Wednesday, October 27, 2010

D. F. Bremner - "Damn Fine Bread"

(At the Leadership Conference this past weekend, one of the presenters with a very talented young woman whose married name was Bremner.  That name was certainly familiar to me, so we are trying figure out if her husband is a descendant of Mr. Bremner the baker.  Here is some of the information I have.)

David Francis Bremner was born in Ottawa, Canada, June 30, 1839. He was the son of Robert and Rachel (Brooks) Bremner. They moved to Chicago in 1848. He attended the University of St. Mary’s of the Lake and in 1865 married Katherine, who was the daughter of James Michie of Lyons, Illinois.

In 1861, Mr. Bremner was a Second Lieutenant with the Highland Guards and was called to active duty immediately upon the start of the Civil War. After the 90 days enlistment the entire group enlisted for 3 years and became Company E, 19th Illinois Volunteers. At Missionary Ridge, David Bremner picked up the regimental flag and carried it over the entrenchment. Three bearers had already been shot down in quick succession. His overcoat was riddled with bullets. (I understand that this coat is in the Chicago History Museum although I have not seen it.)

After the war, he married and opened a bakery in Cairo, Illinois where he made crackers. At some point, probably before 1871, he moved to Chicago and opened a bakery. It is believed that his bakery escaped the Great Fire and thus was able to produce bread for the starving people. Each loaf of bread, using his initials, was inscribed “Damn Fine Bread.” The bakery was across the street from Foster school and the little kids would bring their lunch buckets by the bakery after school for the broken cookies. I suppose that would be illegal today.

His company merged with the National Biscuit Co., and he was a department manager and director until about 1906. Mr. Bremner served three years as a member of the Chicago Board of Education. He lived in LaGrange, Illinois at 37 N. Madison Ave., and his office was 226 W. Adams St. in Chicago.

Mr. Bremner was also an active member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and served as an officer in 1872. I have yet to find an obituary. A book was written about the exploits of the 19th Illinois and it is called “The Nineteenth Illinois: A Memoir & Who Will Save the Left.” by Henry Haynie. I do not have a copy.

His wife Katherine Michie was the daughter of James Michie, the third president of our Society.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Standing Stone of James B. Forgan

James B. Forgan was born in St. Andrew, Scotland, April 11, 1852. He died October 28, 1924 in Chicago and is buried in Graceland cemetery. Around the age of 20 he moved to Canada and was employed by the Bank of British North America. In 1892, he came to Chicago and was elected vice president of the First National Bank. By 1900, he was president of the bank. Mr. Forgan was a member of the Fourth Presbyterian church in Chicago, and also president of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

Just prior to his death, Mr. Forgan wrote his autobiography.  He gave the book and the proceeds to the St. Andrew Society.  We have one copy in the Scottish American Museum.  Recently a young friend of mine, lost his grandfather. I sent him this passage from Mr. Forgans’ book.  There are people in Scotland who often read this blog, so I am hoping that someone who knows the area will contact us.  We all leave "standing stones" so I wonder if this one can be found.  Here is what he wrote.

"I paid frequent visits to them (my grandparents)during my summer vacations, and my last visit, just before I left for Canada, is indelibly fixed in my memory. The only direct means of transportation then was a bus, which ran daily from Anstruther to St. Andrews each morning and returned in the last afternoon. The two miles between Anstruther and Pittenweem had to be walked. On returning from my last visit to them, my grandfather, a large, heavily built man, who had retired from business and was showing the effects of his advancing years, accompanied me on my morning walk from Pittenweem to catch the bus at Anstruther. He walked about three-fourth of the distance with me and suddenly stopped at a stone, which stood erect from the bottom to the top of a dike, built along the front of a field. He drew my attention to the standing stone, as he called it, and told me that if ever I passed that way again, I would remember that there is where I parted with my grandfather, that I would never see him again. Then he said: “Good-bye God bless you, Jamie”, and with that, being overcome with his feelings, he suddenly left me. My feelings were no less affected. He had been a kind grandfather to me, and I was very fond of him. I have visited Scotland six times since, and passed over the Anstruther and Pittenweem road, and on each occasion I stopped at the standing stone and recalled this affecting parting scene with my grandfather."

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Marcia is one of the followers of this blog and I would like to communicate with her.  However, I have been unable to use this site to do so.  I would like to join the Bremner blog, but I need permission.  If this is about the Bremner who was a baker in Chicago in 1871, please write me.  I believe some of his descendants presently live in Oak Park and Lake Forest.


Wayne Rethford

Scots Entertain Will Fyffe - May 12, 1929

Will Fyffe, who was a comedian and entertainer, had just closed a two weeks' engagement at the Palace in Chicago.  He was given a farewell dinner at the Brevoort hotel also in Chicago.  The group consisted of officers and members of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.  Among those present were:  Robert Black, William Lister, Luke Grant, Donald Fraser, William Cameron, Joseph Mills, John Faulds, Malcolm M. Davidson and Alexander McKenzie.  They found Mr. Fyffe as entertaining off the stage as he was when performing.   Mr. Fyffe stated that he had two more tours of the U.S.  and then planned to form his own company.  At that time, he hoped "to show his interest  in the Scottish Old People's Home in a more substantial manner.  He said the friendly reception he had been given by Chicago Scots had cheered and helped him immensely and he would not forget it."

(I know this will not be of interest to most of our readers, but placing this on the Internet might help find descendants of some of the people listed.)

May 6, 1929

The following gifts have been received at the Scottish Old People's Home and are gratefully acknowledge:

Four jars of marmalade from Mrs. John Gay and $10.00 from Miss Florence Coe for the purpose of making a pansy bed on the Home grounds.

