“Death, fires, and burglary, make all men equals”
My family history has not been documented. There is no knowledge of why Joseph Wheeler left to come to New York or why exactly he went to Canandaigua, New York. However, what we do know is that he did. We know that there is a reason for it. We also know that Canandaigua would be the location of 4 generations to come. Through the sources, I have developed the reasoning behind his departure and settling location. Joseph Wheeler had the courage of leaving everything behind in order to create a better and new beginning for his family.
Pictures speak louder than words. As you can see in the picture above the men of power are holding small amounts of bread over the rioting crowd. This picture is an illustration of the effects of the Poor Law Amendment of 1834 in Berkshire, England. The people shown in the picture are the impoverished in England. They are fighting each other for food that the government “so kindly” has given them to help relieve some of the poverty. The conditions were brutal; parents were fighting to provide food for their family while also trying to keep their children safe from the rioters.
Every single individual in the picture portrays a powerful and different message. The men in power standing above the rest of them portrays the parliament. They are smiling as if they are doing a great thing for the less fortunate when in fact they are only making things worse. The three men stand above the rest of the crowd to show their superiority and control. The masses fighting and screaming are the impoverished, low class citizens who the Poor law amendment was suppose to radically save. The family and the man in the background dancing are of the middle class. They were not affected by this, but instead, they decided to dance with joy as a mockery of the savages fighting for survival. The conditions during the 1830's were unimaginable. Joseph Wheeler was one of the ones fighting, fighting to protect the lives of his children and continue to put just a loaf of bread on the aged dinner table and split it five ways.
The conditions were unsuitable for Joseph Wheeler to raise a family. The new beginnings in America were worth the struggle of leaving everything behind. He knew his family did not deserve to have to look out to the streets of their own city and see people starving and fighting with no intention but survival. My main focus on this project was to try to find why; why did Joseph Wheeler move his family across the country? This picture expresses the reason. His main goal in life was to make his family happy, and he knew he would have to take drastic measures to allow his children to pursue happiness.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Chapman and Hall, 1836.
Dickens was a man of incredible literary talent. His work had so much meaning and information behind it that could be used to get a great feel for the culture in England in the mid 19th century. The Adventures of Oliver Twist tells a story of a young boy who is growing in the workhouses. He lives in the life of poverty just as many of the people did at the time. The setting is in a small town outside of England; the entire beginning of the book describes the conditions of the workhouses and how Oliver, a young poor child, suffered from the Poor Law Act and struggled to eat just a slice of bread. Throughout the novel, Oliver has to overcome obstacle after obstacle thrown his way. He would be scammed by the Monks and corrupted by Fagina and the “Artful dodger” in London. The events that occur to Oliver throughout describe the condition of England at the time: Power with no remorse.
My main focus of Oliver Twist is the beginning times. The conditions of the workhouses and the irreversible effects of the poor law amendment. Oliver was with a group of young starving boys; they drew straws and the loser would have to go to up to Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, and ask for another portion. Oliver lost and proceeded to go up to the big bellied, intimidating Mr. Bumble and ask “Please, sir, I want some more”. The rich workhouse administration proceed to pitch a fit and immediately offer money for anyone to take Oliver on as an apprentice. Essentially, the men in power paid someone to take in Oliver as their slave. The conditions during this time period were horrific. Imagine being a young boy during this time period. You ask for a little more food, and then you get sent away to be a servant for it. The Parliament did not care about their people.
Power and money were their only priority.
Oliver Twist helps express the conditions that Joseph Wheeler and his family had to live in. Charles Dickens uses this book to express his disbelief in the culture of England at the time. Joseph Wheeler would not let his family become victim to this horrific scenery. There was potential his wheat farms would fail completely, and instead of just getting portions every once in awhile, the Wheelers would have to live in the workhouses.
“The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale with anxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked like death; not death as it shews in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven: and the gross air of the world has not had time to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.”
Dickens writes the above quote to describe the life in England at the time. The poor were filled with anxiety and sadness with nowhere to go. Joseph had to give his family and chance and that is exactly what he did.
“When Charles Dickens Fell out with America.” BBC News, BBC, 14 Feb. 2012, www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17017791.
