Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Life Was Rugged a Century Ago:

Life Was Rugged a Century Ago:

Experiences of an English Immigrant





George H. Cadman was in his thirty-fourth year when he left

Euston Street Station in his native London on the first lap of the

trek to America. Rather than wait nine whole days at Liverpool

for the delayed departure of the Cambria, the ship on which he had

booked passage, he paid an extra fee to be rowed seven miles to the

Benjamin Adams and was outward bound in considerably less than

twenty-four hours after his arrival.1

He paid for his impatience--he subsequently categorized all Liver-

pool packets as "floating hells."2 His fellow passengers included ap-

proximately a hundred Germans of the British Foreign Legion, two

hundred Irish, forty Jews, and twenty English; he was the only

Englishman in his section of the ship. It was not long before "hell

broke loose." "Christmas eve," as Cadman phrased it, "we began

our pantomime by one Paddy running his knife into another fellow's

throat," and being put in irons. The following day some of the

sailors got drunk and became involved in a row with the Germans.

The Irish attempted to act as mediators, but they joined the fray

when their efforts to make peace failed. Resounding blows were

struck, knives were wielded, and order was restored with great


The Benjamin Adams speedily encountered foul weather and

spent two days "tacking about" in sight of Holyhead, on the Welsh


* Carrol H. Quenzel is librarian and professor of history at Mary Washington

College of the University of Virginia at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1 George H. Cadman to Esther C. Cadman, his wife, February 22, 1857. This

article is drawn from longhand copies of seven letters owned by Esther Cadman

Maglathlin of Tangerine, Florida. The originals have been lost. All are addressed to

his wife.

2 Letter of September 8, 1857.