Saturday, September 3, 2011


On August 27, 2011, a number of us attended the memorial for Don Gillies at the Lake Street Church of Evanston, IL. Don had served as president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and had been a supporter of our programs since becoming a life member in 1975. It was good to see David Fargo, who was president in 1981-82, and is now the oldest surviving member to have served in that position. Other past-presidents attending were: Robert Bruce Graham, Alexander D. Kerr, Jr. , myself and Gus Noble, the current president.

The service was held in the Lake Street Church, which was founded in 1858 as the First Baptist Society in Evanston. (A change in names occurred in the mid 1990's.) The Victorian Gothic building was erected in 1875 for a total cost of $30,647.63. The church is just magnificent and is now the oldest public building in Evanston. There is much information on the Internet about the church and the building.

I knew something about the church from a study of the life of Andrew MacLeish. Mr. MacLeish was born in Glasgow, Scotland and came to Chicago in 1857, where, in time, he became associated with Carson, Pirie & Scott. Under his leadership the State Street Store was purchased and “the rest is Chicago retail history.”

Andrew MacLeish married Martha Hillard in 1888 and they eventually moved to 627 Adams St. in Glencoe, IL. They became members of the First Baptist Church in Evanston. Mr. MacLeish was a very religious man and regularly taught a Sunday School class. Martha Hillard MacLeish was the first president of Rockford College and was a leader in religious and cultural activities that made “her one of the most esteemed women of Chicago and the North Shore.”

Kenneth MacLeish was the youngest son of Andrew and Martha MacLeish. He was a student at Yale when America entered World War I and was also a member of the First Yale Unit, composed of young men who loved flying. Kenneth was killed in a dog fight over Belgium three weeks before the war ended. He is buried in Flanders Field and the parents sought solace and comfort at their church in Evanston.

On April 8, 1923, the church dedicated a “churchhouse” adjoining the present sanctuary. It contains a hall “named after and in memory of Lt. Kenneth MacLeish.”

Jean Gillies, sister of Don, was kind enough to give Gus Noble and me a tour of the annex where we viewed the hall dedicated to this brave young man. A plaque tells his story. Once a picture of Kenneth along with a cross made of wood taken from Flanders Field adorned the wall. Those items mysteriously disappeared a few years ago.

If you would like to know more about Kenneth MacLeish and his love affair with Priscilla Murdock, I recommend you read The Price of Honor by Geoffrey L. Rossano or The Millionaires’ Unit by Marc Wortman.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrews Society

P.S. The History Club will meet September 17 at the Scottish Home. (This is a change in date.) Our speaker will be Brett Batterson, Executive Director of the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. After spending 11 years at the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit, he came to Chicago in 2004. Under his direction, a number of significant changes have occurred to the building and its programming. You will enjoy his presentation and it will serve as the foundation for a proposed tour of the Auditorium sometime in the future.

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