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JAMES LAW AND MALLY SHACKLETON

PIONEERS IN CANADA

 

Mally Shackleton, who was born in 1790, lived with her younger sisters in a room above their father's smithy on Cheapside in Todmorden. This was an old building in which the living room was on a level with the workshop, 3 or 4 feet below the level of the road. There was one small window, which had wooden shutters. The upper room was reached by a flight of stone steps on the outside of the building and in there the girls had hand looms, a bed and some furniture.

Jimmy Law on the other hand lived in Walsden. He was one of at least 13 children, born into a comfortably off family. His father, Samuel, had been a journeyman clogger with his own business at Toad Carr in Todmorden who had invested wisely in the emerging cotton industry during the 1780's. There was no shortage of money and the comforts of life, and the family lived at SQUARE. Young Jimmy followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a clogger, whilst 3 of his brothers started businesses in the cotton industry and a fourth opened a beerhouse on Square, and later built the CROSS KEYS across the road.

Jimmy and Mally met, married and settled down at Square where they had 2 children, Sarah Jane in 1813 and John in 1816. His older brothers were busy planning and building a cotton factory at RAMSDEN WOOD, but Jimmy had little interest in joining them. His thoughts were on a new and different life overseas and he made plans to emigrate to North America. His plans were halted briefly when he discovered that skilled workers such as he was were forbidden to leave the country. Not to be thwarted, he had a labourer friend by the name of James Leonard who was willing to apply for the papers in his name. James decided to set off alone on the long and hazardous journey and promised to send for Mally and the children when he had found a suitable home on the other side of the ocean. He left Walsden early in 1819 and entered America as James Leonard, labourer.

Mally was pregnant when he left, and gave birth to a son, Samuel, on 10th May 1819 in Walsden. Meanwhile, Jimmy arrived in Canada and found a home at Niagara in Ontario, Canada. He sent for Mally and their 3 young children. Mally sold their furniture, looms and many other things, including her precious violin, which she had often played to the delight of her husband and children. She needed all the money she could find to make her long journey as comfortable as possible. Her journey would have taken her by stage coach to Manchester and then on to Liverpool, the port of embarkation, no doubt leaving from the Golden Lion in Todmorden.

 

On arrival in Liverpool they had some time to spare. Mally would have been enthralled with the city and the sites. She had probably never been out of her village home, and would never have seen the sea before. It wasn't the sea that caught her eye, however, but a shop window displaying a violin. She couldn't resist temptation and bought it along with several spare strings. She knew it would be a comfort to her on the long trip ahead.

 

a typical brig

The journey over the ocean to Quebec would have taken about 6 weeks in 1820, more than likely on a brig, or two masted sailing ship. An example voyage in 1820 was on the Brig, Alpha, from Liverpool to Quebec. The ship was captained by Captain McCormick. Setting sail 13th August, she took 51 days and carried salt, coals and 12 settlers. During the 6 weeks there would have been storms and rough seas to contend with, as well as sickness and fever.
 

Mally found the time to play her violin during the voyage, and ended up entertaining the other passengers and crew. As a small recompense for this, the captain organised a whip-round for her, and when the collection was handed over to Mrs. Law she found it more than sufficient to cover the cost of buying the fiddle in Liverpool. Family tradition has it that the violin is still in the family, somewhere in America.

On arrival in Quebec, the passengers faced the rigours of an examination by a surgeon and customs clearance, and would then leave the sailing ship and board a steamer for the journey up the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal. The steam boats held upwards of 400 passengers, many of whom were obliged to sit and sleep on the open decks for the 24 hour journey, often in drenching conditions and unable to access dry clothes as their luggage would be in the hold. The steam boats could go no further than Montreal, and from there the passengers and their luggage were taken by waggon on a ten mile journey over land to the village of La Chine. Those who could walk followed the waggons on foot.

At La Chine the settlers would have to wait a few days for their next transport to arrive. These were Canadian Bateaux, flat bottomed open boats capable of passing the St. Lawrence rapids. Each boat would hold about 25 people in very uncomfortable conditions. They were rowed, poled, and in some cases they had sails, but whatever their power, they were uncomfortable and dangerous. Their destination was Prescot, 120 miles up river. The rapids had a strong current and in places the river was shallow and rocky. The boats often grounded, necessitating the women and children to get out and walk, and the men help to haul the boats whilst waist deep in water. In the worst places, two horses would be needed to pull each boat in the flotilla. When darkness fell, the party would find somewhere to sleep. Some got access to farm houses, but most camped out in the woods, cooking their food over open fires the best way they could, and using clothing for beds. They had to spend 6 nights in this way before reaching Prescot.

