Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colonel Alexander W. Raffen, Chicago's First Plumber and Civil War hero. Dead, April 22, 1901.

I have written about Alexander W. Raffen before (History Club Newsletter at but have just read again the article about his death. (Chicago Daily Tribune, April 23, 1901)

Alexander Raffen was born in Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland and came to Chicago before 1850. In 1850, he is listed in a professional directory and in the same year became a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. In 1870, his company made a donation of $250.00 for the building of a Scottish Old People’s Home. Municipal records list Alexander Raffen as the city’s first plumber. In 1871, his company, located on Dearborn Street, was destroyed by the Great Fire. A picture of Raffen hangs in the union hall of Local 130 on West Washington Street in Chicago.

Raffen had an impressive record during the Civil War. He was “commander of one of the first volunteer infantry companies of the State” and later was an officer of the Nineteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He led the charge against the Confederate forces at Stone River that “saved the left” and won the battle for the Union Army. Colonel Scott, also from Chicago, was killed in the battle and Raffen was promoted to the command. (I should some day print the letter written to Mrs.Scott on the death of her husband. It was signed by Colonel Raffen and other officers.)

During the war, his regiment participated in some of the greatest battles. For a time they were part of Sherman’s march to the sea. In the battle of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, his regiment was the first to mount the heights, “where Daniel F. Bremner planted the first union flag.” We have already written about Mr. Bremner, and in fact have been in contact with some of his family members living in the Chicago area.

Colonel Alexander W. Raffen died at his home, 300 West Chicago Avenue, on April 22, 1901. He was survived by six children: Mrs. Mary Triplett, Mrs. Eleanor Webb, Mrs. Agnes Burgess, Mrs. Belle Brennan, William Raffen and Bessie Raffen. I have visited his grave at Rosehill Cemetery.  According to the monument, his wife, Grace Brown, died October 20, 1883 at the age of 51.

With such a large family there must be family members still living in the Chicago area, please make contact with the History Club.

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club
Illinois St. Andrew Society

1 comment:

  1. My Great Great Grandfather Frank Applebee served with Lt Colonel Raffen in the Nineteenth Illinois. He served with him through the entire time the Nineteenth fought. Nice to find this information on his Commanding Officer.