Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Elderly Network Loses its Angel

By Eric Zorn
April 13, 1993

(My friend Bob Carlton found this story and sent me the link. Eric Zorn writes so well about this Scottish lady named Jessie Conaughton. What I find interesting is that she and her husband worked for James E. McMillan, the Ovaltine man, and he left Jessie a small annuity from his estate. Here are the words of Eric Zorn.)

They are the people you don't often think about, and they live in apartments you almost never notice.

They are the elderly underground-a quiet, unofficial network of retired domestics, teachers, clerks and others who dwell in modest apartments above shops and businesses in downtown Winnetka.

Most of them are widows. They cook for each other, help each other with errands and housework as needed, fill out forms, keep tabs and provide much-needed company. The small group has never had a name-though every so often someone calls them "the bench ladies," after a bus stop where some of them gather in warmer weather-and now it is struggling on with a wounded heart.

On April 1, Jessie Conaughton, for decades the most visible and active member of the helping network, died at age 87 of complications following a stroke.

"I loved her dearly," said Margaret Vieth, 89, a retired nurse who lives alone above a flower shop. "She used to come by every morning to help me make my bed and wash the dishes and carry out the garbage. Then she would ask me what I needed at the store.

"She would never accept anything for it," Vieth said. "I'd thank her and she'd say, `Oh, that's nothing.' but I would say, `No it isn't. You don't know what it means to me to have someone come in with a smile and a friendly word and do these things I can no longer do.' "

"Helping others was Jessie's whole life," said Elise Gieser, 83, a former schoolteacher who drives for the other retirees when they need to go shopping or to the doctor. "I think she just didn't know anything else to do."

For nearly three decades, Conaughton was a pleasant if slightly eccentric figure around the village, a cheery, slight woman with a rich Scottish accent who walked everywhere in a determined stride and always wore tennis shoes.

But her sparkle disguised a bleak and difficult life, Gieser said. When she was a toddler, her mother died in childbirth and left her to be reared by a critical and unaffectionate father, Gieser said Conaughton told her.

She emigrated from Scotland to the United States in her teens and began her lifelong work as a domestic servant. She married Edward Conaughton, a chauffeur, who also was said to be undemonstrative, and the two ended up employed at the lakefront estate of James McMillan, president of the A. Wander Co.

Edward Conaughton died in 1963, and McMillan died two years later. Jessie Conaughton received a small annuity from McMillan's estate, and she and one of her two sons, Patrick, now 52, moved to an inexpensive, one-bedroom apartment above what is now a shoe store in downtown Winnetka.

Such apartments, like the people who live in them, are nearly invisible amid the activities and commerce of small business districts. And they are slowly vanishing in wealthy communities as building owners rehab them to attract upscale tenants or convert them into more lucrative office space, according to Jean Cleland, a program director and case manager at the North Shore Senior Center.

She took in dry cleaning for those who lived in the other apartments around town but couldn't manage it for themselves; returned library books; filled prescriptions; ran to the post office; took in newspapers; anything, everything, and never asked for or wanted payment.

"She finally let me give her an alarm clock because she didn't have one," said Katherine Hudson, 85. "We called her the angel of Elm Street."

In the last year, however, it became clear that the angel was losing her wings. Her trademark stride slowed down, she lost her hearing and she became increasingly forgetful, friends said. She died just two days after entering a Northbrook nursing home.

"No one planned any services, and I felt that wasn't right," Cleland said. "I felt we should not let such a life pass unremarked."

So Cleland organized a memorial gathering for Monday afternoon at the Winnetka community house, an event that Patrick Conaughton said would have embarrassed and surprised his mother.

Shopkeepers and store clerks who knew her from her frequent errand runs turned out, as did several members of the community who said that they had exchanged pleasantries with Jessie Conaughton on the street for years and only learned her name after her death. Speakers included several members of the informal elderly underground, of which fewer than 10 are still alive.

Retired architect Carl Sterner, 87, the only man in the seniors network, struggled to his feet near the close of the 40-minute memorial. "She was a grand lady and I miss her very much," he said. "But I'll struggle along somehow."

So will the rest of them. But it won't be as easy or as pleasant anymore.


