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Historical Introduction
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Historical Introduction
Contributed by LWin14096766c1
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PUBLICATION of The Lakeside Classics was begun in 1903, and the current volume (number thirty-four in the series) is the twenty-first prepared by the present Editor. Since 1911, the annual volumes have been devoted to the field of western history, and with but two exceptions the narratives reprinted have been written by men. The reason for this masculine preponderance is obvious. The careers of women commonly afford but little material for the pen of the biographer, and comparatively seldom do women themselves undertake to record their life-stories.
The two narratives by feminine authors we have published hitherto are Mrs. Christiana Tillson's A Woman s Story of Pioneer Illinois, issued in 1919, and Mrs. Juliette A. Kinzie's Wau-Bun, The "Early Day" in the North-West, issued in 1932. Both authors were unusual women, and their narratives are among the finest in the entire series of The Lakeside Classics. Both were women of New England birth and breeding who came as brides to the region west of Lake Michigan.


Here the parallel ends, however, for Mrs. Kinzie's highly individual story deals with the world of the red man and the fur trader, while Mrs. Tillson's story is the more common one of the pioneer life of an American woman settler in the West.
The narrative of Rebecca Burlend, now presented to the reader, differs in certain marked respects from both the Tillson and the Kinzie recitals. Compared with Mrs. Burlend, the other women occupied a distinctly higher station in life. Both were New England gentlewomen, and both were city dwellers who moved in the best society of their time and place. Rebecca Burlend, on the contrary, sprang from the peasantry of rural Yorkshire, and from infancy was inured to a life of toil and hardship. She came to America, as millions of others have done, to improve her material lot in life. In this, she succeeded, ultimately, although the present-day reader of her narrative may perhaps wonder whether the result was worth the effort expended in achieving it. In America, as in England, she remained the hard-working wife of a hard-worked farmer. Only in the evening of her days did she enjoy the leisure which comes with assured prosperity; and only through the chance possession of a son imbued with literary talent and training

did she succeed in recording her story for posterity, instead of becoming merely one of the unsung millions of nineteenth-century immigrants to America.
Mrs. Burlend's narrative was written primarily for the information of people of her own class in England who might be weighing the question of migration to America. For their benefit, she related the story of her own prior experience in this respect. It is clear that she was a woman of more than ordinary will power and native force of character. She tells her story simply, and as truthfully, probably, as any recital of one's own experiences can be told. Between the Burlends (and their followers) of a century ago and the Matanuska emigrants of current memory lies a wide gulf. The emigrants of 1935, spoon-fed at every step in their progress by the agents of an all-compassionate government, would have understood as little the native resourcefulness of those of 1831, as the latter would have comprehended the lot of the present-day emigrants. Whether the emigrants of 1831 or those of 1935 will prove more fortunate in the long run, must remain for the future to disclose.
Mrs. Burlend's story begins with the reasons for the New-World migration in the summer of 1831, and continues until success

in the momentous venture of transplanting the family to a distant and alien wilderness had been achieved. We have here the task of supplying the reader with such additional pertinent information as will aid in promoting his appreciation of the story she presents. Rebecca Burton was born in Yorkshire, of humble parentage, May 18, 1793. Although we lack the date of her marriage to John Burlend, it must have been at a comparatively early age, for Edward, the eldest son, was a schoolteacher when the migration to America in 1831, took place. The hard circumstances of her married life in England are briefly hinted at in the opening pages of her narrative. Further light on this point is afforded by the statements concerning the life of Edward Burlend. In his Village Rhymes, a book of poems published in 1858, he states that the poems were chiefly composed in periods of illness: "Brought up at the plough till I was eighteen years of age, and then thrown upon my own resources, to make my way as a teacher, it will be easily understood that for many years I had to devote my leisure time to strictly laborious study."
Edward Burlend spent his mature life as a schoolmaster in his native Yorkshire, dying at Swillington, April 6, 1875. His tombstone inscription in Swillington Churchyard

recites that "under many social disadvantages, and under extreme delicacy of constitution, he taught, with marked success, a competent knowledge of the classics, mathematics, and other branches of science and literature. As an original thinker, his prose works, and as an elegant writer, his poetry, will long remain evidences of his powers and ability. Courteous, peaceful, and retiring, he lived respected to his end, truly deserving the character of a 'just man'."
Tombstone inscriptions are ever kind, and the writer of Edward's obituary may not have been a competent critic of his literary output. The great Library of Congress contains none of his writings, and its bibliographer reports that an "extensive search" of English book catalogs, dictionaries of authors, and Yorkshire local histories discloses no evidence either of his writings or of his existence. Perhaps this report merely indicates anew the fleeting character of all earthly fame. The British Museum catalog lists two of Edward Burlend's books, one, A Catechism of English History, published at London in 1855, and another, Amy Thornton; or the Curate's Daughter, published at London and Leeds in 1862. Jess M. Thompson of Pittsfield, Illinois, possesses a copy of his book of poems, a

