Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back in Ayrshire, Scotland

Back in Scotland, Jane Lusk Wilson died at Pinmore in 1861 at the age of seventy-two, and James Wilson died at the same place in 1866 at the age of eighty-four. Both died at Pinmore and are buried in the 300 yr. old cemetery in Colmonell, Scotland
In 1997 we went to visit this little churchyard in Colmonell.  It was a beautiful, quaint little church that the people there were still using today.  That's me with my hand on the Wilson monument.
 Here Kathy and I are standing beside the Wilson Monument.  It was interesting to us to see that the monuments went clear up to the church building.  It was as if the church was put right in the middle of the cemetery.  It was a good feeling to be there and be among all of my family who were buried there.  I told my grandchildren later that I would have felt comfortable spending the night with all of my loved ones around me.  They of course thought that was a little crazy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Margaret Drynan Wilson dies.

West Wilson lived along through the usual deprivations and hardships of the early settler, and in the winter of 1860 his wife (Margaret Drynan) was taken sick and died.  It was a mild day in March.  Incidentally the door was standing open.  His wife had just died, and a rooster, just like it wanted to add it's insult to his grief, stepped across the threshold of the open door, and crowed right into the house.  As I was told, that was the last crowing Mr. Rooster did.  West went out and killed it.  I could venture a  guess that in driving the rooster away from the door, he was a little rough about it and swung a club at it, which in my way of thinking was both proper and excusable, under the circumstances.
Years went by and West made arrangements to set up a monument for Margaret, but in the lapse of time and the obliteration of grave marks and topography, there was some uncertainty between two graves as to which was his wife's.  He felt he would be able to identify the remains.  His wife's hair had been cut in her sickness, but on opening the grave, it revealed that the hair had continued to grow for a time after death.  But in the shape of the skull, and what was left of a homemade black walnut coffin that was made by Geo. Sloss, and other identifications that he knew of, he was convinced it was his wife's grave and the monument   was erected there.  It is a tall stone and has stood there like a  sentinel for over seventy years.  After three years, West married again, to Barbara Kennedy, and had four more children, Sara, John West, Christina Barbara, and Dalton Kennedy Wilson.   West lived on to the age of eighty-six, and is buried by the monument he erected in Crystal Cemetery.  (Fom Pioneer Wilson Story)

When James West Wilson was 11 yrs. old, his mother, Margaret Drynan Wilson died, leaving nine children.  His older sister, Janet, was only 14 yrs. old, next were twin sisters, Margaret and Jane, who were 12 yrs. old, then James West,  Agnes, 8 yrs. old, Catherine, 6 yrs. old, William Drynan, 4 yrs. old, Henry Lusk, 2 yrs. old and the baby, Grace who had been born 2 months before their mother died.  Grace only lived three years.  It was during this time that  their Aunt Margaret would come over to watch over the children.  Many times, during the winter months, she would have the children stay in bed to keep warm.  (From James West Wilson Story)

Source:  Pioneer Wilson Family by D.K. Wilson
   Find a Grave Memorial Memorial# 50059727
   Wilson, Margaret Drynan

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trials of getting settled

West  had built his house and for a barn he plowed the prairie and lifted the sod and built sod walls. He then laid poles across the top of the walls, put brush crossways on the poles and with his scythe, cut the prairie grass and put it on top of the brush for a roof.  He brought his gun over with him.  Game was plentiful here, but one day in coming back from hunting, he laid the gun down saying, "There's no sport in it, there's no game keepers", and strange to say, he never cared much for hunting afterwards.

 As soon as West had entered land in North Tama, his large family of married brothers and sisters, other relatives, many friends, some already in Canada, all began arriving  on Big Creek – even before West had gotten his own family moved.  They continued to arrive for the next ten years;  so many it was like a Scottish clan moving into North Tama.  They settled, for the most part, southwest and west of Buckingham village, around Tranquillity Church.

  In a letter dated Aug. 5, 1856, West's brother in law, John Galt, wrote home to the family still in Scotland with this information: 
            “Dear Father,
We all took the Express train from Chicago to Iowa   City....We expected to meet West Wilson in Iowa City but he did not get our letter till the day we arrived at his   house.  We hired three wagons and six horses to take us from Iowa City to Buckingham which cost Gilbert and me 100 dollars.  It was a very tiresome journey coming in the wagons.  We were very much fatigued.  We had to sleep in and below the wagons and some nights there was temendous thunder and lightning and rain.  We were ten days coming from New York here.    The sea journey is nothing compared to the land journey.....West had not his house up when we arrived and I gave him a hand to get it up and shingled.  We stopped with John Wilson till we finished West's house   and then we stopped a week with him (the first night., thirty-two slept  there in the house and yard.”

Source:  "They Came to North Tama" by Murray

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Traveling to America

On the ships that crossed the oceans, coming to this country, people were stacked in bunks, with no privacy of any kind.  People had to bring enough food to last for the voyage or go without. After West had left, his brother, John Wilson, who had married Jean McCosh in Scotland, decided there was not room on a small rented farm for his ever- increasing family and made plans to join his brother in America.  On the only available sailboat, at that time, the Carolyn, John stored barrels of oatmeal and soup ingredients, and during the seemingly endless six weeks’ journey did most of the cooking on the community stove.  His wife was sick the entire voyage.  He got up at 4 o’clock every morning to make the porridge, so many were wanting the stove later on; then he got the soup kettle ready to put on as soon as the others finished breakfast.  His daughter, Jean, was 11 yrs. old and was nursemaid for the little ones, Agnes, just a toddler, was nearly swept off the deck by a huge wave; Jean just managed to save her as she was slipping under the flimsy railing.  A burial at sea made a lasting impression on little Jean.  She always remembered the white-wrapped figure sliding into the water.  This same boat brought many of the Tama county friends and relatives to America, but finally went to the bottom on another voyage.     
West had arrived at Norwich, New London, Connecticut in 1846, rented some land, raised and sold vegetables; bought some cows and sold milk; got control of a sawmill and sawed lumber.  Norwich was an outlet for all kinds of products.  Everyone was enthusiastic over a dollar per bushel for peas picked before the Fourth of July, and the Wilson’s prospered during the years in Connecticut.  After reading the enthusiastic letters of his friend John Connell, he decided to follow his friend to North Tama.  He came with his brother, John and George Sloss.  The first night they put up with the Connell’s.  West entered a section in Crystal Township, the beginning of the Tranquility church neighborhood some four miles southwest of Old Buckingham.  John and George both entered land and they went back to get their families. settled up their affairs, and then came back again in 1856 to stay.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

