public domain

SS Pennsylvania ship2.jpg


I don’t think I would have relished sailing the Atlantic on this ship.  Perhaps first-time passengers, especially from far inland, were unaware of the perils of crossing the sea or they might never have set out.  In 1874, only a few years before the Days sailed, the Pennsylvania was almost destroyed in a hurricane.  The ship had left Liverpool bound for Philadelphia on the 21st February.  As usual in winter, it carried less passengers; two saloon and twelve steerage-class as opposed to the 389 passengers in July 1883 when four of the Day siblings travelled.  It was also carrying $250,000 of cargo.  Six days later, on the night of the 27th, the ship ran into a hurricane on the open sea. Giant waves swept everything from the decks and flooded the passenger saloon, and the ship struggled to retain headway.  Around midnight a gigantic wave slammed down upon her, sweeping away all the lifeboats and life rafts, and causing structural damage.  The wheelhouse, the mate’s house and part of the wooden bridge were swept away, taking with them the captain and four crew members, none of whom were ever seen again.  Water began pouring into the holds.

After the loss of the Captain, command of the ship passed to the 3rd officer, Charles Rivers, but he was said to have been in a state of shock and proved incapable of action.  Fortunately, one of the ship’s passengers, Cornelius L. Brady, was a ships’ master himself, with recent experience of such a crisis. Brady had been the hero in the shipwreck of the SS Atlantic less than a year before, where his courageous action in personally establishing a rope to shore was credited with saving as many as 250 lives.  He quickly ordered the crew of the Pennsylvania to secure the damaged hatches with hatches from elsewhere in order to stop more water coming in.  A delegation of the crew then implored Brady to take command, which he did.  He made his way on deck to the midships wheelhouse, where he ordered the helmsman to turn the ship into the wind. He then rang the engine room to reduce the ship's speed to dead slow.  The ship was to survive another five days of battering from high seas until February 28, when the storm finally broke, after which Brady brought the ship home safely to Philadelphia, albeit a week late.

Despite Brady having saved a $600,000 ship and its $250,000 cargo along with the passengers and crew from destruction, Brady felt insulted when the American Steamship Company  offered him a mere $1,000 in thanks, so he sued them for the full salvage value of the vessel, and in the subsequent court case, in which one witness after another testified in his favour, he was eventually awarded $4,000 plus $200 expenses, which after legal fees had been deducted gave him the much improved sum of $2,550.  

In 1878, The Pennsylvania was involved in a collision with the schooner H. B. Hume in which the latter was sunk. Judgement in the case was rendered against Pennsylvania in 1882.  On 3 March 1880, she ran aground and had to be re-floated.[1]



In November 1891, Jane married for a third time, to Joseph Beddoe, at Polk County, Des Moines, Iowa.  Jane would have been 58 years old.  I have only seen a transcript not original.  Joseph, a miner, had been born in Merthyr Tydfill in about 1834 and had emigrated in 1868.  He appears to have previously married Sarah Rush Van Auken at Polk County on the 15th April 1890, but I can find no further mention of her.



In 1897 Jane sailed out of New York and headed home, landing at Liverpool under the name Jane Day.  The passenger lists records her as being married, 65 years old, profession Matron (a lot of the women on the list were so called).  She was accompanied by her son George Henry, who later returned to the States.  This must have been a daunting venture, leaving her children behind; we don’t know what she thought of leaving her husband behind.  Jane headed for Stocksbridge, to live with her eldest daughter Sarah Ann Roebuck.  Joseph Beddoe meanwhile was recorded as a lodger in the house of Thomas Wilson in Polk County in 1900, describing himself as divorced.


When the 1901 census was taken, Jane, who was recorded under the surname Day, was living at Glass House, Stocksbridge, with Walter and Sarah Ann Roebuck, six of their children, a visitor and a boarder.  Jane was said to be a “widow,” 69 years old and “imbecile feeble minded.”  After a rather eventful life, Jane died on the 27th April 1902.  Her death certificate noted the cause of death as “apoplexy 6 years.”  This would mean that she had a stroke in about 1896, which was the year before her son George Henry brought her back to England.  He stayed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and took some souvenirs home with him.  We don’t know if Jane was ill before she travelled, during, or after, because the “6 years” could have been an approximation.


