Letter from America


This is the text of a letter to my mother, Jean Miller, in 1964.  It comes from one R. Johnston, Box 38, Fr Washakie Route, Lander, Wyoming, USA.

New link to pictures of Lander as it was when Bob arrived there.  It plays music, btw!

Other Lander links

http://w3.trib.com/~wmuseum/educatio.htm  or   http://www.landerchamber.org/ 

My mum used to read Zane Grey westerns when she was a teenager, and I think that a little part of her hankered after the Wild West. She must have discussed this with the writer of this letter - it explains some of the comments about how riding the range was not at all romantic!  Otherwise, there are tantalising threads to follow up - for example, the man does not name his children, except obliquely. This is the text.


Link from Aunty Mary's notes 


Jane Milne's sister married a William Johnstone, they had 12 children.  

                                                                                                        Dec 9, 1964

Dear Folks,

It still seems so nice to think that I finally found two of Bella Buchan's daughters, if I get back to Scotland again I will surely come and call on you both.  We have done a lot of travelling since we were in Scotland.  I have been in Canada four times since and the wife has been 3 times.  Last spring we had a terrible experience on a trip to a golden wedding of the wife's brother's in Whitefish, Montana.  We got to Chateau [?] Mountain and it started raining so we stayed there for a couple of days.  Ruth said that I had never taken her to Birch Creek dam as long as we lived in that neighborhood so I said I'll take you there this time and we will camp below the dam.  The dam went out and flooded the whole county the river being five miles wide at one place.  Livestock of all kinds went down the river including cars trucks tractors haystacks houses and people, 35 lives were lost and just think if it hadn't rained when it did we would have been down the river too.

Best Wishes for Christmas and a Prosperous New Year Cousin Bob and Ruth

PS We have so much writing to do at Christmas it's hard to get it done.

Letter enclosed with this:-

Dear Second Cousin Jean and Husband,

Maybe the relationship is not correct but that is as close as I can come to it.  Thanks so much for your nice letter of Feb 13 and strange as it may seem it only took 3 days to get to Lander which is the fastest I have ever gotten a letter from Scotland by air or otherwise isn't it wonderful the way things get around nowadays?  We were very happy to get your letter telling us of all your family and like ours the children are quite far apart (ours while we only had the two) were 6 years apart.  My wife is a graduate nurse but of course hasn't practiced for many years, very little since we were married which was on June 13th 1926, so you can see we weren't at all superstitious getting married on the 13th, eh?  Our boy was first on May 26th 1927 and the girl was born on Aug 24 1933.

The boy has one daughter and he works in the grocery business and was doing real well but when they found oil, uranium and iron ore here in such large quantities, this section of the country had a real boom the large super markets started moving in and he was finally forced to sell out. However he was fortunate in that he sold to a man who had plenty of money and who built a new Super Market and made Robbie manager so he is alright anyway.

The daughter married a young fellow who is a hard working fellow and runs a ranch for the Morton Salt Co. they have thousands of acres of land and also cattle in the same numbers.  They have lots of Black Angus, and some Herefords some Highland Cattle from Aberdeen some Buffalo, lots of horses all kinds.  I don't believe that you would like ranch life so well if you knew a little bit more about it because in most cases in this country you are living very far from the city, very often 50 to 100 miles, the only way to get milk is to catch a cow and milk her and often the horse used to catch the cow isn't too reliable.  Of course it isn't nearly as bad as it was when we came here in 1907 there were no cars nor trucks everything had to be done with horses and I have ridden one 60 miles in a day many times, not too pleasant sometimes I can assure you, but times have changed.

Our daughter has two boys and one girl, the boys are 6 & 7 years old and the girl is 5, but as cute as can be.

When we came to this  country in 1907 my father and brother were already here and had been for a year coming in May 1906, during which time we stayed at Gillahill [Belle Buchan's childhood home] with your grandparents the Buchans.  We went to school at Kingswells (my two sisters and myself that is) my brother Jim came with my father.  We had a grand time together Johnnie Bella Jim and Powlie, and in those days we had nothing to play with [but] a girdle and a cleek.  I can remember well when your mother apparently about that time started to go with the boys, or at least they were joking her about it anyway, they used to sing "Gin a body meet a body comin' frae the games Gin a body carry abody ower the moss and hame"  There was a lot more to it, just canna mind.  Your grand mother was a lovely person and was so good to everyone and I still have a picture of Gillahill with your Grandmother, Grandfather, Bella, Jim, Powlie all standing at the door across in front of the window.  Took it to Scotland with me in 1960 and then took another picture while I was there with a Polaroid camera which I was able to develop in 10 seconds and then compare them.  Astonishing as it may seem they were identical with the exception of a small porch built on after we left there. Even the rose bush at the window covered exactly the same portion of the window that it did 54 years before that.

The greatest surprise came that day when I left there and went out to the Skene road going into Aberdeen and I stopped at a house and said I am from the States and did live at Gillahill and went to school at Kingswells and I am looking for two girls that I went to school with by the name of Maggie Goost (?) and Lizzie Troupe.  Yes he said but jist a minute, ye wouldna be Bob Johnston wid ye?  I nearly fell over, he and I had walked a mile to school every day for a year.  Well folks I think I have blethered on about enough so will call it good enough for this time.

I don't have a good enough education to write a good letter anyway as I've never gone to school since I left Kingswells as I had to go to work as soon as I could. My sister Maggie who was five years younger than I rode a horse 5 miles to school and the horse was sometime like those rodeo horses you see on TV.  Anyway I've gotten on fine and don't need much education anymore.  I served 35 years for the Government as mechanic,  master mechanic and shop foreman, and retired in 1957. Bought a house from Standard Oil Co. and moved it 20 miles and the wife and I took all the insides out and insulated it and finished the insides with sheetrock and we now use electricity for everything heat and all.  I did all the wiring myself so kept the cost to a minimum. Come and see us sometime. Ruth & Bob.

PS We are thinking about another trip home but it won't be for another year or two yet if all goes well, Bob.

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