Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicago has Burned

October 8, 1871, the conflagration began. Churches not in the path of the fire opened their doors for prayer. They prayed for rain but it came too late to stop the flames. In fact, it was a cold rain and only added to the misery of those on the prairies. What was lost? Everything! The heat was so intense there was no smoke. “Heat like that of the most intense furnace was generated, which swept across the city, leaving nothing in its wake but here and there a blackened and tottering wall, or a chimney.”

“Among the Scottish casualties is the death of John Clark, aged 71 years, who perished in the burnt district while striving to escape from the fire. He was the father of Robert Clark, Chief of the Chicago Caledonian club, an old and much respected citizen of Chicago, a native of Forfar. The old gentleman had returned but a few weeks previously from a pleasant visit to his relatives in Scotland. William George died of his injuries a few days later.”

The Society Managers’ Report was written shortly after the fire. It was brief because “all the books, papers, reports and property of the society have been destroyed with all the banners, flags, seals, pictures, and emblems, amounting to one thousand dollars in value, entirely swept away.” Everything was stored in the court house because their quarterly meetings were held there.

Monument Plans

Those of you who have visited Edinburgh will have seen the monument to Sir Walter Scott on Princess St. In Chicago, there was a move to construct an exact replica of that monument. Dr. John D. Carr, was the president of the Scott Centenary Celebration. The monument in Edinburgh was designed by C. M. Kemp who had been paid $20,000 for his work in 1812. The descendants of Mr. Kemp owned the design and had decided that one monument could be constructed in the United States. Chicago had been offered that privilege. Dr. Carr had the plans in his possession on September 17, 1871 and they were to be on display at his office at the McVicker Theater Building. That building, along with the plans were destroyed in the fire. A statue of Robert Burns would later replace the monument to Scott.

Some of the destruction included: 17,450 houses, 104,500 homeless, 2,104 acres burned, 2,400 stores & factories lost, 121 miles of sidewalks. 8 bridges. The city waterworks, 1,642,000 bushels of grain, 2,000 lampposts, $222 million in property, 73 miles of roads, paved with wooden blocks. The death toll was placed at 300 but probably many more were actually killed.

Annual Dinner

On December 2, 1871, members of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society met for their Annual Dinner honoring St. Andrew. Our records say it was held at the Briggs House. (Some sources say the Briggs House was destroyed in the fire.) They came wearing clothes that smelled of smoke and in some cases may have been borrowed. Men once wealthy had been reduced to poverty. Prior to the dinner a business meeting was conducted and General John McArthur was elected president. Each member had a “sprig of heather imported from Scotland for the occasion.”  George Anderson was called upon to recite “Tam O’shanter.” “He declined, saying, after the great calamity he had no heart to recite a poem abounding in such tender associations. He took the occasion to present a ram’s horn, handsomely mounted, and ornamented with many Scottish devices.”  That ram’s horn can be seen today in the Scottish American Museum.

This same Annual Dinner will be held on November 22, 2014 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Click here for information.         

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
wrethford@comcast.net
630-629-4516

November 1 - Next meeting of History Club
  • Charles Gonzalez and his Dad talk about their visit to France on D-day, 2014 and have pictures and stories you will enjoy.
  • John LeNoble will talk about the American Flag & we will say the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Beth Brown will lead us in patriotic songs
Reservations are helpful call - 708-447-5092

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Superheated Wind from the Southwest

I am writing this on Monday, October 6, 2014.  In 1871, this would have been a Friday.  Chicago was a growing city with a population of 300,000 but was a city made of wood.  As people closed their stores and workmen made their way home, no one could have predicted the events that would soon overwhelm them.  It had been a hot and dry summer.  From July 4 to October 8 only an inch of rain had fallen. A strong wind was blowing from the southwest.  It would soon become superheated. 

The fire started around 9:00 p.m. on October 8, 1871, behind the house at 137 DeKoven Street.  It spread rapidly, forced along by the great wind from the south.  Late in the evening on Monday, it started to rain but the city was already destroyed.

Frederick Law Olmstead wrote: “Chicago had a weakness for big things and liked to think that it was outbuilding New York.  It did a great deal of commercial advertising in its house-tops.  The faults of construction as well as of art in its great showy buildings must have been numerous.  Their walls were thin, and were overweighted with gross and coarse misornamentation.”

