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A Life in the New World for a Barwick Family 1831
John (1783-1871) and Rebecca (1793-1872) Burlend

Barwicker No. 126
Spring 2018

Introduction by the editor
A Life in the New World for a Barwick Family 1831 Brief reports of past meetings are mainly to show people who cannot get to our meetings the sheer volume of what we cover. However. on 1st November 2017 our meeting was somewhat different and deserves a longer write-up.

The days of the radio stories are fast disappearing and with television one doesn't have to sit still and carefully listen. So when it was decided that three members of our Society would read parts from the BBC play 'A life in the New World/or a Barwick Family' I had mixed feelings and was sure I would be bored before too long. I couldn't have been more wrong! It was a brilliant performance given by the cast of Cathryn Howard as Rebecca Burlend. Michael Teal as John Burlend, and David Teal was the narrator.

Dressed in 19th Century costume the cast really brought to life the characters and the hardship the Burlends had to endure both during the rough journey by ship to America and then during their early days once there. It was a perilous existence and Rebecca was determined she was going to return to Barwick one day to see the children she had left behind. Which she did! Using his data projector David Teal displayed various images and sounds to bring life to the story. Thank you to David Siviour for providing me with the photo on the front cover.

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 story. 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 family.

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 Swillington.

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 always do!


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