Thursday, January 28, 2010

Robert Burns - A question at church - Who is he anyhow? Part II

Robert Burns was a very conscious craftsman as a poet and writer.  His letters are written in perfect English.  He really was interested in the technical problems of verse and at the age of 28, his first book was published.  It was an immediate success.

His greatest poem was Tam O' Shanter a very long epic poem that Abraham Lincoln could recite by memory.  Neil Henderson was the only person I have known who could do that as well. He thought the world would take little note of him. Lincoln said the same thing at Gettysburg:  "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."

In 1859, Burns would have been 100 years old and there were celebrations around the world.  At least 900 events were recorded, today that number would be in the thousands.  In Boston 10,000 people gathered to celebrate his birthday.  In Chicago, during the worst blizzard of the year, 3,000 filled Metropolitan Hall top hear Horace Greely and 200 children danced the Highland Fling.

In Springfield, Abraham Lincoln attended a Burns Dinner and gave one of the toasts.  (You can see those records in the State Historical Archives now located in the new Lincoln Library.)  When Lincoln lived in New Salem, an Ulster Scot by the name of Jack Kelso introduced him to Burns.  William Elroy Curtiss in his book The True Abraham Lincoln, says that Lincoln could recite Burns for hours.

Lincoln married Mary Todd, a Scottish girl, whose family can be traced directly back to Scotland.  In their Victorian courtship they read and recited the poetry of Burns to each other.  At some point Lincoln must have sung to her:  "My love is like a red, red rose."  Said by some to be the greatest love song ever written.

There are 180 known statues to Burns around the world:  Barre, Vermont; Falls River and Boston, MA.; New York City Central Park; Albany, New York;  Milwaukee,; Denver; San Francisco and of course Chicago. Andrew Carnegie, himself a Scot, gave the world 3,000 libraries and each one was to have a bust of Robert Burns.  He once said there could never be too many statues to him.

In Garfield Park, stands Robert Burns in silent tribute, to the people who barely see him, or know him.
Made of bronze, cast in Edinburg, Scotland.  He stands 10.5 feet in height on a pedestal of Vermont granite 12.5 ft. high. On August 25, 1906, thousand and thousands of Scots paraded down Washington Ave.  One hundred magnificent carriages, pulled by beautiful horses, decorated with flowers and roses made the parade.  Women in pure white dresses with bright tartan sashes rode in those magnificent carriages.  The Governor made a speech and cheer after cheer erupted.  A large choir sang the songs of Burns.  That evening there was a dinner in the Second Armory and they danced until the wee hours of the morning.

When the Scottish immigrants left Scotland, they took what little money they had, farming tools, their guns, cooking utensils, seeds from the garden, their Bibles and the writings of Robert Burns. Most of them knew they would never return.  In the long, winter evenings, in those log cabins on the prairies of Illinois, the Father would read from Burns and then the Bible and then prayers before retiring.

Burns was their photograph album before there was such.  He was their connection back to home.  He brought humor, sadness and enlightenment to them.  The Bible, Burns & the McGuffy reader became the educational tools for learning on the prairies.

What should we remember about Burns tonight?

1.  Not everything goes the way we plan it.  He wrote:  "The best laid schemes of mice an men, often go astray and leaves us naught with grief and pain for promised joy."

2.  We should remember that sometimes there is no other help but God.  He wrote a "Prayer under the Pressure O' Bitter Anguish."

3.  We should remember the dignity and freedom of the common man.  Lincoln would have know "A man's a man for all that."  He would have known that Burns believed in liberty for all.

Burns said:  "If you put fetters on a slave, the other end of the chain is inevitably fastened to his owner - an injustice is done to both."

May the world continue to celebrate the life and writing of Scotland's Bard,  Robert Burns.

So, now you know!

Robert Burns - A question at church - Who is he anyhow? Part I

A farmer named William Burness and his wife Agnes Brown had a son.  They named him Robert.  The date was January 25, 1759.  The father was largely self educated and was a poor man as the world thinks, but he was a rich man in character.  He was independent, sincere, hard-working, God fearing and devoted to his wife and children.

William Burness was a tenant farmer and never owned land.  He toiled long hours with lots of legal problems.  He died in 1784, worn out and bankrupt.  "It was watching his father being beaten down that helped make Robert Burns a rebel against the social order of his day and against all injustice."

The wife and mother was Agnes Brown Burness.  She was uneducated, could not read or write.  In time, she gave birth to seven children, 2 boys and 5 girls.  Despite her lack of formal education, she had a keen memory and a beautiful singing voice.  She sang the old songs of Scotland as she worked and Robert listened.

His father gave all the children the best education he could afford, often hiring private tutors.  Burns, himself  was an avid reader.The early days of Robert Burness, (later he changed the name to Burns)  was filled with grinding poverty and hard work.  By the age of 13, he did the work of a man on a poor family diet, no doubt often filled with haggis.  The hard work and limited diet lead to rheumatic heart disease which lead to an early death. 

When he became a man, he was 5'10" tall and of a powerful build.  His head was larger than average and he possessed large brown eyes that glowed with enthusiasm and passion when he talked.  When Sir Walter Scott at age fifteen, saw Burns in Edinburgh he would later write that in his entire life, he never saw such wonderful eyes.

Burns was restless, proud, intensely sympathetic and filled with a nameless ambition.  He was a brilliant conversationalist and an admirable letter writer.  It was said that he was a danger to religion and was a 3rd Degree Freemason.  He struggled with the Calvinistic doctrine and was always in trouble with the established church.

He believed in the dignity and personal freedom of the common man.  His support of the French Revolution almost cost him his government job as a tax collector. In his heart, he supported the American Revolution and wrote a poem to honor George Washington.   "Whatever be my failings, for failings are a part of human nature, may they ever be those of a generous heart and an independent mind."  God knows, he said, "I'm no saint, but if I could - and I think I do it as far as I am able - I would wipe all tears from all eyes."

Perhaps, his greatest contribution was in the field of music. He learned to play the fiddle at twenty-two and wrote and/or and set to music over 300 songs.  Those songs his Mother sang, he placed on paper.  "He took the whole body of Scottish folk songs and brought them together in a new life and spirit.  He did it as a work of love for Scotland and refused all payments for his songs."