The Reverend David Sweet was the pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian church in 1871. He wrote a dramatic account of the Great Fire and its impact on his family. Here is a part of what he wrote.  (David Sweet is buried at Rosehill in Chicago.  He is on my list of Scottish Americans.)

“It must have been ten o’clock Monday morning when the flames had come so near as to make it necessary for us to move on, and for the LaSalle avenue people to join the exodus. It was not necessary to run, or even to walk rapidly. It was necessary only to work toward the open fields outside the limits of the city. At no point was there a crowd or a panic, for the fire being in the center of the city the victims could at many points pass into the long circumference. In our line of retreat there were not more than ten thousand persons; and these were spread out through many squares (blocks), reaching out toward the west. Each wagon, each wheelbarrow, each family had plenty of room. My little family impressed an abandoned handcart into service, and with our living and inanimate plunder placed in this little two-wheeled affair we moved along in a manner more comfortable even if not more elegant. A man driving a fine team and having a great truck-load of valuable goods, looked down upon us with not a little air of better consciousness, but when we informed him that his load was ablaze in the rear of the big mountain his vanity passed away, and he hastily unhitched his horses, and left all else to become a bonfire in the street. The dresses of many women and children took fire, but there were many eyes watching, and many hands ready, so that personal injuries were rare. Late in the afternoon our group reached an open field. It had been recently plowed. It contained nothing which could be burned. It offered us the one thing most needed - rest and security. Here we encamped and sat down with faces toward a mass of smoke and fire now four or five miles in breadth.”

We still remember after 143 years, and there is much more to the story.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630.629.4516

November 1 - Next meeting of the Scottish American History Club.  We will honor veterans, sing patriotic songs, listen to John LeNoble and see pictures from the landing at D-Day.  Our special guests will be Charles Gonzalez, a member of our Board of Governors, and his father who visited France this past summer.  Come see how the beaches have changed in 70 years.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Killing Patton

“Killing Patton” is a new book on the market by Bill O’Reilly. I have read some of his other books and plan to read this one as well. Patton is in the Scottish American Hall of Fame located in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, 28th and Des Plaines, North Riverside, Illinois. The following information was written by James Thomson and is contained on the plaque honoring General Patton.

                                            GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON

George S. Patton is widely acclaimed as America’s most aggressive and resourceful field commander of World II. He liberated more territory in less time than any commander in history. General Patton was an able tactician and the leading American exponent of hard-hitting, fast-moving tank warfare. The height of his career came in 1944 when his armor slashed across France in a campaign marked with great initiative, ruthless drive, and disregard of classic military rules.

Patton was born November 11, 1885 in San Gabriel California. He was the fifth generation descendent of Robert Patton who came to Virginia from Scotland during the American Revolution. Robert Patton had a son John who served in Congress and was governor of Virginia. John had eight sons. Six thought on the side of the South in the Civil War and two were killed. One of those killed was Brig. General George Patton, the great – great – grandfather of the World War II general. Always aware of the warriors’ tradition of the family, George S. Patton early opted for a military career and was graduated from West Point in 1909. He studied the great cavalry leaders of the Civil War and became addicted to the importance of mobility and surprise. Due to his experience in World War I in which he was badly wounded, he shifted emphasis from cavalry to tanks.

He was chosen by General Dwight Eisenhower to lead the invasion of North Africa. Patton was censured at war’s end for his outspoken distrust of the Russians. He predicted World War II because he felt the World War I peace was poorly handled. He hoped to die in battle, but the end was more prosaic. He died December 21, 1945, of injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Germany.

                                                                                James Casement Thomson

“The Scots of Lake Forest” will be shown at the Scottish American History Club this coming Saturday, October 4, 2014. It is a video presentation of the Scots who settled a community, built a church, a school and finally a college. More than 2000 photographs have been collected during the three-year process led by David Forlow of Lake bluff, Illinois. He was assisted by myself, Elaine Moore and museums, historical societies and families too numerous to mention. You will see the results of our work as you view the video. This is the first public viewing of “The Scots of Lake Forest.”

The Museum will open at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. The program will begin at 10:00 a.m. and the video will last an hour. Later there will be time for questions and answers. We will have coffee and scones. Reservations are not necessary but they are helpful. Please call 708.447.5092 to reserve your place. All are welcome and there is no charge.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630.629.4516

Friday, September 19, 2014

James S. Kirk and Company

James S. Kirk was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1818. His father was a prominent shipbuilder and engineer but they soon moved to Ottawa, Canada where James attended school and grew to manhood. Working in a nearby store was Mary Ann Dunning, 16 years old, and considered one of the bells of the Dominion. Before a year had passed they were married and moved to Utica, New York where he served one year as mayor.

