St Teath: slate quarrying on two continents

St Teath in the 1860s was Cornwall’s slate capital. The village of Delabole in the parish had grown as the result of the expansion of the former hamlets of Pengelly, Meadrose and Rockhead, which housed the hundreds of quarry labourers who came to work at Delabole Quarry, one of the deepest, if not the deepest, open works in Europe.

The 500 foot deep pit at Delabole Quarry in the early 1900s

In 1861 over half of the adult men in the parish toiled away in its slate quarries, splitting, cutting and shaping roofing slates. In the course of the nineteenth century many of its slate quarry workers also emigrated. The experience of four of the St Teath children in our mid-century database provides some extra insight into this process. All four of them were female, all four became wives of slate quarriers and all four spent time in one relatively small part of the United States in the far eastern margins of Pennsylvania state at Northampton County.

Ann Lobb had been the first of the four to leave. Her father John was a quarry labourer at Meadrose but died in 1865. Within a year of his death his widow Mary travelled with her two sons aged 24 and 21 plus Ann, to the States. There they were living at Mount Bethel in Northampton County in 1870, while Ann had married Joseph Lane, a slate quarryman originally himself from St Teath. After a spell in Washington, near Pittsburgh on the opposite side of the state, Ann and Joseph were back at Pen Argyl in eastern Pennsylvania by 1890.

Sophia Esther Sleep had emigrated perhaps directly to Pen Argyl in 1871 soon after she and her husband William Bonney were married. Emigration a few weeks or months after marriage was clearly a common occurrence as we have seen in several examples across Cornwall. Sophia and William were still at Pen Argyl in the 1890s.

Slate quarry at Bangor, where Susanna Beer lived (Slate Belt Heritage Center)

Pen Argyl must have been home to a sizeable Cornish community and many if not most of them were from St Teath. Adelina Smith moved there in 1882 from Lower Pengelly in Delabole. Her father had been a slate quarry blacksmith and she had married Claud Lobb, a slate splitter. In this case, they hadn’t emigrated immediately after marriage in 1871 but moved as a family group 11 years later. Finally, Susanna Prout also made the move to Pennsylvania at some later point after 1887. Susanna was the daughter of a quarryman and the wife of a stonemason – John Beer – and was resident at East Bangor near Pen Argyl by 1910.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.