53.57 – Ruth, Sarah, Josiah and James Stott

This grave is in need of adopting, since the descendants of those buried here are all abroad; in fact, one of these four isn’t buried here at all.

Josiah Stott was born around 1816, and his future wife Sarah Crossley was born around 1823. No marriage certificate can be found for them, and no 1841 Census entry, so by the time we were first able to track them down they were already married and living at Kitson Wood with their one and only child James. James was born in January of 1850 and Josiah (or Jesiah as his name is spelled on the birth certificate) is listed as a labourer. Josiah was in fact a railway worker, and would stay with the railway until his death.

As we said, James was Josiah and Sarah’s only child. The Stotts settled at Fidler’s Well in Lydgate and James became a millwright as he got older. In 1872 he met and married Polly Button, one of the daughters of Isaac Button who is buried not far away at 47.63. Polly had come to Todmorden from Wortley, near Sheffield, to board with a family at Wadsworth Mill and to find work as a cotton weaver. She found James instead and two years later they had their first child, a daughter named Ruth. Ruth sadly died in 1876 and is the first Stott buried in this plot. Son Jesse was born in 1877 and son Edward in 1881, and that finished James and Polly’s family. On the 1881 Census we see that Josiah and Sarah had moved to Knott’s Grove, just next to the Staff of Life, after James married and moved away.

Sarah would have nine months of being a grandmother to two boys before her sudden death in October of 1881. One newspaper said she was suffering from suspected heart disease and another mentioned an enlargement of her neck, but either way, Josiah went out on an errand one evening and came back to find her in a bad way. She died while he was out looking for a doctor.

Todmorden District News, November 4th 1881

Josiah would also suffer a sudden death in September 1885, but one which received far more coverage than Sarah’s. This was because an inquest was held due to Josiah’s place of death – on the railway line, on the job, and seemingly instantaneously. Josiah and three other platelayers were pushing their trolley along the railway line to Ratten Clough to get some work done, and while he and one of the other three were taking their turn pushing he suddenly fell down dead, with blue lips and not a single word or sound. The initial coverage of his death mentions him being known for his “temperate habits”, a compliment, and at the inquest neither James or his coworkers or doctor mentioned that he was unwell or prone to drinking or any other unhealthy behaviours. The verdict was accidental death due to heart disease.

Todmorden Advertiser, September 18th 1885

James and Polly and their sons had already moved to Mount Pleasant, away from Lydgate, and in 1891 were living at Adelaide Street with James working as a cotton spinner’s mechanic. They both felt that a change was needed though, both had lost their parents, and their ability to move away from Todmorden without familial obligations allowed them to take a big leap and leave in 1893 for Canada. The Stotts went all the way out to Vancouver in British Columbia, on the west coast of the country.

Detail from 1893 passenger manifest for the ship Parisian

James didn’t have many years left to enjoy his new life though, and died there in 1897. He’s mentioned on this stone but his body is at Mount View Cemetery in Vancouver, along with Polly (who outlived him by a very long time, dying in 1934) and Jesse and Edward (who died in 1946 and 1954). Who had his name carved here, though, we wonder? Did Polly send money home asking for it to be done so he would be named next to their daughter, or was it another family member? Perhaps one of her Button siblings. James had remained in contact with friends in Todmorden as evidenced by the Todmorden District News printing an excerpt in 1894 from a Canadian newspaper about the anarchist Sam Fielden’s pardon and release from jail in Chicago which had been sent back by James. So maybe it was his friends who ensured it was done and not his family. Who knows…

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