Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alexander Mitchell of Milwaukee

Alexander Mitchell came from Scotland in 1839 at the age of 21. His granddaughter said he was a “poor country boy,” son of a village doctor in Aberdeenshire. Milwaukee at the time was a village of 1500 people and the entire state had a population of only 30,000. A lot of Scots chose Milwaukee over Chicago. Perhaps because Chicago was a swamp and Milwaukee was not?

The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress says he was born in Ellon, Aberdenshire, Scotland. Attended the parish schools and completed a commercial course, studied law, and became a banking-house clerk. He served two terms in the Congress and declined to be a candidate for governor. He died while on a visit to New York City on April 19, 1887.

His granddaughter, Ruth Mitchell, wrote a book published in 1953 entitled “My brother Bill” where she wrote the following: “He quickly found a job and his Scotch good sense, energy and integrity so impressed Daniel Wells that he offered him assistance. The effort was to create an insurance company which was really a bank and it would be first in the territory. He named it The Marine Fire and Insurance Company. They underwrote the project with $200. The bank printed their own money and some bank money was good and some was not. Mitchell’s money was gladly accepted by everyone and everywhere. During the panics of 1857 and 1873, and in the great crash of ‘93, the Mitchell bank was the only one in the middle West which paid 100 cents on every dollar.” She doesn’t mention the banker George Smith who also came from Aberdeen.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, Mitchell came to the U.S. to become secretary of the Wisconsin Marine and Fire Insurance Company, the company being founded by “Chicago capitalist and fellow Scotsman, George Smith.” I’m not sure which story is correct but I tend to believe the Historical Society.

There is a family tradition that the couple lived above the bank which was surrounded by a picket fence. Mrs. Mitchell, who had “flaming red Scottish hair,” would tie her cow to the fence during the milking process. One day an Indian suddenly came out of the forest and stole the cow despite “her vociferous militant protests.” Milwaukee at the time was surrounded for miles and miles by a dense forest. The cow was never found.

So many of you have described your Scottish ancestors to me and the description of Mr. Mitchell reminds me of what has often been said. One man described Mr Mitchell by saying: He was a “stoutish man with a broad round face, a double chin fringed with a gray beard that extended in a semicircle from ear to ear. He walked slowly, his hands folded behind his back. It seemed to me there was something proud and defiant in his manner; and that he did not look as happy as I believed a millionaire should look. Indeed, he seems to have possessed not a spark of humor, life had been too fierce a struggle.”

He is best remembered as a railroad builder and executive. In 1865 he became president of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company. It only had 270 miles of track and was virtually bankrupt when he took over. Within a year it was operating in the black and at the time of his death in 1877 the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul R.R. had over 5000 miles of track in seven states. Of the 100 shares, Mitchell owned 99.  He became one of the wealthiest men in the state of Wisconsin. In his political views he was definitely conservative but would often move between the republicans and democrats. He was a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln but after the Civil War leaned towards the democrats. He was elected to Congress on the democratic ticket in 1870 and was re-elected in 1872. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1874 and declined the Democratic nomination for governor. He was not only wealthy but a man of power.

The Wisconsin Marine and Fire Insurance Company was organized by George Smith and Alexander Mitchell was the secretary. It was operated with “the sound principles of the Scotch system.” At one time the bank had issued a million dollars in certificates bearing only their two names. During the several “panics” that followed, other banks failed, but their bank redeemed every certificate with gold.

In 1841, Mr. Mitchell married Martha Reed. Her father was Seth Reed a pioneer of Milwaukee. Her brother was Harrison Reed, Governor of Florida. They had one son, John Lendum Mitchell who was 44 at the time of his father’s death and was to succeed his father as president of the bank. There was also an adopted daughter, Mrs. Dr. Mackie, of Milwaukee and a sister and brother in Aberdeenshire. His estate was believed to be worth over $20,000,000. In the Panic of 1873, when there was a run on the banks, John L. used $1.3 million of his own money to satisfy depositors. Mitchell money was always as good as gold.

In 1859, Alexander Mitchell became the first President of the Milwaukee St. Andrew’s Society. He was a avid curler and helped establish the Milwaukee Curling Club in the 1840s. Shortly before his death, he was elected the “patron” of the Grand National Curling Club.

Alexander Mitchell died at the Hoffman House in New York City from the flu. He had been losing weight for about two months but ill from the flu only a week. In early December he traveled with his former pastor, Rev. Dr. Kean, to Florida. He and Mrs. Mitchell had built a large home on San Marco (Jacksonville) near the head of the St. John’s River. Later, they traveled in his private railroad car to New York City where he was joined by his son, John L. Mitchell. He died a short time later and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee. (There is a picture on the Internet.)

Their magnificent home in Milwaukee is now the Wisconsin Club. I don’t know if they allow tours of the club but if they do it would make a good History Club trip sometime. I know there is much more to this story and there is more information on the Internet. Our readers who live in Wisconsin are welcome to join in the discussions with more information.

Alexander Mitchell is the grandfather of General William “Billy” Mitchell.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Note: The first History Club meeting in the new year will be on January 11, 2014. Same place - same time - different date. The speaker will be Tina Beaird and her subject - “The Scottish Diaspora - Migration Chains to Illinois.” Tina is the Reference Librarian at the Plainfield Library. We met Tina on our History Tour last summer. She is smart, full of energy and knows her subject. It will be a good start for 2014.

Personal comment: I need to tell the almost 1,000 people who receive the Blog that our family is having some difficult days. My wife who has cancer is now at home with Hospice care. We will keep her home as long as possible but we are unsure of how much time is left. If the Blog is not regular for the next three months or so, we hope you will understand. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Failed Utopia

As the River Clyde leaves the southern uplands, it turns East for a time below Tinto Hill and then makes a u-turn heading toward Lanark under the Hyndford bridge. The river then throws itself into a steep-sided gorge for about a mile and a half. Using the power of the Clyde an “English- man helped a Glaswegian lay the foundation for an industrial bonanza which awaited the development of Lanarkshire’s most beautiful and spectacular location.”

Seeing the huge potential of the rushing water, Robert Arkwright, together with Glasgow banker David Dale, purchased the land along the Clyde. Here, they built the largest cotton mills in Britain and began the “greatest single industrial adventure Scotland had ever witnessed.”

