Steamboat Springs Dear friend Bertha,
Well, in my last letter, I told of Will Bowie, my father, leaving Scotland to seek employment in the coal mines of Cincinnati, Iowa; and upon hearing of his father's death in 1886, how he wrote to his mother, telling her to prepare the six family members including herself, remaining at home in the Peace and Plenty Cottages to move to America for he had saved the cost of fare by steamship.
Will knew that use of the Peace and Plenty Cottages was strictly for employees of the Cunningham Estate. He therefore reasoned that the family would have to find a new home; and what better place than America for a new home?
The Cunninghams, however, were compassionate and generous, and would not consider eviction at least, "not until Davie recovers his health enough to return to work in the mines." (Davie never regained his health, and died at the age of 28 years, just a year after coming to America.) For members of a family where "tea" was served on delicate china, it took a bit of adjustment. Grandmother Bowie complained: "I can't taste my tea for the cups." And Mary (the tiny ball of energy who was "housekeeper" of the family and who had an absolute mania for cleanliness could scarcely abide "this great wooden country, with its wooden houses and its wooden sidewalks."
And it took some doing to dispose of (sell) a lifetime's collection of household furnishings. The buyer of the grandfather's clock promised, "Mrs. Bowie, if any of your family ever returns to Scotland, they can buy the clock back if they want to." It took Eileen some real doing to locate the clock, but she finally found it in a home in Glasgow. And, she said, "It was beautiful." But the homeowner was a senile old man; and when Eileen hinted she might like to buy the clock, the man's daughter regarded the very idea as totally outrageous!
Finally, six years after the death of grandfather (William Bowie, Sr.) Grandmother Stuart-Bowie, together with daughters Mary, Agnes and Janet as well as son David and 8-year-old granddaughter Jeanie Caldwell were prepared to sail to "the promised land America."
During that six years, both Will and his mother were repeatedly contacted by agents for the old style (wind driven) clipper ship line and the modern steamship line. Both lines had over this space of time quoted reduced fares in their endeavors to sell tickets for their employers. The agent for the steamship line touted the advantage of dependable constant controlled power of the steamship, whereas the sail ship was totally uncontrollable, placing the traveler entirely at the mercy of "whims of the weather."
The agent for the clipper ship pointed out that "calms" in the weather were not frequent; and that on an average, the crossing time for the clipper ship was about the same (six to eight days) as the steamship; while a severe storm could cause the steamship delays equal to those of the clipper. And, in the event of favorable winds, the clipper ship could easily outdistance the steamship. Well, the final decision was in favor of more economical fare offered by the steamship. This fare was "in steerage" with the promise that space "above deck" could be purchased after the voyage was under way.
Provisions for the trip were packed in baskets. As for buying space above deck in the case of Agnes, the space didn't help. She was later heard to lament: "Jeannie danced her way across the Atlantic, and I was sick all the way." More notes on the Bowies next time.