East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Elizabeth Jeffords (EJ)
Interviewers: Ellen Sheehan (ES) and Wendy Moody (WM)
Date of interview: February 25, 2015
Place: Epicure Café, Conrad Street, East Falls
WM: It’s February 25, 2015 – Ellen Sheehan and Wendy Moody from the East Falls Historical Society are interviewing Elizabeth Jeffords, the great-great granddaughter of John Dobson.
So welcome, Elizabeth – thank you very much for coming today. We are interested in your life and in any memories or stories that have been passed down through the family.
So first why don’t you tell us when and where you were born and a little bit about your youth.
EJ: I was born in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York. I was from my father’s second marriage – you might someday get to interview people from his first marriage.
WM: What are your parent’s names?
EJ:My father’s name is Walter Morrison Jeffords II. And his father, Walter Morrison Jeffords Sr. is buried at St. James the Less, as well as my mother and father and they’re right in the Dobson lots.
WM: I’ve seen those beautiful plots.
EJ: And if someone could take a good picture of Sarah Dobson’s plot, there is not one on “Find a Grave.” People say “We’re looking for the Find-a-Grave picture for Ancestry.com and nobody took it.” I went to look at it a couple of days ago – someone is going to have to have very good light because it’s a white stone and it’s been worn away – right next to John Dobson’s.
WM: I think I might have a picture of it already but it might not be good enough.
EJ: If you could forward that to me I can send it to some cousins who are desperate.
WM: And your date of birth?
EJ:My date of birth…now I was never there – I was there at the time but I was so young that I just have to trust what other people said and they told me I was born on August 2 back in 1950.
WM: And your mother’s name?
EJ:My mother’s name was Kathleen McLaughlin – I’m sorry, Kathleen Hazel McLaughlin so it would be easier to find her. Kathleen Hazel McLaughlin, but I think she was buried as Mrs. Walter Jeffords. But I don’t think my sister ever actually put a stone for it.
ES: And where was your mother born?
EJ: My mother was born in Brooklyn, New York – in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York.
EJ: No, I don’t know which hospital but Park Slope is the neighborhood of Brooklyn. It’s on the side that comes down from Prospect Park.
WM: And what church did they go to?
EJ:Well, now we were – my father was an Episcopalian and the only church I’ve ever seen him possibly being a member of was St. James the Less. So he didn’t attend services there and I’ve never seen him go to church except for weddings or funerals.
ES: So you were brought up in a church?
EJ: I was brought up as a Catholic because I was baptized at the age of ten and my sister at the age of eight because my Irish grandfather was scared of going to his death without having all of his children baptized.
WM: And speaking of your sister, what siblings do you have?
EJ:Direct siblings – full siblings, I have Sarah Dobson Fiske Jeffords – that’s named after my grandmother and I have a George Vincent McLaughlin Jeffords who is named after my grandfather – my mother’s father.
WM: I wonder if I interrupted you about the church, so you…
EJ: We went to an Episcopalian school – St. Bernard’s School in New York City as did my brother George and my sister Sally, or Sarah, went to Chapin School in New York City. So they were basically Protestant schools, but then my sister and I had to go – because we were unbaptized – to the Helpers of the Holy Souls in Purgatory after school for catechism (Laughter)
Needed to get the kid baptized immediately!
EJ: The Helpers of the Holy Souls in Purgatory convent and Mother Mary of Providence was, I guess, the founder.
WM: How were you feeling about that?
EJ: It was excellent as I got further along because I was learning Protestant Latin in grade school and I was learning Catholic Latin in the Helpers of the Holy Souls – that’s when it was still a Latin church, not an English church.
ES: What year would have that been?
EJ: That would have been in the 1960’s, before 1965. I was baptized at the age of ten so they were preparing me for baptism I guess in 1960 – then they had almost immediate – in the next year or so – I was communed and then confirmed.
ES: What is the address of that school, do you know?
EJ: The school? St. Bernard’s is at 4 East 98th Street in Manhattan but that might be the wrong number because it’s been many years since I was there.
WM: And going back, what is your full name and address?
EJ:My full name is – and that depends on how people look at it. As far as the U.S. Government looks at it, it is John Dobson Jeffords. If you go by most records that are used nowadays – it is Elizabeth John Dobson Jeffords.
ES: So you were named after your great great grandfather.
EJ: There’s many people – you’ll find that the Schofield’s have many John Dobsons – even today.
WM: And your address now?
EJ: My address is Denver, Colorado.
ES: Oh, I thought you were living in India.
EJ: I live in India as well, and that is Bangladore, India.
WM: And do you have an email address so we can send you the transcript?
EJ: I wouldn’t put it on the tape (break in recording)…India… All children need to go to school and I pay for their education?
ES: All 50 of these children?
EJ: More than 50. You can thank John Dobson.
WM: We will. But let’s go back to John Dobson – that’s a good segue. I wonder if you could share with us any memories that your family has shared with you going all the way back to John Dobson – his personality or his coming here to begin the mill…
EJ: Now this is where you’re going to get conflict between me and my cousins – not my cousins, my siblings.
WM: We’re interested in your interpretations.
