Scotch Settlement: Writing the book
Book Musings

I decided early on that it would be fun to use a semi-fictional story format that traces the journey of four families from their homes in Scotland to the Scotch Settlement in southeastern Michigan. I'll use my own Wallace heritage as the core family, with my Great, Great Grandfather David Wallace as the main character. I'll also trace my Rutherford relatives from Scotland to Ontario to the Settlement. I'll select the other two families as I find links with the Wallaces. Using this format allows me to explore the day to day lives of our ancestors in depth. I realize that if I want to leave a factual account of the Scotch Settlement, I'll also have to write a textbook. But, hey, that will be fun too!

Textbook: A History of the Scottish Settlement in Southeastern Michigan.


I am not David Wallace

My name is Douglas Lee Baldwin. I sit before my laptop computer in my living room at 1102 Cass Street, Saginaw, Michigan, United States of America. It is the year 2005, February. An inch of fresh snow covers my sidewalk. It is one o'clock in the afternoon.

As I re-read the paragraph above, I realize with a smile that February, 2005 is already history. This gives me deep satisfaction, knowing I am somebody's ancestor, and that these words will be genealogy for later generations.

I have a grandchild, Jared. There are pictures of him at various ages all over my desk and on the refrigerator. The little guy makes me happy to be alive. This book is for Jared. It is also for Jared's children, and their children's children, on into the future. What a nice thought as I start the journey back into the depths of my heritage; all those little ones looking over my shoulder into our shared past. So many people had to make it through to adulthood for us to be here, miracles on top of miracles. In the year 2100, some of those children will look back and be glad I was sitting here this afternoon.

This book is also for my own children Anna, Tyler, Noah- and for grand kids yet to be conceived. When my three kids get to be about 55, a strange feeling will come over them, as it did with me. They will suddenly realize that they owe their existence not only to mysterious cosmic circumstances (statistically impossible for us to be here, actually), but also to living ancestors who came before, long, long ago. Everyone of those ancestors had to survive and mate and successfully raise children- or the line would have run out. But it didn't run out, and here you are, reading these pages. Welcome.

My father (Douglas Wallace Baldwin) and my uncles Leo Baldwin and Forrest Baldwin especially enjoyed my research and so this book is for them too. My father and his brothers have all recently died. The world is a sadder place as I write these words; somehow the word "ancestor" has a bitter sweet meaning now that death sits at the family table.

I will eventually write about the Rocketts and Biddis clans and so will not leave out my mother's side of the family and a special dedication to her as well. My intense drive and energy comes in part from Grace Marie Biddis Baldwin, and so I won't wait to write another book- I'll dedicate this one to my mother too.

And finally, of course, my wife Katherine Louise Jones Baldwin encouraged my creative energy and tolerated my hours on end hunched over the computer while the lawn went to seed. Kathy traveled with me on journeys to Scotland to do research. She was not so sure at the beginning that she wanted to get involved with another one of my off the wall projects, but as we visited the small towns of Ayrshire and the Borders, she fell in love with Scotland. She also absorbed the spirit of genealogy and headed off (with me) to Sweden to trace her own family roots. So, this book is for Katherine too.


This is a genealogy book, but one you might not immediately recognize. This is the journey of my great, great grandfather David Wallace, written in the first person. The facts are the fruit of my research, but I took liberties. I put my own sentiments into David's soul. I made up a few encounters with famous people. I filled in some gaps where research was bare. Consequently, even though my heart wants to yell "it's the truth!", this is fiction, but it tells the tale of the daily lives of ancestors and provides the emotion and substance that is too often missing in fact-heavy genealogy accounts. Our family history has some ghostly real life intersections with Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, with Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish writer, and with, of course, the renowned Scottish patriot William Wallace. More about that later

This is a sister volume to the Scotch Settlement textbook. I thought it would be unique and fascinating to write two parallel stories of the same history; one a documentary fiction, and the other factual history. Facts get a little fuzzy on the edges when you do genealogy research and some of the "facts" turn out to be bad fiction. You just can't trust everything people have said or recorded- me included; reader beware. The fictional documentary, on the other hand probably contains a good deal of "truth" that history books aren't allowed to speculate about. Anyway, it's bad form to mix the two approaches, so I offer the two book solution.

I'm counting heavily on the river of darkness to bring me images and voices that speak the truth about David's life. I'm not a crazy man or a mystic. I don't claim to hear voices. But I like the feeling that life is a play and that we have our small roles to perform. If the characters we assume claim that ancient ancestors are talking to us, flowing from the laptop like automatic writing, well, so be it. Let the messages begin.


