Monday, October 29, 2012

The Patron Saint of Scotland - St. Andrew

St. Andrew was from Galilee, a native of Bethsaida and a fisherman by trade. He was a former disciple of John the Baptist and was the one who introduced his brother Peter of Jesus. It is said that he was martyred at Patras in southern Greece on a cross in the form of an “X” on 30th November, A.D. 60. This type of cross is known as the “St. Andrew’s Cross.” The Feast of St. Andrew marks the end of the church year. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30.

Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Russia and Romania. Tradition says that some of his bones were taken to Scotland and buried under the chapel at St. Andrews that was consecrated by Robert I after Bannockburn.

As Scots moved to American, they began to form organizations which they called St. Andrew Societies, perhaps because of their Patron Saint. The first was Charleston, South Carolina in 1729. Soon major cities along the coast would have societies including New York and Philadelphia. Along the route west, Scots would also find Societies in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

By 1845 a group of Scots in Chicago traveled this western route and knew of the name associated with good works. We don’t know when they started meeting but by November there was a formal structure that included officers. Their first project was to plan and hold a dinner on St. Andrew’s Day. The Lake House was reserved, a menu planed and announcements made. The day fell on Sunday and so the dinner was scheduled for Monday, December 1, 1845. The event was never held on Sunday.

James Murray, Esq. of Buffalo, New York, came to occupy the Chair. He was assisted by two vice-presidents: George Steele and Daniel McElroy. “The Chair was supported by Judge Thomason on the right, and the Rev. Mr. Giles on the left.” They planned nine toasts followed by appropriate music. There were toasts to: “The President of the United States; The Queen of Great Britain; The Memory of George Washington; The Army and Navy of the U.S. and The City of Chicago.” These were followed by some 25 additional toasts and comments. It is unclear what kind of music they had but it may have been a piano. There were no Highland dancers, pipers or haggis. The first piper may have played in 1847. I am not sure when the Haggis was first served.

The Chicago Daily Journal reported on December 6, 1845 that “between 50 and 60 set down to a sumptuous dinner.” The menus is not given. Women did not attend until 1917.

The dinner that started in 1845 continues today after 167 continuous years. The date this year is November 16, 2012. The location is the Hotel Inter-Continental on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, just a few steps from where the original dinner was held in 1845.

Around 450 people will sit down to a sumptuous dinner and there will be a few toasts. Highland dancers will perform and a pipe band will play. It will be “an evening of live Scottish music and dance featuring acclaimed musicians Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.”

The Dinner Committee consisting of Marcia Bremner, Leslie Gillan, Charles Gonzalez, Calum MacLeod and Emily Patee invite you to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day with them and an evening you will not soon forget.

Learn more and Reserve your space today.

Wayne Rethford, President
Scottish American History Club

Molly McNeal will speak to the Scottish American History Club on November 3, 2012. The meeting will be held in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, 2800 Des Plaines Ave., North Riverside (3 blocks from the Brookfield Zoo). She will talk about her stay this summer at an Orphanage in Africa. Lots of pictures! Scones and coffee, free admission. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and the program begins at 10 o’clock. Reservations are helpful. Call 708-408-5591.

Special guests will be Rosie Johnson and Anika Strolle.                   

Saturday, October 20, 2012

W. W. Kimball - Music For The Millions

When the administrator of the Scottish home wanted to buy a piano, she talked to James B. Forgan, President of the First National Bank in Chicago and a world renown banker from St.Andrew’s Scotland. He said, “She should talk to the Kimball piano people.” She did and they made an offer she couldn’t refuse

I am not sure that W. W. Kimball was of Scottish heritage. Most sources I found on the Internet spoke of the Kimballs as English. However, his full name was William Wallace Kimball which makes me a little suspicious. I also found several references which said that Kimball was a corruption of the name Campbell. I have yet to find any records that William Wallace Kimball was associated with any Scottish organization in Chicago. However, The Kimball Piano Company is part of the legacy that belongs to Chicago and so the blog.

Mr. Kimball was born March 22, 1828 in Rumford, Maine. His father’s name was David and his mother was Lucy Wheeler Kimball  He later moved to Decorah, Iowa (1853) where he sold insurance and real estate. He moved to Chicago in 1857 and traded his property in Iowa for four pianos. At the time Chicago had a population of 30,000 and he sold his four pianos from a second story office building. When the first four were sold, he ordered more from back East and thus the legacy began. He married Evaline M. Cone in 1865.