EJ: Ok, I’ve done the research into him. I grew up in a family that believed they were descended from the early people who settled the United States. That would be the Jeffords. You’ll find them going very far back and you’ll find that that tree is the Montgomerys, Jeffords, things like that. So that is what gave an entrée into society in Philadelphia and in New York and in the United States as well. John Dobson’s father was a tavern owner and a farmer in Leesfield, Yorkshire.
WM: Do you know what dale that is?
EJ: It’s in West Yorkshire. Do you know where Oldham is? On one side of the moors there’s some kind of tv show that’s very famous that people watch all the time and this is on the other side closer to Manchester and Oldham. The Schofield-Minor(?) family is very heavy in that area. The largest amount of Schofields in the world are in that area.
WM: So John’s father was a tavern owner?
EJ:He owned a beer tavern that he sublet from a man who leased it in Stamford (?) and John’s father, this was William – his father not his brother William – leased lands from Stamford to approximately where the tavern was. You’ll find in one period of time that part of the family is identified in the censuses in the tavern and the other part is identified across the street with the person who preceded Mike Ousey’s great grandmother and Andrew’s – William married Ann Andrews – then part of the family – brothers and sisters probably moved into more spacious house across the street.
WM: How many children did William have?
EJ: I don’t have good numbers…
WM: There were James and John…
EJ: There were James and John and I think there were three sisters. But that’s on Ancestry.com. You can pull all that up on Ancestry.com. I use Ancestry.com and found over 15,000 family members on my tree.
WM: Tell us what you have heard about your great great grandfather John.
EJ: This is exactly what we were getting into – is that the family stressed for history Jeffords which they knew very little about. They just hinted at it. For immediate history it was John but they didn’t talk about it very much. We had in Hunting Hill, which is now Ridley Creek State Park…
ES: How old were you when you moved to Hunting Hill?
EJ:In Hunting Hill – my parents moved – my grandmother – well John died in 1912 and she was then shared between her aunt, who was the younger sister of her mother. Elizabeth Dobson married Samuel Riddle who owned Man-O-War the horse. And Samuel Riddle was the son of Samuel Riddle Sr. who had come over from Belfast to open textile mills in Delaware County, in what is now called Glen Riddle. At that time it was called Rockdale or Rochdale. It’s very interesting that that’s where the Schofield’s came from so you can start to see the web of textiles.
Elizabeth’s first husband was, I believe, a cotton salesperson who’s buried right next to her over there because Sam Riddle is buried in the Middletown Presbyterian graveyard near Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania. He died about six or seven years after Elizabeth Dobson married Riddle.
(break in recording)
EJ: ….and it was bought with public funds.
ES: They owned the (?)
EJ: What happened was that people trusted an institution. Institution managers changed over time. The managers who were there at the time had no relation to the history of St. James the Less. There were better, more economically feasible, churches in Philadelphia than that church. And the parishioners and the population who lived around it, were not involved with the church – if they were involved with church at all, they were involved with other churches.
WM: Were any of your relatives married there?
EJ: Loads of them. I have about 120…I gave you the list, didn’t I? About 120 relatives buried in that church.
ES: Buried there – oh my gosh.
EJ: You can put this bundle of addresses together, I suspect that many of those people buried over there were textile workers who came over from Yorkshire. It’s interesting that the majority of the textile workers didn’t come from John Dobson’s town because his father was not from there. They came from Batley, where John Dobson’s mother was and they were textile workers in Batley, which is further northwest of Lees.
ES: My neighbor, Lynn Seider – her grandfather came over as a plush expert
EJ: Uh huh. And plush – and what’s the other one – where they take the old cloth and make new cloth. They grind it up – that’s what Batley was known for.
WM: I had read that James (Dobson) was in charge of the carpet and John was in charge of the velvet and the blankets.
EJ: And what was William in charge of? I have the feeling that may be somebody’s story. The way the structure is – William was older, Charlie and William started in the textile mills when they were very young. James was just a child at that time – just 2 or 3 years old.
WM: Now this was in England?
EJ: In England.
WM: Because I know they came to Mill Creek, didn’t they, before they came to East Falls?
EJ: I’m not sure where Mill Creek is.
WM: Mill Creek. The research I have was that the owner – that was the Schofield’s father? –
EJ: He was in Manayunk
WM: Yeah. The owner became his father-in-law.
EJ: Ok. And that’s where you should – if you’re going to do the real thing – in the old days, we were not very productive in factory workers. The Schofields frequently managed the Dobson Mills, particularly after William died.
ES: Have you been up to see the Schofield building that’s still there?
EJ: No I haven’t. I’ve seen it from the outside, but I thought Bob and I were going to go today and just cause trouble… Obviously Bob has a serious problem today and couldn’t show up
ES: If you walk along the towpath next to the canal the building is there.
EJ: Ok, that would be easy to find.
ES: And I’m not sure if it says Schofield or Sevill?
EJ: Sevill is the son who took over from his father and basically took care of his mother until she was buried over there at Laurel Hill. Both Joseph and Malley Schofield are in Laurel Hill. You can take pictures of that. That brings the Schofields back to East Falls.
ES: Do you know where they’re buried?