You can find the latest news about Eric Zorn on the Internet. Thanks Eric.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Man from Ovaltine

James G. McMillan was born in Broughty Ferry, Scotland, on July 10, 1881 to a family of modest means. He attended Grove Academy and won many medals in sports, especially swimming. He was a member of an elite group called “Ye Amphibious Ancients” who always opened their swimming year with a dip in the Firth of Tay on New Year’s Day. He was apprenticed to chemists for a total of six years, becoming a pharmacist in 1905.

He moved to London and after a period of time became a detail man for A. Wander, Limited. During World War I, he served in the Home Guard as a second lieutenant. In the fall of 1919, he moved to the United States to manage the Wander Co. Their small factory built in 1917 was located in Villa Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. “He ably and constructively filled the position of President and General Manager until his retirement in 1951 at the age of 70.”

In 1935, a large addition was added to the Wander factory in Villa Park. Their business steadily gained in sales throughout the depression. In 1932 the company had expanded by building a one story building and now they added three more stories with a floor area of some 60,000 square feet. In 1935, the plant used 15 million pounds of grain, half a million pounds of milk per week and the eggs from 70,000 chickens. The new plant contained a bowling alley and was totally air conditioned. There was also a baseball field for the employees to use. During the Great Depression Mr. McMillan was paid $100,000 a year. I have been told it was a good place to work and that employees were well treated. Those of you who live in the area, as I do, know that the plant building has now been converted to apartments.

Not far from the plant was a modern “moving picture” theater of old English design, erected and owned by Mr. McMillan. It appears the building still exists and has recently been converted to three floors and three apartments. The Ovaltine club, carried on the social activities of the company’s employees; they also had an orchestra and three tennis courts. When the plant closed in 1985, it was a complex of 23 buildings on 15 acres with 237,000 square feet of work space. In the 1950s the factory ran at peak production and employed 300 to 400 people.

In March of 1923, James McMillan married Emily Virginia Brady. She was born in 1890 in Lucas, Ohio. Mrs. McMillan died in Passavant hospital (Chicago) on July 22, 1959. She was founder and first president of the Illinois Opera Guild and was president of the Great Lakes Hospital Music League for which she received a Navy citation. Mass was said in Holy Name Cathedral. As of this writing, I do not know her place of burial even though there has been a diligent search.

Mr. and Mrs. McMillan lived at 445 Sheridan Road in Winnetka, Illinois. It was the former home of Albert Pick and later was famous as the home of W. Clement Stone who entertained lavishly in this mansion along the lake shore. McMillan bought the house in 1931 and lived there until his death in 1965. At the time, the house contained 17 rooms and a 3-car garage. The sound of bagpipes could be heard often at 445 Sheridan Rd. Mr. & Mrs. McMillan regularly entertained their Scottish friends. You can see the house and read its history if you goggle: 445 Sheridan Rd., Winnetka, IL.

James McMillan was an active member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He served on the Board of Governors and was made an Honorary Governor when he retired. Under the leadership of Hughston McBain in 1964, the Scottish Home added a 14-bed health care wing to its facility. Total cost, including furnishings was $200,000.  James McMillan was the major donor and so the wing was named for him. He died shortly before the dedication. We have made a diligent search of the burial place of Mr. and Mrs. McMillian without success. If anyone reads this who can help, we would like to pay our respects.

(The last reference in the Chicago Tribune was a wedding announcement, between Suzanne Snells and Franklin Martin deBeers III of Glenview, Illinois, February 15, 1965. “His great-uncle is James G. McMillan of Winnetka.”)

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

December 14, 2014 - The annual Christmas Party and a general meeting of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society membership will take place in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home beginning at 3:00 p.m. RSVP 708-408-5591.

January 10, 2015 - History Club Meeting. Our speaker is Ana Koval, President/CEO of the Canal Corridor Association.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Palmer House I, II and III

In the late 1860's, Potter Palmer was in the process of building two hotels in Chicago. One was called the “Potter Palmer House” and the other “The Palmer House.” The first was to be a moderately priced hotel but the one on State Street was to be luxurious. By the summer of 1870, the exterior of the Palmer House on State Street was finished and work was beginning on the interior. It contained 225 rooms. The hotel would have 7 floors and 150 apartments. The first two floors would be shops and stores. The cost was estimated at $3,500,000.