                                                                          Cora J. Cummings,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Epsy Smith born a slave became the nurse to Robert T. Lincoln

I have been trying to research a story about Mrs. Epsy Smith, or Epsy Arnsby Smith. She was brought from Kentucky to Illinois and given to Ninian Edwards who at the time was Governor of Illinois. Epsy was born a slave on a plantation near Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Later, she would became a housekeeping for the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois. She died in Chicago on May 9, 1892. There is no obituary or death notice and a trip to the Clerk’s office did not produce a death certificate.

I probably need to make a trip to the Lincoln Library in Springfield for more research. If everything goes as planned, I will be in Springfield on November 1 and 2, so perhaps I will have some free time.

Epsy Smith lived an eventful life and hardly anyone noticed when she died. At this point, I do not know her place of burial.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some things never change: Treasurer of Chicago owes $500,000 back to the City in 1869

Just after the Civil War, David Gage, the treasurer of the City of Chicago purchased 1,600 acres of land on what now would be both sides of Harlem Avenue between Cermak Road and 26th Street. Later, he would sell a portion of the land "to the Riverside Improvement Co. for the development in 1869 of Riverside, IL. designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  On the remaining portion, he built a horse racetrack that extended for half a mile, and he enjoyed the life of a country gentleman."  Upon leaving his post as treasurer, the City discovered that they were more than $500,000 in the red.  Mr. Gage surrendered his estate as settlement.  The land "through the years was used as a nursery for the city of Chicago, home to the Cook County Home for Boys, a tuberculosis sanitarium and then sold in 1964 to Concordia College.  The land is now the site of the North Riverside Park Mall.

North Riverside was incorporated in 1923 and consisted of 50 homes and 200 residents.  In the 1920s and '30s the area was used for making illegal whiskey, that is, until raided by the Feds.  In May, 1928, two carloads of gangsters ambushed the Chief of Police and two others as they drove down Des Plaines Avenue, north of the present Village Hall.  It is also reported that Al Capone is believed to have built Melody Mill on Des Plaines Avenue.  Melody Mill was a very famous dance hall with a skating rink in the basement.  The Village complex now occupies the site.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hale and Hearty, but 85 Years Old - January 8, 1905

"Mrs. Jane Griffith, more than 85 years old, awoke yesterday morning feeling sprightly after having been entertained the night before at a large reception in honor of herself and eleven companions whose ages aggregate 900 years.  The reception was given at the Illinois Saint Andrew's Society Old People's home, 43 Bryant avenue, by the members of the society and their friends."

"I am just as young as I was when I came west in 1848", said Mrs. Griffith. "I wouldn't know from my feelings that a year had passed since then, but I only have to look around me to realize that I am pretty old.  When I settled in Dundee, Illinois, the farmers had to haul their wheat to Chicago."

The average age of the inmates of the home is more than 75 years."

(Chicago Daily Tribune, January 8, 1905.  Page 7)  There is also a picture of Mrs. Griffith.

This is all I know about Mrs. Griffith.  I place her story on the Internet in case some family member might be looking for her.  It would be nice to know the rest of her story.  If anyone knows, please contact me.

Donald Trump gets Honorary Degree from Scottish University

By BEN MCCONVILLE (AP) – 9 hours ago

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Donald Trump is to receive an honorary degree in business from a Scottish university on Friday despite protests from local residents who say his massive 750-million-pound ($1.2-billion) golf resort could force them out of their homes.

Critics at Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen argue that the U.S. reality star and property tycoon doesn't deserve the degree, but the university counters that students have much to learn from his business savvy.

Trump himself sounded upbeat about the award, telling reporters: "It's a great university, it's a great honor and a great place."

Local home owners claim Trump wants to force them to make room for his luxury resort, which features a five-star hotel, more than 1,000 homes and two golf courses and is expected to open in the summer of 2012.

David Kennedy, a former head of the university, argued that Trump ignored the local planning committee to build the golf resort near the residential Menie Estate north of Aberdeen.

"That is not the work of an honorable businessman," he said.

"The university should be bestowing honorary degrees to people who are honorable, respected for their contribution to society and most importantly a role model for the students. Donald Trump is none of these," he said.

Tripping Up Trump, the protest group opposing the development, collected an online petition with 6,500 signatures against the honorary degree in four days. Local resident Susan Munro presented the petition to the university on Wednesday.

"If I had one thing to say to Mr. Trump it would be 'go home,'" said the 57-year-old. "As for Robert Gordon University, it is all about the money, they are just after Mr. Trump's money."

Trump flew into Scotland after indicating he might run for president against Barack Obama. Trump walked the back nine holes of the golf course on Wednesday and said the first players would tee off in June or July 2012.

John Harper, Acting Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University, said Trump is recognized as one of the world's top businessmen and students have much to learn from his acumen, drive and focus.

"Given that business and entrepreneurship lie at the heart of much of the university's academic offering, it is only fitting to award Mr. Trump with an honorary degree," he said in a statement.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I have an "Extract Entry of Birth"

I have a file of old letters found in boxes at the Scottish Home located in North Riverside, IL. (USA).  One is called "Extract Entry of Birth, Under 37th Sect. of 17 and 18 Vict. Cap. 80."  The date appears to be August 1, 1884.  The name of the baby is Inglis McHang.  The father is Henry I. McHang and is listed as a tailor.  There is an address that appears to be 69 Raeberry, Glasgow, Scotland.  The name of the mother is impossible to read.  The page is torn in half and has been repaired using something like scotch tape. 

It may be of interest to someone.  If so, please contact me.