EJ: I think I have the numbers, but they’re very close to the Jeffords – about a few feet from the Jeffords. And even better is that my half-brother’s mother’s family is buried with a perfect view of the mills – looking straight across Ridge Road.
WM: Did they tell you anything Abbottsford, the mansion – any memories of that?
EJ:Is Abbottsford the one where John lived or …?
WM: John. Bella Vista was James.
EJ: We did have a picture of my grandmother in a carriage at the front door of that.
ES: Oh really?
EJ: Well I suspect what happened is that my mother was not very fond of my father’s family – it’s the same situation – her family came over and were working class and became very successful in New York but she was Irish – she grew up as an Irish girl trying to make a place for herself in a Protestant world. And the best thing was to minimize anything that compared to her family. She destroyed her family. After my father died, she destroyed most things having to do with the history of my father’s family. And then she masqueraded as Mrs. Walter Jeffords, my grandmother, in many cases. You’ll see in many pieces of interviews, and things like that, that she’s taking credit for what my grandmother Mrs. Sarah Dobson Fiske Jeffords did.
So this is the culture – you have to realize first of all that the Dobsons were manual laborers – and very successful manual laborers – who went up – who married, in my grandmother’s case, into a successful long-term American family that can trace themselves back to the 1600’s. That then washes off some of the manual labor stuff.
One time my grandmother said to me, because my grandparents never met one another – my mother wouldn’t allow that to happen – they did meet at the wedding and things like that – but that was about it. But my grandmother said, one time “You know, I really like your grandfather” and I thought she was talking about her husband, and I said “Yeah, he was a nice guy” and things like that and they had a great life together – but she said “No, I really like your mother’s father.” She thought he was a very nice person because again he was the same sort of person that her grandfather had been.
He was from a farming family in Northern Ireland and his father had come over to be a ferry captain and my mother’s father went on to become chief bank (?) of New York, then the police commissioner of New York, then the head of Brooklyn Trust which he merged with Manufacturers Hanover Trust. He was also the Vice-Chairman with Bob Moses of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority – building everything from the Throgs Neck Bridge, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and he was part of the permanent government of New York City. They never were elected – they controlled the city from the late 1920’s when Jimmy Walker was in there all the way through the arrival of John Lindsay after Robert Wagner in the 1960’s. But they were not elected…. (break) my working class cousins – they’re all over Delaware County. Even in New “Joisey”.
WM: So he started as a laborer and became a successful mill owner with his brother – there are a lot of stories – so he’s the generation that saw the big transition of the socio-economic transition…
EJ: I think his mother saw it first. Elizabeth….the Industrial Revolution had started and it was not a disgrace to have a piece of farmland and then to put all of your kids into the factory because the kids were given a regular paycheck and the person with the farmland might be given a little something for the eggs but if he had any crops or something, the crops could fail. So factory work became a form of stability for the farmers.
John’s father, or grandfather, had been employed by the Howards of Howard Castle. So they probably had gotten a good farm worker or something like that – the next thing you find of his father is that he has gotten my great-grandmother pregnant in Batley. They get the baby, get married, and three months later bring the baby in for baptism. The child is baptized – obviously everybody knows what’s going on. In the early 1820s that was not considered appropriate. It’s not like modern Philadelphia, ok?
EJ: And so what you find is them shifting back up to Castle Howard – John, being born in North Yorkshire and baptized up there near Castle Howard. Then a few years later you find them coming back down to Elizabeth Snowden’s area, which is Batley again, which is West Yorkshire. Maybe because they needed to have money, which you would get working in textile mills, possibly his name’s been damaged there as well from having illegitimate children – or one child that was produced before marriage. We then find there were no more baptisms in the Batley area and the next set of baptisms were when they had gotten down to Lees/Leesfield in West Yorkshire.
Now there is one man (?) – I forgot his name – that also had property next to Castle Howard who had a park named after him in Batley and it’s roughly from the same time. So it’s a possibility he was a good worker and he managed to move, because I can’t find him in a census as a partner in Batley, but he never worked in the mills – I never found him in any census working in the mills….his wife’s family – Snowden mills – they then moved down to Leesfield to the other mills – Upper Mill and things like that – and he then gets land from Lord Stafford and puts the kids into the mills. And the land that he has is next to some of the best mills
WM: Do you think they designed Dobson Mills on these English mills?
EJ:100% – they are the classic mills that were being built in England. Everything here is English. I tried to give the textile collection from the Manchester Library to that useless university you have here, and they said they wouldn’t take it so I didn’t purchase it. It had all the patents, except for the offering (?) patents, obviously someone had gotten that, but you don’t have a facility with the capability of taking care of the area – and it’s right in the area. I spoke with the head librarian, and spoke with people there who were in charge of it, and they said it was too large – it’s 120 feet of shelf space. You would probably have had the only book collection of patents from up to 1920.
WM: How interesting. Moving forward, because we have limited time…
EJ: And many of the things they did, they patented in England before they patented in America. Which then means they were aware here that someone could come over here and take the machine and use it over there and compete with them.
ES: They were very savvy.
EJ: They were very good businessmen. The first person you have to look at is William Dobson, who nobody talks about. He was the oldest brother. He was earning between $500,000 and a million dollars a year as the shop foreman by today’s standards.
