Whenever I pass Lime Tree Farm on the Main Street of Barwick I
think of one particular family who lived and farmed there in the early
1800's. Their names were John and Rebecca Burlend and this is their
John Burlend was born in Thorner in 1783 and had a basic education at
Thorner village school. Rather than follow in his father's trade as
blacksmith, he went to Horsforth and worked as so many did, in
agriculture. It was here he met Rebecca Burton a house-servant, ten
years his junior. Rebecca was born just outside Wakefield and
unusually for the times, had a little education mainly through the
Wesleyan Sunday School in Horbury. Coming from a large family, she
had been sent to Horsforth at the age of 13. This arrangement was
quite normal at the time and her parents would have been careful to
send Rebecca to a family of good name and religion.
John and Rebecca were married in 1811. John was 28 and Rebecca 18.
The year 1816 was very bad with exceptional flooding, a hard winter
resulting in a disastrous potato crop and even the destruction of entire
flocks of sheep. People were abandoning their traditional way of life
but John decided to remain in agriculture. He and Rebecca took a 14
year lease at Lime Tree Farm. At this time, the farm was owned by the
Rector Rev. Bathurst and is shown on our Flintoff map of 1770. It is
now a Grade II Listed Building.
However, following the Napoleonic wars life was bleak with an
economic recession. The return of soldiers resulted in cheap labour - a
growing population and inflationary food prices. high rents and even
the introduction of mechanisation meant it was almost impossible to
make ends meet. Life was indeed continuous backbreaking work both
on land and in the farmhouse. By 1830 Rebecca had seven surviving
children so her day consisted of milking the cows, feeding chickens,
bread. cheese and butter making etc .. The children were educated at
Barwick village school at the cost of 1p per week for each child.
Edward the eldest proved an extremely good scholar.
John had heard his friend George Bickerdike, from Thorner, had
emigrated to Illinois. America and. according to his letters home. life
there was indeed wonderful - the land was overflowing with "milk and
honey". It began to appeal to the Burlends to do the same. They would
have to leave everything to a future of uncertainty and fear. They made
the decision to emigrate with five of their seven children. This may
seem strange to us. but Edward was doing very well as a junior teacher
in West Garforth and Mary at 16 was away in service with a reputable
Everything was arranged and the family travelled over the Pennines to
Manchester by cart taking with them what essential belongings they
had and could fit on the wagon. Their journey to Liverpool from
Manchester was by a new form of transport - the railway which was
opened in the previous year by no less a personage than The Duke of
Wellington! It is more than likely that they travelled seated on benches
in open-top trucks. How excited the children must have been!
Once in Liverpool they registered for the sea journey, and prepared to
wait for their ship, in a rented room with no cooking facilities - 5
children (one a babe in arms)- and filthy conditions.
At this stage John began to question their momentous decision. In fact
he wanted to abandon all plans for America and return home. It was
Rebecca who. with her strong faith. encouraged him to trust in God as
she had always done. So it was on Friday the 2nd September. 1831 the
family set sail on the sailing vessel "Home".
We can only imagine the conditions on board for John, Rebecca and
their young children. A severe storm overtook the vessel after only one
week at sea. the facilities were primitive and the voyage took two
months. On advice from George Bickerdike they were to land at New
Orleans and travel by river boats on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers
rather than weeks of expensive and dangerous overland travel.
On arrival in New Orleans the family saw black people for the first
time who were chained together and driven like oxen under a yoke.
They were 12 days on a packet steamer and travelled thirteen hundred
miles to St. Louis. passing the southern plantations worked by slaves.
The second river steamer took 24 hours up the Illinois river a distance
of 120 miles to their destination.
The weather had suddenly turned bitterly cold and by the time the boat
arrived at Phillips Ferry. Pike County. Illinois it was a dark and frosty
November evening. The crew lowered the family down in a small boat
rowing them to shore. There they were left with no jetty. buildings, or
people; only dense woodland and strange noises of night animals. At
this stage after 7.000 miles and two and a half months travelling, the
family in their despair and exhaustion, sat and cried until John said he
must go and look for help. Rebecca was left with the children who
were cold, hungry and frightened. Eventually John returned - they
were all taken to a cabin where the Philips family gave them shelter
albeit very basic and at a cost to their precious savings, but here
Rebecca was taught various necessary American cooking methods, the
art of soap making and a habit of the female settlers, pipe smoking!
Within a short time John and Rebecca had purchased their own farm of
80 acres at the cost of $100. It was situated in the Big Blue Creek area
of Pike County, Illinois. For an extra $60 they became the proud
owners of a log cabin. It must have been a great relief having travelled
all that way to be able to start their new life in America. The first few
weeks and months were mere endurance and involved clearing and
fencing the land - feeding their few animals and their family, facing
each bitterly cold day with clothing and bedding which was hardly
sufficient. Rebecca would have no oven, very few utensils and no
furniture apart from her rocking chair which she had insisted on
bringing (and which incidentally, is still in possession of her
descendents) on top of which their savings were rapidly diminishing.
