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THE BLACKA FAMILY IN AMERICA

 

In the story "The Blacka Family of Todmorden", you read of Francis Blacka, son of James and Margaret (Darwent) Blacka of Linton in Craven, who found his way to Todmorden and became head of a family of plasterers and builders. This story is about his youngest brother, Richard, who was born on March 4th 1800.

   

The church at Linton

Richard was christened on the 15th of November 1823 and his occupation at that time was recorded as plasterer, living at Linton Bridge End. Little is known of his childhood, except he was taught the family trade of plasterer and slater. On the 31st of January 1825, he took as his bride Eden Dean, daughter of John Dean and Jane Falshaw, also of Linton in Craven.

   

In 1831, an event occurred that changed the life of Richard and Eden forever. Eden's parents and family emigrated to America in that year, settling in Jefferson Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

 

Meanwhile, Richard and Eden settled down to married life at Linton and Eden gave birth to four children, Jane in 1826, James in 1827, John in 1829 and Nancy in 1832. Little James died in infancy, leaving them with 3 young children.

What prompted the decision to go to America is not sure, but the main reason must have been the fact that Eden's parents were already there and perhaps they had sent word home and told them how good life was over there. Whatever the reason was for Richard and Eden to make the momentous decision in 1833 to uproot and follow them to this New World, full of opportunity for a hard working man like Richard, they took it.

So plans were made, tickets were purchased, bags packed and off they set for Liverpool to board the "Great Britain" destined for America and a new life. It wouldn't have been an easy journey with a daughter of 7, a son of 4 and Nancy, the baby, only 1 year old.

   

Richard and Eden Blacka

They arrived at the port of New York on December 23rd 1833 and by 1840 they were living in Bridgeport, near Brownsville, PA, within a few miles of Eden's parents and her sister, Isabella. After arriving in America, Richard supported his family doing plastering and slating jobs in the Bridgeport and Brownsville area, just like the branch that had settled in Todmorden, England, and later working in a coal mine near West Pike Run, Washington County, Pa.
   

Life in America was good to the industrious Blacka family and by 1850 Richard and Eden had managed to purchase property at West Pike Run. Sadly, they had lost little Nancy before 1840 but their family had grown and now with children born in America, they could truly be known as Americans and call it home.

   

Richard died on April 9th. 1858 and was buried at the Taylor Cemetery, Centerville, Washington County, Pa. After Richard's death, Eden married again to John Winn of Brownsville. Eden died March 25th , 1879 and must have had great satisfaction in knowing that their decision to follow her Dean family to America had turned out to be so successful.

 

Their children married and continued to live in the Bridgeport area, all adding their own contribution and leaving a mark on this growing country their parents had adopted.

Eden with two of her children, Robert and Susanna

   

Jane, the eldest, married Wellington Hamer in 1855 and lived on an adjoining piece of property to her parents, Richard and Eden in West Pike Run, Washington County, Pa. Wellington came from Lancashire and had been living at Cloughfold, Bacup, shortly before he left for America. He arrived in America in July 1841 when he was 26 and had settled in Cookstown by 1844. Jane and Wellington had 4 children and Jane died Dec. 3rd. 1896.

 

John married Sarah Brown around 1854 and they had seven children. John's occupation was drayman and he died Nov. 1st. 1890. He named one of his daughters Eden after his mother.

Nancy, as stated, is thought to have passed away sometime before 1840, and was the last of their children to be born in England.

 

Thomas was born 3 years after their arrival in America, around 1836 in Bridgeport, Fayette County, Pa. He married about 1861 and he and his wife Mary had seven children. Thomas died ca. 1900 at Homestead, Allegheny County, Pa.

   

Susanna was born in Bridgeport, Fayette County, Pa. June 30th. 1842. Susanna never married and she lived in the family homestead at West Pike Run, Washington County, Pa. until it was sold in 1902.

She received a photo album from John Blacka, her cousin in Todmorden, so the families must have kept in touch. Susanna died in Dunbar, Fayette County, Pa. in 1924 at the great age of 82.

   

William Dean Blacka was born in Bridgeport, Fayette County, Pa. On March 24th. 1844 and married Barbara Ann Wilkinson on the 22nd of October in 1865. William, served 3 years in the Union Army during the Civil War and survived.

William in uniform

Barbara Wilkinson

   

He and Barbara had 6 children. Barbara died the 28th. of May in 1901 and is buried in Franklin Cemetery, Dunbar, Fayette County, PA, which is where they lived from the 1870's up to his death.

Dunbar

   
William married again a year later in 1902 to Mary Leech. William died Oct. 30th. 1918 aged 74 during the flu epidemic that swept America. He is buried with his first wife Barbara at Franklin Cemetery.
   

William was featured in the 1900 Nelson's Biographical Dictionary, which gives a brief description of his life and it is transcribed here:

NELSON'S BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY 1900

William Dean Blacka, son of Richard and Eden (Dean) Blacka, was born in Bridgeport, Fayette County, Pa., March 24 1844. His parents were natives of England and were married when they came to this country.

They located first in Brownsville and later settled at Pike Run, Washington County. The father was by trade a plasterer and roofer and put the roof on the old stone bank in Brownsville. After his death, his widow married a Mr. Wynn of Brownsville and both died about the same time at Bridgeport.

Sixteen children were born to Richard and Eden (Dean) Blacka, four of whom are living, Thomas at Homestead, Pa., Annie single; Robert, on the home place in Washington county, and William Dean Blacka, subject of this sketch.

Mr. Blacka attended the common schools. In 1862 he enlisted in an independent company, commanded by Captain Greenfield, and fought valiantly in a number of battles until 1864 when he was detached from the above company and mustered in Company B, of the 22nd Pennsylvania Regiment. Captain Greenfield was made lieutenant colonel of the 22nd. Pennsylvania Regiment, and this regiment was in many hard fought engagements, and was considered one of the best and most effective in the Valley of Virginia. Mr. Blacka was honourably discharged after three years of service.

After returning from the war he entered the oil belt of Greene County, where he remained for two years, drilling for oil and where he was married to Miss Barbara Wilkinson, a daughter of Samuel Wilkinson of Greene County. Six children were born to this union: Robert II. a clerk at the Racket store in Uniontown; Thomas Milton (deceased); Samuel R, drives a team at Mahoney; William (deceased); Elva E, wife of Thomas Kelly of Dunbar township and Albert Ellsworth, driver of a team for his father at Dunbar, Pa.

Mr. Blacka is a member of the G.A.R. Post 165 at Dunbar. He is a Republican and has ever taken an active interest in the success of his party and has served both as delegate and committeeman. He is a consistent member of the M.P. church. He has resided in Dunbar for more than twenty years and by his energy, industry and perseverance he has reared a family and saved something for the declining years of his life.

 

The reference to his parents having 16 children may be literary licence or just plain exaggeration.

   
Robert was also born in Bridgeport, Fayette County, Pa. Nov. 1st. in 1848. Robert never married and spent most of his life on the family homestead at West Pike Run, Washington County, Pa. Robert worked in a store and on Jan. 10th. 1902 an oil lamp exploded in the store where he worked, killing him.
   

Joseph, Edward and Benjamin were other children believed to be from the union of Richard and Eden but little is known of their lives and families.

 

We are indebted to Curt Lehman for the details of this story and the family photographs

 

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