Friday, November 26, 2010

George William Curtis Dedicates the Robert Burns Statue in Central Park

George William Curtis:  Here are some of his comments at the dedication in Central Park, New York City, on October 2, 1880

"Until we know why the rose is sweet, or the dewdrop pure, or the rainbow beautiful, we cannot know why the poet is the best benefactor of humanity. Whether because he reveals us to ourselves or because he touches the soul with the fevor of divine aspiration, whether because in a world of sordid and restless anxiety he fill us with serene joy, or puts into rhythmic and permanent form the best thoughts and hopes of man - who shall say?  How the faith of Christendom has been stayed for centuries upon the mighty words of the old Hebrew bards and prophets, and how the vast and inexpressible mystery of divine love and power and purpose has been best breathed in parable and poem!

"The poet's genius is an unconscious but sweet and elevated in our national life.  It is not a power dramatic, obvious, imposing, immediate, like that of the statesman, the warrior, and the inventor, but it is as deep and strong and abiding .  The soldier fights for his native land, but the poet touches that land with a charm that makes it worth fighting for and fires the warrior's heart with the fierce energy that makes his blow invincible.  The statesman enlarges and orders liberty in the states, but the poet fosters the love of liberty in the heart of the citizen. The inventor multiples the facilities of life, but the poet makes life better worth living.

"Robert Burns transfigured the country of his birth and love.  Every bird and flower, every hill and dale and river whispers and repeats his name.  When he died there was not a Scotchman who was not proud of being a Scotchman.  But he, as all great poets, as they turn to music the emotions common to humanity passed from the exclusive love of his own country into the reverence of the world."

Statutes to Robert Burns in U.S. - 13 in all.

Here is the list so far:

New York City - Central Park - unveiled October 3, 1880

Albany, New York - unveiled September 30, 1888

Barre, Vermont - unveiled July 24, 1899

Denver, Colorado - unveiled July 4, 1904

Chicago, Illinois - unveiled September 26, 1906

San Francisco, California - unveiled February 22, 1908

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - unveiled June 26, 1909

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - unveiled October 27, 1914

Boston, Massachusetts - unveiled January 1, 1920

Detroit, Michigan - unveiled July 23, 1921

Cheyenne, Wyoming - unveiled December, 1921

St. Louis, Missouri - unveiled June 2, 1928

Jacksonville, Florida - unveiled 1930

Information about the statute in Jacksonville, Florida, is difficult to find. Any of our Florida readers know the history? If so, please let me know.

The statute in St. Louis, Missouri has recently been fully restored.

I also have pictures and the story of a recent memorial to Robert Burns in Houston, Texas. It does not appear to meet the definition of a statue, but is more of a memorial. However, it is very impressive and the most recent that I know about.

Does anyone have documentation that each Carnegie Library was to contain a bust of Robert Burns? Several of the libraries that I have visited in Illinois do have a bust, but some don’t.

If anyone has actual documentation please let me know.

If I am missing any city in the above list, please send an email to

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Monroe Street in Chicago, Illinois. Published in 1914

Several years ago in Naples, Florida, I bought a used book entitled Old Monroe Street published by Central Trust Company of Illinois in 1914. The bank was located at 125 West Monroe Street. The book describes the street from “the river to the lake” listing the history of various buildings and the companies that occupied them.

A map of Chicago dated 1830 shows the village clustered around the old Fort Dearborn. Monroe was then in the country. Originally, the street was located in what was known as a School Section. Section No. 16 in every township was given to the State for the use of schools. In 1833, in order to raise money for schools the 140 blocks (640 acres) was auctioned off for a total of $38,619.47 or an average of $6.72 an acre.

When Chicago was incorporated as a town, Monroe street was not within the original limits. Chicago was incorporated on March 4, 1837. Later the following ordinance was passed: “That the first street in said town, south of Washington Street, be named Madison Street; the second street shall be named Monroe Street; the third shall be named Adams Street and the fourth shall be named Jackson Street.” And, so it remains.

