Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Colonel Walter Scott and the Scottish Community

Who was this man that kept sending money to Chicago for the benefit of the Scottish Old Peoples Home? We knew he was often referred to as Colonel Walter Scott and that he worked for Butler Brothers and his office was at 860 Broadway in New York City. There was nothing more in our records. Yet, from 1917 to 1935, he was a regular and generous donor. We knew that he visited the Scottish Home several times and, once in the company of Margaret Williamson Trude, he purchased a tree to be planted in his honor.

(The tree program was started by Architect William Mundie after the 1917 fire and a number of trees were purchased and planted to honor various individuals. The trees were never marked and we have thus far found no other records. Sadly, most of the older trees are now gone.)

In 1919, there was a remaining mortgage of $11,000.00 on the Scottish Home after the fire in 1917. John McGill wrote “our good friend, Mr. Walter Scott, of New York City, has promised in a telegram just received to be one of eleven to cancel the debt of $11,000.00 on our Scottish Old Peoples Home at Riverside. To meet Mr. Scotts' offer, Mr. John Williamson has agreed to give $1,000.00 and, I, myself, as the new President of the Society, will give $5,000.00.” The goal was met and the mortgage against the Home was paid. At another time, he sent a check for $1,000.00 and said “if you can get nine others to match this amount you can keep the check.” They did and kept the check.

Through the years, I had made several attempts to find information about Walter Scott. I visited 860 Broadway and spent time in the public library in New York City. One year, I decided to spend the day at the Library and do a thorough search. Six hours later, after talking to various individuals and looking at hundreds of entries, I found a young librarian who knew Walter Scott because of some other research he had done. The records I needed were under the full name of Colonel Walter Scott and suddenly there was a wealth of information.

This is the first of three about Walter Scott.

Monday, March 29, 2010

William Bryce Mundie and His Descendants

William Bryce Mundie was the architect of the Scottish Home and for many years was the architect for the Chicago schools. His wife was Bessie Russell Jenney and they had four children, all girls: Mary Church, Elizabeth Jenney, Jean Fraser and Margaret Bryce.

Mundie died in 1939 at the age of 73 and his wife died in 1936 at the age of 67. The first child, Mary Church, died January 7, 1898, at the age of two years and 10 months. The second child, Elizabeth Jenney, never married and died at the age of 74 in Middletown, Conn. She was active in the Girl Scouts and served as the Director of Region 1 in New York City.

Margaret Bryce also never married, and died in 1953 at the age of 58. She left Chicago in 1918 to attend Johns Hopkins school of nursing in Baltimore and never returned home. She retired in 1951 as Superintendent of Nurses of Trudeau Sanitarium, Sarance Lake, New York. Colonel Walter Scott had been interested in the Trudeau Sanitarium and certainly would have known the Mundie family because of the Scottish Home connections. You wonder what influence Colonel Scott might have had on Margaret Mundie. We will write about Colonel Scott next.

The remaining daughter, Jean Fraser, married L. Bowden De Forest and they became the parents of two girls, Barbara and Betsy. Jean died in 1953 at the age of 50. They lived at 358 S. Liberty St. in Elgin, Illinois. Her husband was employed as a department manager for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. He died in Denver, Colorado in 1963.

All of the persons thus far listed are buried at Rosehill Cemetery, but the DeForest family is buried in a separate plot. One of the DeForest girls became Mrs. William H. Clemons and the other girl became Mrs. Bruce Belshaw. The Chicago side of the Mundie name apparently ends in Chicago and so does the trail of the family.

Where are Mrs. Clemons and Mrs. Belshaw? Did they have children? If so, they would be the great grandchildren of William Bryce Mundie.

Mundie was very important to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society since he was the architect of the Scottish Home. This is posted in the hope some distant family members will respond.

Six Scots to Inspire Scottish Parliment

This is from a Scottish newspaper. The Scottish Parliament will name its committee rooms after historical persons who made a significant contribution to the nation.

The six names covers the fields of science, literature, education, medicine, economics, missionary work and exploration.

The following persons were chosen: Robert Burns, David Livingston, Sir Alexander Fleming, James Clark Maxwell, Mary Fairfax Somerville and Adam Smith.

The oak name-plates for the rooms are expected to cost over $4,000.00 each.

Most of the names should be familiar to our readers, but if you would like more information, let me know. Fleming, of course, discovered penicillin and is the only Nobel prize winner in the group.

(That story about Winston Churchill and Alexander Fleming is a nice story, but not true.)

Not sure about Mary Fairfax Somerville and James Clark Maxwell but will try and find out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Small Scottish Island With One Resident and One Pub!

I don't usually blog on Saturday, but in reading through the Scottish newspaper this morning, I found this story. My Scottish friends should enjoy.

