Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This coming Saturday (Oct. 1, 2011) the Scottish American History Club will share its time with the Illinois St. Andrew Society and the Scottish Home as they celebrate “100 Years in North Riverside.” The meeting begins at 2:00 p.m. and reservations are necessary (708-447-5092). Attendance is limited to 125. There will be refreshments: “special teas, coffee, scones with clotted cream, shortbread, muffins and an array of finger sandwiches.” I will be repeating a presentation on the history of the Scottish Home given at the North American Leadership Conference last year. If you have never visited the Scottish Home this would be good opportunity.

The Scottish Home was originally located on Chicago’s south side, close to the lake. The two story brownstone was small and located next to the railroad tracks that run along Lake Michigan. It was decided to move further away from the smoke-filled air to the countryside. We do not know who located the five acres for sale in Riverside.

The land was owned by Mary V. Hughes and the asking price was $2,500.00. It was described as "on a ridge 1,000 feet east of the Des Plaines river, is well wooded and has flourishing apple trees as an attraction.” The Board of Governors approved the purchase on June 8, 1909, and Dr. John McGill donated the money. (Older Society records indicate that Dr. McGill owned the land but that does not appear to be accurate.)

Riverside was the first planned community in the United States and had train access to Chicago. It also served as the summer home for a large numbers of families. When the Great Fire occurred in 1871, many of those families moved permanently to Riverside. The Riverside Golf Club was established in 1893 and at least one Scot served on that original board. It is said that a fresh water spring ran near the first tee and here local residents obtained their drinking water. The Des Plaines River was also a popular attraction being used for fishing, camping and boating. I have been told that one of the boat docks was at the end of 28th street and that was one of the prime reasons for extending the street past the Scottish Home.

When the Columbian Exposition occurred in 1893, a local newspaper reports that much of the top soil in the area now known as North Riverside was removed and used for the floral displays at the Fair. During Prohibition the area was used for making illegal whiskey and was often raided by the Feds. In May 1928, just north of the present Village Hall, two carloads of gangsters ambushed the Chief of Police and two others as they drove down Des Plaines Avenue. Melody Mill located where the Village complex now stands was a very famous dance hall with a skating rink in the basement, Rumor has it that it was owned by Al Capone. When bicycle clubs were popular, group trips to Riverside were often on the calendar.

The Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board of Governors for the year 1913 states: “During the year, the village authorities at Riverside admitted that a certain street adjacent to the Home on the south end which had been enclosed by a fence, be removed and placed back on the block line, which took seventy-nine feet of the space on that end of the ground.” The Administrator, Mrs. Cora J.Cummings was very unhappy about this loss of property.

The cornerstone of the new building was laid May 21, 1910. Many Scots were present with John Williamson, Rev. James MacLagan, Rev. Balcom Shaw, James B. Forgan, and Horace D. Nugent, British consul general, participating in the program. Involved in raising money for the Home were members of the United Scottish Societies but they quickly withdrew from ownership and the project was turned over to the St. Andrew Society. Residents moved into their new home in October and the Scottish Home was dedicated on November 5, 1910.

The Scottish Home was destroyed by fire, March 17, 1917, but was quickly rebuilt.

North Riverside was incorporated in 1923 and consisted of 50 homes and 200 residents. The population in 2009 was 6,203.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Notes

August 12, 1948

The obituary of Andrew Taylor Porter, 90, brother-in-law to Frank Lloyd Wright who died at his home, Tan-Y-Deri, near Spring Green, Wisconsin.  He was a native of Scotland and had first founded an importing company in Montreal and later entered in the investment business in Chicago.  He was married in 1900 to Jane Lloyd Wright, of Oak Park, who survives as does one son, Franklin, of White Plaines,  New York.

December 28, 1892

The Royal Scots Regiment held a Christmas reception at 75 Randolph St.  Eight hundred people were present. Music was supplied by eight bagpipers one of whom was Maj. Beaton of Cleveland, who was the champion American piper.  The Regiment planned to be part of the Rob Roy celebration of the 134th anniversary of Robert Burns. They were to take part in the McGregor charge at the celebration.
August 9, 1892

One hundred Scots, each man six feet tall and wearing the Royal Stuart kilt and armed with a claymore will form a new organization.  The first meeting was held in Parlor A of the Grand Pacific Hotel.  Royal Stuart was chosen  because they said “it represents all of Scotland and not any particular clan.”  All members were selected for size and build.
November 18, 1956

The first in a series of afternoon teas were started on November 18, 1956, at the Scottish Home.  The hosts were: “ George Buiks of Maywood, the junior John Allwoods of River Forest, the Stuart B. Potters of Riverside, and Mrs. C. Edward Larson, the superintendent of the home.”  These informal parties were organized by the Ladies Auxiliary for Chicagoland Scots.  The article in the Chicago Daily Tribune also mentions that the “Old People’s Home is a beneficiary of the annual tag day of the Chicago Federation of Aged and Adult Charities.”  Mrs. Potter had succeed Mrs. John Hutchinson of Kenilworth as the chairman for tag day for the home.

