The nationality of (?) Charging Thunder
Also known as George Edward Williams.1
He married Josephine (?)
(?) Charging Thunder was born circa 1870; Powwow with the Thunders
By the time Rita Parr left BBC Radio Manchester, her family had extended across the Atlantic. "When I came in here, I had five grandchildren. Now I've got 25!" she exclaimed, clutching photographs of her new native American relatives.
Live on air, the Gorton grandmother had, for the first time, been shown photographs of family in Nebraska she never she knew she had. Within seconds, she was looking for signs of a family resemblance. "Look at the nose - the eyes and the nose are the same," she said, pointing at her new great uncle, Daniel Charging Thunder. Rita has always known she has a colourful family tree. Taking pride on her mantelpiece at home, alongside the school photos of her own grandchildren, is a striking portrait of a Sioux warrior in full headdress. Taken in 1913, for the Manchester Evening Chronicle, it shows a Lakota chief from the Oglala tribe in South Dakota, who came to Salford as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1903. His Sioux name was Charging Thunder. Rita knows him simply as "Grandad".
"Grandad was just my grandad and that was it in England," said Rita. "But I always knew he was famous. He was important in his own country. And he's still thought of as important now."
Like many Lakota Indians, Charging Thunder was an exceptional horseman and performed thrilling stunts in Buffalo Bill's show in front of huge crowds, on the site of what is now the Lowry in Salford Quays. But when the show rolled out of town, Charging Thunder stayed behind. He married Josephine, an American horse trainer who had just given birth to their first child, Bessie and together they settled in Darwen, before moving to Gorton. He changed his name to George Edward Williams and slowly assimilated into the Gorton community, working for many years at Belle Vue Circus, looking after the elephants, and as a doorman at a local picture house.
It's a story which has fascinated Salford's very own Indian tracker Steve Coen, who read that some native Americans had stayed on in Manchester back in the early 1900s and become more than friendly with the locals! Through an appeal on this website, he managed to trace Rita and her cousin Gary Williams from Holmes Chapel - the only known descendants of Charging Thunder. Now through a contact in South Dakota called Mike Her Many Horses (himself a second cousin of Rita and Gary's), Steve has tracked down the Charging Thunder family in neighbouring Nebraska. They are descendants of Daniel Charging Thunder - Charging Thunder's younger brother - who was too young to ride with Buffalo Bill's show when it left the US. They had no idea what had happened Daniel's elder brother or that they had family in England. "They had heard a story in the family that their father had a brother who came to England, but that's all," said Steve. "So this fills in a gap for them."
Emails are now being exchanged and plans are being made for both sides of the family to meet up. For Rita - who already has three grown-up children - Michelle, Heather and Jeremy - four adopted children and five grandchildren, it's an exciting prospect. "I'd like the whole family to go if possible - all 17 of us! But that's probably not going to be possible. My grandchildren are fascinated with all this, especially Amber, the eldest." Steve Coen is now looking to commemorate the Salford-Sioux connection with an annual event. A newly elected Salford councillor himself, he is now working with the authority to organise a Salford powwow next year. It's hoped that hundreds of native Americans will gather in Salford for the first powwow ever to be held outside North America.1
He was the son of (?) Charging Thunder