57.46 – Susannah, Jabez and Nancy Taylor

The only Jabez at Christ Church rests here with his two wives. But the stone here doesn’t tell us about a man with two wives – it tells us about three people who were connected in life and death by their children biological and assumed.

Jabez Taylor was born in 1814 in Newchurch, specifically at Holt Mill. He was baptised in September 1814 at Bethlehem Unitarian Chapel in Newchurch and his parents are given as John and Betty Taylor of Holt Mill, Rossendale. John was a comber which was common for the time. Jabez went into the same occupation, and as did so many at that time, he began to gravitate towards the Calder Valley.

In 1834 he married Susannah Uttley, their banns being read at St. Thomas in Heptonstall. Jabez, being perhaps a little liberal with the truth, gave his occupation then as “worsted manufacturer” (or “worsit manufacter” – literacy wasn’t what it is today). Who was Susannah? We don’t know much about her. We think she’s the daughter of Abraham and Martha Uttley of Millwood, Abraham himself also being a wool comber. Maybe the match came about through the two meeting in the workplace? At any rate, they married, and within two years they’d had their first child John Taylor. In 1841 Jabez, Susannah and John were living at Blind Lane and Jabez was working as a carter for Sutcliffe’s corn mill (later known as Stansfield Mill) at Hallroyd, and he continued in this occupation for pretty much the rest of his life.

The newspapers don’t tell us much because of the time, but other records do. He was called as a witness in an apparently complicated case involving receiving stolen goods in 1866. He was again charged in 1874 for embezzlement, this time acquitted rather than found not guilty. It might seem like Jabez was a bit of a character, but as a carter his job was to move items from one place to another. Any movement which wasn’t 100% on board will automatically involve him being implicated in a crime as the person who moved the items, whether he had any knowledge of the issue or not. It looks as though the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty was on his side though, as no convictions appear. The 1866 case is a case in point; the police recognised that he wasn’t party to the series of robberies that happened along Bacup Road, and called him as a witness to the movement of the stolen goods rather than charge him. Although we suppose there’s a chance he cooperated in order to escape punishment…

Todmorden Advertiser, April 21st 1866

Three more children followed – George, James and Ellen – but sadly Susannah fell afoul of sadly all-too-common postpartum mortality. Susannah died on April 28th 1853; Ellen was baptised at Christ Church on May 1st. Left with a number of children, including a literal newborn, Jabez did the usual thing and remarried as soon as an acceptable mourning period had passed. His next wife was Nancy Barrett.

Nancy was born around 1811 at Gutter Hole in Todmorden to Charles and Nancy Barrett. Charles was (eventually) a navigator, as she later described him on her marriage certificate, but at the time of her birth he was working as a weaver. She and three of her siblings were all baptised at Cross Stone on the same date in 1817, possibly part of an exodus from Myrtle Grove in Charlestown due to a number of doctrinal disagreements happening within that congregation at the time. Many left the chapel altogether and rejoined the Church of England as a result and we suspect the Barretts were amongst those. Everyone grew up and married and moved on after Charles and Nancy died, but our Nancy never got around to marrying. In 1851 she was living with her sister Ann and her husband William Dugdale and their many children at Wadsworth Mill. Did she value her independence or simply never meet the right man? Did she feel sorry she never had her own children and feel drawn to Jabez and his four motherless children, especially baby Ellen? Who knows. But they married at St. Chad’s in Rochdale in March 1854, and she went home to her new, large family of three boys and a tiny girl.

Jabez and Nancy lived a happy life as far as we can see. They moved to Peel Street at Cobden. Spooked, perhaps, by the court case in 1866, Jabez had become a gardener and is designated a domestic servant on the 1871 Census. He may have been working at Ridgefoot House, or maybe one of the other large homes in the area. John and James moved out; George married and stayed home for a spell, then moved on; Ellen married and stayed home for a spell, and she and her husband and daughter were still living with the couple when Jabez died in 1891. It made sense for him to be buried with his first wife, but Nancy was more than merely a stepmother to his and Susannah’s children, and when she died in 1896 they laid her to rest with their mother and father.

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