Stithians: Cornwall, Columbus and Cumbria

With Stithians, we arrive at a more industrial parish. Found on the north-eastern edge of the Carnmenellis uplands south of Redruth the parish of Stithians in the nineteenth century included mines in the north and quarries to the south. In 1861 the mines predominated, accounting for around a half of Stithian’s working men and many of its young, single women.

Stithians churchtown in 1905. Note the interesting hats worn by two of the women

Yet in many respects the experience of mining and quarrying families did not greatly differ. This was most obviously seen in terms of migration. As in other mining areas around a quarter of the children born around 1850 in Stithians in our database who we know to have still been alive in 1891 were living overseas. They were tied into transatlantic and global family, community and occupational networks that were linked through constant movement to and fro in the age of the steamship.

Francis Andrew was someone who moved from Stithians to the United States in the 1880s. Francis was the son of Thomas, a copper miner, and his wife Christiana and one of at least ten children. The family grew up in cottages in and around the churchtown. As work at the mines diminished some of Francis’s brothers became stonemasons working in the local quarries. But Francis stuck to mining. As late as 1881 he was still mining for copper at a time when the price of that metal had hit rock bottom. But in the 1880s he went overseas. After marrying in Park City, Utah, Francis seems to have finally given up mining to become a furniture merchant.

Near the Andrews in 1861 lived Walter Collins, a stonemason. Walter’s eleven-year old son, also called Walter, was already learning the stonemason’s skills from his father in that year. In 1870 he crossed the Atlantic. Two years later he popped back to marry Ellen Culley from Mabe, taking her with him to Columbus, Ohio, where he found work as a stonemason.

The workers at Polkanuggo quarry sit on a granite block, claimed in 1902 to have been the largest in the world at over 2,700 tons

Not everyone emigrated although most migrated. Thomas Opie was the youngest in a large family of 13 children at Penhallurick, Stithians, in 1851. His father was a copper miner. But during the slump of the late 1860s Thomas had moved to Furness in northern England where he found work as an iron miner at Dalton in Furness. Thomas did not make the further leap overseas as many others did but, marrying a local girl, stayed in Cumbria. He remained an iron miner until the new century but by 1911 was labouring at the Barrow electric works. Demand for electric power grew rapidly in the 1880s although it was mainly used for public lighting before being applied to power some manufacturing and shipbuilding concerns before the First World War.

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