The Sager Story; A Tangled Tale

 

Industrial revolution, bankruptcy, machine breakers, riots, chasing overseas money, slave ownership, all these things are a part of their story. These were times of great change and great challenge, and the Sagers certainly had a plenty of both.

 

The Sagers can be a confusing lot, with the names Edmund, William and Richard echoing down the generations. For clarity I will add their year of birth at the end of their names, E.g Edmund(1746) is the first Edmund encountered.

 

The Sagers also have a strong liking for what is known as the “Scottish Naming System”, where the first son is given his mothers maiden name as a middle name. This leads to names such as Edmund Mayo Sager, Richard Gibson Sager (two generations) and William Hobby Sager. On top of this, they did it with the female line as well, my Great Grandmother’s name was Sarah Ellen Gibson Sager.

 

In the beginning, 1740 to 1800

My knowledge of the family begins around 1746 with the birth of Edmund Sager at Whalley, Lancashire, England.

 

On the 25th January 1781 Edmund (1746) married Jane Holt at Parish Church of St Chad at Rochdale, Lancashire. By Licence. The witnesses were Samuel Lomax, Richard Smith, Mary Holt, G: Whitham.

 

Edmund and Jane proceeded to have children;

Edmund Sager was born in 1782 at Burnley

Richard Holt Sager was born in 1786 at Rochdale

William Sager was born in 1787 at Bury

Martha Sager was born in 1799 at Bury

Alice Sager was born in 1800 at Bury.

 

It seems highly likely that during the years 1787 – 1790 the Sagers built a fulling-mill at Chatterton, Lancashire and it also seems likely that in 1792, they built another mill at Deardon Clough, Lancashire. Edmund (1746) was variously described as a Gentlemen and Woollen Manufacturer on the birth records of his children.

 

Two decades of growth; 1800 to 1820

Things were going well for the Sagers and in 1802 Edmund (1782) Married Mary Mayo at Manchester Cathedral.

 

Children soon followed;

William Sager was born in1805 at Edenfield

Elizabeth Sager was born in 1807 at Edenfield

James Sager was born in 1812 at Edenfield

Edmund Mayo Sager was born in 1817 at Edenfield

Mary Sager was born in 1819 at Edenfield.

 

Around 1812 the Sagers connection with America began when Richard Holt Sager moved to New York , USA. He established the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons in New York. Possibly he was acting as an agent, negotiating both the sale of finished goods from the Lancashire mills as well as the purchase of raw materials such as cotton from the USA.

 

A Bury and Rochdale directory of 1818 mentions “Edmund Sager & sons, cotton & woollen manufacturer, Edenfield”.

 

The industrial revolution was gathering pace and the Sagers were in the midst of it. One can only assume that life was not too hard for them during this period, but much tougher times were ahead.

 

Disaster and Turmoil; 1820 to 1830

On 12th Jan 1821 Edmund Sager and Sons went bankrupt; Edmund Sager the elder (1746), Edmund Sager the younger (1728) and William Sager (1787), all of Chatterton, plus Richard Holt Sager now residing in New York and trading as the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons. A notice from the London Gazette dated 17th March 1821 gives the details[1].

 

The same notice was repeated for Edmund (1782) and William (1787). A further notice dated 18th Sep 1821 made it clear that there were three separate commissions of Bankruptcy[2].

 

Towards the end of the year, a notice of the impending auction of assets was published, the auction was set down for 4th Jan 1822 [3].

 

Assets included

• The unexpired term of seven years and one half, of and in a messuage or dwelling-house, barn, and other buildings[1].

• About six acres of land, Lancashire measure, or thereabouts.

• Two extensive fulling mills, buildings, and premises, situate at Dearden Clough, near Chadderton

• Waterwheels, going-geer, steam-engines, seams of tenters, and other apparatus

• The whole of the woollen and cotton-machinery, pipes, within or upon-the mills and premises, situate at Dearden Clough and Chadderton.

 

According to local historians[2], in 1821 the Chatterton Mill taken over by Thomas Aitken a well known figure from Lancashire Cotton Milling History. Under him it became a cotton mill powered by a waterwheel 14 ft wide and just over that in diameter and by 1826 was weaving as well as spinning used 46 newly installed power looms.