I will post Part I now and Part II tomorrow.  If you find mistakes, please make a comment and let me know.

James Earl Fraser - Michigan Avenue Bridge

James Earl Fraser died on October 11, 1953, at the age of 76 in Westport, Connecticut.  Born in Winona, Minnesota and raised on the plains of the West, he had become one of America's most noted sculptors. His father was an engineer in charge of building railroads and moved to the Dakota Territory when James Earl was only 4 years old.  At the age of 8, he was carving things out of stone from a nearby quarry and at the age of 15 was sent to the Art Institute in Chicago to study.

Before he was 17 a model of one of his most celebrated works was completed.  His "End of the Trail" statue showing a weary Indian slumped down over his rack-ribbed horse has been copied around the world.  The original eighteen-foot statue, was given to Visalia, California.  It is often regarded as the best known sculpture in America.

In 1895, James Earl Fraser won a scholarship to study in Paris.  It was here that he attracted the attention of August Saint-Gaudens with whom he began to work.  In Chicago, Saint-Gaudens is best known for his statutes of Abraham Lincoln and the John Logan Memorial at Michigan Avenue and 6th street.

On the north pylons of the Michigan Avenue bridge across the Chicago river is the large limestone depiction of The Pioneers and The Discoverers by James Earl Fraser.  Other works by Fraser include the statue of Theodore Roosevelt as a Rough Rider in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His statue of Alexander Hamilton for the Department of the Treasury in Washington is regarded as one of the best works of those practicing in the Saint-Gaudens tradition.  In 1913, James Earl Fraser designed the Indian Head and Buffalo nickel.

At his death in 1953, he was survived by his wife of forty years, Laura Gardin Fraser.  She was a native of Chicago and a sculptor as well.  She is best known for her commemorative medals, which often featured animals.  Some of her work is preserved at the Elks National Memorial and Headquarters building, 2750 North Lake View Av. at Diversey Parkway.  Two life-size bronze figures, Reclining Elks, which flank the entrance steps are the works of Laura Gardin Fraser.  Inside the rotunda are four heroic-sized statues executed by her husband.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rust-Oleum - The Rest of The Story

Robert Ferguson died in 1940 and the business was taken over by his two sons, Robert and Donald.  The product was initially made in 5 colors and sold only in five gallon cans.  By 1959, it was available in 185 different colors and containers from 55 gallon drum to half a pint.  The sons continued to grow and expand the business. Scientific tests were conducted by the Battelle Memorial institute and it was shown that the "low surface tension of the fish oil let it penetrate through the rust right down to the solid metal." Rust-Oleum had recorded sales increase in every year but one since 1932.

Robert, the oldest son, serving as President of the company died suddenly at the age of 46.  He died at home, 1001 Cherokee Rd., Wilmette.  He was found by his wife, Betty Ann, who called a physician neighbor, but it was too late.  Robert was a director of the First National Bank of Evanston, IL., and a member of the board of National College of Education.  In addition to his wife, he was survived by two daughters: Ellen and Laurel Ann. His funeral was held in the Presbyterian Church of Evanston.

Donald W. now takes control of the company.  "He became an Evanston industrialist and civic leader."  He was on the board of directors of Kendall college,  an elder in the Northminister Presbyterian church and a director of the Evanston Rotary club.  He was also well known in horse show circles.  He was president of of the Great American Horse Show and past president of the Mid-American Horse Show Association.  In addition, "he was a past president of the Evanston school board and active in numerous civic groups."  In Richmond, IL., Donald owned and operated the American saddle bred farm, the Royal Scot Stable.

Donald W. Fergusson at the age of 54 had just won a blue ribbon at the Society Horse Show at the state fair in Springfield.  His horse, Tijuana Brass, took first prize in the amateur harness pony stake and during the celebration Donald W. suddenly died. Both men, Robert and Donald, had given a chapel to the the Northminister Presbyterian church in honor of their father.  It was called the St. Andrews chapel.

Rust-Oleum remained a family owned company until 1994.  It is now a subsidiary of  RPM International, Inc.located in Vernon Hills, Illinois.  They have a web site where you can obtain additional information about the company.

Life continues as it always does.  The two daughters of Robert A - Sue Ellen and Laurel Ann both married.  Sue Ellen in 1969 and Laurel Ann in 1973.  Jeanne Wilson, daughter of Donald W. also married in 1971.  With some effort, I have been able to contact Laurel Ann who married an architect and now lives in San Sebastian, California.  She brought me up to date on other family members and I have mailed her copies of letters from her grandfather that were in the files of the St. Andrew's Society.  They keep alive their Scottish heritage by attending Highland Games in their area.

(Tonight, I did a goggle search for the Royal Scot Stable and connected was the name Jeanne Fergusson Wilson and her husband. Jeanne was the daughter of Donald W. Fergusson.  Will try and make contact.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Robert Fergusson and Rust-Oleum Paint

Robert Fergusson was born in Scotland but left his native land in 1890 at the age of 12 to serve as a cabin boy on a sailing ship. He sailed on a number of whaling ships and became intrigued with the ability of fish oil to prevent rust.  In those days, the decks of ships were made of steel and painted with a mixture of fish oil and flake graphite.  It had two problems:  it took a long time to dry and you could "smell the stuff a mile away."  In his travels around the world, he experimented with various kinds of fish, some worked better than others, but all "smelled to vigorously."

From 1901 to 1914, Mr. Fergusson sailed the Pacific coast of the United States and obtained his  master's rating along the way.  But he continued to search for the right fish oil and visited commercial fisheries from Alaska to San Diego.  Finally, he found that the oil from the Pilchard sardine produced the right effect.

World War One came and Fergusson joined the British merchant marines.  When America entered the war, he joined the American merchant marines.  After the war, he was in charge of a maintenance organization which had 100 ships in mothballs in New Orleans.  This gave him time to continue his experiments.  In 1922, he finally found that processed sardine oil would dry over night, could be produced in color, and didn't smell.  In 1930, he retired from the merchant marines and began to sell his product.  When the depression hit, he moved to Chicago because there was talk of a World's Fair. He named his product Rust-Oleum because "oleum" is Latin for oil.

