Cissy inherited her father's grindstone in 1896 and was accompanied by her children when she wandered the streets offering her services as a knife grinder. She had four children; her eldest daughter Kate was trampled to death when the milk-horse bolted. After her husband's death in an industrial accident at Hardcastle's Mill, Cissy was allocated a house in Coronation Street by Charles Hardcastle.
Cissy and her two children were accompanied by lodger Tom O'Connor, who had lived with the family for seven years at their old house in Butcher's Alley. Cissy and Tom became lovers when John died and married at Christmas 1904. At that time, Cissy had suffered the bereavement of Jake's death by drowning in the canal and in 1907 her daughter Mollie died from TB. Now childless, Cissy gave birth to Reg, son of Cissy and Tom, but when he was three months old Cissy accidentally smothered Reg in bed, and after burying their baby the couple fled Weatherfield, fearing arrest for manslaughter.