WM: That’s so interesting.
EJ: Do you think they were paying him that money because he was just a useless machine worker? He was the brains. I guarantee you he was in there before John but he was illiterate.
(break in recording)
EJ: ….I had to go back and forth – it’s only 90 miles. My oldest brother went to school at Episcopal and then went to Lawrenceville, as almost all my family did – on both sides went to Lawrenceville.
ES: This is George, your brother?
EJ: No, Roger. George went to school in New York – this is my oldest half-brother – my only half-brother. And so my father had Walter in Episcopal at the time…
ES: You mean Episcopal here?
EJ: Right here. His mother lived in Paoli. Do you know where Paoli is?
EJ: Just checking. I remember growing up and saying it to people who weren’t from Philadelphia and they’d say “Where? Paoli”?
EJ: Ok. So they didn’t like Episcopal. For social reasons, even though we had Quakers in the family, they didn’t want to go to Westtown.
ES: So where did you go?
EJ: I went to school in New York City – St. Bernard’s, as did my sister. The education in the schools in New York was significantly better than the ones in Philadelphia, because obviously we could go to the best of the schools if we wanted to. They did not feel that the Philadelphia schools were the same level as Chapin – you know, Richard Nixon’s daughters went to Chapin.
And all sorts – Rockefellers and everything like that. And the same thing with St. Bernard’s – you just go through the list of people – even relatives of Nadar, in India, are going to St. Bernard’s today. So those are schools you go to – you go with school with members of families who have already made it, and there’s a good chance, if you’re having a hard time finding a job,
Somebody will say “Oh, I know that person – we’ll give them a job!”
ES: (laughter) So, how long were you there in elementary school or high school?
EJ: St. Bernard’s was an elementary school. First I went to St. David’s, which is a Catholic school which was established for what they considered upper crust Catholic society – my grandfather got us into there. (Name?) – the head of the supreme court in New York was a friend of my grandfather’s – and so they put us in there even though my brother was the only baptized one. My brother was there for two years; I was there for one year and my grandfather – my Irish grandfather – said “The only thing this school is going to teach you to do well – is going to give you – is good handwriting. It’s a useless school.” John F. Kennedy, the one who died in the plane crash, ended up going there – they did it to please his father – he should have gone to an Episcopal school.
And so we got shifted because my father was Episcopalian and knew lots of high church Episcopalians in New York City – particularly people who would be on Wall Street and things like that. So we got shifted to them and that’s where I stayed the last seven years of my schooling. And my brother the last two years of his schooling.
ES: So you finished up what would be high school…
EJ: I finished grade school, which would have been to 8th grade and then my brother went to St. Mark’s, which was in Southborough, Massachusetts – that’s a very good boarding school, and I went to Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut, which was sort of a mediocre but, as opposed to an Episcopalian, was a Baptist or Congregationalist school, so it gave me a lot broader perspective of the world than I would have gotten if I went to …
ES: What was the name of it?
EJ: Yes. That’s why it sort of follows me – people think I had a military career – “I graduated from Gunnery School – “Oh, which guns did you learn to use??” It’s named after Mr. Frederick Gunnery.
WM: And after that?
EJ:University of California, Berkeley, and I eventually graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
WM: Did you have a career?
EJ: I was an architect.
WM: Can you tell us a little about that – what you designed or where…
EJ: Nothing really.
EJ: Domestic. Stores. I was employed for two years by a company called Smith and Yauch.
ES: Can you spell Yauch?
EJ: You don’t know anything about the Beasty Boys?
EJ: Noel Yauch’s son was Adam Yauch of the Beasty Boys.
ES: Who knew?
EJ: Adam Yauch was the one who died of cancer two or three years ago.
ES: So when you were in New York you were employed as an architect.
EJ: In Brooklyn. Right down the street from the branch of Manufacturers Hanover Trust that my grandfather, George McLaughlin, had run. And I would go there and they would take me up to his office and, even then, I guess he worked till the early ‘60’s, there were still employees there who remembered him. All they wanted to do was talk about him. He was a wonderful man.
ES: And you don’t remember him?
EJ: I remember him. He was great. I was only allowed to be in Saratoga for a short period of time because my parents wanted to have that room – so my parents would come and take the room I had in Saratoga during the summer and I would go farther to the Adirondacks to stay with my mother’s grandfather on Louise Lake.
WM: And were they horseracing in Saratoga?
EJ: My parents were horseracing and my grandfather was meeting with all the people he knew from the firm. They would sit at the lake and talk about everything you could imagine about the history of New York City.
ES: Now you were close to your grandmother, I think.
EJ: I was close to her and I was also close to my mother’s father.
ES: And did they have to raise you when you were there in the summer?
EJ: Well, when I would stay with my grandmother it would be vacations, it would be summers…
ES: Was it a happy time?
EJ: It was an excellent time. There is a person who is probably a relation of ours – Annie (?) McHale – who was brought over from Ireland who, when she was twelve years old, to be my father’s babysitter. And there are lots of McHales who worked in the factory and even married into the Dobson family. So I suspect she’s probably one of those McHales. But she was brought over as a young girl and she spent the rest of her life working for my grandmother. She raised my father; she raised my half-brother whose mother – this I won’t talk about – she spent a lot of time with my grandmother until he got sent away to Lawrenceville, then she raised me.
