George Prestidge

Date in History: 1817 – 1883

For some early immigrants, the rigors of life on the frontier paled in comparison to the trip that brought them there. In the spring of 1846, 28-year-old George Prestidge and his 34-year-old wife Elizabeth sailed from London with their two children – young George who was two years old and eight-month-old baby Ann. After arriving in New York, they took a riverboat up the Hudson River, a canal boat through the Erie Canal and finally a steamboat through the Great Lakes to arrive in Milwaukee. The final leg – mercifully overland – to Fort Atkinson was accomplished by stagecoach.

The excerpts below are from the diary that Prestidge kept during their 38-day ocean voyage. When you read the constant refrain of “wife sick,” remember they had a toddler and baby with them!

Sunday, Ap[ril] 26 Went on board the Victoria (Capt Morgan Commodor) a hard days work putting boxes to right.

Mon 27 – Last sight of land. Weather very fine and pleasant.

Tue 28 – Calm as a Fish Pond. Toward evening began to feel the motion of the vessel. Passengers began to be sick. My wife sick.

Th 30 – Quite as comfortable as circumstances permit. I think we have the best berth in the steerage. We have about 130 German passengers and about 220 English which has made it very uncomfortable in respect to cooking and closet duties till today when the English and German passengers was parted in respect to the cooking. We had agreed for each English family to pay 1/- per berth for 2 men to cook the whole voyage and keep the closets clean

Fr May 1 – Calm. Wife sick. Myself almost crazy with ear and tooth ache.

Sat 2 – Contrary wind gain very little distance. Wife sick. Baby sick, self ears and tooth ache.

Sun 3 – Spent the day in singing, Reading and Prayer. Read two sermons one in the afternoon, the other in the evening. Some of the passenger greatly annoyed.

M 4 – Wife sick children and self. Scarcly able to wait on the other. Wind blowing brisk gale. Passengers very sick.

Tue 5 – Wife, Geo and self very sick. Appetite seems quite gone. Food quite nauseous.

F 8 – Weather stormy sea mountain high. Vessel rolls most tremendously. German child died cast overboard. Wife sick.

Sat 9 – Stormy. Wife sick. Passed a wreck.

Sun 10 – Broke the yardarm of Main mast.

Mon 11 – German woman died. German woman confined with stillborn child.

Th 14 – Wife sick. Broke the fore topmast.

S 17 – Pleasant sailing. Carpenters hard at work rep the mast.

T 19 – Sea calm as a Fish Pond. Weather very warm. Saw several porpoises and 2 Fish called the Portuguese Man of War. Saw 6 vessels spoke with a vessel from Ceylon bound for Liverpool.

Th 21 – Wind and Water very rough. Obliged to hold on with both hands. Wife and children sick.

W 27 – Last night had hard work to keep in our berth. In the morning split the fore top sail. Wife very sick. Birth in the 2nd cabin.

F 29 – Vessel sails over the Briney Deep at about 6 or 8 knots an hour. Saw 2 vessels and a flock of Birds and sea weed – even saw two porpoises leap out of the water.

M June 1st – Fine morn. Gentle breeze. At noon Pilot came aboard. Weather very foggy.

T 2 – Saw Long Island and Jersey – beautiful prospect – very fine morn. The view of Long Island and Statten Island beyond description. Landed and went to Mr. W. Robinsons 2 Front St.

Sadly, only two months after surviving this harrowing journey, young George died just three days after his third birthday.

 

The following excerpt aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 08/16/2004.

For some of the early immigrants to Wisconsin, the rigors of life on the frontier paled in comparison to the trip that brought them there. In the spring of 1846, 28-year-old George Prestidge and his 34-year-old wife Elizabeth sailed from London with their two children – young George who was two years old and eight-month-old baby Ann. In the diary that he kept during the 38-day ocean voyage, Prestidge wrote a daily refrain of “wife sick.”

After arriving in New York, they took a riverboat up the Hudson River, a canal boat through the Erie Canal, and finally a steamboat through the Great Lakes to arrive in Milwaukee. The final leg, mercifully overland, to Fort Atkinson, was accomplished by stagecoach. [Sadly, only two months after surviving this harrowing journey, young George died just three days after his third birthday.] could be eliminated if needed.

Prestidge would go on to open the first photographic studio in Fort Atkinson, on the corner of South Third Street and South Main Street.

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