Land of Opportunity: Cattle Market Brings Family to Better Life

Father recalls his birthplace as a castle in Scotland.

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My father, who was born in Scotland in 1876, came to America, the land of opportunity, around 1884. His father had been to the States several times, since he was a cattle buyer in Scotland and brought cattle to America by ship to be sold in cattle markets here. After several trips the father decided to bring his family to America for a better life. The deciding factor seemed to be taxes, which were going up and up in Scotland.

Dad was 8 years old and had full run of the ship. Being a sociable youngster, he got acquainted with many of the hired personnel who worked aboard. The thing he remembered most was following the steward, who hauled ashes from the furnaces below deck to the upper deck and dumped them over the railing into the ocean. Seeing those cinders and ashes fall the long distance made a lasting impression on him.

The family docked in Philadelphia, then made their way by train to southern Iowa, where there was already a settlement of Scotsmen. In later years, Dad was the only one who ventured away from that area when he got old enough to be out on his own. He made his way to Missouri, met my mother, married and settled down on a scully lease until he could buy land of his own.

When the children came along his favorite saying was, "I was born in a castle in Scotland." We would grin, and with tongue in cheek, say, "Sure, sure."

It wasn't until 1977, 12 years after my father died, that my husband and I made a trip to Scotland to do some genealogy research. The map of Scotland that we were given listed a place called the Castle of Balzeordie. To make a long story short, it turned out to be the place where my dad was born. We went to see it. The place was a large stone house with probably 15 or 16 rooms. There was a courtyard in the back, with small apartments built in a "u" shape for servants' quarters.

Of course we were curious and began asking questions. We were told to go to a farm about a mile down the road, since that man had charge of renting the house and the grounds.

A thrill went through me when we found that man. He knew my family name and remembered them when they lived in Scotland. We asked why the huge house was called a castle, and he gave us the following story:

Away back in time, some members of the royal family were out hunting in this area. A severe storm came up, and some of the servants were sent to this farmhouse to ask if the prince and his entourage could stay for the night. Of course they were given permission. Ever since the place had been dubbed "The Castle."

So my dad was right. He was born in a castle – at least that is what he had always heard it called. Now we live with the guilt of making fun of him when he said "I was born in a castle."

If only we could reply, "Yes, Dad, we know you were born in a castle, and you are a member of royalty in our eyes!"

Zoe Rexroad
Adrian, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.