Fielden Emigrant to America - William Fielden

So how did the Fielden name end up on the other side of the Atlantic? There seems to be a man called William Fielden involved in this.  Douglas Wilson gives us the beginning of the tale:-

This brief account of a life is taken from patient research by Marvel Fielden, Lawrence Fielden, Keith Fielden and Frances Fielden Eppley.  She brought together the main facts in a sketch written in 2000 that followed and extended the history outlined in Marvel’s "The Fielden Stream of 1991". It remains possible that the William Fielden described was in fact two (or more) individuals of this name:  Common sense would seem to indicate they are just one man, whom we may call ”our William”, since we in Todmorden share him with his descendants in America.

On 5 September 1709, as recorded in the Quaker registers, there was born in Todmorden a William Fielden.  He was the youngest child of Nicholas and Ann Fielden, then living as tenants at Todmorden Hall, along with Nicholas’s brother John, who in 1715 purchased the house and estate from the Radcliffe family.  William’s mother died in 1712, his father died in 1714 and his elder brother, Nicholas, in 1729.  The next summer aged 20, William left Todmorden to marry fellow Quaker Mary Armistead from Settle and to set up with her as a grocer in Colne.  He would have had capital from his Todmorden family to assist in this venture and the couple appeared to have a settled family life.  Four children were born between September 1731 and May 1737.

However the Quaker records spell out trouble in the family; William being accused by his co-religionists of disorderly conduct, drunkenness and failure to pay his debts.  After 1737, our William disappears from the records in England and at the weddings of his children in the 1750s he is twice referred to as deceased.  We assume this may mean that his family either did not know or no longer cared whether he was alive or dead.  His wife Mary had a son born outside marriage in Colne in 1744, but remained in the Quaker faith until her death in 1788 aged 82.

We know that our William’s death was not known for certain in England, because in1779, on the death of Abraham Fielden of Todmorden Hall, the trustees reported that they were unable to pay sums due to William because he was  "if living, beyond the seas".  At that time "beyond the seas" would indicate the Americas.

The scene now shifts to the eastern seaboard of America.  His Majesty's (George II) Ships Shrewsbury and Kent served there as army transports in the years 1740 to 1742 and there are  surviving muster rolls that list William Fielding as a private in the Second Battalion of His Majesty’s American Regiment of Foot.  Then on 4 November 1751, William Fielden signs as witness to a will executed on that day in Anson County, North Carolina.  Thereafter in Anson, a county on the Atlantic coast, William Fielden appears as a witness to land transactions between 1756 and 1768 and from 1770 to 1775 there are land grants to William Fielden himself.


In 1763 William Feilden was appointed Township Constable in Anson County and on 28 April 1768, along with 98 other men of Anson County, William Fielden signed the Regulator Protest Paper to the Colonial Governor deploring unfair taxation in the colony, an early indicator of rising opposition to English rule.

There is no record of any marriage by William in North Carolina, or of the birth of children to him.  There has however surfaced records of two sons at least, from the evidence of the land grants.  In the revolutionary war William Fielding and his sons, William and John, were enlisted in the Militia, as all men over 16 were obliged to do, and they were
included in the motley of 137 militiamen sent from Anson County to fight at the Battle of Charles Town (now Charlston) in North Carolina in May 1780.  When the town fell to the English, on 12 May, 6000 prisoners were taken back to New York and kept in squalid conditions on the English prison ship Jersey in New York Harbour.  Hundreds died from disease and starvation and were buried, unrecorded except for the testimony of survivors, in shallow sandy graves on the shore or just thrown overboard.

Our William, then aged 70, was most probably one of such victims, since there is no further record of him in Anson County or elsewhere.  His sons however survived and, moving in course of time over the Appalachian Mountains to Tennessee,
founded there the extensive lines of healthy Fieldens recorded in part in The Fielden Stream.

The history just summarized surpasses any soap opera in its variety of themes. Whether indeed it is the story of just one man will eventually be proved or disproved by DNA testing. In the meantime his life and death are indicators of the famed Fielden independence of thought and action.

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