We have before us the picture of a young Scotch lad working hard all day at the weaving, reading at night and dreaming great dreams which perhaps few but a hard-headed Scotch lad could make come true. Into this boy's hands came a book of travel telling of the wonders of America and especially of that rich but almost unoccupied territory beyond the Mississippi. Into that boyish mind came the desire to share in the benefits of this free country and into his heart came the determination to realize this new ambition. Wages were small and it took much time and much saving and self-denial to secure the passage money which brought Thomas Rae to the land of his dream.
It was April 2, 1863, that he left his native land and some two weeks later that he landed at Portland, Maine, to make his fortune in the new world. He did not at once realize his desire to go to the west, a living had to be made in the meantime and something of a nest egg put by for the founding of the fortune that he hoped was to come. He secured employment in the Pepperell Mills at Biddeford, Maine, near Saco, and there he lived four years.
On April 10, 1865, the day on which the glorious tidings of Lee's surrender reached the Pine Tree state, Mr. Rae was united in marriage to Miss Jeanie Allen, also a native of Scotland. She was a loving helpmate, who contributed largely to the success of the future and who has won a very dear place in the hearts of all.
In 1866, Mr. Rae paved the way for a western home by the purchase of sixty acres of land in far-off Crawford county, Iowa, a place which he had never seen, but of which he had heard through his brother George. By 1867 enough had been saved to warrant the western journey, and together the young married couple started for the country that was to be their home. Mr. Rae's first land purchase was in Union township and he built the first frame house in that locality, a building one story high and fourteen by twenty feet in dimension. He added to this as he was able and he now owns one of the finest country houses in Crawford county.
Although he knew almost nothing about farming at the start, he was persistent, energetic and thrifty, and as the years passed he added to his original tract until he now owns five hundred acres in Paradise and Union townships. Although he had to endure all the hardships and privations of a pioneer, doing many things by hand which today are done by machinery, he was not one to acknowledge defeat, but kept on, never losing sight of the goal, until he is today one of the most successful and substantial farmers of the county. He makes a specialty of breeding and raising fine stock and is meeting with most gratifying success.
Mr. Rae has always taken great interest not only in his own affairs but in the civic and religious affairs of the community. He has taken active part in all those things which make for good. Both he and his wife are faithful members of the Methodist church and have been among the most ardent and helpful members of that church at Dow City. Politically, Mr. Rae has been a stalwart republican, and in 1900 his value as a party worker was recognized by his election as a member of the electoral college from the tenth district of Iowa. He has held many positions of trust and confidence in his locality and is respected as an able and conscientious citizen by all. He has long been identified with the Masonic fraternity, having joined Saco Lodge, No. 9, A. F. & A. M., of Saco, Maine, in 1865. He was one of the charter members as well as one of the organizers of Hospitable Lodge, No. 444, A. F. & A. M., of Dunlap, Iowa, and he is at present chairman of the finance committee of the Sylvan Lodge, of Denison. Mr. Rae has always been an ardent temperance worker and in fact he not only supports but forwards every movement, the adoption of which he believes means a higher moral standard in the community.
Mr. Rae was born at Kettle's Bridge, Kings Kettle, Fifeshire, Scotland, a son of Thomas and Janet (Buck) Rae. The parents were Scotch and spent their entire lives in the land of heather, where the father was a hand-loom weaver. Mr. Rae has several times in the days of his prosperity visited the land of his birth and renewed the old assocations. On his last visit to Scotland he was accompanied by his son James, who went partly for an educational excursion, as well as to see the scenes of "Bonnie Scotland." While in London they were received by Mr. Asquith, prime minister, in his private room in the house of commons, being very cordially received by that distinguished gentleman, and they appreciated the honor granted them by such a pleasant interview.
To Mr. and Mrs. Rae were born six children: Mary, who is deceased; Thomas, living at home; Nettie and Willie, twins, the former the wife of John Branhall, a mechanical engineer, of Des Moines, and the latter deceased; Allen, who was chief electrician on the United States steamship Wilmington during the famous voyage to the tropics of South America when the far reaches of the great rivers were explored where white men had never been before, but after three years in the navy, during which time he circumnavigated the globe, he resigned and is an expert electrician in Chicago; James, the youngest, now principal of the high school at Iowa City.
We cannot speak too highly of Mr. Thomas Rae as a citizen. His splendid good sense, his astute judgment and his kindly heart commend him to all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.