James West Wilson was born in new London, Connecticut, soon after his parents arrived in this country from Scotland. By the time he was 7 yrs. old his father had made the decision to settle in Iowa and in 1856 the family came to Iowa by wagon. It was a hard journey but for a 7 yr old boy it was quite an adventure. Within the next few years many of his Aunts and Uncles and Cousins had made the journey from Scotland to Iowa. West Wilson’s farm was in the center of the Scottish settlement at the intersection of well traveled main roads, in plain view of Tranquillity church. The children knew the teams of everyone around and could keep track of the comings and goings of relatives and neighbors.
The children learned to herd cattle. It was their job to keep the cattle away from unfenced crops. Without doubt, all the children of that day had their turn at this wearisome, never ending task. While the cattle contentedly grazed, the children whiled away the long hours picking the friendly Johnny-jump-ups, wild crab apple blossoms, yellow buttercups, and red lilies; curling the dandelion stems; gathering gum from the rosin weed; and making daisy chains.
|Home in Iowa where James grew up.|
When James 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. After the death of baby Grace, West began to write back to Scotland to a girl he had known years before. It wasn’t long before they decided to get married and Barbara Kennedy boarded the ship bound for America.
Sources for this story: "They Came to North Tama" by Murray and "My Pioneer Wilson Story" by Dalton K. Wilson