This is part of the listings in 1855:
Mrs. Hendee - Boarding House
Dr. Thos. Bryan
J.A. Kent - Perfumer
Elizabeth Brock - Boarding House
Thomas Milner - Builder
Wm. Goldie - Manufacturer of sashes, doors and blinds - 216 Monroe, besides the gas works.
Miss S.A. Heath, Select School at 186 Monroe.

“Across the alley, east of State Street lived a clairvoyant. The only information which we have been able to definitely establish about her, from reliable witnesses (men) is that she was good-looking!”

The Sinai Congregation built their first temple on the north side of Monroe Street, just east of LaSalle Street. It was about 50 feet wide and 80 feet deep. The building was dedicated on June 21, 1861. The congregation later moved to Grand Boulevard and 46th Street.  Wonder if that building is still there?

The post office was at Dearborn and Monroe (1860s) on the northwest corner. Congress appropriated in 1855 a total of $84,000 for the building. When it was finished in 1860, the cost had risen to $243,000. Sounds familiar! The building was destroyed in the Great Fire, 1871.

At #65-9 on the north side was Campbell, McNellis & Campbell, linens; and Illinois Soap Stone Stove Co. Saloon in the basement. Sounds like a Scottish thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Presbyterians/RobertBurns/A Scottish Quarry at Drumhead and Some of My Reseach for 2011.

I have begun working on a couple of future projects and this may influence my blog for next few weeks. The next meeting of the History Club will be on January 8, 2011. We don’t meet in December but the St. Andrews Society does have its AGM on December 12, 2010, beginning at 3 p.m.

On February 12, 2011, I have been asked to speak at the First Presbyterian church in Wheaton, Illinois. The subject is the Scottish/Presbyterian contribution to American Democracy and Freedom. Not sure how I can cover that subject in just one night, but I will be sharing some of my research on the blog. The Woodrow Wilson story was the first research on this subject.

Usually in January, we try to do something about Robert Burns. Not sure what it will be at the moment, but we might take a look at all the monuments to Burns in the United States. There are great stories surrounding some of those monuments.

Last August, the BBC News ran a story about a Burns statue in Victoria, Australia. “The sculpture carved by John Greenshields in 1826 was shipped to Australia in the 1850s.” Apparently, the statue had been in poor condition for quite some time even though some restoration work had been done “using inappropriate stone and techniques.”

The closest match to the stone was found at the Drumhead Quarry in Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland. The quarry was not operational so permission had to be obtained in order to reopen the quarry. A “planning permission” had been submitted as of August 26, 2010. Can someone tell me if the quarry has reopened? If Scotland is anything like America it will be years before permission can be obtained. Must have an environmental impact study first!

Dr. Ewan Hyslop said: “In comparison to other sandstones currently quarried throughout the UK, the Drumhead sandstone ranks as one of the higher quality stone types.” He said it was also a good match for many of the historic buildings in Falkirk, Stirling, Linlithgow, Glasgow and Kilmarnock.

Now the question is: Did they get permission to open the quarry and was the statue in the Botanical Gardens in Camperdown repaired?

We do have readers in Australia, so can someone let us know what happened? Did “the oldest existing statue of Robert Burns” get restored or not?

The cost of restoration was around 60,000 pounds and needed to be raised though public donations.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

President Woodrow Wilson - "Every line of strength in American history is a line colored with Scottish blood."

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia to parents “of a predominantly Scottish heritage. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother the daughter of Presbyterian ministers. “He was raised in a pious and academic household.” He has a baccalaureate degree from Princeton University in 1879.

He taught at Princeton and later became President of Princeton. From there, he ran for Governor of New Jersey in 1911 where he gained national attention as a reformer. As President, he continued as a reformer. In 1913, he signed into law the Federal Income Tax Act and the Federal Reserve Act. In addition, he set up the Federal Trade Commission.

When World War I came, Wilson tried to keep America out of the war. On January 31, 1917, Germany announced that unrestricted submarine warfare would begin immediately. After four American ships were lost, Wilson asked for a declaration of war.