 

Another tantalising notice was published on 18th Sep 1821, when the Creditors met to appoint someone to investigate all the transactions between John Hutchinson, of Bury, Merchant, and the Bankrupts. A reference to John Hutchinson has him subscribing to the same publication as an Edmund Sager of Edenfield.

 

In further developments with the estate, the Creditors met on 24th Jan 1826, to distribute some of the funds now held in the Bank of Messrs. Rawson and Co. of Rochdale[4]

 

On 25th and 26th of April 1826 the mood in the Sager households must have been sombre as the machine breakers raged and rioted throughout Lancashire and in particular the Rossendale Valley[3].

 

“By the afternoon, they had reached Dearden Clough at Edenfield. Here, 58 looms fell to their hammers, but this was to be the last point at which they were unchallenged.

 

The Queen's Bays, who until now had been so acquiescent that the rioters believed they sympathised with their cause, decided to make a stand at Chatterton, a village on the banks of the Irwell just north of Ramsbottom, with the help of a detachment of 20 men from the 60th Rifle Corps who had moved up from Ramsbottom.

 

Ignoring the reading of the Riot Act, the mob broke into the Chatterton factory of Aitken and Lord and started to destroy the 46 power looms there, while others stoned the soldiers. Eventually, the riflemen were ordered to open fire, and they did so with devastating effect: four men died instantly and many more were wounded, at least four of them seriously. As the soldiery gave chase to the fleeing rioters, two innocent bystanders - one a women - were shot dead.”[5]

 

It must have been difficult for the Sagers who were still in Edenfield, as well as those in other places, to watch or hear about, the mills they built being smashed by the rioters, and perhaps even more difficult when people were shot and died. That said, there may be a darker streak to the Sagers and in addition Mill owners of that period were not noted for their compassion and generosity. Thomas Aitken, mentioned above, is apparently a notable exception.

 

It seems that on 28th Mar 1826 a final dividend was declared on the bankrupt estate. One would have thought that this was the end of the matter, but then on 8th Jul 1828 a noticed was published calling what appears to be an extraordinary meeting of Creditors. It was called in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignee and the effects of the bankrupt Edmund Sager the elder (1746)[6].

 

At this point I am not certain if an audit of the accounts of bankrupts and their Assignees was a normal practice at this time or whether there were other factors involved in this development.

 

Interestingly, Pigot's 1828 Directory lists “Edmund Sager & sons, cotton & woollen manufacturer, Edenfield” so it appears the Dearden Clough Mill was still operating under the Sager name, if not Sager ownership.

 

Overseas entanglements; 1830 to 1840

Meanwhile family life went on. In 1829 William (1805) Sager married Ellen Gibson at St Mary, Bury, Lancashire. The children have some very familiar names;

 

Richard Gibson Sager was born in 1829 in Lancashire

Edmund Sager was born in 1832 in Rochdale, Lancashire

Alice Sager was born in 1833 in Manchester Lancashire

William Sager was born in 1837 in Rochdale, Lancashire

 

While family life went on, there were yet more developments on the business side.

 

Richard Holt Sager seems to be well established in New York, an 1830 directory lists Richard Holt Sager, Merchant.

 

Then, in yet another twist, on the 18th Feb 1834, Edmund Sager the younger (1782) appears in the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors, petitioning for release[7]. It is not known how Edmund (1782) went from a Bankrupt to an Insolvent Debtor, but they were very different things. The petition is Edmund’s attempt to get himself out of Debtors prison[4], which was not a nice place to be in 1834.

 

It seems he succeeded with his petition, because he appears next on the passenger list of a ship which arrived in New York on 25th Dec 1834.

 

Meanwhile, Richard Holt Sager died in New York on 6th May 1834. Although he died Intestate, someone thought there was money there. On the 11th Dec 1835, a notice was published calling a meeting of the Creditors for the 6th Jan 1836 in order to discuss whether or not to get the Assignees of the estate to pursue money and property formerly owned by the late Richard Holt Sager and which Edmund Sager the elder (1746) had inherited[8].