The marriage would produce 11 children but only eight would survive, seven sons and one daughter. They are: James A., John B., William M., Wallace F., Arthur S., Edgar W., Charles S., and Helen Kirk.

The young couple moved to Utica, New York in 1839 where James engaged in the soap making business. They moved to Chicago in 1859 and located their plant on the site of Old Fort Dearborn. Their soap and candle factory burned in 1867 and was a total loss. Instead of rebuilding on that site they moved across the Chicago River immediately south of the Tribune Tower. They again lost everything in the Great Fire of 1871 with losses amounting to $250,000. Like most of the others, they rebuilt.

Their new plant was an imposing structure five stories high with a basement. Standing next to it was a chimney that reached 182 feet and inscribed on it were the words KIRK. (On the Internet you can find a picture of the plant and the chimney and a river full of boats and commercial traffic.) To the north of their plant was a railroad spur that connected to all the major lines running out of Chicago. They had the railroads and the river to distribute their products across the United States and to many foreign countries. It was once described as “the largest manufactory of its kind in America.”

Their advertising was somewhat unusual. Here is an example:

F stands for foolish
  Young people and old
Who often times use
   Nasty soaps that are sold.

All seven sons were connected to the James S. Kirk Company. The business prospered, and by 1925 sales amounted to $5 million annually. The plant was producing 70,000,000 pounds of soap. However, there was trouble on the horizon. The giant chimney was producing smoke, so the City Council passed several anti-smoke ordinances which were apparently difficult to enforce. The more serious problem was the expansion of Michigan Avenue across the Chicago river. Part of the Kirk plant was in the way.

The city offered to give them 150 feet of property east of the plant, build them a new building, move all the equipment and give the company $100,000. A good offer but it was rejected. The property was then condemned and a jury trial was held. The county court awarded $448,000. The Kirk family never opposed the expansion of Michigan Avenue, in fact they thought it was necessary. They only wanted a fair price for their property. A new plant was built at 1232 W. North Avenue but was sold to Proctor & Gamble in 1930.

When the Michigan Avenue plant was destroyed, the property was placed into a land trust. In one article it appeared that William Wrigley, Jr. once owned the land but I suspect it may now be owned by the Tribune Corporation. Anyone know? Not that it matters, of course, just interesting.

Walter R. Kirk, grandson of the founder, started his own company called the Kirk Soap Company. He died in 1964. Kirk soap is still being sold on the Internet. The company is located in Erlanger, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. Their web site says:  “In 1996, Kirk’s Natural Product Corporation acquired Kirk Coco Hard Water Soap from Proctor & Gamble and Kirk returns to its native home.” They trace their Coca Castile Soap back to 1839. I was unable to determine what happened to the Kirk Soap Company started by Walter R. Kirk unless this is the company.

Mr. James S. Kirk died in 1886. He had once been a trustee of Northwestern University. He is buried along with other family members at Rosehill in Chicago. His wife, Mary Ann Dunning Kirk, died of injuries sustained in a fire at the Windsor Hotel in New York City in 1899. She had been saved from the burning building by Helen, her only daughter. Mrs. Kirk had 25 grandchildren. She is buried beside her husband. Helen Kirk was the wife of Charles Geer Haskins. She died July 17, 1940.

On November 9, 1929, the giant smokestack was felled by dynamite and brought about the end of an era. It had stood on historic ground because the first home in Chicago was erected here opposite the old fort. It was occupied by Scotsman John Kenzie in 1804. The Lake House Hotel was somewhere in the immediate vicinity. Scottish men first gathered at the Lake House to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day in 1845. An event that will be repeated this year on November 22 at the Palmer House. (Click here for details)

Like the Badenoch family, the Kirk’s spread across the country. I saw mention of California, Indiana, Utah, Illinois and Washington, D.C. Perhaps some family member will contact us with more family information.   

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630-629-4516

Upcoming Events:

Saturday, October 4 - The History Club will view a one hour video about “The Scots of Lake Forest.” This is the culmination of a three year project led by David Forlow, myself, and the help of many others. Photography and editing is by Steve Douglass. Narrations by Jack Crombie. This project was made possible by the generosity of June Steele and the Halverson Fund.

