Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day of Baseball Season. Here is The Story of a Great Manager and the Grandfather of a Friend

Baseball season begins today, so here is s story about a baseball manager and the grandfather of someone we know and respect.

Duncan A. Bruce in his book The Mark of The Scots, says that “Americans of Scottish descent are extremely well represented in America’s national game. He points out that Ty Cobb, Roger Hornsby, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and George Alexander “were all of partly Scottish ancestry.” and so was William Boyd McKechnie.

Bill McKechnie was born August 7, 1886 in Wilkinsburgh, Pennsylvania, and died October 29, 1965, in Bradenton, Florida. His parents, Archibald and Mary Murray, immigrated from the greater Glasgow area. In 1911, he married Berlyn Bien and four children were born to the marriage: Bill, Jr., James, Beatrice and Carol. She passed away in 1957.

His played third base and could bat both ways but threw with his right arm. His major league career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 8, 1907 and ended on September 20, 1920 with the same team. His lifetime batting average was .251 with 240 runs batted in and 127 stolen bases.

Being a manager placed him in the Hall of Fame. He was the first manager to win the World Series with two different teams, 1926 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1940 Cincinnati Reds. He also won pennants with three different teams. During his managerial career he won 1,892 games. “McKechnie was an unusual kind of manager for his era. A very religious man, he didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and didn’t use profanity.”

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 and was a man of few words. Here is his induction speech: “Somebody’s got this batting order in shape. I never was a third hitter. Mr. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, anything that I have contributed to baseball I have been repaid today seven times seven. Thank you very much.” (The reference to “third hitter” may refer to the 1940 All Star game lineup.)

He was a churchgoer and family man which earned him the nickname “Deacon.” He sang in the local Methodist church choir for 29 years. The Pirates spring training home in Bradenton is named for him. A close friend said at his funeral, he was “a humble but great man, a devoted husband, and an ardent believer in prayer.”

In a beautiful Chicago high-rise lives James McKechnie and his wife, Nike Whitcomb-McKechnie. William Boyd, the great Hall of Fame Manager, is his grandfather and I know he has much more to add to this story.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Robert Dollar, Lumber Barron, Shipping Magnate and Philanthropist. Born in Falkirk, Scotland

I know our Blog has a number of readers in Scotland and recently Tish Graham sent some information about Robert Dollar. She lives in Falkirk about 4 miles from his birthplace. Mr. Dollar is a member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame and I repeat below the statements about him as written by Mr. Thomson. Tish also send a link about Mr. Dollar’s contribution to Falkirk.


Robert Dollar was the personification of the American spirit of free enterprise. America was the perfect setting for this poor Scottish immigrant to rise to eminence and wealth. Robert Dollar was born March 20, 1844, at Falkirk, Scotland. His formal education ended at age 11, and in 1858 he emigrated with his parents to Canada, starting work at 13 in a Canadian lumber camp. He engaged in various types of manual labor in Canada and in Michigan, where he moved when he was 24 years old.

Hearing about the expanding frontier of California and the bustling city of San Francisco, Dollar moved there in 1882 and was soon engaged in the lumber business. He expanded his business and moved into foreign trade. He soon engaged in other lines of endeavor in his dealings with other countries. His next move was to get into the shipping business itself to protect and expand his deliveries to customers in the Orient.

His Dollar Line was soon known world-wide, and he started round-the-world passenger service as well. He was head of the Dollar Steamship Company, the Canadian Robert Dollar Company and the Portland Lumber Company among others. During World War I the United States government built many freighters to haul cargo to Europe. When the war ended, the ships that cost millions of dollars were offered for less than a third of what they cost. Dollar snapped them up and expanded his ocean-going shipping line to one of the world's largest.

He was honored and acclaimed by his home city of Falkirk for his accomplishments and philanthropy. Other cities honored Dollar as well, including New York, Shanghai, and Boston. ■ He wrote his memoirs in 1925 and died on May 16, 1932, at San Rafael, California.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scottish Home Picnic, 1926 and the Arrival of a New Five-Seater Maxwell Automobile.

The date is August 7, 1926, and the British American newspaper is reporting on the recent Scottish Home picnic. “Scots from Chicago and suburbs and from outside points 150 miles distant attended the very enjoyable picnic of the Illinois St. Andrew Society. Superintendent Cora J. Cummings welcomed one of the biggest and happiest crowds since the Home opened . . . ”

“There was a variety of entertainment, including a hotly-contested soccer battle, with picked players from the Bricklayers, Thistles, Canadians and White Rose teams doing steeler work, from which the ‘Brickies’ emerged victorious.”

“Thomas Catto, John McClurg and Jamie Shepherd managed the program and deserve immense credit for its success. The Chicago Highlanders’ Pipe Band under Major Sim was heard at its best and shared the musical honors with the Chicago Scottish Choir under the able baton of J. Burlington Rigg.”

“The choir’s concert was one of the features of the day. Soloists were Mr. And Mrs. Tom Smith and Capt. Rigg. Miss Birdyce Mills was the accompanist. Charles Meldrum gave a humorous reading. A quintette of pretty and clever Scots dancers charmed the gathering: Julie Stevens, Marie O’Hara, Dorothy O’Hara, Cathaline Stringer and Bengie McLennan.

Dr. W. F. Dickson was in conversation with John T. Cunningham, and they agreed that the Scottish Home was unequaled as a retreat for aged compatriots. “It needs only one thing to be perfectly equipped.” “What’s that?” Queried John T. Cunningham? “An auto,” was the reply, “to take the old folks to the station, a mile away.”

