- Family and Parenting
Annie Savage Sowerby, Neglected English Rose
She lies next to her husband, our tiny English rose, the bottom half of the stone glaringly blank thanks to their greedy son, Ike, who was too busy spending the family fortune - and some say, too cheap - to add his mother's name and dates below his father's on the black granite stone.
So there she lies for all eternity, neglected in death as she was in life after being uprooted from her beloved England and transplanted thousands of miles away in the gawdawful place where the Greedy Son would be born a few years later.
Oddly, most of the descendants who faithfully place flowers on the graves each year aren't the least bit disturbed that Annie's half is blank.
"It's just always been that way", they say.
It wasn't always this way, of course....
Victoria had been on the throne just over a decade when our English rose entered the world in Bolton, Westmorland, England, on March 6th, 1848, the eleventh child of John Savage and the former Ruth Dodd, who resided at the end of Bolton Lane. They named her Anne, but for the rest of her life she would be known as "Annie".
Annie's father was a farmer, but probably didn't have any crops or livestock of his own. More likely, he tended Eden Grove's.
Like her siblings before her, she was duly christened at All Saints, the village church, as would be the Savages' twelfth child, Thomas, two years hence. He would be their second Thomas, the first taken by the angels in 1831 before he was even a month old.
Annie's childhood would've revolved around worship at All Saints and religious celebrations, any events at "the Grove" that required or allowed the participation of villagers, and Market Day in Appleby, 3 miles distant.
Like most girls from large families of modest means, when she was old enough, Annie "went into service" with a family in Long Marton, on the other side of the river for which the Eden Valley was named.
In 1871, a young farm laborer named Philip Sowerby was employed in Bleatharn, near Warcop on the other side of Appleby, but much closer to Long Marton than his own village of Blencarn in Cumberland.
How they met is lost to history. It only matters that they did, and on the 26th of May, 1874, 26-year-old Annie married 22-year-old Philip, now a coal miner. Most likely the wedding took place at All Saints, but family records only show Bolton.
Two weeks before their first anniversary, daughter Mary Elizabeth entered the world in Crook, a mining town in neighboring Durham. She was followed two years later in Long Marton by Arthur, my future grandfather. By 1881, Philip had moved the little family to Penrith, in Cumberland, where he was a "carter master" (whatever that was) with three men in his employ. Annie now had her own live-in servant girl. Two more children would arrive in Penrith: Ruth in the spring of 1881 and John in the autumn of 1883.
Life as Annie knew it was about to change forever
In the early 1830s, Annie's uncle Thomas Savage had emigrated to Buffalo, New York, where he had established a dairy. By 1859 her brother James had joined him. Annie received letters urging her and Philip to come to Buffalo.
The American Line had weekly sailings to Philadelphia from Liverpool, departing "every Wednesday" (its newspaper ads proclaimed) and sometimes Saturdays. Apparently there were no exceptions for holidays, as Boxing Day (Dec 26th) 1883 was a Wednesday and the day that Philip, Annie and the children sailed for America on the British Crown. Built in Belfast in 1879 by Harland & Wolff, the same company that would later build the Titanic, H&W leased the British Crown to the American Line whose ships' names, oddly, all began with "British". It would be renamed the Amsterdam in 1887.
Even in cabin (second) class, crossing the North Atlantic in the dead of winter was not for the faint-hearted. Once on land again, Philip and family would see more snow than they'd ever seen in their lives as they made their way from Philadelphia to Buffalo, NY, where Annie and the children would stay with relatives while Philip went on to Osage City, Kansas...Kansas!... where he would return to coal mining while scouting land suitable for a dairy farm.
By the summer of 1884, Annie and the children had joined Philip in O.C.. By March 1885, they were counted as residents of both Osage City and Emporia, 20 miles away, where Philip had purchased the first of many parcels of land which would be part of the Sowerby Dairy on North Merchant St., just beyond Emporia's city limits. No record survives of Annie's first impressions of the place she would live for the rest of her life, but as one who has lived though many scorching Kansas summers, I strongly suspect she regretted ever leaving the gentler climes of her native northern England.