"In Chicago the Captain embarked on a remarkable sales program, gratuitously slapping Rust-Oleum in assorted patterns on rusting water tanks, old locomotives, and steel fence posts.  Evidence of his artistic inclinations was visible for years."

Robert Fergusson died in October, 1940 at the age of 63.  He was in Toronto and suffered a heart attack in the Union station.  He lived at 1704 Wilmette Avenue, Wilmette, Illinois,  and was an active member of the Illinois St. Andrew's Society.  For many years he provided tobacco for the "old men" at the Scottish Home in North Riverside.  He was survived by two sons, Robert and Donald Fergusson.

The obituary for his wife was published 16 December, 1944 - "Mrs. Robert Fergusson (Ellen W.) of 1704 Wilmette avenue, Wilmette, wife of the late Capt. Robert Fergusson, mother of Robert A. and Donald W.Fergusson, sister of Archibald and Robert Wilson, services at the chapel and interment at Memorial Park,".

I will continue this family story tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Man Who Almost Shot George Washington

Major Patrick Ferguson was a British officer in the Revolutionary War.  Born in 1744, educated in the London Military Academy and given a commission in the famed Scottish cavalry regiment, the Scots Greys.  He invented a superior gun that weighted a mere 7.5 pounds as compared to the old rifle that weighted 14 pounds.  It could fire 4 rounds per minute at a target 300 yards away.  It was named the Ferguson rife and used by the British army for the next 100 years.

The Major was sent to America to form a small force of sharp shooters.  One day, while scouting along Brandywine Creek, he heard the approach of two horsemen.  The first was a brilliantly clad Hussar and the second was wearing a blue and buff uniform of an American Senior Office.  He was riding a bay horse and wearing a large cocked hat.  Ferguson stepped into a clearing and order both men to halt.  The Hussar shouted and Washington, riding a horse he called Nelson, turned and galloped off.

Ferguson later wrote:  "As I was with the distance, at which in the quickest firing, I could have lodged a half dozen balls in or about him before he was out of my reach, I had only to was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual who was acquitting himself coolly of his duty, so I let him alone."  (This letter is archived in the Edinburgh University Library.)

In the 18th century, shooting an enemy officer in cold blood was looked upon as an act of dishonor.

This British officer whose code of honor spared the life of George Washington died in action at the battle of Kings Mountain on 7 October, 1780.  Today there is a traditional Scottish stone pile, or cairn mound,  lying over the grave of Major Ferguson.  A stone monument was erected in 1930 and dedicated by President Hoover to the man who might have ended the American Revolution by shooting George Washington.

So, who was the other person dressed as a Polish officer?  

The Count de Pulaski was a refugee from the Polish Army and living in Paris, France, when it was suggested he go to America and served in the American army.  Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter of introduction and the Count was assigned to General Washington as an Aide-de-Camp.

In Illinois, we know this Polish officer as Casimir Pulaski.  He has a street named for him and his birthday is a legal holiday.  The first Monday of every March is declared Casimir Pulaski Day and it is an official state holiday.  In 2010 the date is March 1st.

Chicago has the largest Polish population of any city in the world, except Warsaw.

Mrs. Mary Fergus - Obituary

Mrs. Mary Electa Fergus, a resident of Chicago since civil war days died yesterday in the home of her son, Robert C. Fergus, 10 West Elm Street.

Mrs. Fergus was the widow of George Harris Fergus, who was the son of Robert Fergus, and early Chicago publisher who printed the first Chicago city directory in 1839.  She was 92 years old.  

Mrs. Fergus who had entertained friends and relatives with her ballads for years, appeared as vocal soloist last year at the luncheon which preceded the Chicagoland Music Festival.  She was the mother of Robert C. and Hoarace G. Fergus, Mrs. Jean Clifford, Mrs. Beatrice Bartsch, and Mrs. Phyllis Fergus Hoyt.

This obituary was published in the Chicago Daily Tribune in September 1, 1940.  Funeral arrangements and place of burial were not included.

Descendants who read this on the Internet are encouraged to contact Wayne Rethford (630-629-4516) and the Scottish American History Club.

The End of an old Printing Company - Fergus

The company started in 1840 and died January 30, 1900.  Its property was taken by the Equitable Trust Company over non-payment of $50 interest and a $14,000 loan.  The stock was removed from the building and placed on the sidewalk.  No provisions had been made for other facilities.

In later years, the sons would place the responsibility on the father, who would not change with the times or allow the sons to control the business.  Probably true.  One son died at the Scottish Home in 1939 which means he was destitute.  Here is his obituary.

"Benjamin F. Fergus, 86 years old, will be buried tomorrow with military honors in Graceland cemetery.  He died Monday in the Scottish Old People's home in Riverside.  Mr. Fergus was the son of Robert Fergus, pioneer Chicago printer and publisher.  His playground as a child was spacious section of the State street area opposite Quincy Street.  Todd Lincoln was one of his classmates in the old Deaborn grammar school, which used to be on the McVickers theater site. He and his brothers operated for many years the printing business they inherited from their father.

With Mr. Fergus death only one man, Col. Charles E. Diehl of San Antonio, Texas, survives of the original members of the 131st. infantry - the Dandy First - who signed the regimental roster in the Grand Pacific hotel in 1874.  He was a life member of the veterans' corps.

Mr. Fergus leaves his widow; a sister, Margaret Jessie Fergus Hanson of Sand Diego, California, and a nephew, Robert Collyer Fergus, a Chicago attorney."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robert Fergus - Historic Printer of Chicago

Robert Fergus was the pioneer printer and publisher in Chicago.  He arrived in the city on Monday July 1, 1839 by the old-time side-wheel steamer "Anthony Wayne".  He was born August 4, 1815 in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland.  He finished schooling at age 14 and was apprenticed to several printers.  On May 4, 1839, he set sail from Glasgow in the paddle-wheel steamer "Commodore" to Liverpool.  Four days later he was on his way to New York, arriving June 1.  His destination was Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Things did not go well in Milwaukee, so he made plans to go to Chicago.  He was warned not to go to Chicago because of "what he quaintly called 'sure-death disease.'" In 1835, he had married Margaret Whitehead Scott in Glasgow.  Her father was James Scott a merchant weaver and freeman of the city of Glasgow.  Robert and Margaret had 5 children.

