Monday, February 11, 2013

Hutchison: From Ayrshire to America

According to the 1920 census of Coal county Oklahoma, my great-grandfather Robert Hutchison, became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1880.  We don’t know much about his immigration experience; no departure point, ship name, port of entry.  We don’t know who met him when he arrived, where he first laid his head, or how he traveled west.  But, we do know that he was living in Rich Hill, Bates county Missouri by 1883.  The evidence we have gathered suggests that he immigrated as a young man alone; no immediate family members came with him from his home in Ayrshire Scotland.  Perhaps he traveled with friends, or cousins with names we fail to recognize.  His immigration story would be an interesting research project.

We do know that Robert Hutchison was born in 1858 in Springside, Ayrshire Scotland.  His father was John Hutchison, a coal miner, and his mother was Jane Faulds.  In May 1869, when Robert was eleven years old his father was killed in a mining accident.  Young Robert Hutchison, being the oldest son, was called upon to support his widowed mother and four younger siblings.  The years following John Hutchison’s death must have been a struggle for the family.  In 1872 Robert’s little brother, George Hutchison age four, died from the injuries of a fall.  Then two years later, in 1874, his fourteen year old brother, John Hutchison died.  John’s death record tells us that he had been ill for a year and was away from home at the time of his death.  He was attended by his brother Robert Hutchison, who was then sixteen years old. 

We get a clue to the family’s continuing difficulties from the Ayrshire Poor Relief Records of 1875:

Jane Faulds or Hutchieson; Record No. 129; Applied on 9 July 1875 at 9 am; Residence No. 2 Springside Square;  born Stewarton, Scotland;  a widow aged 39;  religion protestant.  Dependants:  Margaret 12 yr 1 m,  Jeanie 10 yr 4 m.  This case is well known to the Board.   Her son Robert has been unable to work for 2 mth; One previous application on 6 May 1869; Relieved 4/-;  Admitted to the Roll; No. 116 on the Register.

We don’t know why Robert Hutchison had been unable to work for two months, but illness or injury would seem likely causes.  A few weeks after the poor relief application was submitted, Jane Faulds Hutchison was married for a second time.  Her new husband was William Bird, a coal miner in the Springside community.  Jane was about forty years old when she married again, and her oldest son Robert Hutchison was seventeen.  She went on to have three more children with William Bird.

Robert Hutchison age 22 appears in the 1881 census of Ayrshire Scotland, residing in the home of his mother and step-father.  This calls into question his 1880 naturalization in the United States.  It seems likely that he immigrated in 1881 or 1882.  The few details we have of Robert Hutchison’s early life might hint at a young man’s desire to try his hand in a place with new possibilities.  Shortly after his arrival in America he married my great-grandmother, Isabel Wilson, who also hailed from Ayrshire.  They had eight children together, four of whom lived to adulthood.  Having grown up in the coal mining area of Scotland, it must have been natural for Robert to continue that occupation in Missouri, and then in Oklahoma. 

For more details on Robert Hutchison, visit his page at FamilyStories,  There you will also find an article, Robert Hutchison: A Name Long Treasured.   This article gives stories of four generations of men sharing this family name.

Photo:  The photograph accompanying this article is a family treasure.  The young man stretched out in front with an open book is Robert Hutchison.  Family tradition suggests that this is a group of four friends (three names unknown), and that the photo was taken in Scotland just before Robert Hutchison’s immigration to the United States.

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