Sunday, 6 August 2017

Robert Carter- Earlston Lad to A New York Businessman: Part 2.

Part One of the Robert Carter (1807-1889)  story related his early memories of growing up in Earlston - as a child helping at the harvest, working at the loom and    witnessingan  execution of a murderer, before  studying to be a teacher,  Here Part Two tells of his journey to New York, his career as a teacher and publisher, and returning on holiday to Earlston with his family.

Robert's  daughter Annie Carter Cochrane wrote his life story and  in 1899 presented a copy of the biography  to Earlston Reading Room.  Her writings form the basis for much of  the article here. 

Arriving  in New York
Having said goodbye to his family and friends in Earlston, Robert walked via Peebles and Edinburgh to Greenock where he sailed on the ship "Francis” in April, 1831. Forty-five days were spent on the voyage, not an unusual time in the days which preceded the steamship. Robert helped to hold religious services on board ad many of the passengers that he met on the voyage became life long friends. 
New York, with its 200.000 inhabitants must have been a daunting experience after Earlston. But the letters of introduction Robert carried from Scotland secured him teaching posts, before
 he took over a small  insolvent bookseller, buying his stock. He soon moved into larger premises on Broadway  and then started up a business  as a publisher, which proved the beginning of successful  commercial career.  

Everything was read by him before he undertook to publish it. He focused mostly on religious works, and was instrumental in making Americans conversant with much of the best religious literature in Britain.

A Life Based on Christian Principles 
On the morning of his first Sabbath in America, Robert  sought out the Scottish church.  He  became a Sunday School teacher, superintendent and then an elder.   He was a leading man in many New York organizations. For 17 years he was a delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America;  he became vice-president of the Bible Society, a trustee of the Board of Foreign Missions and  helped to found the New York Sabbath Committee.

A Family Man 
Robert never forgot his Earlston roots and quickly had saved enough money to bring his parents  and their large family out to settle in Saratoga, New York State, where there was a small Scottish community.  His father Thomas died after twelve years in America, leaving eleven children and fifty  grandchildren.  Two of Robert's  brothers,  Walter and Peter,  joined Robert in the publishing business in 1848.  

It was at the church that Robert met his wife Miss Jane Thomson, one of ten children of a wealthy businessman. They married in 1834, at 6am in the morning, so that the bridal pair might reach Philadelphia before nightfall. In 1836 their first child was born and named after his maternal grandfather Samuel Thomson. Sadly he died at the age of three.

Five  more children were born and they spoke warmly of their childhood and close family life.  However it was not a household where playing cards and dancing were indulged in;   the theatre was not a place to be visited and the practice of the house was not to drink anything  intoxicating.   Yet Robert was known for his hospitable nature and the regular gatherings of extended family and friends.

Robert supported the cause of the native Indians and the fugitive slaves, remembering his father's words 
 "This government has a fearful  record to meet someday  from its treatment of the Indian and the Negro. If ever you can do a kinds service to the red man or the black man, be sure to do it."

Returning to his childhood home in Earlston
Robert was a great believer in the value of travel as a means of education and made regular visits to Europe and back to Earlston. 

His biography  gives a graphic description of  a stormy sea voyage returning  to America in 1856:

"It was impossible to move about and no meals were served.    I never witnessed so severe a storm   Each  time a sea of such magnitude and power came at the ship, I thought it was all over for us.    For 36 hours,  the wind raved  with a fury and power unknown.  thundering loudly and unceasingly around us. The sails on the fore-yards clewed down, burst from their fastenings and  roared and flapped furiously  breaking over and against the ship.  The sea broker over the main deck and into the engine room.  Portions  of wreckage rolled   deep and dark over the quarter deck  One of these struck the captain on the head  and the wave drove him insensible and  he was barely saved form an ocean grave. "
In 1856 the family spent a month in his beloved Earlston, and his daughter recalled:
 "He greatly enjoyed taking his children to the scenes of his childhood, and showing them the house where he was born, the arbor where he sat with his books overlooking the path along which his cousin walked to aid him in his studies, the old kirkyard where his forefathers slept, Rhymer's Tower, and "the bonnie, bonnie broom of the Cowden Knowes........the beautiful scenery of Berwickshire became very familiar to all. Kelso, Melrose, Dryburgh, Abbotsford, were visited.  No view that he enjoyed more was  that on Bemersyde Hill (Scott's View)  His two sons later preached in the  church of their forefathers.
 Ivy covered Rhymer's Tower and Rhymer's Cottages, c.1900


 Robert died on 28th December 1889  at the advanced age if 82, "after a life of activity and usefulness" with large numbers attending his funeral     Three sons and two daughters survived him – one son joined the family business whilst the other sons became Presbyterian ministers.  One daughter also married a clergyman.

