William Lambie Chronicle of Journey to Ypsilanti

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, October 1982,
October 1982
Original Images:



Author: William Lambie

WILLIAM LAMBIE, Foster Fletcher's Grandfather, wrote in 1870 about coming to America. William was born April 15, 1821 in Strathaven, Scotland-–died April 25, 1900 in Ypsilanti Township. From his notes we quote:

We left our first home in Strathaven, Scotland in April, 1839. Francis and Mary Hamilton Lambie, the parents with their nine children, the oldest William Lambie who would become eighteen on April 15th.

We were thirty-five in number on that sail boat crossing the Atlantic and arriving at the great City of New York. The transition from crowded passenger ship to that isle of beauty was enough to set anybody's eyes ‘In a Fine frenzy rolling' for we felt a thrill of gladness and keen delight in our first impressions of the new world that Michigan has never equaled.

The sail on the Steamer up the Hudson River was delightful, but there was no delight sailing from Buffalo to Detroit. Lake Erie can be very rough. In traveling from New York to Ypsilanti, we saw this was a great and goodly land. It is better than Scotland in two ways: there is more land and less whiskey.

After renting a small house in Detroit, Father and I rode the Central Railroad which had been completed to Ypsilanti in 1838, to Wayne, Michigan; then we walked through the vast woods, forests everywhere with a few trails but no roads, to Plymouth. We greatly enjoyed walking in those quiet, vast forests of America. We called on a kind-hearted farmer, John Lindsay, from our native place. He said he had heard much about Ypsilanti--Ypsilanti had been incorporated as a Village in 1838--and he advised us to look for a farm near the Huron River rather than Plymouth. We walked again through great forests and stopped at Perries (Parry) Tavern, a large frame structure where the Ypsilanti Savings Bank stands (SE corner Michigan at Huron). Kilpatrick, the Auctioneer that some of you pioneers will remember, told Father he had the care and sale of a first-rate farm in Superior Township, three miles north of Ypsilanti, he would sell cheap. So we bought the ‘Moon Farm' in Superior Township on Geddes road in June, 1839. And we had a fair sqaure battle with privations, exile and penury for many a day. It was the Halfway House between Seldon Corners on the East and Ann Arbor on the west and had a Bar for the sale of whiskey. Kilpatrick, the Pioneer Auctioneer, said we could make more selling whiskey than on the farm. But we preferred the plow to the Whiskey Barrel. (We will refer later to Whiskey in Ypsilanti.)

Both log and frame houses were constructed on the best principals for ventilation in warm summer days.

But when old Boreas piped his bitter blasts through the chinks and cracks in December, we did not need to go in search of the North Pole for the North Pole came in search of us.

In those brave days of old, we sold butter for 8 cents a pound and eggs for 6 cents a dozen. Got a chip hat and a pair of blue drilling pants from Moore and McAllister every Spring when the hens began to lay. Pioneer farmers in the summer often went to Church in their shirt sleeves. Some of the boys heard good sermons and good Sunday School lessons barefooted. When the barefoot hearers of the word were late, they stepped so lightly on the floor they did not disturb the congregation.

Note…A writer from Wisconsin, June 11, 1886, having visited Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor wrote: Having found Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Saloon Towns, I next visited Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. These two places are educational towns. They are comparatively small. Ypsilanti has 6000 people and Ann Arbor 10,000. Both are great saloon towns. Ypsilanti has 13 Saloons and Ann Arbor 40. A Saloon Keeper in Ypsilanti told me that a good Saloon in town would beat a Bank for making money. He said the day had passed for cheap Saloons in Ypsilanti. Patronage came from the business men–-men who knew what good liquor was.

The boys enjoyed their liberty, and if they were not able to buy a pair of shoes from our old Pioneer friend W.B. Hewitt, they had the liberty to go barefoot.


Continue reading in the William Lambie Diary, 1864-1871.