Within two years Arkwright had departed and David Dale was left alone to finish the project. He erected the cotton mills, built dye-works and workshops. In addition, he built a school, shops and accommodations, so that a real community could develop. Wages were low, but the benefits for the community were greater than those normally given. Workers could buy food, clothing and other articles at cost from the company store. Children were encouraged to attend local schools and free medical services were provided. Housing was also available at a modest cost and garden space was near.

Many of the “shattered Highlanders, victims of the Clearances” made their way to New Lanark seeking employment. But, the work was best suited for the young. Dale needed “quick, supple and nimble fingers” to do his work. “Many orphans found desperation converted to hope and future security solely as a consequence of their inclusion in this 18th century Clydesdale revolution.” They worked 13 hours a day at the mill, with a half hour off for breakfast and three quarters of an hour for the noon meal. In 1810 the work time was reduced to 12 hours.  David Dale was treated as a hero and was very popular with his employees.

Unlike many factories across Britain this was not a sweat-shop. Workers were paid fairly for their labor. David Dale was a kind man. “He strove not only to manufacture a quality end product but also to bond his 1200 strong community and create a kindred spirit among them. Undoubtedly, he succeeded in doing just that.”

Gradually Robert Owen changed his ideas about man in society. He sought to secure shorter working hours and better working conditions through legislation in Parliament. These efforts proved largely fruitless and over time he became convinced that society itself was in need of drastic change. He concluded that marriage, the church, and the institution of private property were roadblocks to the establishment of a new society. He believed that man’s character was determined by him through his environment, not by personal endeavors alone.

Robert Owen met many of America’s leaders as he began the process of building his new society. At New York, Philadelphia and Washington he had discussions with important leaders in business, culture and politics. He met with Presidents James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Gen. Andrew Jackson. He spoke twice to the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.

Soon, Robert Owen would buy an entire village and call it New Harmony, Indiana. It cost $125,000, had approximately 180 structures and included 30,000 acres of land. It is important to note that Owen invested his own money in the purchase of New Harmony, Indiana.

The community failed in less than 3 years and Robert Owen returned to Scotland on May 1,1827.

In the mid-20th century, the cotton industry was in steep decline as artificial textiles became popular. In 1967, no buyer could be found for the derelict buildings and so New Lanark died. Conservationists began to work at saving and restoring the buildings. “Now it is once again a thriving community, where heritage and private accommodations happily cohabit and to which thousands travel each year to enjoy and wonder at the reinstatement of one of Scotland’s greatest ever industrial and social miracles.”

They still celebrate their Scottish heritage each year on August 2. There is much more to the story and I hope this article will interests some of you to do more research. It would make a great trip for the History Club but would require an overnight stay.

 (Information for this article were taken liberally from two books: Scottish Enterprises, Millennium Images of Scotland by Donald Ford and New Harmony, Indiana: Robert Owen’s Seedbed for Utopia by Donald F. Carmony and Josephine H. Elliott)

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Next year, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of World War I. It lasted four terrible years and was declared to be “The War To end all Wars.” It was a brutal war. At the Battle of the Somme (1916) in just 20 minutes, 20,000 British troops died. America did not join the war until 1917 but still had more than 100,000 soldiers die in the fighting.

It came to an end on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. Countries around the world still observe the exact moment with marked silence. The President usually attends a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Many years ago when I was in school, we observed Armistice Day with a minute of silence at 11 a.m. I doubt that practice continues but I don’t know for sure. In our country, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day to honor all of those who died in the line of duty. While I want veterans honored, I still like the term “Armistice Day.”

John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and was the grandson of Scottish immigrants. He was first and foremost a soldier and during the Second Boar War, he served in the artillery. By profession he was a physician. When the war started he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force although by profession and age (41) he could have joined the medical corps. He grew up believing in the duty of fighting for his country and empire.

McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium, The Canadian position became the first to be attacked by chlorine gas in 1915. In spite of this, the Germans were unable to break through the Canadian line which held for more than two weeks. McCrae wrote to his mother that the battle was a “nightmare.” “For 17 days and 17 nights none of us have had our clothes off, not even our boots, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for 60 seconds... And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.” Six thousand Canadian soldiers died in the Battle of Ypres, among them Alexis Helmer, a close friend.

John McCrae was so deeply touched by the losses in France that he became a bitter and disillusioned man. For relief, he took long rides on his horse, Bonfire, perhaps accompanied by his dog, Bonneau. On January 18, 1918, he became ill and died of pneumonia and meningitis. The day of his funeral was a beautiful day as he was being buried in Wimereux Cemetery not far from the fields of Flanders.

Every evening in Ypres, France at 8 p.m. the local police stop traffic from passing underneath the gate, and the Last Post is played by buglers from the Ypres fire station. The Last Post has been played every night in this way since the 1920s save only for the duration of the German occupation during World War II.

The Kansas City Star wrote this tribute to Lieut. Col. John McCrae: “Lieut. McCrae has been laid to rest between the crosses that mark the couch of Canada’s immortal dead who have fought on foreign soil. He went out as a physician to heal the scars of war, but he sleeps as a soldier within sound of the guns, having given all that man may give for the honor and the liberty of his country.”

“His name will be remembered for generations to come as one who wrote across the scroll of fate in imperishable lines his own epitaph, a challenge to the patriotism and the manhood of the Canadian nation, which will be recited around the firesides of Canada as long as the memory of those inspiring days remain green. With the gallant dead he, too, listens to the guns, hears the lark bravely singing in the azure sky, and waits for the Dawn, where” -

In Flanders field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
that mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we live
In Flanders field.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders field.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

November 2, 2014 - The Scottish American History Club will hold its final meeting of the year. Our speaker is Jim Sim who will give the history of pipe bands in Chicago. Jim has spent a lifetime playing in Chicago pipe bands and is well qualified to make this presentation.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Two MacArthurs and a Mitchell

Arthur MacArthur (1845-1912)
The life of Arthur MacArthur is overshadowed by the brilliant career of his son Douglas, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during World War II. However, father Arthur’s career is nearly as remarkable if not nearly so flamboyant.

Arthur MacArthur was born June 2, 1845, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father came to Massachusetts with his widowed mother from Scotland in 1825. His father was a distinguished lawyer and federal judge. At age 17, Arthur was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War. He saw action in several campaigns and was mentioned in dispatches for gallantry and meritorious service. At age 20, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. McArthur was cited for bravery at the battle of Missionary Ridge and was given the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

For the next 20 years, he was stationed in the West and Southwest where he took part in several Indian campaigns. When the Spanish-American war broke out, he was appointed general and assigned to the Philippine Islands. He was later commissioned a major general and appointed military governor of the Philippines.