Potter Palmer now owned a mile of State street and more than 100 buildings in the downtown area. He was also in the process of making Bertha Honore’ his wife. They were married July 28, 1870. The Palmer House, located at State and Quincy, was his wedding gift and they would have an apartment in the new hotel. The honeymoon in Europe lasted six months and Potter Palmer was collecting ideas for another hotel more grand than any other. It would be located at State and Monroe.

The first Palmer House opened on September 26, 1871, but 13 days later was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire on October 8. All his buildings, more than one hundred, were lost as well. Bertha Palmer was at their country home the night of the Great Fire, alone, except for the servants. Her husband had gone to New York to attend the funeral of his sister. His arrival home was a discouraging moment and he considered retiring.

An article in the Chicago Sun-Times reported: “It was Bertha who drove a buggy to the nearest town with telegraph wires still intact and wired New York business men seeking a extension of credit for her husband. The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company allowed him to borrow $1,700,000, the largest single loan made in the United States up to that time...”


This hotel opened on November 8, 1873 and was built of brick and iron. It was advertised as the “first wholly fireproof hotel in the United States.” The first two floors were again reserved for stores, 18 on each floor. In the center was the grand court patterned after the Louvre in Paris. Around this great lobby would be a balcony running on three sides. He copied this from Spurgeon’s church in London. “The floors of the barber shop, set with silver dollars between tiles, probably bought more fame to the hotel than any other feature.” From a well, the hotel had its own water supply.

In 1876, Potter Palmer decided to raise the roof of this hotel 30 inches in order to make “the upper rooms more lofty and attractive.”  The roof weighted 3,802 tons. It was divided into 5 sections and using 200 hydraulic jack-screws, manned by 65 men, the roof was gradually raised. At a given signal the levers were all turned at once. Every half-inch the work was stopped and measurements taken so “that there may be a perfect level at all time.” In addition he was also constructing a conservatory over the dining-room on the roof. You could enter by a passage-way on the fifth floor. “It was 45 by 78 feet and 17 feel in height, with a double glass roof, and will be heated by steam. For this special feature Mr. Palmer has purchased the rarest and most beautiful plants and exotics obtainable, which will soon be in position.” This beautiful hotel was replaced by the present building. (Pictures can be found on the Internet.)

Work on the present hotel started in 1924. The new hotel rose 23-three stories and was to be the world’s largest hotel with 2,263 rooms. The cost, including furnishings, was nearly $40 million. Palmer House II was gradually replaced without closing or losing any revenue.

The hotel that we will enjoy on November 22 has had just two owners - Potter Palmer and Conrad N. Hilton. Mr. Hilton purchased the hotel from the Palmer family for $20 million in 1945. It is the longest continually operating hotel in the United States. It was also the first Chicago hotel to have telephone service in all rooms, electric lights, air conditioning and elevators.

The gilded lobby of the present hotel is two-stories high with a formal staircase and a ceiling mural depicting Greek mythology. “The Michelangelo-esque mural was originally created in the 1920s by French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal.” The Palmer House mural contains 21 portraits. Each was a separate piece of canvas, signed by artist, Louis Pierre Rigal. They were painted in France and shipped to the United States in 1926. In 1964 restoration work was being done on the mural when Martin K. Ziegner fell 40 feet from the scaffolding and died. The murals were restored again in 1983 and 1995 by Lido Lippi, a master restorer who also worked on the Sistine Chapel. The most recent restoration took place in 2012 by Anthony and Mata Kartsonas, “who are well-known art preservationists.”

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

The Scots of Chicago will meet for the 169th time this coming Saturday night, November 22, in the grand ballroom of the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois. Click here to register.

The entertainment is a repeat performance by the Chelsea House Orchestra. These high school students are from Chelsea, Michigan, a town of 5,000 located in the southeastern portion of that state. Jed Fritemeier started CHO in 1996 with 10 students. About 30 students will make the trip to Chicago. The program has been studied as an alternative to the typical school orchestra. I can almost guarantee that you will enjoy this group of high energy young people as they perform “Celtic with a Kick.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Day of Remembrance - November 11, 2014

Yesterday, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of World War I. It lasted four terrible years and was declared to be “The War to End all Wars.” It was a brutal war. At the Battle of the Somme (1916) in just 20 minutes, 20,000 British troops died. America did not join the war until 1917 but still had more than 100,000 soldiers die in the fighting.