He insisted that the League of Nations was an essential part of the peace settlement. “But the demands of the victors at the expense of the defeated and political opposition at home were more than he could cope with.” After giving a speech in Pueblo, Colorado on September 25, 1919, he collapsed and later suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

He was left an invalid but completed the remaining seventeen months of his term and then lived in retirement for three more years. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920. He died in his sleep on Washington on February 3, 1924.

In 1885, he married Ellen Louise Axson. They had three daughters. He was one of only three presidents to be widowed while in office. He took daily automobile rides with the top down. His favorite care was a 1919 Pierce-Arrow, car is on display in his hometown of Staunton, Virginia. He was also a fan of baseball and became the first President to throw out the first ball at a World Series game. He was also a golfer, but perhaps not very good. While in office, he played 1,000 rounds of golf or “almost one every other day.” In the winter months, the Secret Service painted the balls black.

Here is his quotation that has been widely circulated in the Scottish community:

“Every line of strength in American history is a line colored with Scottish blood”

Friday, November 19, 2010

President Theodore Roosevelt, Scottish On His Mother's Side

Theodore Roosevelt became President of the U. S. In 1901 with the murder of President McKinley. He served two terms. Roosevelt was Dutch on his father’s side but was Scottish on his mother’s side. His mother was descended from James Bulloch, born in Scotland about 1701 who emigrated to Charleston in 1728. George A. Bulloch was the first governor of Georgia after the Revolutionary War. His mother Martha Bulloch was a Southern bell from a slave-owning family and maintained her Confederate sympathies.

President Roosevelt is best known for leading the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.

He was Governor of New York and was then elected Vice-President. When McKinley was killed in 1901, he succeeded to the P:residency. From his grandparents’ home in New York, he witnessed the funeral possession of Abraham Lincoln. His brother, Elliot became the father of Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt was her fathers’ fifth cousin.

Theodore Roosevelt’s administration had an aggressive foreign policy, In 1903, he acquired the Canal Zone and began to direct the building of the Panama Canal. He also increased the power of the Office and attacked big business trusts. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1906 for his efforts to promote world peace.

Roosevelt was a naturalist, hunter, author, soldier and explorer. At the age of 42, he was, and still is, the youngest to serve in our Highest Office.. Up to his time, he was the most traveled President of all time. Not so today. He ran again for President but lost to Woodrow Wilson.

He was the first President seen riding in an automobile. The police rode bicycles as protection. He also signed the proclamation establishing Oklahoma as the 46th stat of the Union.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colonel R. Biddle Roberts - A Important Man Lost in History. Fighter, Veteran, Lawyer, A Man of Integrity

There is much we don’t know about this man who was president of the Illinois St. Andrews Society in 1882. We don’t know his Scottish heritage except that he had one. There are no Society records available for 1882 but the newspaper does record two events. An “annual charity ball and banquet” was held March 10, 1882, at the Sherman House hotel. Two hundred people attended. There was a reception, followed by dancing, led by Pound’s orchestra. At 11 p.m. they ate an “excellent supper. After supper, the dance was resumed and kept up until a late hour.” Obviously, ladies attended this event, but apparently not the next event.

“The thirty-seventh annual banquet of the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society was held at the Sherman House” November 29, 1882. Three hundred people attended an opening reception and at 8:30 were invited into the dining room of the hotel. The room was decorated with banners, flags and portraits of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. After dinner there were seven speeches and toasts. (Wonder what happened to the portraits?)

We know that Colonel R. Biddle Roberts was born, August 25, 1825 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He died on January 10, 1886 at the Sherman House hotel in Chicago. He had suffered from kidney trouble for many years.

His grandfather, Judge Roberts, was a noted man in Western Pennsylvania and is said to have been the first person to cross the Alleghenies in a carriage. His father, Edward J. Roberts was also a lawyer and for many years clerk of the United States Court in Pittsburgh.

R. Biddle Roberts was also trained as a lawyer and in 1857, President Buchanan appointed him U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. When the Civil War began, he volunteered and became part of the Thirty-Second Volunteers of Pennsylvania.

