Monday, June 17, 2013

James Michie, A Robert Burns Look Alike?

James Michie was born in 1806 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He married Margaret Katherine Guthrie who was from the area around Huntly, Scotland. They emigrated in 1835 to Boston, Massachusetts and from Boston came to the Township of Lyons in Cook County, Illinois. He was an original land owner in the County owning 123 acres, and paying $3.50 per acre. It is unclear what inspired them to make the long and difficult trip, and I don’t know the exact location of their farm.

James Michie most likely attended the first St. Andrew’s Day dinner in Chicago in 1845 although a list is not available. He was elected president of the Society in 1847 becoming the third person to serve in that capacity. He must have been an educated man although I know nothing of his life in Scotland. An honest man who could read, write and do math was very valuable to his community. The majority of the frontier people were illiterate.

A very active man in serving his community, he was one of the first officers of his township. In 1850, he was elected town clerk and Justice of the Peace. He owned the first private road in the county with Eden Eaton and Samuel Vail. In 1855 he was elected as “Overseer of the Poor.” He started the first public school in Summit, Illinois in 1846. He was a member of the Board of Commissioners for Cook County from August 1845 to August 1848 and was a member of the Board of Education in Chicago.

James Michie and Margaret Guthrie had 11 children but only three children lived to adulthood: Jane, John Charles and Katherine MacGregor. Margaret Guthrie Michie died in 1873 and her husband, James Michie, died in 1876. They are both buried in the St. James cemetery at the Sag Canal. One of their descendants lives in Oak Park and has his original membership certificate as a charter member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. If she is able to attend the History Tour she may bring along the framed certificate. I saw it several years ago but have forgotten what it looks like.

It is fascinating how Scots are connected. For instance John McGlashan was a brother-in-law to James Michie and he was president of the St. Andrew’s Society in 1853. We have little information about John McGlashan except he may have been an early Chicago farmer living at 22nd street and the Chicago River.

Here is another interesting connection: Katherine MacGregor Michie married David Francis Bremner on November 30, 1865 in Chicago. He was born in 1839 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and was of Scottish descent. He came to Chicago at the age of nine and when the Civil War began, he served with the 19th Illinois regiment. It was he who raised the flag on Missionary Ridge. Not completely confirmed but David F. and Katherine may also be buried at St. James.

Please read the Blog posted on October 27, 2010.

Thanks to a grant from The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, we now have the Scottish American Museum on line. In the museum there is a picture of young James Michie and he looks a lot like Robert Burns. Here is how to access the museum and see the photograph.

Go to:
On the left side click on "museum"
In the first line, click on “PastPerfect web site”
In the “search box” type in the name “Michie”
To see the entire collection of over 1,000 items, click on “Random Search” 

Years ago, I was in touch with Tawnya Michie Kumarakulasingam who lived in Lawrence, Kansas. She was a direct descendant of James Michie through his son, John Charles. Her husband is from Moolai, Sri Lanka. She sent a large amount of information about the family which I can bring on the tour is anyone is interested.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630-629-4516 (home office)

The annual History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church at the Sag Bridge where we will pay our respect to James Michie, president of our Society in 1847.

Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families. Our last stop will be at the Na-Au-Say cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907, is buried. There are always surprises along the way.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. To register call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516.

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