English, American Threlkelds meet

Sunday, November 24, 2002
All in the family -- Dan Pritchett, Joe Reed Threlkeld, Peter Threlkeld, Hazel Threlkeld Ballas, Rubye Threlkeld Wilcox and Melva Threlkeld Pritchett. (Town Crier photo/Anne Winchester)

(Editor's Note: The American Threlkeld cousins are natives of the Brown Spur Community near Manila.)

A family tree may have many branches. They continue to grow and extend well beyond the tree's trunk, but yet they remain connected to the roots buried deep in the soil.

"We've always known about Threlkelds in England," said Rubye Threlkeld Wilcox of Piggott.

She, her sister, Melva Pritchett Threlkeld of Pollard, and their brother, Joe Reed Threlkeld, of Malden were recently united with their English cousins, Peter Threlkeld and Hazel Threlkeld Bellas, who live in Penrith near the Scottish border.

About two years ago, Joe's son, Joseph, was in Brussels, Belgium, for international law studies. After completing his studies, Joseph traveled to England, where he located and visited with the Threlkeld cousins, who reside in Cumberland County.

The American branch of Threlkelds arrived in Virginia in the 1600's, Rubye said.

"A lot of them came to Kentucky," she said.

The local Threlkelds' father, Reed and family moved to Brown Spur near Manila in Mississippi County in 1914. The settlement's name came from a railroad spur near the sawmill.

"The railroad hauled all the logs back to wherever they needed to go," Rubye said.

"He (father) built the first house and the first school," Melva said, adding that he also built the first church and post office in the settlement. Their mother, Ora, taught in the very first school which, at that time, was a tent. Reed's sister, Ruth, managed the post office.

Reed and his wife, Ora, married in 1920 after he returned from fighting from France during World War I. He and his brother, Elmer, operated a logging operation.

Only one or two houses remain the Brown Spur area, Rubye said. "In the last eight or 10 years, a lot of the houses have gone."

She, Melva and Joe's sister, Blanche Bibb and husband, Lloyd, reside in Monette.

"America is wonderful. So different," Hazel said.

"A different way of life completely," Peter said.

Hazel is retired, and Peter is semi-retired, continuing to work as a mechanic with a motorcycle stunt team. Both were on their first visit to America and took in sites, such as Branson and Graceland and Bellevue Baptist Church (their cousin Carter Threlkeld is orchestra director) in Memphis.

They were especially taken with the cotton being grown in the area's fields and gins and planned to take some bolls home to show family and friends.

"This is your cotton wool," Peter said. "They won't believe it."

They were also impressed with the Mississippi River, something learned about in childhood school lessons.

"The Mississippi was a big, big thing in our lessons," Peter said.

"It brings back memories of lessons of Mark Twain," Hazel said.

"And the old paddle boats," Peter said.

Cumbria, the area where Peter and Hazel live, is one of the largest tourist attractions in England and contains eight large lakes that attract thousands of visitors annually. It is also a region devoted to agriculture with cattle grazing on flatland and sheep in the hills. Hazel's son-in-law is up early every morning to milk his 200 head of dairy cattle.

A day's schedule for a typical English farmer usually begins with a quick coffee before heads for the day's first milking. Then it's a breakfast of "porridge oats," toast, eggs, bacon and tea, Peter said, before heading back to work.

Hazel said "10 o'clock time" is a break for coffee and cake or bread, then back to work. Dinner is at noon and is the largest meal of the day with beef, potatoes and sweets.

Farmers work until 3 p.m. when there is a break for tea an cakes or scones. The second milking is completed before supper at 6 p.m., usually cold meat and chips.

The region was almost economically devastated by an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease.

"It wiped Cumbria out, just cleaned it out," Peter said.

"It was terrible," Hazel said. "Things are just now starting to get back. A lot of them (farmers) haven't even started farming again. They've just packed up."

She said "it was like a dead place."

"The traffic was closed, walks closed," Peter said, in an area with a high volume of tourists.

Hazel said it is believed the outbreak was caused by tainted meat imported from Japan into Newcastle and was fed as untreated scraps to pigs.

It forced the closure of the large cattle market, which farmers tried in vain to keep in operation. Peter said they must now travel 30 or 40 miles to sell their livestock.

Other agricultural products produced in the region are wheat, barley, potatoes, sileage and turnips.

Like their American cousins, Peter and Hazel's Threlkeld branch has been traced back through the centuries.

"They came over with the Pilgrim fathers, we think," Hazel said of their ancestors arriving in the American colonies.

"They were a very rice family. They had castles and halls and big mansions," she said. "They owned most of Cumbria."

Hazel said the Threlkelds were the subjects in the courts of King Edward and William the Conqueror and received land and gold.

"They worked up to this stance by working and doing good things for the kings," she said.

Before flying home to England, Peter and Hazel planned to take in some of the sites in New York City.

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