When the Iowa State Census was taken in 1905 Joseph Beddoe was recorded as widowed, which would be true, because Jane had died in 1902.  He had perhaps heard about her death from her family.


There is a poem written by Linda Ellis which is often read out at funerals called “The Dash,” referring to the way we write dates of birth and death on a tombstone, with a dash in between the two dates and that, “what mattered most of all / was the dash between those years.”  The final line reads, “would you be proud of the things they say, about how you lived your dash?”  I am not sure what Jane’s friends and family would have said about her life - I expect it was scandalous at times - but one thing is certain; she certainly packed a lot in to her 68 years on this earth!


1. SARAH ANN SCARGILL: 1852-1920

Sarah Ann married Walter Roebuck at Bolsterstone church in 1872.  Sarah Ann’s mother and siblings had moved back to Barnsley after the 1871 census was taken, but she and Walter settled in Stocksbridge where they raised nine children.  They stayed put whilst Sarah’s half-siblings and mother Jane emigrated, and looked after Jane when she returned to these shores in 1897.  Most of the Roebucks lived in the Stocksbridge area but a few of Sarah Ann’s descendants emigrated to Canada.

Sarah Ann and Walter had the following children:

Mary Elizabeth (my great grandmother), Ernest, Lily, Alfred, Lucy Ann, Emmeline, James, Priscilla and Sam Edward.  Please get in touch if you can help with any photographs of these people.

Lily married Abner Pearson, and there is a story about him here:

Abner Pearson the Disappearing Husband

2. ALFRED SCARGILL: 1854-1931

Alfred took the surname Day after his mother married Matthew Day in 1857.  He married Elizabeth Oxley in 1876 and they lived at Worsbrough. Barnsley, where he worked as a coal miner.  Like his older sister, Alfred did not emigrate with his younger siblings but stayed in England.

3. CHILD SCARGILL: 1856-1856

This was possibly a boy, and could have been called William.  The child was found dead in its bed from congestion of the brain, said to be from natural causes, “hastened by the administration of cordial.”


4. EDWARD DAY: 1857-1901

Edward was born soon after his parents’ marriage on the 9th August.  He would have been about eight years old when his father Matthew died in an accident in August 1865.  He married Sarah Rushforth in 1880 and they lived in Worsbrough where he worked as a miner before emigrating in 1887 a few years after his mother and siblings.  Their first child Isaac died in 1882 aged 1 year, and when they emigrated they took three children Matthew, James and Frances aged 5, 3 and 1 respectively.  They sailed from Liverpool aboard the Queen, arriving in New York in September 1887.  A biography of Edward on Ancestry states that he was “the last of the Day siblings to come to Des Moines.”  Together with a man called William Robinson he ran a Saloon in Des Moines at 220 Court Avenue called Robinson and Day.  His wife died in 1900 and he married again to Mary Jackson, but it was a short-lived marriage because he died the following year in Arkansas whilst visiting the region.  Cause of death was Bright’s Disease, an archaic term for what is now referred to as “nephritis,” an inflammation of the kidneys caused by toxins, infection or autoimmune conditions.

Below: photo of Edward Day and Sarah Rushforth taken in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1894 or 1895

Edward Day and Sarah Ann Roebuck Des Moines Iowa 1894 or 1895.jpg

5. GEORGE HENRY DAY: 1859-1932

George Henry was a miner and had been working in coal mines since at least the age of 12.  After his mother Jane married Thomas Simpson in 1875, the family moved to Worsbrough.  George Henry lived with them at 3 George Street, and he was employed at the Worsbrough Park Colliery.  In 1878 he was arrested for assaulting another miner and was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

The previous year the men employed at the Church Lane Colliery in Dodworth, were laid off. It was one of many pits that were being “set down” because of the depressed and unprofitable state of the coal trade in south Yorkshire.  There was some dispute about pay, and when the owners decided to re-open the pit in August, the men refused to go back and a strike ensued, which rumbled on for over a year.  The Directors decided to set on “new hands,” providing them with accommodation and amenities, which obviously caused a lot of trouble, and extra police had to be stationed at the works to protect them.  Around 25 Welsh miners who had been brought in declared that they had been deceived and did not intend to work; they left the area on good terms and in solidarity with the “old hands.”

