Commemoration of 1860 Mining Disaster Renews Village Ties Across the Atlantic to America.


The Forum website has enabled the descendants of Burradon families to
renew their connection to the village. Barbara Yanico's family
emigrated to America 130 years ago to start a new life and their story
of their journey and an account of their new life has been retold on the
Forum website.

There is a further article on the website regarding John Wilson's
involvement in the foundation of United Mineworkers of America's Union
in 1890 which is a fascinating article and is a tribute to the memory of
the miners who perished in the Burradon Colliery Disaster of 2nd March



Dear Chris,

I thought I would send you some initial information about my
great-grandfather, Robert Kirkley, while I work on more
detailed information about his link to our United Mine Worker's
of America union. I also intend to provide information about
his first cousin, John Smith Wilson. While my great
grandfather's union involvement is documented in local history,
Mr. Wilson's connection is a matter of more general public
record. His account of the proceedings of the first convention
of the UMWA, when the union was formally created, are even in
the United States National Archives in Washington, DC. Although
I have not established that John S. Wilson lived in Burradon
per se (I have records that indicate he was born in Seghill on
13 July 1867), his parents, Matthew Wilson (a miner) and Esther
Scurfield Wilson, are recorded living at 11 Lane Row (without)
in Hazlerigg in the 1861 census. I have not been able to locate
the family in the 1971 census, and they emigrated to the U.S.
in 1879. But there is definitely a Burradon/Camperdown
connection there.

I wrote the attached account of Robert Kirkley's life at the
request of Cheryl Blosser who I met this last July and who is
the person who informed me about Robert's connection to the
formation of the UMWA. Cheryl is the president of the New
Straitsville History Group (New Straitsville, Ohio is where
Robert Kirkley spent most of his life in the United States).
She is also very active in the Little Cities of Black Diamonds
Council, a group that promotes the preservation of the history
and culture of the mining industry and life of the area, the
Hoacking Valley in Ohio (in 1976, a historian, Dr. Ivan Tribe,
wrote a history of Hocking Valley coal area and the towns that
were the coal "boom towns" that grew up in the area as his
doctoral dissertation; he called these towns "Little Cities of
Black Diamonds"). Cheryl is an avid historian and has a great
deal of information about the area.

You might find the Little Cities website informative. You can
access it at: If you scroll
down their homepage, under "National Significance" you can
click on "Agents of Change in the Nations Labor Movement" which
provides some context for the formation of the United Mine
Workers. It was clearly the recent (i.e. 1870s-1880s) English
and Welsh immigrant miners who were driving force in union
organizing. Dr. Tribe's book comments on the "ethnic pride and
strong union sentiments" of these miners.

I am also going to send you, in a separate attachment, a
wonderful photo of of Robert Kirkley and his family in which
that ethnic pride is certainly evident.

I know a lot of the family history I've attached is probably
not relevant to your request for information about my great
grandfather's union connections, which are only breifly
presented. But I thought you might find what I have discovered
about his time in Burradon useful. Except for having been born
at Seghill, to my knowledge, Robert spent all his life lived in
England in Burradon. You will also see in this history that I
made good use of your wonderful website.

Finally, like all family history writing, this is a work in
progress. There are several items about Robert's life that are
not included until I can find more infrmation about them.
Robert clearly was very involved in the civic life of his
adopted home in the U.S. A local book on New Straitsville
history indicates Robert ran the town newspaper, the "New
Straitsville Record" for some period of time bewteen about 1905
and 1910. And I just learned in an e-mail from Cheryl Blosser
today that she has discovered another photograph of Robert in
their history materials from about the same time period. It is
a very large photo of the elected town council, of which he was
a member. Hopefully I can get a copy of this the next time I
visit (next month). As you said in your e-mail, clearly the
people who emigrated from the village of Burradon carried with
them their beliefs in social justice and a strong civic
mindedness and ethic of service.

I have only just learned what I know about Robert's life in
about the last year. With each new discovery, my pride in him
grows. And I was very touched that you have an interest in his


Barbara Yanico

PS. By the way, I only just discovered last week that Robert's
younger brother, Ralph Ramsay Kirkley (b. Burradon, 1865) was
killed in the pits at age 19. According to information I found
on the Durham Mining Museum website "Memorial Roll, " he was
killed by a fall of stone while working as a hewer at Walker
Colliery on 22 Oct 1884. (

Robert Kirkley's story