George Taylor was born at Hownam Grange in 1803. He
was the son of a shepherd, Andrew Taylor, who worked
on several farms including Attonburn, Ladyrig, Crailing
Tofts and Wester Wooden. George describes moving from
place to place and the work conditions of the time in his
memoirs, From Kelso to Kalamazoo. These have now been
published as a book edited by Margaret Jeary and Mark
He became the gardener at Ormiston Farm in the 1830s and eventually became manager of a market garden in Forestfield, Kelso. Mrs Robertson of Ednam House, who donated Shedden Park to Kelso, asked him to plant the trees round the park.
In his memoir he describes events such as an election in Jedburgh where Sir Walter Scott was present, his first train journey, the farmer who told his workers they would not be re-hired if they bought newspapers, the Teviot freezing over at Kalemouth Bridge in the winter of 1836/37 and retrieving the body of a young man from Nisbet who fell through the ice.
He used to walk all the way from Eckford to Edinburgh, setting off at 2am and arriving at 4pm, saving the coach fare of ten shillings to spend the money on books. He records his first journey on a train when he went to Ayr and on his travels there he met an old lady who was the widow of Thomas Goldie who was, she said, the original Tam O’Shanter. He supported the Temperance Society and recalls that he once saw three drunken men riding into Kelso Square, all ministers of the church!
In 1855, he took his family to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he became a gardener and nurseryman. When settled in Kalamazoo, he soon established a successful business supplying plants and hedging. He became an award-winning horticulturalist and was responsible for the introduction of the cultivation of celery to the USA. Kalamazoo became known as “Celery City”.
In spite of nearly sinking on the first voyage to America, he came back on visits to Scotland twice, all described in his memoir. As well as crossing the Atlantic five times, he went to Dublin and travelled widely by rail visiting places in Scotland, England (he visited the Great Exhibition and Crystal Palace) and America, including the Niagara Falls. He saw the burning embers of Chicago after the great fire in 1871.
He lived through the Napoleonic Wars, the cholera epidemic, the potato blight, the coming of the railways and the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
When he was an old man he began to write down his memories. By then he had outlived four wives, two of whom died in childbirth. He also lost three babies at birth, his son drowned aged 19 and his daughter died of TB.
George Taylor died in 1891, leaving this wonderful memoir of local and social history.
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: George Taylor