Stories From The Poorhouse (Part 4) Joseph Calderhead

A conversation with an old school friend led me to look more into the Calderheads who are on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. It turns out they are also part of my friend’s family tree. The name Clayton Calderhead features in both of our families. It’s quite an unusual name and I thought it was unlikely to be a coincidence. So despite knowing each other since we were 5 years old we’ve just found out we’re related.

Joseph Calderhead is my 4th great uncle. He was born in Wishaw, Lanarkshire on 16 December 1831 to James Calderhead, a quarrier, and his wife Jane Harris. According to the records of Wishaw Relief Church where he was baptised, Joseph was the sixth child of the family.

In the 1841 census Joseph is living with his parents and 5 siblings in Wishaw. The address given is “Stewerton”. Joseph is the second oldest child in the household at that time. I will try to track down the others. My great, great, great grandmother, Jane is next in line in the family.

In the 1851 census Joseph is still living at home in Byres Rows in Wishaw. By this time he is a working man employed as a coal miner. By 1861 he has married Agnes McCallum and the couple have three children; Marion, Jane and James. Also living in the house at 57 Marshall Street in Wishaw are Joseph’s father in law and two lodgers.

So it would seem that Joseph was quite settled with a job and a family. Just a few months later however, in November 1861, Agnes who had had a fourth child was forced to turn to the parish for help in supporting her children. The reason? Joseph has been convicted of theft and sentenced to 30 days in prison. We can see from the record below that Agnes was given help but it was not enough and she was therefore forced to enter the poorhouse.

This newspaper report gives the details of the offence and shows that this was not one off behaviour for Joseph.

A year after Joseph’s time in prison he and Agnes had another daughter, Catherine. At just five years old the child died in the most horrific circumstances as was reported in this article from 1867.

It’s hard even to think about what the wee girl suffered and how awful it must have been for her parents to witness.

By 1869 the couple had had another son, Clayton and Joseph has returned to his criminal ways. Back in prison serving a second sentence for theft he was unable to earn a wage and Agnes was once again at the mercy of the parish to feed the children.

Joseph himself, as far as I know, never entered the poorhouse but had I not found the records I wouldn’t have discovered that he had spent time in prison. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding his second term. The story surrounding his first incarceration is almost funny. He certainly took advantage of a situation and maybe he was doing it for his children. I do like to think the best of my family!