My name is David Wallace

I was born in a toll house where my mother was the keeper of the gate. It was called Burnfoot, the foot of the stream. The gate blocked the entrance to the Barskimming Estate, East Ayrshire, Scotland. I was born at the gate in 1829 according to some records, but then others say 1830 or 1831- we didn't keep good records in the old days. The census of 1841 in Scotland for example, the first really decent recording of the population, just rounded everybody's age up to the nearest 5 year interval. I always thought I was born in 1831; that's how I recounted my age over the years when the census forms asked how old I was. I couldn't tell you any of my siblings ages, not exactly. The 1841 census says that Hugh, William, and Marion were all 15 years old. Well, I can tell you they weren't triplets!

From Burnfoot, it is a brisk walk to the village of Tarbolton; it takes about half an hour if you don't stop at the pub in Failford to talk with the neighbors. If you take one of the Barskimming horses, and you head west down the road the other way from Tarbolton you come to a bigger town called Mauchline. About 50 years before I was born, Scotland's great poet Robbie Burns used to walk these parts. He would wander Tarbolton and Mauchline and read his poems at various places, whenever anyone had time to listen. My dad, John Wallace was born about the same time that Robert Burns died, but he says that his dad, my grandfather William Wallace knew Robbie (so grandpa claimed). Family lore says that grandfather and Robbie Burns had a pint or two a few times and argued politics and religion.

One story has it that grandfather told Burns that regarding religion "Robbie didn't know his "arss from Ayrshire." Something like that. The Scots are not shy communicators. They go right to the emotional conclusion, rough and unpackaged. Grandfather was quite religious and Burns was a thorn in the side of the church- any church. Anyway, the story continues that Robbie wrote the poem "A Prayer Under the Pressure of Violent Anguish" after one of his arguements with grandfather.

O thou Great Being! what Thou art,
Surpassses me to know;
Yet sure I am, that known to Thee
Are all Thy works below.

Thy creature here before Thee stands,
All wretched and distrest;
Yet sure those ills that wring my soul
Obey Thy high bequest.

Sure, Thou, Almighty, canst not act
From cruelty or wrath!
O, free my weary eyes from tears,
Or close them fast in death!

But, if I must afflicted be,
To suit some wise design,
Then man my soul with firm resolves
To bear and not repine!

The poem was supposed to make grandfather mad (again) because Burns was questioning God's grand design. But grandpa liked the poem- although, on a stack of Presbyterian bibles, he wouldn't admit it- especially if Robbie Burns was within earshot.

Grandmother Wallace was the one who got really mad- at both Burns and William. She said that if "that poet Burns was half a man he would study farming so he could support all the kids he keeps fathering". I overheard her explain her position to Marion. "Men", she said, "have two emotions; a deep desire to save the world through useless pastimes like giving speeches and writing poetry, and, their favorite emotion, sex- they don't have any emotion between sexual obsession and heroic dreaming. Instead of fixing the hole in the outhouse- if you don't keep an eye on them- they slink out to the pub and fight about religion. They take this brilliance to all levels of discourse, including fighting wars and hanging others who don't agree with their position- whatever the issue: religion, politics, poetry, lawn bowling. They're a bunch of nincompoops."

Burns moved to a farm called Lochlea near Tarbolton when he was about 20. In 1780, Robbie organized the now famous Bachelors Club in Tarbolton. People still come to the area to stand in the places the great poet walked. Of course, as grandpa William Wallace said "Robbie liked to blame God for the bad sides of his own character, he thought that God made him a wild man, so wild he must be." Burns was twenty though, so flirting with women and acting wild is what young men do at twenty- there wasn't much else to do in Tarbolton in 1785. Personally, I love the songs that Robert Burns wrote and collected, and I like the poems- the ones I understand.

In February, 1784, just after his father died, Burns moved from Lochlea to a farm called Mossgiel in Mauchline Parish. He lived there for four years. During his stay at Mossgiel he produced essentially all of his best poetry- it was the most productive period of his entire short life. Some say it was because he was in love throughout those four years, with two different women, Mary Campbell (highland Mary) and Jean Armour (she gave birth to twins in September of 1786).