"It is difficult to say whether Mr. Fergus is a printer first and a Scotchman last, or a Scotchman first and printer last, for he appears to be just as devoted as his profession as he is to the literature and recollections of his native country."

George Harris Fergus was the oldest son, born and educated in the public schools of Chicago, and later became a partner with his father.  He died November 24, 1911.  When the call for troops came from President Lincoln, he was appointed First Lieutenant of Company K, 11th New York Infantry under Colonel Ellsworth.  In 1861, this regiment was detailed to guard the President and he was present when Colonel Ellsworth was shot in Alexandria, Va.  After the war, he married Mary Electa Stocking on November 24, 1867.

One of the other sons named Robert was thoroughly Scottish.  "George was thoroughly American. Robert was a great reader of the best literature.  George was a companion to many famous people. Both were true to their respective traditions - Scottish and American.  In their useful career, they exemplified the ancient motto of the Clan Fergus - Ready, Aye Ready." Anyone who studies Chicago history knows well the Fergus name.

Tomorrow the obituary of another son, Benjamin F. Fergus.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scottish Inventors & Inventions

"When we gaze out on a contemporary world shaped by technology, capitalism and modern democracy, and struggle to find our own place in it, we are in effect viewing the world through the same lens as the Scots did," writes Herman in his 2001 book How the Scots Invented the Modern World.

JAMES WATT (1736-1819)  Born in Greenock, Scotland.  Changed the world by transforming the steam engine.  Made possible the Industrial Revolution.  The electrical unit of measurement is named for him.

KIRKPATRICK MacMILLIAN (1812-1878)  Born near Dumfries, Scotland.  Developed the first rear-wheel drive bicycle in 1842.  People in his village thought he was mad for dreaming up the first velocipede.  They called him "Daft Pete" and yet his invention is still used by millions.

CHARLES MacINTOSH (1766-1843)  Born in Glasgow, Scotland.  Developed a method of placing a layer of rubber between two layers of cloth making it waterproof.  It was first used for an expedition to the Arctic in 1824.  We honor his invention today when we wear a raincoat often called a mackintosh.

WILLIAM MURDOCK (1754-1839)  Born in Lugar, Ayrshire, Scotland.  He invented gas lighting and is credited with lighting the world.  His home was the first to be lit by gas.  He also invented a steam tricycle, steam cannon and waterproof paint.

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1847-1922)  He was a teacher of deaf children in Edinburgh and experimented with electronic devices to help communicate with them.  His invention was patented in 1876.  He invented many things, including a biplane which first flew in 1908.

SIR ALEXANDER FLEMING (1881-1955)  Born near Darvel, Ayrshire, Scotland.  Studied medicine in London and developed the use of anti-typhoid vaccines.  His greatest discovery was penicillin in 1928.  It was perhaps the greatest gift to medicine.

Alexander Bain invented the electric clock - JAMES BLYTH - developed a windmill to generate electricity from the wind. - DUGALD CLARK - designed the first two-stroke engine - ROBERT DAVIDSON - Built the first electric locomotive.  PATRICK FERGUSON - Inventor of the Ferguson rifle. - JOHN LOUDON McADAM - invented a method of road building called macadamization.  When tar is added is called tarmac.

Robert Stirling - Invented the Stirling engine
William Symington - Builder of the first "practical steamboat."
Robert Watson-Watt - Patented radar
Barbara Gilmour - Creator of Dunlop cheese made from unskimmed milk.
James Dewar - Inventor of the first vacuum flask or thermos bottle

This only begins the list.  It never ends!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

James McNeill Whistler - A Chicago Connection

Whistler was one of the most controversial American artists of his time.  He was also a witty and caustic writer.  Probably best known for the painting Portrait of My Mother which now hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, July 10, 1834.  His grandfather, John Whistler was a Scottish major under General Burgoyne and arrived in America after the Revolutionary War. Later, he joined the American army and came to this area to built Old Fort Dearborn.  His mother, Anna McNeill, was also descended from early Scottish settlers.  Her family had been Stuart supporters and came to America in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden.

His father, George Washington Whistler, was a graduate of West Point who once led a surveying team that helped establish the boundaries between the United States and Canada.  Whistler spent his boyhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his father was working as a railroad engineer.  When James was 15, his father died and the family returned to America and he enrolled in West Point Military Academy.  He resigned in his third year and in 1855 he left for Europe and never returned.

As an artist, Whistler was not widely appreciated in his early years.  His originality brought strong criticism. His portraits had a ghostly style and some of his painting were abstract by 19th century standards.  Whistler died in Chelsea, England, on July 17, 1903.

He was once questioned about the legality of his will that had been signed J. McNeill Whistler instead of his legal name James Abbott Whistler.  He replied "as my mother's eldest son I have the real right to bear her Highland name of which we are all very proud."

The Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow holds the pre-eminent research collections for Whistler.  They include nearly 1,000 of his works of art and original letters and other documents. The university holds the copyright on his extensive correspondence of some 11,000 letters.

James McNeill Whistler is a member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame in North Riverside, Illinois.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Peter Marshall - Someone You Should Know

The personality of Peter Marshall flashed like a meteor across the conscience of America.  Regretfully, it was extinguished with his early death at 45. As U.S. Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Marshall challenged the best in the nation with his piquant and pointed references to the problem of the day in his prayers.

Peter Marshall was born in 1904 in Coatbridge, Scotland, in the industrial Clydeside.  His father died when he was four.  He studied engineering, and was encouraged to pursue his career in the U.S. where he arrived in 1927.  He worked in New Jersey and Birmingham, Alabama, where he was inspired to study for the ministry.

After graduation, he became pastor of a church in Covington, Georgia, and later in Atlanta.  By 1933, he was attracting large crowds with his sermons.  He moved to Washington where he was well known as the preacher at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Here, hundreds were turned away every Sunday.

He was asked to preach the Christmas sermon to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and family.   Before long he was appointed Chaplain to the Senate.  It was said that Senators started coming early just to hear his prayers which were widely quoted in national publications.  An editorial in the Atlanta Journal said, "His arresting pulpit personality holds his listeners enthralled by the dramatic forcefulness of his delivery."

