George Williams (("Charging Thunder") 1877 to 28th July 1929)


You don't expect an American Red Indian to be buried in rainy Manchester do you? However a friend told me hed read about "Charging Thunder" so I went to investigate and found his grave by an evergreen tree. Here I am with the more-staidly named George Williams ("Charing Thunder" sounds much cooler.)


He was part of a spectacular group touring the country with a Wild West Show. It'd stopped in Birmingham and London (Queen Victoria was a big fan) and in November 1887 it arrived in Salford in Manchester. It must have been quite a sight as they arrived - 97 Native Americans, 180 broncos, 18 buffalo, 14 mules and donkeys, 10 elk and two deer. They stayed in the UK for five months, playing to packed houses from a site on the banks of the River Irwell (now occupied by The Lowry gallery.)


Charging Thunder's boss was Bill Cody whod scouted for Native Americans for the US army and killed buffalo to feed the soldiers before establishing his circus-like Wild West show in 1883. The show was some spectacle: cowboys and Indians recreating classic gun-slinging scenes from the Wild West, do daring acts of horsemanship, gun-shot tricks, shootouts, rough riding, stagecoach-jumping and rounding up a herd of buffalo. Charging Thunder was an exceptional horseman and performed thrilling stunts.


In 1903 he was 26 years-old and found himself back in Salford. He fell in love and gave up his touring life and connections to home and never once returned to his prairie homelands in America. He married Josephine who one of the American horse trainers in the show and they settled in Gorton. Going through the immigration process he changed his name to George Williams, raised a family and disappeared into anonymity. For money he worked as a handyman at an industrial pump factory, as a doorman at a cinema, and looked at the elephants at Belle Vue circus (he rode Nellie in the shows.) You'd think someone called Charging Thunder would live for 300 years wouldn't you but he died of pneumonia aged 52.


I had a small photograph of the grave but it was so aquatint it me the headstone's shape. More helpful was the outline of a huge industrial building in the background. This pulled me into the correct part of the cemetery and then - after 15 minutes - the grave itself. It looks like family members are still alive as a few trinkets are about the headstone. Some places in Manchester have since been named after the touring group : Cody Court, Sundance Court, Dakota Avenue, and Kansas Avenue.


"Not many red Indians around Manchester," I said probably aloud, saluted and left. Thanks for telling me about this one, Tony.








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