On Monday 10th June 1878, 18-year-old George Henry Day, Alfred Cawthorne and a man called Jones, known as “Welsh Bill,” attacked one of the new hands, a Durham man called William Briscoe, who was said to be a “Black Sheep” (in later miners’ strikes this term becomes “Black Leg.”)  Trouble had begun to build on the previous day when around 500 people assembled before a row of houses occupied by the new hands at the Church Lane Colliery, patrolling up and down and throwing missiles at the houses, and at some police officers who were stationed there, two of whom were injured.  More police were sent for from Barnsley, and ultimately peace was restored.  Briscoe had been standing against his house when he saw 8 or 10 men coming along the road towards him.  The first to accost him was Cawthorne.  Jones asked him why he had come to take the bread out of their mouths by taking their work.   He then pointed to the Church Lane Colliery and asked, “Dost thou work down yonder,” and when he replied that he did, he was asked “Is ta at coal?”  He replied that he was.  Cawthorne and Jones then struck him with their fists.  An onlooker called out “Kill the black b---” and Cawthorne took a running kick at him whilst Day kicked him in the head.  Bristow remembered no more, and woke up on the kitchen floor at his house.  He was confined to bed for three days and then taken in a cab to give information to the police.

When arrested, Cawthorne remarked, “The b--- ought to have been smothered.  We ought to have given him more,” and Day denied everything, saying, “I was there, but I did nothing.”  Welsh Bill had not been found, but Day and Cawthorne appeared in court charged with malicious wounding.  Both men pleaded not guilty and were bailed to appear at the Rotherham Sessions in July, which was where the most serious cases were tried.  The Defence was that Day took no part in the assault; rather, a fight took place between Jones and Briscoe, with Cawthorne trying to separate them and protect Jones, who was a much smaller man. It was alleged that Briscoe’s injuries came about when, during the ensuing scuffle, he fell against a wall.  It was said that Day was not present at the fight but standing about 20 yards away.  The jury found both prisoners guilty.  Cawthorne was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and Day to 9 months’, both with hard labour.

George went back to live with his mother and Thomas Simpson at George Street before marrying Emily Elizabeth Parry in 1881.  He was the first of the Day siblings to emigrate to the U.S., sailing there with Emily in 1882.  His mother, four of his brothers and a sister followed later, and his older brother Edward joined them in 1887.  George Henry settled in Polk County, Iowa.  When his mother Jane decided to return to England in 1897 George accompanied her aboard the Umbria.  The ship’s manifest describes him as being 38 years old and a saloon keeper.  I am not sure how long he spent in England before returning but presumably he accompanied his mother to Yorkshire.  His brothers Edward, Samuel and Matthew also ran saloons.

6. SAMUEL DAY: 1861-1949

Like his brothers, Samuel worked as a miner before emigrating in 1883.  The 1885 census for Iowa records him as a coal miner.  He married Annie Mathilda Holliday in 1888 and his parents were listed as Matthew Day and Jane “Scagzle.”  His occupation on the 1895 census was given as Merchant.  He was living with his mother Jane as well as his wife and children.  A newspaper report from 1898 said that he was a “saloonman.”  As in England, running a bar could cause trouble for the owner.  In 1898 a lady called Mrs. Burns sought to recover damages from him, alleging that he sold liquor to her son “in such quantities that he became intoxicated,” and that he came home to her in a drunken condition while she was in feeble health.  She alleged that the sight of her son in such condition was more than she could stand and that it had a marked effect on her health, making her much worse and resulting in disabilities from which she has never fully recovered.  She had sued for $500 in damages but was allowed only $6.  In 1902 Sam was gashed across the hand and forehead by a “notorious colored character” called John Dimmitt, who had been released from the penitentiary a year before.  Then in 1907 Sam, who was the proprietor of a saloon at the corner of East Fourth and Walnut Streets, accused a customer of stealing whisky glasses.  In 1914 Samuel sold property for around $13,000.  This was a fairly substantial amount of money, and perhaps it was this that funded his trip in June 1914 from New York to Liverpool, although I am not sure which class they travelled in.  He travelled with his wife Matilda aboard the Cunard vessel SS Aquitania.  He was recorded on the manifest as a Traveller (salesman) by occupation, aged 53, and Matilda was recorded as a housewife aged 49.  They returned two months later, sailing on another Cunard ship the Mauretania.  It arrived in New York after a journey of just over two weeks.