   
From Prescot, Mally travelled to Queenstown on the steamer SS Frontenac, the first steam-powered ship launched in Upper Canada. She was a topsail schooner measuring 170 feet long and was built in 1816. At some point in her journey Mally was met by her husband, and they travelled on from Prescot to Niagara, Ontario, where her new home was waiting for her, her children and the violin.

The steamer Frontenac

Sketch by Van Cleve

 

Shortly after his arrival in his adopted land, James began to build machinery for the woollen industry. After all, there would be no call for a clogger over there and his brothers back in Walsden were busy building and operating spinning mills for the cotton industry. He supervised the building of several woollen mills on the Canadian side of the river and in 1822 a fourth child was born to the couple in Stamford, Ontario. He was James. Almost immediately, the family moved to live on Goat Island on the American side.

 

Goat Island 2003

Before 1817 there was little or no development on Goat Island. There were bears, wolves, deer, and indigenous Indians. In 1818 a bridge was built to connect the island to the mainland, enabling industrial development there and on the neighbouring Bath Island. The wooden bridge was erected near the falls and was replaced by an iron bridge in 1856. Jimmy and Mally lived in a small cottage on Goat Island close to the bridge entrance. Whilst they were there, their next child, Robert, was born in 1824. When Robert died aged 89 in 1912 he held the distinction of being the first, and last, white man to be born on the island.

By 1826 the family had left Goat Island and were living at St. David's back in Ontario. There they stayed until about 1832, producing a further 3 sons, Thomas, William and Abraham. Jimmy, by now over 40 years old, decided to make one final move. They packed up their belongings and acquired a virgin farm at Scarborough, near Toronto. He set to with his sons to clear the land and build a home and then settled down to the life of a farmer. Just one more son arrived - Edwin, making 8 sons and 1 daughter. There they remained for the next 35 years.

 
Jimmy and Mally both died at Scarborough and are buried there at St. Margaret's-in-the-Pines. This was Scarborough's first Anglican Church, built in 1833. The original wooden church was destroyed by fire in 1904 and was replaced in 1905 by the small brick building now standing in the burial ground.
 

The headstone is a skinny obelisk about 6 feet high in some kind of soft white stone which is weather-worn and it is hard to read the lettering, not big but striking somehow and one of a kind.

In Loving memory of James Law

who died January 3rd. 1866

aged 74 years and 9 months.

Also of Mary, wife of James Law

who died March 24th 1876

aged 86 years and 3 months.

Natives of Lancashire, England.

Emigrated to Canada 1819

   

In the 1800's James and Mally must have been high on a hill overlooking miles of countryside with Lake Ontario's sparkling waters a few short miles to the south. Now it is a quiet haven surrounded by busy roads and tall apartment buildings.

James and Mally's sons, 8 in all, were named after James' brothers back in Walsden, and just like his brothers, his children did very well for themselves. They received whatever limited education was available to them, studying part time until the age of 10, and then occasionally in the evenings at home by firelight. They were a long-lived clan, most making it well into the 20th century.

The sons of James and Mally in 1880. The empty chair on the right was for their brother Abraham who departed for Australia in 1878 and was never heard of again.

 

One of them in particular made his name in the ship building business and as a sailor of renown. He was Captain Samuel Law, born at Square, Walsden, in 1819. He claimed to be the first discoverer of stilling the seas by pouring oil on them. As far back as 1849 he discovered that raw linseed oil was the best to calm the turbulent waters. He sailed the Great Lakes for many years, and then in 1874 turned to boat building at Cleveland, Ohio. He died there in 1906.

You can read all about him on:

www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/Documents/HGL2/default.asp?ID=s681

James and Mally's eldest son, John, who was born in Walsden in 1816, became a very successful farmer. He owned his own strip of land at Scarborough amounting to 100 acres. He and his wife Caroline Bell from Castleton in Yorkshire went on to have 11 children, all born in Scarborough. Brother Thomas was also a farmer with his sons at Pickering in South Ontario. Thomas and Mary his wife lost 2 children within a week in 1851, presumably through disease. The children and parents are buried at St. Margaret's.

 

The children are buried beneath flat stones, which are now covered with a yellow creeping plant and are almost buried themselves. They are next to their parents and grandparents.

Peter son of Thomas and Mary Law died August 9th 1851 aged 3 years 5 months and 3 days.

Elizabeth daughter of Thomas and Mary Law died August 17th 1851 aged 1 year 7 months and 6 days.

 

Thomas and Mary are buried beneath a dull grey stone, which is an upright rectangle, quite deep, weather-worn, and dimpled. They are next to James and Mally.

In memory of Thomas Law died November 11th 1906 aged 80 years 4 months. His wife Mary died May 3rd 1917 in her 91st. year.

 

(details and photographs of St. Margaret's cemetery very kindly supplied by Diana Davies)

 

Abraham, who departed for Australia, was never heard of again..........until now. Watch this space...............................

 

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