He suffered severe heart pains in 1947 and died January 25, 1949.  Later, his wife Catherine of her husband, "There were things that Scotland contributed to Peter - as she does to all her sons - a sturdy independence that scorns hardship, a tenacity of purpose, and a deep appreciation of religion and political liberty with the will to defend it at any cost."

From the Scottish American Hall of Fame located at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois

There is a great amount of information on the Internet about Peter Marshall.  Over the years, I have spoken to the son several times and we do have some sermon material in the Scottish American Museum.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cyrus Hall McCormick & His Luggage

Cyrus Hall McCormick had a fierce Scottish temper.  He would fight at the drop of a hat if anyone dared venture into his space, especially if it dealt with his personal possessions.  In 1862, when traveling from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, he found himself at odds with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

His entourage included his wife, two children, a cousin, two servants and nine trunks.  In Philadelphia, the railroad sought to impose a charge of $8.70 for excess baggage.  Mr. McCormick refused to pay and ordered his luggage off the train while he and his party made their way to a local hotel.  The railroad for whatever reason, failed to remove the luggage from the baggage car and it come on to Chicago.  Here it was unloaded and since it was unclaimed, was placed in a storage building.  That night during an electrical storm the building was destroyed along with the luggage.

Mr. McCormick sued the railroad for damages.  He lost, but appealed and lost again.  He appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court where he won a judgment of $18,000 against the railroad.  It took 23 years to resolve the case and when it was finally concluded Cyrus Hall McCormick had been dead a full year.

This ruling however, set the present day legal policy that a carrier of passengers also assumes liability for their luggage - thanks to the untiring effort of  Cyrus Hall McCormick.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

William Craig - Member of the Secret Service

William Craig was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was a former bodyguard for Queen Victoria.  In 1900, he joined the American Secret Service in Chicago.  A year later he was assigned to the White House as the Secret Service took over the responsibility for protecting the president.  He is described as a "giant of a man" speaking with a Scottish accent.

The President, Theodore Roosevelt,  was riding in his carriage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, September 3, 1902,  when an accident occurred.  A speeding trolley car crashed into the carriage and the impact instantly killed William Craig.  President Roosevelt, was thrown 30 feet and suffered cuts and bruises but was not seriously injured.  The President in speaking later of Craig said:  "He was a sturdy character and tremendously capable in performing his duties.  My children thought a great deal of him, as we all did."

The trolley was turning left onto the street and the president's carriage was turning right.  The trolley hit the left side of the carriage and the impact threw William Craig into the path of the trolley.  He died immediately.  One of the horses was injured so badly it had to be destroyed.  Police determined that the trolley operator was at fault, so he was arrested and taken to jail.

Craig was well-known in Chicago at the time, especially in athletic circles.  His mother and sister lived at 4334 Calumet Avenue.  He was the "physical director" at the Armour Institute and held a similar position at the Princeton-Yale school.  At both schools he gave frequent demonstrations as a swordsman and as a boxer.  "As a swordsman one of his feats was to place an apple on the head or on the throat of a boy, and with swift-blow split it without touching the boy."  (Try that in one of our schools today!)  Not sure why you want to do this but, "he could cut a sheep through at one stroke of the sword."

For twelve years he was in the British army and was recognized as the leading broad-swordsman.
He volunteered to go to the rescue of General Gordon under Kitchener.  "The party was gone three years, crossing the African desert and suffering much.  They arrived in Khartum only to discover that the General had been murdered.  He was decorated for this action.

William Craig was brought back to Chicago, buried in Oak Woods Cemetery and forgotten.  Forgotten, that is until August, 2002, when the United States Secret Service discovered that he was the first operative to die in the line of duty.   The Secret Service has now dedicated a bronze marker with details of William Craig's life and death.

Craig never married and the fate of his mother and sister is unknown.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Illinois Towns with Scottish Connections

It has been estimated that at least 100 towns in Illinois have either a Scottish connection or name.  Here are a couple:

NAPERVILLE - Naperville was named after Joseph Naper, a pioneer in northern Illinois who was of Scottish descent.  In early histories his name often appears as "Napier" a more common Scottish spelling. Naper and his brothers arrived in Chicago in 1831 and claimed land along the banks of the DuPage Rver, establishing a settlement at what is now Naperville.  He served as a captain in the Black Hawk War.

KENILWORTH -  In 1859 businessman and philanthropist Joseph Sears purchased a tract of land near Lake Michigan with the purpose of building a model community that would combine the best of city and country living.  When the population of the little community reached 300 in 1896 it was incorporated.  The inspiration for the village came from Sir Walter Scott's romantic novel Kenilworth.  The street names, too, were drawn from Scott's fictionalized world.

           Taken from  The Scots of Chicago, Quiet Immigrants and Their New Society by Wayne Rethford and June Skinner Sawyers

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thomas Nicholson, Builder

One of the men involved in the construction of the Scottish Home in 1910 was Thomas Nicholson.  Here is his obituary, dated April 3, 1920.

"Thomas G. Nicholson, a builder in Chicago for the last fifty years died Thursday at his residence, 3104 Southport avenue of pneumonia.  Mr. Nichson for years had been a prominent figure in construction building.  At his death he held the position of trustee's construction representative of the new Field Museum.   He was born in Scotland in 1847.  He is survived by his widow, a son, Thomas G. Nicholson of Chicago, and three daughters.  Final services will be held at 3 o'clock today at the chapel in Oakwoods cemetery."

The Illinois Saint Andrew Society passed the following resolution:

"Another friend of Scotch birth, Thomas Nicholson, departed this life on April 1st.  Mr. Nicholson was born on the estate of Sir Robert Sinclair at Thurso, Scotland on December 14, 1847.

After having finished his apprenticeship as a stone cutter he left the country of his birth and came to Portland, Maine, in 1868, where he worked as a journeyman.  In 1869 he came to Chicago where in 1873 he started into business for himself as a contractor.  He built many of the principal buildings in both Chicago and New Orleans.  Building foundations was his specialty and he was the first to complete caisson foundations in Chicago.