The Island of Sanda, which lies on the tip of the Mull of Kintyre, has been sold to a Swiss businessman for approximately 5 million dollars. Dick Gannon 59, along with his wife have owned the island for the past 20 years and they had their own private pub!

Mr. Gannon has been listed as the island's only resident. "Twenty years we have had Sanda and it's been the experience of a lifetime really but it's a bit like hiding away and I now want to visit a few places and do a few things. There is life outside Sanda."

(I understand a few tourists do come to visit every now and then, so the pub may have had a little other business other than Mr. & Mrs. Gannon They also own a residence in Campbbeltown.)

He said his wife would be staying on at the family home in Campbeltown but added: "I am going to move to either Devon or France."

See what 20 years on an island with one pub will do to you!

There is no indication as to what the new owner would do with Sanda. His name is Michi Meier.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Robert Mills, America's first native-born architect & designer of the Washington Monument

Robert Mills was born in Charleston, in 1781, of a strong Scottish family who had settled there in 1770. He was one of six children and early in his life was dedicated to the study of architecture. He may have been influenced by his uncle an architect living in Dundee, Scotland. He completed a classical study at Charleston College and also formed an acquaintance with the noted English architect James Hoban. Mills began training under Hoban who was then working on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Robert Mills married and lived in several cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, finally settling in Washington, D.C. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked Mills to assist in the design of Monticello. He spent two years with Jefferson and had access to Jefferson's large library on architecture. In Philadelphia, he was commissioned to design the Burlington County Prison that was constructed in 1810-1811.

President Andrew Jackson appointed Mills to be the Federal Architect and Engineer a position he held for 16 years. During this period, he directed the design and construction of the U.S. Treasury Building, U.S. Patent Office, and the U.S. Post Office. He also designed numerous houses, churches and monuments along the eastern coast. He also designed the Monumental Church in Richmond but that is a story in itself.

Mills greatest accomplishment was the Washington Monument. Work began in 1848 but political squabbling and a lack of money often hindered and the work was stopped in 1854. In 1880 work was resumed and it was completed in 1884 and opened to the public in 1888. The shaft is tapered, faced with white marble, with walls 15 ft. thick at the base. It was modeled after the obelisks of ancient Egypt. Standing at 555 ft., it is one of the largest masonry constructions in the world. The top can only be reached by elevator. Memorial stones from 50 states, foreign countries, and organizations line the interior walls. Millions visit the Washington Monument ever year, but probably few know who designed it.

Mills died in 1855 and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery, District of Columbia.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Three Chicago churches that recieved Carnegie organs.

I have finished a search of the Chicago Daily Tribune and found only three churches in Chicago who were gifted Carnegie organs. There may be others, but these are the ones that made the newspaper and that I found. There may be others.


This German Catholic church was located at Noble and Cornell streets. It was built in 1904 and was known for its "fine architecture, wood sculptures and many unique features of eccleslastical (sic) art." Carnegie agreed to pay one-half the cost and the congregation raised the balance. The Rev. Albert Evers, rector of St. Boniface, has been active in "movements for small parks, social settlements and ward improvement clubs."

I don't know the location of the church and don't know the streets. Any of our readers know?


The date is October 1, 1907 and this congregation "is rejoicing over the installation of a new pipe organ recently purchased with the aid of Andrew Carnegie." The cost of the organ was $3,000 and Carnegie paid one-half.

I certainly know Garfield Blvd., but no other address was given. I am sure it no longer exists by that name but the building may still be standing. Anyone know?


Mrs. Margaret Deveneau of Edgewater is a niece of the now deceased Dr. Ebenezer Henderson, a resident of Dunfermiline Scotland. Mr. Carnegie's grandfather and Dr. Henderson were "warm friends" in Scotland. Mrs. Deveneau mentioned this in her letter to Carnegie and he decided to approve the request. Instead of just paying one-half, he gave the full amount.

The old doctor of Dunfermiline was a celebrated astronomer and mathematician, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical society, and lecturer in the observatory at Mount Gardens, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

"The congregation now meets in a small frame chapel on leased ground. Nearly $20,000 for a new edifice has been raised and a lot purchased at Bryn Mawr and Kenmore avenues. The women and children of the church have been conduction bazaares and entertainments to aid the building fund."

Anyone know this church?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carnegie: "The organ lessen the pain of the sermon!"

Carnegie was not very religious, in fact, he may have been an agnostic.  Yet, he gave money to purchase 4,092 church organs in the United States at a cost of $3,604,719.  Pennsylvania received 1,351 organs, Ohio 440 and New York 290.  It is said Nevada got one.  Not sure about Illinois.

