Monday, July 29, 2013

One Thousand Miles in a Covered Wagon

Part II

Not long after the Scots arrived in Washington County, New York, the “clouds of war” began to gather over the young nation. The young men, as they do in every generation, marched off to war; but here and there was to be found a Loyalist, mostly among the later arrivals. Their property was confiscated and many of them fled to Canada. The War of Independence actually lasted a long time, the first battle being fought at Concord in April 1775. Fighting continued through 1782 and finally ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

When peace arrived and independence came, the community in Salem, New York, had found “a certain prosperity and comfort” on their little farms. Houses had been built, lands cleared, and roads constructed. Children had gone to college, like John Savage in our last Blog or Mary Dunlop who went to Princeton. The church was the center of life and schools were functioning, teaching grammar, philosophy, spelling, Latin and Virgil. Life was good. However, some worried about the future.

George Beveridge and his wife, Ann Hoy, had seven children.  They were comfortably living in their clapboard house. They were active in the life of the community and were members of the South Argyle United Presbyterian Church. They raised their children to be “God-fearing citizens.” However, the settlement in Washington County was no longer the land of opportunity for their children. Andrew Jackson, in their opinion, had ruined the banks and financial panics swept the country. The land around them was mostly occupied and available lands were expensive. “In this crisis they turned their thoughts to the new world beyond the Alleghenies.”

There undoubtedly was a lot of discussion and prayer about the future. It was Mrs. Beveridge who finally persuaded her husband to undertake the journey. So, this “middle-aged” father and his fourteen-year-old son, John L., began the preparations.

On an autumn day in 1838, they started the journey. A covered wagon pulled by two stout horses was loaded with their necessities, along with a stock of woolen cloth which would finance their expedition. Across the state of New York and the farming communities of Ohio and Indiana, they traveled toward their unknown destination. They rounded the end of Lake Michigan and came to a small settlement. Chicago wasn’t much in 1838. They had now traveled one thousand miles and had not found a home.

They continued west, leaving civilization as they knew it for the “broad stretches of the valley of the Mississippi.” They took the new road to the lead mines of Galena, passing through Dixon’s Ferry and finally came to a rolling prairie between the Fox and the Rock rivers. It was fertile ground. It was Indian country until 1832 and had not long been opened to settlement.

One October evening, George Beveridge and his son came to Somonauk Creek. On the north side stood a log cabin with the stage road running at its door. It was the first house built by a white man in De Kalb County and had often served as an inn for the stage coach. Before he slept that night, George Beveridge had traded his wagon, his horses, and the remaining stock of woolen goods for the log cabin and 400 acres of land occupied under squatters’ rights.

He stayed one entire year and in the autumn, of 1839 returned to his home in Salem, New York. But, it was not until 1842 that final preparations for the move were completed. The farm had to be sold and decisions made as to what household effects and stock could be taken. Finally in May 1842, the family started for their new home on the prairies of Illinois. This time they used the canal and the Great Lakes making the journey in seventeen days.

In the party were Mr. and Mrs. Beveridge, and four unmarried children: James Hoy who was twenty-five, Thomas George, twenty-two, John Lourie, eighteen, and daughter Agnes who was thirteen. Isabel, an older daughter and her husband William French were also going. Jennett, the oldest child, had married James Henry and was left behind as was the second son, Andrew. He was entering Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to study for the ministry.

“There is something valiant, courageous, in the picture of this middle-aged pair, planning to break with all the traditions of life as they knew it, to leave their comfortable house and a lifetime’s associations to set out for a new country, a veritable wilderness to their eyes, and begin anew as pioneers at a time of life when they might have thought only of rest and surcease from labor.”

When they finally arrived at the Somonauk creek and their log cabin, George Beveridge found his wife weeping on the back porch.

To be continued...

Please Note: Most of the above information and all the quotations were taken from The Somonauk Book, privately printed for James A. Patten and Henry J. Patten in 1928.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Home office - 630-629-4516

Upcoming Events:

August 3, 2013 - Scottish Home Picnic - Museum open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

September 7, 2013 - History Club meeting - 1933 World’s Fair

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Scots Arrive in Washington County

In the early 1700's a group of Scots settled in eastern New York and were a mixture of Highland Scots and those from Northern Ireland. They were stalwart, rugged, independent, knew how to use guns and were not afraid to fight. The colonial governors encouraged people of this type to immigrate because they provided a barrier between the Colonies and the French and Indians. They occupied land east of the Hudson River in Washington County, New York, and had some 40 miles of farm land in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Their forefathers were Presbyterian Highland Scots living in Western Scotland. They had supported the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and had lost. Economic conditions were bad, crops failed and there were famines. In addition, there was general discontent with their own Church of Scotland. They looked beyond the sea to America in the hope of finding political, economic and religious freedom. Conditions were just as difficult for the “Scottish Nation” in Northern Ireland.

In 1738, a group of people belonging to the Scotch Presbyterian church and living in Argyleshire, were offered free land near Lake George. One thousand acres of land given to every adult person who paid for their passage and every child received 500 acres of land if they paid passage. In the years 1738, 1739 and 1740 some 472 persons were brought in groups by Captain Lauchlin Campbell to the New World. Originally there were some legal problems about the land but in 1764 a grant of 47,450 acres known as the Argyll Patent was secured.

