James Bancroft : Migrating to America [1844]

James Bancroft was a chemist in Halifax.

His eldest son William emigrated to the US in 1842.

He was followed by his father James and the other members of his family, together with the wider group of the Emigration Society, who sailed from Liverpool aboard the Patrick Henry, landing in New York on 27th May 1844.

The following article written in the Halifax Reporter [25th April 1844] explains the circumstances of his emigration to Illinois.

Mr James Bancroft, for twenty years laboratorian and compounder of medicines at the Halifax General Hospital, left the town this week, with the intention of taking his departure with eight other persons for America.

He and his companions, members we believe of an emigration society established some years ago in Halifax, go to settle themselves upon a tract of country purchased by them in Illinois, to which others of the society had gone before.

Mr Bancroft has given up his situation against the urgent entreaties and wishes of the medical officers and friends of the Infirmary, from whom he received a flattering testimonial as to his meritorious services to the institution.

At a meeting of the Board, the following resolution was passed:

That in consideration of the long and faithful service of James Bancroft, the Board cannot allow him to leave the town without the expression of their good wishes for his future welfare, and placing in his hand a gratuity of 20/- as some little token of their sense of his exemplary conduct and usefulness as a servant of this institution.These circumstances reflect humour on all the parties concerned, and such kindness will doubtless afford to the deserving object of it Pleasure of memory in his new home and in other years


The voyage must have been a harrowing experience, taking on average 32 days in less than comfortable surroundings.

The following diary notes were made by a traveller on the same ship during a similar transatlantic voyage

After a rough and disagreeable passage of 28 days, we had 16 days head wind, and three heavy gales. I was very sea sick;

Forward are two hatches for cargo with the ship's boat on top.

Around the boat stand our future meals – a milk cow, pigs, ducks, hens and sheep!

In the centre section, if there is no fine freight, huddle steerage passengers.

It is not a happy sight to look down on them because there, crowded in a common dormitory for 38 days, each cooks his fast dwindling supply of food.

If our ship has one bath, it is in the cabin section. The steerage passengers' bath at best may be a bucket of icy seawater, dashed over them on deck.

Perhaps the plague breaks out and no Doctor is on board.

The ship's Captain does what he can but that is little


When James and his family arrived in the US, they made their way – with a journey of nearly 1000 miles – to Racine County, Wisconsin after having purchased land for a farm in Dover Township.

This Township was known as 'English Settlement' because of the twenty-five or so families who settled there in the 1840s

However, James, his wife Mary and youngest son Anthony returned to the UK within a few years because Mary become homesick.

The rest of their children had by then married locally and moved to their own farms, leaving James and Mary with just Anthony to help run their farm. A particularly bad winter one year, must have made England look very good to them.

By 1851, James, Mary and Anthony were back in England

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 18:29 / 15th May 2021 / 6154

Page Ref: X1905

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