It came to an end at the 11hour of the 11day of the 11th month of 1918. Countries around the world still observe the exact moment with marked silence. Many years ago when I was in school, we observed “Armistice Day” with a minute of silence at 11 a.m. I doubt that practice continues but I don’t know for sure. In our country, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all of those who have served.

In the United Kingdom this past Sunday was celebrated as Remembrance Day. Around the Tower of London, 888,426 poppies were planed in honor of British soldiers who died in World War I. The last one will be planted on November 11, 2014. In a London factory disabled veterans are hired to assemble by hand the 45 million poppies that are sold across Britain. The poppies remind everyone of John McCrae and his poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and was the grandson of Scottish immigrants. He was first and foremost a soldier and during the Second Boar War, he served in the artillery. By profession he was a physician. When the war started he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force although by profession and age (41) he could have joined the medical corps. He grew up believing in the duty of fighting for his country and empire.

McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium, The Canadian position became the first to be attacked by chlorine gas in 1915. In spite of this, the Germans were unable to break through the Canadian line which held for more than two weeks. McCrae wrote to his mother that the battle was a “nightmare.” “For 17 days and 17 nights none of us have had our clothes off, not even our boots, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for 60 seconds...and behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.” Six thousand Canadian soldiers died in the Battle of Ypres, among them Alexis Helmer, a close friend.

John McCrae was so deeply touched by the losses in France that he became a bitter and disillusioned man. For relief, he took long rides on his horse, Bonfire, perhaps accompanied by his dog, Bonneau. On January 18, 1918, he became ill and died of pneumonia and meningitis. The day of his funeral was a beautiful day as he was being buried in Wimereux Cemetery not far from the fields of Flanders.

Every evening in Ypres, France at 8 p.m. the local police stop traffic from passing underneath the gate, and the Last Post is played by buglers from the Ypres fire station. The Last Post has been played every night in this way since the 1920s save only for the duration of the German occupation during World War II.

The Kansas City Star wrote this tribute to Lieut. Col. John McCrae: “Lieut. McCrae has been laid to rest between the crosses that mark the couch of Canada’s immortal dead who have fought on foreign soil. He went out as a physician to heal the scars of war, but he sleeps as a soldier within sound of the guns, having given all that man may give for the honor and the liberty of his country... With the gallant dead he, too, listens to the guns, hears the lark bravely singing in the azure sky, and waits for the Dawn, where”

In Flanders field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
that mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we live
In Flanders field.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders field.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

November 22nd come celebrate St. Andrew’s Day and our historic organization with the Scots of Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton. Click here for details and registration.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bertha Palmer

Bertha Matilda Honoré was born in Kentucky in 1849. Her grandfather had immigrated to Maryland in 1781 and later moved to Kentucky. He married Matilda Lockwood and they had 4 children. Henry Hamilton Honoré became Bertha’s father. Her mother was Eliza Carr Honoré (Both Lockwood and Carr are Scottish names.)

Her family moved to Chicago when she was six and built a house on Ashland avenue. They later sold the house to Carter Harrison, Sr., mayor of Chicago, who was also from Kentucky. It was in this house that he was fatally shot and killed, March 3, 1879. The first people on the scene were William and Joan  (Pinkerton)  Chalmers who lived across the street. From the lunch room at Rush Presbyterian Hospital you can clearly see the old Chalmers mansion. I spent a lot of time in that lunch room but didn’t know that Bertha Palmer and her family lived across the street. The Honoré family moved to Michigan avenue after the Civil War.

Bertha attended the Covenant of the Visitation in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. She graduated in 1867 with honors in history, geography, the sciences, philosophy, literature, rhetoric and composition. She was honored for her talents in piano, harp and vocal music. After graduation, Bertha made her debut in the new family home on Michigan Avenue. She had many admirers but one uncommon man came to the front of the line. Potter Palmer, recently returned from Europe, had made up his mind. Bertha Honoré would become his wife. He was 42. She was just 21.

