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REUBEN HAIGH

DIED 1750

The first Haigh in the district

 

In the beginning, there was a wild and windy spot, perched so high on the moor above Walsden that a man could see for miles and miles around. It was virtually inaccessible for all but the hardy, and even today cannot be reached other than by a difficult climb on foot. It lies at the top of a rough packhorse trail, which weaves steeply upwards from Gauxholme in the valley. From there, the trail moves on across the moor connecting other similarly isolated places before dropping down, steeper than ever, towards Ramsden at the far end of the moor. This spot is known as NAZE FARM. Today it is just a ruin. Its last occupiers were tempted into the valley to seek an easier life.

 

 

Naze Farm in 2003

The Hawthorn tree was a common sight in those days. It grew just about anywhere on the slopes and pastures above the valley. The local folk referred to it as the Haigh Tree. It was in abundance on this land known as Naze, and one particular tree became the central feature in the lives of one family who farmed at Naze in the mid 1600's.

 

The story, which has been passed down the generations, has biblical connotations along the lines of Moses in the bulrushes. One day, when the farmer was at his work, he saw a basket under the tree. On further investigation, he found the basket contained a baby. It was a plump, well-dressed boy. Fastened to his clothing was a parcel containing the word "Reuben" and money to the value of ten pounds, along with clothing and bedding. This would be sufficient to care for the child for a considerable number of years. The farmer took the boy home and after discussions around the neighbourhood the family decided to keep him. They called him Reuben Haigh, after the tree where he had been found. He was raised with care as part of the family and grew to manhood, learning the ways of farming and hand weaving.

 

The truth of the matter can only be speculation. The cynics of our modern world may well think that perhaps the family had a daughter who gave birth to a child, and this was a way of explaining away the new arrival to the folk of the village. Illegitimate children were common enough, but still attracted gossip and stigma amongst the simple farming communities. Whatever the truth, the boy had a charmed life and a generous benefactor. From time to time, an unknown hawker was seen about the place. The same man had been seen on the day the baby had been found. He seemed to be watching Reuben, and made many enquiries of the local folk as to how he was faring. The gossip abounded "this must be the boy's natural father keeping an eye on him", and the fact that he was a stranger enforced the original explanation of the child's arrival. He was said to have been the only person to show an interest in the lad and the rumour spread that he was a wealthy fustian dealer from elsewhere in Lancashire. This supposition gained some validity when, later in Reuben's life, an anonymous benefactor purchased the lease on a considerable area of land at Inchfield Pastureside, which was then handed over to Reuben as a gift. He became the tenant of Calf Hey and PASTURESIDE FARM. Reuben was married by this time and had a family of five sons and a daughter who all grew to adulthood.

 

Pastureside Farm in 2003

In an indenture dated 1696, Reuben is described as a CLOTHIER of Inchfield. He would have had a small business in his own home from where he would distribute raw wool amongst the local inhabitants for spinning and weaving in their cottages, and then carry the woven cloth to the markets of Rochdale, Manchester or Halifax. His own family would also do some of the spinning and weaving.

He died in 1750, and the land and farms remained in the possession of his descendants for many generations. The Haighs all seemed to prosper as farmers, innkeepers and shop keepers, buying more farms and land along the way. They developed an interest in COAL MINING and later the family spread out to Rochdale, Middleton, Cliviger, Burnley and North Wales.

 

Reuben and his two wives are buried together at St. Mary's Church in Todmorden. Their gravestone is still in the churchyard, inscribed as follows:

 

Under the north side of this stone lieth the body of Elizabeth wife of Reuben Haigh who departed this life 30th. December 1709.

Also the body of Elizabeth his daughter

who died 30th. October 1724.

Also the body of Susan the wife of Reuben Haigh

who departed this life 18th. April 1735.

Also here lieth the body of Reuben Haigh

who departed this life 21st. March 1750.

 

Reuben left a will, which is transcribed HERE

 

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