Thursday, April 14, 2016

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. 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 and 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...

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

NOTE: The Scottish American History Club will meet on Saturday, May 14, 2016. This is the second Saturday of May. It will be our annual birthday celebration. 

We will also have on display a wedding dress. When Mary Anne McCleery married John C. Beveridge on January 10, 1865 in Somonauk, Illinois, she wore this beautiful dress. Albert H. Beveridge of Augusta, Georgia, donated her dress to the museum. He is the great grandson of Mary Anne and John C. Beveridge.

Lauren Szady, who is the Museum Assistant at the Lombard Historical Society will be our guest and give some history of wedding dresses. Reservations are helpful so please call 708.447.5092 and plan to join us. The museum is open at 9 a.m. and the meeting begins at 10. 

In addition, the museum has been given some WWI medals and these will also be on display. The medals belonged to Charles Albert McCombe who was born in Glasgow and fought with the Arygll and Sutherland Highlanders. These were donated by Betty J. McCombe Cook who lives in Texas. We are hoping that family members who live in the Chicago area will also join us on Saturday, May 14.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Scots Arrive in Washington County, New York, Part I

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 manufacture 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.

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 seven  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 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, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
office phone - 630.629.4516


The History Club will meet on Saturday, May 12, 2016. (Please note this is not the first Saturday of the month.) Museum will be open at 9 a.m. and the meeting will begin at 10. We will center our program around the wedding dress given to the museum and the six medals from World War I. It will also be our annual birthday celebration. Reservations are not necessary but helpful in planning. Please call 708.408.5591 and reserve your space.