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Scotch Grove Pioneers




AUG. 14, 1937.

Those interested in the Scotch Grove settlers may want to contact Rose DeRocher. She has some early marriage records from the Red River Settlement and will do lookups.

The story of those hardy Scotchmen,
who made an overland journey from
the Red River of the North to Jones
County, Iowa, in 1837 and formed
the settlement now known as
Scotch Grove.

Compiled at the time of the
Centennial Celebration of Scotch Grove,
August 14 and 15, 1937


This booklet is dedicated to the memory of those heroic Scotch Highlanders, who bravely faced loneliness and privations that they might found a permanent home, a church, and school for their children on these Iowa prairies.

It is true that to these noble pioneers, and others coming from various places, that Scotch Grove owes its character, its industry, and its courage.

The members of this community today should be rededicated to the spirit of these pioneers and continue to build along educational, moral, and religious lines.

Early Scotch Pioneers

[Fancy typeNE AFTERNOON in the late summer of 1837 a weary little band of five Highland Scotch families pushed their tired oxen south and west from the village of Dubuque, forded the Maquoketa river, plodded on through groves of oak, elm and ash, over thickets of hazel and alder until they reached the line where woods and prairie met.
[Space]This was their Land of Promise, a land without Laird or Factor, toward which they had been traveling for nearly four months, a journey of a thousand miles from the Red River of the North into this region, a territory then known as the "Black Hawk Purchase." With thankful hearts they made their first camp, unloaded their carts, and there established the beginning of a home, and a community—Scotch Grove.
[Picture]There was no fanfare of trumpets, not even the skirling of the bagpipes, perhaps only a simple Gaelic prayer of thanksgiving to mark the beginning of this new era in the lives of these people. Yet this event was history in the making; for this handful of Scotch men and women were to share in the development of a great agricultural area. They were to do their part for church and school, for government and country.
[Space]Here was no Plymouth Rock, and yet the same love of freedom and independence animated these Highlanders as inspired those colonists of Massachusetts Bay. They too had suffered much before they sought homes in this brave New World, where they were to pass on to their children their love of independent thinking and to imbue them with the spirit of the pioneer.

The Eviction of the Highlanders
[Space]To the men and women of this little band, heart-breaking journeys, dangers, and privations were no new story. They had belonged to the group from Sutherlandshire in Scotland known as the Selkirk Settlers, and for many years had faced stark tragedy, dangers by sea and land, and had endured terrible privations. They remembered the bitter days of the Eviction when the large landholders of the north of Scotland diminished, or cleared, the number of small crofts or holdings to make wide sheep runs for rent to proprietors from the South, and so bring in more money to the estates of these lords. This edict struck a terrible blow to the men and women of Kildonan parish, driving them from their humble homes and forcing many to seek refuge on the moors.
[Space]While these small farmers or crofters lived humbly it was the only life they knew, and they were content with a shieling of stone with a thatched roof, a few black cattle and some sheep, a few acres of oats and a garden with potatoes, peas, turnips and cabbage. These rugged moors had been their home for countless generations, and they loved the heather-clad hills, the white mist on Ben Laoghal, the brown streams dashing over mossy rocks, the east wind blowing from the sea. Their ancestors, the wild and unconquered Picts and Scots had dwelt here. These hills and mountain passes had resound ed to their war cry and here many a plaided warrior of these Highlands had laid down his life for kirk or clan.
[Picture][Space]Deeply religious, their church was doubly dear to them, since the men of Kildonan for countless generations had worshipped on the same spot. Kildonan, meaning the cell of Saint Donnan, had been established there by Saint Donnan 617 A.D., and the church itself had been built and rebuilt by the hands of Highland men. Situated on the banks of the Helmsdale river (a corrupt form of the Gaelic for Ullidh's dale) the kirk was the heart of the parish. Many of the shielings were clustered about it, and these humble folk loved that churchyard where their dead lay. Even today the worn and battered communion cup they drank from, now kept in a place of honor in the parish, is an eloquent testimony to their faith and devotion.
[Space]The bitter words of the Eviction struck terror to the hearts of these people. But they tried with all the means at their command to resist the order of the cruel Duchess of Sutherland, a new heir to the estate, who did not understand the Highland people. Her reply to the deputation who visited her to try to convince her of the shame of such an order is reported to have been: "You are an insolent lot for all your meekness of mouth. I will have no more dallyings with you. Tell your people to clear themselves, their children, and their chattels from my holdings and at once."
[Space]Nor was the Duchess the only landowner to drive out the tenantry, for in Argyllshire, the Earl of Breadalbane had driven out the entire clan of the McIntires from the land they had possessed from time out of memory.
[Space]What was to become of these dispossessed people was a problem not only to themselves but to the government. In order to meet it in part, herring fisheries had been established on the coast at Helmsdale, twelve miles from their village of Kildonan and a part of the parish. But that life had no attraction for men who loved the soil rather than the sea, and the sturdier souls looked farther afield. To them came hope in the proposals made by the agents of Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, to transport them to a land in the New World called Assiniboia, located on the Red River of the North.



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