 

In Feb 1837 Edmund Sager (1746) died and was buried at Edenfield Parish Church, one would imagine that at this point, the assets of Edmund (1746) passed to Edmund (1782) who at this time was, of course, already in the USA.

 

Sometime before 1840, Elizabeth Sager had also travelled to the USA and met up with Edmund (1782) her father.

 

Back in England William Sager (1805) was continuing in business. The London Gazette of the 9th April 1833 announces the dissolving of a Partnership between William Sager and Thomas Gibson (possibly a relative of Ellen Gibson), with William Sager to carry on the business.

 

So the decade ended with the Sagers spread between England and the USA

 

Changing of the Guard; 1840-1850

An email I received from a descendant of a Hiram Norton from Illinois contains the following;

 

“Some information attributed to a professional genealogist states

 

She quoted from an account "written by an unknown relative" as follows: Hiram Norton met Elizabeth Sager and her father Edmund Sager while they were travelling through the vicinity of Lockport.  They were from Edenfield, England, and it was recommended by English doctors that he travel around in America to regain his health.  However, Edmund's health began growing steadily worse until he died in 1840 and was buried in Naperville, Illinois.  Elizabeth then returned to England and, as far as we know, a short time later Hiram wrote to her and asked her hand in marriage.  She consented and returned to this country, arriving at Mobile, AL in 1844. While Elizabeth and her father were travelling in this country they became good friends with Henry Clay.  Now that Elizabeth's father was dead, she asked Henry Clay to give her away.  He consented and travelled to Mobile to meet her.  Hiram travelled to meet her and the wedding was performed in Christ Church by Rev. Lewis.  Hiram was 45 and Elizabeth 37 at the time of their marriage.

 

Later the genealogist emailed me again and this time she included the following: There is a family note that Richard Gibson SAGER, Elizabeth's brother, came to visit Hiram and Elizabeth and fell in love with Hiram's daughter Harriet Maria Norton and married her a short time later.”

 

This is a very interesting “family story” and seems to be mostly truthful, what it does bring to light for the first time is a darker story; “The Alabama connection”.

 

While we are on the subject of family stories, my grandfathers sisters daughters (1C1R), born around 1930, told me that there was a story that the Sager’s were involved in the Slave Trade. There is no evidence that they were Slave Traders, but they definitely owned slaves. Taking into account the time and place we are discussing, Slave ownership was not uncommon even though it had been abolished in England for many years.

 

The facts certainly tally with both stories, we know Edmund (1782) was in the USA, not just for his health, but to get away from his Creditors in England and perhaps also to administer the estate he inherited from Richard Holt Sager.

 

I can’t help feeling that there must have already been family members in Mobile, Alabama, otherwise why would Elizabeth and Hiram have been married there on 2nd Mar 1844? They certainly left quickly and went to Dupage county. Illinois where Elizabeth purchased land in her maiden name in Jul 1884 and again in Jun 1845. The first record of land purchase by Hiram seems to be in 1837, but he buys land at a fair pace over the next few years. He was apparently the person who paid the most tax in the county for many years.

 

Sometime before 1850 Edmund Mayo Sager went to live in Mobile, Alabama and eventually became a naturalised US Citizen. Continuing the exodus Richard Gibson Sager (1829) went to New York in Feb 1850.

 

In the 1850 US Census, Mobile, Alabama;

 

Edmund Sager age 33 a merchant born in England, James age 7 born in Kentucky and 4 year old Ellen. In Slave Registers of the 1850 US Census he is listed as owning 9 Slaves, 5 Male and 4 Female, ranging in age from 55 to 2 years old.

 

Back in England William and Ellen are living in Rochdale in 1841, with son Edmund and William’s occupation as Agent.

 

Diaspora; 1850-1860

By 1851, William (1805) and Ellen had moved to Victoria Road, Wallasey. The business of William Sager and Sons was operating out of Fenwick Court, 8 Fenwick St, Liverpool.

 

In May 1853, the London Gazette announced a patent application from William Sager of Seacombe, Merchant regarding the invention of improvements to the machinery for propelling vessels.

