The life of the immigrant in the 1800s was very difficult. Most of them could not read or write and thus suffered at the hands of land-sharks. Chicago and other cities started programs to help protect the immigrant, providing shelter, food and legal advice. Lincoln, Nebraska, was a model of this effort. In Chicago, the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and the Highland Association tried to provide these services to needy Scottish immigrants.
The city of Lincoln built a building, 100 by 24, at the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Station to help shelter strangers to their city. Sleeping rooms were provided as well as a kitchen and bathing facilities. During the first year of operation, they cared for 636 persons with 271 being children.
One hundred fifty-four of these people took homesteads, leaving families at the Home, while the men searched for land. Once found, they then filed claims at the Land Office. Those not looking for land could often find employment in Lincoln.
“One old man lately came from Scotland, with three daughters and their new husbands - all very poor.” The wives found work with good Lincoln families, earning $3-4 a week with room and board. The men soon obtained a homestead farther west, and built sod-houses on their farms. Working for neighbors, they soon had a few acres of prairie broken and corn planted. Their united earnings soon paid for all the tools, teams, and wagons necessary to operate a farm."
“Thus, working no harder, and faring no worse than they always did in the Old Country, they will live henceforth lords of a square mile of as good land as any in Scotland. Emigration opens to them a new earth, if not a new heaven, for at home they had not one chance in a million of ever owning a single acre.”
These people became Americans in every aspect of their living.
(Quotations from the Chicago Daily Tribune, January 17, 1873.)