In 1906 he was made an assistant Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army with the rank of Lieutenant General.  During the Russo-Japanese war (1905), he served as a special observer.

He retired from active service in 1909 and died in Milwaukee on September 5, 1912. Author Clayton James said, “few families in American history have produced more capable leaders in three successive generations than the MacArthurs.”
The dominant figure in American aviation from 1919 until his court-martial in 1925 was Billy Mitchell. Revered by many as a martyr-patriot, he sharply criticized the military establishment for its refusal to recognize the importance of air power. The price Mitchell paid was high – a broken marriage, wrecked career, alienation of many of his peers, and a court martial that found him guilty of insubordination. He had accused the armed services of “criminal negligence.”

Mitchell was born December 29, 1879, in Nice, France, where his parents were visiting. At age 21 his grandfather, Alexander Mitchell, was a clerk in an Aberdeen bank when he decided to immigrate to Milwaukee in 1839. By shrewd investments in banks, railroads, and real estate, he became a multimillionaire.

Both Mitchell’s grandfather and his father John represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Congress. Billy was an outdoors type but finished high school at 15. He left college to enlist for service in the Spanish-American war. He liked the military, was commissioned in 1901, and became the youngest staff officer in 1912. Convinced of the potential of the airplane, he learned to fly and commanded an armada of 1,481 Allied planes in France in 1918.

After the war he preached the need for a powerful Air Force, setting up examples of warships attacked and sunk by airplanes. But he met resistance in postwar public disillusionment. He predicted the rise of the German Luftwaffe and warned of the Japanese threat.

He died in New York on February 19, 1936, and is buried in Milwaukee. Ironically, he didn’t live to see his views vindicated by World War II. In 1946 Congress honored him posthumously with a special Medal of Honor.

Probably the most colorful and controversial of all the American military commanders in World War II was General Douglas MacArthur. Reeling from the sledgehammer blows dealt U.S. forces in the Pacific right after the Pearl Harbor attack,  Douglas McArthur rallied his forces in Australia and led the long road back to Tokyo and Japanese surrender.

MacArthur traced his ancestry back to the Strathmore Valley in Scotland. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and reared in the military tradition. His father Arthur was a career officer. At 20, he commanded a division as a colonel in the Union forces in the Civil War. Douglas was graduated first in the class of 1903 at West Point.  During World War I, he commanded the Rainbow Division. He was head of West Point (1919 – 22). In 1930 he became U.S. Army Chief of Staff and served five years.  Mac Arthur retired December 31, 1937, but was recalled to service in the Philippines when tensions rose in the Pacific and the outbreak of war seemed imminent

When the Japanese struck, Gen. MacArthur’s forces were badly outnumbered and he was forced to retreat to Bataan and Corregidor from which he was rescued by submarine and taken to Australia to organize the assault on Japan. Five years later McArthur accepted the Japanese surrender and served as military governor of Japan for five years. During the Korean War, he became embroiled in controversy and President Truman forced him to resign his command in a dramatic confrontation

MacArthur made a memorable speech before Congress explaining and defending his policies. He retired to private life with the highest Army rank, General of the Army. He died April 5, 1964, in Washington.

NOTE:  Arthur MacArthur, Billy Mitchell, and Douglas MacArthur are all members of the Scottish American Hall of Fame maintained by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.  The Hall of Fame is located in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.  The Hall of Fame was the work of James C. Thomson who died December 20, 1994. Mr. Thomson became a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1950 and served in every elected office culminating with his presidency in 1979.  As a nation approached its Bicentennial, Mr. Thomson originated the idea of a Scottish American Hall of Fame, a prominent display of plaques bearing the biographical and likeness of notable Americans of Scottish descent. He was adamant in his belief that Scottish immigrants who came to America by way of Ulster, Ireland were in fact Presbyterian Scots. The Hall of Fame was his way of proclaiming to America, “look who we are and what we have accomplished.”

I had the privilege of visiting Mr. Thomson in Winter Haven, Florida, a few months before he died.  His eyes still glowed with pride as we discussed the gifts of Scotland to the world. He died on December 20, 1994, and his funeral was directed by Dr. Roger M. Kunkel, pastor of the Riverside Presbyterian Church. It was my privilege to eulogize this self-made man from Scotland.  There are 119  plaques in the Hall of Fame.  The research and writing is the work of one man - a great writer and historian.  He is missed by both family and friends.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

Scottish American Leadership Conference, October 25.  Go here for information and registration.

Scottish American History Club Meeting, November 2 - Jim Sim will present a history of Pipe Bands in Chicago at a meeting of the Scottish American History Club.  The meeting will be held in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, IL. beginning at 10 a.m.  The Museum and Hall of Fame will be open at 9 a.m.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Robert Arthur Young

Arthur Young was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1863. His father was a merchant and shipbuilder. He attended the University of Glasgow graduating with a masters degree in 1883 and obtained a law degree in 1887. He was also very athletic and was the captain of the rugby team and played in intercity rugby matches for Glasgow.

“Young had plans to move to Edinburgh to practice law when he began exhibiting the first signs of deafness, a condition that would grow progressively worse. Heeding the advice of his doctor, who suggested that he find a less stressful profession, Young left Scotland. He spent some time in Switzerland and then traveled to the warmer climate of Algiers. There he met an American businessman, George Bennett, who encouraged him to immigrate to the United States. (Chicago Portraits, by June Skinner Sawyers, page.278.)

Arthur Young came to America in 1890, stopping for a while in New York City where he worked for a banking firm that was run by fellow Scots. (I don’t know the name.) Four years later he moved to Chicago and here he started an accounting firm with Charles W. Stuart. They opened a small office in the Monadnock Building. He became one of the first certified public accountants in Illinois. His brother Stanley was also involved, but I could find no information about Stanley Young.

In 1906, Arthur Young & Company was formed with offices in the Borland Building on LaSalle Street. “Since accounting was such a new profession in the United States, Young felt he had no alternative but to recruit accountants in Scotland.” (The Scots of Chicago, page 96)

The firm had a very impressive list of clients: Swift and Company, William Wrigley, Jr., Montgomery Ward and Company, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Rand McNally to name a few. In 1989, the Arthur Young company merged with Ernst and Whitney to form a Ernst & Young and & became the top–ranking firm in Chicago.