ES: Is she buried at…
EJ: I don’t know where she’s buried. Her family was in Philadelphia – and also in Camden – because she brought a lot of her cousins over. But we didn’t know anything about her. She was just like another servant.
WM: What was this grandmother’s name?
ES: We’re talking about your grandmother…
EJ: I think she’s buried at St. James the Less. She’s Mrs. Walter Jeffords. Senior.
ES: When we came here – when was that, February or March?
EJ: There was too much snow and ice
ES: You trooped through the snow and ice to find your grandmother’s grave. And you weren’t here for her burial.
EJ: Yes, I was here for her burial.
ES: Oh were you?
EJ: I wasn’t here for my mother’s.
ES: I see.
EJ: I didn’t come for my mother’s – I came for my father’s. None of us were allowed to go to my grandfather’s because in those days – this was in the 1960’s, they thought it was inappropriate to bring children to funerals because you didn’t want little children to know they could die.
WM: So this grandmother was the child of John?
EJ: She was the granddaughter of John. Her mother was Mary Dobson and Mary Dobson died of complications of childbirth.
WM: So Mary and John had one child; right?
EJ:Mary and Samuel Louis Fiske had one child.
WM: Your great-great grandfather John Dobson…
EJ: Had two children – Elizabeth Dobson Riddle and Mary Dobson Fiske. Elizabeth Dobson Riddle and Mary Dobson Fiske are both buried over there – I’m not sure which last names they have on their tombstones but they’re all squeezed in very close to Sarah Schofield Dobson and John Dobson. And Elizabeth Dobson’s first husband is buried there – Mr. Young – I forget what his first name is.
ES: So she was married to Young and she was married to Riddle.
WM: Did your grandmother ever tell you anything that they had told her about the mill?
EJ: She talked about growing up here and she also had a document showing that she had graduated from a women’s college up here. And I don’t remember the name, but I think it was something like Germantown Women’s College, but then I find out there’s a college right next to Abbottsford that was a medical college.
WM: That’s right; Women’s Medical College.
EJ: But she got a degree in botany, not a degree in medicine. So her document said she had a degree in botany. That might have meant that she couldn’t do medicine. You figured it was right across the street from where she was living…
ES: But it wasn’t there then. It was there in 1929.
EJ: Ok. Then she couldn’t have gone there.
ES: No, but it was down in center city. So they started down there and then they built this new building.
EJ: Is there a Germantown Women’s College?
WM: Haven’t heard of that.
EJ: Because I think I remember something about Germantown and obviously we had mills up in Germantown as well.
ES: Germantown is a very old community. And it was more prestigious, so to speak, so they could have had a university for women.
EJ: I would check to see if there were a women’s university there – that’s a good search.
ES: And that was Mary that had this degree?
EJ: No, it was Sarah Dobson Fiske, my grandmother.
ES: She was a very educated woman.
EJ: She was very educated and she had very large greenhouses. And she was a botanist – a really serious botanist. And every year at the Flower Show there would be hundreds if not thousands of flowers that she brought in from her greenhouses. She was very good friends with the DuPonts at Longwood Gardens and they would swap gardeners back and forth.
ES: Did you have an interest in botany growing up?
EJ: Yes. I spent a great deal of time in the gardens and things like that. That’s what I did in the summers. We had large vegetable gardens as well – maybe an acre and a half or two acres of vegetable gardens. And orchards.
ES: What a fascinating life. I think there were many, many greenhouses in the area.
EJ: Oh it was something that was an acceptable pastime for women.
WM: There were some greenhouses over by Ravenhill
ES: Oh, many, many. And also behind the Kelly House with Mosey Brown.
EJ: The thing is, my grandmother said you can grow anything you want in Pennsylvania – we looked at the Burpee Catalog: “Can we grow this?” She’d say you could grow anything in Pennsylvania as long as it said temperate climate.
Recorder turned off for a break, resuming mid-sentence. (Track 2 on CD)
ES: They were so nice – they were so happy to see you – they took pictures
EJ: I will not say anything wrong about Dobson Mills because they were very, very nice people and they were very cordial to us.
ES: Were you happy to see that it still has the name Dobson Mills?
EJ: I was very happy to see the name Dobson Mills is there. And if we can afford to put the “D” back on top of the smokestack, you go down there and tell them I will help donate to replace the D in Dobson.
ES: That would be cool.
EJ: You have to realize that the place had stood vacant for a long time and it had been under other people’s possession for a long time vacant, and they had an economic necessity to deal with that piece of land and I suspect – I hadn’t seen the mill – but I suspect that it was not in good shape for a coop. So that’s why they had to tear it all down. As an architect, I suspect that…
I would rather the brewery was there….we were over there tasting some fine brew…so time changes, and in my case, I go lots of places and see vacant lots where my family lived or things that are far different than what would have been there years ago…
WM: I don’t know if you’ve been to the main library’s map collection but they have detailed fire atlas maps of the mill – very detailed – where all the buildings were and what they were used for.