Saturday, November 1 - Charles Gonzalez and his father visit France on D-Day.

No meeting in December

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Role of Victorian Women

When the Great Fire occurred in 1871, the Society was keeping their records in the court house of Chicago. When the court house fell, it took most of our early history. There was also an earlier fire in 1859 which I have not been able to document. Then 1871, and finally the Scottish Home fire in 1917. Because of these fires it has been difficult to know the role that women have played in our society.

We get a small glimpse from the annual report of 1870. It shows a list of nine women who were called “Lady Visitors, Assistance to Manager.” In those days, as it is today, the city was divided into three sections; North, South, and West. The Saint Andrew Society used the same division for their work of charity.

Assigned to the North division was Mrs. James Thomson, Mrs. Hugh Ritchie and Miss Dougall.

Assigned to the South division was Mrs. S. McKichan, Mrs. James Campbell and Miss Hamilton.

Assigned to the West division was Mrs. John Alston, Mrs A. M. Thomson and Miss H. Templeton.

Some of those names we recognize as being the wives of board members such as Ritchie, Campbell, Alston and Thomson. It’s interesting to note that each division had a single young lady as well. I recognize the name Dougal and Templeton.

We can assume that it would have been improper for the male managers to investigate certain situations and thus the need for “Lady visitors.” We can only speculate about the role these women played in the charitable work of the Society. The annual report for 1870 states “that all of the persons relieved have been seen personally visited at their places of residence, and their character and wants carefully investigated, so that no deserving applicant has been neglected.”

1870 was a busy year for they had a total of 282 applications for relief and all but 12 received attention. I am sure the Lady Visitors were extremely busy. It’s disappointing that we don’t have complete records.

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was of importance to women and their search for equality. Bertha Palmer was without question the most important woman in Chicago and she became the president of the Board of Lady Managers which consisted of 115 members. The members were composed of ladies from all over the United States and they met on a regular basis in Chicago. At the urging of Mrs. Palmer the opening poem for the Exposition was written and read by Harriet Monroe. Her father was a prominent lawyer and active in Scottish events.

The Women’s Building was designed by 21 year old Miss Sophia Hayden of Spanish heritage. The building was 200 x 400' its framework covered by staff and painted a “rich old ivory color.” Above the second floor was a roof garden. Around the Gallery of Honor were the names of 75 of the most famous women known to history and art. (I have never seen this list but I’m sure it exists somewhere.) Wonder how many Scottish women were among the 75?

Mrs. Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, an American, was married to the Scottish man who designed the exquisite fountain in front of the Administration Building. She was also an artist and painted “The Primitive Woman,” a 14 x 58' mural that hung 40 feet off the floor. After the Fair it was displayed in France, St. Louis and the Art Institute. It was then stored in the basement of Mrs. Palmer’s mansion on Lake Shore drive. There is no information as to its whereabouts after 1910 and many are hoping that one day it will be found.

At least one organization for Scottish women existed before the Fair. It was the Flora McDonald Society of the Highland Association. The Highland Association was said to have been the largest Scottish organization in the United States at the time. At one of their meetings, Mrs. Robert Hill was voted the “most popular woman present” after “spirited” voting. Entertainment was the dancing of little Eddie Smith, “who danced before Queen Victoria last year.”

The Daughters of the Scotia Society of Chicago was formed on June 12, 1907 when 100 women met in the Atheneum building at 20 W. Van Buren St. The object of the organization was to be both social and benevolent. Mrs. Elizabeth Ballantine was elected president. The other officers were Mrs. Annie Crown, Mrs. Jeanette Russel, and Mrs. Catherine Fraser.

Following the social mores of their day, women held separate meetings for their organizations. It took the Burns Monument to bring both groups together. They were incorporated as the Burns Memorial and Monument Association of Illinois and at least six women were members. We have identified them as: Mrs. M. Strong, Mrs. R. MacWatt, Mrs. R Valentine, Mrs. W. A. Barclay and Miss Helen F. Lonnie.

In 1904, Mrs. Robert Valentine was elected one of the four directors of the Monument Association. The Ladies Auxiliary held their first official meeting in June, 1902 and had an official membership of 75. They held their meetings at the Patterson Shorthand Institute.

