‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 9.’ by a Correspondent in New York (15 April, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

Advice To Emigrants.

In the Southern Atlantic States there is a fine climate, and much good land offered at reasonable prices, but with the exception of Florida, the social, political, and educational conditions of these States are not such as to make emigration to them desirable. These States are ruled too much by the pistol, the rifle, and the shot-gun to make life agreeable there. Florida is obtaining a large number of northern settlers, and though some portions of the State are subject to malarious fevers, and its principal towns suffer from yellow fever, the climate in the interior is delightful, and the culture of the orange, lemon, fig, and other semi-tropical fruits is becoming large and profitable. Land in desirable portions of the State is in much demand, and is bringing higher prices than that I have named in other States. Tennessee (East Tennessee in particular), has much desirable land, having a delightful climate, great mineral wealth, and much valuable timber; and in many places a fertile soil. A number of large [illegible] from great Great Britain have already located themselves here, and most of them are doing well. Land can be obtained at low prices, especially if purchased for colonies in large tracts. In Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa there are no very desirable lands belonging to the Government. Some railroad Directors and others have land grants, and will sell alternate sections to settlers at from six to ten dollars per acre. These lands being on trunk railroad lines are in many cases desirable as investments. Minnesota has a fertile soil, great enterprise, and a magnificent future. The climate in winter is cold, but dry and uniform. In summer it is delightful. In the western portion of the State is the best land for spring wheat in the United States. This region is attracting great numbers of emigrants. Land in every way desirable can now be procured in this region under the Homestead Act or under the Timber Culture Act. Every citizen of the United States, or those who declare their intention to become such, over twenty-one years of age, whether male or female (except the married female), possesses three rights entitling him or her to 480 acres of Government land, a pre-emption homestead, and an entry under the Timber Culture Act. A pre-emption is a fourth of a section, or 160 acres of land obtained by occupancy and improvement and the payment of 1 dollar 25 cents per acre, or 200 dollars for 160 acres. Payment can be made at any time after 6 months, or within 33 months from date of entry, and a deed obtained allowing to dispose of or hold the purchase at will. A homestead is a similar tract obtained by the payment of 14 dollars Government fees, and the continued occupancy and improvement of the land for five successive years. Persons are not required to remain on it uninterruptedly, but an abandonment for six months works a forfeiture. Those who prefer, and are able, can secure a title after six months by paying the pre-emption price. A claim under the Timber Culture Act is secured by paying 14 dollars Government fees, and the planting of tree seeds or cuttings to the amount of ten acres. Three years time is allowed for this, making the cost merely nominal. Two years are allowed before any trees need be planted, and the entire expense, if done by employed labour, will not exceed 120 dollars for the entry. Persons entering a claim for timber culture are not require to occupy it, or even go upon it, if they do not desire to do so. The improvements can be made by employed help. Every individual may enter either pre-emption or homestead, and a claim under the Timber Culture Act at the same time, making 320 acres, and often fulfilling the requirements of the law regulating either of these former two, can exercise his remaining unoccupied right giving him 480 acres. Persons wishing to enter these lands must appear in person at a Territorial Untied States Land office, or before a Clerk of the Court for the country in which the land is located.

I have tried to make this rather complicated land getting system as easy of understanding as I could. It can scarcely be thoroughly understood at the first glance; but I have no doubt but those who intend coming here in the agricultural interest will give this or any other and better description of how land can be obtained in this country more than a passing glance. My information is not based on any claptrap advertisements or agencies. The most of it is taken from statistics published by the Statistical Bureau at Washington and from reliable parties who have been in and seen the workings of the most of our States. I could give you an account of more of our States and Territories, but as they are something of a repetition of the others, I conclude it would be too dry for the generality of your readers.

In closing these remarks on the advantages of agricultural industries in America, let me repeat an advice I read not long ago which was given to intending emigrants:—“We would say first to all intending emigrants, whether from our own or foreign countries, do not go west without some ready money beyond your travelling expenses and the amount necessary to secure your lands. If you are intending to be farmers you will need money to stock your farm, to buy food and seed for your stock, and to support your family until you can realise on your first crop. The emigrant who is thus unprovided will fare hard in a new country, though the settlers and emigrants who are already there are as generous and helpful as they can be. The larger the amount of ready money an emigrant can command the more easily and pleasantly will he be situated. The building of a rude house, and furnishing it in the plainest way will consume considerable money. And the first breaking up of the land, the necessary agricultural implements and machines, and the hire of help in putting in the crops, aside from the cost of stock and fodder, will add to his early expenses. The man who can go to any of the Western States or Territories and takes up a farm and have on hand after paying the necessary fees and land expenses 1000 dollars, or £200, will have a very comfortable time, and will under ordinary circumstances be well situated for the future. The man who has a much smaller sum will find he has many hardships to undergo, and will do better to seek employment as a hired labourer for the first year, purchasing his land in the meantime, and if possible getting in his crop.

The mechanic or operative who goes west for a home also needs capital, though perhaps not so much if his calling is one of those which are indispensable in a new country. A good carpenter, mason, blacksmith, miller, sawyer, stonecutter, brickmaker, painter, and glazier will be reasonably sure of remunerative work very soon; but one or two hundred dollars would make them much more independent than risking it with an empty pocket. For professional men there may be longer waiting required. The clergyman may have a congregation to preach to, but the salary he will receive from them at first will be a very small, and unless he can derive at least a part of his salary from some other source he will be sure to suffer. The physician will find his services in demand, but his fees will, many of them, be collected with difficulty. The lawyer may have to wait long for business, but will generally manage to get his pay for his services. The editor, the artist, the bookseller, and the dealer in luxuries generally must wait till society reaches its second stage of development.

It is not altogether necessary to go west in order to find land at reasonable prices. There are good and healthy locations, and within moderate distances of good markets in the east and north, which are far more easily got at by emigrants than by going west. Going west has a comprehensive meaning. Think of it, you in Scotland who would like to go to the extreme far west, that you are not half roads on you journey when you land in New York. Be deliberate in the choice of location. If you have any friends or acquaintances here get their opinions on the different localities with which they may be acquainted, and which may be best suited to your line of occupation; and do not decide until you have carefully weighed all the advantages and disadvantages which tend to make you future life in this world either one of discontent or of happiness, both for yourselves and those who may follow you. But that you may all walk in the paths of peace, plenty, and contentment when you come to this vast and mighty county is the wish of

Correspondent.

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