Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Followed My Husband

The Reverend James Caldwell (1734-1781) was one of our earliest patriots. He was born to Ulster-Scots parents in Cub Creek, Virginia. He became a Presbyterian minister and served as a chaplain during the Revolutionary War. At the battle of Springfield, New Jersey, when his company ran out of wadding, Caldwell was said to have dashed into a nearby Presbyterian church, scooped up as many Watts hymnals as he could carry and distributed them to the troops, shouting “put Watts into them, boys.”

He was killed by a single shot from the gun of James Morgan. Morgan was arrested, tried and hung on January 29, 1782. (You can find the full story on the Internet.) Mrs. Caldwell was killed earlier by the Hessians under the command of the British. Their nine children were raised by friends. One of the girls, Hannah Ogden Caldwell, married James R. Smith of New York City.

James R. Smith came to America as a child from Kirkudbright, Scotland. Through hard work and shrewd business ability, he became a very successful merchant in New York City. He owned all the property along Broadway up to thirty-fourth street. He lived on Pearl Street and had a summer home in Greenwich near what is now Washington Square. The Smiths had a daughter named Elizabeth Caldwell who was born on Pearl Street, March 28, 1808. After the death of her mother, Elizabeth moved to Washington, D.C. to live with her sister, Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke whose husband was the clerk of the House of Representatives.

Elizabeth was once invited to have dinner at the White House when John Q. Adams was President. She “wore a crimson silk dress with her hair in three puffs on the top and three puffs on each side of her head and a high tortoise shell comb. She also wore silk stockings and black satin slippers. At the dinner she met Joseph Duncan from Kaskaskia, Illinois and Henry Clay told Elizabeth some things about him. He was not only a good looking man but was a good son, having taken care of his mother and educated his sister and two brothers.

Joseph Duncan was born on February 22, 1794 in Kentucky. Born into a very poor family, he educated himself especially in the classics. He served in the War of 1812 and later commanded troops as a brigadier general in the Black Hawk War. He was awarded a testimonial sword by Congress for his role in defending Fort Stephenson, Ohio. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1827, he served four terms. Later, he would become the 6th governor of Illinois.

Joseph Duncan and Elizabeth Caldwell Smith were married in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 1828. Two weeks later they began the long journey to Illinois. They crossed the mountains in a stagecoach and took a steamboat from Wheeling to Cairo. From Cairo to St. Louis, they traveled “in the company with Mr. And Mrs. James K. Polk of Tennessee, little thinking he would ever fill the President’s chair, such a commonplace man.” They spent a week in St. Louis and then took a boat to Kaskaskia and then on horseback to Fountain Bluff where Joseph Duncan owned a sawmill.

They chose Jacksonville, Illinois, to be their home and in 1834 built a three-story, 17 room mansion. It was the official Governor’s mansion during his term in office (1834-1838). The house is still standing. When they first arrived in Jacksonville, Elizabeth wore a dress of “white India muslin and a long sky blue sash.” She wrote in her diary: “Wherever I went they turned my trunk inside out, tried on all my clothes and admired them generally. It was funny and often annoying to have them cut patterns of everything they could, often ruining them past use.” "No wonder people asked, what brought you so far from the city out into the wild country? I said, My husband, I followed him.”

 Mrs. Duncan was 4'5" tall and if she “was pouting” when the Governor arrived home after a long stay in Springfield, Governor Duncan would laughingly set his petite wife on the mantle, where she remained until some other member of the household came to her aid. This diminutive little lady gave birth to 10 children.

When they returned to Washington for the Second Session of Congress. Elizabeth wrote: “Mrs. Mather took us in their carriage to Carlyle several days journey, two nights and two days. We stopped for the night at a log cabin, so four of us slept in one room, not an unusual occurrence in those days.” At Carlyle they took the stage through Indiana over corduroy roads and then on to Cleveland. “The lake was so rough and the boat so poor we coasted the lake in a covered wagon to Buffalo.” From Buffalo they took a stage to Albany and a steamboat to New York. Another stagecoach completed the final leg to Washington. The entire journey took three weeks. Elizabeth said, “In November the weather was beautiful. It was a rough journey. I felt I was going home. I never liked the west and was so glad to get back.” On one of their many trips to Washington, their son James “died at Wheeling, Virginia and we buried him on a hill in sight of the river.” He was 2 years and 7 months old. What sadness they must have endured to leave this little boy, not in a cemetery but on a hill. During her lifetime, Mrs. Duncan would make this trip eight times.