Left -
Part of a lengthy obituary that appeared back in the Scottish Borders in "The Southern Reporter":  4th July 1895.  

Robert Carter today is remembered as  one of the many self-made men  who began life in humble circumstances,  to leave  their home in Scotland and make their mark in countries abroad.  

  • Robert Carter:  His Life and Work, 1807-1889,  by Annie Carter Cochrane.
    The full text is available HERE on the Library of Congress Internet Archive.
  • Obituary in "The Southern Reporter":  4th July 1895.
  • David McConnell - a descendant of Robert's cousin,  Elizabeth Carter.  

Monday, 24 July 2017

Earlston Historic Bridges

 A Look at the Historic Bridges around Earlston.


Craigsford Bridge over the Leader Water  was built around 1737.  Until the building of the new toll road (the later A68) at the end of the century, it was the main route to Edinburgh.  Sometimes it is  referred to as the Mill Brig. 

A modern view of the bridge

The Leader road bridge  
with the Craigsford Bridge and Simpson & Fairbairn Mill in the background. 


The rail bridge over the Leader water was demolished  in 1989, 24 years after the last train ran through Earlston, 

A wintry view  in 1955 of what was known as the Tin Brig,
 carrying the railway line through Earlston. 


 The graceful late 18th century bridge spanning the Leader Water  links the neighbouring estates of Carolside and Leadervale.

 "The Statistical Account of Scotland" of 1834  in the chapter on Earlston gives us a beautiful description of Carolside  

"Poised on a green plateau beside the River Leader and sheltered by surrounding slopes of its own extensive woodlands, as a sweet and secure asylum from the toils and troubles of the world'."

Over the years, the Carolside estate was used by Earlston Girl Guides, Earlston Cricket Club, for Home Guard training in the Second World War and as the location for the 1934 Ercildoune Pageant, depicting scenes from local history.  

Two views of the bridge in more recent times:

A lovely view of the Leader valley, looking down on the little Carolside Bridge. 

Carolside Bridge - July 2017


An unusual view of the lower old Dryburgh road bridge built 1776-80.  It replaced a ferry crossing over the River Tweed,  on the route that is now the main A68 north to Edinburgh.  Its narrow structure, more used to horses and carts, remained in use for 200 years,  until  a new road bridge spanned the river in 1974. 

In the background is the famous Leaderfoot Viaduct built in 1865 and the major engineering feat of the Berwickshire Railway Line from the east  to cross the River Tweed.  The statistics are impressive -  the viaduct stands 126 feet (38 m) from the floor of the river valley, and  its 19 arches, each has a 43 feet span.  Interestingly it was referred to in a newspaper article of December 1864 as the Drygrange Viaduct. 

The Berwickshire Railway was badly affected by severe flooding in 1948 and services to the east of the county were particularly affected.   The last train ran over the viaduct in 1965.  It  is  now  under the care of Historic Environment Scotland.  

                                      A charming tinted photograph, c.1900.

A steam train crossing the Leaderfoot Viaduct, c. 1959

 One of the last trains over Leaderfoot in 1965 
Copyright ©  Bruce McCartney All  Rights Reserved.     

The Viaduct  remains a  popular spot for  photographers today  - here a view taken from the old road bridge which is now only open to walkers and  cyclist.

 A view of the three bridges, spanning two hundred years of history.  

With thanks to everyone who has contributed photographs 
to the Auld Earlston collection.
We are always pleased to receive 
further photographs, postcards and documents on the village. 

Please contact:   E-Mail:

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Robert Carter (1807-1889) : Earlston-born New York Publisher: Part 1.

Earlston born Robert Ewing Carter (1807-1889) emigrated to the USA in 1831 and became the founder and head of Carter Brothers, a well known New York Publishers. He was one of the many self-made men who began life in humble circumstances,    left their home in Scotland and made their mark in countries abroad.  

