Biography of William McGhie

William McGhie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was therefore a citizen of no mean city. Having been born in the “Granite City” amidst its seats of learning, culture and art, beautified with its world famed granite buildings; there is no knowing what might have been the filling in of his life had all things been equal, but unfortunately he was deprived of the advantages of a true home and of a mother’s love and leading, she having died in his infancy.

After struggling up to manhood he worked about the farms on the outskirts of the city, and evidently made sufficient money to guarantee his getting married, and settling down in life. His first wife soon died leaving him with shattered hopes. After a time he was married to Miss Anna Gray, and to this union there were born six children, the youngest being born in this country.

In the year 1878 he decided to try his fortune in America, having read the suggestive letters sent from time to time to the Aberdeen Free Press by the late Mr. James Alexander of this community. He was convinced as the writer had suggested, that this was a land of opportunity, so he with the mother and four children set sail for America.

They made their way direct to Exeter and he bought railroad land from Dr. Smith, about three miles south of town, where they lived for a time afterwards moving one mile west. His opening experiences were not very encouraging, and he said to his wife, “we’ll just bundle up what we have and gae back to Scotland,” but she replied, “Na, were nae here and we’re nae to gae back.” One of his first business transactions was the purchasing of a team of horses, and for that purpose he returned to Lincoln the day after their arrival in Exeter. A man who wished to show interest in the stranger, chided his friend Alexander for encouraging him to go to Lincoln for such a purpose, for: “Depend upon it” said he, “The sharpers in Lincoln will skin him if he begins to buy a team there!” Mr. Alexander admitted the caution was not to be despised, but thought, that, “if the sharpers in this country are sharper than the horse dealers in Aberdeenshire, or their word any less to be relied on, then his friend had a good chance of being skinned.” But they did not skin him, for he secured a fine young team for which he paid $170 such as some of the young Scotch Lairds would fancy for carriage horses.

His next exploit was the tethering of them out to grass, this seemed to be accomplished all right, but the young horses fancied a dance, through which act they pulled the stakes and went off like the wind, each in a different direction. Fortunately a party coming along caught one of the horses, and Mr. Alexander mounting one of his own horses set off over the prairie to try and catch the other. It was within an hour of being dark, and the beast had traveled at least two miles before Alexander could make his start, so there was no knowing where he might wander to or where he could be found in the morning. But Mr. Alexander continued the chase and was fortunate enough to find him stabled by a friend about six miles distant. Mr. McGhie had given up the horse as lost, and was already thinking that Scotland was the better place in which to live after all.

Six years after their coming the wife and mother died leaving him with a young family to care for, to whom he gave the undivided attention of the remaining thirty years of his life. The last two years of his life were spent in Exeter where he was greatly respected, he died on October 8, 1914, an interesting coincidence noticed at the funeral was that each of the six pallbearers all of whom were his old neighbors were of different national birth, and all different to himself, such is the marvelous blending of the nations in this great land.


Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties, by G. R. McKeith, Press of Fillmore County News, Exeter, Nebraska, 1915.

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