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David Cragg and Mary "Molly" Pye

Excerpts from David Cragg's diaries as provided by Stan Johnson and Merl Bartley

David Cragg was a man of average height and of slight build with fine features, light brown hair and brown eyes. He was possibly rather delicate, although he worked long and hard. By all accounts, he was kindly, had a sensitive nature, was truly religious and honest but the possessor of a fiery temper when aroused. His early life was within a Quaker family at Greenbank, OverWyresdale. He learned his letters at Shirehead Church and Forton Chapel. His penmanship was neat and clear and there are some of his mathematics exercise books, including Euclid, still in the possession of the family. He also seemed to be interested in astronomy, geography, science and history as well as husbandry. He had a diverse library of books and tried his hand at bookbinding. As well as farming, he was a handy carpenter, making ladders, furniture and other things useful on the farm and in the house.

At the age of 18, in 1787, he began to keep a diary, upon which these notes are based.

In 1793 he made advances to a Molly Warbrick of Bolton, Lancashire and wrote a letter to her as follows: -

"Dear Molly,
My heart is filled with grief and sorrow since you have been hurried away from Wyresdale..... I was once led by hope to think my suit would not be in vain but now, alas, I feel the deepest despair and anguish of mind.....I console with you for the loss of your dear mother who is gone the way of all mortals. All mankind must obey the summons of the Angel of Death.....The cares and hardships you endure demands my consolation. You are entered into the scenes of life into the care of a large family..... You will not be surprised that I offer myself to you, for I told you partly the same before you were taken from Catshaw.....I remain your true lover and admirer.
David Cragg"

By 21st June he had received no reply to his letter so he wrote in his diary, "I don't think I shall give myself any more trouble about Molly Warbrick for it will be of no avail, let me do as I will." Then there is a long poem in couplets entitled "Farewell to Molly Warbrick" in which he tells at length how he felt about her and that he must now forget her.

"So Molly, as thou doth prefer
No husbandman, nor lawyer
But will have that halter-waking man
So thou may do as well as e'er you can...
Farewell, fair Molly, then I say
Take Mr Walker when you may
I wish you happiness to have
But no longer be thy slave...."

On 23rd June, when he got home, he was met by his brother, Thomas, who handed him a letter from Molly in which she said she had settled herself for a single life as she had so many responsibilities in her family with her mother gone. Nevertheless, David continued to write to her. He also showed an interest in his second cousin, Molly Goring, but he decided to drop the affair when he learned that the Society of Friends did not approve of cousins marrying.

There was a club formed to pay for the release of young Quakers from military service. David did not like the idea but his father paid for him regardless. There is evidence that he was imprisoned for not paying church tithes. He seemed to enjoy it as he had time to read and he wrote two books while incarcerated: a home doctor book and a treatise on the Quaker faith.

He made a number of journeys on foot which are described in detail in his diary. One such journey was from Wyresdale to Carlisle and returning by Whitehaven that took seven days and covered 195 miles. Another was to take and collect his son Timothy from Ackworth School.

According to his diaries, he took the management of Newland House Farm, one mile from Lancaster, on 14th February 1817.

He lived at Greenbank, OverWyresdale until 1833 when he immigrated to Canada with his family (other than his son, Timothy who had immigrated ahead of them in 1832). He sailed for Quebec in the ship "Six Sisters" on 1st April 1833. The fare was £2. He named his new home "Greenbank" where a village of that name prospers today.

Molly was brought up as a Methodist but, as she was a servant girl working in the house of David's parents, Timothy and Jennet Cragg, she became quite interested in learning about the Quaker religion. David would often slip books to her to read. They read and talked for some time.

The first mention of her in David's diary is in August 1804. In his journal for 4th May 1805 David writes: "Now in these days a report has taken place that I am engaged in paying my addresses to Mary Pye and that we are just going to be married. So I was informed that it is a common report in the country." Although David had never thought of her that way, he contrived meetings with her to decide what they should do about the rumour. On 9th May at eight o'clock at night, "when we was milking two cows in the back shippen, Mary and I - my mother being in the other shippen - I entered into conversation with Mary concerning the report."

So, with these meetings, they became good friends and fell in love. David's parents, especially his mother, were very much against it and many harsh words were said. On 21st May he wrote: "It would be something unpleasant if I should marry outside the Society which may be the case except it so turn out that my dear Molly should be convinced of our principles and be admitted as one of our Society. Let that be as it may I am certain and positive she is a better Christian than I am." By the 23rd May "to marry now seems to be our intention. Who would have thought of it three or four months ago."

On 26th May an unexpected opportunity to go to Lancaster with Mary came their way. On this trip they definitely decided to marry even if it meant "going to the little Welch Bishop" because they would need parents' consent to marry at the Quaker meeting. There were many objections to the marriage. First, she was from a Methodist family and not a Quaker, although she really wanted to be a member. His mother, Jennet, said she had been "some wild." His father would rather she had some "substance" to bring to the marriage, but she was just a poor servant girl. Then there was the greatest objection of all, the difference in their ages. He was 36 and she only 20.

