Saturday, March 19, 2011

More About Hugh Ritchie and Our Second Visit to the First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois

Last Sunday, Mary and I were again the guests of the First Presbyterian church in Wheaton, IL where we were presented with an oil painting of a piper. The artist is Anita H. Brechtel, who lives in Wheaton and is well know in local art circles as an award winning painter. Our host for the day was Greg Drinan. We will have the painting at the next meeting of the History Club on April 2, 2011.

Before the service, I had another opportunity to visit with Mrs. Robert Finch who is the granddaughter of Hugh Ritchie. Mrs. Finch is 95 years old, lives alone and is very alert and independent. I was able to share with her some of the recent information about Mr. Ritchie and give her a copy of the Memorial published by the Board of Governors of our Society upon his death.

In the August 5, 1913 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune there is a picture of Hugh Ritchie. He is standing with six others who were attending the Old Timers Picnic. At age 80, he was considered the oldest man on the grounds - standing tall, holding a cane, dressed in a suit, wearing a hat and bow tie. He was a very distinguished gentleman.

The article says he came to Chicago in 1840 with his parents and they lived above a grocery store where the Carson, Pirie & Scott store now stands. "Many a night he says, he shinnied up over the grocery awning, opened the front windows, and got in with nobody the wiser."

Ritchie Court is named for him, since he once owned the north-west corner of Ritchie Place and Goethe Street. In 1889, the property was worth $35,000. It is difficult to determine exactly what he did for a living. His granddaughter believes that he once owned a candle factory along the Chicago River.

We know he was once a member of the Chicago Club curling team. We believe he was a member of the Jefferson Park Presbyterian church. He once ran for Alderman in the 24th Ward. In 1894, he was a member of the Cook County Agricultural Society and traveled with John C. Ure out to the "Elgin Insane Asylum" to inspect their farming operations.

He was an esteemed member of our Society and in 1905 at the 60th Anniversary Dinner held at the Auditorium Hotel he was presented with a loving cup. At the Anniversary Dinner in 1909, Hugh Ritchie makes his final comments to the Society: "I just want to say two or three things about that first banquet of mine", said Mr. Ritchie. "When we organized the society there were only seventeen members. Now they tell me there are 750 people in this hall. I hold in my hand two programs. One is the program that you have here tonight and the other is the program that I had when I attended the banquet in 1846." He had kept that program for more than 60 years.

(For more information about Mr. Ritchie, please read the blog dated February 15, 2011 at

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club

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