Arthur Young was very active in the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He served on the board of governors and many of the old audited reports have “Arthur Young & Company” on the cover.

It has been very difficult to trace the life of Arthur Young given the resources I have available. I did find this on the Internet from Aiken County, South Carolina: “once the center of a cotton plantation that included more than 300 acres, Crossways is thought to have been built around 1815 by John E. Marley. In the 1890s it was the home of South Carolina Gov. John Gary Evans, and its balcony was the location of his inaugural speech in 1894. It was the winter home of Arthur Young, Scottish-born founder of the internationally renowned accounting firm from 1927 until his death in 1948. It is now a commercial property.”

His obituary was published in the Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1948 and was apparently copied from a New York paper: “Arthur Young, founder and senior partner of Arthur Young & Company, accountants and auditors, died yesterday at his winter residence in Aiken, S. C. He was 85. Born in Scotland, Young came to this country in 1890 after receiving master of arts and bachelor of laws degrees from Glasgow University. In 1894, he began the practice of public accounting in Chicago, in partnership with C. W. Stuart under the firm name of Stuart &Young. In 1908 the name was changed to Arthur Young & Co. A pioneer public accountant in Illinois, Young helped secure the passage in 1903 of that state’s first CPA law.”

Apparently Arthur Young never married. Perhaps, some of our readers can help fill in additional details.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

We get a lot of interesting emails. Here is one example:

Dear Mr. Rethford:

My name is Alan Nicholson. I have been doing genealogy research recently on the Scottish side of my family, and made a connection to Thomas Nicholson (1847-1920) who apparently was my 1st cousin, three times removed. I'm in the process of fleshing out my material, including getting obituaries, etc. I came across the website for the Scottish American History Club, which mentions Thomas, and thought I'd say "Hi". Perhaps luckily, I live in the San Francisco bay area, and the UC Berkeley Doe Library has most of the Chicago Trib on microfilm, so I can head over there to get research done.

Best -

Alan Nicholson

Thomas Nicholson owned the construction company that built the Scottish Home in 1910. (Another example of Scots working with Scots.) His picture is in the museum at the Scottish Home. You can see it by going to the History Club website ( and then click on museum. Then click on PastPerfect website and type in Thomas Nicholson.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scottish-American History Club Announcements

October 5, 2013 - History Club Meeting
Our speaker will be Bruce Allardice, Professor of History at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He has six books to his credit and numerous article on the Civil War. Professor Allardice is Past President of the Civil War Roundtable in Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Roundtable. He will speak about the Scots of Chicago who fought in the war with a special emphasis on General John McArthur. His experience as an author and historian has led to numerous speaking engagements across the country.

November 2, 2013 - History Club Meeting
The program is not fully complete, please watch for future announcements.

December, 2013 - No Meeting

January 11, 2014 - History Club Meeting (Please note the change in dates)
Tina Beaird lives in Oswego, Illinois and is the Genealogy and Local History Librarian at the Plainfield Public Library. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree with a specialization in Archives/Preservation from Dominican University. Tina is also Genealogist for the Illinois State Genealogical Society, an Oswego Heritage Association governing board member and an Oswego Historic Preservation Commissioner. At our January 11 meeting, she will speak on the “Scottish Diaspora - Migration Chains to Illinois.”

February 1, 2014 - 2:00 p.m. (Please note the time change)
Our speaker will be James M. Cornelius, PhD who is the Curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Dr. Cornelius is a native of Minneapolis and graduated from Lawrence University and the University of Illinois. He has worked as an editor in New York City at Doubleday, Random House, and Collier’s Encyclopedia. He has written several books and dozens of articles and book reviews about architecture, baseball, and American British history.

Honor Flight: 

On a personal note, I have been invited to take the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on October 2. We check in at Midway airport at 4.15 a.m. As most of you already know this is a volunteer effort to show veterans of WWII their Memorial in the Nation’s Capital. (John LeNoble recently made the trip.) We will be returning home that same day on Southwest Airlines’ Flight 405 to Midway with a projected arrival time of 8:45 p.m. If you wish to join in the return celebrations, it will be held in Baggage Area 4. Everyone is welcome.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

Monday, September 23, 2013

A River Runs Through It

After enjoying a long and successful career as an English professor at the University of Chicago, Norman Maclean published his first book of short stories at the age of seventy-three. It proved to be a smashing debut. A River Run Through It and Other Stories sold than 160,000 copies, largely through word of mouth, even before the 1992 film version by Robert Redford had been considered. Born in Clarinda, Iowa, in 1902, Maclean grew up in Missoula, Montana.  He was the William Rainey Harper Professor of English at the University of Chicago until his retirement in 1973.

Maclean’s father was a Presbyterian minister and a considerable influence on Norman’s life. He recalls his father’s origin;

“My father was all Scotch and came from Nova Scotia from a large family that was on poor land. His great belief was in all men being equal under God...My father loved America so much that, although he had a rather heavy Scottish burr when he came to this country, by the time I was born, it was all gone. He regarded it as his American duty to get rid of it. He despised Scotch Presbyterian ministers who went heavy on their Scotch burr. He put a terrific commitment on me to be an American. I, the eldest son, was expected to complete the job.”

“He told me I had to learn the American language.  He spoke beautifully, but he didn’t have the American idioms. He kept me home until I was ten and a half to teach me. He taught me how to write American.”

Maclean, a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, later recalled his father’s practice of preaching two “fairly good sermons” on Sundays and baptizing, marrying, and burying “the local Americans of Scotch dissent on week days.”

(The above is taken from The Scots of Chicago written by Wayne Rethford and June Skinner Sawyers. Page 125)


Norman Maclean died on August 2, 1990.  He died at home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago after a long illness. He had taught at the University of Chicago for 45 years. On September 24, 1931, he had married Jessie Burns described as a “red-headed Scots-Irish woman from Wolf Creek, Montana.”

The obituary for Mrs. Jessie B. Maclean was published in the Chicago Tribune on December 10, 1968. She was 63 years old, lived at 1216 Madison Park and died in Billings Hospital. Mrs. Maclean had been the secretary of the University’s department of biochemistry and executive secretary of the school’s Medical Alumni Association. In 1967, she received the Association’s Golden key for distinguished service.