 

In 1856, Edmund Sager (1832) married Elizabeth Hobby at Clerkenwell, Middlesex. Their children were;

William Hobby Sager was born in 1857 in Wallasey

Edmund Ellis Sager was born in 1859 in Wallasey

Ellen Gibson Sager was born in 1861 in Wallasey

 

In 1864 Elizabeth Hobby died, it seems during childbirth at age 32.

 

According to the family story, Richard Gibson Sager (1829) visited Hiram Norton and Elizabeth Sager (1807) in America and fell in love with Hiram’s daughter by a previous marriage. He certainly fell in love, because in 1855 he married Harriet Maria Norton in Will County, Illinois.

 

A more pragmatic explanation is linked to the death of Edmund Mayo Sager around 1855 and the contents of his will. The 1860 US Census puts Richard (1829), Harriet, Lizzie (born IL) and Hiram (born UK) in Mobile Ward 4, Alabama. By this time Richard owns a single Slave, a 55 year old black woman.

 

Finale; post 1860

 

In Edenfield, William Sager (1787) died, leaving as estate around £200.00, he is buried in the graveyard at Edenfield Parish Church.

 

In 1868, William Sager (1805) died in Seacombe, leaving a substantial estate of some £4,000.00. The bulk of his Estate was left to his grandchildren, William Hobby Sager, Edmund Ellis Sager and Ellen Gibson Sager. Unfortunately, my Great Grandmother was not born until 1871, and so missed out on any inheritance. The business has already been settled upon his sons, Richard, Edmund (1832) and William (1837).

 

Among the assets listed were;

• House, Land and Premises at Seacombe

• 20 Dwelling houses, Welbeck St, Chatsworth St, Boundary Lane at Chorlton on Medlock

• 26 Dwelling houses, Howard st, Nolten St at Ardwick. Manchester.

• Parcel of sundry bank shares

• Shares in coal and lead mining companies

 

There is also a specific mention of his nephew James Gardener Sager, then lodging in London at 345 City Road. This is the James born in Kentucky in 1833.

 

The business did not thrive it seems and a London Gazette notice on 10th Oct 1866 announces the dissolution of the partnership between William (1837) and Edmund (1832)

 

When William died in 1873, his occupation was mariner and his estate was valued at around £400.00.

 

By 1870 Richard Gibson was back in Lockport, IL where he died in 1871.

By 1880 both Edmund Ellis Sager and William Hobby Sager are in Sydney, how much of their Grandfathers estate remained, I do not know.

 

By 1912, my Great Grandmother, Sarah Ellen Gibson Sager, was also in Sydney, although both her uncles were dead by this time.

 

The Sagers represent, in some ways, the massive changes society went through during this period and I for one, find their story very interesting.

 

 

Steve Farmer June & July 2008

 

 



[1] This land and the buildings, may have been leased

[2] http://website.lineone.net/~davghalgh/ramsbottomtimeline.html

[3] http://www.cottontimes.co.uk/

[4] Prison was automatic for Insolvent Debtors until about 1869



[1] “17 Mar 1821

The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt awarded and issued forth against Edmund Sager the elder, of Chadderton, in the Parish of Bury, in the county of Lancaster, Merchant, Woollen-Manufacturer, Cotton-Spinner, Dealer and Chapman (Partner with Edmund Sager the elder and William Sager, both of the same place, and Richard Sager, late also of the same place, but now of the City of New York, in the United States of America, carrying on trade under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), intend to meet on the 26th day of April next, at Ten of the Clock in the Forenoon, at the White Bear Inn, Manchester, in Lancashire (by Adjournment from the 10th day of March instant),in order to take the Last Examination of the said Bankrupt; when and where he is required to surrender himself, and make a full discovery and disclosure of his estate and effects, and finish his Examination and the Creditors who have not already proved their debts, are to come prepared to prove the same, and, with those who have already proved their debts, assent to or dissent from the allowance of this Certificate.”