West Wilson liked to poach!

In Scotland the farming class was mostly on rented land.  Law and gamekeepers protected the game of the country.  The farmers and renters didn't take kindly to these game laws and gamekeepers.  They considered them unfair laws mostly for the benefit of the sporting rich, and they would shoot this game when they thought they could do so without getting caught at it.  This kind of shooting was called "poaching".  West Wilson liked to poach.  And so did a lot of the other young fellows in the country like to poach.  They considered it great sport to slip on to some of those estates, shoot game, get the game keepers after them, and then make their get away, and while in some cases the game keepers thought they knew who the poachers 
were, the law required that they would have to be caught on the premises with the evidence at hand, otherwise they couldn't be arrested and fined.

  In 1846, West had made his arrangements to come to America, and on the night before the day he was to sail, there was some kind of a celebration taking place in their neighborhood, and to add cheer and light to the occasion they had a bonfire going. 

 There had also been a new game keeper appointed in their district, and he was going around in the crowd making boasts and threats how he was going to catch these poachers and what he would do to them.  These boasts and threats were more or less directed at West and got him riled up, and being a powerful man he grabbed hold of the gamekeeper and threw him into the bonfire.  It didn't do the game keeper much damage only that it singed off his whiskers, but that was a more serious offense than poaching and could call for arrest and punishment, but before they got around to make up their minds what to do about it (if anything) West had sailed for America. And that was the way he said good-bye to Scotland.

The stories of these early years has been taken from two sources.  One was a little book entitled "They Came to North Tama" by Janette Stephenson Murray, written in 1953 and printed by The Traer Star-Clipper, Trear, Iowa and Hodson Printing Comapany, of Hudson, Iowa.  I got my copy in 1956 with a note that said, "After yours, there will be just five copies of the book left for sale.  We get an order every month or so on the average, sometimes more--in fact we sold two others within the last wee.  So they'll soon be collector's items.  It's too bad she did not have more printed, but of course ther was no way of knowing how popular they would be.  Af first it looked like she had perhaps 100 too many!

The other source was from an unprinted manuscript written by Dalton Kennedy Wilson, who was the son of West Wilson and his second wife, Barbara Kennedy.  This manuscript was entitled "My Story of the Pioneer Wilson Family".  This story was included with the 75th Reunion Edition of the  "Wilson Family History" printed and distributed by the Wilson Family Organization,  Randolph W. Lyon, Pres.  1995

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ayrshire, Scotland - Top to Bottom

The Tannahill's came from Old Comnoch at the top of Ayrshire but not too far away at the bottom of Ayrshire in the lowlands, was a farm called Pinmore near Girvan.  It was on this farm that the tenants were James Wilson and Jane Lusk.  James was the son of John Wilson and Janet Murdock and was born in 1779 on a farm called Kilpatrick, not far from there.  He married Jane in 1806 or 1807.  She was the daughter of Andrew Lusk and margaret Kerr, and was the cousin of Sir Andrew Lusk, who was the Lord Mayor London.
James was an ideal man—vigorous, industrious, temperate and intensive and generous Presbyterian.  He is reported to have been a well-known singer of church music.  His wife, Jane, has been reported to have rare business talents, keen foresight, was clean, loveable and somewhat slim.  She operated a little country store on the farm.  The family was considered to be fairly prosperous.  They lived most of their married lives on the Glessel farm near Pinmore and Kilpatrick.

  Their eleven children, Margaret, Janet, John, West (our ancestor), Sarah, Chirstina, Grace, Jean, Mary, James and Andrew, were all born in the parish of Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland.  The children attended the school at both Pinmore and Glenluce farms.  They walked several miles each day to school.  Their father, James Wilson, believing like modern parents in a hot lunch, had a village woman prepare for them every noon a thick, hot soup with everything “intilt”.

Mindful in every way of his family’s welfare, James strongly emphasized the religious side of their lives.  They had a ten-mile ride each Sabbath past ten churches of various denominations to reach the one of his belief, the Scotch Covenanter. .  They would sit through the four and five hour services on the straight hard benches.  James’ version of their religious training said,  “We were never allowed to read the newspaper on Sunday or do anything except go to all the church services and keep clean and in order between times.  There was very little to eat on Sunday in our house and some of the neighbors did no cooking whatever.  If we twisted or made a noise, or snickered in Church, we caught it when we went home.   But on Monday we boys settled everything with our fists and climbed every tree and scaled every crag and went swimming.”

While visiting Scotland in 1997, we were able to see the green rolling hills of Girvan.  It was on this land that the Wilson’s and Drynan’s lived all those years ago.  The old stone building is probably a couple of hundred years old and the old bridge is probably older than that.  The little white dots on the hill are sheep.  The land is lush and green. No wonder they were successful farmers.  It was here that West Wilson was born.  How he must have missed this land when he came to America.  Iowa was about as close as he could get to Scotland.