Norman was a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1924. He earned a doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1940 and was named the William Rainey Harper Professor of English Literature in 1962. He was awarded honorary degrees by Montana State University and the University of Montana.

He was survived by a son John; a daughter, Jean Maclean Snyder, and 4 grandchildren. I could not find where Norman Maclean and his wife were buried. Perhaps someone can help.

If you saw the movie, you know that his younger brother, Paul Davidson, was murdered. This occurred in Chicago on May 2, 1938, in the alley between Eberhart and Rhodes Avenue, just south of 62nd street. The murder was never solved. The police said, “he had battled fiercely with his assailants before being subdued.” Paul graduated from Dartmouth in 1928 and was a champion handball player. He was buried in the Missoula Cemetery, Missoula County, Montana, Block 58, Lot 4, grave 6.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

Upcoming Event:

October 5, 2013 - History Club Meeting

Our speaker will be Bruce Allardice, Professor of History at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He has six books to his credit and numerous article on the Civil War. Professor Allardice is Past President of the Civil War Roundtable in Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Roundtable. He will speak about the Scots of Chicago who fought in the war with a special emphasis on General John McArthur. Reservations (708-447-5092) are helpful but not necessary.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who is Like Us?

This information is taken from the newspaper Scotland on Sunday dated 1 April 2001. I contacted the paper for permission and they answered with one email but when I asked for more information they never answered. I thus assume they do not object to my using a summary of their material.

“Go anywhere and you will probably find a Scot, or a son of a Scot, or a daughter. The way Scottish people work, think, eat, socialize and play has helped shape the world. Nowhere is that more evident than in North America. From business leaders and scientists, to film stars and artist, we profile the Scots that matter – starting with the son of a Lewis lass who changed the Manhattan skyline, Donald Trump.”

DONALD TRUMP: His Mother, Mary MacLeod Trump, was brought up near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. She came to visit America for the first time at the age of 18. When she was older she was mugged in a shopping mall and its so traumatized her that she reverted to speaking Gaelic, her mother tongue. (There is much more about Donald Trump in the article.)

JOAN BAEZ: born in 1941 to a Mexican father and a Scottish mother. Her mother’s name was Joan Bridge. She sang at Woodstock before 500,000 people. Was a committed anti-Vietnam protester.

JACQUELINE BISSET: Her father was Scottish and her mother was a French lawyer. They lived for a time in Aberdeen. Her father died while she was young and chose to be buried in Scotland. In 2001 she was a member of the Fraser clan.

MICKEY ROONEY: Born in 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a traveling entertainer from Glasgow and his mother was a chorus girl. “My father was born in Scotland and mother is American, so I’m sort of a short Winston Churchill. I am proud to be a Scot.”

: President Emeritus of the American Scottish foundation in New York City. His parents were Scottish, but he grew up in Hertfordshire, and spent much of his time visiting family in Scotland. He says “there’s a huge cultural difference between the US and Scotland. I’m trying to bridge between the two countries.” This article says he wears the McKay tartan and that he “adores” haggis. “I always go to the George Hotel in Edinburgh to eat it.” Many of us know Alan Bain and there is much more to his life. I consider Alan Bain to be a personal friend and look forward to seeing him at the Scottish North American Leadership Conference, October 25–27 in Chicago. Further information and registration can be obtained at

BOBBY THOMSON: Born in Glasgow on October 3, 1951, he hit baseball’s most famous home run – “the shot that was heard round the world.” The New York Giants had won the National League pennant! The Illinois Saint Andrew Society honored Bobby Thompson at their Annual Dinner, December 1, 1951. He was given an engraved watch.

NEIL ALDEN ARMSTRONG: “Armstrong’s link to the old world probably dates back quite a few generations. All Armstrongs come from the borders. From there, many settled in northern Ireland before setting off for the New World.” Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon’s surface in 1969 and planted a US flag. In 1972, Armstrong was paraded through his clan’s ancestral hometown of Langholm, Scotland and was given the “Freedom of the Town.”

DUNCAN A. BRUCE: He Attended Wharton business school and then began a career on Wall Street. He is a past board member of The St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York and is also the author of The Mark of the Scots and The Scottish 100. Three of his grandparents were born in Scotland. “I do wear the kilt and try to love haggis, but I think this stuff has been overdone.”  Duncan Bruce is a friend of mine and lives in New York City. Many of us have read his books.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Taylor began her acting career in 1942 as a child and it was the success of National Velvet with Mickey Rooney in 1944 that made her a star. She was born in London. Her father was an art dealer of Scots descent and her mother, Rosemond, was of Americans Scots descent. “She is well known for her enthusiasm for attending the many organized festivals of American Scots and she travels back to visit Scotland numerous times…” Elizabeth Taylor died March 23, 2011.

MARILYN JORDAN TAYLOR: She is an architect, urban designer and business leader in New York City. At the time this article was written she worked for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Her grandfather was Scottish. “My Scottish grandfather, Clyde McFarlin ran his extended family like a clan, and we felt privileged to be a part of it!” She has visited Scotland, and “says her favorite memory is seeing the Edinburgh Tattoo at the castle. “In 1996 she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor given to ethnic individuals who have made a contribution to American culture.”

(All of the above information came from the Scotland on Sunday edition of April 1, 2001. You can find them on the Internet.)

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

Upcoming Events:

October 5, 2013 - The History Club Meeting

Our speaker will be Bruce Allardice, Professor of History at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He has six books to his credit and numerous article on the Civil War. Professor Allardice is Past President of the Civil War Roundtable in Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Roundtable. He will speak about the Scots of Chicago who fought in the war with a special emphasis on General John McArthur.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Patron Saint of Poets Dies in Peru

Harriet Monroe was born in Chicago in 1860. She was the daughter of a prominent lawyer of Scottish heritage named Harry Stanton Monroe who was a close friend and ally of Sen. Stephen A. Douglas. Her mother’s maiden name was Martha Mitchell. They came to Chicago in the early 1850s. Mr. Monroe died in 1903.

In her autobiography Miss Monroe recalls her earlier years. “I was born one Sunday morning two days before Christmas in 1860, in the little rapidly growing city of Chicago, even then conscious of its destiny.” She then goes on to describe her long–held romantic admiration of her Scottish ancestors:

 “Part of me was raging the Scottish hills with a daredevil Highland clan which would later rebel against usurping Hanoverian kings, and, in desperate fealty to the Stuarts, would send three Monro brothers to new colonies across the sea.”