Other countries got 3,597 organs at a cost of $2,643,593.  England and Scotland received the most, 3,124.  The grand total to everyone was 7,689 organs for a total cost of $6,248,311.75.

If he didn't believe in God, why would he do this?  He did believe in a Creator of some kind and wanted to reconcile religion and science.  What he didn't like were the oppressive creeds handed down by various groups and each group claiming they had the only truth.

When the Robert Burns statue in Garfield Park was dedicated, Andrew Carnegie was invited.  From his Skibo castle in Scotland his telegram read:  "It is a great disappointment that I cannot be with you during the ceremony of unveiling the statue to the immortal Bard, that child of pure genius, the great Democrat who, proclaiming the 'Royalty of Man', struck down Rank with one hand and the old hard Theology with the other, dispelling the false conceptions of a Heavenly Father who sent 'ane (one) to heaven and ten to hell a' for his glory.  I feel that he also gave us the great rule of life, 'Thine own reproach alone do fear'. In greater degree than any man who ever lived he became the embodiment of the national spirit of his country.  There cannot be too many statues erected to the memory of Burns."

                                                                                  Andrew Carnegie

So, why did he give money to purchase church organs?  He said:  "To lessen the pain of the sermon."

On another occasion he said:  "You can't always trust what the pulpit says, but you can always depend upon what the organ says."  You decide!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carnegie Libraries in Illinois

Illinois was granted 105 Carnegie libraries, mostly in small communities.  Chicago had none.  Indiana received the most in the U.S. with 155 and California came in second with 121.  Scotland received 195 library buildings.

In time, I would like to visit all the Carnegie libraries in Illinois.  Here are some of those I have see thus far:  Spring Valley, LaSalle, Geneva, Streator, Jacksonville, Sycamore, and Onarga.  I think there are a couple more, but I couldn't find my list tonight.

Several years ago, my Grandson was playing in a hockey tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I found they have a beautiful Carnegie library.  This one had a fireplace and a water fountain in the lobby.  The fountain was later removed.

If you have a Carnegie library in your community, please let me know.

In total 2,500 library buildings were built around the world and a total of $60,000,000 was spent on these library buildings.

I will be in Pekin, Illinois, on May 11, speaking to the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society.  Pekin has a beautiful, new library.  The library given by Carnegie was demolished to make way for the new building.  The same thing happened in Brookfield, Illinois, and many others.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Andrew Carnegie and his libaries

Andrew Carnegie became the world's richest man and he wanted to repay humanity for his success.  One way of doing that was to build libraries.  When he was a young man and working for the Pennsylvania Central railroad, a man by the name of J. B. Anderson was important in operating the railroad.  Mr. Anderson had a personal library of some 5,000 books and he invited young Andrew into his home to read and study.  Carnegie never forgot.

In 1899, Carnegie wrote to his widow who was living then in Manhattan, Kansas.  He told her, he wanted to do something in honor of his old friend in the way of a memorial.  Mrs. Anderson replied that the library was now housed in the College of Emporia but under less than acceptable conditions.  Carnegie had a library built to house the Anderson collection.  I wonder if it is still standing?  If anyone reads this in Emporia, Kansas, please reply.

Many of the Carnegie libraries in Illinois have been destroyed, but some are still standing and in use.  Whenever, I drive through a new town, I try to always look for a Carnegie library.  In Oklahoma City, where I grew up,  there was  a Carnegie library which I often used.  However it was badly damaged in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. I don't know its current status.

More than 2,500 libraries were built with Carnegie money, 1,689 built in the United States.  600 in Great Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and the Caribbean.  The first library was opened in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland.  The motto over the front door was "Let there be light."

More on the same subject tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"On A Memorial Stone" by Archibald MacLeish

Now we are names that once were young
And had our will of living weather,
Loved dark pines and the thin moon's feather,
Fought and endured our souls and flung
Our laughter to the ends of earth,
And challenged heaven with our spacious mirth.

Now we are names and men shall come
To drone their memorable words;
How we went out with shouting swords
And high, devoted hearts; the drum
Shall trouble us with stuttered roll,
And stony Latin laud the hero soul.

And generations unfulfilled,
The heirs of all we struggled for,
Shall here recall the mythic war,
And marvel how we stabbed and killed,
And name us savage, brave, austere,-
And none shall think how very young we were.

When Kenneth MacLeish was killed in World War I, his mother, Martha Hillard MacLeish, arranged a private printing of his letters.  Seven libraries in Illinois now have copies of this small book:  Kenneth: A Collection of Letters, published in 1919. The Lincoln Library in Springfield has the copy that I read.  There are two books of his letters, the one mentioned above and The Price of Honor by Geoffrey L. Rossano.  This is a collection of his letters to Priscilla Murdock.

