Ties Across the Atlantic to America


The Forum website has enabled the descendants of Burradon families to 
renew their connection to the village. Barbara Yanico's family 
emigrated to America 130 years ago to start a new life and their story 
of their journey and an account of their new life has been retold on the 
Forum website. 

There is a further article on the website regarding John Wilson's 
involvement in the foundation of United Mineworkers of America's Union 
in 1890 which is a fascinating article and is a tribute to the memory of 
the miners who perished in the Burradon Colliery Disaster of 2nd March 



Dear Chris, 

I thought I would send you some initial information about my 
great-grandfather, Robert Kirkley, while I work on more 
detailed information about his link to our United Mine Worker's 
of America union. I also intend to provide information about 
his first cousin, John Smith Wilson. While my great 
grandfather's union involvement is documented in local history, 
Mr. Wilson's connection is a matter of more general public 
record. His account of the proceedings of the first convention 
of the UMWA, when the union was formally created, are even in 
the United States National Archives in Washington, DC. Although 
I have not established that John S. Wilson lived in Burradon 
per se (I have records that indicate he was born in Seghill on 
13 July 1867), his parents, Matthew Wilson (a miner) and Esther 
Scurfield Wilson, are recorded living at 11 Lane Row (without) 
in Hazlerigg in the 1861 census. I have not been able to locate 
the family in the 1971 census, and they emigrated to the U.S. 
in 1879. But there is definitely a Burradon/Camperdown 
connection there. 

I wrote the attached account of Robert Kirkley's life at the 
request of Cheryl Blosser who I met this last July and who is 
the person who informed me about Robert's connection to the 
formation of the UMWA. Cheryl is the president of the New 
Straitsville History Group (New Straitsville, Ohio is where 
Robert Kirkley spent most of his life in the United States). 
She is also very active in the Little Cities of Black Diamonds 
Council, a group that promotes the preservation of the history 
and culture of the mining industry and life of the area, the 
Hoacking Valley in Ohio (in 1976, a historian, Dr. Ivan Tribe, 
wrote a history of Hocking Valley coal area and the towns that 
were the coal "boom towns" that grew up in the area as his 
doctoral dissertation; he called these towns "Little Cities of 
Black Diamonds"). Cheryl is an avid historian and has a great 
deal of information about the area. 

You might find the Little Cities website informative. You can 
access it at: www.littlecitiesofblackdiamonds.org If you scroll 
down their homepage, under "National Significance" you can 
click on "Agents of Change in the Nations Labor Movement" which 
provides some context for the formation of the United Mine 
Workers. It was clearly the recent (i.e. 1870s-1880s) English 
and Welsh immigrant miners who were driving force in union 
organizing. Dr. Tribe's book comments on the "ethnic pride and 
strong union sentiments" of these miners. 

I am also going to send you, in a separate attachment, a 
wonderful photo of of Robert Kirkley and his family in which 
that ethnic pride is certainly evident. 

I know a lot of the family history I've attached is probably 
not relevant to your request for information about my great 
grandfather's union connections, which are only breifly 
presented. But I thought you might find what I have discovered 
about his time in Burradon useful. Except for having been born 
at Seghill, to my knowledge, Robert spent all his life lived in 
England in Burradon. You will also see in this history that I 
made good use of your wonderful website. 

Finally, like all family history writing, this is a work in 
progress. There are several items about Robert's life that are 
not included until I can find more infrmation about them. 
Robert clearly was very involved in the civic life of his 
adopted home in the U.S. A local book on New Straitsville 
history indicates Robert ran the town newspaper, the "New 
Straitsville Record" for some period of time bewteen about 1905 
and 1910. And I just learned in an e-mail from Cheryl Blosser 
today that she has discovered another photograph of Robert in 
their history materials from about the same time period. It is 
a very large photo of the elected town council, of which he was 
a member. Hopefully I can get a copy of this the next time I 
visit (next month). As you said in your e-mail, clearly the 
people who emigrated from the village of Burradon carried with 
them their beliefs in social justice and a strong civic 
mindedness and ethic of service. 

I have only just learned what I know about Robert's life in 
about the last year. With each new discovery, my pride in him 
grows. And I was very touched that you have an interest in his 


Barbara Yanico 

PS. By the way, I only just discovered last week that Robert's 
younger brother, Ralph Ramsay Kirkley (b. Burradon, 1865) was 
killed in the pits at age 19. According to information I found 
on the Durham Mining Museum website "Memorial Roll, " he was 
killed by a fall of stone while working as a hewer at Walker 
Colliery on 22 Oct 1884. (www.dmm.org.uk/names/index.htm)

Posted in


on Sep 03, 2017

Featured Images