small volume of about 200 pages, whose title page, for bibliographical reasons, we copy in full: "Village Rhymes; or Poems on Various Subjects, Principally Appertaining to Incidents in Village Life. By Edward Burlend. Leeds, Printed by David Green, Boar-Lane, 1858." To say that the poems are Mid-Vietori an in character would be trite and meaningless. Through them runs a recurrent vein of melancholy, whose cause is perhaps adequately suggested by the tombstone obituary of the author, which we have already quoted.
To complete the roll of Edward Burlend's literary output, we must add to the foregoing his rendition of his mother's American narrative, which quite probably became the most important of all his publications. Although Rebecca Burlend was not illiterate, it is obvious that she could scarcely have put her story into the finished literary form in which it appears in print. Although the narrative is undoubtedly the story of Rebecca, the form in which it is cast is equally undoubtedly the handiwork of her schoolmaster-poet son, Edward. He proved a capable editor, and produced a faithful factual narrative, in the main; but the precise language, and some of the reflections embodied in it (for example, the comment, in the concluding

pages, upon the causes of England's greatness) are the product of Edward Burlend's brain and pen. In short, mother and son stand as co-authors of the narrative. The mother related her story to her son; and the latter transformed it into the book, which was published at London in the summer of 1848 as a paper-bound pamphlet of 62 pages, entitled A True Picture of Emigration: Or Fourteen Years in the Interior of North America; Being a Full and Impartial Account of the Various Difficulties and Ultimate Success of an English Family Who Emigrated from Barwick-In-Elmet, Near Leeds, in the Year 1831.
For some reason, the pamphlet was issued anonymously (perhaps the intimacy of the story caused the authors to shrink from disclosing their identity), thereby entailing upon future American bibliographers and historians a considerable burden of trouble. Prof. S. J. Buck in his fine Illinois bibliography of Travel and Description 1765-1865 (Illinois Historical Collections, Vol. IX) published in 1914, affords no indication of the identity of the authors, and the bibliographers of the Library of Congress have been likewise ignorant concerning it until the present day. But to Jess M. Thompson of Pittsfield, Illinois, a descendant of Rebecca

Burlend, as well as to other descendants (and their neighbors) the identity of the authors has never been a secret. Herein, for the first time in print, the story is told, based upon information chiefly supplied the present Editor by Mr. Thompson.
The struggle for economic security so valiantly waged by John and Rebecca Bur-lend met with its appropriate reward. By 1846, when Rebecca made the visit to her former English home which is described in the closing pages of her narrative, the objective forevisioned a decade and a half earlier had been achieved. From the despairing, beaten, tenant family which fled from Yorkshire in 1831, the Burlends had become transformed into the confident possessors in fee simple of an extensive acreage in an agricultural region as fine as any in America. Already they were landlords, receiving the rental from their surplus acres, while around them were their children, the elder ones already arrived at manhood's estate.
Under the circumstances, Rebecca's visit home must have been for her a proud and gratifying occasion. How eagerly her old neighbors listened to her recital of her experiences in the far-away world of Pike County, Illinois, can best be understood by those readers who have themselves known

lives of toil and poverty, and the incessant seeking for an escape into a securer and more gracious condition. The Editor has found no contemporary record of the date of this return journey, and the dates supplied by descendants, based on family tradition and belief, are conflicting. The evidence supplied by the concluding pages of the narrative itself seems to establish the year, with a high degree of probability, as 1846. Probably this detail could be certainly established, if adequate time to investigate it were available, but circumstances beyond the Editor's control have denied him the opportunity of pursuing the matter further.
By rare good fortune, however, almost in the closing hours of the preparation of the volume for the printer, contact was established with Miss Hazel Whalen of Chicago, a great-granddaughter of John and Rebecca Burlend, who supplemented most usefully the information already supplied by Jess M. Thompson concerning a second edition of the Burlend family saga. Mr. Thompson himself has never seen this edition, but James Farrand of Griggsville, who visited England many years ago, relates that he somewhere saw a copy, and that it contained the names of a number of families who had migrated to Pike County in consequence

of Mrs. Burlend's visit home and of the pub-lication of her story in 1848. Miss Whalen relates that about four years ago she saw, and had temporary possession of a copy, whose owner desires to remain unknown. Miss Whalen, however, copied certain data, which disclose some interesting facts. The new edition was issued either in 1856 or 1857 (both dates being given) with a complete change of title, and with Edward Burlend's name as the author. On the flyleaf appears "The Lesley an Emigrants, by Edward Burlend (London. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman; Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. 1857)." On the title-page proper, with the same publishers but with the date 1856 instead of 1857, is this amplified title:
Wesleyan Christianity Tested and Exemplified
being an Authentic Narrative
Striking Events in the History of a Wesleyan Family
of Yorkshire Emigrants in the Back Woods of America
by Edward Burlend