In the spring of 1913, a westbound transatlantic passage aboard the Mauretania cost about $17 for third class passengers. On the 26th January 1914, the Mauretania was having its annual refit in Liverpool when a gas cylinder exploded, killing four men and injuring six, who had been working on one of her steam turbines.  Damage to the ship was minimal, and she was back in service two months later.  The Mauretania had been built on the River Tyne in 1906 and was the world’s largest ship until the launch of the Olympic in 1910.  She captured the eastbound Blue Riband on her maiden return voyage in December 1907.

Britain declared war on Germany on the 4th August 1914 and both the Mauretania and the Aquitania were requisitioned by the British government to become armed merchant cruisers, but they were found to be unsuitable and they resumed their civilian service on the 11th August.   Samuel and Matilda sailed on the 20th August.  Later, due to a lack of passengers crossing the Atlantic, the Mauretania was laid up in Liverpool until 7 May 1915, at the time that the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat. The Mauretania served as a troop ship carrying British soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign, and managed to avoid becoming prey for German U-boats because of her high speed and the seamanship of her crew. As a troopship, she was painted in dark greys with black funnels, known as “dazzle camouflage.”  She also served as a hospital ship.  She was scrapped in 1935.

Matilda died in 1921 and Samuel married again to Margaret Elizabeth McDonald.  He died of arthritis in 1949 at the age of 88.  His obituary said he had been a resident of Des Moines for 60 years and had been a night watchman at a swimming pool.

Below: a section of the passenger list for the SS Pennsylvania which arrived at the port of Philadelphia on the 23rd July 1883.  Samuel Day was the lead passenger, and with him were his siblings Matthew, Harriet and William. 

Also shown is the ship's Arrival Report: no sickness; passengers’ physical and mental health was good; there were 389 passengers; no lunatics or feeble minded passengers; no immigrants sent by the English government; no deaths; no births; no stowaways; no convicts; no very old or feeble persons, no cripples; no females who were pregnant, destitute and alone.  

The bottom photograph is the Cunard Ship the Mauretania, which is the ship that Samuel and Matilda travelled back to the States on after a trip to England in 1914.

1881 passenger list for the Day siblings.jpg
SS Pennsylvania.jpg
The Mauretania.jpg

7. MARY ANN DAY: 1863-1899

Mary Ann married William Heatherglen in 1881.  She did not emigrate, and settled with her family at Worsbrough where William worked as a coal miner.  They had ten children: Florence Selina, Thomas Edward, Wilfred, Rosa, Lily, William, Blanche, Eva, Ina and Bruce.  Mary Ann was only 36 years old when she died in 1899, less than a year after Bruce was born.  William married again to Catherine Barker in 1900.  Eva was only about six years old when she was admitted to the South Yorkshire Asylum on the 2nd May 1899, two weeks before her mother died.  She was there when the 1901 census was taken, aged 7; “lunatic” has been dittoed but “Ch” – presumably “child” has been written in the same column.  She was never discharged and died there on the 23rd November 1904 at the age of 12.  

William Heatherglen’s younger years were rather traumatic.  He had been born in Barnsley in 1848 to John, a tailor and Sarah.  John had been born in Scotland and in January 1860 he and his family were living at Pall Mall, Barnsley when he was charged with being drunk and setting fire to his house one Sunday morning.  His wife had run out to find a policeman and told him that her husband was being violent and had started a fire.  P.C. Batty went to the house where he found a crowd of at least 200 people gathered round and saw John behaving violently.  This was not his first offence; the court heard that he had once placed his child on the fire.  This seems extremely shocking, and it appears even more shocking that the Bench simply gave John a reprimand and let him off on payment of costs. [I cannot find a report of the child on the fire].  Three months later John was in court again, charged with neglecting his wife and family.  The Leeds Intelligencer’s headline was “Bad Husbands on the Increase” and the article called him a “sottish-looking man.”  The court heard from one of the relieving officers (one of the Guardians of the Poor) that Heatherglen’s wife and family were “literally starving,” whilst he spent all the money he could get hold of on drink.  When he had spent all his money he would go home and beat his wife and children.  He was described as “an inhuman monster.”  Once again the story of him putting one of his children upon the fire was brought up, as was the time he set his furniture on fire.  Mr. Thomas Ayre, a surgeon, said that John’s wife was in a bad state of health, brought on by want of food.  She died of Phthisis [pulmonary tuberculosis or a similarly progressively wasting or consumptive condition] in 1863 aged only 35.  Her nine-year-old daughter died about the same time.   John Heatherglen was sent to the Wakefield House of Correction for one month with hard labour.


