(This document was sent to me by Jean Hartle, in an email early 2014. She also sent me another biography; this one by William Cairncross (c1874) of his great grandfather William Cairncross (1829-1921).)
(My great grandfather) Alexander Cairncross was born in the Parish of Moneyfeath (Monifieth) in Forfarshire, about the year 1760, and died in 1836 (or could have been 1856) aged 96 years at the Standergate, two miles east of Dundee. He done the carting or hauling for the bottle works when they were in operation. He had a lease for about 20 acres of land South of Broughty Ferry Road, between that and the River Tay, as long as he or his would live on it. In 1840 the Dundee and Arbroath Railroad cut it right through the middle and made it useless. The Land Lord was Alexander Guthrie of Cragie; the name of the farm. There my grandfather, William Cairncross was born, my father Alexander Cairncross - and my brother Alexander, and Barbra, my sister were born. The house stood but a few feet from the river.
My grandfather William Cairncross was born at the Standergate, in the Parish of Dundee, about the year 1785, and died in Dundee 1847, aged 62. I don't know where he was buried. By his first wife he had but one son, my father Alexander Cairncross (1802-1881). She died when my father was young, and he was raised by my Grandfather, and lived with him until the great grandfather died. Grandfather was married the second time to a Miss Brown and she had three daughters, Mary, Esebell, and Elesbath, and two sons William and Peter. The daughters were all married when I knew them, one was married to a baker, a Mr. Raite, and the other two husbands were sailors. William was married and had a family. He was a sailor and came to America;¨ where we lost track of him. Peter was a Drayman and unmarried when I left home. Grandfather was the keeper of the bonded warehouse for the government for over forty years in Dundee at comfortable salary owned some property in houses and lots in Daufield Walk, the name of the street where he lived and died
My Father, Alexander Cairncross, was born at the Standergate, in the Parish of Dundee, in the year 1800, and died in Litchfield, Meeker County, Minn. 1882, at 82 years of age. He followed the sea as a sailor: until he was married about the year 1823. He then worked as salmon fisher, and fisherman. He lost everything at herring fishing in 1828, he was then appointed in the coast guard service till 1836, when he was appointed to tide water (Dock Gateman) at the Earl Grays Dock, better known as west dock, where he served till 1847, when he came to America. He landed in New York in March, having been eleven weeks on the passage, on a brig with 300 passengers. Three months is not an uncommon length of time to come from Scotland to America, and sometimes 4 months. He worked for a while on the Hudson River boats, and then went to the lakes and lay on a ship all winter at Cleveland, on Lake Erie.
In the spring of 1848 he shipped on the United States Revenue Cutter, and went from Chicago to New York on her by the St. Lawrence River. She was on her way to California, and was lost at Cape Horn, and nothing was ever heard of her as all hands were lost. He would have been on her but for mother, who persuaded him not to go. The family moved from New York to Memphis, Tennessee that summer to run a plantation belonging to Madam De Arisment, better known in the county as Fanny Wright, a Scotch woman married to a Frenchman. She was a great Lecturer and writer, and a great friend of President Jackson, and took a very active part in politics at the time of his election, and (he) made her a present of a section of land, fifteen miles east of Memphis, on the Wolf River, where we had lived until spring. We soon found we had made a mistake for our anti-slavery principles did not suit our neighbours, as slavery was then at its highest, and the pro-slavery and anti-slavery was causing a good deal of hard feeling, and any person who was not in favour of slavery had no business in the slave states, and we concluded that we had better leave, and that as soon as we could. So we moved to Memphis where from there we moved to Smithland, Kentucky where we remained till fall then we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where we lived for some years, then moved from there to Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin in 1855.
Lived there for a year, then moved to Arlington, Sibley County, Minn. in the spring of 1856, where he lived till the fall of 1856, then moved to Darwin, then from there to Lichfield, where he died on the 2nd day of May 1882 and buried there.
William Cairncross was born on the 19th day of December, 1829, in Broughty Perry, Forfarshire, Scotland, on the banks of the River Tay, and lived there till I was six years of age, we then moved to Dundee till I was fifteen years of age, then came to America. I sailed from there on the twelfth day 1845, on the bark called The Clansman of Glasgow, for Quebec, and arrived on the __ of June, three days before the great fire that destroyed the entire city. I left the ship sometime after and settled in the township of Saphisbury (or Saphisburg), Prince Edward district Upper Canada, twelve miles south of the city of Belvel.
I lived with John Black, a Scotchman on a farm, and learned farming. My parents came to New York in the March of the year 1847, and I went to New York in the summer of 1847. I drove team on the Erie Canal that fall till it froze up, and then went to New York, and from there went to St. Laurence County near the village of Oxbou and burned charcoal all winter, from there I went to Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario and from there to Osweago looking for work on the lakes, but it was too early in the season.
I travelled all the way on boat one hundred and ten miles without any money. (He has written a tramp) I had to go to work on the railroad that was building from Oswego to Serecuse at fifty cents a day, as the boss thought I was too young to do a manís work being only 17 years old but raised it to a dollar a dav. Before night I had proved to be as good a workman as any of the fifty. I worked till the end of May then went to the lakes and run on a propeller from Chicago to Bufflo and Osweage. I went from there in the fall to Memphis, Tennessee to work on a plantation belonging to Madam De Aresmant. She was better known in this country as Fanny Wright. She was a Scotch woman that my sister Barbra traveled with as maid and companion. The place was fifteen miles east of Memphis, near Germantown, it was called Nashaoa. We lived about six months on the place and put in the crop, but as we were too much opposed to slavery and said too much against it, we found that it would be uncomfortable to live there, so we left and went to Memphis. We steamboated till Spring. My brother Alick and I went up to the lakes. Alick stayed at Perice on the Illinois River and I went to Chicago. I ran on the lakes that summer¨, went back to Memphis in the fall and then to Smithland in Kentuckey, and from there to Cincinnati then to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
I bought a farm in Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin in 1851 and married Cathrin McLean on the 12th day of August 1853 at Payette, Laffeatt County, Wisconsin. We went to Alton, Illinois in December of that year and lived there 2 years. Alexander Cairncross our first son was born on the 24th day of April 1854, and we moved to our farm in Wisconsin in 1855, where Jessie was born on the 6th day of October 1855. Barbra, our second daughter was born 24th day of November 1857 and died at Arlington, Minn. 1863. Mary was born 4 February 1859, at Springdale, Wis. We sold our farm in Wisconsin in the summer of 1861 and moved to Arlingtan, Sibley County, Minnesota, where Ana Jane was born October 1st 1862 on section 9, Arlington. Minnie was born 25th of December1864 in Arlington. Andrew S. was born 16th day of December 1866 on section 6 Arlington. We moved to Washington Lake Township in January 1867 in section 19, in Sidley County Minn., where I put up a sawmill grist mill, and operated it for 25 years till 1892, when I moved to Plato, McLeod County, Minn.
Maggie our 6th daughter was born on May 28, 1869 on lot 3, section 19, Washington Lake, Sibley County, Minn. William our 3rd son was born on March 13th 1871 at the same place. Peter was born on the 8th day of February 1874, at the same place. James Cristol our 5th son was born March 15th, 1876 at the same place. Stewart our sixth son was born on the 8th day of June, 1878 at the same place.
1 Alexander 1854
2 Jessie 1855
3 Barbra 1857-1863
4 Mary 1859
5 Ana Jane 1862
6 Minnie 1864
7 Andrew 1866
8 Maggie 1869
9 William 1871
10 Peter 1874
11 James 1876
12 Stewart 1878
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