The Mystery of Frederick Arnold Armitage
For as long as I can remember I have been aware that my father Donald had a step brother. I knew only that his name was Arnold and that he had a predilection for throwing melons at the kitchen ceiling. Had I been asked how I had come by this information, I would have answered without hesitation ‘my father told me’, but then I was never asked. Now I am not so sure because recently and just before Dad died I had occasion to ask him about Arnold. He said he knew nothing about him and when I reminded him that at least he knew that Arnold made somewhat unorthodox use of melons, Dad denied that he had ever told me any such thing. I might have concluded then that age was getting the better of me or that I was the victim of an over active childhood imagination but for the fact that cousin Janet vividly remembers the self same story. Was it perhaps Uncle Andrew who had related it all those years ago or maybe Janet and I had overheard our respective fathers discussing Arnold’s habits during one of our many wonderful family get togethers. Strangely I am not aware that any other member of the family (not even cousin Sue) was aware of this story until it was retold recently.
It was in 2009, as a result of a conversation on one of cousin Sue’s visits to see Dad in Harrogate, that my interest in Arnold which had lain dormant for some 60 years was re awakened and, with great enthusiasm, I embarked upon the task of finding out as much as I could about him.
It has been a long and lonely journey which is not over yet but, with the aid of the new family web site, I may yet attract fellow travellers to guide me in the right direction. Indeed following our meeting in Ardoch cousin Andrew is already doing just that.
Here is the story so far.
Frederic Arnold Armitage (‘FA’) was born in Lockwood Huddersfield on 13 January 1893, the first child of Edward Armitage (grandfather) and Annis Armitage (nee Hirst).
FA’s mother Annis was to die on 7 December 1894 at the age of 29.
The census of that year reveals that, in 1901, FA then aged 8 was living with his father Edward and grandmother Judith Emily.
By 1911 Edward had married his second wife Constance Jane (nee Dickson – Granny) and the census of that year records that FA, now aged 18, was living with his father and stepmother and stepbrothers John Edward (Uncle Jack) and James Gordon (Uncle Gordon).
Further research has revealed that FA sailed from Liverpool on 6 November 1913 aboard the S S Canadian bound for Boston Massachusetts where he arrived on 16 November.
The ship’s manifest records that he was single, able to read and write that his final destination was North Adams and his friend’s name was R A J Hewat.
And there the trail went cold until this week when I stumbled upon an entry in the National Probate Calendar which reads ‘ARMITAGE Frederic Arnold of Fieldgate Temple Street Lindley Huddersfield died on 20 December 1920 at Keighley Yorkshire Administration Wakefield 23 October to Constance Jane Armitage widow.
Effects £513 6s. 8d.’
Now that I have discovered where and when FA died, I have sent for a copy of the death certificate which should reveal the exact address at which he died, the cause of death and the name of the informant.
As to why he went to the US, there are a number of clues.
His aunt Edith married Richard C J Hewitt and, from the US Federal census for 1910, I have discovered that at that time they were living with their family in Berkshire Massachusetts.
Interestingly at the time of the 1910 census, Judith Emily Armitage (FA’s grandmother with whom he was living in England in1901) is recorded as staying in Berkshire Massachusetts with her daughter and son in law.
There is evidence that Judith Emily travelled on more than one occasion to the US, presumably each time to visit her daughter. For example she sailed to Boston on the S S Cephalonia which left Queenstown (probably calling at Liverpool) on 3 April 1896. The ship’s manifest records that she was visiting her son R A J Hewitt. This is strange for Mr Hewitt was her son in law and not her son and furthermore his initials were R C J and not R A J.
The mystery deepens because living in Massachusetts at that time was a Mr R A J Hewat this being the name recorded in the manifest of the S S Canadian as a friend of FA (see above).
R A J Hewat of Huddersfield had sailed to Boston aboard the S S Pavonia arriving on 22 September 1894. He was the co founder of Strong Hewat woollen manufacturers of North Adams Massachusetts.
Cousin Andrew has found a Frederick Armitage Hewat, born in Yorkshire in 1890, who enrolled as a freshman in Williams College 5 miles from North Adams in 1912. I believe but have not yet confirmed that R A J Hewat married one Edith Frederica Armitage in 1889 and it seems likely that Frederick Armitage Hewat was their first born.
Many questions about FA have been answered but many more remain unanswered.
Can anyone help with answers to the following questions ?
- Why did he go to the US?
- Where and with whom did he live whilst there?
- For whom did he work?
- Did he marry?
- Did he father any children?
- When did he return to the UK?
- Why did he leave the US?
- Did he return to live with his step mother and step brothers in Huddersfield?
- Why did he die in Keighley?
10 June 2011