“But half of me was being fashioned by my mother’s tribe, and family tradition tells little about them. Mitchell is a lowland Scotch name, so some adventurous Mitchell must have braved the Atlantic, and I hope there were vagabonds and artists in his progeny.”

After graduating from the Visitation Academy in Georgetown in 1879, she returned to Chicago. Here she began writing for Chicago newspapers about “music, art and the drama.” She was invited to write a poem for the Columbian Exposition dedication. It was called the “Colombian Ode” and was delivered before 100,000 persons on October 21, 1892, a year before the actual opening.  Prof. George W. Chadic of Boston was invited to set the lyric passages to music. It was sung by a chorus of 5,000 voices and accompanied by a great orchestra and military bands. (You can find the entire poem on the Internet.)

In 1911 she was the art editor of the Chicago Tribune and she interested a group of patrons in publishing a magazine of verse. The magazine “Poetry” began in September 1912. The magazine is still being published and has a circulation of 30,000, or more. In 2003, the magazine’s foundation received a gift of $200 million from the estate of Ruth Lilly.

In the beginning Poetry magazine did not pay very much - $20 for Lindsay’s "General William Booth Enters Heaven" or $6 for Joyce Kilmer’s "Trees." But even these small amounts were important. Edna St. Vincent Millay requested payment in advance saying “Spring is here - and I could be very happy, except that I am broke....P. S. I am awfully broke.” One of her early backers was Chatfield-Taylor.

In 1931, Harriet Monroe gave her collection of materials to the University of Chicago. It included manuscripts, a large volume of correspondence with poets in America and Europe, and almost 1,500 volumes of recent Poetry, her magazine of verse. Her estate was valued at $30,000.00 when she died in 1936.

Her last journey was to Buenos Aires as a guest of the Pen Club, an organization dedicated to poetry around the world. She returned along the western route and apparently wanted to climb Machu Picchu. The high altitude in the Andes caused her to have either a heart attack or a cerebral hemorrhage. She was buried in a crypt in Arequipa, Peru which bears the inscription, “Harriet Monroe - Poet - Friend of Poets.” She was 76 years old.

There is an article in the Chicago Tribune, dated February 24, 1959 by Eleanor Page and she is reporting that Mrs. E. Stanton Fetcher is stitching a lace veil, seven feet long, for her daughter Miss Harriet Monroe Fetcher. She is to marry Nelson Beck Johnson in the fall of 1960. They were both seniors at the University of Wyoming. Her great-uncle is the late William T. Calhoun who was a United States ambassador to China. There may be relatives living in the Chicago area because I was unable to trace the brother, William S. Monroe. Nor could I find obituaries of the parents so I don’t know where they are buried. Perhaps someone will call me.

In Chicago, Harriett Monroe lived at 1911 East Pearson St. She was survived by a brother, William S Monroe and a sister, Mrs. Lucy Calhoun of Peiping, China, widow of William T Calhoun, one time United States minister to China. Her sister, Dora, married John W. Root, the architect. In 1881, Harriet Monroe wrote a memoir of his career.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Home office - 630-629-4516

The next meeting of the History Club will be September 7 in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, 2800 Des Plaines ave., North Riverside, Illinois. The speaker will be Rick Rann who has been collecting items about the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair for over 25 years. He now has over 5,000 items. Rick is an amateur historian and a World’s Fair aficionado. His daughter recently graduated from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. It should be an interesting day. Program begins at 10 a.m. - reservations are not necessary, but helpful. Call 708-447-5092 to reserve your place.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Energy of Man will Subdue the Wilderness

Part III

The day the Beveridge family reached Somonauk it had rained all day and the mud was deep and black. The roof leaked and their log house was wet and damp. I don’t wonder that Mrs. Beveridge cried. Here she was on the edge of civilization with no neighbors and no church. Everything that had been familiar to her in Salem, New York, was gone. Her son would later write: “The associations of my whole life, my playmates and my schoolmates, it seemed as if I never could become reconciled to the change.”

Their house was actually two log cabins put together and connected by a breezeway and built of rough logs chinked and daubed with clay. (Not unlike the log cabin my grandparents lived in along Panther creek, east of Springfield, Missouri. I remember a large fireplace at one end and a loft where the boys slept. My grandfather was Henry Boyd Jack.) In the Beveridge cabin, the west room was the granary. “In the next room was a fireplace with a mud and stick chimney and two small windows. This was the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of my parents,” their son, John L., remembered.

One of the first things they did was to reopen their house as an inn. The stagecoach ran every day each way between Chicago and Dixon, a distance of 110 miles. In the winter two days were required for the trip. Travelers had no choice except to stop overnight in the log house. They were served good meals and had clean beds, all for seventy-five cents and this included feeding the horses.

Their oldest daughter who had married William French settled on a tract of land adjoining the Beverages on the South and built a house half a mile down the creek. These first settlers sought tracts of land on the highest points they could find. The low land was thought to be of no value because water stood in many places year-round. It was the perfect breeding place for disease.

“Mr. And Mrs. George Beveridge and their children were the first of many pioneers coming to Somonauk from Washington County. Other families, more or less related to them, joined them within a year or two. There seems to have been a certain feeling of consternation and desolation among those left in the older community as they saw house after house occupied by strange residents.”

Unlike today, the church was the most important place in the lives of these Scottish pioneers. They would not wait long for religious services to begin in the Beveridge log cabin. In August  1842, the Rev. James Templeton visited and preached one Sunday. This is the first recorded religious service of the Presbyterians in DuPage County. “The following autumn, a Rev. Mr. Smith preached one Sabbath.” And from time to time other ministers came, among them the Rev. Rensselaer W. French who also preached at the Wheatland church. When there was no minister available the families would convene at the Beveridge cabin on the Lord’s day and conduct a Sabbath school and what was termed a “cottage prayer meeting.”

“Sunday morning families had to get up with the sun to get to church on time. The yoke of oxen was hitched to a lumber wagon, family loaded in and the driver ‘gee-hawed’ them to church at the rate of two miles an hour.” On March 18, 1846, 20 men and women met to form the Somonauk United Presbyterian Church. These 20 people probably represented the entire adult population of the community. Their names are given in the Somonauk Book.