The poem "On a Memorial Stone" written by his brother Archibald MacLeish, is in the small book arranged by his mother.  I could not find a copy of the same poem on the Internet.  

Kenneth MacLeish was a naval aviator and died in action just 3 weeks before the war ended.

His life and the planes he flew will be the subject of our May 1, History Club meeting.

The Battle of Iwo Jima

The battle for Iwo Jima was almost over tonight in 1945.   It was officially declared over on March 16,  but fighting actually raged on until the 25th.  Three  hundred Japanese staged a last, final attack on U.S. Marines.

The casualties were 4,189 American marines killed.  15,308 marines wounded and 441 missing.  The three divisions of marines, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz had a total of 19,938 casualties.  The campaign lasted only 26 days.

Iwo Jima was important because it was within 750 miles of Tokyo and would have become the staging place for the invasion of Japan.  Had not President Truman been willing to use the atomic bomb the list of dead American soldiers and sailors would have been staggering.  The Japanese soldiers would have fought to the death in the defense of  their country, like they did at Iwo Jima.  It would have been a disaster to the Island of Japan. Nothing would have been left and the Japanese deaths would have been horrific.   Young people today who oppose the use of the bomb in 1945 fail to understand the whole story. It brought a quick end to a war that we did not want and did not start.

Joe White lived on my block in Oklahoma City.  He was older than the rest of us and could throw a football almost the entire length of the block.  He would come home from work on the street car and all the kids on the block were waiting with the football.  There followed a great 30 minutes of fun.

Joe White died on Iwo Jima.  I write this in his memory and all those who died in the defense of this our great Country.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blair House - Washington, D.C.

I recently watched the Health Care debate and did some research on Blair House where the meeting was being held.

Blair is certainly a Scottish name and was first found in Ayrshire.  In America, families named "Blair" began arriving before the American Revolution.  It may be either a first or last name and may mean "field or plain."  Bonnie Blair, an Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, falls within the parameters of that name and has been honored by the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

Blair House was first built in 1824, made of buff colored limestone in the Federal style.  The house was built for Joseph Lovell who was Surgeon General of the Army.  Later, it was bought by Francis Preston Blair, who was a friend to President Jackson. 

Next door, Francis Blair built a house for his daughter and her husband, Captain Samuel Philips Lee. He was a grandson of Richard Henry Lee and a third cousin of Robert E. Lee.  Duncan Bruce states in his book The Mark of the Scots  that "Robert E. Lee had some Scottish ancestors."

In time the two houses were combined and is sometimes referred to as the Blair-Lee House.  The house was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1924.  It has primarily be used to house heads of state visiting the President.

Blair House is now a complex of 4 connected townhouses which includes the original dwelling.  It is now larger than the White House, consisting of about 70,000 square feet.

Nice place to have a meeting that didn't accomplish very much.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

American Presbyterians - Colleges and Universities

I am not a Presbyterian, but I do admire their contribution to American history.  In Texas a committee is rewriting the American history books used in Texas schools but I doubt they will note the contributions of Presbyterians or of Scots for that matter, in the founding of our country.  I believe that Scots and the Presbyterian church gave us the victory in the Revolution of 1776.  I believe they also helped established the ideas of freedom found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If you doubt these statements, I would urge you to read,  They Seek A Country by Gaius Jackson Slosser,  published in 1955.

Nine of our Presidents have been Presbyterians and 12 have been Vice-Presidents.  Condoleeza Rice is also listed as a member of the church.

I have been studying and writing about colleges and universities in Illinois with a Scottish heritage.  They all have a Presbyterian connection. In the appendix of the above mentioned book, there is a listing of educational institutions related to American Presbyterians.  The list is old, but at lest will give some indication of the trend.

Sixteen colleges and universities are listed "which the Presbyterians had an important, if not dominant, part in founding."  Here is a partial list: Princeton University; Washington and Lee University; The University of Pittsburgh; The University of Tennessee;  Ohio University; Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; and the University of California at Berkeley.

Eight colleges and universities founded by Presbyterians and Congregationalists under the Plan of 1801.  Here are some of those in Illinois: Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL.  (Now Presbyterian  U.S.A.) Knox College, Galesburg, IL.  (Later Congregational) Rockford College, Rockford, IL.  (Later Congregational)

Fifty-one "institutions founded by Presbyterians which now hold an affiliated relation to some Presbyterian denomination.  This implies neither legal ties nor ecclesiastical control:" Blackburn  College, Carlinville, IL.; Monmouth College, Monmouth, IL.; Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL. and James Millikin University, Decatur, IL.

Nine Junior Colleges are listed including, Lincoln Junior College, Lincoln, IL.