Later he gave up construction work and became Supervisor of Construction for the Estate of Marshall Field.  In 1914 he became Superintendent of Construction for the Trustee of the Field Museum of Natural History.
Mr. Nicholson possessed many of the good characteristics of his race and performed all duties with credit.

For years he was a faithful member of the Illinois saint Andrew society in which he was greatly interested.  Therefore as a token of affection and esteem this notice of remembrances has been prepared by his loving friends and requested to be recorded in the Society's minutes.

Signed by John Williamson, George A. Kennedy and John Thomson

July Eighth,
Nineteen Hundred Twenty.

Mrs. Thomas Nicholson died December 3, 1922 in Long Beach, CA. and was buried in Long Beach.  She was 76 years of age.
She was the mother of:  Thomas G. and Miss Blenda Nicholson, Mrs. Foster J. Curtis, Mrs. James D. Shaw.

Descendants are invited to contact the Scottish American History Club.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

St. Andrew's Day Annual Dinner Prayer

Some of my Facebook friends know that during my prayer at the Annual Dinner last November, it was interrupted with laughter but ended with applause. Here is the prayer:

"Dear God, we pause this evening to be thankful for:  Our Nation, Our military who fight for our freedom;  Our St. Andrew's Society; the Scottish Home and the liberal donors who support our mission and goals.  We are thankful for the contributions of Scottish men and women to the history of our nation and the modern world.  As one man has written the Scots have invented the modern world and everything that is in it.

(This where the laughter occurred.  I was only quoting a best-selling book by Arthur Herman, How The Scots Invented the Modern World.  After calming the 450 people present my prayer continued)

Your remember God that in 1845, young Scottish immigrants met, along the banks of the Chicago River to celebrate St. Andrew's Day and invoke your blessings on their future.  The invocation was offered by the Reverend Giles.  He prayed about their coming motto 'Relieve the Distressed'  He prayed about their soon to be adopted mission statement ' that no deserving Scottish person, seeking aid, would ever go hungry, homeless, without medical care or be buried in a Potters' field.'

It was an impossible mission and that is why they sought your blessings. Our focus has changed over the years, but we still seek Your blessings on our work. On hundred and sixty-three individuas have stood before this celebration to give the invocation.  I am now 164 asking that You give us wisdom to know how to follow the vision of our Founding Fathers.

We celebrate who we are tonight and we recognize the impact of our Scottish heritage upon our own lives and upon our history.  Especially bless the President of our Society, Gus Noble, the Board of Directors, the Finance Committee, the Scottish Home and the thousand of people who help keep our Scottish heritage alive.

Oh!  Yes, and one more thing, God, if you can - please bless the haggis." 



Friday, January 8, 2010

Captain John Sutherland

John Sutherland was a veteran salt water sailor who left Chicago in 1897 for Seattle, Washington.  From there he sailed to Alaska in the spring of 1900.  Captain Sutherland was the last man to reach Nome, Alaska, over the ice in 1900.  He left Dawson in March behind 8,000 people who made the trip by dog team.  All were in search of gold.  When he reached Norton Sound, he found the "ice was out" so he walked 360 miles around the Sound through swamps and through mosquitoes" making the very difficult trip in 62 days.

He didn't actually walk, he rode a bicycle.  "I rode my bicycle night and day...well, sometimes it rode me."  he corrected himself  "and many mornings I started out when it was 68 degrees below zero."  Missing for more than 30 days, his family in Chicago and Scotland began to mourn, fearing he was dead.  During the trip he lost 20 pounds, but still weighed 230.

"I came across some Indians on the way.  They were frightened by the bicycle and their medicine man told them that if they did not kill me all the fish in the sea would die.  They started to shoot at me and just missed.  Some soldiers from a nearby fort came to my rescue.  The next day the Indians came to the fort  to make peace with offerings of food and fruit.  They punched me to see if I was real flesh and blood and went away satisfied."

"One of the Indians asked me how much my bicycle was worth.  I told him $200.  He grunted and went away.He came back the next day with the money in gold pieces of $20 and $10.  He insisted that he have the bicycle, but I got away from him."

John Sutherland died in 1940 and is buried in Washington Memorial Park, Seattle.  He was survived by a daughter, Mrs. William Whiteside, Riverton Heights, Washington, and a son, John S. Sutherland of Redding, California.  Captain Sutherland was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska.  Any additional information from the West Coast would be appreciated.

This story about John Sutherland came from Margaret Baikie Johnson.  Her father was William Baikie who was Chief of the Caledonian Society of Chicago established in 1865.  Margaret Johnson, famous in her own right, was Queen of Scottish Day at the World's Fair in 1934.  She also played the pipes, was a medal-winning Highland dancer and lawn bowler.

Margaret Johnson lived and died at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.

Just Thinking

Carl Sandburg said, "When a nation goes down or a society perishes, one condition may always be found, they forgot where they came from."  I now am wondering if that is happening to our nation.  Please, this not a political statement!  But, we come from Scottish descendants who were hard working, religious, independent and loyal.  They were willing to defend their ideals with their lives.  I have read twice the book by James Webb, Born Fighting.  I am going to read it again.  Its about the Civil War, and the common  men, especially those Scots of the South, who fought and died. They were on the wrong side and they lost.  The South did not win the war and should not have.

I graduated from Oklahoma City University with a degree in American History and an emphasis on the Civil War. I came to believe that the common soldier in the South fought for their idea of freedom.  I understand that slavery was the driving force at the top, but most of those troops at the bottom had never owned slaves.  Many had never seen them, especially in the mountains of Tennessee.  So, why did they fight so hard?  Webb believes they followed their generals as they had been taught in the Clan system of Scotland.   Not sure but, maybe.   I do sometimes wonder if we have forgotten where our nation began - in a desire for individual liberty, opportunity and freedom.  I attended a conference recently on Medicare rules for nursing homes.  We were told that Medicare presently has 300,000 laws, rules and regulations. In September, 2010, the whole system is being changed and replaced by a new one.  It is so complicated that no one will ever be able to understand.  Isn't that a loss of freedom for everyone, including the people it is designed to serve? We should not lose out personal freedom to laws, rules and regulations. Our Scottish forefathers, especially Andrew Jackson,  would not be happy.  Scots fought the Whiskey Rebellion over issues like these.  I blame both Democrats and Republicans.  What do you think?