I have been unable to find the exact date of her death, but believe she is buried alongside her husband in Jacksonville, Illinois. Governor Joseph Duncan died January 15, 1844. He is buried in the Diamond Grove Cemetery in Jacksonville. The mansion is owned today by the Rev. James Caldwell Chapter NSDAR and is open to the public. The home has been fully restored and contains many original Duncan family furnishings.

A Scottish girl from New York City - a Scottish man from Paris, Kentucky, who met in Washington, lived on the Frontier and died in Jacksonville, Illinois, makes an interesting story fit for the movies.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

    No History Club meeting in July or August.
    Scottish Home Picnic - August 4, 2012
    History Club Meeting - September 8, 2012
    Kilted Classic Golf Outing - September 21, 2012
    History Club Tour - October 6, 2012
    North American Leadership Conference - Oct. 26-28. Troy, Michigan
    St. Andrew’s Day Dinner - November 16, 2012
    Rockford Burns Banquet - January 19, 2013 (
    Nicht Wi’ Burns Supper - January 26, 2013
    St. Andrew’s Society Burns Dinner - February 9, 2013

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Lost Daughters

Dr. Alexander Stewart, born in 1779 in Perth, Scotland, was a veterinary surgeon who had studied in London and Edinburgh. For 14 years he was a surgeon to the Perth Agriculture Society but always had a desire to live in America. He began reading literature produced by a Mr. Flowers who apparently gave a glowing view of life in the new continent. He and his wife had eight children: four boys and four girls.

In 1817, he finally left with his wife and the four boys. Grandparents on both sides of the family pleaded that his four daughters should be left in Scotland. Once settled, they said, the daughters could follow. The girls were left behind, and it would seven years before they would see them again.

After a journey of seven weeks in crossing of the Atlantic, Dr. Stewart’s family made their way to New Harmony, Indiana, where Robert Owen had established a colony. (Owen was Welsh but in Glasgow he fell in love with and married Caroline Dale.) The colony is an interesting story and we will write about it in the future. It is not known how they traveled but they may have used the rivers until they reached New Harmony. There were no trains. The Stewart family was not interested in being part of the colony, so they moved on. Finally, in White County, Illinois, about a mile from the “Scotch settlement” of Liberty, they took up a homestead of 200 acres in 1825. (I am not sure why, but at some point Liberty changed its name to Burnt Prairie. It is 285 miles south of Chicago and had a population of 58 people in 2000.)

In America, Dr. Stewart began practicing medicine because there was so much “sickness-chill and fever.” He was very kind to the poor and often took them into his home for treatment and care. Now with the family settled, it was time to bring the four daughters to America.

He began a series of letters to a friend and neighbor in Edinburgh, Scotland. He sent money to this friend with instructions on how to reach Liberty, Illinois. They left with the next group of immigrants. After reaching New York, the friend took his family into the city to find lodging. In addition, he took “all their money, letters of introduction and travel instructions.” He never returned.

"After landing in New York, the girls (Jessie, Christina, Martha and Mary) waited all afternoon. In their great disappointment and, in fear for what might happen to them, they were all in tears.”  They asked the captain of the sailing ship to take them back to Scotland but were told the ship would not sail for two weeks. Toward evening, a gentleman with a tall silk hat and a gold-headed cane came walking toward them from the city. He stopped and they told him their story. The gentleman happened to be a Scot and he could “understand them perfectly.” Not only did he have a “kindly Scotch tongue” but he had been a classmate of Dr. Stewart. He took them home and they “enjoyed a fine supper.”

The four girls ranged in age from 11 to 19, and they had not seen their parents in seven years. They were placed with other Scottish families in the area, except for Mary, the youngest, who stayed with the Doctor. (We only know him by his last name of Ferguson.) “They were all sent to school and given dancing lessons and had the advantages of the wealthy children of that day.” Dr. Ferguson was a kind and caring man.

