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John Wood's powers of observation and storytelling ability as evidenced in these written narratives to his brother Mark and brother-in-law Thomas Tattersall, were puzzling, given his humble background. During a trip to Bury this past June, I researched his early life in England. In examining birth and marriage records of the 1830's, 40's and 50's, it was evident that he was the only member of his family who knew how to read or write. His family members were uneducated people and would sign papers or documents with their mark, indicated by an X.
Education given to the children of working class parents in Lancashire mill towns was very deficient. According to The Report of the Manchester Statistical Society on the State of Education in the Borough of Bury, Lancashire, published in 1835, only 1 out of 24 children was receiving any kind of an education in Bury. Some mill owners built schools for the children of their employees, as did Mr. Greg, the owner of the Hud Carr Mill where John's family worked as cotton spinners, weavers and piecers during the 1820's, 30's and 40's. The Manchester Statistical Society reports that by the early 1830's, the Hud Carr works school was attended by 41 children. John Wood probably attended that school, although no class records exist. The children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. The school mistress received a small weekly wage from Mr. Greg in addition to payments from the students or scholars, as they were called.
A study of the 1841 census, the first in England, reveals that almost 80% of working males and 60% of working females were employed in the cotton mills in Bury. Given these figures, it was unusual for John to have become a cabinet-maker. However, as the youngest child in the family, John's parents may have been able to allow him more opportunities than they were able to achieve for themselves. Any education, no matter how sparce, would provide him with more advancement and a better standard of living.
John would later have served a 7 year apprenticeship, guaranteed by a benefactor or master craftsman in cabinet-making. As an apprentice, he would have made his own tool box and purchased the necessary tools, boots, and clothes. Upon completion of this period, he would have earned a deed of apprenticeship or pupilage.
The Immigration to Lowell
John Wood probably immigrated
to Lowell during the early summer of 1858. He was 39 years old. He
would have sailed from Liverpool, not a great distance from Bury, where
he was living at the time. No emigration records were kept for the port
of departure, but he probably entered the United States at the port of
Boston or at one of the other