Twenty-one colleges and universities are listed in foreign lands, including 7 in China.  This list was published in 1955, so I wonder how many are still in existence in China?

Americans owe a debt of gratitude to those Scottish Presbyterians who were hardened by a sojourn in Northern Ireland and came to America with a burning desire for freedom and were willing to fight and die if necessary.

Friday, March 12, 2010

James Millikin - From Shepherd to Founder of a University

James Millikin was born in Ten Mile, Pennsylvania, in 1827.  His grandfather was a Presbyterian who arrived in America in 1771.  The family roots go back to Scotland with time spent in Northern Ireland before immigration. His mother was of Dutch origin, whose parents came to America in the seventeenth century.

As a farm boy, he helped drive herds of steers to New York City, going directly up Broadway.  The "west" called him and he made several sheep drives into Indiana and Illinois accompanied by his father.  In 1851, he made one more drive with a man named McFarland and stayed.

He continued to increase his flocks and herds until he finally was called "the cattle king of the Prairie State."  He also bought large tracts of land most of it public domain.  In 1856, he arrived in Decatur and on January 1, 1857,  he married Anna Bernice Aston.  She was the daughter of a Cumberland Presbyterian minister who was pastor at Mount Zion.

In 1860, he entered the banking business and gradually reduced his livestock holdings.  He helped start the Union Iron Works and served as its president.  He was also president of the Decatur Coal Company.  His bank became the largest bank in Illinois, outside of Chicago.

On a small hill, Mr and Mrs. Millikin, built a a house.  Construction began in 1875.  Some believe the architect was William LeBaron Jenny.  However, no evidence has been found to prove the true identity of the architect.  They were very private people and few every saw the inside of the house.  Faculty parties were always held outside and if it began to rain everyone went home.

The Millikin's did not have children, so they spent their time involving themselves in the community and traveling.  They lived in their house for 34 years.  I have had the opportunity to visit this house for a reception but it is not open to the public except for special events.

When Millikin was 20 years old, he made a vow that if he ever became wealthy, he would establish a school of higher learning where ever person could secure an education.  He made this vow as a college student while watching others struggle to meet their college expenses.

He offered the city of Decatur a large tract of land and $200,000 if the people of Decatur would raise an additional $100,000.  They did and on June 4, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the opening address for the new James Millikin University.  It was affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on the condition that it would not become "narrowly sectarian."  On opening day 562 students enrolled.  Today, some 1,700 students are enrolled and enjoy a beautiful campus with many new buildings.

I spent two days on campus some time ago and was very impressed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois

The College is named for the Rev. Gideon Blackburn and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The name is about the only Scottish connection, but the philosophy is interesting.

It is a four-year private liberal college, classified as a work-study school.  It is one of 7 or 8 colleges remaining that require students to work in addition to their studies.  Students work 10 to 15 hours per week on the campus with faculty and staff.  In exchange for their work, they receive a discount on their tuition .  It is the least expensive private college in Illinois.

This is on their web site:  "Over the years, our students have built Blackburn-literally brick by brick.  In fact, Blackburn enjoys the distinction of being the only college campus in the United States to have been built by its students.  Today our students carry on this tradition by staffing critical jobs as plumbers, carpenters, painters, landscapers, cooks, servers, administrators, computer technicians, janitors, graphic artists, security officers, assistant coaches, tutors and teaching assistants."

The school has 27 faculty members with tenure and 5 part-time faculty working towards tenure.   Total staff is 51.  The have approximately 600 students and most of them live on campus.  Their sports program includes basketball, baseball, and track, golf, soccer, tennis and volleyball.The mascot is Barney the Beaver.

Tuition and fees - $13, 610
Room                  $2,205
Board                  $2,158
Books                  $700
Other                   $900

Web site:

Note:  Interesting that on the college web site no mention is made of the Reverend Gideon Blackburn, or how the college obtained its name.  I'm sure its an oversight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gideon Blackburn has a college named for him in Illinois.

Gideon Blackburn (1771-1838) was an American Presbyterian minister.  His family can be traced back to Scotland.  Like many others they spent some time in Northern Ireland before making the journey to America.  His father was Robert Blackburn and his mother was "a member of the well-known Scottish family by the name of Richie." Gideon Blackburn was born in Virginia and was an orphan at the age of eleven.  He then lived with relatives in eastern Tennessee.

He was ordained at the age of twenty and worked with churches in Tennessee and Kentucky before coming to Illinois.  He did a lot of missionary work among the Indians of Tennessee, starting several schools and churches.

He was always interested in education, especially in higher education.  In the period of 1830-1840, he was the financial officer of Illinois College at Jacksonville, Illinois.  He died in 1838.  Two of his sons were also ministers in the Presbyterian church. Place of burial is unknown at the moment.