Osage City at least had a rather vibrant community of English immigrants, as did Burlingame, the area's other coal mining town. Emporia, not so much, as most of its residents were from "back east" or Midwest states like Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
Sadly, some time before the 1885 KS state census, baby John died. Family lore says it happened in Buffalo, but no records have ever been found to verify this or his actual place of death. John, however, would not be Philip and Annie's last child. That distinction goes to Isaac, aka "Ike, the greedy son", born in Osage City in 1888.
The dairy prospered and on New Year's Day 1907, Arthur, the un-greedy son who would inherit it, wed my 20-yr-old future grandmother, May.
They'd met while he was delivering milk to the family for whom she worked as a kitchen maid, so it's ironic that Grandma turned out to be something of a snob. She didn't marry an immigrant...she married the eldest son of a successful dairy family. Having in-laws from England living across the street was not an opportunity for her children to expand their knowledge of other cultures, let alone learn about their English roots. Not only did May avoid her mother-in-law as much as possible, she allowed - even encouraged - her children to do so, too. In fact, my mother seemed rather proud that she and her five siblings "never had much to do with Grandma Annie because she talked funny - we couldn't understand a thing she said".
So because Annie spoke British English, specifically Cumbrian, she was shunned by her own grandchildren who didn't have a clue that where she grew up, everybody "talked funny".
A year after Arthur marriage, his eldest sister Mary, distraught over the failure of her own marriage and recent death of an infant daughter, committed suicide by setting the family outhouse and herself on fire (or as my mother so indelicately put it, "torched herself in the toilet".)
Having lost an infant son and then a grown daughter, ignored by her eldest son's wife and children living a stone's throw away, one bright spot for Annie was the summer of 1912 when Philip took her back to England for a month. In anticipation of the journey, they bought new clothes and had studio portraits done by a local photographer, perhaps to send ahead to relatives they would visit.
No account of the trip survives, but they brought back photos of Eden Grove Manor in Bolton and son Arthur's birthplace in Long Marton, in the home of Annie's sister Isabella Robinson. Letters from Sowerby relatives in Penrith and Savage relatives in Appleby also mention their visits. Family lore says one of Annie received packages of newspapers from a brother in Penrith, supposedly a newspaper editor, but new information indicates the sender was a nephew in Buffalo, and the papers were American, not English.
Other than the visit to England, Philip never flaunted his wealth. Instead, it was put into trust funds he set up for Annie, the surviving children and their children.
All for naught, it turned out.
Ike, the greedy son, quietly had his father declared incompetent, and through several shady legal maneuvers secretly transferred every bit of money and control of Philip's land and property from the trusts to himself.
Property which included the house occupied by his widowed sister Ruth and her children that Philip had always said would be hers on his death. Instead, after Philip's death in 1924, Ruth was forced to rent it from brother Ike, who "came around like clockwork" on the first of every month to collect.
As for Annie, one family member recalled she nearly starved on the "allowance" Ike gave her (most likely Ruth's rent money), grudgingly doled out whenever he came by with wife Jessie to show off a brand-new car or some expensive new bauble. By 1930, Ruth and children had moved from "her" house into the home place with Annie, who died two years later at the age of 84.
Ike never quite got around to adding her name and dates below Philip's on the stone they share at Maplewood-Memorial Lawn Cemetery, even after "making a killing" on the sale of a chunk of Sowerby land to KDOT for the bypass around the north side of Emporia.
Instead, he and Jessie built a "show home" in the former pasture across the driveway from the "home place" (formerly Philip and Annie's house, now occupied by Arthur and May and their daughter Edna and her family), a home they would later sell to KSTC (Kansas State Teacher's College, now ESU) before moving to Birmingham AL to be near Jessie's daughter Kathleen. The college used it as its Home Economics Lab.
In the early 1960s the "home place" was moved to the other end of town and turned into a rental property, which for a short time was rented by one of Philip and Annie's great-granddaughters who had no idea at the time she was living in her mother's childhood home! ESU built tennis courts on the spot formerly occupied by the "home place", and part of the stone wall Philip built circa 1890 to shore up the front yard is still visible at one corner.
Despite the tragedies, some photos of Annie suggest she retained her English sense of humor, so perhaps she'd get a chuckle, as I always did, at the irony of ESU situating its Phys Ed Center in a pasture where Sowerby Dairy cows once grazed, a building which includes a salad bar where overweight two-legged "cows" now "graze".