EJ: It would be good to see. Didn’t the mapping company do it for insurance purposes? Both the Jeffords in Port Richmond and the Dobsons here – they have them and I’m sure the Schofields…
ES: The scope of it is amazing, isn’t it? When you look at the blueprint of the factory…
EJ: Well it wasn’t built all in one fell swoop – it was built as they added more things that they could do and I think, as you probably read, that (unclear)…What they did, as opposed to where they came from is they built adjustable looms – so their looms – they could weave virtually any type of yarn and produce virtually any type of textile – carpets, blankets…
ES: They were adaptable.
EJ: They were adaptable.
WM: Was that new to America?
EJ: It was a new concept period. If you look at the mills – and this is what proprietary capitalism is really based upon – the difference why (?) became up and Massachusetts just stayed where it was, was they didn’t have proprietary looms in Massachusetts – they didn’t have adjustable looms in Massachusetts and they attempted to sell the same product (?) year after year after year. If John Dobson or Jim Dobson went down to the port and saw someone get off the boat with a new sort of product (?), he could come back
ES: And duplicate it.
EJ: Can we do this? I think we can sell this. I think it will be in operation within 3 to 6 months.
ES: Do you have any photographs or information about the original mill down at Wissahickon Creek? One that burned down, apparently.
EJ: There were lots of mills on the Wissahickon Creek.
ES: It was a Dobson mill.
EJ: I have no knowledge of it at all.
ES: We have a picture of it.
EJ: If you’ve got that, I’d love to see it. I’d love to see it.
WM: Were there other innovations that the Dobsons brought to the mills besides the adjustable loom?
EJ: …..go to Ancestry.com – there were lots of things…there were lots of fights…who had the right to them and things like that…and then there were fights about the dyers – in England, a dyer was considered an independent person so all his dye books with all his mixtures of what he was doing to make the color belonged to the dyer. When they came to America, they became an employee and at that point the dye book belonged to the company, not to the dyer.
ES: My neighbor, Seider, was brought over as a dyer.
EJ: If you couldn’t get the color right, you might as well forget about some of the cloth, right?
And if you wanted to have it as close as possible to what you saw when they did the first part of your house, when they did an extension, it’s good to have that dyer with his dye book to remember what sort of color he put together.
ES: Tell me, is it true that the Dobson Mills had the contract for the Civil War blankets?
EJ: The Schofields, the Jeffords, and the Dobsons – and I suspect at that point the mills would subcontract to other mills that would subcontract to other mills. If you had a big order and you couldn’t do it yourself, you found the other mills that could do it for you. It wasn’t locked into a bunch of investors like in Massachusetts – we had hundreds of mills, hundreds of spinners, hundreds of dyers – obviously they were fighting over one guy’s book. And, as needed, the people either made the stuff in their place and brought the yarn over to Jim Dobson because he wouldn’t do it or the Schofields or any of the others. There’s also other Schofields as I’m sure you’re aware of. The Walter Elmer Schofields – his father – that’s the oldest- had textile mills too, and they came from the same town as the Schofields and the Dobsons.
WM: Have you heard anything about strikes at the mill? I had read something that when the workers would strike, the management would bring in workers from England that they said had “new skills” for a new product, and that’s how they got around it…did you know anything about that?
EJ:I don’t know anything about the internal workings but all three of us arrived in America in the 1860’s so we watched things – ‘50’s and ‘60s. Strikes – you can never really write a history of the strike because there’s so much interaction between the individuals. At the end, you just have this ball of wax and you pull out one little piece that is going to be the story, but if you have a strike with 1000 employees, you’ll have 1000 stories. If you bring in the army or police you have even more stories. And then you have the stories of what caused the strike, to start off. They’re very human conglomerations (?). So I would have to particularly research a particular strike to get the story – I wouldn’t know – but one thing which I will say is that there were strikes. And there were interrelationships between the owners and the factory workers, but one thing you have to remember is that many of those factory workers were relatives of the owners.
If I’ve got 120 dead bodies in St. James the Less, I don’t think they came over here to make candy downtown.
ES: What do you know about the personalities of James and John Dobson?
EJ:I know virtually nothing about James because he wasn’t my line of the family. I knew his great-great granddaughter very well. And she was a friend of the family. And I met her brother who was the inventor – James Dobson Altemus – maybe two times when I was a kid but I didn’t know much about him. I learned more about him over the last year by researching him. But again he was the one who was the step-father to one of Thomas Carnegie’s children. Remember you said some of the stuff was donated by the Carnegie Foundation so that could have been at the same time.
ES: What do you know about John Dobson’s personality?
EJ: There are a lot of stories. My grandmother was absolutely addicted to (?) Other people say he was a person who was only interested in textile mills and his horse and carriage. His horse and carriage was his pastime – his life was the mills.
ES: What about the Dobson’s house in East Falls?
ES: Where they lived in East Falls. Did they start out on Indian Queen Lane in a house there?
