57.52 – Mary Alice, Fred and Mary Nuttall

There’s not a great deal we can say about those buried here, but the people around them lived colourful lives!

Mary Nuttall, the third person mentioned on the stone, will be the first person we start with. Mary was born Mary Ann Sutcliffe in 1830. Her father Edmund was described on her marriage certificate as a “collector” – possibly rates, or other taxes, or debt? – but he died in 1846 and more details about him prior to that have proven hard to confirm. In 1851 Mary and her sister Sarah and their younger brothers Edmund and James were all living together at 20 Shade Street. Mary and Sarah were power loom weavers, and Edmund and James were throstle tenters.

Later that year Mary married Robert Nuttall, a weaver who lived at Wadsworth Mill. She and Robert started their family straight away, with little Mary Alice being born the following year. Sadly she died two years later, aged one year and ten months according to the grave. Sons came next – Thomas in 1855, Fred in 1860, and Frank in 1863. Robert and Mary also threw themselves into local societies, mainly the Bridge End Co-operative Society, a wise move since Robert was slowly working his way up the ladder at work to overlooker and with a seeming specialty in silk spinning.

Thomas grew up to become a mule piecer, and in 1875 he married Betsy Crabtree, a fellow weaver the same age as him. They had seven children, including Fred who was born in 1884. Fred was named after his uncle Fred, presumably, although it was a curious choice. Fred Nuttall the elder was a scandalous figure. We know this not from the newspapers, but from puzzling out the public records. He had married a spinster ten years his senior with an illegitimate child in 1883 but then had absconded to the United States early in 1884 and married bigamously in Massachusetts. His wife Jane was left holding her second fatherless baby in thirteen years, and eventually remarried.

That story, while scurrilous, is important, because Fred and his new wife Annie Wade Nuttall eventually moved to South Dakota. At some point in the 1890s Robert went to South Dakota himself, although we don’t know for what reason; his obituary makes it seem as though he had moved there, although he was the only one who seems to have gone and he wasn’t a young man. Regardless of why he went, while he was there he fell ill, and he died in De Smet at the age of 67. His pink granite gravestone is shared with Annie Wade Nuttall, who would die in 1908. Little Fred, Thomas’s son, died young like his aunt Mary Alice and was buried in this grave here in December 1886.

Robert Nuttall’s gravestone in De Smet, South Dakota, USA (courtesy of FindAGrave)

Mary must have stopped to think many times about the things she’d seen – and you wonder what she made of everything that had happened with her son Fred and his family. His discarded wife Jane took baby Alfred and left for Lancashire, where many years later she would remarry, and she never returned to Todmorden for all we know. Having lost a child and at least one grandchild, and to all intents and purposes another son and another child thanks to his sudden decision to abandon his life here and move abroad, as well as her husband who went to visit (perhaps to make amends?) and never came home…it’s quite a life isn’t it.

Mary died in 1900 at the age of 69, quite suddenly and unexpectedly from the sounds of it. She suffered a sudden stroke and passed very quickly. By this time she had eight grandchildren between Thomas and Frank so a large family was there to mourn her loss.

Todmorden District News, June 8th 1900

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