In Liberty, Illinois, the father could estimate the amount of time it would take to cross the Atlantic and then there would be weeks and perhaps months for them to make the rest of the journey. After a period of time and the girls had not arrived, he concluded that they had been lost at sea or had met with some accident. The girls did not have their father’s address and there was no other method of communication so they wrote to the grandparents in Scotland. Mail traveled very slowly in those days and it took months for the father to get the message about what had happened and where they were.

The oldest daughter had fallen in love with George Dick while crossing the Atlantic and was planning to get married. When word finally reached the father, he began the long journey to New York. He traveled alone “armed with his gun and on foot.” (Google says that is a trip of 918 miles.) I don’t know how long that journey would have taken the good doctor.

After the wedding of Jessie, the oldest daughter, they began the long journey back to Illinois.

At the age of 86, Alexander Stewart died May 5, 1865, and was buried in the Burnt Prairie Cemetery. Many other family members are buried at this cemetery.

This story was written by Isabella Miller, a granddaughter of Dr. Alexander Stewart, and was sent to me in 2000 by Ted Reeves who lived in Merced, California. We communicated several times but have now lost touch. The telephone number I have is no longer correct. He was active in the Stewart Clan Society so perhaps someone can help with new contact information.

I find the story interesting because it illustrates how the world has changed and what the early immigrants faced if they chose to live in America.

Wayne Rethford, President
Scottish American History Club

The Highland Games are this weekend in Itasca, Illinois. Click here for full details. The Scottish American History Club and Scottish Heritage Museum will have a tent in the clan area. Come see us!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No Quitters

As you read this it will soon be June 6 - D-Day. I wonder who will remember this year? The old soldiers are dying by the thousands every day. General Patton is gone. The mothers and fathers who grieved the loss of sons are gone as well. I wrote this blog in 2010. I like the story and repeat it again in honor of all those who serve and die.

Patton was a complex man but a great commanding officer. Some politicians disliked him and some members of the press as well, but his soldiers loved him. Through North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, and northern France, his Army was always on the move. Patton never wanted his troops to dig fox holes because that meant they were not moving. I remember looking at maps in the daily newspaper during the war as they traced the progress of the Third Army. It was quite amazing how many miles they could travel in a single day.

In war, Patton was an unforgiving General. The enemy must be destroyed and killed. But, there was another side to Patton. He often visited the wounded and talked personally to his soldiers. Patton would kneel in the mud and administer a shot to save a wounded man. He was irreligious in his language but he believed that soldiers should pray. Here is the story of what is called Patton’s Prayer.

The phone rang in the office of the Chaplin on December 8, 1944. “This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about these rains if we are too win the war.” (Patton was Episcopalian and was regular in his church attendance.) Rain had hindered the Third Army since September and it was now December.

Brigadier General Msgr. James H. O’Neill was the top Third Army Chaplin. (He would later live in Pueblo, CO.) He couldn’t find a prayer so he wrote one: “Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish thy justice among men and nations.”

On the other side of his 3x5 card, the Chaplain typed a Christmas message. “To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day. G. S. Patton, Jr., Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army.”

Patton read both, signed the card and casually said: “Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.”

There followed a long discussion between the General and the Chaplin about how much “praying is being done in the Third Army.” The General said he was a strong believer in prayer. “There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by preparation (working), and by praying. God has His part, or margin, in everything.” Patton continued talking about God’s blessings on the Third Army. “We have never retreated, we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics.” He talked about Gideon in the Bible and “said that men should pray no matter where they were, in church or out of it, that if they did not pray, sooner or later they would crack up.”

As a result of the conversation, Training Letter No. 5 was written and approved by Patton. It was distributed to all 486 chaplains and to every commander down to the regimental level - 2,300 copies. It said in part: “Our glorious march from the Normandy Beach across France to where we stand, before and beyond the Siegfried Line, with the wreckage of the German Army behind us should convince the most skeptical soldier that God has ridden with our banner....We have had no quitters; and our leadership has been masterful....We have no memory of a lost battle to hand on to our children from this great campaign.”

Casualty lists differ but most believe that over 6,000 American soldiers were counted as killed or missing as the result of one days battle, June 6, 1944. We had no quitters...our leadership was memory of a lost battle was given to our children, but there were many who died.

Wayne Rethford, President
Scottish American History Club