Frontiersmen

During the first 4 decades of the 19th century, a significant number of Norfolk men and their families took the momentous decision to emigrate to North America. The Norwich Mercury newspaper carried regular advertisements for ships sailing from Yarmouth and Lynn to Quebec and New York. Fares were about £4 for adults travelling steerage and half price, or less, for children. Among these families, from a small area in central Norfolk, were those of Riseborough, Gill, Rix and Plane.


Yarmouth Harbour


Great Yarmouth Quay


On 6 April 1836 Purling Plane, with his wife Honor and seven of his children, travelled to Yarmouth and boarded a ship sailing to Quebec, Canada, arriving there about a month later. (His eldest son, William, remained in England.) They then travelled south to the town of Geneseo, Livingston County, New York, which had been settled since about 1790 and had become established as an agricultural area. Others families from Norfolk had preceded Purling Plane and it is presumed that he had heard good reports about life there.

Two of Purling Plane’s sons, John and Charles, were apprenticed to Mr. H.P. North, a hardware merchant, tinsmith and landowner in Geneseo. Two of his daughters, Sarah and Charlotte, married into the Gill family and another, Esther, married Matthew Riseborough, all of whom had come from Norfolk.

Charles did not stay in Geneseo but moved west with a friend and found work near Rock River, Ogle County, Illinois, then frontier territory of the United States.

About 1840, apparently having heard that the government were selling parcels of land, Purling and Honor Plane, with their younger children, joined a wagon train and moved to Bloomington, Ogle County, Illinois, leaving son John and daughters Sarah, Charlotte and Esther in Geneseo. By 1845 he had bought 40 acres of farmland from the government and by 1850 owned 200 acres.

Some of the Gills, Riseboroughs and Rix’s also moved west to Illinois, leaving others in Geneseo :

• In 1840 a James Rix is recorded in Livingston County, New York.
• By 1843 William Riseborough and his wife Esther Plane are recorded in Monroe County, Illinois. Esther, when widowed in 1857, went on to marry Matthew Riseborough.
• In 1868, Benjamin Gill, who married Sarah Plane, was a blacksmith in Geneseo.
• In 1880 there were Rix’s in Belvidere. George K. Rix is recorded in Chicago, Illinois
• In 1880, Benjamin Gill and his wife Sarah were living in Belvidere as gardner and housekeeper to John Plane.