RESEARCH into family history has shone light on the extensive community work and pioneering efforts of a Keighley man who died a century ago.

Andrew Heaton was carrying out the research when he uncovered more about the packed life of Joseph Rhodes, a distant cousin on his paternal grandmother’s side.

“Joseph had interests in many things and gave 100 per cent commitment to them all,” said Andrew, owner of Dockroyd Graveyard at Oakworth.

“He did much for the community and that resonates today – the value of local communities working together for each other’s benefit has never been so important than during the current pandemic.”

Joseph, born in 1856, was an enthusiastic member of Keighley Co-op for 30 years.

He wrote several books, including Keighley Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd – Jubilee History 1860-1910.

The publication refers to the founders and officials of the Co-op, many of whom have family buried at Dockroyd. Several friends and relatives of Joseph are also interred there.

Appropriately, the Dockroyd Graveyard Trust has been chosen as a beneficiary of the Co-op’s Local Community Fund.

Trust secretary/treasurer, Jean Sugden, says: “We have been fortunate to be chosen as a recipient of the scheme.

“Co-op members can donate two pence for each pound spent in store to their choice of causes. This does not have to be at the local store, it could be any store nationwide.

“Please consider choosing Dockroyd Graveyard Trust as your recipient by using the link”

Joseph was the son of John Rhodes (1812-1894), himself a prominent citizen of Keighley.

John developed a taste for music, being taught by his mother.

He was a chapel choir member and enjoyed accompanying Silsden nail maker Benjamin Town, his violin-playing brother-in-law, at evenings of music and entertainment.

He also had a taste for reading and acquired a range of information not available to most ordinary working men.

In 1860 he was appointed curator and librarian at the Mechanics’ Institute.

He was also a deacon at Albert Street Baptist Church for 39 years. He was renowned as a man of peace who always spoke with purpose, presenting well-reasoned ideas.

When John married Emma Rushworth on Christmas Eve, 1844, they were the first couple to wed at the Bethel Baptist Chapel in Keighley.

Joseph pursued many activities far beyond his involvement with the Co-op.

He was a bearded, bespectacled local journalist and familiar figure in the town.

He wore an Inverness cape, which served a practical purpose – he could take notes in the rain without them getting wet!

Joseph represented both the Yorkshire Post and the Yorkshire Observer but also contributed to the Keighley News, under the sobriquet The Sparrow. He became a Fellow of the Institute of Journalists.

In 1902, he was instrumental in founding the British Esperanto Association.

Esperanto was an international language created in 1887 by a Polish ophthalmologist, LL Zamenhof.

His goal was to invent an easy and flexible language that would serve as a universal second language to foster world peace and international understanding.

His original title for it was simply “the international language”, but early speakers grew fond of the name Esperanto and began to use it as the term for the language. The name quickly gained prominence and has been used officially since.

Joseph compiled two monumental English-Esperanto dictionaries.

He also did a considerable amount of charity work, particularly for the Keighley Mission to the Deaf and Dumb, as well as work on behalf of the blind.

Andrew adds: “In addition to all these activities, Joseph had a strong interest in his family history and produced the most detailed circular chart I have ever seen – entitled ‘A branch of the Rhodes family’.”

The chart provided a lot of the information for Andrew’s book, Hannah’s American Dream, which tells of the Rhodes family from Exley Head who emigrated to Wisconsin in 1842.

“These relations had corresponded with Joseph and the chart turned-up in the possession of a mutual distant cousin in San Antonio, Texas!” said Andrew.

Joseph died on February 28, 1920.

There is a plaque of remembrance in Keighley Library.