Steamboat Springs Dear Bertha,
You asked what was meant by "passage in steerage." Passage merely means buying tickets to travel or, for that matter, perhaps to travel with or without a ticket. Steerage is the least accommodating (below deck) but least expensive transportation offered on a ship.
Will Bowie, my father, had become well established and highly respected in the community of Cincinnati, Iowa. He had, in fact, become an American citizen and had served as a musician in the Iowa National Guard.
But, by far the most significant factor in his life was his union in marriage with Ada Miriam May.
Will and Ada purchased a very large house in Cincinnati, and upon hearing of his father's death sent word for the rest of Will's family who remained in Ayrshire, Scotland to come as soon as convenient, for he had saved enough to buy passage in steerage for all family members left in Ayrshire. These family members were Will's mother (Helen Stuart Bowie); his brother, David, who was invalid with tuberculosis); three sisters, Mary, Agnes and Janet (Agnes and Janet were known to family and friends by their nicknames Nannie and Jennie) and his little 8-year-old niece Jeanie, whose mother, Jean, died giving premature birth to little Jean who weighed less than 2 pounds at birth. Little Jean, who rightfully went by her father's name Caldwell, was taken into the Bowie household where she lived to a ripe old age.
At the time of their migration, June 1892, these six members plus Will and one other sister, Helen or Nell (who had married Tom Ross), represented all of the living members of the Will Bowie Sr. family. Helen (Nell) and Tom had already married, and they had come to America on their own.
The big house that Will Jr. and Ada, my parents, had purchased in Cincinnati, Iowa, had seemed so empty, but there would soon be a change!
Well Bowie Sr. and seven of his children were left buried in Ayrshire, Scotland. The steamship's passenger booking agent in Glasgow had received the tickets from Will Bowie Jr. for Will's mother (my grandmother Helen Stuart Bowie), three of Will's sisters, Will's brother and niece.
On their arrival from Scotland in America Aunt and Uncle, Nell and Tom Ross, stopped briefly in Coal City, Ill., where Tom had no difficulty in finding work in the coal mines. Aunt Nell, however, so missed the rest of her big family that she talked Tom into moving on to Cincinnati, Iowa, where her brother, Will, was already located. Will and Ada invited the Ross' to move into the big house with them. But Tom had immediately on arriving in Cincinnati located a cozy little bungalo just right for two; and as Tom pointed out when the rest of the Bowies arrived from Scotland (all six of them) plus Will and Ada that would make eight. Two more 10 perhaps a little crowded?
The Bowies entered the United States by way of the famous Ellis Island. As they stepped off the gang plank of the ocean liner, and stepped onto American soil; they broke all ties with their native Scotland. They left behind in Ayrshire not a single person in the British Isles with whom they kept in contact. They were, from that moment on, strictly Americans.
It was totally by accident, that (many years later) my cousin Erleen Woodburn who was teaching in Scotland for a year) discovered a cousin of my uncle, Tom Ross.
This cousin was old John Ross of whom I've written in a previous letter.
Well, Bertha, I must be getting to bed now, so will close, until next time.
Sincerely, your friend,