Land of Opportunity: Ancestors Dreamed of Better Life

Many hardships awaited ancestors who traveled from England to the land of opportunity of which they dreamed.

| Good Old Days

My Great-Great-Grandfather John Bellaire, and his wife, Priscilla, left Eastgate, England, with their 1-year-old son, John Vincent, and landed on the shores of America, the land of opportunity, in 1851. The transition from their homeland to America caused the young couple many hardships. The long trip was rough for my ancestors, who had very few possessions. The decision to leave their families and embark on a new venture was a painful experience. They dreamed of a bright future for themselves and their child.

Great-Great-Grandpa settled with his family in Indiana, near the Michigan border, to work for a farmer. Priscilla's frail body weakened; she was homesick for relatives left behind in England. One year after arriving in America, Priscilla died. Her husband, heartbroken and in despair, placed his son in the loving care of the Ned Gray family in Michigan, a few miles from his home.

John Vincent grew to manhood and took up farming as his father and adoptive parents had done. John Vincent married Agnes VanAntwerp, a native of Holland, and to this union were born 10 children. One was my grandmother, Rose Bellaire, who married Albert Reed. After my Great-Grandfather Bellaire was widowed he lived with my Grandma Reed. I loved the old gentleman dearly. I couldn't understand how he could drink hot tea and not get his white mustache wet. One morning under my close observation he explained the separate section on his cup; sharing the secret took away the mystery. He always talked about my ancestors. When he died it was a terrible loss.

My ancestors left a rich legacy for their descendants. I'm proud of my brave and determined ancestors. I inherited their strength and courageous ability to meet tough obstacles, and I now pass those traditions on to my great-grandson. America, the Land of Opportunity. I'm so very proud to be an American.

Phyllis M. Peters
Three Rivers, Michigan

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 

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