The great Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out all his assets, estimated to have been more than one hundred thousand dollars. But he was shortly in business again selling pianos out of his home at 611 Michigan Avenue. The basement was his salesroom, the billiard room the office. His barn was the shipping department. Nine years later, his company sold 12,000 pianos. In 1881, his company began the manufacture of organs and in a short time they were turning out 40 instruments a day. That number continued to increase and by 1890, they were producing 50 organs a day and 50 pianos a week and had a work force of 500 men including 50 to 60 family members.

The original Kimball piano factory was located at 26th and California. Destroyed by fire, a new factory was built in Melrose Park at Armitage and Cornell. “It was one of the largest manufacturing operations in the world with rail lines running through the facility dropping off raw materials and picking up finished pianos for shipment.” They were the largest piano manufacturer in the world from the late 1800s until the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1959, the company was acquired by The Jasper Corporation and they have continued using the Kimball name. Today, Kimball International is a global corporation involved in commercial office furniture and contract electronics.

The Kimball’s built their home on Prairie Avenue across the street from the Marshall Field mansion. Prairie Avenue, from 16th to 22nd Street was the “Fifth Avenue” of the Midwest. Nearly 20 millionaires once resided within a six-block area. They included people such as George Pullman, John J. Glessner, Samuel Allerton, and Philip Amour. George Pullman was the first to move into the area and the others followed. The Kimball house, located at 1801 South Prairie Avenue, still exists. It is built of Bedford limestone and has a sleek roof with an exterior of numerous large and small gables, balconies and iron-railed galleries. It is now occupied by the U.S. Soccer Federation and is not open to the public.  

Mr. Kimball died at home “after a lingering illness” on December 16, 1904. His funeral was held in his home and the Rev. William O. Waters followed the Episcopalian ritual. The honorary pallbearers included: Marshall Field, Robert T. Lincoln, Lambert Tree, Robert H. McCormick, Watson F. Blair, Charles H. Deere and J. J. Glessner. The active pallbearers were all employees of the company.

The total amount of his estate is not given in the newspapers but he left more than $2 million to his wife, Eva Kimball. They were no children. He made no charitable bequests. Mrs. Kimball died in 1921 of pneumonia and was described as “feeble minded.” She left her collection of paintings to the Art Institute valued at the time at more than one million dollars. Would someone familiar with the Art Institute tell me if there is still a gallery known as “The Mr. and Mrs. W. Kimball Room?” 

The Kimballs are buried in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. The architects for their tomb was the well know firm of McKim, Mead and White. It was Stanford White’s final design before he was killed by Harry Kendall Thaw.

Wayne Rethford, President
Scottish American History Club

History Club meeting - November 3, 2012. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and the program begins at 10 a.m.
Our main speaker is Molly McNeil who will talk about her trip to Africa this past summer. We will also hear from Rosie Johnson and Anika Strolle. Reservations are helpful but not necessary. Call 708-447-5092.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Money Flowed Like Water

This time of year, I usually think about the great Chicago fire which occurred October 8-10, 1871. In the Scottish American library there is a large book (10 x 14) with gold edges. The title, “Chicago 20 Years After” traces the progress and growth of Chicago for the next two decades. The book printed in Chicago by The Chicago Times Company was published in 1892 and is filled with pictures and advertising. It is now in the Public Domain and the quotations in this article are taken from this book and the records of the St. Andrew's Society.

Chicago was a city mostly composed of wooden buildings and streets that were paved with wooden blocks. It had been a dry summer and a strong wind was blowing from the Southwest. The fire started in the vicinity of a small shanty on DeKoven Street. Within three hours the fire had crossed the Chicago River at two points nearly a quarter mile separate and three quarters of a mile from the starting point.

One of the more interesting characteristics of the fire was the almost total absence of smoke. The combustion was complete. “Heat like that of the most intense furnace was generated, which swept across the city, leaving nothing in its wake but here and there a blackened and tottering wall, or chimney.” Before morning the waterworks were burned cutting off water for the whole city. The flames were so fast that many were overtaken as they fled and some 42 were burned to death at the Chicago Avenue bridge.