On May 10, 1764, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clark, born in Galloway but now a pastor in Northern Ireland, brought his entire congregation of 300 people to New York. Their plans were to “carry on the linen and hempen manufacturer to which they were all brought up.” It is believed that this is the only instance where an entire congregation moved to the New World.

Not all of them made the trip up the Hudson River; a few were persuaded by real estate agents to go south where they settled at Cedar Springs and Long Cane near Abbeville, South Carolina. For those who did make the trip up the Hudson there were unexpected surprises.

The land near Lake George proved to be unsatisfactory. It became necessary for Dr. Clark to purchase other land which became known as the Turner Patent. It was composed of some 25,000 acres nearly all in Washington County. This land was divided into lots of 88 acres each and given to families. “The land was rent-free for five years, after which a yearly rental of one shilling per acre was to be paid.”

The country was a wilderness. There were no roads. One had to either walk or use a horse. Mary McNaughton, the mother of chief justice John Savage, walked 7 miles to attend a church service. (John Savage was a lawyer and politician. He was Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1823 to 1837. In 1828 he was appointed Treasurer of the United States but he declined.)

In 1736, there were one thousand Scottish families in Belfast waiting for ships to bring them to America. This new life in America was not easy. It was very difficult. But, they possessed a common bond - their membership in the Presbyterian Church. Many of these families were related to each other before coming to American and as time passed, the younger people intermarried, making the bond even stronger.

To be continued . . .

Wayne Rethford, Pres. Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
office phone - 630- 629-4516

Some of the above information was taken from The Somonauk Book, privately printed for James A. Patten and Henry J. Patten in 1928. This information is also available from various sources on the Internet.

Upcoming Events:
August 3, 2013 - Scottish Home Picnic - Museum open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

September 7, 2013 - History Club meeting - 1933 World’s Fair

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Very Busy Life

Thomas C. MacMillan was born October 4, 1850 in Stranraer, Scotland. Born in the same village was his father, James H., and his mother (Susan Cumming). The family emigrated to Chicago in 1857 where Thomas C. attended high school and then attended the old Chicago University. After the Great Fire of 1871, he began his newspaper career as a cub reporter; and, for more than twenty years, he was associated with the Inter-Ocean newspaper. By the time he retired, Dr. MacMillan was a stockholder and director of the company.

In 1883, he married Mary C. Goudie whose family came from Ayrshire, Scotland. She attended the Brown public school and he attended the old Central High school on Monroe near Halstead Street. Thomas and Mary Goudie MacMillan had three children: a daughter, Mrs. Jeanie Pocock, and two sons, James and Hugh.

Tina Beaird will explain how they met when we visit the Naausay cemetery on our coming history tour. It’s an interesting story.

In 1885, Mr. MacMillan was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives where he served until 1889. Then, for the next four years served in the state senate. Later, he was for twenty-five years clerk of the United States District Court in Chicago. Like many other Scots, he served on the Cook County Board of Education and was once the Director of the Chicago Public Library.

Dr. And Mrs. MacMillan were members of the LaGrange, Illinois Congregational Church. They were very active church workers and he became one of the “most widely known laymen in that denomination.” Their home was at 67 Sixth Avenue in LaGrange.

Here are other facts about this busy man:

  • President of the Chicago Congregational Club - 1900
  • Moderator of the Illinois State Congregational Association
  • First President of the American Congregational Deaconess’ Association
  • First vice-president of the Third International Congregational Council, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches of the U.S. - 1907-1910
  • President of the Cook County Saving Conference
  • A corporate member of the American Board for Foreign Missions
  • President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society - 1906
  • President of the Patriotic Association, McClintock Post, G.A.R.
  • First President of the Travelers’ Aid Society of Illinois
  • Treasurer of the Central Howard Association of Illinois
  • Chairman of the State Senate on Waterways
  • Chairman of the State Senate Committee on World’s Fair, 1893
  • Author of the first Woman’s School Suffrage Act
  • Member of the Chicago Charter Convention
  • Cook County Board of Education 1879
  • Director of the Public Library 1882
  • Board of Managers Illinois State Reformatory, Pontiac, 1897
  • President of the LaGrange School Board - four successive terms
  • Masters degree from Illinois College
  • LL.D. from Knox College - 1911

In 1919, Dr. McMillan wrote a paper (28 pages) which was presented to the annual meeting of the Illinois State Historical Society. Anyone starting to study the influence of Scots in Illinois should start with his small booklet.

In 1933, The Illinois Saint Andrew Society held its annual banquet at the Palmer House. Among the 1,300 who attended was Mr. & Mrs. McMillan.  It was his 45th consecutive time to attend the banquet.

Thomas C MacMillan died December 13, 1935 at the age of 85. According to his death certificate he suffered from “General & Coronary Arteriosclerosis” for five years. His physician was J. C. Clark of LaGrange.

We will pay our respects to this great man and his wife on the July 20 history tour.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Home office 630-629-4526

Upcoming Events:

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. Tina Beaird will meet us at the cemetery and she is an expert on this entire area. Tina is the Reference Librarian at the Plainfield Public Library. She is also a Blackhawks fan.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. You can register using our secure website, call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516. Don’t be Scottish and wait til the last day. Call now!