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chicago Golf Club

Charles Blair Macdonald, whose father (Godfrey Macdonald) was president of our Society in 1875, is know as the Father of Golf in Chicago. Attending school in Scotland, he brought back a set of clubs and laid out some holes on the Lake Forest estate of C.B. Farwell. Later, he laid out a course on the farm of A. Haddon Smith at Belmont, IL., 23 miles west of Chicago. It was one block north of the CB&Q railroad lines. "This is believed to be the second golf course west of the Alleghenies. It was later enlarged to 18 holes and is thought to be the first 18 hole course in North America. MacDonald ordered 6 sets of clubs from Scotland and soon golf began in earnest. The club became so popular that 200 acres were purchased (1894) in Wheaton, IL. for $25,000. Macdonald laid out the course to meet his own needs. A chronic slicer, "he routed the holes so that both nines would play in clockwise fashion and thus help his game. In 1902, the CA&E Railway constructed an electrified, third-rail line passing close to the main entrance. On weekends and special events, they would add a luxuriously car with a well-stocked bar and linen-tablecloth dinner service. The Belmont course is now owned and operated by the Downers Grove Park District. The Chicago Golf Club is also very active. Chicago Scots have always been involved in the game of golf. More later.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wilmer McLean - Civil War Farmer

"When I first joined the Army of Northern Virginia in 1861, I found a connection of my family, Wilmer McLean, was living on a fine farm through which ran Bull Run, with a nice farm-house.  General Beauregard made his headquarters at this house during the first affair between the armies - the so-called Battle of Blackburn's Ford on July 18.  The first hostile shot which I ever saw fired was aimed at this house, and about the third or fourth shot went through its kitchen, where our servants were coooking dinner for the headquarters staff.

I had not seen or heard of McLean for years, when the day after the surrender, I met him at Appomattox Court-house, and asked with some surprise what he was doing there.  He replied, with much indignation 'What are you doing here?  Those armies tore my place on Bull Run all to pieces, and kept running over it backward and forward till no man could live there, so I just sold out and came here, two hundred miles away, hoping I should never see a soldier again.  And now, just look around you!  Not a fence-rail is left on the place, the last guns trampled down all my crops, and Lee surrenders to Grant in my house.

McLean was so indignant that I felt bound to apologize for our coming back, and to throw all the blame for it upon the gentlemen on the other side."
                                                                      General E. P. Alexander

Richard Springer, a well-known military artist, who now lives in Wisconsin, gave me this story in 1994.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Soldiers and Sailors

Oliver Hazard Perry - became a national hero in the War of 1812, when he regained U.S. control of Lake Erie.  It was the first time in in British naval history that an entire squadron was lost.  Perry, whose mother was a Scotch-Irish immigrant, sent the message "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

Thomas MacDonough - defeated the British at Lake Champlain and perhaps saving New England from invasion.

Andrew Jackson - Defeated a British force at New Orleans even though a peace treaty had been singed 2 weeks before.  No one knew.  He was Scotch-Irish and later was elected president.

Francis Scott Key - Descended from Clan Ross and Clan MacKay.  Wrote the national anthem after the U.S. repulsed a British naval force in Baltimore harbor.

Sir Robert Robertson -   WWI Head of the British Army during most of the war.  Believed to be the only British soldier to rise from private to Field Marshall.

Field Marshall Douglas Haig - Born in Edinburg. Commanded the largest British army ever in the field.  Bore the brunt of the fighting in WWI, but ultimately defeated what was the mightiest war machine in history.

Lt. Col. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)  Had a Scottish mother. Enlisted in the R.A.F. in 1922 as John Hume Ross. 

Colin Campbell- Crimean War.  Commanded the "thin Red line" at Balaklava in 1834.  As thousand of Russian mounted troops bore down on them he said:  "Remember men, there is no retreat from here - you must die where you stand."  They did and the Russians were repulsed.  Mr Campbell was born in  Glasgow.

"In Flanders Fields the poppies grow.
Beneath the crosses, row on row..."
                                Written by John McCrea a Canadian solder of Scottish heritage, 1915.

General Winfield Scott - Beginning of Civil War was too old to fight.  Became Lincoln's chief military advisor.  Winfield Rd. and Winfield, IL. are named for him.

George Washington - When someone asked Washington what he would do if he lost.  He is reported to have said:  "I will take the Scots-Irish and go the mountains of Virgina and fight on."  Have never been able to document that statement, but it sounds good.

Gen. Arthur MacArthur:  Civil War.  Became a colonel at the age of twenty.  Wounded 3 times and cited for "gallant and meritorious service" in ten battles.  Received the Congressional Medal of Honor at Missionary Ridge.  He was the father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, WWII.

Gen. J.E.B. "Jeb" Stuart:   Confederate soldier known for daring cavalry raids.  He was descended from Archibald Stuart whose family moved from Scotland to Ulster in the 17th century.

Admiral Franklin Buchanan: Only full admiral and senior officers of the Confederate navy.  First commander of an ironclad ship to engage in combat.  Twice wounded.  Buchanan was of Scottish heritage and after the war took a bankrupt institution (Maryland Agricultural College) with only a handful of students and turned it into the University of Maryland.

David Glasgow Farragut:  Scottish HeritageGreat victory at New Orleans over the confederates.  At Mobile, Farragut decided to cross a minefield, yelling his famous, "Damn the torpedoes!."

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman:  Remembered for taking 6,000 men on a march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia (1864) leaving total destruction.  Some Southerners never forgave him for the utter destruction, once the war was won.

Robert E. Lee:  Had some Scottish ancestors.  He was a gentlemanly soldier.  Fought with dignity and skill against overwhelming odds.

General Ulysses S. Grant:   Was a Scottish-American.  His campaign at Vicksburg was brilliant. Later, took Richmond the Confederate capitol.  Received Lee's surrender at Appomattox.  Elected president in 1869 and founded the National Parks Service.  At the time of his death, he was America's foremost hero.  His funeral in New York City was attended by more than a million people.  His tomb took more that a decade to debate and build.