 

[2] “18 SEP 1821

The Commissioners named in three separate Commissions of Bankrupt respectively issued against Edmund Sager the elder, Edmund Sager the younger and William Sager of Chadderton, in the Parish of Bury, in the County of Lancaster, Merchants, Woollen Manufacturers, Cotton Spinners, Dealers and Chapmen (in Copartnership with Richard Holt Sager, late also of the same place, but now of the City of Hew York, in the United States of America, carrying on trade under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), intend to meet on the I2th day of October next at Ten of the' Clock in the Forenoon, at the White Bear Inn, in Manchester, in the said County of Lancaster, in pursuance of an order of his honour the Vice Chancellor, bearing date the 28th day of July last, when and where the joint Creditors of the said Edmund Sager the elder Edmund Sager the younger, William Sager and Richard Holt Sager, who shall be present at such meeting, are to be at liberty to elect a fit and proper person, for the purpose of investigating all the transactions between John Hutchinson, of Bury, in the said County of Lancaster, Merchant, and the said Bankrupts and their estates.”

 

[3] “11 DEC 1821

The joint Creditors of Edmund Sager the elder, Edmund Sager the younger, and William Sager, all of Chadderton, within the Parish of Bury, in the County of Lancaster, Merchants, Woollen-Manufacturer, Cotton-Spinners, Dealers, Chapmen, and Copartners (in Copartnership with Richard Holt. Sager, Late also of the same place, but now of the City of New York, in the United States of America, carrying on trade under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), and who have proved their debts under a separate Commission of bankrupt against the said Edmund Sager the elder, under the Order of his Honour the Vice-Chancellor of the High Court of Chancery, bearing date the 28th day of July last past, are requested to meet John Ashworth, of Turton, in the County of Lancaster aforesaid, Cotton-Spinner, and who hath been duly elected and appointed lo superintend, manage, collect, and get in the joint estate and effects of the said Edmund Sager the elder, Edmund Sager the younger, William Sager and Richard Holt Sager (trading under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), at the Eagle and Child Inn, In Bury aforesaid, on Friday the 4th day of January next, at Eleven o'clock in the Forenoon of the same day, In order to assent to or dissent from the said John Ashworth 'selling, either by public auction or private contract, and in one or more lot or lots as he may think proper, the unexpired term of seven years and one half, or thereabouts, from November last past, of and in a messuage or dwelling-house, barn, and other buildings, and about six acres of land, Lancashire measure, or thereabouts, and of and in two extensive fulling mills, buildings, and premises, situate at Dearden Clough, near Chadderton aforesaid; and also to assent to or dissent from the said John Ashworth 'selling or otherwise disposing of, and either by public auction or private contract, the waterwheels, going-geer, steam-engines, seams of tenters, and other apparatus thereto respectively belonging, and the whole of the woollen and cotton-machinery, pipes, and all other the joint estate and effects of the said Edmund Sager the elder, Edmund Sager the younger, William Sager, and Richard Holt, Sager, and within or upon-the mills and premises, situate at Dearden Clough and Chadderton aforesaid, and of and in all building or buildings belonging to the said joint estate situate and being at Dearden Clough and Chadderton aforesaid, or of any and what part or parts thereof respectively, and in such lot or lots, manner, and form as the said John Ashworth shall or may think proper, and upon any and what credit; and also to assent to or dissent from the said John Ashworth commencing, prosecuting, or defending any suit or suits, at law or in equity, for the recovery of all or any part of the said joint, estate and effects of the said Edmund Sager the elder, Edmund Sager the younger, William Sager, and Richard Holt Sager; or to the compounding, submitting to arbitration, or otherwise agreeing any matter, or thing relating thereto, or any part or parts thereof respectively; and on other special affairs.”

 

 

[4] “24 JAN 1826

The Creditors who have proved their debts under a Commission of Bankruptcy awarded and issued forth against Edmund Sager the elder, of Chadderton, in the parish of Bury, in the County of Lancaster, Merchant, Woollen-Manufacturer, Cotton Spinner, Dealer and Chapman (Partner with Edmund Sager the younger and William Sager, both of the same place, and Richard Sager, late also of the same place but now of the City of New York, in the United States of America, carrying on trade under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), are requested to meet the Assignee of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt, on Friday the 3rd day of February next, at Eleven o'clock in the Forenoon, at the Eagle and Child Inn, in Bury, in the County of Lancaster, to take into consideration the expediency of, and to asset to or dissent from, the said Assignee removing from the Bank of Messrs. Rawson and Co. of Rochdale, in the County of Lancaster, the balance now deposited in their hands, belonging to the said Bankrupt's estate, for the purpose of rendering such balance more productive, for the general benefit of the Creditors, until a dividend of the same shall be declared ; and on other special affairs.