Robert's  daughter Annie Carter Cochrane wrote his life story and presented a copy of the biography  to Earlston Reading Room.  Her writings form the basis for much of  the article here. 


Robert Carter

His Early Life 
Robert Carter's birth was recorded in Earlston Old Parish Records - " Born 27th Nov. 1807 and bapt. 1st Dec. Robert, son of Thomas Carter, Earlston." This was a time when no stagecoach passed through the village, and little or no communication was held with the world beyond the village.   

Yet Robert's life was to extend  well beyond his birthplace - from walking  the 25-30 miles to Peebles and Edinburgh to further his studies,  to setting sail for New York.  

His father  Thomas Carter, a weaver,  worked six looms.  He and  his wife Agnes Ewing   had  a large family of children,  many of whom assisted him in his occupation and there was a strong Christian ethos in family life. 

Robert's younger brother Walter recalled:  
"The  earliest recollection I have is of morning prayers.........The Sabbath was the "day of days"  - morning church, then Sabbath school - it was the first Sabbath school in the south of Scotland  and well attended. The superintendent was Rev. Mr Crawford of the Relief Church     Brother Robert was his assistant.......We met in a stone cottage built from the ruins of the Rhymer's Tower.  We had none of the modern improvements -  no library, no Sunday School hymns, no picture papers. But we had the bible  and hearty singing of the grand old psalms.  Family worship closed the blessed day. "
From an early age, Robert developed a love of  books, study and learning. Yet his childhood was hard.

Helping with the Harvest
"From very early years, the harvest was a season  of hard labour.   When not more than six or seven  years old, I accompanied my older brother  at gleanng  behind the reapers -  to pick up the golden ears of wheat or barley,  or oats till our little hands were full,  bind up the handful and lay it aside  and commence again and again until  the end of the day,   it was no easy task  with the back continually bowed;  and in evening to walk home a distance of  one or two miles required no small effort. Glad were we, worn out and  weary  to sit down to our evening dish of oatmeal porridge and milk. 

As soon as I was able to wield a sickle, I became a reaper. This work for me was extremely painful. My hands were soft and for the first week or two were extremely bruised. And oh,  what a relief did Saturday evening bring."

Working at the Loom
Aged just nine,  Robert was taken from school and put to work on the loom.  From that time his education was acquired entirely by his own efforts.  Robert wrote long afterwards:
"My work was light but tedious.  From dawn till ten,  and sometimes until eleven at night. I cared little for the confinement, but grievously the loss of books and mental improvement...... I had a board erected at my left hand  on which I fastened my book and worked and read all day.  The books in my father's library having ran out, I was obliged to borrow from some of my neighbours."  
Seeing the titles of books that Robert read, strikes us today as very erudite for a child. Robert's cousin Thomas,  who was reading theology at Edinburgh University,   encouraged him in his studies, and  taught him Latin and later Greek. 

Earlston Fair
Leisure time was rare, but Robert gave a colourful description of the Earlston Fairs - one in summer and one in autumn "These fairs were looked forward to with great delight by the village boys .  There assembled dealers in cattle, hardware, toys and books."

Memories of a Murder and Execution  
Robert in much later life wrote about the impact of  a local murder, followed by an execution that he witnessed as a twelve year old boy.  Two men walking home from Earlston Fair, were set upon and killed  by  an intoxicated Robert Scott,   He was arrested and taken to Jedburgh Jail, tried and condemned to die at the very  spot where the crime had been committed. 

Robert Carter recalled 
"Thousands came to witness the execution. I was in that crowd. At a turn of the road I was within a few feet of him, and such a haggard face I never saw. It haunted me for many a year. When on the scaffold, he , in a loud voice that was heard by thousands,  prayed for mercy - that he might be delivered from blood guilti-ness, — prayed for the widows whom he had made widows, and for the children whom he had made fatherless. I never heard such earnest pleading, and I never forgot it."
Becoming a Teacher
In 1822, when Robert was fifteen years old, a cousin  who was a teacher in a private school in Selkirk, and about to attend a course at Edinburgh University, invited him to take his place at the school  - an experience which proved invaluable 

When he returned to Earlston, Robert  opened an evening school in his father’s house.   He soon had twenty-eight scholars, and the school was notable in that most of the pupils were older than their teacher.      About this time a course lectures  for teachers was being offered in Edinburgh.   Robert walked the thirty mile to Edinburgh,  to hear them, leaving home on a Monday morning shortly after midnight, and reaching the capital at ten o'clock in time for the first lecture.   He gained the friendship of the Professor, and when, about seven years later,Robert sailed for America,  he carried with him a letter of introduction from the Professor to Dr. Griscom, head of the High School in New York.

