Mitchell Family 

Mitchell: of English and Scottish origin, derived from medieval Hebrew ‘Michel’ [1]

 

 

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Part 1: Thomas Mitchell Sr (c1777 - ?)

The earliest known Mitchell was Thomas Mitchell. He was born c1777 in Southowram, Yorkshire. His wife Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) was also born c1777 in Southowram. There is a marriage record for a Thomas Mitchell and Elizabeth Jagger in Halifax in 1799 but there is no other information to confirm this is the same couple.

Thomas was a cloth dresser, which involved cutting cloth. Cloth dressers were often known as ‘croppers’, wielding huge shears to crop the surface of the cloth to make it smooth, and they had an infamous reputation. Thomas’s fellow croppers in the West Riding of Yorkshire were the orchestrators of the Luddite protests in the 1810s. Machines were being introduced into factories that could shear cloth, making the cottage-based croppers redundant. The response of the croppers in Yorkshire was initially to take legal recourse. They lobbied for regulation and were able to prevent mechanization for a time. However, by 1809 Parliament had removed some of the protections and the Yorkshire Luddites began to view the government and business as both being complicit in the demise of workers’ livelihoods.

Machine-breaking became a form of protest (as had been done by other workers in other industries in the 18th century). The year 1812 saw a spate of violence break out in Yorkshire and 04 September of that year a mill was damaged in Southowram by some 100 Luddites. Whether Thomas had any part in this is not known but he might well have known some of those involved. In response to events in Yorkshire and other counties, machine-breaking became a capital offence in the United Kingdom (later to become punishable by transportation, then replaced with executions). The violent rhetoric between the croppers and the mill-owners came to a head near Huddersfield when two Luddites were shot dead by a mill owner and soon after a manufacturer was killed in an ambush. Seventeen Luddites were tried and hanged for the murder and machine-breaking became a sporadic occurrence. [2]

It is not known how many children Thomas and Elizabeth had but it is likely they had a son Thomas (more information appears in Part 2). In 1841, Thomas and Elizabeth were living in Whitegate, Southowram, with two grandsons. A decade later, 74-year old Thomas was receiving parish relief, possibly as he was unemployed or infirmed. Living in the same street during the same decade were Hannah Shaw and her brother William Mitchell, a cloth dresser, who were possibly siblings of Thomas. Elizabeth died in 1859 and was buried 31 August in St John the Baptist Parish Church. It is not known when Thomas died.

Next: Thomas Mitchell Jr

 

 

Footnotes

[1] www.surnamedb.com/Surname
[2] Luddite information from: ‘Writings of the Luddites’ edited by Kevin Binfield (John Hopkins University Press, 2004); the Luddite Bicentenary 1811-1817 (http://ludditebicentenary.blogspot.com.au/); the Luddite Link website (http://ludditelink.org.uk); ‘Social Unrest and Popular Protest in England, 1780-1840’ by John E. Archer (Cambridge University Press, 2000)