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Monday, January 2, 2017

Moving On - Chapter 1 - Becoming an Immigrant.

 

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MOVING ON - Chapter 1
 
 
 

 

Our neighbors invite us to leave the Old Country - -
It was late in the 1800s and being immigrants everything was still new to our family. We soon realized the city life wasn’t for us.
 
In what we still call “The old country” we had found ourselves disliked more each year after year. It wasn’t because we were bad people but because we were successful and gaining in wealth.
 
A lawyer for a big firm kept trying to buy all of our holdings and papa decided to sell due mostly to the attitude of our neighbors. He said these folks are not going to like it when the big firm takes over and replaces many of the local workers with people from other areas but they want us out, so be it.
 
Papa had decided to come to the new world as he called it and try to increase our fortune there.  He was thirty years old when he married our Ma and for the next five years she bore him a son each year. There were five of us boys but for some reason she quit bearing children after I was born.
 
Perhaps it was because of the neighbor’s attitude that we were a tight knit group. In our village it was well known that if you started a fight with one of us you had to fight all of us. It was because of that we were left alone and had little trouble with the neighbor’s kids.
 
We planned for a year before leaving and when the day arrived papa had converted all our holdings into gold and enough cash to get us by until we arrived in the new world.
 
Since we had money we had staterooms to travel in and ate the best food the cooks could provide. There were those who had to settle for steerage with little more space than a bunk and could only get on deck with great effort.
 
My older brothers spent a lot of time looking down on the deck where the poorer immigrants, especially the young females flitted about. They would slip down to the steerage deck and talk to the girls. They would get a good deal of information from them such as education, age, and more importantly if they were still a virgin.
 
By the time we arrived in America they knew everything about most of what they considered marriage material. The two older brothers had selected two girls to marry and the next oldest had found one he thought he wanted. She was alone and was vulnerable to the point where though he wasn’t sure he wanted her for a wife he wanted to bring her along with us.
 
Ma laid down some rules about keeping our hands to ourselves. My older brothers were married to two of the steerage girls by one of the almost captains.  Caleb being strongly urged by Ma, he finally agreed to marry Mercy (as my mother called her) because Ma didn’t want her to be lost in New York and taken advantage of.
 
They had an “I do” session by one of the crew after which Ma  said Caleb could just ignore his shipboard marriage when we were landed in America unless he decided to keep her for his wife.
 
Mercy told Ma that she didn't want to take up the wifely duties until she had been fully accepted as a wife by my brother Caleb. Mercy had told everyone she was eighteen years old but once we were situated in New York she confessed she was only fourteen.
 
Caleb decided not to take her for a wife because she was a little young and by now she was more like a sister in his eyes. He had told the Immigration officials she was his wife in order for her to enter the US.
 
So far the courtship of my brothers was a little strange but they were satisfied with the results.
 
After we arrived in America, the entire family managed to find jobs and we were living very well compared to some but papa wanted to move West for he was intrigued by the stories he kept hearing.
He was really taken by the Oklahoma land rush that was coming soon. The idea of free land was too much for him to ignore. Papa said he was going ahead to Oklahoma and would send for us when he needed us. Three months later he sent for the two oldest boys, Albert and George. These were the names they choose for themselves after we arrived here.
 
 
Papa had already changed our last name to Barkley and told us to select names that sounded English. He was determined to leave our old persona where we came from. Our accent didn’t sound exactly like Englishmen but the mixture of the north and south and all of the first year immigrants no one could be sure from whence anyone came from.
 
Another three months passed and papa sent for my other two brothers Phillip and Charles. This left mama, Mercy and me still in the big city. My brothers would write mama every so often and tell her about the West.
 
Finally when papa sent for her to come west she had made up her mind not to go. She had a job working for a man her age that had just lost his wife and he convinced Ma to get a divorce from papa and marry him. The man was very well off and liked mama very much and mama was also taken by him.
 
I had finished my schooling and was on my own but Mercy moved in with mama and her new finance. A year or so had passed since Phillip and Charles had moved to be with papa in what they called the west.
 
They had heard about something called; “mail order brides.”  They had become interested in a couple of women and were considering sending for them. Since I lived near the ladies my brothers wanted me to go and check them out.
 
I didn’t feel comfortable doing what they asked but finally along with Mercy we did as they wanted. After meeting the women, without revealing our intention, we had a pretty good idea about who they were.
 
Mercy decided to do the writing and we tried to be fair in our assessment of them. One thing for sure they were older than they pretended to be and Mercy put it best by saying if you need someone to keep you warm in the winter these women was large enough to generate a lot of heat even in the coldest weather. We went on with our negative evaluation of them and I felt sorry for them but I had my brother’s future to consider.
 
The brothers decided to heed our advice and broke off the correspondence with the ladies in question.
 
I was glad for I thought that ten years was too great a difference in their ages to be compatible. Papa sent for me and I didn’t want to leave Mercy for we were very close.
 
 
I asked her if she wanted to marry me and she said she did so we were wed by a preacher instead of a crew member. She had made some friends and two of them agreed to go with us and meet my brothers with the idea of marrying them.
 
 
By the time we headed west Mercy was with child and shortly after we arrived she brought forth a baby boy. He was the first of our eventually four children. Mercy wanted to call him Isaac.
 
 
Phillip and Charles were excited about meeting the two women and met us when we arrived.
 
 
Phillip wanted to go straight to the preacher and marrying the one he selected but Mercy insisted that the boys get to know the girls before they decided to take them for wives. She felt that getting married should be for a lifetime even though mama had divorced papa.
 
 
When papa met the two friends of Mercy he wanted to know if she knew any more like them for him.  She told him one of the girls had lost her father to disease and her mother was a fine looking woman and was available. He instantly told Mercy to have the girl send for her mother for he wanted her for a wife.
 
 
Mercy agreed to talk to the girl who said it looked to her like papa was in bad need of a woman for he had been alone for over a year. They laughed about that. The girl agreed for she said her mother needed a man about as bad as Papa needed a woman. When the mother arrived the two unmarried boys and papa all got married at the same time with a grand ceremony.
 
 
We heard mama had married the man she was working for and for some reason she was going to have another child after these several years. The man she married was very happy about having a family and that was the last we heard directly from mother. She cut the ties she had with us but from time to time Mercy would get some news from friends she had in the city.
 
To Be continued
 
 


2 comments:

  1. Thank you Robert for sharing your story with us here at Tell me a Story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you! You work and share very honestly for so many. Bless you....

    ReplyDelete

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