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Chapter 1
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Chapter 1
Contributed by LWin14096766c1
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WHATEVER may have been our suc­cess in America, I can attribute but little of it to myself; as I gave up the idea of ending my days in my own country with the utmost reluctance, and should never have become an emigrant, if obedience to my husband's wishes had left me any alter­native. His motives, briefly stated, were these:—In the year 1817 we took a small farm at a village in Yorkshire on a lease for fourteen years, and as corn was at that time selling well, the rent was fixed at too high a rate for us to obtain a comfortable liveli­hood. We did indeed by dint of great indus­try and strict economy, maintain our credit to the end of the lease; but the severe strug­gles we had to endure to meet our payments, the gradual diminution of our little property, and the entire absence of any prospects of being able to supply the wants of a large

family had tended effectually to fix my hus­band's purpose of trying what could be done in the western world. We accordingly dis­posed of our little furniture, settled our pe­cuniary affairs, and ultimately began our long journey the last week in August 1831.
The reader will now enquire to what part of America we were going, or whether we had any plans as to the locality of our future home. This is an important consideration for every emigrant, though little attended to by many. We were not, however, like the poor Northumbrian, who, on landing at New York a few years ago, required a person whom he met in the street, to direct him to the back settlements. My husband had travelled many miles to obtain a sight of private American letters, and after maturely considering all the intelligence he could col­lect, he determined to go to Pike County, Illinois, to a person named Mr. B—, who had settled there a year or two before, and written to a brother of his in this country.1

1 Charles Bickerdike, the first of his name to settle in Pike County, came to America (and Illinois) and set­tled in Flint Township, Pike County, about 1828. It was the reading of his letters to his brother in England which determined the migration of the Burlends. The Bickerdike family is still represented in Pike County, and the graves of earlier members of the line may be seen in Bethel Cemetery where Rebecca Burlend and her husband lie buried. Charles Bickerdike is also buried in Bethel Cemetery, according to family information, although no monument identifies his grave.

Without further preface, we are therefore to be considered on our way from the centre of Yorkshire to Liverpool, self, husband, and five children, the eldest a boy about nine years old, two others we were leaving be­hind, the one my eldest son engaged as an under teacher in a boarding school, the other my eldest daughter serving also in a respect­able family.1 To persons such as we were, who had never been forty miles from home, a journey by waggon and railway, where every hour presents the eye with something new, does not afford the best opportunity for

The author and her husband had fourteen children in all. Four had died in England before the migration to America, and two more (Edward, the "eldest son" and Mary, the "eldest daughter" of the present sen­tence) remained behind. The five children who shared in the family migration were John, then nine years old, Hannah, eight years old, Sarah, three years old, Char­lotte, and William, an infant. John served in the Mexican War and was slain in a soldiers' brawl while returning to his Illinois home. Hannah married Thomas Dalby and lived to her ninetieth year, dying at Griggs-ville in 1913. Sarah married Francis Alien, and Char­lotte married Daniel Burns. William, the infant of 1831, died at Griggsville in 1900. Information taken from article by Jess M. Thompson in Pike County Repub­lican (Pittsfield), July 22, 1936.

reflection; we in consequence reached Liver­pool before we fully felt the importance of the step we were taking. Nature had indeed yielded a little as we gazed upon the scenes of our industry, which time had endeared, for the last time. But it was at Liverpool, when we had got our luggage to a boarding-house and were waiting the departure of a vessel, that the throes of leaving England and all its endearments put our courage to a test the most severe. Our minds were now undisturbed by surrounding objects; we oc­cupied a small apartment for which we paid two shillings a day, without even the indul­gence of a fire to cook our provisions. The dark smoky walls of the opposite buildings were the only prospect that the situation of our sojourn could afford. Predisposed to melancholy as we were, no one can be sur­prised when he is told that its effects were soon apparent. A stranger would have thought us a most unsocial family, as we sat in profound silence for an hour together, only now and then a sigh would escape us tending to vary but not to enliven this pain­ful monotony. Even our children partici­pated in our disquietude, and seemed to lose their wonted vivacity. My dear husband, who before had displayed nothing but hardi­hood, on this occasion had almost played the

woman. After a deep silence I not unfrequently observed his eyes suffused with tears, which though unnoticed by him, fell in quick succession down his sunbrowned cheeks. We were six days in this abode, and I may venture to assert that he did not spend six hours of the time in the forgetfulness of sleep.
At last the day dawned on which we were to embark. We had already bespoke our berths and paid a deposit to secure them. It was a critical period: my husband ap­peared to feel as if all the responsibility was laid upon him. He doubtless felt for him­self; but his children and myself were the principal objects of his solicitude. Those he was leaving behind would be left to the wide world without any one to watch over them; and that at a time when the passions which actuate the human breast, are in the great­est need of parental authority and advice. The destiny of those he was taking with him appeared about to be consigned to a vague uncertain probability. The die was going to be cast. In twelve hours more we should be on the deep, where return would be impracti­cable. These considerations,—the perils of the sea the more dreaded because unknown, together with many other weighty considera­tions which a father and a husband in such a


situation could not but feel, got the better of his natural prowess, and that morning he addressed me in the following manner: "O Rebecca, I cannot do it, I cannot do it! for myself I fear nothing; but the impenetrable gloom and uncertainty attending this step completely bewilders me. Should anything befall me, what will become of you and my children on the stormy ocean, or in a strange land and among pathless woods. Bad as our prospects are in England we must go back! Such another night as the last has been I cannot survive! this terrible suspense and anxiety tears me in pieces."
Sentiments like these a few months ago would have been hailed with delight, and even then I must confess I felt a sort of in­ward satisfaction, although I knew them to be rather the effects of his feelings than his mental decisions. If we returned I knew he could not be satisfied with his condition, still less with his present conduct. I however ac­quiesced in silence, only replying, I would do what he thought best. We accordingly be­gan to remove our boxes back to the luggage waggon, whither I accompanied him; but all the time we were thus employed he appeared like one whose movements are coerced. The smile with which he usually accompanied his addresses no longer appeared. I saw it


would not do; we returned to our children like those who return from the interment of a. near relative, in mournful silence. Never before had I felt so much to devolve on me, and perhaps never in my life did I so much feel it my duty to practise self-denial. My native land was as dear to me as ever: my two children, to whom I had bidden adieu, were strong ties. But the consciousness that it was my duty to bear up the sinking spirits of my partner, left me only one course to adopt. For a moment I raised my eyes to him "who sitteth above the water-floods," and with feelings J am not able to depict, broke silence as follows;—
"I admit, my dear husband, that our situation is a very trying one; but remember how often and how long you have resolved to go to America; hitherto we have experi­enced nothing that we did not anticipate; and should any calamity befall us on our journey, you have adopted emigration only from a conviction that it would tend to the good of the family; and the Almighty is as able to preserve us and our children across the seas or in America as he is in England. Besides, if we return, we have broken up our home and sold our furniture, and should be worse situated than ever; let us even go, and look to Providence for success." The above


advice on my part operated like a charm. All that has been said of the effects of mar­tial music was here realized. His answer was rather in deed than in word. In two hours more our luggage was removed from the waggon, where it had just been placed with a view of returning home, to the ship in which we had taken our berths. The re­mainder of the day till four o'clock was spent in procuring stores, cooking utensils, &c., necessary for our voyage; and when the sun went down on the second of September, 1831, we were on the waters; having previously confided ourselves to the care of Him "whom earth and seas are ready to obey."

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

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