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Contributions to Journal of Thomas W. Russell
Contributions (via e- mail) from readers regarding Thomas W. Russell’s Journal

After Thomas Russell's journal was posted to this site in March, 1999, I received comments from visitors who recognized locations, people and even terms which Thomas used in his journal and which were unfamiliar to me. Yes, even English, and especially phonetically-spelled Scottish words, are a foreign language to some Americans. I mean what American would know that an “Eiren Bead” is and ironing board?

Several persons made significant contributions and I wish to present them here. Their comments add much to the interpretation of Thomas’ journal in which he described the life and times of a coal mining family in England.

1. An e-mail [19 Oct 1999] from Colin Butterfield of Victoria, Canada, explained some of the chattel items that were sold just before Thomas Russell’s family left Durham. This was just the type of response from readers I was hoping for. Colin is a descendant of the Butterfields who were mentioned in Thomas’ journal! (See last paragraph of Colin’s email) below:

I'm living in Victoria Canada but was born and raised in Wheatley Hill. The Wheatley Hill History club is also fascinated by the journal you've taken the time to transcribe for us all to enjoy. I may be able to add a little information on some words:

Re. entry, July 27, 1881. Wheatley Hill Colliery. (page no. 82) sale items:

Bleser is a "Blazer", a sheet of iron with a handle used to divert the draft under the fire grate and through the coals to accelerate the fire igniting process. They were usually about 2 feet square to fit over the fireplace front.

“Fender” is a low guard in front of the fireplace about 12 inches tall, made from metal, usually highly polished. Designed to keep stray embers from falling into the room. The living room fender was usually lower and more elaborate, often pierced in a design. Fenders usually followed the profile of the hearth, a wide shallow "U" I____________I

“Eiren Bead” is I believe, an Ironing Board.

One set of “trease” is a set of trays.

A “Press” was a tall cupboard with shelves- often to hold linen or china.

A “sow meashen” is a sewing machine; I don't know why they didn't take it with them!

Re. entry, Dec 10 1877 pg 17: “Fornutey” is furniture, it seems Thomas was paying off credit.

Re, entry, Dec 17 1877: Thomas Russell wrote: ‘Mary ann got word from Wingate by two boys, they called them [their name was] Butterfield....’

Same as me! They were cousins of my direct ancestors living in Station Town. I suspect the word was about work and that the susequent move on Dec 26th resulted from the message the boys brought from the "Master" (Coal Owner).

Refernces to Henten or Renton may be to Rainton, a village near


Castle Eden Colliery was near Monk Heselden a short distance from Castle Eden itself.

2. An E-mail [17 Oct 1999] from Margaret Hedder of the Wheatley Hill History Club, Durham County, England, explained many of the people, locations, and terms used in Thomas‘ journal:
RE. Entry - Feb 15 1877

Thomas mentions being 'idle' for 8 months. Wheatley Hill coal owners - The Hartlepool Coal and Coke Company - went bankrupt on Friday 9 February 1877. The men were laid off and the dispute became known as "The Putt Pay", a term relatively unknown throughout the Durham coalfield and the country. It basically meant that the owners withheld the wages owing to the men and for eight months they had to keep body and soul together without any money at all.

RE. entry, 27 October 1877. Thomas Russell wrote: "This book I bought it at John Wilson".

John Wilson was the miners’ representative - a worker at the colliery who led the deputation to the management to discuss re-starting arrangements after the putt pay. The only conditions under which management would allow the pit to re-open was if Wilson left the pit and gave up his colliery house. Wilson did this - he rented a house in the village from the local schoolmaster and set himself up as a stationer! Eventually John Wilson became an Member of Parliament.

RE. entry, 30 October 1877 “... and it is verry bad pyemans stret".

Pymans Street was a row of miners cottages in Wheatley Hill. I have a map showing the lay-out of the village at the time your ancestor lived there.

RE. entry, 17 Dec 1877

Could the translation be: "Was the day that Mary Ann got word from South Wingate by two boys and they called them Butterfield". Butterfield is a common surname in the East Durham area - just a suggestion. [See Colin Butterfield’s e-mail above- RCK]

RE. entry, 24 June 1878: "... remove his things to the thrisel nest".

The Throstles Nest was a public house in the nearby village of Shotton Colliery.

RE. entry, 13 August 1878:

Wheatley Hill held an annual gala which was known locally as "sports day" and it was held in Mr Coopers field.

RE. entry, Late January 1879: "Shilton" near Ferryhill is actually "Chilton" - a former mining community.

RE, entry, May 1879

Mining Terms: "Bof Stterday" is actually "Baff Saturday" and referred to the time the miners were fortnighly paid - the "Baff Saturday" was the middle Saturday when there was no money! It's not known where the term came from.

I will find out what some of the other terms from this list means and let you know.

Re. entry, 27 July 1881

"Bleser" is actually either "Bleezer" or sometimes known as "Blazer" - a sheet of metal put in front of a coal fire to encourage the flame to grow - usually made at the pit by the colliery blacksmith

"Fender" is a low frame bordering a fireplace to keep in falling coals etc

"Desk, Bead and Book" I believe this may have been a Dess Bed - I am not sure how to translate this for you - I'll do some research and let you know.

"Press" referred to on the list of chattels is actually a substantial piece of furniture - similar to a dresser.

Since 1995 I have been writing articles on Wheatley Hill for the All Saints Church Magazine and it occurred to me that making a series of articles on this Journal would be extremely interesting to people who live in Wheatley Hill as it gives an excellent insight into how people lived in 1800's. Please let me know of you have any objections to my doing this. [I gladly obliged-RCK]

3. In Thomas Russell’s Journal, entry 4 Apr 1879, his thoughts were on his older brother, William Russell, who was scouting a place to settle in America, in “Founton County”, Snodon Mill”. Lesa Epperson, who used to live in Snoddy’s Mill in Fountain County, Indiana, had this to say:
I grew up in Fountain County, Indiana and most of my ancestors lived around Wabash Township, Fountain County Area. This is where Snoddy's Mill was located just south of Covington, Indiana. At the time of Snoddy's Mill, there was Stringtown to the north of the mill and Bunkertown to the south of the mill. The mill is now torn down, but the foundation still stands. It is located on Coal Creek that runs through Fountain County. Stringtown, Bunkertown and Vicksburg were all little towns that surrounded the coal mines in this area. The only town remaining is Stringtown, but it is just a group of houses. I have more information about the mill and the surrounding towns if you would like to have them. Just let me know.

I saw that you said that you couldn't locate the mill, so I thought this might help. One of my ancestors (William Cadman) came from England also to work in the mines. He settled just south of Snoddy's Mill about 1870.

I just wonder how much different my life and that of my father would have been if my great grandfather, Thomas W. Russell, had gone to Indiana instead of Pennsylvania. What is Fate?

4. And finally, I wish to thank Dave Cook for emailing me an image of Pymen’s Street in Wheatley Hill, where Thomas’ mother fell down and hurt her head.

I wish to thank all contributors and I hope we continue to uncover our history and heritage.
Pymen's street, Wingate, Durham Co Pymens street is horizontal street second up from bottom of image. Larger sturctures in center are the Chapel and Temperance Hall

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