At the dedication of the Burns Monument, August 25, 1906, the statue was unveiled by Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson. Her father may have been J. D. Williamson who was on the committee for the “entertainment of guests.” We have been unable to follow her life. The other women involved in the Burns dedication was Mrs. Kate Campbell Saunders, the famous elocutionist. Mrs. Saunders died November 25, 1936 leaving one daughter, Helen. I do not know her place of burial. Many women also participated in the Burns Memorial Choir which sang at the dedication.

We have a photograph featuring the 29 women who served on the Ladies Auxiliary Board. They are all married except a Miss Mathers. Just for the historical record, here are the names (no first names were given): Winlack, Littledale, Calder, Dick, Napier, Beattie, Kettles, Fraser, Adams, Cochran, Crowe, Bell, Wright, Nisbet, Fraser, Hutchison, Ballantine, Devar, Galbraith, Gould, Cooper, McFarlane, Donaldson, Rice, Ewing, Johnson, Purvis and Orr.

If someday, you are searching through old boxes and you find documents, pictures, books, etc, of Scottish interest - please don’t throw them away. Call me or bring them to the Scottish Home.

Thanks to all the Victorian Ladies who gave of their time and energy to advance the work of Scottish organizations in Chicago.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
630-629-4516

Upcoming Events:

September 6, 2014 - Our speaker is Bruce Allardice who is a Professor of History at South Suburban College. He is past president of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table. Professor Allardice has authored or coauthored six books and numerous articles on the Civil War. He is an avid sports historian and currently heads up the “Civil War Baseball” subcommittee for the Society of American Baseball Research. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and a lifelong resident of the Chicago area. He and his wife attended the Highland Games this year and left just minutes before the great storm arrived.

Bruce will be talking about baseball in Chicago during the Civil War. Many of these amateur stars served in the 65th Illinois Infantry. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and program begins at 10 o’clock. Reservations are not necessary but helpful. Call 708-408-5591.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mark your calendar

Scottish American History Club


September 6, 2014 - Our speaker is Bruce Allardice who is a Professor of History at South Suburban College. He is past president of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table. Professor Allardice has authored or coauthored six books and numerous articles on the Civil War. He is an avid sports historian and currently heads up the “Civil War Baseball” subcommittee for the Society of American Baseball Research. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and a lifelong resident of the Chicago area. He and his wife attended the Highland Games this year and left just minutes before the great storm arrived.

Bruce will be talking about baseball in Chicago during the Civil War. Many of these amateur stars served in the 65th Illinois Infantry. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and program begins at 10 o’clock. Reservations are helpful 708-408-5591.

October 4, 2014 - You will enjoy the showing of "The Scots of lake Forest." This is a one hour video exploring the Scottish influence of Lake Forest, Illinois. It is the culmination of three years of work by David Forlow and Wayne Rethford. Narrated by Jack Crombie, it was filmed and edited to Steve Douglass.

November 1, 2014 - Every November we honor our veterans. Charles Gonzales, a member of our Board of Governors, took his father to France for D-Day celebrations this year. He will be sharing pictures from his trip showing invasion sites and the American cemeteries. Other surprises are planned as well!

WE DO NOT MEET IN DECEMBER - Merry Christmas!

January 10, 2015 - Our speaker will be Ana Koval, President and CEO of the Canal Corridor Association. Come hear how the I&M Canal changed Illinois.

Our meetings are held in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, 28th & Des Plaines, North Riverside, Illinois and are open to the public. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and the presentation begins at 10:00 a.m. There is no charge. Coffee, tea and scones are provided. Reservations are helpful. Please call 708.408.5591. If you have questions, please call Wayne Rethford at 630.629.4516.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Annual Dinner

The Annual Dinner of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society will be held this year on November 22, 2014, in the grand ballroom of the Palmer House in Chicago. You can get complete information on their website.

The St. Andrew’s dinner started 169 years ago by a group of immigrant Scots who wanted to honor their Patron Saint and keep memories alive of their Homeland. This dinner has changed over the years and now St. Andrew is seldom mentioned. For many years the great question centered around the speaker for the evening. We no longer have speakers. When I first came to work for the Saint Andrew Society, the big questions were which entertainer would be brought over from Scotland and who would be the master of ceremonies. We seldom bring entertainers from Scotland and no longer use an outside, prominent person as the master of ceremonies.