“There was some dark days. At times tears flowed freely; but some of the time the sun was shining. Clouds came and passed beyond, not forgotten, but acccepted; therefore they had the true sunshine of life – resignation to the will of God. Meanwhile they continued with cheerful self-denial to build their two homes: a family home and the church home. “Courage and faith, coupled with perseverance, were the ball and hammer that pounded out success.”

Several yoke of oxen were needed to draw a 16 inch plow. Five yoke hitched to a plow was needed to turn a 22 inch furrow. One man drove the oxen and another man guided the plow. Once turned, the sod was left to decompose under the rays of the sun, so that next year it might bear a new type of growth - wheat.

Many of the early settlers soon died from privation, overwork and fever so it became necessary to select a burial place for the Somonauk community. They chose a tract of land covered with oak trees not far from the little creek and the Beveridge house. In 1847, the Cemetery was surveyed and platted and we know it today as the Oak Mound Cemetery. A few years ago we visited the church and the cemetery on one of our summer history tours.

In his will, George Beveridge left money to his grandchildren. If the grandchild was named “George” he received ten dollars. Those not named “George” were given five dollars. Henry J. Patten, born after the will was drawn and thus omitted from the list remembers that his mother gave him a pig as a consolation.

The closest town was Chicago and the trip was long and difficult given the roads (trails) and the streams that had to be crossed. A wagon pulled by two yoke of oxen might be able to haul 30 to 40 bushels of wheat. They traveled in groups so that help was always available. John L. Beveridge remembers seeing 60 teams camped at night along the creek. “They would travel 100 miles or more to market, be absent six days and the only money spent would be one nights lodging, supper and breakfast, stable and hay for teams – and all that for one dollar at the best hotel (in Chicago) the famous Tremont House. Wheat sold from thirty-five to fifty cents a bushel and dressed pork for one dollar and fifty cents to five dollars per hundred weight. After buying groceries and other necessities they had very little change left.

The railroads arrived in the 1850s and life for these Scottish pioneers on the prairie would never be the same. In 1849 the railroad was completed from Chicago to Turner Junction (West Chicago) and then to Aurora and finally in 1853 it was completed as far as Mendota. Somonauk station, located some 5 miles south of the Scottish settlement was soon designated by the railroad.

The railroads greatly stimulated the settlement of land. After 1853, the prairies was alive with people seeking land and these late arrivals secured the most valuable farms in the region. “Many of these later settlers came from Washington County, New York, and were relatives and friends of the earlier pioneers.”

“The move to the West, however, was the best business stroke these men and women could have made with their small capital. This is emphatically true of all who stuck to the land. After a decade or two of poverty and its hardships they were repaid for their trials in the near market, a growing wealth, comfortable homes, self-made independence, and ease in declining years.”

Note: The information, thoughts and quotations for the above article were all taken from The Somonauk Book which was privately printed for James A. Patten and Henry F. Patten in 1928.

Next time, some final thoughts about the Scots of Somonauk.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St Andrew’s Society
Home office - 630-629-4516

Monday, July 29, 2013

One Thousand Miles in a Covered Wagon

Part II

Not long after the Scots arrived in Washington County, New York, the “clouds of war” began to gather over the young nation. The young men, as they do in every generation, marched off to war; but here and there was to be found a Loyalist, mostly among the later arrivals. Their property was confiscated and many of them fled to Canada. The War of Independence actually lasted a long time, the first battle being fought at Concord in April 1775. Fighting continued through 1782 and finally ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

When peace arrived and independence came, the community in Salem, New York, had found “a certain prosperity and comfort” on their little farms. Houses had been built, lands cleared, and roads constructed. Children had gone to college, like John Savage in our last Blog or Mary Dunlop who went to Princeton. The church was the center of life and schools were functioning, teaching grammar, philosophy, spelling, Latin and Virgil. Life was good. However, some worried about the future.

George Beveridge and his wife, Ann Hoy, had seven children.  They were comfortably living in their clapboard house. They were active in the life of the community and were members of the South Argyle United Presbyterian Church. They raised their children to be “God-fearing citizens.” However, the settlement in Washington County was no longer the land of opportunity for their children. Andrew Jackson, in their opinion, had ruined the banks and financial panics swept the country. The land around them was mostly occupied and available lands were expensive. “In this crisis they turned their thoughts to the new world beyond the Alleghenies.”

There undoubtedly was a lot of discussion and prayer about the future. It was Mrs. Beveridge who finally persuaded her husband to undertake the journey. So, this “middle-aged” father and his fourteen-year-old son, John L., began the preparations.

On an autumn day in 1838, they started the journey. A covered wagon pulled by two stout horses was loaded with their necessities, along with a stock of woolen cloth which would finance their expedition. Across the state of New York and the farming communities of Ohio and Indiana, they traveled toward their unknown destination. They rounded the end of Lake Michigan and came to a small settlement. Chicago wasn’t much in 1838. They had now traveled one thousand miles and had not found a home.

They continued west, leaving civilization as they knew it for the “broad stretches of the valley of the Mississippi.” They took the new road to the lead mines of Galena, passing through Dixon’s Ferry and finally came to a rolling prairie between the Fox and the Rock rivers. It was fertile ground. It was Indian country until 1832 and had not long been opened to settlement.

One October evening, George Beveridge and his son came to Somonauk Creek. On the north side stood a log cabin with the stage road running at its door. It was the first house built by a white man in De Kalb County and had often served as an inn for the stage coach. Before he slept that night, George Beveridge had traded his wagon, his horses, and the remaining stock of woolen goods for the log cabin and 400 acres of land occupied under squatters’ rights.

He stayed one entire year and in the autumn, of 1839 returned to his home in Salem, New York. But, it was not until 1842 that final preparations for the move were completed. The farm had to be sold and decisions made as to what household effects and stock could be taken. Finally in May 1842, the family started for their new home on the prairies of Illinois. This time they used the canal and the Great Lakes making the journey in seventeen days.

In the party were Mr. and Mrs. Beveridge, and four unmarried children: James Hoy who was twenty-five, Thomas George, twenty-two, John Lourie, eighteen, and daughter Agnes who was thirteen. Isabel, an older daughter and her husband William French were also going. Jennett, the oldest child, had married James Henry and was left behind as was the second son, Andrew. He was entering Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to study for the ministry.

