Sunday, February 17, 2013

Occupations of Robert Gillespie - Pottery?

The story of Robert Gillespie says that he came to Quebec from Armagh, Ireland with his eldest daughter, Mary Jane, around 1847.  Here are different mentions of Robert in the family documentation we have (with thanks to cousin D. for her ability to bring this information together):

"Robert Gillespie, the eldest brother, came out several years after James, farmed on the south side of Little River for some time, and later moved to Michigan...." (from the Baske stationery story)  So we don't know who Robert farmed for.

"Uncle Robert, brother of my Father, worked for a time for Mr. Andrews, a lawyer, on the other side of Scott's Bridge, then went to Michigan...."  (from Memories of My Early Childhood by Mary Gillespie Henderson, page 10).  Who was Mr. Andrews?

"To earn passage money to bring his wife and other children to Quebec, he worked in the William and David Bell Pottery on the south side of Little River." (from The Gillespie Family Record by Edith Gillespie, page 26).

This last story relating to pottery has generated some interest for us since we have not before associated any of our ancestors with this line of work.  Also the name BELL has some interest as there is some possibility that family might have originated from the same area of Armagh (see my post Irish Townlands).  But this reference to a particular business has lead to some research.

We have found some web links with reference to the William and David Bell Pottery Studio.  See here and here.  But there is another interesting link that sheds a little different light.  It is a catalog from the 1876 International Exhibition in Philadelphia, which was essentially the first World's Fair.  On page 172 under Ceramics - Pottery, Porcelain, Glass, Etc., there are two entries:

Note that #83 David Bell had a business making drain tiles in Little River, which was a location mentioned in Robert's story.  The #91 W. & D. Bell business make tobacco pipes (among other things, but I have found they seem to have been noted for making pipes).

So where did Robert work and for how long?  It's possible that the drain tile business did not exist 30 years earlier when Robert was first in Quebec, so it's hard to say.  It's always hard to say, but it's always fun to wonder.

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