He fought in the Peninsular Campaign under George McClellan and was in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. He was commended for gallant conduct at the Charles City Cross-Roads. He commanded a brigade where all the senior officers were killed, wounded, or captured. It is unclear exactly when he came to Chicago, but by 1880, he had formed a partnership with Frank J. Loesch. He represented a number of railroads including the Pennsylvania Railroad company.

He served as President of the Bar Association and was described “as an eloquent speaker and a great favorite with judges and lawyers. He was noted for his integrity.” His wife, who survived him, was a Miss Mary Anderson, a relative of Robert Emmet.

There was no funeral services in Chicago since his body was taken to Pittsburgh for burial. No records of what happened to his wife, nor do we even know his full name.

I post this in the hope that some family member will respond and give us more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Care for 100,000 people after the Great Fire. Here is Housing.

The fire left 100,000 people homeless. How do you care for this many people? First, free passage was offered to anyone who wanted to leave Chicago and train after train was filled with people going to other cities. It is estimated that on Monday and Tuesday some 30,000 individuals left the city. Public education was cancelled for the year and every remaining school was a refuge for the homeless. Vacant buildings were used and temporary buildings were constructed.

On the parries west of town many of the homeless built temporary shelters of the “roughest kind.” These were mostly day-laborers and the poor of the city who, in the long run, were the “greatest sufferers of the fire.” The churches also became the temporary home of many, especially for those sick and injured.

It was decided to build barracks for some and simple homes for others. The cottages would be simple but comfortable.However, the skilled workmen had lost their tools in the fire and this became a major problem.
The houses would be of two sizes: one 20x16 for families of more than three persons; the other 12x16 for families of three. “The floor joists were of 2x6 inches, covered with a flooring of planed and matched boards; the studding was of 2x4 inches, covered with inch boards and battened on the outside or with planed and matched flooring; the inside walls were lined with thick felt paper; and each house had a double iron chimney, two four-paneled doors, three windows, and a partition to be put up where the occupant pleased. Many of the houses were afterward shingled, painted and plastered. The cost without furnishings was about one hundred dollars. So far, I have been unable to obtain any locations for these dwellings.

Between October 18, 1871 and May 1, 1873, the Shelter Committee built 7,988 houses for more than thirty-nine thousand people. “Of the houses built, 5,226 were constructed within a month from the time the committee commenced work.”

Besides these houses there were four barracks in different parts of the city, each one accommodating twelve hundred and fifty persons. “Each family in these barracks had two rooms furnished the same as the isolated homes.” Each community had medical and police supervision.

Can you imagine they did all of this without any aid from what they called the Central Government. In fact, they only asked the government to lift all restrictions, like Tarriffs, and then stand aside.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rev David Sweet & some of his writings about the Great Fire.

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.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turlington Walker Harvey, A Great Man Who Established the Town of Harvey, Illinois

I have been reading about events after the Great Fire of 1871. How did Chicago care for 100,000 people who were without housing, food, water and medical care? One of the men who played a prominent role in that effort was Turlington Walker Harvey.

Mr. Walker was born in Siloam, New York, March 10, 1835. His mother, Paulina Walker was of Scottish heritage. Both parents were active in the Presbyterian church. At 19, he came to Chicago with one large copper penny. He found work his first day for a sash and door company. Later, he was employed by Abbott & Kingman and, when Mr. Abbott went down on the Lady Elgin, the company was reformed.

The Civil War brought increasing business. His first mill built in 1865 burned and he moved to 22nd and Morgan. He then built the first really fire-proof building up to that time. By 1883, his business reached the enormous figure of 140 million feet. His own boats brought the lumber to Chicago and he was the first to build small gauge railroads to reach the lumber.

In 1883, he organized the T. W. Harvey Lumber Company, putting a million dollars into the company. He owned companies that operated 90 lumberyards in the west.

