Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, Published September 02 2012
Two Edgeleys a world apart coming togetherEDGELEY, N.D. – Most people in Edgeley know of the city’s founder – Richard Sykes, who in 1887 named it after his hometown across the Atlantic.
Interest in Sykes has resurfaced in the farming community south of Jamestown after officials received a pair of letters from his hometown, Edgeley Park, in the Stockport neighborhood of Cheshire, England.
“We have been linked since the 19th century through your founder Richard Sykes, born in Edgeley, Stockport in 1839,” said a letter from Ann Coffey, a Parliament member representing Stockport. “Our two towns are thousands of miles apart and on the surface, may seem very different – Edgeley, Stockport has a football ground rather than a baseball stadium and our town is based around retail and markets rather than farming.
“However, the links between our two countries, and communities, are more important than what divides us,” she wrote.
Stockport community leaders stumbled upon Edgeley, N.D., one day while browsing online.
Coffey wrote Edgeley, N.D., Mayor Steve Powers to congratulate him on the city’s 125th anniversary celebration earlier this summer. The letters were recently read before the Edgeley City Council.
“It was pretty exciting for us; we’re going to correspond with them,” Powers said. “They’re doing things with the schools (in the two Edgeleys). It’s kind of neat to tie our communities back together with the history and stuff.”
Six years prior to the founding of Edgeley, N.D., Sykes traveled to America and purchased 45,000 acres of land in what would be Foster, Wells, Stutsman, Morton and LaMoure counties from the Northern Pacific Railway.
Sykes founded four other towns in North Dakota: Sykeston, Bowdon, Alfred and Chaseley.
He was the fourth son of the fourth-generation owner of Sykes Bleaching Co. in Edgeley, Stockport. The textile company existed for nearly 100 years in the Sykes family, according to the Stockport Advertiser History of Stockport.
After he received an education from the prestigious Rugby School in Warwickshire, Sykes went on to form two of the oldest Rugby teams in England, the Manchester Football Club in 1860 and later the Liverpool Club.
Sykes was rugby captain at the boarding school in 1857. Rugby School also is home to such famous alumni as author Lewis Carroll and former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
Later in life, Sykes decided to take his chances farming in 1881 with intentions to rent or sell land at a modest increase to farmers or investors, according to the Sykeston centennial book “The First 100.”
He traveled in Manitoba, Montana and Dakota Territory, but picked North Dakota because he believed it to have “the best soil and prettiest country,” “The First 100” said.
An ad from the April 11, 1884, Jamestown Alert shows his endeavor once he established Sykeston.
“An improved farm 320 acres to rent on shares at Skyeston. New House, cellar and well, barn for 12 horses. Government land open to homestead on the adjoining sections. R. Sykes & Co., Jamestown & Sykeston.”
In North Dakota’s Edgeley, having an entrepreneur like Sykes found the community speaks volumes about life there now, Powers said.
“That has a lot to do with Edgeley’s character, and we’re a very progressive community for a small town,” he said. “We have a very active council, an active development corporation; we’ve always been looking for opportunities to make our community better.”
Across the pond in Edgeley, Stockport, the community has moved away from its agricultural roots over the years and become part of the industrial north of England.
Still, “I am sure that any one of my constituents in Edgeley, Stockport, would feel instantly at home strolling down Main Street or bowling at Dakota Lanes” in Edgeley, N.D., Coffey wrote. “And any one of your residents, I’m sure, would find a warm welcome in Stockport’s markets, shops, cafes and pubs.”