“And so this week a handsome Maxwell Sedan, a five-seater, rolled up to the Home entrance and Mrs. Cummings and her charges were told that, at last, they had something appropriate to put in the Home’s commodious garage.”

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club
Illinois St. Andrew Society

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Early American Inventors of Scottish Heritage. Most Names Are Lost to History

I have on several occasions listed Scottish inventors, but this list is of American Scots early in our history. The list was taken from Scotland’s Mark on America by George Fraser Black, Ph.D.  The book is now in the public domain. The quotation below is from the forward of the book.

“As Scotland gave to the world the knowledge of the art of logarithms, the steam engine, the electric telegraph, the wireless telegraph, illuminating gas, the knowledge of chloroform, and many other important inventions, it was to be expected that the inventive faculty of her sons would not fail when transplanted to this country. “

Hugh Orr (1717-98), born in Lochwinnoch, inventor of a machine for dressing flax, took a patriotic part in the war of the Revolution by casting guns and shot for the Continental Army, besides doing much to encourage rope-making and spinning. His son, Robert, invented an improved method of making scythes and was the first manufacturer of iron shovels in New England.

Robert Fulton (1765-1815), of Ayrshire origin through Ulster, was, as everyone knows, the first to successfully apply steam to navigation.

Hugh Maxwell (1777-1860), publisher and newspaper editor, of Scottish descent, invented the "printer's roller" (patented in 1817), cast his own types and engraved his own woodcuts

Henry Burden (1791-1871), born in Dunblane, inventor of an improved plow and the first cultivator, was also the first to invent and make the hook-headed railroad spike "which has since proved itself a most important factor in railroad building in the United States." His "cigar boat" although not a commercial success was the fore-runner of the "whale-back" steamers now in use on the Great Lakes.

William Orr (1808-91), manufacturer and inventor, born in Belfast of Ulster Scot parentage, was the first to manufacture merchantable printing paper with wood fibre in it, and made several other improvements and discoveries along similar lines.

Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-84), inventor of the reaping machine, was descended from James McCormick, one of the signers of the address of the city and garrison of Londonderry presented to William III. after the siege in 1689. Of his invention the French Academy of Sciences declared that by its means he had "done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living man."

Samuel Colt (1814-62), inventor of the Colt revolver, and founder of the great arms factory at Hartford, Conn., was of Scots ancestry on both sides. He was also the first to lay a submarine electric cable (in1843) connecting New York City with stations on Fire Island and Coney Island.

Alexander Morton, (1820-60), the perfector if not the inventor of gold pens, was born in Darvel, Ayrshire.

James Oliver, born in Roxburgh, Scotland, in 1823, made several important discoveries in connection with casting and moulding iron, was the inventor of the Oliver chilled plow, and founder of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, South Bend, Indiana.

Alexander Davidson (b. 1832) made many inventions in connection with the typewriter, one of the most important being the scale regarding the value of the letters of the alphabet. As an inventor he was of the front rank.

Andrew Smith Hallidie (b. 1836), son of a native of Dunfermline, was the inventor of steel-wire rope making and also the inventor of the "Hallidie ropeway," which led up to the introduction of cable railroads.

James P. Lee, born in Roxburghshire in 1837, was inventor of the Lee magazine gun which was adopted by the United States Navy in 1895. His first weapon was a breech-loading rifle which was adopted by the United States Government during the Civil War. Later he organized the Lee Arms Company of Connecticut.

Rear-Admiral George W. Baird (b. 1843), naval engineer, invented the distiller for making fresh water from sea water, and patented many other inventions in connection with machinery and ship ventilation. James Bennett Forsyth (b. 1850), of Scottish parentage, took out more than fifty patents on machinery and manufacturing processes connected with rubber and fire-hose.

John Charles Barclay, telegraph manager, descendant of John Barclay who emigrated from Scotland in 1684, patented the printing telegraph "said to be the most important invention in the telegraph world since Edison introduced the telephone

Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of Treasury Dies in a Duel as Does His Oldest Son

Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s early administrative geniuses. He did perhaps as much as anyone to weld the young nation into a cohesive national unit. Historians say his most enduring memorial is the American Union. Statesman and founding father, Alexander Hamilton was born on the isle of Nevis in the British West Indies. His father was the fourth son of the Laird of Cambuskeith in Ayrshire, Scotland. He entered King’s College in New York in 1773 and was soon embroiled doctrinally on the colonial side with his writings in the dispute with Britain.

When war come, Hamilton was given a field command and was cited for conspicuous bravery in several military campaigns. General Washington made Hamilton his aide de camp with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Fluent in French, he became Washington’s liaison with French officers.

With the war over, Hamilton became a lawyer. He went to the constitutional convention of 1787 as a delegate from New York, and aroused considerable controversy because of his disagreements with the wording of the proposed Constitution.

Later, he did much writing publicly on finance and economics and was soon to become the nation’s first secretary of the treasury. He fought for a strong centralized government and thus incurred the enmity of political figures like Jefferson, Adams, and Aaron Burr.

When Hamilton expressed a low opinion of Burr in public, Burr demanded satisfaction in a gun duel. Though he despised the practice of dueling, Hamilton met Burr on the morning of July 11, 1804, at Weehawken, New Jersey.  Mortally wounded in the exchange, Hamilton died the next day.

(Alexander Hamilton is in the Scottish American Hall of Fame maintained by the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society. The above was written by James C. Thomson)

Alexander Hamilton was a member of the Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York, est. 1756.

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club
Illinois St. Andrews Society