Thomas C. MacMillian in 1919, presented a paper to the Illinois State Historical Society and he spoke of the Reverend Gideon Blackburn.  "Of Dr. Blackburn, it has been said that of all the men who ever lived and labored for the benefit of Macoupin County, he stands in the foreground; also, that he was a man among men, and a man of God.  His influence has been widely felt for four-fifths of a century, and will continue while Blackburn University lives and bears his name."

Reverend Blackburn was blessed with the ability to raise funds and in 1833, he was invited to Carlinville, Illinois, to raise funds for a new college.  The original name of the college was Blackburn Theological Seminary. 

The University is now one of seven in the United States with a particular slant to their educational program and we will write about that tomorrow.

Note:  Carlinville, Illinois, is located 60 miles north of St. Louis and 12 miles west of Interstate 55. 
Carlinville has the largest number of Sears kit homes in the nation.  Standard Oil which was operating a number of coal mines in the area, bought 192 Sears homes.  They built 156 for a 12 block area and 152 of them remain and 36 more homes were built in nearby Wood River, IL.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scots and education - a short list of colleges and universities

Scottish people have always been interested in education.  Scotland has great universities and colleges with a long record of history and achievements.  Scottish immigrants brought this same interest to America, especially through the ministry of the Presbyterian church.

Duncan Bruce in his book The Mark of the Scot, reports that between 1726 and 1837, "Presbyterians founded at least sixty-five rudimentary academics, which were sometimes called log colleges."  I recently wrote about James Holmes McGuffey and how his book dramatically changed education in his time.  His books were filled with stories from the Bible.

The University of North Carolina was founded and nurtured by Scots in 1793 as were the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University.

James Blair, born in Edinburgh, was the chief Founder and first President of William and Mary College.

Samuel Fnley, graduate of Glasgow University in 1763, was President of the College of New Jersey and one of the ancestors of Samuel Finley Breese Morse, inventor of the Morse System.

William Graham, first President of Washington College, now known as Washington and Lee University.

Thomas Craighed, first President of Davidson Academy, now the University of Nashville.

Joseph Caldwell is considered the Founder and first President of the University of North Carolina.

Charles Macalister was Founder of Macalister College in Minneapolis.

This is only a partial list of colleges and universities founded and nurtured by Scots.

In coming days, I hope to write about Illinois schools that started as a result of Scottish influence.

Monday, March 8, 2010

John Robertson and Christian Douglas - 1850s

I want to post this in honor of an unknown man whom I met in the summer of 1994.  At that time, he lived in  Springfield, IL.  Here is the story:
Ethnic groups had been invited to display their histories at the State of Illinois Building in Chicago.  I had gone with several staff members and we had taken historical items, flags, brochures, etc.and spent the day talking with people abut the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

A stranger approached me as asked if I would be interested in a Bible that once belonged to a Scottish family.  I said, "yes", of course, and he told me how he had obtained the book.  He had gone to a flea market and saw the book for sale.  As he looked at it, he realized that it was a family history that once had been a valued possession.  He felt it wrong to have this family possession lost and so he bought the book and had kept it for several years.  He promised to mail it to me on his return home.

In a week, or so, a large package arrived from Springfield without a return name or address.  It was the Bible.  It was not exactly a Bible, it was a book of daily devotions and scriptural writings. It had been well used over the years.

The front page contained a family history written by hand and now difficult to read.  This family, with this book, had traveled from Scotland to Australia and back to Scotland again and finally to America.  A son, William, was born in Scotland in 1865 and died in Washington County, Illinois, one year later.    I wish we knew why a family would travel so far from home and then return, only to come to America and finally Illinois.  We pause to admire their courage and faith in God.

I also post this because some descendants may be looking for this important family information. The book is now safely stored and on display,  in the Scottish American Museum.  Here is the family history as hand written.

"John Robertson and Christian Douglas were married at Dollar, Clarkmennarshire (sic) Scotland, on the 24th of April, 1857.  Births of our children:  John was born in Melbourne, Australia on 24th of February, 1858.  Christian Hall was born in Penttand Hills, Australia, on 16th of April, 1860.  May, on the 15th of February, 1862.  William was born at Elllemford, Scotland, on the 10th of March, 1865 and died in Washington Co., Illinois, 21st of July, 1866."

If anyone would like more information, please send an email or call 630-629-4516.

Note:  Washington county is located in southern Illinois, a 5 hour drive from Chicago.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

History Club Meeting, March 6, 2010

I don't usually post on the weekends, but after several inquiries decided to give everyone a report.  We had an excellent group at the History Club today.  It was necessary to have more tables, chairs, scones and coffee.  Eight people attended for the first time.