John and Sarah had eight children, but only William married and had children.  Three of John and Sarah's children died as infants.  Daughter Selina died at the age of 9, son Henry was killed in the coal mine at the age of 11 or 13, and I can find no trace of the final child, Matthew.  Daughter Sarah moved to Scargill Croft in Sheffield, a notorious slum; in 1868 she was convicted of stealing a watch and sent to the Wakefield House of Correction for 1 month with hard labour.  When the 1871 census was taken she was an inmate of the female penitentiary at Chorlton in Lancashire.  After this she vanishes from the records.


Not long after his wife's death John was once more in court, this time for inciting his son William to steal a pair of boots.  William was about 15 years of age and gave evidence.  He said that he had been at home without shoes when his father took him down New Street in Barnsley; he pointed to a pair of boots hanging near a door, and told him that if he did not take them he would kill him.  William managed to get the boots and take them home without being detected.  He wore them part of the next day, when his father got a neighbour called Elizabeth Winter to lend him a shilling on security of them.  She told the court that William was crying, and begged her to lend his father the shilling, or he would never see the boots again.  His father had promised to redeem the boots, but didn’t.  A policeman was sent to fetch the boots from Mrs. Winter, and John Heatherglen absconded.  When he returned he was arrested.  His defence was that William had told him that he had found the boots near to the Shades public house.  He denied having encouraged him to steal but he was not believed and once again he found himself at the Wakefield House of Correction, this time for three months with hard labour.  He was committed as “a rogue and vagabond.”  He obviously did not mend his ways, because he is recorded at Wakefield Prison in 1890 after being sent there for being drunk and riotous.  This time his sentence was 10 days with hard labour.  The record tells us that he was aged 71, was 5’ 9½” tall, had brown hair, a scar on his right eyebrow, of poor education and that he was a tailor by trade.  Additional information was that he was born in Glasgow and was a Roman Catholic.  Three previous convictions were noted.  After such a terrible childhood we can only hope that William had a happy marriage, having escaped from his abusive father.  He died in 1915 aged 64. 

Henry, Killed in the Coal Mine:  After his mother’s death, Henry Heatherglen spent some time in Barnsley Workhouse, coming out in about September 1867.  He lived at Huningley Lane, Ardsley.  He found – or was found – a job at Wombwell Main colliery, and started there on Friday 13th December.  According to his brother William, who gave evidence at the Coroner’s Inquest, Henry was 13 years old, but I think he’d be 11 or 12 years old.  On the day of the accident, Saturday 21 December 1867, he was taking full corves (coal tubs) away from the miners and taking empty ones back.  He was working with a pony driver called Fred Walker.  Henry’s job was to fetch the empty corves and “scotch” or wedge the full ones and then hang a rope to them so that they could be pulled up by the pony.  He then had to follow the full corve up, laying a wedge across the rails to stop it going backwards.  He would shout “scotched” when it was done.  However, something went wrong, and as soon as the pony was taken off, the corve began to go backwards and Fred heard Henry call out “oh dear.”  Men went running when they heard Henry’s screams.  The scotch was lying lengthways between the rails and not across them and Henry was wedged between the side of a full corve and a chock.  Blood was coming from his mouth, and he appeared to be choking.  His ribs had penetrated his lungs.  They initially thought he was dead, but he rallied and was taken to the surface.   His brother told the Inquest that he saw him at 3pm lying on a bed on the floor of the kitchen, and that he was complaining of a pain in his chest.  He died about 4pm.  The verdict was that he was “accidentally crushed.”

8.  MATTHEW DAY: 1866-1931

Matthew emigrated to US with two of his brothers and a sister in 1883.  Like his brothers, he was a coal miner back in England and also when he arrived in Iowa.  He settled in Polk with his siblings and married Catherine Dugan in 1890.  Three of his brothers kept saloons, and this is something Matthew did too.  He was also reported to be a prominent politician but I'm told he was never in politics.  Over the years his drinking became a problem and one night in 1910 he was last taken from his bed at his home, on 821 East Market Street and imprisoned in the city jail at the request of his wife, three sons and two grown daughters.  The newspaper reported that, “while a family has grown up about him Matt has fallen down and down until he became a despised porter in a low saloon and recently lost his last job.”  He apparently made a “pitiful spectacle” in the police court, bloated with liquor and trembling violently.  The Judge advised the relatives to file charges alleging habitual drunkenness.  Three years later Matthew, now of 217 South East Sixth Street, was arrested and held in jail overnight.  He was arrested on a charge of wife-beating, and apparently it took three officers to arrest him.  In October 1931 he fell down some cellar steps at his home and he passed away the following month at the age of 66.

