Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Andrew Harvie - A President whose life did not end well

Andrew Harvie, served one term as president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1861. He was born in Scotland and was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He came to America and was first employed as a Professor of the Greek and Latin languages at the University of Michigan at Tecumseh. 

In 1848 he moved to Detroit and studied law. After that he moved to Sault Ste. Marie and from there he was elected Senator of the state of Michigan.  Because of this classical training he was a good debater and displayed “industry and capacity as a lawyer.”

In 1852, Mr. Harvie came to Chicago and began practicing law.   He soon “took a deservedly high rank at the Bar, and fame and fortune both seem to open wide their gates that he might enter.”  In another article he was described as a man of “ability and thorough culture.”

We have limited knowledge about Mr. Harvie - just small glimpses into his life. There is a record of him speaking about Thomas Jefferson at the Nebraska Meeting, February 13, 1854.  His eulogy for Dr. Houghton, a geologist in Michigan who drowned in Lake Superior, was described as a “masterpiece of eloquence and beauty.”  In 1858, he served on a committee that planned and organized “The Burns Festival.”  And in 1861, he was elected President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, a position of honor and ability recognized by the entire city of Chicago.

There is evidence that he was married but his wife cannot be identified.  Some time after 1861 and his own death in 1863, Mrs. Harvie died. The circumstances of her death are not known at the present time and there appears to be no published obituary.  But her death brought significant changes to the life of Andrew Harvie.  He was not well physically and despite the urging of close friends he refused to seek medical attention.  In addition, Mr. Harvie became an alcoholic.

In reporting on his death the Chicago Tribune wrote the following on January 7, 1863: “About seven o’clock yesterday morning, a policeman, while patrolling his customary beat, found the dead body of Andrew Harvie, a man well and sadly known in this community, lying at the foot of the basement stairs, No. 6 Tremont Block on Dearborn Street. He lay with his head downward, where he had fallen, and when found, life was extinct, although the warmth of a part of the system indicated that he had been dead but a short time.”  The coroner’s report indicated that he had died from the effects of a fall and exposure.”

The Chicago Tribune continued a description of Mr. Harvie’s life by writing the following: “He sacrificed wealth, position, fame, a great intellect and a generous heart to that insatiable fiend which has brought low too many of our most brilliant and accomplished men. Death (his wife) broke up his family, and the wretched man became a homeless outcast, wandering our streets, a shattered wreck; even in his ruin, attracting universal sympathy and pity. His sad fate is a terrible warning; not the least terrible that his intellect was profound, his scholarship ornate and his heart open and genial.”  (I doubt a present day newspaper would print such comments.)

Members of the Chicago Bar met in the Superior Court room and drafted the following resolution:

“Where as, it has pleased Almighty God to remove from our midst our brother Andrew Harvie, therefore:”

     “Resolved, that alas another of our number has fallen, an able lawyer, a ripe scholar and kind friend; his loss we deeply deplore and his memory we cherish with the most heartfelt affection.”
      “Resolved, that a copy of these resolutions be spread on the records of the various courts of the city and county, and be furnished to the daily papers of the city for publication.”

Judge Murray F. Tuley in moving the adoption of the resolution paid a feeling tribute to the deceased as a gentleman, a scholar, and a lawyer.  His first law partner had been Andrew Harvie.

The Tribune reported on January 7, 1863, page 4, that "members of the St. Andrew's Society and friends of the deceased are invited to attend the funeral at the Briggs House, at 1 p.m. today."  We do not know where Mr. Harvie is buried. If any of our readers have additional knowledge, especially his place of burial, please communicate with us.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

January 7, 2012 - Next meeting of the Scottish-American History Club. The subject: What Happened Between 1866 and 1875?

February 4, 2012 - Tom Campbell, author of “Fighting Slavery in Chicago.” Mr. Campbell is a lawyer with Baker & McKenzie and life member of the Society.  Copies of his book will be available for purchase.

March 31, 2012 - Proposed tour of the Auditorium Theater.  Watch for further details. Also, the April 7th History Club may be cancelled.  Watch for announcements.

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