Burns died in 1796. He was in debt pretty heavy and he was exhausted from working hard and because he was so sick that year. Grandpa took it pretty hard. All that tough talk was just playful Scottish humor, I guess. What I think is, Burns was a role model for grandfather. Burns was 12 years older than William; he was 37 when he died and William was just 25. William's youthful ideals and his assumptions about life were based on what the church and his community told him. He had never met anybody like Burns, a man who asked dangerous questions cloaked in metaphor.

Like I said, my mother Margaret was working as the gate keeper on the day I came into the world. She did all kinds of jobs at Barskimming, whatever they needed as the seasons changed. I was the last of the Wallace kids, mom was somewhere between 35 to 40 years old when she had me. Hugh was four years older than me. My oldest brother was Alexander, mom had him when she was about 20, so he was about twenty when I was born. Alex was more a second father than a brother, given our age difference. Archibald was next oldest, then John, then William, then Marion- the only girl, poor dear. She worked so hard all her life, God bless her. After Marion came Hugh, then me.

William used to play with me in the burn when I was little. He was quite a bit older than me, but he liked to see me happy, and anyway he wasn't keen on growing up yet. He put logs and stones in the creek to made little bathing areas so I could sail the boats he helped me carve. When Catharine and I left for America in 1852, I had to say goodbye to William- it was one of the saddest days in my life. I never him saw him again; he lived and died on the Barskimming Estate.

Dad was a gardener on the estate; that's where he died, on the Barskimming Estate, gardening; "he just looked up from the rose bushes, grimaced, and dropped over dead on his back, still holding the hoe". (from a letter that William wrote to us when we were living in Almont township in Michigan). Later, when I was about 55 and living in Goodland township in Michigan, a strange feeling came over me. I was thinking about dad laying face up in the rose bushes, and suddenly I needed to find out who my ancestors were; I wasn't even sure where dad had been born and when. I remember talk of a family bible, but I never did figure out who had it. In dad's personal papers (sent to me by William), on one faded sheet was a list of dad's brothers and sisters and where they were born. For dad, John Wallace, son of William Wallace, it said born in 1799 in Linlithgow Bridge, Scotland. I thought he had been born in Mauchline, same as grandfather. Also, he would have been 11 when he had Alexander. That can't be right. But I confess that mysteries like these are what keep me fascinated as I recount our past and my experience as a pioneer in the new State of Michigan, United States of America.

Where did all those Williams come from?

By now, you are probably rather confused about the names in the family. Grandfather was William Wallace, and he had a son William Wallace (my uncle) and when my father John Wallace had children, he named one William. This is because of William Wallace the great Scottish patriot- everyone wanted to be connected to the man. Actually, being a Wallace, one way or the other we actually are related to the great leader. I suppose I should feel proud of that heritage, but I'm not of the lineage and anyway we have to stand on our own merit and not rest on the shoulders of the giants in our family. Anyway, because of the great William Wallace, every other male in Scotland is named William. We had some other names and everybody used them. John was big and so was Robert.

We had this naming pattern in lowland Scotland. It was a trend that lasted a few decades. Not everybody followed the formula, but enough people did so you could guess the names of the ancestors many generations back just by knowing the naming custom. Your first male child was named after the paternal grandfather. The second male child was named after the maternal grandfather. The third male was named after the father. The first female child was named after the maternal grandmother and the second was named after the paternal grandmother. The third was named after the mother.


Why did we leave Scotland?

Our ancestors will want to know how we could leave the beauty of Ayrshire and say goodbye to family and friends. How, they will ask, could we give up a life in paradise to journey to an unknown land across a dangerous ocean? When I think about the remarkable beauty of Scotland I am deeply saddened and sorry that we left, and certainly my heart weeps from the life lost with family and friends. But we made the right decision. We had to leave. We wanted to leave. I am very, very grateful, joyful even, that we had the courage to step on to that boat and say goodbye. Let me tell you why, even though it will take quite a few paragraphs to explain something so emotional and final.

First of all, I am the youngest of the children in our family. Whatever mother and father had to pass down, little as it was, went first to older siblings. Alexander, Archie, and William got all there was to get. Not that there was much to hand down to the children. We were lucky to have enough money to eat and keep warm clothes mended. Dad had no land to hand down to his sons, even the oldest Alexander had to strike out on his own, and at an early age. What little work there was to do as a farm laborer was seasonal and paid barely enough to scrape by. There was no hopeful future in Scotland. To look out over the beauty of the landscape while your children beg for something to eat spoils any appreciation for the location.

