The lure of fortune in America was too much of a temptation for William. He sold his share of the business to John Simpson and decided to emigrate to the US in roughly 1868, shortly after the Civil War when the country was at its lowest, with Mary and three of their four children: Elizabeth (14), Sarah (9), and William Jr. (7). The oldest son, Samuel, remained behind to finish school and lived with one of his aunts; eventually he left for the US as well.
Prior to leaving for America William had the family’s surname changed from Slaymaker to Sargent. We have no idea what prompted that decision or why he chose “Sargent”. Mary’s sisters were very much against the idea of Mary, who was pregnant at the time, leaving them, and argued with William about it. Mary, in her mid-thirties my then, did not want to go, but William was adamant. The family set sail across the ocean and ended up settling in Jersey City, New Jersey. The child Mary was carrying died shortly after they arrived.
William Sargent went into the mason contracting business in Jersey City in a big way and lost everything he had including his sizable inheritance from George Wills. For some time the family was in dire straits, living off welfare with the oldest children, Samuel and Elizabeth, forced to find work of any kind. I believe Elizabeth worked as a household servant.
Mary died in 1877 at just 48 years of age. Elizabeth converted William to Christianity at that time–the lowest period in his life, a time when he had truly lost everything.
12/14/2011: Please see the update to this post.