Friday, December 9, 2011

William J. Chalmers & Joan Pinkerton, Part III

William Chalmers and Joan Pinkerton were married in October 1878. A year later their first child was born and she, like others in the family, was named Joan. The second child was born in September of 1889 and he was named Thomas Stewart Chalmers after his grandfather.


Given the location of their house on Ashland Avenue, he probably attended the Brown school. There was one newspaper article about his going to school back east and another reference to Yale. These facts could not be verified for certain.

In 1917, Thomas Stewart was in the second graduating class of officers at Fort Sheridan. On that day, November 28, 1917, 2,218 men graduated as second lieutenants. Before leaving for overseas, he was promoted to Captain and in France received his final promotion to Major. After the war he returned to Chicago where he continued his life as one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors. In 1920, he traveled overseas visiting England, France and Sweden.

With his father and brother-in-law, Norman Williams, they began a new company called Chalmers and Williams. They manufactured their own mining machinery and operated a supply house. Thomas served as president of the company.

Thomas Stewart Chalmers died on March 26, 1923 at the age of 34. The cause of death was listed as chronic hepatitis and the secondary cause was anemia. He died at his residence, 220 E. Walton Place, and was buried in Graceland cemetery. A funeral service was held at his residence but no other information was given. He left an estate of approximately $250,000 to be divided into three equal parts. One gift was for the County home for Convalescent Children at Prince Crossing, Illinois and one each for his nephew and niece, Joan and Norman Williams.

JOAN CHALMERS (1879-1923)

Like so many other girls from wealthy families in Chicago, Joan attended the Sieboth-Kennedy School. It was said their graduates “married young and married well.” On December 4, 1902, at the age of 23, Joan Chalmers married Norman Williams, Jr. The wedding took place at the Fourth Presbyterian Church and the church was filled with friends and family. Dr. Kittridge of New York, who had married the bride’s parents, performed the ceremony. The Tribune published a long article about the wedding including a beautiful picture of the bride.

The couple had two children. A daughter also named Joan and a son named Norman. The son would later unveil the Lincoln Statue at its dedication in 1926. It is located south of the Art Institute and was a gift from John Crerar, a life member of our Society.

Mr. & Mrs. Norman Williams, spent two years traveling and living in Europe in 1922. They spent that Fall in Woodstock, Vermont, and later came to Chicago for Christmas and lived at the Virginia hotel. Mrs. Williams became ill and was finally taken to St. Luke’s hospital where she was reported critically ill “of a malady which puzzles our physicians.” She died, April 3, 1923 - 8 days after her brother’s death. (According to the death certificate, she died of a staph infection. Neither death was related to the other.) “She was as noted for her wit, her charm of manner and gracious personality as she was for her beauty . . . ” She was buried in Woodstock, Vermont.


In memory of their two children, Thomas Chalmers and his wife gave a beautiful stained-glass window to St. Chrysostom Church in Chicago. The window was designed and executed by Charles J Connick of Boston. The church is located at 1424 North Dearborn.

(The granddaughter, Joan Williams, was a student at Harvard when her wedding announcement was made February 26, 1934. She was to wed Dr. Hamilton Merrill of New York. I was unable to trace the grandson, Norman Williams. Perhaps some distant family member will read this on the Internet and respond.)

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus & Historian
Scottish American History Club

The next meeting of the History Club is January 7, 2012

Donations to the History Club made be made through the Illinois St. Andrew's Society at

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