Pere Marquette Park was the final stop for Voces de la Frontera’s annual May Day march. Father Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637 – 1675) camped in what is now Milwaukee in 1674. Marquette was a French Jesuit missionary whose travels in the U.S. Midwest established boundaries for the lucrative French fur trade.
The father of international law, Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, O.P. (1483-1546) gave his opinion in Salamanca, Spain that evangelists had a legal right under natural law to preach the gospel in the New World. Pere Marquette was well received by the Native Americans. As impossible as it is to imagine, what if a “Sitting Jim Sensenbrenner” were chief of the Midwest tribes? It would have been a different story.
TRICIA FIELDEN KNOWLES: LOCAL ARTIST & FIELDEN FAMILY MEMBER (A continuing story – scroll down for previous postings)
It took us about a half-hour to walk to our hotel. After talking to Jeremy, we already knew quite a bit about the Fieldens and the town of Todmorden but we had just begun.
Our hotel, Scaitcliffe Hall, dated back to the Middle Ages; a perfect base for our research. Wall hangings remind guests of the history of the Scaitcliffe Hall and the area around Todmorden of the Brontes, Emily and Charlotte. They lived in the area, and the hills and moors above Todmorden are the setting for their novels.
After checking in I called Tricia Fielden Knowles whom I had contacted before from London. Tricia met us at the hotel and we talked about Sam Fielden, the Haymarket and the Fielden family. She knew some of Sam’s story, but she didn’t know about Sam’s death row autobiography.
Tricia told us that she knew Scaitcliffe Hall well, because she and a classmate, who was the Vicar’s daughter, were invited to use the tennis court by Miss Sutcliff who lived there with her elderly mother before they sold it. Tricia remembered the old lady sitting in a high backed chair by the big fireplace in what is now the reception area. Before we left Todmorden we purchased one of Trisha’s paintings. She is a well known artist. The painting we bought was of an abandoned canal lock in Todmorden. England’s industrial revolution was facilitated by a canal system that moved raw materials and products throughout the country. Cotton from the U.S. Southern States was shipped inland to Todmorden through the canal system.
Tricia showed us a photo of Sam Fielden and his two children. The photo was taken after Sam’s pardon by Illinois Governor Altgeld in 1893. It was sent to Tricia by Keith Fielden who lives in Richmond, VA. The photo shows Sam with his children, Alice noted as born in 1884 and Samuel Henry noted only as born in Chicago. Alice was probably named after Alice Jackson, Sam’s mother.
I asked how Sam of the Chicago Haymarket and his family could have been forced to work in a mill under horrible conditions yet were members of the Fielden family. Sam, in describing his work in the mill as a child wrote,
I think that if the devil had a particular enemy whom he
wished to unmercifully torture the best thing for him to
do would be to put his soul into the body of a Lancashire
factory child and keep him as a child in the factory the
rest of his life.(The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, op.cite. p. 137)
After a moment of thought Tricia responded that it wasn’t
unusual at all; everyone worked at the mill. Her father who retired as “Works Manager” had also labored as a weaver in the mill. However there was tension. The wealthy Fieldens were called “Castle Fieldens” and have since left Todmorden.
Looking at Tricia’s photo of Sam and his children made me think of Sam’s comments about his children in his death row autobiography. Sam records that he went back to England, “to fulfill a matrimonial engagement which I had entered into eleven years before. … The fruit of my marriage has been two children, one a girl of 2 ½ years of age, the other a boy who has been born since my imprisonment.”(ibid. p. 154) The size of the children indicates that this photo would have been taken after his pardon, around 1900 at their farm in Colorado.
Samuel Fielden was a devoted family man. An account referenced in the Chicago Historical Society website describes Sam and his Todmorden wife meeting during a brief security lapse when Sam was being transferred to another section of the jail. Sam’s wife,
“Holding her new born babe to her breast threw the other
arm around his neck and showered kisses upon his homely
face and shaggy, unkempt beard, weeping convulsively all the
SAM’S BOYHOOD HOME
Tricia offered to take us up to the house where Sam lived as a boy. She had checked the 1851 census and found the location where the family lived. The town of Todmorden is located in a valley of the Pennine hills which are called the backbone of England. Our trip to visit Sam’s home took us up the rather steep hillsides on a narrow winding road. The vista was a spiritual treat. The shining emerald landscape and the neat stone hedges reminded me of Ireland. Sam wrote,
“It (Todmorden) lies in a beautiful valley, and on the hillsides
are small farms; back about a mile are the moorlands, which
could be made into fine farms, as the topography of the
moors is more level generally than the inclosed land. But
though thousands of starving Englishmen would be very glad
to work them, they must be kept for grouse and the games
keeper and the gentry.”(ibid. 131)
We reached the house, parked in front of the gate and got out of the car to look around. The scenery of the hills and moors was breathtaking. Sam’s house and the area had obviously been gentrified. There was a cement driveway leading to a two car garage. The complex included a neat farm house and farm buildings for tools and animals. We talked to the owner who told us that he worked in a nearby town. He and his wife also owned two horses and some sheep which were out in the pasture. It was hard to imagine this as Sam’s home. It was a moving experience to see the place, but I felt unsettled. I doubt that the ghosts of Sam and his family find refuge in their old homestead.
I could see how life in these hills and moors in the 19th century would make travel by foot difficult. The cottage industry that supplemented subsistence farming had been replaced by the machine operated mills. The trip up and down the hillside to the cotton mill everyday would have been a challenge. Sam wrote about his mother Alice walking barefoot in the snow.
In his autobiography Sam describes the area. “The house that we occupied stood in the midst of some meadows that were owned by two wealthy brothers, who were engaged in flour milling.”(ibid. 136)
The haymakers were migrant workers from Ireland. Sam wrote:
“These men are compelled to harvest crops in England for
the privilege of living in their own country; for the money
they earn in the English harvest the English landlord
compels them to give up again, and his lordship brings
It back again to England, until Pat comes again and harvests
his crops for him.”(ibid.137)
Tricia said she was amazed at the prices for the properties in the area. She showed us a two story sand stone building, darkened with soot that was going for over 300,000 pounds.
Our next stop was the Dobroyd Castle. The Castle sits high in the hills and can be easily seen from Todmorden located in the valley. We stopped and walked around, awe-inspired by the magnificent building and the surrounding scenery. Perhaps the Castle could be called a symbol of the love John Fielden felt for his wife and the Todmorden community. The structure was built while the cotton mills were shut down by the American Civil War and provided work for the laid-off mill workers. Then again, could it have been an opportunity to hire, for low pay, workers desperate for jobs? If so, it would have been a symbol of capitalist exploitation for imagined personal immortality. The building is now a Buddhist monastery and could be called a symbol for peace along with the Stoodley Pike. Both of these structures are conflicted anchors of Todmorden identity.
Tricia took us back to our hotel and agreed to meet us for lunch the next day.
To read more about current May Day marches including the Milwaukee rally and march, check out “MAY DAY RALLIES UNITE WORKERS ACROSS THE GLOBE,” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 2, 2013)
A continuing story - next posting, Tuesday, May 14th…