“The immediate results of the fire were 17,450 houses destroyed; 104,500 persons rendered homeless; 2,104 acres of the city burned over, comprising a tract 3-3/4 miles long, by 1-3/4miles wide; 2400 stores and factories were burned; 121 miles of sidewalk; eight bridges; the waterworks; 1,642,000 bushels of grain; vast quantities of lumber, and stocks of merchandise.”

At 8:00 p.m. on the second day, less than 24 hours after the fire began, a train carrying provisions arrived from Milwaukee. By nine o’clock the next morning 50 trains had arrived from every possible direction and this continued until officials requested that communities stop sending supplies. “Money came in like water from all over the civilized world. The public subscriptions amounted to $4,200,000 within three months, while the private contributions were considerable, although the amounts will never be known.” Within five weeks more than 4,000 small homes had been built and furnished with cook stove, mattresses, bedding, and a half a ton of coal, all at the cost of $110 for each house.” The work of rebuilding began immediately and by October 17, the pumping machinery had been repaired and by the next day an abundant supply of water was again furnished to the city.

It was estimated that about 8,000 Scottish residents lived in Chicago at the time of the Great Fire. They suffered the loss of homes, possessions, businesses and jobs. Robert Fergus lost his printing house. John Alston lost his glass and paints business valued at $200,000. William Henry, a watchmaker lost his entire stock. Thomas Hastie, who sold boots and shoes on Randolph Street, lost his building and stock and $60,000 in US bonds. William M Dale, druggist, lost his store. James Sims and Charles Glenn both operated saloons and lost their building, stock and equipment. Peter McFarlane, who at the time of the fire was in Montreal, lost furniture “and a valuable collection of knickknacks.” The Caledonian club lost its building, library, pictures and property valued at $4,000. When the court house fell, the St. Andrew’s Society lost all of its membership records, pictures, flags, etc.

Aid for the Scottish sufferers began to arrive almost immediately from all parts of the United States and Scotland. Donations came from the New York Caledonia club, from the St. Andrew’s Society of Albany, and from the Boston Caledonia club, just to mention a few. We often mentioned the donations sent by the city of Glasgow but others contributed as well such as: Greenoch, Cumnock, and Dunfermline. From the Scotch Presbyterian Church on 14th St. in New York City came a gift of $250.00. The Fourth Presbyterian Church also in New York City contributed $290.00. Even the Scotia Lodge (#634) sent two hundred dollars to the Scottish sufferers.

What did they do with the money? They bought railroad passes for 61 people to various parts of the country and Canada. They “sent 10 persons, mostly women and children, to their friends in Scotland.” Some of the money was used for “the necessaries of life, such as groceries and provisions and some under-clothing, and in a few cases of old, infirm, and bedridden applicants, we have paid rent of their rooms for a month or two to prevent their being turned into the street, and also procured admittance for 10 into the County Hospital, where two of them died and were buried by the Society.” (Taken from the Society minutes of the managers report - 1871.)

This statement appeared in the Chicago Tribune on February 20, 1872, and was sent as part of a resolution to Sen. John A. Logan of Illinois. “Resolved, that the citizens of Chicago do not ask any donations from the General Government to enable them to rebuild their burned homes and places of business, but they respectfully represent that the government should obtain its revenues from the profits and prosperity’s of the Country, and not from its losses and calamities; and inasmuch as the property destroyed in the unparalleled conflagration of the seventh, eighth, and ninth of October last had not once paid all the taxes lawfully imposed there on, we hold that it is unjust to require the payment of those taxes a second time for the restoration of that property.”(I wonder how that turned out?)

The Great Chicago Fire had a major impact on the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society, but they continued their work of charity and never lost track of their original vision to help those in need. On November 16, 2012, you can join others in a celebration of our history and accomplishments over the past 167 years. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

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

The next meeting of the History Club will be November 6. All are welcome and there is no charge. Reservations are helpful so please call 708.447.5092 to make yours. The main speaker will be Molly McNeil. Molly is a second grade teacher and a visit to Africa this past summer had a major impact on her life.

We are also pleased to announce that Annika Strolle will be present along with Rosie Johnson.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The First to Die

There is an old church located in Musselburgh, Scotland, that was opened in 1838. It is a simple building designed by William Burn. Inside, there is an “all round horseshoe gallery under a high vaulted ceiling.” The church has seven stained glass windows, and a brass eagle lectern. It also contains an Abbott and Smith two-manual pipe organ from 1904. This is the Northesk Church located on Bridge Street in Musselburgh.