This story has survived the years and it may well be true. In 1862, Palmer came to the house on Ashland avenue to discuss various real estate developments that he and Henry Honoré had in progress. There, he met the very beautiful thirteen-year-old Bertha with sparkling eyes and long dark hair and graceful movements. “Finding her to be intelligent with impeccable manners and an aura of self-assurance, he was at once smitten. When Bertha came of age, he vowed, she would be an ideal wife and companion.” During the next few years, he often saw Bertha and her mother shopping in his department store. They always received his personal attention. By the age of 38, Palmer had amassed a fortune of $7 million but his health had suffered and he was lonely. It was time to find a wife but before that happened he would spend three years in Europe.

When he returned to Chicago in 1868, he built a ball field for the Chicago White Stockings (later known as the Cubs), attended the horse races and enjoyed the company of pretty women. His work now consisted in making State Street the main shopping district. “He tore down old buildings, widened avenues, and constructed stores, banks and other buildings for commercial use. It was reported that by 1870, he owned 117 properties with a gross income of two hundred thousand dollars.”

“In the intervening years, Bertha had blossomed from a lovely young girl to a poised and beautiful woman.” Palmer asked permission of the parents to begin courting and they consented. He began sending flowers and asking permission to escort her to theaters, restaurants and galas.

They were married in the Honoré home on July 28, 1870 after a courtship of only two months. The ceremony took place at five o’clock and was performed by the pastor of the First Christian Church. There were no bridesmaids, groomsman or ushers - only immediate relatives of the bride and groom. A large reception was later held at the Honoré residence, Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. Refreshments were served on two thousand pieces of silver. After the reception, they left for New York and then to Europe for their honeymoon. In Europe, he bought her “anything and everything, particularly fine jewelry, high fashion apparel, and lavish furnishings for their homes.” The lived in the finest hotels, attended the theater, toured museums and gardens, visited historical monuments and castles.” Mr. Palmer was studying architecture because he was going to build a grand hotel for his bride.

In 1873, they moved into their spacious apartment at the Palmer House. In 1874, their first child was born. In 1875, the second son was born. “These domestic years were times of contentment for Potter Palmer who took great pleasure in his home and family.” He called his young wife Cissie. There was never a scandal, though at times he was jealous of the attention she received. From all accounts Bertha was a faithful and devoted partner.

“Bertha Palmer was an exceptionally progressive, astute, and accomplished woman who possessed the charisma and grace to captivate those who knew her. She was ambitious and opportunistic. She sought the limelight. It may also be said that she chose to live a life of frivolity, over-abundant acquisition and conspicuous consumption. She did it all with grandeur and style.”

After the death of her husband, she spent much time in Europe, buying expensive homes in London and Paris. Queen Victoria died the same year and her son, the Prince of Wales, ascended the throne and became King Edward VII. Bertha Palmer was a close friend. She attended races at Ascot, went to hunting events and often played golf with the King. “She learned of his particular preferences and gave intimate dinner parties of eight in London, at Sandringham Castle or at Biarritz.” When the King died in 1910, Bertha Palmer returned to America..

“Speculation sporadically arose about romances between Bertha and various wealthy and titled widowers. In fact, there were suitors of French ancestry with whom she was frequently seen. Some of the names circulated among the gossip mongers were the Earl of Munster, the Duke of Atholl, the Prince of Monace, and the King of Serbia.”

Nevertheless, she remained Mrs. Potter Palmer.

( I have borrowed extensively for this article from the graduate thesis of Hope L. Black, University of South Florida, entitled Mounted on a Pedestal: Bertha Honoré Palmer. You can download it on the Internet.) This is just a glimpse into the life of Bertha Palmer.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

November 1 - Next meeting of the Scottish American History Club.
Charles Gonzalez and his father will be our special guests.
They visited France for the D-day celebrations this year.
Come see how the beaches have changed.
We will listen to John LeNoble as he tells the story of our flag
Beth Brown will play the piano and lead us in singing.
We will pledge our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

NOVEMBER 22, 2014 - The Scots of Chicago will celebrate St. Andrew’s Day and our 169 years of history at the Palmer House Hilton on State Street in Chicago, Illinois. Click here for information and reservations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Scots of Chicago and the Palmer House Hilton

The Scots of Chicago met for the first time on December 2, 1845 to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day which occurs each year on November 30. If the date fell on Sunday, the Scots met the following week.  In modern times, the date has depended on hotel schedules. This year the 169th St. Andrew’s Day Dinner will be held on November 22 at the Palmer House Hilton on State Street.

