Who was this man that kept sending money to Chicago for the benefit of the Scottish Old Peoples Home? We knew he was often referred to as Colonel Walter Scott and that he worked for Butler Brothers and that his office was at 860 Broadway in New York City. There was nothing more than this in our records. Yet, from 1917 to 1935, he was a regular and generous donor. We now know that he visited the Scottish Home several times and once, in the company of Margaret Williamson Trude, he purchased a tree to be planted in his honor. The tree program was started by Architect William Mundie after the 1917 fire that destroyed the Scottish Home. A number of trees were purchased and planted to honor various individuals. The trees were never marked, and we have thus far found no other records. Most of the older trees are now gone.
In 1919, there was a remaining debt of $11,000 on the Scottish Home after the fire of 1917. John McGill wrote “our good friend, Mr. Walter Scott of New York City, has promised in a telegram just received to be one of eleven to cancel the debt of $11,000 on our Scottish Old Peoples Home at Riverside. To meet Mr. Scott’s offer, Mr. John Williamson has agreed to give $1,000 and, I, myself, as the new President of the Society, will give $5,000." The goal was met and the debt against the Home was paid. At another time, he sent a check for $1,000 and said “if you can get nine others to match this amount you can keep the check.” They did and kept the check.
Through the years, I had made several attempts to find information about Walter Scott. I visited 860 Broadway and spent time in the New York City Public Library. In October, 2005, I decided to spend the entire day at the New York City Public Library and do a thorough search. Six hours later, after talking to various individuals and looking at hundreds of entries, I found a young librarian who knew Walter Scott because of some other research he had done. The records I needed were under the name of Colonel Walter Scott and suddenly there was a wealth of information.
Walter Scott was born in Montreal. His parents were Scottish and when he was three years old they moved to Boston. At the age of ten, he managed a small fruit store near Harvard College where he sold apples and plums. One of his customers was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At the age of 15 he was employed by Butler Brothers, wholesale distributors of general merchandise, and at the age of 18 he moved to New York City. In 1932, he retired as senior vice president after fifty-four years of continuous service. On the day of his retirement, his office was filled with flowers, and telegrams came from President Hoover and former President Coolidge.
Colonel Scott became very wealthy and gave his money to worthy causes like the Scottish Old Peoples Home in Riverside. He endowed beds at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and aided in the work of the Trudeau Tuberculosis Research Center. He endowed scholarships at Smith College, Flora MacDonald College, American International College, Centenary Collegiate Institute and Stevens Institute of Technology. He was a trustee of the Clarke School for the Deaf, Northampton, Mass. He created the Walter Scott Industrial School for children located in New York City at 53 West Sixty-eight Street and the Lulu Thorley Lyons Home for Crippled and Delicate Children at Claverack, New York. He was a founder of the New York Broad Street Hospital.
There is so much more about this dedicated Scottish man that we will continue the story.
The annual History Tour is scheduled for July 16, 2011. The cost is $25 which includes a box lunch. We will travel to Coal City and Braidwood to understand the story of Scottish miners who came in 1860. You can pay online at the Society store, or call me at 630-629-4516.