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Glenbuchat Heritage

10 Alexander Walker’s Move to the USA
The Glenbuchat Image Library
10 Alexander Walker’s Move to the USA

Click for Alexander Walker Introduction

In 1870 Alexander Walker decided to emigrate to the United States. It is not known exactly why Alexander, who was now aged 50, and well established with a responsible job and well respected in the community, chose to move. There are a number of factors however which may help to explain his decision.

Firstly, he was an intelligent man, equal in intellect if not more so than the landed gentry around him. Despite this, in his present position he was not going to advance in life any further. He would have heard about other people from the glen who had emigrated and were doing well overseas any may have felt he should take this last chance to improve himself.

In 1866 Alexander’s 4 year old daughter Jane died of abdominal TB. This would have been a slow, distressing, wasting illness and the only cure available at the time was to move to warmer climates. Perhaps this made Alexander feel that he should move for the health of the rest of the family. Alexander’s parents also died at that time, within a short time of each other. His father died in 1867 and his mother 1868. With their deaths he may have had no more family responsibilities and his ties with his past were broken.

Alexander was also possibly aware that the highpoint of the Newe estates was passing. In 1884 when Charles John Forbes, (Sir Charles’s son) 4th Baronet of Newe died at the age of 41, his successor Sir Charles Stewart Forbes, 5th Bt. indicated that there might not be enough money to keep the estate going. In fact by 1900 most of the estate lands were sold off.

The possible final event, however, that made Alexander’s decision to emigrate, was probably the arrival in 1869 at Newe, of Captain Robert Bennet Forbes (1804 –1889 from Boston), a relative of the Forbes of Newe, on the occasion of the erection of a memorial in Strathdon Church to a relative John Forbes and Archibald Forbes of Deskrie. (see newspaper repor above) It seems that meeting Capt. Forbes, Alexander Walker was able to arrange to go to America and become a gardener at the Forbes estate there. More detail about that later. The family history of Capt. R B Forbes connecting him with Sir Charles Forbes of Newe is at the end of this document. The Newspaper article below also reports on the visit of Capt. R. B. Forbes.

J. Murray Neil in “The Scots Fiddle: Tunes, Tales & Traditions of the North East and Central Highlands” also gave some clues to this event:

“Commodore Robert B. Forbes of Milton, Massachusetts, a relation of Sir Charles, visited Newe in 1867. As a result Alexander emigrated to the United States in 1870 and was employed on the Milton estate for two or three years. From there he progressed to manager of Forbes Manor estate which belonged to a friend of his former employer. He eventually bought his own farm at Williamstown, Massachusetts. When writing to the Banffshire Journal in May 1898, he stated that he had composed a further one hundred melodies in the Scots idiom in manuscript form but these do not appear to have been published. He died in 1905”
Another Source stated:
“After the American Civil War, probably around 1870, Walker emigrated to the United States, and settled near Williamstown, Massachusetts, where family had previously settled, and established a prosperous farm of his own. He and Jean had a daughter in America, Jessie, born in New York in 1872. In the 1880 census for Williamstown his occupation is listed as a “surveyor and gardener,” while Jean “kept house” and “farmed”. Alexander also continued to compose music (according to Paul Cranford, who has found evidence he mailed compositions home to Aberdeenshire) although his American output is now lost. He is recorded as having helped survey areas of Williamstown in 1892 (at age 73), where it was noted that he was “a Scotch surveyor of some attainments and reputation”, and he lived to see the 20th century.”

Once Alexander was ready to move to the USA he had to sell off some of his belongings which he was unable to take with him. The advertisement above for April 1870 lists his belongings and also outlines his various interests.The sale of some of his violins took place the following year.

Even once he had left for America Alexander, following the interests of his employer Sir Charles Forbes in encouraging Scottish Culture, Alexander arranged for a musical competition in Strathdon to encourage young players of the violin to play Scottish Music. The competition took place in January 1871 and was recorded as shown in newspaper report above.

It would appear that Alexander and his family departed from Glasgow in June 1970 and travelled to Quebec via Liverpool. He arrived in Quebec on 4th July 1870. He went to work for Forbes family of Massachusetts at Forbes House Milton.

His safe arrival in the USA was reported in the Banffshire Journal. (see newspaper report)

The Forbes family of Massachusetts were descended from the Forbes Clan in Scotland (Directly connected to Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, with a common ancestor, William Forbes of Newe born 1606 – see family history at end of article) which was seated in Aberdeenshire. There is also a second connection, as the Forbes family from Newe founded the Bombay Trading House of Forbes and Co, and the Forbes from Massachusetts became head of Russell and Co, also a Far East trading house mainly in China. Russell & Company was the largest and most important American trading house in Qing dynasty China from 1842 to its closing in 1891. The two firms had business contacts and had common interest e.g. in Insurance.

11. USA Forbes Family History

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