This article describes the journey of the Charles Dickens when we came to America in 1842. I felt it was only fitting to find a source of Dickens coming to America just as Joseph Wheeler did. Charles Dickens came over when New York hosted one of the greatest events in the city to honor Dickens. Dickens originally had a fantastic time and was of high praise by everyone. It turned around quick though when he continued to be followed by the masses. He mocked the lack of class by many Americans as they didn’t eat proper. He proclaimed that they “stripped social sacraments of everything but the mere satisfaction of natural cravings”. He thought very low of America and the great democracy that was in place.
Dickens was thought of as a very unlikable and unpleasant. He was thought of as rude and careless. His viewpoint on America, furthermore, was that opposite of Joseph’s. The article shows one viewpoint of America from someone who was of the high class in England. He believed America was low class and not adequate to his level. This was the mentality of the higher class because they had it easy in England.
On the other hand, for Joseph Wheeler and his family, America was the new beginning they needed. The conditions in Canandaigua were five times better than the conditions they were previously living in. There is no more workhouses, no more suffering wheat farms, and no more fear of survival. He didn’t know it at the time, but this is where the Wheelers would stay put for the rest of their time.
Satre, Marian Carter. Poverty in Berkshire: a Descriptive Synthesis of the Effects of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment. University Microfilms, 1979.
The book takes a long detailed look of all the social, economic, and cultural consequences of the Poor Law Amendment of 1834. The purpose of the poor law amendment was originally to cheaply relieve poverty in England by allowing those on the streets the opportunity to work in these “factories” where they could sleep and receive food. The workhouses were of terrible conditions due to the lack of labor laws and struggle to stay alive. Not only were the poor affected, the rural farmers were also troubled by it. The act set up a system where Parliament would pay pensions to these framers in exchange for crop for these shelters. However, the pension was not adequate. Farmers were actually losing money off their crops. The effects of the Amendment ended up punishing the poor for no reason. The results of the Poor Law Amendment were polar opposite of the intentions.
There are so many hidden effects of the Poor Law Amendment that Parliament tried to hide from the common. The book dives deep into the facts that are scary; they truly allow a reader to understand the crucial consequences. The workhouses were actually housing for orphans, the old, the sick, and the insane. There were patients with dying diseases only five feet away from the little 8 year old boy with no family. The mortality rate in the workhouses was 15%. This means almost one in every six people didn’t come out of the workhouse alive. The poor were now made sicker; the effects were irreversible.
With the rural farmers struggling, Joseph Wheeler knew he would have to make changes for the health of his family. This book allowed me to get more details about the conditions of England during this time. It contributed to the reason Joseph Wheeler decided not to stay in England. The question this whole time is why did he leave? Well, he left so his children wouldn’t just become a number.
Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. Chapman and Hall, 1836.
The pickwick papers were one of Dickens’ humorous works. The basis of the novel is the president of the pickwick club, Samuel Pickwick, and three other pickwickians travel across smaller cities outside London. They do this in order to get a better feel of the life around their hometown and see the difference in their lifestyles. Throughout their travels, they encounter many different instances of the justice system. They all had different stories of the injustice that took place. Dickens approached it in a comedic way though. This allowed for more of the masses to relate to the book as the people could imagine themselves being in the character’s’ shoes.
Dickens used to work as a law clerk for the justice system of England. He had a first hand account of the corruptness and injustice that the system promoted. The wealthy had all the power, and it showed with system. The system was inadequately ran and punished the poor for more than they deserved.
“Why, I don’t exactly know about perjury, my dear sir,” replied the little gentleman. “Harsh word, my dear sir, very harsh word indeed. It’s a legal fiction, my dear sir, nothing more.”
The Paperwick Papers contributed to the problems that existed in Berkshire during the time leading up to the Wheeler’s departure. If you weren’t wealthy, the power was against you. Joseph and his family were not with the power. The country was corrupt as a whole. The poor were punished for being poor. The wealthy were invincible because they were wealthy.
Qunicey, Thomas De. Confessions of an English Opium Eater. London Magazine, 1821.