I am particularly interested in a World War One Memorial plaque located at the entrance of the church. The first name on this Roll of Honor is Nurse Helen B. Wood and the last name is PTE. William Wood. In the 1901 census the Wood family lived at 34 Hircus Loan, Musselburgh. Nellie (whom I will assume is Helen) was 12. Her mother, Frances, is 33 years old and her father, John, is 52.

Sometime after the 1901 census, Helen emigrated to Evanston, Illinois with her sisters: Annie, Janet, and Mary. William was 4 at the time of the census and would later die as a member of the Royal Scots on June 28, 1915, fighting at Gallipoli. Frank was only 1 and he would be seriously wounded fighting in France. In total there were 7 children, 4 girls and 3 boys ranging in age from 1 to 12. All of the girls came to America - all the boys remained in Scotland.

The girl’s life in Evanston is somewhat unclear but we know that Helen attended nursing school at Northwestern and became a nurse at Evanston hospital. In Evanston, Helen and her sister Janet lived with Mr. and Mrs. James Hall at 2044 Sheridan Rd. Mrs. Mary B. Miller, a great aunt lived at 1578 Sherman Avenue in Evanston.

While working at Evanston hospital, Janet met and cared for Mrs. James A. Patten. They became personal friends and after Janet’s death, Mrs. Patten gave an address at the First Methodist Episcopal church about Janet’s life and work. Mrs. Patten was so affected by her death that she refused to allow newspaper men into the hall where she spoke.

As America drew closer to war in 1916, medical units were formed across the country. Northwestern University Medical School formed what officially was known as U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 12 (Chicago Unit.) The unit was composed of 23 doctors, 2 dentists, 65 nurses and 153 enlisted men. Northwestern students formed 75% of the enlisted men. After the war, most of the Northwestern students returned to the University. Some were pre-med students who would later graduate from the University’s Medical School. “Two of the unit’s commanding officers became Surgeon General of the U. S. Army.” Base Hospital #12 would form again for World War II.

Unit 12 left Evanston for New York City on May 16, 1917. The Tribune reports that “The enlisted men marched away from Patten Gym with baggage, suitcases and all kinds of bundles, amid great singing, Rah! Rah’s and goodbyes from the students. They all piled on the Evanston El and got off at Union Station and then headed by train to New York and the SS Mongolia.” On May 19, 1917, the SS Mongolia sailed for Europe, “so quickly and secretly that the enlisted men boarded the transport ship in civilian clothing. Uniforms were issued at sea.”

When they were 100 miles at sea a tragedy happened that would make Miss Helen B. Wood the first American casualty of the war. Helen and her friend Edith Ayers, along with many others, were seated on the upper deck watching the gun crews practice firing. One of the guns exploded and Helen and her friend Edith were instantly killed. The ship returned to New York.

At Union Station in Chicago, her body was met with a delegation and she was escorted to her home in Evanston. (Edith Ayers was taken to her home in Attica, Ohio.) “Friends requested that rather than flowers donations be sent to her aging parents in Scotland.”

On May 26, 1917, the body was escorted to the church by the Navy band, 50 blue jackets from the Great Lakes training Center and 50 automobiles. (I don’t know the significance of the number fifty.) Services were held in the First Presbyterian church in Evanston. Outside the church stood an honor guard of 50 nurses dressed in white, 50 students from Northwestern University wearing black gowns and black caps, 50 nurses from Evanston hospital and 25 uniformed members of the Grand Army of the Republic. (These veterans of the Civil War would be getting quite elderly by 1917.)

After an impressive service, her body was escorted to Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago for burial. The procession contained 50 automobiles. She is buried not far from The Rock of Chickamauga Memorial which some of you may remember from our history tours. There is a small marker on her site. A distant cousin who lives in the U.K. has recently contacted us about his desire to raise money for a monument to Helen B. Wood. There is no known evidence that Miss Wood was a citizen of the U.S. A

A Scottish girl, serving from America, becomes the first official member of the military killed in the line of duty in World War I. Rest in Peace.

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

Next meeting of the Scottish American History Club is November 3, 2012.

The Scottish American History Club is part of the Arts and Culture Division of the Illinois Saint Andrew’s Society/Chicago Scots. Click here for more Society information.