15.28 – Ogden and Sarah Dawson, and Hannah Stott

“I have heard you many a time afore, but you never would speak” – so ended Hannah Stott’s cryptic suicide note. Hannah is buried here with her parents, as she asked.

Ogden Dawson and his wife Sarah (Kershaw) Ogden were either native or near-enough-native to Todmorden. Ogden was born in Walsden and Sarah in Littleborough. Ogden and Sarah married in 1847, and Ogden went from working as a calico weaver to joining the railway boom and moving to Bassingthorpe to work on the lines being built outward in all directions from Grantham – Lincoln, Retford, Peterborough, Newark…all aboard for these exotic locations. Sarah stayed in Todmorden and while the two were parted for the 1850 Census, by 1861 they were together again.

The Dawsons moved around a great deal because of Ogden’s work as a plate layer – their children were born, one after another, in Macclesfield, Littleborough, Wyke, and Taylor Hill (near Huddersfield). Hannah was the one born in Wyke, in 1851. Ogden’s hard work paid off and he became a railway tunnel inspector. The family eventually moved to Industrial Street by 1881, and there they stayed. Ogden died in 1899, and Sarah in 1902.

Back to Hannah now. Hannah had become a dressmaker and stayed at home, but as each parent died, she must have found herself a little bit lonelier. In 1901 there had only been Sarah and Hannah left at the house on Industrial Street. The exact circumstances that led to her marriage are unknown, but in 1904, she married for the first and only time, to Edward Stott of Garden Street. Edward was a stalwart of Patmos Congregational, as Ogden Dawson had also been, and his wife Mary Ann had died in January of 1903. She is buried in the same row at 15.18. Edward and Hannah must both have found themselves lonely, and for Hannah Edward must have seemed like a good match late in life. He had a successful business as a watch and clock maker/repairer and jeweller and lived in a fine house on Garden Street…she wouldn’t have to worry for anything. She was 54 when they married.

Sadly things weren’t as Hannah expected. It’s hard to know whether her expectations were genuine, or reasonable, because there simply isn’t enough evidence as to whether or not the sentiments expressed in her final letter were based in reality. Things were troubling her though. The final straw appears to have been a wedding that she attended that Edward declined to accompany her to. On July 6th, while Edward was out, Hannah took a step stool and took down some bottles of various chemicals that he used for “developer”, one of which was sulpho-cyanide. She drank the majority of the contents of all three bottles, loosened her corsets and laid down in bed. She went into a coma and was found in that state by Edward when he returned home, and died 22 hours later despite attempts to force her to continue vomiting and injections of strychnine to counteract the poison.

The inquest was interesting because Edward’s testimony was, to modern eyes, a little cold and blunt. He didn’t suspect it was going to happen, he queried her family in the meantime as to history of insanity and had not been told anything, and he asked a few times whether her suicide note was his property or not. Having lost his wife of decades and then his new wife, maybe not as much loved but expected to be his companion, and being a respectable person now “tainted” with a wife who had ended her life, probably didn’t produce the best in him. Ultimately the jury found that Hannah had killed herself while of unsound mind.

Her suicide note is sad, because it shows how distraught she was at the end. Some suicides in the graveyard are because of circumstances which are difficult to think about but still retain a logic of their own given the circumstances; Hannah’s is simply that of someone who is deeply unhappy and cannot think straight. She refers to not thinking she would ever need to work for money to live off of; Edward had said in his testimony that she had continued to work as a dressmaker after their marriage and had been very busy of late. Did she take an expectation on his part that she would keep herself busy as a demand? Did he actually demand she continue to work? The record is silent.

“God, forgive me, and bury me with my parents”. Edward followed her last wishes. He moved out of the Garden Street house and in with one of his children on Boardman Street, and died not long afterwards in 1910. Although we know he is buried at Christ Church his burial isn’t recorded on a stone or in the sexton’s book. Is he with his first or second wife? Somewhere else altogether?

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