ONLY one person buried in Oakworth’s Dockroyd graveyard died overseas – and for Foster Gordon Heaton it was a particularly horrible death.

It took six weeks to transport Foster Gordon’s body back to his birth village from Massachusetts where he had died after accidentally falling into a vat of boiling dye.

Foster Gordon, who worked in the dye department at the Mayo Woollen Mill, was following a long family tradition of working in textiles.

Foster Gordon’s story was uncovered by his distant descendant Andrew Heaton who researched the background to every grave in Dockroyd after buying the land and embarking on its restoration with volunteers from the village.

In his book Dockroyd Live, Andrew took up Foster Gordon’s story in 1901 when he was living with his parents at Bridge Street, Oakworth, as a 16-year-old pawnbroker’s assistant.

Andrew Wright: “At the age of 22 Foster Gordon to Massachusetts to work. He died, aged 30, on December 4, 1914 in Worcester, Massachusetts where he was working in the Dyeing Department as an overseer in Mayo Woollen Mill.

“He suffered multiple burns over nearly his entire body when he accidentally fell into a vat of boiling dye. His body was returned to Oakworth and was interred here on January 19, 1915.

“Having gone to America in 1907 he had returned to Oakworth for a brief visit in 1912, two years before his final journey home.

“The Mayo Woollen Co was incorporated in 1897, and by 1912 operated four mills in Millbury, near Worcester, Massachusetts with 225 employees producing more than half a million yards of woollen cloth each year.

“A number of cotton and woollen mills were built in this area around 1830. The 1860s were a period of expansion for the woollen mills, and tenements were built to accommodate growing numbers of workers.

“After the US Civil War, expansion appears to have slowed as consolidation took place. For most of the 20th century, the Mayo Company dominated the economic life of the village with four mills, most likely benefiting from World War I contracts.”

By coincidence, Foster Gordon had made his will on the day before he died.

He left his shares in the American Woollen Company and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company to a friend, but the dividend was to be paid to his parents in Hobcote, Oakworth, and following their death to his brother Owen Kenneth.

Owen had left Oakworth at the age of 21 to live in West Ealing, Middlesex, working as an assistant clerk in the Government Civil Service.

In 1918, as a Customs and Excise officer, he married Dorothea Elizabeth Jackson at Parson’s Green, Fulham, and they went on to have two daughters.

He died in Southampton in 1934 and following his death his widow and daughters moved to California where they all married and their families continue to live.

Foster Gordon’s story began back in June 1812 when Joseph and Martha Heaton had all three of their sons Isaac, John and Abraham baptised on the same day.

John was the father of Foulds Heaton, Andrew Heaton’s great, great, great grandfather who is also buried in the Dockroyd graveyard.

John’s brother Isaac went on to marry Mary Pighills in 1814, and two years later their son, also called Isaac, was christened in Haworth.

The couple lived at Westhouse, Oldfield, then in 1826 Isaac became Schoolmaster of Harehills Free School, a post he held until 1844 when – within a week – typhus fever took the lives of him, his wife, sisters Susan and Sarah, and two nieces.

Harehills Free School had bee nfounded in 1743 in the will of a family member, and the Harehills Foundation Trust continues to offer financial aid to help pupils and students with their education. Last year the trust awarded £500 to help with the costs of restoring Dockroyd Graveyard.

The third Isaac – who is also buried in Dockroyd – married Sarah Wright in 1834 and they had six children. Isaac farmed 12 acres at Lower Scholes, but was also a tailor, as were his sons John, Joseph and Benjamin.

Isaac and Sarah’s son Benjamin married Beatrice Bennet. The pair had four children including Foster Gordon – the man who returned formally confirm from Massachusetts in 1915.

* Andrew Heaton’s book Dockroyd Live contains comprehensive stories about many of those buried in Dockroyd Graveyard. The book helps fund the restoration of the site. Visit to donate to the Dockroyd Graveyard Trust or buy the book.