Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Joseph Badenoch, Blacksmith and Ironworker Extraordinaire

The name Badenoch is no longer found in Chicago, except at Rosehill cemetery. But, once it was a name familiar to every Chicago citizen. Over the years, I have been in contact with Badenochs in Georgia, Indiana, Arizona and California. Geoff Badenoch has kept in touch on a regular basis. He lives in Montana, and we will write more about him later. I was once told that there are more than 225 descendants on the Badenoch family tree.

Joseph Badenoch stood 6 ft. tall and weighted 250 pounds. It is said he had extra long arms, muscles of iron and tendons which hold like steel. He was a blacksmith and looked the part. Always his own man, he opened his Scottish shop wherever there was work: first at Banff, then at Keihill and later to Ashogle. In 1833, he moved to Aberdeen and carried on blacksmithing with vigor and success. He would say it may make the hands black but the money is clean.

Joseph was born near Aberdeen, Scotland, in the hamlet of Dallachy, not far from the mouth of the river Spey. His father, George, was a child when Culloden was fought (April 16, 1746) but had vivid memories of the troops as they moved from Aberdeen to the battlefield. He lived to be 94 years of age and was the teller of great stories.

Joseph Badenoch had little formal training but did know how to read and had access to books of history and, of course, as a Presbyterian, the Bible. He also had access to a radical paper published in London and early became in principle a republican. He was in feeling an American but it would be another twenty years before his dream would come true.

At Aberdeen, Joseph Badenoch marred Miss Ellen Tough. She, too, had ideas of liberty and independence which caused her to wish to depart from Scotland and dwell in the United States. It would be later, after children were born and some had died, that they finally decided to leave. They were both raised in the Presbyterian church but left upon their marriage and joined the Baptists. The change in churches had to do with slavery in America, but is much too complicated for this short story.

In 1855, they landed in New York and Joseph set up his shop as a blacksmith. He found work in various place like Staten Island and later helping to build Central Park. Four thousand people were at work on the Park and sixty were blacksmiths. The pay was $2.00 per day. Every Saturday they were paid in gold and silver from the back of a wagon. He found a house nearby and placed his children in public schools, one of whom was John Joseph Badenoch. This son would later become the President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and a major player in Chicago history.

When the Civil War began, work on public improvements stopped. He thought about moving to Chicago at that time but saw an ad in the New York Herald for 100 well recommended blacksmiths to serve with the army. (It is said that he was a blood relative to James Gordon Bennet, the editor of the Herald, but the connection is unclear at this time.) I never considered the role of a blacksmith in the Civil War but it makes sense when you think of all the horses, wagons, cannons and such that would need repair. In addition there were bridges to be built or repaired as well as railroads to maintain.

His first assignment with ninety-nine other blacksmiths was Hilton Head, Charleston, S.C. The North needed that port in order to blockade the remainder of the coast. The fleet consisted of 80 ships, 20,000 men and 1,500 horses. The attack began the morning of November 7, 1861, and by mid-afternoon the fleet had fired nearly 3,000 shells. The Confederate forces retreated. Joseph Badenoch served the entire four years with many adventures and close calls.

The war ended and Joseph Badenoch returned to New York. There, reunited with his family, he sought in vain for what would suit him in the way of business, and resolved to remove to Chicago.

To be continued...

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