“Oh! just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for ‘the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel,’ bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure of blood.”
The Confessions of an English Opium Eater was an autobiography written by Thomas De Quincey. The book is broken into two separate tales. Part one describes the the reasons and conditions that led him to the life of opium addiction. He grew up in an impoverished home. He describes that nothing ever went his way. When he was 17, he ran away from home and was homeless in London for two years. After he describes the steps leading to his addiction, he begins Part two which describes his addiction with the pain and pleasures of opium.
De Quincy was thought as the inventor of addiction writing in Europe. The confessions were a one of a kind literary work. He describes all different aspects of addiction, something that had never been done before. This book has a powerful meaning behind it that may not have anything to do with my family history but rather my current and future family. The book shows that addiction is real; it is not something to be afraid of or try to hide. It is something that needs to be recognized.
This book is relevant to my theme of courage and perseverance. My older brother, Reed, has had a past with drug addiction on and off. It affects my family tremendously, but it is something that brings our family closer together and makes us stronger. These are values that have been passed down through generations. We take every bull by the horns and take the problem on full speed.
The only thing you can control is how you hard you fight.
Anbinder, Tyler. City of Dreams: the 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York. Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
Tyler Anbinder tells the story how New York became the City of Dreams for immigrants. The book recounts over a hundred real life stories from all different kinds of immigrants. It has stories of how Oscar de la Renta came from the Dominican to dressing the first ladies. It tells the story of how Alexander Hamilton went from a Caribbean orphan to one of the founding fathers. It promotes the idea that immigrants have been a part of the rich history of America and are continuing to shape the future of America.
New York is proclaimed as the city of dreams. It has a 400 year history of providing a new home and new success for immigrants. Every story told shines a new light on how powerful America really is. It is the land of free and the home of the brave after all. It really is the City of Dreams.
he Wheelers were just another number on the success story of immigrants to New York. It gave them the freedom from the inequality in Berkshire. It gave them a new life. New York allowed the Wheeler lineage to become what it has become today. With Joseph bringing his family over to America, it allowed his family the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Paulson, Lynn. “Canandaigua Centennial: Working on the Railroads.” MPNnow,23 July 2013,
The article “Canandaigua Centennial: Working on the railroads” provides a slight historic timeline of when the city of Canandaigua was popping with passengers and goods from all over. It was a manufacturing hub; the economy was up and the american dream was in full effect. The article shows how the railroad not only created easy access, but created over a thousand new jobs in the process. The very first train to go through Canandaigua was 1840. Canandaigua produced “more than 36 passenger trains a day” would enter and leave the city in addition to the trade trains coming along.
Canandaigua was a city of opportunity for many. The rail lines created employment, trade, and travel opportunities for the citizens. The history of the railroad was very rich, and contributed to the art and culture the city praised. The New York Central Depot was voted “most beautiful depot on Main Line or any of its branches”. The architecture, layout, and equipment all contributed to this award. The elegance and determination of the rail line and depots showed the culture around Canandaigua and the set up for success.
Joseph Wheeler wanted to give his family the best opportunity for success. He was a hardworking man who did everything in his power to give his children the best life. Canandaigua was the city where he was able to do this very thing. The article helps create a picture of one of the many reasons Joseph decided to make the trip across the Atlantic to this small town in western New York. The railroad allowed a manufacturing and travel hub to be located in this small town. This single item within the city opened the door for economic booms which allowed Joseph and his family to create a long lasting tradition of living in the Canandaigua. The article allowed me to gain a better understanding of some of the reasoning behind choosing Canandaigua and the culture of the area around the time.
Dickens, Mamie. My Father as I Recall Him. Roxburghe Press, 1902.
Mamie Dickens wrote this book in hope of spreading all the good memories of Charles Dickens, her father. The book is made up of memories from her whole life with her father.
“I hold him in my heart of hearts as a man apart from all other men, as one apart from all other beings.”