 

 

[5] From http://www.cottontimes.co.uk/

 

“Next day the rioters, numbering now 3,000 and convinced they had little to fear from the military, moved down the Rossendale Valley to Rawtenstall, where they wrecked 96 power looms in the space of half an hour at Whiteheads' mill, a further 20 at Longholme Mill and three more at New Hall Hey. By the afternoon, they had reached Dearden Clough at Edenfield. Here, 58 looms fell to their hammers, but this was to be the last point at which they were unchallenged.

 

The Queen's Bays, who until now had been so acquiescent that the rioters believed they sympathised with their cause, decided to make a stand at Chatterton, a village on the banks of the Irwell just north of Ramsbottom, with the help of a detachment of 20 men from the 60th Rifle Corps who had moved up from Ramsbottom.

 

Ignoring the reading of the Riot Act, the mob broke into the Chatterton factory of Aitken and Lord and started to destroy the 46 power looms there, while others stoned the soldiers. Eventually, the riflemen were ordered to open fire, and they did so with devastating effect: four men died instantly and many more were wounded, at least four of them seriously. As the soldiery gave chase to the fleeing rioters, two innocent bystanders - one a women - were shot dead.”

 

[6] 8th Jul 1828

“THE Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing date the 12th day of January 1821, awarded and issued forth against Edmund Sager the elder, of Chadderton, in the Parish of Bury, in the County of Lancaster, Merchant, Woollen-Manufacturer, Cotton-Spinner, Dealer and Chapman (Partner -with Edmund Sager the younger and William Sager, both of the same place, and Richard Holt Sager, late also of the same place, but now of the City of New York, in the United States of America, carrying on trade under the firm of Edmund Sager and Sons), intend to meet on the 30th of July instant, at Eleven o'clock in the Forenoon, at White's Hotel, in King-Street, within Manchester, in the County of Lancaster, in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignee of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt under the said Commission.”

 

[7] 18 FEB 1834

THE COURT FOR RELIEF OF INSOLVENT DEBTORS

On Thursday the 13th day of March 1834, at the same Hour and Place.

 

Edmund Sager the younger, formerly of Dearden Clough, afterwards of Herdsough both near Haslingden, Lancashire, Fulling-Miller and , Woollen-Carder, and late of Union-Street, Ardwick, Manchester, Lancashire, out of business.

 

[8] “11 DEC 1835

The Creditors who have proved their debts under a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing date the 12th day of January 1821, against Edmund Sager the elder, of Chadderton the Parish of Bury, in the County of Lancaster, Merchant Woollen-Manufacturer, Cotton Spinner, Dealer and Chapman, (whether such debts were the separate debts of the said Edmund Sager the elder, or were jointly due from the said Edmund Sager the elder and Edmund Sager the younger, William Sager and Richard Holt Sager, formerly his Copartners), are requested to meet the Assignee of the said estate of the said Edmund Sager the elder, on Wednesday the 6th day of January next, at Two o'Clock in the Afternoon, at Mrs. Wilding's, the Eagle and Child Inn, within Bury aforesaid, in order to assent to or dissent from the said Assignee commencing, instituting, and prosecuting any action or actions at law, suit or suits in equity, petitions or other proceedings. or taking such other measures as may be advised, for the purpose of recovering certain moneys and effects which were late the property or in the possession of the said Richard Holt Sager, and which upon his death came unto, or devolved upon, the said Edmund Sager the elder, and are alleged to lie recoverable, and are intended to be claimed as part of the estate and effects of the said Edmund Sager the elder, applicable for the benefit of his Creditors under his said Bankruptcy; and on other special business relating thereto.”

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