Mr. Harvey was a member of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society and helped distribute $10 million sent to Chicago. He was in charge of housing which we deal with later. For six months after the fire, he was never in his office but worked for the Relief Society from their offices at 13th and Michigan. His dedication, knowledge and ability was indispensable in providing housing for the people after the fire.

His first wife died and he was left to care for four small children. A second marriage produced seven children. He was an intimate friend of Dwight L. Moody who conducted services at Camp Douglas for the southern soldiers. He “was one of the first to import Aberdeen Angus Cattle from Scotland.”

He established the town of Harvey, Illinois, which was a temperance town. There he built the Harvey Steel Car Company Works in 1892, the first steel freight cars adopted by the railroads.

His favorite poet was Robert Burns. He owned a large stock farm in Eastern Nebraska, at Turlington. Mr. Harvey is buried at Graceland cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Joseph Medill, Editor, Chicago Mayor and Advisor to President Lincoln

Joseph Medill is a member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame located in North Riverside, Illinois (USA).
Here is what James Thomson wrote about his life:

Commenting on his death in 1899, a competitive Chicago newspaper said of Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill, "No man of his time exercised a more decisive - or on the whole - a more beneficial influence on public affairs as Mr. Medill." As editor of the fledgling Chicago Tribune, Joseph Medill gave the newspaper character and set it on the path to success. He served as mayor of Chicago just after the fire of 1871, instituting the reforms that still endure. He was confidant and adviser to Abraham Lincoln.  And as editor and delegate, he had wide influence in shaping the Illinois Constitution of 1870.

Two Presidents offered him cabinet posts but he turned them down.  He was one of the founders of the Republican party and instrumental in selecting the name.

Joseph Medill was born April 6, 1823, near St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.  His parents were Scots Presbyterians who emigrated from Ulster in 1819.  The family moved to Ohio when Joseph was 9.  He studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar but quickly turned to journalism.  He edited newspapers which he bought and sold until 1855 when he moved to Chicago to become part owner of the Chicago Tribune.  From then on until his death, he was a major force in the newspaper's growth and influence as well as the city of Chicago. 

As an abolitionist, Medill effectively rallied Midwest public opinion against slavery.  Medill actively supported Lincoln during his rise to prominence, became his adviser, and urged him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

He worked until the day he died in a San Antonio, Texas hotel on March 16 1899.  Editorials he had written appeared in the Tribune two days after his death.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The World Series, My Dad and Old Faded Memories

The World Series each year bring thoughts of my Father. He was a kind and gentle man who loved to watch baseball on television. I always tried to be home for the Series so we could enjoy the games together. This year for the first time, I never saw a game. His team didn’t win anyhow.

My parents were born and raised in the foothills of the Ozarks, some 30 miles east of Springfield, Missouri. For my mother, Ola Jack, it was along Panther Creek in a log cabin built, I suspect, by her father. The foundation still remains and some flowers planted by my grandmother still bloom. At least that was true a few years ago. My father, Newton, was raised across the mountain, also in a log cabin, and they both attended New Hope school. Neither graduated from the tenth grade. I suspect they meet at school.

The closest town was Fordland, some 10 miles away and that is where I was born. My mother left our small log cabin and journeyed into town in a wagon where she stayed with friends until I was born, May 5, 1927. I think the house may still be standing but not sure.  I had an older brother, now dead, and I do not know the circumstances of his birth but I suspect they might be similar to mine.

I do remember living in that one room log cabin. There was a loft where my brother and I slept and there was a fireplace. I suspect we were fairly self-sufficient. There were chickens and a cow. The milk was placed in a jug, tied with a rope and placed in a nearby spring. My mother would churn for butter A garden for sure and my father would kill a squirrel each day for meat. He walked 5 miles each day and worked for one dollar. We had a squirrel-dog who accompanied my father and would tree the squirrels so my dad could shoot them. My brother David may still have his twenty-two rifle. My brother Lawrence and I had traps in the winter for whatever we could catch and the hides were then sold for a few pennies. Dad would often find a bee hive in a tree and he could get the honey without any kind of protection and not be stung.