The foreword to the edition stated that the book had first been published in 1848, and that over 2000 copies had been sold in the city of Leeds alone. Because of this demand, the second edition was being published. The lay reader will perhaps marvel that a narrative which aroused such widespread interest, and which affected so deeply the lives of a number of English families, should prove so difficult to trace at the present time. The historian, however, sadly familiar with the neglect and oblivion which sooner or later overtakes all ordinary records, will feel gratified, rather, over the fact that a number of American libraries have copies of the first edition, which now obtains renewed publicity and distribution by being included in The Lakeside Classics.
The reader will observe, in the concluding "Note" to the narrative, the statement by Edward Burlend that several families had already departed for America, moved by Rebecca Burlend's recital of her experiences there. Still others followed, finding homes in Pike County, where their descendants are still numerously represented. Bethel Cemetery, a beautiful country churchyard, is chiefly populated by these English families. Here John and Rebecca Burlend rest from their labors, in the midst of relatives and

neighbors for whose presence in America they were directly responsible. The present church, erected over half a century ago, replaces an earlier structure on the same site. Two or three miles away across the lush and fertile Illinois River Valley lies the site of the Burlend homestead. To the simple House of God Rebecca was wont to trudge across the intervening fields, carrying her shoes and stockings in her hand, to be donned, upon arrival, before entering the church.
The loghouse which became the first home of the Burlends in America stood "in the center" of the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 6, Detroit Township, about three miles north of Detroit village, and about the same distance southwest of Valley City. The cabin stood on a hillside, overlooking the adjacent level valley, and distant but a few rods from a beautiful spring, whose delicious water still pours forth from the rocky slope. The presence of this spring no doubt determined the location of the cabin by Squatter Oakes, who built it. When the Burlends arrived at a state of prosperity sufficient to permit the erection of a better home, they located it on the same hill-slope, a few rods farther away from the spring. Both cabins have long since

The passage of a century has wrought many changes in America's national problems. In recent decades the welcome formerly extended to aliens has been sharply curtailed, and no longer do we offer asylum to ambitious and discontented men and women from all the earth. However wise, or necessary, the present national policy may be, it seems clear that the Burlends and their Yorkshire neighbors who came to Pike County a century ago made a distinct contribution to the commonwealth of their adoption. To them and their children pioneer Illinois offered a new opportunity in life. They embraced it eagerly, and in doing so became numbered among the builders of civilization in the region where they elected to settle. Happy the commonwealth which gains such immigrants; happy the settlers who found such an entrancing New-World home.
Detroit Public Library Sept. 15, 1936

vanished from earth, and the casual passerby would be unlikely to observe any trace of their former existence. Mr. Francis Alien of Pittsfield, octogenarian grandson of Rebecca Burlend, remembers the second cabin, and in August, 1936, he and Jess M. Thompson of Pittsfield conducted the writer to the farm and identified the now-forgotten homesites.
Upon returning to America from her visit to England in 1846, Rebecca Burlend was accompanied to her Pike County home by her daughter (now Mary Yelliott) and her family. The Yelliotts located near the parental homestead, and in their declining years John and Rebecca Burlend found a safe haven with them. To the end of her life Rebecca remained the plain, sturdy woman whose character is so clearly depicted in her narrative—thrifty, hard-working, God-fearing. Her still-surviving grandchild, Francis Alien of Pittsfield, describes her as possessed of a pleasant disposition. She never complained of her hardships; instead, when speaking of early times she would say that although hard, they always managed to get along. In England she had learned something of herbs and homely medical lore, and in Pike County she served for years, without money or other price, as the neighborhood

physician. Mr. Albert Rhodes of Griggsville, now an aged man, relates that whenever anyone became ill, the family would send for her. She found great solace in her pipe, and in the years of her retirement from active labor she spent much of her time smoking before the Yelliott fireplace. Francis Alien still possesses her favorite chair, whose rockers were worn out by the often-repeated process of drawing it forward to light her pipe from the coals and then sliding it back again to a comfortable position. Her old-age likeness may be seen in the portrait published in the present volume. Jess Thompson's mother, who died in 1933, related that Rebecca (her grandmother) was slight in figure, and had a commanding expression. Francis Alien, on the contrary, remembers her as a fairly tall and fairly heavy woman. He also recalls John Burlend as a tall, heavy man, fond of practical jokes, and popular with the boys and young men. He died, April 9, 1871, in his eighty-eighth year. Rebecca survived but a few months longer, dying January 31, 1872. Four decades of life in the New-World home had been granted them, but the significant portion of the period lies in the fifteen years which the narrative covers.

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Submitted: 02/03/08 (Edited 02/04/08)

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