A story told to Keely Welty's First grade class at Piedmont School at Duluth Minnesota in 1987.

The Naming of Ladysmith


Keely's goldfish is one year old now. Before she was given this goldfish she heard this story from her Grandmother, Georganne Robb Welty, about Keely's great great grandfather, Thomas Robb. Keely named her goldfish "Ladysmith" in honor of the story.

Thomas Robb grew up in America but his family had come from the Island of Ireland in Great Britain. He moved to Salina, Kansas to start a farm and raise a family. Kansas is in the middle of the 48 United States.

Because there were so few trees for lumber to build a house in Kansas, Thomas dug a hole in the side of a hill for his family to live in. In those days in the grassy lands of the prairie, people built sod houses. Sod is the dirt of the grassland but it is not just crumbly earth. It is so packed with the roots of the grasses that grow in it that it can be cut out of the ground as bricks. Once he had built his house Thomas Robb began to farm the land around his sod covered hole in the ground.

Kansas it is very hot in the summertime. Thomas Robb did not want his family's supply of meat to spoil in the summer heat so he did what other people did to keep meat fresh. He dug another hole in the ground and filled it with the winter ice that he chopped out of the nearby Smokey Hill River. This ice stayed frozen through much of the summer and kept his ice cellar cool. It was the family's refrigerator.

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Mr. Robb was a loyal American, but he was also loyal to his family's old country Great Britain. In 1899 a war broke out between Great Britain and the people of Southern Africa called Boers. Thomas Robb wanted Great Britain to win this war but his children wanted the Boers to win. Because Africa was many thousands of miles away it was easy for the family to forget how terrible war is and to cheer for one side or the other.

The British soldiers captured a town called Ladysmith that belonged to the Boers. The Boers wanted their town back but it was full of British soldiers. The Boers laid siege to the town. This meant that they surrounded it and would not let anybody out and would not let any food be taken in to the town. They wanted to starve the British soldiers into surrendering.


All summer long newspapers told the world about the siege at Ladysmith. Thomas Robb and his family in Kansas followed the story closely. Thomas Robb cheered for the British soldiers in the town but Thomas's children cheered for the Boers. Everyone wondered if the British soldiers would surrender their town to the Boers. Thomas hoped the British would send reinforcements ( that means more soldiers ) to save the town. Thomas Robb's children hoped the Boers would force a surrender.


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That Summer one of the farm's cows gave birth to a calf. The family decided to name the calf "Ladysmith" in honor of the besieged African town.

Every day the family waited eagerly for the mail to arrive with the news of the siege.  Although they lived far out west in Kansas other members of their family who lived in the east would send them an English newspaper, the London Times. They couldn't wait to hear about the War and find out what was happening in far off Africa.

One day all six children came running up to their Father in great excitement. They screamed, "Ladysmith has fallen, Ladysmith has fallen."  Their father was disappointed and furious. Thomas had wanted Ladysmith to be rescued. As he fumed and fussed his children began to laugh. They thought it was very funny to see their father so angry. You see, Ladysmith really had fallen. Ladysmith the calf had fallen into the farm's ice cellar.