We attended New Hope school, the same as our parents. It was a one-room building, painted white. There was a well for water, but no indoor plumbing. I have no recollection of any teaching or the name of the teacher. My father came once and built a desk for us and, he along with several other men came and cut down a large tree in the school yard. Beyond this, there is little recollection. The location of the school is somehow lost. There is a road named “The New Hope School” but none of the people living along the road knew of the school’s location. It appears to be lost in the hills and trees of the Ozarks.

I didn’t watch the World Series in 2010, but the game sure brought back a lot of memories.

More later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans/Armistice Day - 2010 (my thoughts)

Its another beautiful day in the Chicago area.  I have spent part of the morning on my deck enjoying the sun and talking to my squirrels who came by for their peanuts. I did some thinking about Veterans Day and what it all means. Today, a family just to the south in Plainfield will bury their young son in the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.  He died in Afganistan.  My prayers for them.

I read some from  The Price of Honor,  The World War One, Letters of Naval Aviator, Kenneth MacLeish.  It is a love story of 200 letters between Kenneth MacLeish and Priscilla Murdock. Both are now gone, but somewhere there is a daughter and perhaps grandchildren. Kenneth is buried in Flanders Field. Not sure about Priscilla. It’s a story that often settles on my mind.

I also thought about Don Penn. He flew a P-38 fighter in World War II. He survived and flew for American Airlines after the war. He died at the Scottish Home and I had the privilege of knowing him and saying a few words at his memorial service, also at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. He was large man with big hands and a smile and laugh to compliment his size. His casket flag is in the Scottish American Museum.

The Scotsman Newspaper today published an interesting story from World War II. As the Gordon Highlanders were being forced to retreat to Dunkirk, A young soldier buried the regimental side drum in a farmer’s field. He probably thought they would not survive and this would keep the drum from the enemy.  Within a few hours a policeman on his way home from the village of Hem stumbled across the hiding place. He planned to give the drum to his grandson, but because of German soldiers, the drum was hidden again at his daughters home. It lay forgetton for another 50 years. The daughter, Ms. Boulet, died and the family came to clean out the home. In a closet, buried under a stack of old clothes the drum was found. It was actually discovered by the grandson who was to get the drum in 1940 as a birthday present.

Tomorrow, the side drum, “emblazoned with the battle honours of the Gordon Highlanders” will be returned to Aberdeen, Scotland. It will proudly be displayed in the Gordon Highlanders museum.

My thanks and appreciation to all who have served.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Surviving Daughter of Mayor Mason is Dead in Scotland

If you have been reading these blogs, you will know that I am trying to find a link between Mayor Roswell Mason and a Scottish heritage. He is on my list of Scottish Americans but I don’t know where the information came from. I am hoping that some descendant will contact me with the answer.

It was interesting to note that one of the Mason’s daughters lived in Glasgow, Scotland. Why was she living there? Two obituaries supply part of the answer.

November 26, 1907

“William F. G. Anderson, managing director of the Anchor Line Steamship company, died on Sunday at his home in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr. Anderson married Miss Harriet H. Mason of Chicago, daughter of former Mayor Roswell B. Mason. Mrs. Anderson has lived in Glasgow since her marriage and was there at the time of her husband’s death.”

This obit appeared in 1921: “Daughter of Mayor Mason of Chicago Fire days is dead. Mrs. Harriet Hopkins Mason Anderson, the last surviving daughter of the late Roswell B. Mason, mayor of Chicago at the time of the big fire, died March 1 in Glasgow, Scotland, according to word received here yesterday.”

“In 1872 she married William F. G. Anderson of Glasgow, and made Glasgow her home until the time of her death. Mr. Anderson died in 1907. He was for many years one of the prominent ship owners in Scotland.”

“She is survived by two daughters, Marjorie M. and Winifred Anderson. The paper also carried a picture. I wonder if there are grandchildren still living in Glasgow.?