EJ:I don’t know. Quite honestly I didn’t even know Indian Queen Lane existed until I came here last year. What you probably could do is go through these properties I’ve given you – some of them actually cover properties a little bit further away from you and some cover the ones here. The easiest way to find it is to do a title search – I know there was some property that you think belonged to James Dobson or John Dobson or something like that…
ES: The Hohenadel house…
EJ: And have you done a title search?
ES: No, but people who have say there is no record of it. People who lived there – across the street – remember that Mrs. Dobson lived there. I don’t know…that she had a harp or something.
EJ: She might have been a friend. When she was getting older or when she was a child?
ES: No, I thought it was before they moved to Abbottsford.
EJ: Let me tell you – and you know this better than I do – if there is a name that can sell (?) a piece of property, that name will be attached to the property. So I would say, where I would first look – it’s on the censuses – and you can get the censuses all the way back to 1850. And I probably have them – I’d have to look at them but you can get the rough area where they were. I suspect that they came down here because there was a lot of additional factory land in Manayunk and also, possibly, because there the water was better for running the mills. Because originally they were water mills. After you switched to steel it was a different story. So the thing I would look at is – the Schofields were Roxborough-oriented people and Joseph Schofield, who is buried down here, in 1857, there could have been some movement from Manayunk down to East Falls for economic reasons.
ES: What about the railroads? They came in in the 1850’s – 1856, 57….
EJ:Why did he build a house at the crossroads of two railroad lines – one line is here and his factory is over the hill from that. That line goes back to his house and the other line goes down next to the factory.
WM: I read that he owned a lot of property around the railroad. I also read that when Allegheny Avenue was being cut through John was very upset that it was going to be disturbing to his property. Apparently he sued and they awarded him some damages, but, beyond that, he built a wall around it to protect his property. Do you know anything about that?
EJ: I don’t know about that but I think you will see that even though St. James the Less started before they became successful, he very rapidly – and this you can find through title searches – these houses and other properties between his house and St. James the Less – because I found last year some evidence that showed that we gave land to St. James the Less. And we also built the house that the gentleman who’s the head of the school lives in. So there was a great relationship between the Dobsons and St. James the Less. And I think one aspect of that is that it did help bring them a little bit closer to the people who were members of the Episcopal Church down town where all the famous people are buried – I’ve got family buried there too. So you have to realize he was a person who hadn’t been here for generations.
ES: What do you know about fires and things like that that happened at the mill?
EJ:Factory fires – you either… because you needed some money or an accident happened but I wouldn’t know what the basis of them were.
ES: There were periodic fires…
EJ: The funny thing about it – this is where we were backward compared to England. England switched to steel-structured mills when the Dobsons were still building the mills out of wood. So I’m not sure if we didn’t have the steel manufacturing capacity to switch to fireproof mills or it was just cheaper to build them, have them burn down, and build them back within a year.
WM: Do you know anything about the Dobsons’ connection with Falls Presbyterian where some of their furniture was donated?
EJ: I know nothing about that because of the fact that my father was a high church Anglican and you could see they were very much over there. Generally speaking, Presbyterians and Methodists, and the Schofields – many of them were Methodists – generally come from high church Anglicans who have married into another family or had a problem with the Episcopalian
Church. Generally speaking, the Methodists are workers and in Great Britain at that time they were known as non-conformists. The Presbyterians were absolutely considered non-conformists at that time. In Northern Ireland – where many of my family was – that’s why they came to America because they were Presbyterians and they were not treated well by the Church of Ireland…franchise of the Church of England…so I think you will find here that we cover the full spectrum from the high leftover church from when the king was here all the way down to Quakers – not very much in the way of Baptists – that’s interesting – and not a lot of Congregationalists, which are technically Baptists in New England.
Factory workers – it used to be very unusual for them not to do that – if they married a Catholic, which some of them did, then they would frequently become Catholics – the Kilduff’s are Catholic – that’s William’s family – the oldest brother’s family. And Dobson Kilduff is buried over there where nobody knew where it was but now they do because I have it on Ancestry.com. She was William’s daughter so she was a generation ahead of my grandmother but William married Mike Ousey’s great-grandmother after his first wife had died, and I think he was in his 60’s so he kind of skipped a generation when he finally produced a child with his new young wife, who then died in childbirth. And because she died in childbirth and the baby died in childbirth, Anne Dobson Kilduff was raised by the Jeffries, which were James Dobson’s family. Nobody realized that there was anybody from the William Dobson line alive.
And from that line – do you remember that person who had all the parishioners poisoned in Guyana – well, one of his (William’s) descendants was the person who revealed that in the San Francisco Chronicle – the writer Marshall Kilduff – he was a Dobson.
ES: Now, Elizabeth, you said you were coming here to research your burial ground?
EJ:Yeah, I’ve been attempting to get St. James the Less to show me where they’re going to put my body if I decide to give it to them. Hopefully sometime within the next year or so I’ll get something to look at – there is obviously nothing for me to look at this time.
ES: Are there other descendants? Do your sisters have children?
EJ:Oh yes, my brother and sister, we all have children – I don’t know if my brother George or my sister Sally have grandchildren. I have four grandchildren and my half-brother has two grandchildren.
ES: So you were married to…
EJ:I wasn’t married.
ES: You said you have four grandchildren
EJ:You didn’t take biology?
