Ebeneezer THOMSON provided by Brad REINHART
Margaret's family left Glasgow on the 29th of April,
1873, and went to Quebec, up the St. Lawrence amongst
the ice and seals; then up to the Lakes to Superior, which
took them two weeks because of the ice. From there, they
arrived at Brainard, Minnesota along the Northern Pacific
Railroad. Unable to find a place to stay with hotels overflowing,
they went back to the railroad company who sent them to
a reception house along the line, which was a "fine homey
They settled there for some until their
husbands had gone to file on their claims which meant
having to go to Wadena to look up their land - a sixty
mile walk through the woods along a blaze line which went
through near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota and then onto
Alexandria to the land office. After receiving their first
papers, they walked back to Parkers Prairie where they
rested for a day or two with the store keeper, made friends,
and got supplies: a cow and calf, steers to break in,
chickens and general household supplies.
Two other women besides Margaret and six
children were at the reception house at Brainard, without
their men folk when she heard Indians having "a big pow
wow over in the woods." She had not known anything about
Indians, having never read or heard about them in their
homeland, and one night around midnight while they slept
upstairs, she heard "the most unearthly yells." Looking
out of the window and seeing the Indians putting piles
of wood round and round the house to burn them out, they
began to pray thinking their last hour had come.
As if in answer to these prayers, Margaret
went to the window to look out at the west side of the
house and saw a row of "fine strapping chaps" standing
with their rifles cocked at "the devils" and saying in
the Indian language to them, "If one of you are seen in
five minutes, we will shoot you down like dogs."
They thanked the brave men who would never
forget the three women who would always think highly of
them, assured that the Lord had sent them to take care
of them. Though the account had happened 52 years ago
she often lived it over again and with good reason
saying it had turned her hair gray.
Concluding that the Lord had big work for
her to do on the prairie, they set out about the 17th
of June in 1873 in the afternoon, and arrived at their
land with no tent or house to go to, but the wild flowers
were a sight to behold as the sun glinted out and in among
a rainbow of colors. They dropped onto a little claim
shanty on legs and took possession to get under cover
for the night.
The little house was full of mosquitoes
so thick one could cut them with a knife and the logs
so open you could have thrown a cat through. All the while
it thundered and lightening split the sky until, flooded
out, they lifted their beds off of the floor and put Mrs.
Stewart's children up on the table and sat the rest of
the night working out plans to build one of thehouses.
Bright and early, we they were on their feet and got the
lumber to build. Jack Stewart and Mr. Strang (as she addresses
her husband) began to dig the well. They got down about
20 feet and thought there was plenty of water; but it
proved to be only sufficient for the time being.
They built one house first, which housed
all of them, and continued until they each had their own
house. The Stewarts and Strangs remained close friends.
Jim Robb was a neighbor on the other side, and the Beach's
folks were about a mile across the creek. That summer
would stand out in her memory as "one of the most cruelly
home sick times that ever a girl put in." She wrote that
she would sit by the hour and think of the dear ones she
had left at home. Her
father and mother had both "gone to their
lang alma," but her brother Andrew had been both to them
and had filled their place for the other children. She
remembered her father telling him to be good to the children
(four younger than he), and he was good and kind, and
he did the best he knew how and even though she was married,
he was none the less dear to her.
She used to sit and write by the hour and
tell him about her "wee, funny house on the prairie and
the stove sitting out under a tree." She recalled how
one time while baking bread in it one day, a storm came
up and the cattle tore around and kicked the stove over,
bread and all.
By September, she wrote that the wind would
across the prairie was cold, and that Mr. Strang, having
had lots of escapades and experiences in New Zealand and
Australia before they were married, knew of a good many
ways to keep warm; and he showed her how to "sod up to
the eves," while they sang the Psalms of David. They spent
many long winter days inside "that wee shanty." Inside,
everything was homemade. While her husband was making
chairs and table and things they needed to get along with,
she was busy fashioning little garments out of the many
good clothes she had for motherhood was upon her.
She helped Mrs. Stewart with her sewing
and the two tried to comfort each other when a letter
from home came. It was like a sacred thing to her, and
she would cry for days, thinking and dreaming of her mother
at night till she would be wakened up. The winters got
colder and colder 40 below zero was quite common,
as was the howl of the coyotes at night which frightened
her. They spent their first Christmas and New Years with
the Stewarts and had dinner and on the first day of January,
their boy Robert, "a fine healthy 10 pound boy," was born.
Others of the colony kept coming out until
there were ten families, all from the dear auld homeland.
She planted seeds from Scotland that her brother Andrew
had sent her, and had tatties, corn, and the grandest
ruttabagies, tomatoes and onions in their roadside garden
which was also filled with the fragrance of flowers. They
always went to church, were early risers, and unafraid
of hard work and as the first few years passed, their
stock grew and their cows multiplied. Margaret made butter
she sold in town, raised chickens, sold eggs, and had
two more children by time they built the second home and
She talked of how they walked the eight
miles to church on Sundays, and how she carried her butter
and eggs to her customers. She loved to walk and would
get home in time to have a good hearty supper for the
children coming home from school. After supper, they would
get the cows home and Mr. Strang and the two eldest boys
would milk while shed did the dishes and saw to the milk
pans. After their chores were done, she would read a story
or they would have a game, they'd put the babies to bed
and before long, all would be "in the land of nod, then
up early and into a good, honest day's work."
The colony of which Margaret refers, was
the Furness Colony which was the result of a meeting of
the Northern Pacific Railway Company and a Reverend Story
and Robert Kerr. The railroad had been interested in promoting
migration to its land holding and there were promoting
a group of temperance people, convinced the sale of intoxicating
drink was opposed to community propriety.
A committee of eight men had been appointed
to go to American and select a proper place for the settlement
of the colony. Included in the group were James and Thomas
Robb farmers of Perth, Scotland, who chose Wedena and
intended for it to be settled up with small farms.
Other early members of the group included
James Strang, John Stewart an iron moulder from Dumbarton,
James Anderson a clothier from Motherwell, David Murray
a craftsman, Ebenezer Thomson from Canada, and other Scots
including William Davidson, Albert McLean, and William
Wilson. by Margaret Arbuckle Strang in 1873, the original
is in possession of the Wadena Historical Society.