St. Andrew has been the Patron Saint of Scotland from at least the 9th century. He is said to have died bound to an X shaped cross. That shape is now reflected in the Scottish flag, known as the Saltire. This year November 30 falls on Sunday so perhaps we should wear our kilt to church. It marks the beginning of Advent that lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. Advent Sunday is the first of the four Sundays before December 25.

That first meeting in 1845 was held at the Lake House hotel. It was Chicago’s first important hotel, a three-story brick building between Rush and Kinzie. There was nothing between it and the shore of Lake Michigan, “excepting the great cotton wood trees that had sheltered the pioneer Kinzie house,” a Scot himself. The first official meeting was held January 26, 1846. It seems likely that a constitution was adopted by 1850 and a charter was obtained from the legislature in 1853.

The preamble said: “A sacred obligation to aid the unfortunate among our countrymen, or their families, who may, in pursuit of labor of business, have come here, and having deliberated on the most effective means to promote and compass these most desirable objects, we hereby form ourselves into a society bearing the name of the Illinois St. Andrew Society of Chicago.”   

The Scots of Chicago have met every year since 1845 in the best hotels that Chicago had to offer. Every Dinner is a story in itself. Until recent times, the event was prominent in the newspapers of Chicago, especially the Chicago Tribune. Some people call the event the “Dinner” or the “Feast” and it is both - but not to a Scottish food. The evening is a tribute to our history, to the thousands of Scots who have supported the work and the mission. Men and women who have given of their time and talents to fulfill our mission and preserve Scottish heritage in Chicago and surrounding areas.

Several years ago, I was able to buy a letter written by George Anderson, dated 22 November, 1847. He was writing to Mr. Samuel Dow in Rockford, Illinois looking for a piper to play at the St. Andrew’s dinner. “So, if you engage one send him on by Monday next and the Society will pay all his expenses. Get the best one.” The letter is part of the Scottish American Museum. A pipe band now always plays for this event.

Beginning in 1926, the Anniversary Dinner moved to the Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue, now called the Chicago Hilton. It was the largest hotel in the world at the time and was the dream of J. W. Stevens. He suffered a stroke the same year and Ernest, and his youngest son became the manager. (Ernest Stevens is the father of John Paul Stevens, Justice of the Supreme Court.) The Stevens’ family has an interesting history and I believe they are of a Scottish heritage but can’t prove it as I write this article. The Judge would know!

From 1926 until 1941, the Dinner was held at the Stevens now the Chicago Hilton. The government bought the hotel in 1942 for six million dollars to use in the housing of troops during the war.  The 97th Anniversary Dinner was moved to the Palmer House. It was the first time the Society held the event at the Palmer House and they returned during the war for 1942 and 1943. In 1944 as the war was winding down they returned to the Chicago Hilton for the next 50 years.

In 1942 the president was Alexander G. Shennan, OBE. The Board of Governors consisted of: Robert Black, Robert Falconer, James B. Forgan, James R. Glass, William Lister, James G. McMillan, William F. G. Ross, R. Douglas Stuart, William Sutherland and Albert L. Tossell.

Six committees were in charge of the organizing the Anniversary Dinner as they called the event. George C. Buik and R. Douglas Stuart were part of the Reception Committee. One of the speakers was Robert E. Lee Hill, past president of Rotary International. I don’t know the attendance. In 1943, the Anniversary Dinner was again held at the Palmer House and the Tribune reported that 1500 were in attendance. George C. Buik was chairman and the speakers were: Dr. Franklyn B. Snyder, president of Northwestern University and Air Vice Marshal MacNeece Foster.

The Palmer House is a famous and historic hotel. Click her for details about the 2014 Anniversary Dinner.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

November 1 - Next meeting of the Scottish American History Club.
Charles Gonzalez and his father will be our special guests.
They visited France for the D-day celebrations this year.
Come see how the beaches have changed.
We will listen to John LeNoble as he tells the story of our flag
Beth Brown will play the piano and lead us in singing.
We will pledge our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

Meeting begins at 10:00 a.m. - Museum opens at 9:00 a.m.
Coffee and scones - no charge
Reservations are helpful. Call 708-447-5092 or 630-629-4516

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

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