53.53 – John, George, Mary, Millicent and John Land, and Hannah Elizabeth Crossley

This story introduces us to some new faces…and an old villain.

John Land was born in Wirksworth, Derbyshire in 1816. His wife Mary MacDonald had been born there too, a year earlier. The Lands and MacDonalds were lead miners as were many in that area at the time, and it will have been an extremely hard life in a part of the country that experienced cold winters…not a pleasant occupation or a pleasant place to be without a little money behind you. They married in 1838 and started a family, but under those conditions it was difficult. Their first child, George (named after John’s father), was born in 1839. Then came Samuel in 1842, Millicent in 1845, Hannah in 1848, and John Jr. in 1851. George died in 1846 and was buried there, as we see from this stone. His memory persisted with his parents though as evidenced by their inclusion of his name on this stone. John and Mary loved their children. We’ll see some of that strong emotion emerge again later in the story.

In 1851 the Lands still lived in Derbyshire, now in Bolehill, and John was still a lead miner. He had branched out a little though and also become a baker. This was John’s ticket out of the mines, his side hustle that he hoped would develop into a more lucrative and less dangerous occupation. And it worked. John left claustrophobic mines and working with toxic metals behind, and the Lands also left Derbyshire behind. They wouldn’t be the first family to move to Todmorden from the area, and in 1861 the Lands were living at Church Street just next to Todmorden Hall, and John was running a bakers and confectioners business.

John must have been doing extremely well for himself; his first location, across from the church gates of St. Mary’s, and next to the Royal George and Grapes, was prime real estate. He would later move to North Street (aka Patmos, aka Burnley Road) and cater events for 200+ people at the Oddfellows Hall and other events. Samuel, Millicent, Hannah and John would have grown up nowhere near wealthy, but in infinitely better comfort than they had known as children. Mary would have been able to fully be a housewife, too, and probably breathed many sighs of relief that they all had better life chances now (herself included).

John Jr., who was apprenticing to become a cabinet maker, died in 1870 aged only 19. He was buried here at Christ Church and his brother George’s name added to the stone after his. John had phthsis (tuberculosis) and had been diagnosed 15 months previously, so it may not have come as a shock. The Lands continued on, with Samuel having already married and moved out in 1867, and Millicent and Hannah (known to family and friends now as Annie) stayed home. Millicent had found work as a dressmaker and Annie was helping her father out with the business. Death came to them again in 1872 when Mary died, and it was just John and his two girls left at home to keep things going.

The next part of the story clearly affected John terribly. After Mary’s death Hannah had been swept off her feet by a presumably dashing tin plate worker named Greenwood Crossley and she married him in 1873. You might remember him from the story of Mary Ann Sandow – if you don’t, go and read her story first. She was Greenwood’s second wife. Poor Hannah didn’t know what she was in for. There’s no mention in the papers of any difficulty with Greenwood during their short marriage, but things would change in 1877. That year brought a double bereavement for the Land family. First Millicent in June aged 32, and then Hannah in October aged 29. Both women died from similar problems to their brother John. Millicent had phthsis as well, and problems with diarrhoea and “general exhaustion” (unsurprising) as a complication.

Hannah, we wondered about, given her husband’s later ill-treatment of his second wife, but it turned out that she died from “consumption of the bowels” – probably what we’ve seen later described as abdominal tuberculosis. Rare but not unheard of. It may be that the entire Land family was at risk of lung complaints and those other siblings succumbed to similar illnesses.

John was so devastated by the loss of his two daughters that he immediately sold his business in less than a month and moved to Morecambe to be near Samuel and his wife Alice and their children.

That’s when John’s trouble with Greenwood began. Millicent had hold of a beautiful gold watch, supposedly a family heirloom, which she gave to Hannah shortly before her death. John’s understanding was that if anything were to happen to Hannah before he died that the watch would come back to him; Greenwood would assert that the watch was given to Hannah by Millicent in return for a silver watch Hannah owned being given to their brother Samuel’s son. Whatever Greenwood’s faults as a husband later, he must have rankled John the wrong way, because within a few months of Hannah’s death John had taken him to court and sued him for the return of the watch. The two were given the chance to settle out of court, and Greenwood offered John 8 for the watch, but John wasn’t having it – which ultimately led the magistrate to conclude that it was a sad state of affairs but there wasn’t sufficient proof for him to be able to make Greenwood hand the watch back over.

Todmorden District News, January 25th 1878

John licked his wounds for a time at Samuel’s family home in Poulton, where we can find him in 1881. But by 1891 he was back in Todmorden. By this time Greenwood had married Mary Ann Sandow, then abandoned her in 1886 to flee to New Zealand to bigamously marry another woman and spend the rest of his days. Presumably he took the watch with him, if he hadn’t already sold it…so John would probably say. Did he wait for Greenwood to leave before coming back? Did he come back and give Greenwood the eye every time they passed?

In 1891 John was back living on Mills Street in Cobden, not far from the bakery he had once owned and run (now run by William Fielding and his family) and living off his own means as a retired businessman. He died a year later and joined his wife and three of his children in the grave here, which perhaps was the point all along. After all those losses, and to lung complaints, there’s a certain irony in the one Land who worked as a miner, underground in the dust, being the one who lived to be the oldest – 77 years old.

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