Below: Matthew Day at the back, taken in Des Moines c1916, with his son George Edward Day in front.  Also Matthew's Naturalization card of 1888 [his name was sometimes spelt Mathew]

Matthew Day and son George Edward Day in front c1916 Des Moines.jpg
Matthew Day Naturalization 1888.jpg

9. HARRIET DAY: 1867/8-1926

In 1883, at the age of 14 (according to the passenger list), Harriet emigrated to the US with some of her siblings.  For some reason she wasn’t listed with them on the 1885 Iowa State census, and I haven’t been able to find her – perhaps her name was just missed off the list.  She married John Francis Harty at Polk, Iowa in 1889.  One of their sons was called Frank Harty, who became assistant chief of police at Des Moines.  A local newspaper described him as “one of the heaviest men who ever wore a police uniform here,” once weighing in at 25 stones [350lbs].  Despite his job, he was on the wrong side of the law at times, and he resigned from the force in 1921 after coming under fire from the Sheriff.  In 1933 he was one of 5 men arrested on two charges of larceny of a motor vehicle.  Detectives called it a highly organised ring of automobile thieves.  There are reports of him being in trouble with the law before he resigned.  On one occasion Harty, who was the night captain of police, and a man called Brophy, chief of detectives, were accused by the Sherriff of permitting criminal conditions to exist in Des Moines and of wilfully failing to suppress them, and that they had counselled with criminals and made arrangements with such persons to protect them.  As he got older, his health declined, and he died from gangrene in 1935.  He had been asleep in the back room of a barber shop and a stove burnt the bottoms of his feet while he slept, the fire burning the skin though his shoes.  He hadn’t felt it because his diabetes had deadened the feeling in his feet.  Gangrene set in after two weeks.  Harriet had died in 1926 from gall stones.

Below: Harriet's obituary 1926

Harriet and John Harty headstone at Glendale Cemetery, Des Moines.  Harriet's obituary says she was born 1 January 1868, her headstone says 187 and her baptism says 25 December 1868.  No birth registration has been found. 

Her son Frank Harty

Harriet Day Harty obituary 1926.jpg
Harriet Day and John F. Harty grave.jpg
Frank Harty husband of Harriet Day.jpg

10. WILLIAM DAY: 1871-1910

William emigrated in 1883 and settled in Polk County, Iowa.   He seems to have adopted the middle name of Andrew after he arrived there; this name does not occur in any of the English records.  When he married in 1894 to Mary J. MaDonough, he gave his father’s name as Matthew Day (which it was not) and his mother’s name as Jane “Scogle.”  The 1905 census records him as working as a painter, presumably of houses.  He died of pneumonia in 1910.

Photo below: William (Andrew) Day, taken in Des Moines c1903

William Day Des Moines c1903.jpg

11. FRED SIMPSON: 1878-1905

Fred was the son of Thomas Simpson of Worsbrough.  He was only a child when he went to live in the US sometime between 1882 and 1885.  I cannot find him or his mother on any passenger list under any surname.  He would have been about 5 years old.  He used the surname Day from then on.  The 1905 census states that he had been in the US for 17 years, giving a date of around 1888, but he and his mother were already in Iowa when the 1885 census was taken.  His worked as a driver.  Fred died young when he collapsed suddenly one day from heart trouble; he died in the arms of his wife before help could be summoned.


* English vital records and census returns at Findmypast and Ancestry

* English Newspapers from Findmypast.  I also used American newspapers which were at Findmypast, but they have now removed all foreign newspapers from their site.  American newspapers are available through at Ancestry for an extra payment.  I was sent some clippings from by my American correspondents and also used several free sites including and

* Passenger lists and US census returns from and from Findmypast

* Wikipedia for information on passenger ships crossing the Atlantic

*Coroner’s Notebooks from Ancestry

* Criminal records, Sessions records etc. from Ancestry and Findmypast

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