There was free land in America and in Canada. The government was either giving it away or it was so cheap even we could afford to buy a few acres. There were no landlords to share the crop or the income with. The produce of the land was your own. The toil was for yourself and your wife and the children. Your destiny was in your own hands. For this freedom, this self determination, I would have swam over the Atlantic Ocean. And the government was actually paying people to move away. The cities were getting crowded, diseases like cholera sprang up in waves and killed hundreds at a time, and landowners were driving tenants off their land because they needed the grass for their sheep.

The politics that inevitably result from war also played a part in emigrant migration. The British and the French fought for ten years in the late seventeen hundreds. They then signed a peace treaty that lasted only a year and then they went back to war- this time with Napoleon holding center stage. While that war was going on, the United States attacked Canada and started the War of 1812. When that war ended a few years later, the British decided to shore up the defensive border with the United States. To do this, they sponsored settlers from Great Britain to travel and to settle in towns along the border. Colonies developed in several places in Upper Canada, most along the St Lawrence Seaway and along Lakes Ontario, Erie, and St Clair. Many of these areas were settled by Scottish families, like the Ontario town of Lanark.

People had been living and farming the same soil for hundreds of years, it was depleted, sick land that provided too little return for the work. Then the potato famine hit Ireland and waves of Irish immigrants landed in Ayrshire. Soon the potatoes in Scotland got diseased as well. The land in America was rich and the letters coming from neighbors who had moved to North America talked of bountiful harvests of healthy, nutritious food. The lure of North America was more about survival than about adventure.

It wasn't all that difficult for us to travel to a new place. You have to understand that we were farm laborers. We had to travel to various farms all over Scotland to do the seasonal work. One season we might be in Ayrshire and a few months later be in Perthshire. That's why the kids were born all over the country. That's also why we had no problem boarding a boat and sailing off to North America; it was just another long journey.

To be honest though, a major reason I left is because Hugh and John were already in North America. They were our early family pioneers. They had farms in Ontario, Canada. They had made the brave journey because our uncle William was already settled in the United States in the Scotch Settlement near Almont, Lapeer, Michigan.William wrote these wonderful letters about Michigan and about the new county called the United States. I was leaving family, but I was heading for family. The letters back from Canada and Michigan told of rich farm land, freedom of religion, and self determination. They made it sound like paradise, even when they shared news of the hardships, the thick masses of summer mosquitos, bitter winter winds and deep snows, and wet soggy springs. It was with deep grief that I said goodbye to my elderly mother, but I looked with adventurous anticipation on the day I could see Hugh and John and their families in the new land.

Finally, I admit that I would never have left Scotland were it not for my meeting Catharine McEwan, a fine Scottish lass with very recent Irish roots. Indeed, she had a thick Irish brogue that took me a while to understand completely. I never did comprehend most of what her father said to me. I did get the major theme of his discourse: If I didn't take good care of his lovely daughter, he would skin me alive with a stone tool. I just flashed my stupid youthful grin his way, and swore to the God of Presbyterianism that I would be a gentleman always. Of course, I thought all day and all night about kissing his daughter and being just as "bad" as I could get away with. Presbyterian hell awaits my arrival.

Catharine was an adventuous woman, not afraid to take risks. Before I knew what was happening, I was married and we had booked passage on a wooden vessel of death. The little boat flopped around on the high seas like a cork in a whirlpool. The horizon went in and out of view, one minute sunny, the next minute night time. I puked my way to America. She played cards and drank whiskey and slept like a newborn every night.


Over the ocean to North America


self determination and our children's future
good farm land
free farm land
english language
friends and family already in America
Meeting Catharine
Notes: More about:

Barskimming; Barskimming Bridge is mentioned in a Burns poem- which one?
The pub at Failford
See map of area around Barskimming
Exact kilometers between towns
Burns' girl friends in area and close friends like William Muir
Where would the Wallace family live and sleep
What would they eat
Weave in the masons
Look up David's exact birth date from the tombstone
What is the correct age order of David's siblings
What is the story of each sibling- where did they live, who did they marry, where did they work, what kids did they have?
music, dance, songs, what they did for fun
What was going on in the world during the relevant dates
Leading figures of the time
Headlines news in the local papers (what were they)
Mauchline and Tarbolton publications at or about the relevant times
War of 1812; ten year French war; Napoleon; political pioneer settlements along the St. Lawrence sea way

There is a separate page for the Bibliography.

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