Mayor Roswell B Mason, His Death and Descendants

Mr. Mason died on January 1, 1892, at his residence No. 27 Delaware Place, at the age of 86. He had enjoyed excellent health until four weeks prior to his death. All of his family was present, except for a son who lived in New York City and a married daughter living in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1831, he had married Harriet Lavinia Hopkins and she had died on March 29, 1891.

They had moved to Chicago in 1851, when he was appointed Chef Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. He began surveying a line that would run 700 miles from Chicago to Urbana, Jonesboro, Vandalia, Bloomington, LaSalle and Freeport. Congress, after much delay, finally granted 2,600,000 acres to build the railroad which was completed in October 1856.

Mr. Mason was a very religious man and served as an elder in the Fourth Presbyterian Church and, for many years, he was a trustee of the McCormick Theological Seminary. The funeral, attended by more than 200 people, was held at his residence. The Rev. Dr. M. Woolseyh Stryker and the Rev. R. W. Patterson participated. The four sons and four grandsons were pallbearers. Internment was in Rosehill Cemetery.

Seven children survived: Mr. Henry G. Miller; Mrs. James H. Trowbridge; Edward G. Mason; Roswell H. Mason; Mrs. W.F.G. Anderson; Henry B. Mason and Alfred Bishop Mason.

The City Council passed a resolution which said in part: “In life his name was the synonym for firmness, official and private integrity, and in death he leaves a memory honored of all men and a name which is worthily and honorably borne by several sons who have distinguished themselves in their various avocations of life and are numbered among our most esteemed citizens.” City Hall was closed the day of the funeral from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

When his will was filed for probate, it showed personal property worth $28,016 and real estate worth $686,470. It was bequeathed equally among the seven children.

(There must be descendants still living in the Chicago area and I hope someone will contact me in the coming days, weeks or months.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roswell B. Mason, An Honest & Effective Mayor of Chicago

Roswell B. Mason was the mayor of Chicago when the Great Fire of 1871 befell the city. He was sixty-six years old and was completing a two-year term as mayor. As a teenager in his native state of New York, he had worked on the Erie Canal. In the late 1830s he moved to the railroad industry. Eventually, he became the chief engineer and superintendent of the New York and New Haven Railroad. In 1851, he moved to Illinois to supervise the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad and this became his most impressive achievement.

He ran for mayor of Chicago on the reform ticket as a counter to the corruption of the Common Council. Unafraid to act, he called on General Sheridan to keep the peace and guard the city. He then called on the Relief and Aid Society to administer the enormous contributions sent to help the city recover. (Perhaps his actions indicate some value in term limits. The mayor had one two-year term and only 2 months left to serve.)

The night of the fire, he reached his office in the courthouse at midnight. There he followed the progress of the fire, issued orders and sent telegrams asking for help. He was soon forced to flee and unable to return home by a direct route of going south, he was forced to go north and then head back south through the West Division. It took him three hours to reach his home in the South Division.

On Monday morning, with the city still burning, he called elected officials and prominent citizens to a meeting at the First Congregational Church in the West Division. The church became the temporary city hall. Here the mayor signed a series of executive orders that “established the price of bread, banned smoking, limited the hours of saloons and forbade wagon drivers from charging more than their normal rates.”

General Philip Sheridan, the Civil War hero now living in Chicago, was asked to ensure “preservation of the good order and peace of the city.” The Governor of Illinois was extremely unhappy with this decision but the citizens were very pleased to have the military presence. In addition to the military, some 500 citizens were delegated to stand armed watch in the various neighborhoods.

The Chicago Relief and Aid Society was composed of young professionals that included Marshall Field, George Pullman and Wirt Dexter. Their first act was to divide the city into districts and then to separate their work into different areas. The five areas were: contributions, shelter, employment, transportation and health. Each of these areas were then overseen by a different committee.

The Relief and Aid Society deserve a great deal of credit for resolving many of the problems faced by the citizens of Chicago. R. B. Mason was a very effective mayor during this critical period of recovery for the city.  He is on my list of people with a Scottish heritage, but I am not sure of the source.  Perhaps, someone can help me.