The family opposition continued for some time and, at one stage David's younger brother, Richard decided to take a chance at courting Mary himself, whether out of spite or at his parent's instigation is not known. Richard even told David that Mary had been free and easy with him but Mary denied it, saying that Richard had tried hard enough, even being very rough with her.

In February 1806 Mary was given notice to leave Greenbank. David continued to court her about twice a week but the meetings were often sad and tearful because of the obstacles they faced. They talked of getting married at Easter but decided to wait until they had a house to go to. David decided to rent a cottage from Matthew Butler at Heversham Syke. He thought he could live there and continue to work for his father or do day labour until such time as an opportunity came to take a suitable farm.

On 28th February 1807 David and Mary's parents finally wrote to The Friends of Lancaster Monthly Meeting signifying their consent to the marriage, which took place on 9th April 1807. They moved into the cottage at Heversham Syke where they remained until the spring of 1808. They then moved to a house on land at Greenbank Vaccary, Wyresdale owned by Thomas Richmond that David worked for his father and which David later bought with the aid of a loan of £600 from Thomas Richmond. According to some notes in his diary in 1811, it appears that David's father and mother moved into a cottage at (Catonwife?) and David and his family moved into the old house at Greenbank.

As a result of the Napoleonic War, taxes were very high and so David decided to let the estate at Greenbank to John Albright and he undertook the management of Newland House Farm for two years from the spring of 1817 for wages of 20 shillings a week.

In 1819, following the expiry of his management of Newland House Farm, David took a lease of a farm called Old Robbins (now called Castle o' Trim). From this time things went badly for David. He was losing ground each year. It was a time of internal unrest in England. Farms had been enclosed and farming methods were changing. The Industrial Revolution was on the march. Molly was beginning to have a very bad knee but she was still working hard. She had become a truly convinced Quaker, more so than any of the rest of the family. She and David were attending Meetings and occupying them selves with doing good works as well as earning a living. Isaac was thirteen and working on the farm. Timothy was twelve and showed great aptitude for learning and so David gained permission to send him to Ackworth School, a Quaker School in Yorkshire which still flourishes today. In his diary David gives a detailed account of taking Timothy on foot to Ackworth. The return journey of 130 miles took seven days. Timothy remained at Ackworth School for a year at the end of which David undertook a similar journey on foot to bring him home.

By 1822 David had resolved to follow his brother, Timothy, to America but Molly's illness prevented him from going. Her knee continued to give cause for great concern. At first she was able to hobble around with the aid of a stick or crutches but later she was confined to bed. Meanwhile David's financial position continued to deteriorate. Eventually Molly's complaint spread down the leg to the foot and festered. She was in great pain. By the end of 1822 David was convinced that she would not recover.

On 10th December 1822 David cut his losses and sold up at Old Robbins and, by March 1823, had returned to his estate at Greenbank.

In 1823 Molly's health continued to deteriorate. She had developed a cough that heralded the onset of consumption. She also had a pain in her side and caught mumps. To make matters worse, all the children caught scarlet fever. On 6th July 1823 David and Molly had a talk about the chances of Molly recovering, which she thought to be "doubtful but she was not alarmed at the thought of death." At last, in his diary entry for 22nd September 1823, David writes: -

".......her voice began to fail much and she spoke with great difficulty and drawing near her departure. I took her by the hand and inquired how she felt herself. She answered, 'My dear, I am very ill, but I am happy.' And about 50 minutes past seven at night she breathed her last, quietly and peaceable without sigh or struggle. As I watched the glimmering spark of life depart, her countenance seemed serene and composed as it were an emblem of happiness of her departed spirit. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away and we ought to be qualified to say, blessed is the name of the Lord. She was remarkable patient under the utmost extremity of suffering with which she was afflicted and kind and loving to wait upon and thankful for every little matter that was done for her, and so good natured that it seemed to be no hardship to attend upon her but a pleasure to be in her company. Thus cut off in the prime of her life to our loss indeed but to her eternal gain."

She was buried on 25th September 1823 in the Friends Burial Ground at Wyresdale, near to David's mother. About seventy people attended the burial. So David was left a widower with eight children to care for, of whom the youngest was only one year old.

After Molly's death things continued to go as badly for David as they did for most farmers. The crops had been bad and he scarcely had enough milk, potatoes and meat for his family. He owed money and yet he could not collect money owed to him. To bring in some money he worked on the highway.

From 1824 David's health began to deteriorate. In December 1829 he decided to sell out at Greenbank, redeem the loan secured on it, repay as many of his remaining debts as possible and take a new farm at Langthwaite belonging to the Greaves Estate of Scotforth. The farm was taken in David's name but his son Isaac was the head worker. In view of his health problems, David was reluctant to take the full responsibility. David had problems with his new landlord whom he called "The King of Misery."

Since moving to Langthwaite David and his family came within the compass of Lancaster Meeting. The overseers were constantly rebuking him for various transgressions. Also David was often unable to attend meetings due to illness. Isaac and Ann chafed at the Quaker restrictions and more and more they attended chapel rather than the meetings. David also found himself more welcome and well treated at chapel. David was finally brought up by the meeting for drunkenness, non-attendance and refusal to let the meeting educate his children. Eventually Isaac was dismissed from the Society and David resigned.

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