There are always reasons why things evolve, good speakers are hard to find and the cost of entertainment has continued to rise. The world changes and we change.  (The average attention span for Americans is now down to 8 seconds, according to a speaker I heard last week.) You will, however, notice that we still use much of the same outline for our event. Our past history is important!

1932

I’ve been reading about the St. Andrew’s day dinner which was held in 1932. As most of you know St. Andrew’s day is November 30 but if that date fell on a Sunday the Anniversary Dinner was moved to December.  Thus, in 1932 it was held on December 3rd. The Society president that year was Gilbert Alexander. The attendance was over 800. The Great Depression was at its height. David R Forgan had just died. Dr. John Timothy Stone was asked to give a tribute. He read a poem by S. H. M. Byers. (Dr. Stone was pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian church for 20 years and later president of the McCormack Theological Seminary. He was once the interim pastor at Lake Forest. Dr. Stone died in 1954.) I have a copy of the poem if anyone is interested. A standing moment of silence was given in honor of David Forgan who had been a popular figure among the Scots of Chicago.

The toastmaster was Rabbi Garson Levi, born in Glasgow, Scotland. He had been attending the Annual Dinner for four years and was a member of the Saint Andrew Society. The pipe band was led by Robert H. Sim and the dancers were provided by Prof. John F. Dewar. There was a haggis, but not for everyone, just the head table. It was not the center of attention, and apparently the Robert Burns toast was not given. The invocation was offered by the Rev. Allison McCracken. The National Anthem was sung and a telegram read from President Herbert Hoover expressing his regrets at not being able to attend. (He had just lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt.) Dorothy Marwick and Cameron McLean sang several songs. The surprise of the evening was an appearance of comedian Willie Fyfe and his wife. He was preforming at the Palace theater and had often visited the Scottish Home. He was a personal friend of the John Williamson family.

The speaker for the evening was Professor Franklin Bliss Snyder of Northwestern University. (He later became the 18th President of Northwestern following Walter Dill Scott.) A summary of his speech was later printed in the British American newspaper. Here is a summary:

For a native–born New Englander with the German name I hardly feel entitled to the invitation of this gathering, still I think I can put my foot inside, thanks to a grandmother from Skye. I owe that grandmother many things. I owe to her three hand-hammered silver teaspoons and a table that stood along her bed on which stood the lamp and the family Bible. But, I owe her much more than these material things. First of all owe to her an abiding confidence in Scotland and Scottish people. I have said many times to my students that if they could choose their ancestries, and did not choose to sprinkle a few Scotsmen there, they would be stupid beyond words. For I know no nation that has made as large a contribution to human welfare as has Scotland. Hunter in medicine, Burns, Scott and Stephenson in literature, and countless other men of renown have been Scotsmen. They have done the sort of thing that the world needs to have done.

I know no nation since this modern world of ours began which has made so large a contribution as Scotland. Another thing I owe to my grandmother is an interest in and better understanding of the man who most of us would consider greatest of all Scotsmen, Robert Burns. I know no one else who is Burns equal when it comes to the difficult task of thinking the thoughts of the wise and speaking the language of the humble. I think it is the language that Burns developed that has made him known, not merely to you and me, but known and loved wherever the Scottish dialect can be understood. It was my interest in Burns which first made me visit his birthplace. I owe that to my grandmother. The hospitality that was shown to me as I was traveling through southern Scotland will never be forgotten.

While in Scotland I made a friend of a man called James MacPherson. When I was leaving I told him I was sorry to be going and as an afterthought added we have gotten along very well together. Yes, he said, we have gotten along pretty well together and when you get to the states remembered this that so long as your people and my people get along pretty well together we need not worry no matter how black things may look, but if ever your people and my people should have a serious misunderstanding, I do not think there will be much left to live for. Now if you will do the honor of remembering anything that I have said please let it be that remark of McPherson’s. After all we are two branches of the same English speaking people and so long as we get along we need not fear.


Dr. Snyder wrote a book about Robert Burns and I was recently able to purchase on the Internet. It is available to anyone interested and will ultimately find a place in the library at the Scottish Home.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630-629-4516

Upcoming Events:

The September meeting of the Scottish American History Club is September 6, 2014. Our speaker is Bruce Allardice who will be talking about baseball in Chicago during the Civil War. Many of these amateur stars served in the 65th Illinois Infantry. Please mark your calendar and watch for more information. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and program begins at 10 o’clock.