There was a lot of interchange about flying, airplanes and airports.  We had a number of very well informed participants and I appreciate how they engaged in the discussions.

Most of you know that I was not feeling well, which I will blame on a "bug" of some kind.  I am much better tonight.  Thanks to everyone who accepted my sweating, dizziness, poor thought process,  difficulty in speaking etc.

You kindness and concern is much appreciated.  Have a great weekend.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Sam Houston, The Hero of Texas Independence,

Houston, Texas is named in honor of this man.

Sam Houston, routed Mexican General Santa Ana at San Jacinto in 1836 and declared Texas an independent country.  He became the first president of the state of Texas and served in that capacity for two terms during the years 1836-38 and 1841-44.

Houston's great grandparents migrated from the Scottish village of Houston by way of Ulster about 1730.  He was born March 2, 1793 in Virginia.  At age 15 he was a frontiersman in Tennessee where he lived with Cherokee Indians for three years.

He fought under Andrew Jackson, became a congressman, and later governor of Tennessee.  Angry at the conniving of government agents at the expense of the Cherokees, Houston fought them vigorously in official circles.  He became a lawyer and was sent to Texas to negotiate treaties with the Indians.

He decided to stay in Texas and become involved with the troubles brewing between the Anglo-Saxon settlers and the Latin regimentation of the Mexican government.  War soon broke out and he became a prominent military leader.

When Texas was admitted to the Union as a state, Sam Houston became the state's U.S. Senator.  He served as senator until 1859.  He spoke out frequently on be half of the Indians.  This did not endear him with the Texas legislature, and he was not re-elected.

Returning to Texas,  Houston again ran for governor and was elected in 1859.  With the Civil War about to break, he tried unsuccessfully to stop the secession of Texas from the union.

Upon his refusal to swear allegiance to the Confederacy in 1861, he was deposed as governor.  He died on his farm near Huntsville, Texas, July 26, 1863.


On May 8,1840, he married  Margaret Lea and they had 8 children.  She was 21 and he was 47.

Houston was evicted from office in 1861, because he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.

In 1854, He made a profession of faith and was baptized by a Baptist minister, Rufus C. Burleson, who later became the president of Baylor.

He died from pneumonia with his wife by his side.  He last recorded words were, "Texas, Texas, Margaret..."

Sam Houston is buried in Huntsville, Texas, but his wife Margaret Lea is buried in the City of Independence, Texas.  No explanation is given.

In Chicago, Houston Avenue is named for Sam Houston and runs 3024 east and from 8000 south to 13448 south.

Harvey Houston was president of our Society in 1979 and was a cousin of Sam Houston.  Mrs. Harvey Houston was a cousin of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.  Strange how history divides us and then binds us together again as one great family.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Heroes of the Alamo & miscellaneous information

In the book Historical Southern Families, Volume IV by John Bennett Boddie, there is a listing of the "Heroes of the Alamo."  He shows 187 names all of whom died at the Alamo.  Of the 187, he lists 54 as Scottish-Americans.  Six of the 54 are shown as native-born Scots.

(Continued research may increased the total of those who died to 259)


John McGregor was a piper and died during the siege of the Alamo in 1836.  His Scottish ancestry has been a source of debate, but some researchers insist that McGregor was born at Dull, near Aberfeldy, Scotland, and immigrated first to Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1808.  It is reported that the Clan Gregory Society believes he may have been been a direct descendant of Rob Roy, himself. Any additional information would be appreciated.

At the Alamo, McGregor and Davy Crockett held musical competitions - McGregor on the bagpipes and Crockett on the fiddle.  It was reported to have been a "strange and dreadful sound."

Note:  There is also controversy about the death of Davy Crockett.  Some believe that he died inside the Alamo, surrounded by dead soldiers of the Mexican army.  Some believe that he and several others were captured and taken to Santa Anna, who gave his soldiers permission to kill them.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dallas, Texas Named for a Scot

The Dallas family has a long distinguished record in Scotland and America.  For several hundred years this family has been active in Scottish public life.  The first Dallas arrived in Britain in 1066 with William the Conqueror.  The name evolved from De Dolyas to Dolas and then to Dallas about the early 17th century.

Alexander Dallas was the patriarch of the American family and exerted a profound influence on early America.  He arrived in Philadelphia in 1783 where he planned to practice law.  He might well have been president but, tired of politics, he declined to run.  Though foreign-born, he wold have qualified to be president, because he arrived n America before the constitution was adopted barring foreigners from the presidency.

The middle son, George Mifflin Dallas, for whom Dallas, Texas, was named, served as a member of the Delegation negotiating the end of the War of 1812.  He was 21 years of age.  He was later elected to the U. S. Senate and served as ambassador to both the United Kingdom and Russia.