If I had to fight a war, I would do it with Scots.  They are great warriors.  If I were younger and just starting out on this journey, I would do a PhD thesis on Scots and the American Revolution.   I have often said, "no Scots, no Revolution"  Perhaps in days to come, I will write about their role in our democracy.  I have been to Valley Forge and if you look at the names it was the Scots who stayed with Washington during that awful winter.  It is more than appropriate that as a nation we celebrate April 6 each year, as National Tartan Day.

"There is only on thing wrong with Scotsmen, there are too few of them."

                                      Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons

Monday, January 4, 2010

Family of Alexander Steward, 1817

Dr. Alexander Stewart came to American in 1817.  His four daughters remained in Scotland with Grandparents until he and his wife were settled.  After a long journey across the Atlantic and a short stay at New Harmony, Indiana, they came to White county, about a mile from the "Scotch Settlement" of Liberty, IL.  He sent money and instructions to a friend in Scotland to bring the girls to America.   They landed in New York and the "friend " went into town to find lodging and never returned.  In the evening a man with a tall silk hat and gold headed cane came walking toward them and stopped to talk.  He could understand the girls perfectly and in fact had been a classmate of Dr. Stewart.  Seven years pass and the girls are now 19 to 11.  They had all been raised by Scottish families, given a fine education that included dancing lessons and had the advantages of the wealthy children of that day.  Finally (I don't know the details), word comes to the father of their whereabouts.  He had presumed they had been lost at sea.  Armed only with a shotgun and on foot, he walked from White county to New York.  After a wedding for the oldest daughter, they began the journey back to Illinois.  (The above story was written by Isabella Miller, a granddaughter and sent to me by Ted Reeves from Merced, California, sometime in the 1990's.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fifer James Swan

James Swan was born in Scotland 1754, and came to Boston as a boy.  He was a member of "The Sons of Liberty" and participated in the Boston Tea Party.  He was wounded twice at Bunker Hill.  He married into money and purchased a group of island off the coast of Maine. On Swan Island he built a colonial mansion for himself.  I understand the house still exists.  He also owned a famous ship named "Sally."  It took a load of lumber to France and the empty ship was then loaded with furniture, tapestries and valuable paintings belonging to Marie Antoinette.  She never made it, but some of her belongings can still be seen at the Dock House which was to be her home.  An unconfirmed story says that he paid off the national debt of $2,024,899.93 from his own pocket. On July 9, 1795,  he reported that the national debt no longer existed.  Thirteen years later, he was cast into a debtor's prison for nonpayment of a judgment of $150,000 obtained by a German company.  Swan denied that he owed the money and rather than pay it, spent 22 years in prison.  At the outbreak of the July revolution of 1830, he was liberated but died three days after his release.  Not sure if there is a moral to this story, or not.

Blamce Stuart Scott

Known as "The tomboy of the air" made her first solo flight September 5, 1910. There was very little training.  "They told you this and that, you got in, they kissed you good-bye and trusted to luck you'd get back."  Seated in what she called "an undertaker's chair" in front of "a motor that sounded like a whirling bolt in a dish pan" Blanche Scott, her bloomers filled with three petticoats, took off.  Only months before her solo flight, she had titillated the nation by driving across the country on mostly unpaved roads, the first woman to do so. From New York to San Francisco, 6,000 miles in an Overland automobile. Her father who had a patent medicine business in Rochester, N.Y. had raised her on the theme "are you right? " If you're sure, give 'em hell."  On the way back from San Francisco, she drove through Dayton, Ohio where the Wright brothers were teaching flying.  Later, she joined a group of barnstormers on the circuit which included 3,000-foot death dives.  She was paid as much as $5,000 a week. Blanche was an outdoors enthusiast and was educated at the Misses School for Girls in Rochester, Howard Seminary in Massachusetts and Fort Edward College in New York.  She was also a champion ice skater.  She was in her own words, "a screwball then.  I was a cocky kid of 18 and the whole thing was a lark."  I don't know the rest of the story.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Andrew MacLeish and Family

The next Newsletter will feature Andrew MacLeish and his family.  He fathered a total of 7 children with 3 wives.  He followed Lillias Young to America when she moved to Chicago with her family.  They had two children before she died.  His next marriage was to  Louise Little and one son was born named Bruce.  His last marriage, 1888,  was to Martha Hilliard and they had 4 children.  So far, information about the first 2 wives has been difficult to find.  Martha Hilliard was prominent in her own field of education before she became Mrs. MacLeish.  All of their children have been easy to trace except for Ishbel Marjoribanks who became Mrs. Alexander Sloan Campbell. Ishbel is the correct spelling according to her passport.  The most fascinating is Kenneth who died in WW I.  He was one of the first naval aviators and died 3 weeks before the war ended.  He wrote 200 letters to his intended bride, Priscilla Murdock of Brooklyn, New York.  These are now in a book:  "The Price of Honor, The World War One Letters of Naval Aviator Kenneth MacLeish."  I bought the book on e-bay and read it Christmas day.  Andrew MacLeish died at the age of 90, 14 January, 1928.  He is buried in Graceland cemetery.  Mr. MacLeish was born in Glasgow, Scotland

Friday, January 1, 2010

My First Blog

Today is January 1, 2110, and I begin my first blog.  My daughter Elaine and I have accumulated a lot of information about Scottish people, places and things.  We need a place to publish and perhaps this blog will meet that need.  One purpose is to help people find their lost family members and reconnect to their past.  For instance, we often visit cemeteries and find Scottish names of people long ago dead.  Does anyone ever look for them?  In Forest Home cemetery, along the Des Plaines river is a lady who died 100 years ago. When the river overflows her grave is covered with water.   Her marker says simply  "Born in Scotland." A search of local newspapers did not show an obituary.  I stopped at the cemetery office hoping for more information, but there was none.  The next step was to obtain a death certificate.  The death certificate told me that Mary Scott died May 12, 1899.  She was 55 years old, died of a heart conditions and was a housewife.   She lived at 259 Harrison, Chicago, IL.  No one appears to ever visit her grave, no one leaves flowers.  I stop from time to time and visit.  Like so many others, she was proud to have been born in Scotland.  So, for this first blog, I will give honor to those many nameless Scots who came to America and made it great nation.