EJ:You don’t have to get married to have children
ES: No, true, true, but I’m just asking.
EJ: My daughter is adopted.
ES: Is that right!
EJ: She’s a daughter of a friend of mine and she is here in America and can’t speak either. So she was having a problem… don’t record this (recorder turned off). I can’t imagine anybody being able to do all the things I’m capable of doing and to have done them all over the world.
ES: And you’ve done a lot of charity work…
EJ:I’ve always done…. and most charity work I do is out of my pocket. I don’t believe that if you get a tax deduction for something that it’s charity. That’s the saddest fraud that we have. And that’s why charity is so disrespected in this country. And because people are only doing it to the level of the taxable basis.
ES: What instilled this in you, Elizabeth? Someone in your past created this giving spirit that you have.
EJ:Well if you see in my family tree, I go back thirty generations. We’re all a reflection of the past that came before us.
ES: Who was it that influenced you?
EJ:It’s not one single person – it’s the actual milieu that made it possible for all these people to come together to be me. Once you start – and this is the wonder of Ancestry.com – is if you go into it well and you’re lucky to hit a few gold mines of family lines, you can actually see why you do what you do and how that evolved over time.
ES: So you feel that your ancestors – you’re following in their footsteps.
EJ:I have no choice because of the simple fact that I was raised by my family and I carry their DNA.
WM: What are some of the charities, beyond educating the Indian children that you’ve been involved in?
ES: Are you interested in education and children or?
EJ: (break)…it’s not the world it’s the people. If you can educate the people and get them a good safety net – good education, good medical care, good food, good roof over their heads…
ES: And that’s what you had. You had a good education.
EJ: I know that and I know that’s what made it possible for me to do everything I wanted to do.
ES: You have a great sense of gratitude, don’t you?
EJ: No. I just realize that it is what is necessary, and when we see families in the world that are deprived of one, if not all of those things, and so we can’t sit around and knock them down because of the fact that they didn’t have the opportunities that we had.
WM: Is there anything you’d like to add before we conclude about your genealogy or about yourself?
EJ: No, but I’ll put an advertisement in for Ancestry.com
ES: What is that again??
ES: Yes, mention it again! Now you’ve got it on tape! (laughter)
EJ: Because, really, the last two years that I’ve used it, that’s all I’ve used. It’s amazing what you can find out. I never knew that my great great grandfather had the Rising Sun bar (?) in Leesfield.
ES: All those connections in England are amazing. Have you been in England since we last met here?
EJ: Yes, I’ve been there twice. Well, I’ve been to England once and I also went to Ireland and Scotland – that was for about six weeks – and I just came back a couple of weeks ago from Northern Ireland again.
ES: And now you’re going to different parts of the United States?
EJ: No, I’m going down to see friends in Baltimore.
WM: Are there any of the graves in Yorkshire that you’ve seen?
EJ: This is the thing – it’s really funny. The paperwork in Ireland is a disaster, but you can find the people. My third cousin is still farming the same land that we left in 1850.
ES: You found them recently?
ES: Really, that must have been…
EJ: Yes – and DNA’ed it and everything. I use Ancestry.com DNA for autosomal DNA – that is the broad spectrum DNA which is not precise but it gives you a very good chance of finding out a good portion of your tree. Then, I’m lucky that I have both mitochondrial and Y DNA, so I have done autosomal again to check the Ancestry.com and then also the Y and the mitochondrial through Family Tree DNA – FTDNA. With that, you can then start cooking up the tree.
Sadly, Jeffords doesn’t do very good, but Bob Schofield who was going to come with me today – I got him to do his Y DNA and he’s hooked up the Schofields in Satterley (?) – and then in Ireland, I got a call from a person who matched my DNA on Ancestry.com and “What do you know about the McLaughlins?” – she’s a third cousin of mine. And we have now put the entire tree together – the movement of the family through Scotland, down into Liverpool, into England, to Foehl (?), into Canada, and here in just 150 years. Not every little piece, but we see this spread from just a small little farm in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. So this is available for lots of people.
WM: I just wondered, going back to England, did you ever find the graves in England?
EJ: No. I haven’t found the graves yet. I have the graveyards. Sadly, the English, in many cases, are worse than the Indians in taking care of their graveyards.
I went to see William Dobson’s – that’s my great great great grandfather’s grave, and I walked into the graveyard and William wasn’t there, but two of his sisters. And as soon as I walked in, I stepped on a wet stone and fell and got a black eye. So I was a little bit disabled for a little bit and I spent two weeks in that particular area and found the graveyards where other Schofields and Dobsons are, but they are virtually inaccessible because of the lack of care.
WM: And where in Yorkshire was this?
EJ: Lees and Leesfield. And it’s now in Lancashire – it’s in greater metropolitan Manchester, so it’s the only portion of Yorkshire that was put into greater Manchester is Lees and the Saddleworth area because it’s on the wrong side of the moors.
WM: Well thank you so much Elizabeth.
ES: We’ve taken up so much of your time!
WM: You’ve given us a lot of insights…
EJ: You’re lucky – I could have sat here for ten hours and told you stories forever. Please edit out everything that isn’t useful.