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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.
Muscatine, Iowa; Scotland; Kansas City; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Shoreham, Minnesota; New England, North Dakota; and Fallon, Montana.