They must have doubted their life changing decision to leave
Yorkshire and Barwick. Through it all though, they insisted on keeping
Sunday as the Lord's Day. reading from their Bible to the children. It
became difficult to attend prayer meetings simply due to the poor
condition of their clothing and shoes. They had a plough, land and
seed. but no team of horses or oxen. In their first year. John. Rebecca
and their 9 year old son John set to work with hoes and laboured day
after day for three successive weeks until they had sown nearly four
acres Later. the problem was solved when a neighbour offered to
plough in exchange for John's watch. Likewise. Rebecca bartered a
china cup for a few hens and their first maple sugar harvest which
brought three hundred weight and a barrel of molasses was exchanged
for a sow and litter of piglets. seed and other essentials.
Very slowly despite many setbacks, they cultivated their small acreage,
growing Indian corn and wheat along with potatoes, carrots, cabbage,
pumpkins and eventually, a crop of tobacco.
During their second wheat harvest, John had been obliged (due to a
previous deal) to give four days labour to George Bickerdike and it fell
on Rebecca and her young son to continue the work. They toiled hard
and long in the oppressive heat. To add to Rebecca's worry. she was
six months pregnant with twins and had to continually take a break.
She was resting on a sheaf of corn when. a large full grown rattlesnake
crawled out. virtually underneath her skirts. In horror she jumped up
and struck it several times with her rake until it was dead. feeling ill.
she was unable to continue but was careful where to rest. Shortly
afterwards. another appeared apparently in search it its mate - Rebecca
had no choice but to destroy that one also.
It took two long days to finish the reaping. the children had been
taught how to stack the sheaves. John in the meantime had returned
and was setting small tires to relied tree roots whilst Rebecca went to
prepare a mid-day meal. Young Sarah, fascinated by the tires. caught
her dress on a flame whilst her father's attention was elsewhere. and
she started running round the sheaves in panic. The dry sheaves caught
lire rapidly whilst John smothered the burning clothes on his little girl.
Despite all their efforts. rushing back and forth with water from the
stream. it was impossible 10 save the tinder dry straw - the only action
they could take was to move the untouched wheat. which had been cut
and bound. to the side of the field therefore losing only one acre but
saving about seven. The miracle was that little Sarah came through the
ordeal completely unhurt. The saddest outcome was that in the Autumn
of 1833 Rebecca was to give birth to still-born twin girls, hardly
surprising after all she had been through.
Their diligence and good harvests had brought them enough to build
up their stock, buy better farming instruments, clothing and even more
acreage. They attended the chapel about three miles from home.
Rebecca walking in bare feet whilst carrying her shoes and stockings
to save their wear! By 1844 a chapel was built and furnished by the
local men at nearby Griggsville. Not an easy task as they were all
pioneer settlers with little to spare.
This place of worship was to become known as Bethel Methodist
Episcopal Church. We have a copy of the church's history naming John
and Rebecca Burlend as founder members and various descendents
who now rest in Bethel cemetery.
Rebecca was now 41 and her hard life had taken its toll. In her lifetime
she had born 14 children but only 7 had survived. Her dearest wish
was to once again see her two children Edward and Mary who had
been left in England but with whom she had kept in touch. Both b)
now were married. Mary (now Mary Yelliot) had two children.
Edward was a highly respected school teacher and writer living in
Over the years, the Burlends had prospered and gained more land. They
even had two tenant fanners so Rebecca was able to afford the luxury
of a return visit to Yorkshire. It so happened that John Bickerdike. the
brother of George Bickerdike was returning to collect his large family
from the village of Thorner and it was agreed they travel together. She
left with husband John's blessing and her daughters Hannah now 19
and 16 year old Charlotte were quite able to look after the household.
Her visit to Yorkshire was a great success, seeing her brothers and
sisters. many old friends and villagers who wanted to hear Rebecca's
story and she was careful not to gloss over all that they had
encountered. There was so much to tell. it was decided Edward would
record her account of their emigration and this small book "A true
picture of Emigration" is the fascinating result. Not only did it
encourage perhaps hundreds of emigrants. it became a school text book
for thousands of American students.
Needless to say Rebecca returned to America with her daughter Mar)
and son-in-law and their children and eventually the Yelliots married
with the Bickerdikes. John Bickerdike's daughter Elizabeth married
William Burlend. the baby whom Rebecca had carried all the way
from Barwick to Illinois. In their old age. John and Rebccca lived in the
home of her daughter and family.
Whenever you pass Lime Tree Farm. give a thought to John and Rebecca .. I