William Binnie journal

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk 2019-20.002

Level of description



William Binnie journal


  • 1907-1912 (Creation)


  1. 5 linear feet, 1.00 Box: 2 Items: 1 Journal, 1 set of "Notes from Goss' Birds of Kansas."

Post-Fire Oversize Extent:
Box 1 (10x15); 509S: 19/1/3

Name of creator


Biographical history

William Binnie was born on June 15, 1886, in Muscatine, Iowa to parents of Scottish descent. His father, Thomas F. Binnie, worked for a Scottish American Mortgage Company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The family moved back to Scotland in 1890 when William was four years old.

On August 10, 1907, at the age of 21, William Binnie began his journal as he sailed from Scotland to the United States. An avid bird-watcher and naturalist, Binnie recorded on August 19, the ship anchored off Sandy Hook. The next day he sailed up the quay at New York and the following day he arrived at Dunkirk, New York. He noted the weather, birds, and other wildlife. In the evening of August 21, Binnie boarded a train to Chicago. On August 22, he wrote, "In Chicago no birds except sparrows were to be seen, but beautiful large brown butterflies occurred frequently, even in the busy streets." Binnie left Chicago on the evening of August 23 and arrived in Kansas City on August 24, 1907. His journal mentions very little of his work in Kansas City. Instead, it focused on the avian species, flora, and fauna of the Kansas-Missouri countryside.

Binnie left Kansas City on February 9, 1910, and took a job with The Alberta and Great Waterways Railway Company. With this job, he traveled a great deal especially north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where the company planned to build the railroad. In December the railway project stopped, and Binnie returned to Scotland until April 1911. Being delayed from going north, Binnie spent a few weeks at a summer resort on Lakes Sallie and Morissa [Melissa] at Shoreham, Minnesota. On June 7, 1911, Binnie arrived at New England, North Dakota where he expected to stay fourteen months. His journal ended on April 11, 1912.

By 1913, Binnie was the first banker at the Fallon, Montana, bank and in January 1916, he filed a land patent for 160 acres in Montana. On March 3, 1916, Binnie married his Inez McNaughton, in Chicago. After their marriage, Binnie and Inez traveled to Scotland and visited with family for six months then returned to Montana. Later that year, on December 16, 1916, William's father, Thomas, died.

As soon as the United States entered World War I, Binnie enlisted in the U. S. Army. Stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, Binnie became a First Lieutenant in Field Artillery. On January 24, 1918, Binnie was aboard the U. S. S. Tuscania when it left Hoboken, New Jersey carrying 2013 American troops. At Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Tuscania joined a convoy to cross the Atlantic Ocean bound for Le Harve, France. On February 5, a German submarine sighted the convoy north of Ireland and fired two torpedoes. The first missed but the second was a direct hit. Two hundred thirty people were lost. Records indicate that two hundred and one were American troops. The U. S. S. Tuscania was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk, and First Lieutenant William Binnie was one of four officers killed. He is considered the first casualty of World War I in Prairie County, Montana. Even though Binnie's body was not recovered, his name listed on his parents' tombstone at Dean Cemetery in Scotland.

After Binnie's death, Inez made several trips back to Scotland. She eventually remarried a man named Merton Moore. She died in Oregon on October 18, 1989.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Personal journal kept by William Binnie, a Scottish-American self-taught naturalist, adventurer, explorer, businessman, developer and photographer between August 20, 1907 and April 11, 1912. Much of the journal’s content centers on ornithological references to eastern Kansas.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged in one box. It consists of two items: 1) William Binnie journal and 2) a list of birds from N. S. Goss History of the Birds in Kansas.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions. All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Original materials available during open hours of repository and any digitized materials that are online are available with the Internet.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Shipped to the Morse Department of Special Collections in September 2017. Accessioned July 31, 2019, and processed at Ag Press building by Cynthia Harris, July/August 2019.

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated in July 2017 by Eileen Melby, Board Member, Frontier Gateway Museum, Glendive, Montana.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

Binnie's journal focuses on the natural history area of Kansas City and eastern Kansas.


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title], [item date], William Binnie journal, Box [number], Item [number], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard.

Sources used

William Binnie journal.

Anderson, Avis R. “William Binnie, 1885-1918: Adventurer, Gentleman, Developer Ornithologist, Naturalist, Environmentalist Photographer,” Summer 2016.

Lucey, Donna M. Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), 1991.

Mullet, Cindy. “Early Area WWI Casualty Was Lost at Sea,” (Glendive, MT: Ranger Review), June 1, 2017.

Archivist's note

Cynthia Harris, Library Assistant III, processed and described materials and curator, David B. Allen, reviewed the finding aid in August 2019.

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