George Dallas was Vice President in the James Polk administration when the issue of "Manifest Destiny" surfaced.  He along with the President believed that America was destined to expand its borders across the frontier of the Pacific.  This meant the annexation of Texas, the purchase of California from Mexico, and the settlement of boundary disputes with Britain over the Oregon Territory.  These things were all accomplished in a span of four years during the term of President James Knox Polk and George Mifflin Dallas.  Two Great Scots!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Davy Crockett - A Scot You Should Know

Like, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett (1786-1836) typifies the resourceful freedom-loving frontiersman.  His legendary figure has grown with the years to the folk hero class.  Davy Crockett was born in a log cabin in eastern Tennessee on August 17, 1786.  His Scottish-born father was a Revolutionary War veteran who had moved to the Tennessee frontier.

His formal education amounted to about 100 days of private tutoring.  He fought in the Creek Indian Wars (1813-1815).  After serving two terms in the state legislature, he ran for the U.S. Congress where he served three terms.  During his first two years in Washington, he incurred the enmity of President Andrew Jackson and the new Democratic party.  It was Jackson's opposition that ended Crockett's career in Congress during the election of 1835.

Stories in the popular press of the day pictured Davy Crockett as a shrewd, yarn-spinning eccentric and rough Indian-fighting frontiersman.  Actually, he engaged in several successful business ventures, and he delivered his speeches in Congress in the fairly conventional English of the times.

He wrote an autobiography in 1834 which added to the Crockett legend.  His book played up his frontier life and minimized his political career.  His writing was full of the realism of pioneer times.  It was a style probably never seen before, and it was well received by the reading public of that time.

But the most dramatic event of his life came after his biography was written.  Following his defeat in Congress, he headed west to join the American forces in Texas.  In the gallant defense of the Alamo, Crockett died March 6, 1836, when the defenders were killed to the last man by a Mexican army under General Santa Anna.

Davy Crockett is a member of the Scottish-American Hall of Fame.  The above information was written by James C. Thomson and is the inscription on his plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scottish Stonecutters Build Texas Capital in 1882

The capital building in Austin, Texas, was built by Scottish stone cutters from Aberdeen.  The complete story has been told in The Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.  These stone cutters first came to Texas as the result of a labor dispute.  The state capital building in Austin had burned in 1881, and construction was under way in 1882 on a new structure of pink Texas granite.  The unusual building material was donated by George Washington Lacy, but the granite had to be cut, finished and imported 45 miles from the quarry near Marble Falls.

Governor John Ireland had signed a contract with the State Penitentiary Board for 500 convicts to work the quarries and construct a railroad from the quarries.  Controversy arose over the use of convict labor and the Granite Cutter's International Union boycotted the capital project.

To bypass the boycott, Superintendent Gus Willse sent to Aberdeen , Scotland, for stone masons who were considered the best in the world.  After difficulties with Federal alien contract laws, 62 Scots accepted the offer of $4.00 per day and arrived in Texas.

With the exception of cut-stone moving equipment, blasting powder and a few hand drills and wedges, they took the stone from the quarry, cut it to size and shaped it for construction with tools rarely measuring more than eight inches.  The granite generally was cut by the use of wedges.  To make a uniform break, a line of holes was drilled no deeper than four inches and no farther apart than ten inches.  Two metal shims with a small wedge between were placed in each hole.  Workmen hit each wedge in serial order driving all into the stone at approximately the same rate.  Under this consistent pressure, the stone would crack.  Granite of almost any size could be split in this manner, but sheets less than one inch thick seldom were worked.  Nor was stone at the quarry commonly wedged apart in thicknesses of more than six feet.  Blocks were moved to sheds and worked by hand into their finished shapes.

The granite was "bankered" up to a height convenient for the standing stone cutter.  The cutter set to work with hand patent bush and striking hammers, folding rule, steel square, chalk, plumb, straight edges and bull sets.  With these seemingly crude tools, the workers were capable of cutting stone with a tolerance of 1/640 of an inch.  In most cases the cutters worked alone, a single stone taking from several hours to weeks, depending on its complexity.  After six years of work, the new capital was occupied in September, 1888.

The simple tools used by these world-renown craftsmen from Aberdeen have been on display at the Texas Institute of Texan Cultures. If you would like more information about the Texas Capital go to the Site Preservation Board or Wikipedia.  It would be interesting to know how many of these Scots stayed in Texas, or moved to some other area.  I have heard that Scottish stone cutters worked on Navy Pier and the Art Institute, but have not been able to confirm.
Every state in the Union has Scottish stories.  It would be nice if each State had a Scottish historian who would ferret out those great stories and publish them on their own blog.  For the next few days, I will write more Texas Scottish stories.