More Than One Story

Often items that are donated to the Fenton History Center can relate to more than one story within the history of the community. This is the case with a recent donation that included a large framed, hand printed, testimonial addressed to William Broadhead by the employees of the Broadhead worsted mills. William Broadhead was instrumental in bringing the textile industry to Jamestown in the 1870s. Along with the industry, he brought to Jamestown many workers from the textile industry in his native home area of Yorkshire, England.

According to the testimonial, the employees were honoring him and thankful for his safe return. It refers to “Remembering  the peculiar circumstances; which; only a year ago; cast a gloom over your home; and sharing with your loved  family;  the anxiety and suspense incident thereto; it is with feelings of gratitude and gladness; that we; your employees; welcome you back to Jamestown”. It goes on and recites his many accomplishments with the textile business and further activities in the community.

This was presented to him at a testimonial dinner the employees held for William Broadhead when he and his wife, Lucy, and daughter, Mertie, returned from an extended trip to England and Europe. Looking at the newspaper of 1886, we find that there was a gas explosion at the mills that injured a worker, there was a strike by the workers at the mills. On happier notes, but still stressful, were the marriage of his son, Almet, to Margaret Bradshaw, the building of the Broadhead Block in Brooklyn Square, along with controversy about what was or could be done with the bridge over the Chadakoin, building a huge addition to the Broadhead Mills, plus closing the mills from Friday evening, July 2 through July 6, so the employees could celebrate the Fourth of July.  In June of 1887, the Broadheads sailed to England. William was age 68, a time that many of his contemporaries were retiring.

But the other story from this donation was about the testimonial itself and the person who created it. Richard E. Toothill was an employee of the Broadhead worsted mill. He had come from Haworth, Yorkshire, England. He and his family arrived in Providence, Rhode Island in 1880, but were soon in Jamestown where he worked for William Broadhead. At the age of 9, Richard was working as a duffer in a worsted mill in Haworth, while his mother worked as a power loom weaver. His father was a furniture broker. In Rhode Island, Richard worked for the Atlantic mills. At an early time in Jamestown he is listed as a finisher at the Broadhead mills but a few years later in newspaper articles he is listed as a designer, which was his occupation when he died in 1911.

He had a talent for “artistic penmanship” and produced the testimonial pictured here for William Broadhead. In later years his talents produced many such testimonials for various people and events. These included one to be presented from the British-American residents of Jamestown, New York to Queen Victoria in her 60th year reign. He did a number for the Sons of Saint George, a fraternal organization, in which he was an active member, locally, as well as, in the state and national organization levels. Many of his works were mentioned in the local newspaper and often were displayed in a downtown Jamestown store windows before they were sent on to the organization or person who had commissioned the work.

One newspaper article described how he had accomplished “the artistic penmanship”. The one he was commissioned to do by the Sons of Saint George was outlined in pencil, then traced in ink, and afterward covered with gilt. There were five colors of gilt, two colors in water colors, and one in ink. It was done in 1892 and he received $50.00 for doing it. Mr. Camp took a photograph of it and a copy of the photograph was sent to each officer of the grand lodge, while the actual testimonial was presented to the Utica lodge for hosting the convention.

Thankfully Richard E. Toothill signed his work. That small signature at the bottom of the Broadhead testimonial spurred us to uncover another story in the history of Jamestown. In reading his obituary, there is no mention of his artistic talent, or his musical abilities that were often included in newspaper reports of activities of various organizations in Jamestown. He died in 1911 at the age of 59.

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