October 27, 1900

 “There was a gathering of the Clan Campbell in Oakley Hall last night to celebrate the arrival in Chicago of a genuine Gyrony flag of the Campbells of Argyll, which the Duke of Argyll recently presented to the clan.  The flag was unfurled amid cheers, while the band planed The Campbells are Coming.  It was placed beside a handsome silk American flag, and then the band played The Star Spangled Banner. 

The Gyrony flag is the historic emblem of Argyll.  It floats over Inveraray Castle in Scotland whenever the Duke of Argyll is within the walls.  Its design is that of four black triangles and four yellow triangles, all converging to the center.  The Clan Campbell of Cook County has increased in numbers during the last two years from sixteen to 108.  It is No. 28 of the Order of Scottish Clans.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew Society

September 17, 2011 - The Scottish American History Club will meet in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home.  Our special speaker will be Brett Batterson, Executive Director of the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. You will enjoy his presentation at 10:00 a.m.  and it will serve as the foundation of a proposed history tour sometime in the future.

October 1, 2011 - Please note there will be some major changes in the format of our October meeting.  The time will change to the afternoon.  Reservations are required (708-447-5092) and seating is limited to 125.  Watch for further announcements on the web site.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


On August 27, 2011, a number of us attended the memorial for Don Gillies at the Lake Street Church of Evanston, IL. Don had served as president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and had been a supporter of our programs since becoming a life member in 1975. It was good to see David Fargo, who was president in 1981-82, and is now the oldest surviving member to have served in that position. Other past-presidents attending were: Robert Bruce Graham, Alexander D. Kerr, Jr. , myself and Gus Noble, the current president.

The service was held in the Lake Street Church, which was founded in 1858 as the First Baptist Society in Evanston. (A change in names occurred in the mid 1990's.) The Victorian Gothic building was erected in 1875 for a total cost of $30,647.63. The church is just magnificent and is now the oldest public building in Evanston. There is much information on the Internet about the church and the building.

I knew something about the church from a study of the life of Andrew MacLeish. Mr. MacLeish was born in Glasgow, Scotland and came to Chicago in 1857, where, in time, he became associated with Carson, Pirie & Scott. Under his leadership the State Street Store was purchased and “the rest is Chicago retail history.”

Andrew MacLeish married Martha Hillard in 1888 and they eventually moved to 627 Adams St. in Glencoe, IL. They became members of the First Baptist Church in Evanston. Mr. MacLeish was a very religious man and regularly taught a Sunday School class. Martha Hillard MacLeish was the first president of Rockford College and was a leader in religious and cultural activities that made “her one of the most esteemed women of Chicago and the North Shore.”

Kenneth MacLeish was the youngest son of Andrew and Martha MacLeish. He was a student at Yale when America entered World War I and was also a member of the First Yale Unit, composed of young men who loved flying. Kenneth was killed in a dog fight over Belgium three weeks before the war ended. He is buried in Flanders Field and the parents sought solace and comfort at their church in Evanston.

On April 8, 1923, the church dedicated a “churchhouse” adjoining the present sanctuary. It contains a hall “named after and in memory of Lt. Kenneth MacLeish.”

Jean Gillies, sister of Don, was kind enough to give Gus Noble and me a tour of the annex where we viewed the hall dedicated to this brave young man. A plaque tells his story. Once a picture of Kenneth along with a cross made of wood taken from Flanders Field adorned the wall. Those items mysteriously disappeared a few years ago.

If you would like to know more about Kenneth MacLeish and his love affair with Priscilla Murdock, I recommend you read The Price of Honor by Geoffrey L. Rossano or The Millionaires’ Unit by Marc Wortman.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrews Society

P.S. The History Club will meet September 17 at the Scottish Home. (This is a change in date.) Our speaker will be Brett Batterson, Executive Director of the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. After spending 11 years at the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit, he came to Chicago in 2004. Under his direction, a number of significant changes have occurred to the building and its programming. You will enjoy his presentation and it will serve as the foundation for a proposed tour of the Auditorium sometime in the future.