Back in the Borders, Robert  heard of a vacancy at Peebles Grammar School. and   set out to walk the distance of twenty-five miles to make a personal application, taking with him, as usual,  a book to peruse on the way.  Despite reservations about his youth, he was offered  the post,  and achieved success with both his pupils and the staff.

A position at the parish school in Smailholm, became vacant,  just six miles from his home  and Robert walked there to apply for the post.   But his application would not be considered , because he was not a member of the Church of Scotland.  Robert's church allegiance was to Earlston Secession Church which had broken away from the established Church of Scotland, largely over the issue of patronage and who appointed the minister.

Robert felt this rejection deeply and told his father
"I shall not apply for a position in my own land again, I will go to America where the religious domination  will not stand in the way  of my progress."  
Leaving Earlston 

In March 1831 Robert booked his passage from Greenock to New York on the  ship "Francis"  The separation from home and family was hard.

At six o'clock in the morning, about thirty acquaintances and friends met in the old house to say goodbye to him, before he set out to walk from Earlston by way of Peebles and Edinburgh to Greenock.
"As I arose to go, my mother embraced me most tenderly  fainted and fell on the sofa.  My father and many friends accompanied me, until at ten miles, my father  and a dear friend alone were left.    We parted in silence.     I gazed after them until they disappeared from view.   I then sat down by the silvery Tweed and gave vent to my feelings.  I was alone with God."

Part Two of the Robert Carter story will trace his time  in New York where his success enabled him to bring across  to America his parents, brothers and sisters across  to America.   But Robert never forgot Earlston and made repeated visits back to his birthplace.

  • Robert Carter:  His Life and Work, 1807-1889,  by Annie Carter Cochrane.
    The full text is available HERE on the Library of Congress Internet Archive.
  • Obituary in "The Southern Reporter":  4th July 1895.
  • David McConnell - a descendant of Robert's cousin,  Elizabeth Carter.  


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A Look Around the Earlston Archives

Valuing the History of our Village
for Future Generations

 Since the start of the Auld Earlston Group in 2012, local people have been generous in  their  donations of photographs, postcards and other documents relating to the village's past.   

So take this look around our collections to date. We use the resources in our slide shows, exhibitions and displays, in answering the steady flow of enquiries and in providing inspiration for the Auld Earlston blog.  


The foundation of Auld Earlston activities with nearly 2000 items in this collection alone,   covering all aspects of life in the village, past and present, including street views, country views, churches, events, entertainment, schools, sports, societies, transport, VIP visits, farming, working lives, wartime and weddings.


Since 2012, Albums have been compiled of reports  in the local newspapers relating to Earlston.

Below are some of the other documents 
in our archive collection

  • The Church in Earlston, 600AD-1992,   a short history by the Rev. John Duncan.
  • Earlston Church Choir Trips, 1908 and 1936 - notes and photographs.
  • Earlston Parish Church Foundation Stone Service, 1891 - service sheet.
  • Earlston Parish Church - photographs of the pewter plate and men working on the building.  
  • Earlston Secession Church Soiree, 1843 - poster.
  • Ercildoune Church - notice on rental of seats. 
  • Press cuttings of ministers and church events, 1940's-50's. 
  • St. John 's Church - list of members, 1948. 
  • Four boxes of slides by Mary Duncan, mainly of church events, 1950's-70's. 