Mamie describes Charles as her hero and viewed her father with the highest admiration. She stuck by his side the whole time. She stuck by him through his divorce with her mom, and most importantly, she stuck by his side even when everyone expressed how cruel of a human being he was. That is true love for her father. One of the most found memories she describes of her father is the Christmas tradition. She expresses that he would take them to Holborn Toy Shop and let her and her sister pick out any present they wanted. He never showed the “least impatience, was always interested, and [was] as desirous as we were”. Regardless of what his actions were portrayed as from other people, she thought very fondly of him.
I use this book slightly to get a better feel for the culture of his time, but mostly to use as a comparison to how Joseph III, Oliver, and Thomas all viewed their father. They viewed him with the utmost respect and highest praise. Joseph worked all day and all night to provide for his family. Unlike, Charles, Joseph was a great man all around, but what they did have in common was how appreciative their children were about them. Joseph took the biggest risk of his life, leaving everything behind in hopes of issuing his family the best possible opportunity for success.
“Ancestry Family Tree.” Ancestry, www.ancestry.com/.
Ancestry.com allowed me to find more about my family than I would have ever imagined. Going into this project, I had no knowledge of anything family history related. I had no clue where we came from, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know the name of my great grandparents. My family tree allowed me to trace my lineage all the way to my great great great great grandparents from Berkshire, England. Not only was I able to trace back who they were, I was able to find immigration trips over to America, birth records, death records, and marriage license. Through ancestry.com, I was able to find the ship document that had Joseph Wheeler and his family coming over to New York in 1842.
My family had no journals or records of any kind of our family history; I was starting on a clean slate, and I was able to find out occupations of my Ancestors and census records to see where they were living at the time. Ancestory.com is the basis of all the knowledge I now know about my family history.
Society, Ontario County Historical. “Canandaigua Treaty of 1794.” YouTube, 19 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=cClt4EtvQI0.
The Ontario County Historical Society Museum is located on North Main Street in Canandaigua, NY . The Historical Society Museum was built in 1914 by architect Claude Bragdon. The museum has rotating exhibits on all kinds of rich history of the county. It contains exhibits from the women’s suffrage movement to the aviation race over the Great Lakes. One specific exhibit that brings in a very rich cultural history is the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794. The exhibit contains the original treaty itself. It contains the original writing, and the original signatures of President George Washington and the Grand Council of the Six nations.
The Canandaigua Treaty was signed post Revolutionary War in order to prevent another war. The treaty proposed a solid boundary for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; this would ease the tensions with the Native Americans and create friendship between the nations in case of another war. Canandaigua is a city of culture. It doesn’t consist of supremacy or discrimination but instead acceptance.
“Peace and friendship are hereby firmly established, and shall be perpetual, between the United States and the Six Nations.” — Article 1
Joseph Wheeler was not a man of racism or superiority of any kind. He knew all were equal, and that is a value that has continued to be passed down for generations. He wanted to be in a community that was accepting. He wanted to go to a community where his family would learn to love and cherish everyone. Canandaigua allowed him to instill these values in his children which would continued to passed down for generations.
This is one of the most prominent photos to describe the conditions during the Poor Law Amendment. Every portion of the picture shows a different consequence of the Amendment in England. The conditions were unlivable; power controlled everything with no remorse. “Pray, Sir, have mercy on us and let us in, or give us some relief, for we are actually starving.” The leftmost picture shows a wealthy workhouse owner not letting those in who are actually in need. The bottom left picture shows the workers almost as slaves. There heads were shaven and striped of anything personal. This wasn’t to help them; this was to help increase the power of the wealthy. The old man is getting whipped because he can’t work; the guard continues to whip him due to his lack of work effort. There is bodies hanging from the ceiling as they have been killed. The wagon has dead bodies in it, and the man is going to the hospital to sell the bodies to the surgeons.
“NOTICE is hereby given, all able-bodied paupers who conduct themselves in a mutinous or disorderly manner will be knocked on the head without a trial and their bodies sold to the surgeons. By order of government. “
These workhouses were slave houses. The government didn’t implement the Poor Law Amendment to relieve poverty. They passed it to make the wealthy more powerful and get more people off the streets(in a bad way). The conditions were getting too brutal for Joseph Wheeler to raise a family. His children were seeing this kind of culture right in their hometown. The Wheelers needed a new beginning.