|Sailing into New York|
James was born in the Southowram area of Halifax around the late 1790's. It is difficult to research exactly who his parents were, but there is a possibility that he was the illegitimate son of a Sarah Bancroft from Warley, near Halifax and was baptised at the parish church in Sowerby Bridge near Halifax on 19th February 1797. The earliest census records of 1841 show him as a married man with four children and a wife Mary, listed as a ‘porter’, and living at the Halifax Infirmary and Dispensary with fourteen other members of staff.
'The land is rich natural meadow, bounded by timbered land, within reach of two navigable rivers, and may be rendered immediately productive at a small expense. The successful cultivation of several prairies has awakened the attention of the public, and the value of this description of land is now known; so that the smaller portions, which are surrounded by timber, will probably be settled so rapidly as to absorb, in a few months, all that is to be obtained at the government rate, of two dollars per acre...'
We can see from the newspaper details that James was following in the footsteps of other local Halifax families, and also his eldest son William who had already emigrated to the US two years earlier, to start a new life. James and the other members of his family, together with the wider group of the Emigration Society sailed from Liverpool on a ship called the ‘Patrick Henry’ and landed in New York on 27th May 1844.
|The Patrick Henry|
|Railroad Company Advert|
The open lands available for settlement in the United States, particularly areas such as the newly opened Illinois prairie, appeared as a great opportunity for these small farmers and labourers. They would be able to become entrepreneurs and create their own farms in a short time.
James’s occupation as a druggist, sometimes carried a heavy responsibility with it, as can be read from a local newspaper story reported on in 1853, when an inquest on a Dr Alfred Wainhouse decided he committed suicide, after purchasing 2 ounce of ‘tincture of opium’, also known as ‘laudanum’ from James’s Druggist Shop. The man bought the medicine and having taken the full amount, went to bed and died the following day. No blame was apportioned to James as he had quite legally sold the drug, which was commonly administered at the time without prescription, and was a mixture of 10% morphine and 90% alcohol, and was used as a remedy for pain and sleeplessness.
James must have become rather a prominent person in Halifax, because the local newspaper of March 1851 reports on the appointment of the panel of local people who's responsibility it was to oversee and elect the officers, such as Church Wardens to St John's Parish Church in Halifax and James is shown as a member of the panel. A year later in March 1852, his name appears again in the newspaper as a one of eight local people appointed as Assessors for the Auditors of the Town...James being responsible for the North constituency for a period of one year.
As members of the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Bank, both James and his son Anthony were listed between 1860-1864 as 'persons of whom the Company considers' ...James is described as a 'Gentleman' and Anthony as a 'Druggist'.