Passage: WJ Price family

William James Price 1859-1934
William James Price 1859-1934

Why the English Prices moved to St. Louis in the late 19th century is a mystery. Our Irish ancestors emigrated as part of a phenomenon — tidal waves of people, practicing chain migration, maintaining close community connections in both new and old countries. But the English had their great migrations in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Price story seems more like a bold personal decision.

William James Price was the only child of Ann and James Price, who were agricultural laborers on the estate of Lord Vernon in Sudbury (Staffordshire). He completed elementary school, played cricket, and learned carpentry.

Sarah E. Newham Price (1861-1927)
Sarah E. Newham Price (1861-1927)

At age 22, he met 21-year-old Sarah Newham, who was working as a laundress in nearby Burton-Upon-Trent. She and her two brothers had left Lincolnshire (East Midlands) to try their fortune closer to the big cities. The brothers returned home, but in July 1881, Sarah got married to WJ.

Looks like Sarah was pregnant when they married: before the end of the year, Mary Ann was born. Within two years, their son Bill came along.

Soon after, they made their big decision to emigrate. The best theory I can come up with is that they were simply talented and ambitious and saw opportunity in prosperous St. Louis, Missouri. Sarah’s father was a master tailor with his own business in Witham-on-Hill, so she had enterprise in her blood. By all accounts, she was smart, organized, and no-nonsense. And WJ had very marketable skills. So they went.*

They paid dearly for their decision. While I have yet to find the records, family lore tells us that their little girl died during the crossing. It was a devastating turn of events. I can only imagine their grief and numbness as they took that thousand-mile train ride between their Atlantic port and St. Louis, carrying and nursing their infant Bill. They had left large families and solid communities behind them in small-town England. Now it was just them.

I know there turned out to be a community of English émigrés  in St. Louis. They had a cricket team and a fraternal organization. As I imagine my heartbroken great-grandparents arriving at Union Station, I can’t help hoping someone was there to greet them, to kiss away their tears, and to guide their way to food and shelter.

*I can’t quite pin down the year of immigration — some time between
the birth of William (Aug 1883) and his first (assumed) inclusion in the 1884 St Louis City Directory. Alternatively, the 1900 and 1920 Census both list their immigration date as 1886; 1910 census, 1885—these can’t be correct if 1884 directory is correct. Their next child was born in St. Louis in 1887.