 Church Trip to Yarrow Manse, 1908

  • Christian Whale (1792-1862) and Marion Whale, Gingham Manufacturers - research papers, including a copy of Christian's 29-page will. 
  • David Swanston (1816-1874),  Earlston post-runner - research notes 
  • George Graham, postman - A list of subscribers to a gift  on the occasion of his marriage, 1911.
  • Isabella Wallace (c.1854-1920)  - Earlston's Friend and Benefactor - with a copy of her will, leaving money to the benefit of  the village.  
  • James MacKenzie, (1846-1898), Banker and Man of Many Roles - research notes
  • John Redpath, (1796-1869),  Canadian industrialist  and donor of the village clock - research notes.
  • Mary Mather, postie - press cutting and photographs 
  • Rev. William Crockett (1866-1945) - research papers, magazine articles, press cuttings.
  • Robert Carter (1807-1875), New York bookseller & publisher - biography, obituary & research notes. 
  • Thomas Gray (1796-1884),  known as  Gingham Tam   - research notes
  • Thomas the Rhymer & Mikhail Lermontov - leaflets from Friends of Thomas the Rhymer Group.
Inscription in the biography of Robert Carter, 
presented to Earlston Reading Room by his daughter, in 1892.

"The Southern Reporter" of 3rd September 1868
  • Earlston Civic Week - programmes  from 1973.
  • Masonic Bazaar, 1928  - 9 page programme of patrons, committee and stall holders 
  • Ercildoune Pageant, 1934   - souvenir programme, photograph album, notes and script. 
  • Guild Concert, 1911 - programme 
  • Prime Minister Asquith Visit, 1908 - research notes. 
  • A Welcome Home Dinner for returning serviceman and women, 1920 - programme  
  • What's On in Earlston, 1994 booklet.  
  • Border Common Riding 1952 - press cuttings, when local historian John Weatherly was Lauder Cornet. 
  • Auld Earlston "Remembering Earlston's Railway" Exhibition, Feb. 2016 - photographs, fact sheets, publicity, community liaison, survey, grant applications.
  • Auld Earlston "Earlston At Work and Play" Exhibition, Oct. 2016 - photographs, fact sheets, publicity, survey.

  • An Historical Tour of Earlston, by John D. Smith, 1996
  • Border Warfare - HMSO booklet, 1973, 
  • Chronology of Earlston History, by John Weatherly 
  • Earlston Comet - photocopy of newspaper, 1891 
  • Earlston News - four copies of community newsletter, 1989. 
  • Earlston Examples of Census Returns, Old Parish Records and Kirk Session Records.
  • Framed in time - photographs of Auld Earlston.  In Border Life Magazine: Issue 19, Spring 1999.
  • A3 laminated Ordnance Survey Map of Earlston, 1855. 
            Entry in Earlston Kirk Session Records, 1901.  ( 


  • Histories of the:  Chess Club, Curling Club, Golf Club,  and Horticultural Society.
  • Earlston Reading Room  - history, rules & regulations, minute book 1911-1950, centenary celebration in 1952, correspondence and finance papers, 1962-2002,
  • Two Cinema Programmes from the 1950's-60s.
Minutes of the meeting in 1906, with "20 gentlemen present", to set up Earlston Golf Club.  The Rev. Mr  N.C. Keith  was in the chair, with Mr Geo L. McDonald appointed  clerk. 
Curtain Down on Earlston Amateur Dramatic Society, 1991. 

  • Growing up in the West End, by Sheila  McKay 
  • The Spittal Trip by Train - memories of Inez Polson
  • Memories of Earlston, by Inez Polson - in Border Life Magazine:  Issue 1, May 1996
  • Transcript of talks with Earlston residents,  sharing their memories on growing up in the village. 

  • Opening of Earlston Junior Secondary School, 1962  - programme  
  • Ten boxes of slides by Mary Weatherly, nee Rodger, mainly of the primary school from 1960.   

  • Christmas cards from Earlston to serving soldiers in the First World War. 
  • Darlingfield Air Crash of German bomber, 1943 - research notes
  • Unveiling of the War Memorial, 1921 - research notes. 
  • Ercildoune Recipes and Healthy  Hints,  c.1940

  • Blacksmiths of Earlston, including the Brotherston family, Scott family and many more names   - research notes, fact sheets  and photographs.
  • Earlston entries in Slater's Trade Directory for Berwickshire, 1882 and 1903.
  • Red Lion Hotel - building plans of 1871, property documents 1814-1881,  census returns and photographs. 
  • Three centuries of Earlston Doctors, written by Dr. John Burns
  • Examples of Earlston Gingham

Testament of Blacksmith, Alexander Scott, with a list of 
those who owed his estate money.  (


                  Auld Earlston welcomes all contributions on the village's past  -
Please contact us on  

We are very grateful to Earlston Primary School 
for providing secure storage for our collections.