“There is something valiant, courageous, in the picture of this middle-aged pair, planning to break with all the traditions of life as they knew it, to leave their comfortable house and a lifetime’s associations to set out for a new country, a veritable wilderness to their eyes, and begin anew as pioneers at a time of life when they might have thought only of rest and surcease from labor.”

When they finally arrived at the Somonauk creek and their log cabin, George Beveridge found his wife weeping on the back porch.

To be continued...

Please Note: Most of the above information and all the quotations were taken from The Somonauk Book, privately printed for James A. Patten and Henry J. Patten in 1928.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Home office - 630-629-4516

Upcoming Events:

August 3, 2013 - Scottish Home Picnic - Museum open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

September 7, 2013 - History Club meeting - 1933 World’s Fair

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Scots Arrive in Washington County

In the early 1700's a group of Scots settled in eastern New York and were a mixture of Highland Scots and those from Northern Ireland. They were stalwart, rugged, independent, knew how to use guns and were not afraid to fight. The colonial governors encouraged people of this type to immigrate because they provided a barrier between the Colonies and the French and Indians. They occupied land east of the Hudson River in Washington County, New York, and had some 40 miles of farm land in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Their forefathers were Presbyterian Highland Scots living in Western Scotland. They had supported the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and had lost. Economic conditions were bad, crops failed and there were famines. In addition, there was general discontent with their own Church of Scotland. They looked beyond the sea to America in the hope of finding political, economic and religious freedom. Conditions were just as difficult for the “Scottish Nation” in Northern Ireland.

In 1738, a group of people belonging to the Scotch Presbyterian church and living in Argyleshire, were offered free land near Lake George. One thousand acres of land given to every adult person who paid for their passage and every child received 500 acres of land if they paid passage. In the years 1738, 1739 and 1740 some 472 persons were brought in groups by Captain Lauchlin Campbell to the New World. Originally there were some legal problems about the land but in 1764 a grant of 47,450 acres known as the Argyll Patent was secured.

On May 10, 1764, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clark, born in Galloway but now a pastor in Northern Ireland, brought his entire congregation of 300 people to New York. Their plans were to “carry on the linen and hempen manufacturer to which they were all brought up.” It is believed that this is the only instance where an entire congregation moved to the New World.

Not all of them made the trip up the Hudson River; a few were persuaded by real estate agents to go south where they settled at Cedar Springs and Long Cane near Abbeville, South Carolina. For those who did make the trip up the Hudson there were unexpected surprises.

The land near Lake George proved to be unsatisfactory. It became necessary for Dr. Clark to purchase other land which became known as the Turner Patent. It was composed of some 25,000 acres nearly all in Washington County. This land was divided into lots of 88 acres each and given to families. “The land was rent-free for five years, after which a yearly rental of one shilling per acre was to be paid.”

The country was a wilderness. There were no roads. One had to either walk or use a horse. Mary McNaughton, the mother of chief justice John Savage, walked 7 miles to attend a church service. (John Savage was a lawyer and politician. He was Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1823 to 1837. In 1828 he was appointed Treasurer of the United States but he declined.)

In 1736, there were one thousand Scottish families in Belfast waiting for ships to bring them to America. This new life in America was not easy. It was very difficult. But, they possessed a common bond - their membership in the Presbyterian Church. Many of these families were related to each other before coming to American and as time passed, the younger people intermarried, making the bond even stronger.

To be continued . . .

Wayne Rethford, Pres. Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
office phone - 630- 629-4516

Some of the above information was taken from The Somonauk Book, privately printed for James A. Patten and Henry J. Patten in 1928. This information is also available from various sources on the Internet.

Upcoming Events:
August 3, 2013 - Scottish Home Picnic - Museum open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

September 7, 2013 - History Club meeting - 1933 World’s Fair

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Very Busy Life

Thomas C. MacMillan was born October 4, 1850 in Stranraer, Scotland. Born in the same village was his father, James H., and his mother (Susan Cumming). The family emigrated to Chicago in 1857 where Thomas C. attended high school and then attended the old Chicago University. After the Great Fire of 1871, he began his newspaper career as a cub reporter; and, for more than twenty years, he was associated with the Inter-Ocean newspaper. By the time he retired, Dr. MacMillan was a stockholder and director of the company.

In 1883, he married Mary C. Goudie whose family came from Ayrshire, Scotland. She attended the Brown public school and he attended the old Central High school on Monroe near Halstead Street. Thomas and Mary Goudie MacMillan had three children: a daughter, Mrs. Jeanie Pocock, and two sons, James and Hugh.

Tina Beaird will explain how they met when we visit the Naausay cemetery on our coming history tour. It’s an interesting story.

In 1885, Mr. MacMillan was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives where he served until 1889. Then, for the next four years served in the state senate. Later, he was for twenty-five years clerk of the United States District Court in Chicago. Like many other Scots, he served on the Cook County Board of Education and was once the Director of the Chicago Public Library.

Dr. And Mrs. MacMillan were members of the LaGrange, Illinois Congregational Church. They were very active church workers and he became one of the “most widely known laymen in that denomination.” Their home was at 67 Sixth Avenue in LaGrange.

Here are other facts about this busy man:

  • President of the Chicago Congregational Club - 1900
  • Moderator of the Illinois State Congregational Association
  • First President of the American Congregational Deaconess’ Association
  • First vice-president of the Third International Congregational Council, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches of the U.S. - 1907-1910
  • President of the Cook County Saving Conference
  • A corporate member of the American Board for Foreign Missions
  • President of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society - 1906
  • President of the Patriotic Association, McClintock Post, G.A.R.
  • First President of the Travelers’ Aid Society of Illinois
  • Treasurer of the Central Howard Association of Illinois
  • Chairman of the State Senate on Waterways
  • Chairman of the State Senate Committee on World’s Fair, 1893
  • Author of the first Woman’s School Suffrage Act
  • Member of the Chicago Charter Convention
  • Cook County Board of Education 1879
  • Director of the Public Library 1882
  • Board of Managers Illinois State Reformatory, Pontiac, 1897
  • President of the LaGrange School Board - four successive terms
  • Masters degree from Illinois College
  • LL.D. from Knox College - 1911

In 1919, Dr. McMillan wrote a paper (28 pages) which was presented to the annual meeting of the Illinois State Historical Society. Anyone starting to study the influence of Scots in Illinois should start with his small booklet.

In 1933, The Illinois Saint Andrew Society held its annual banquet at the Palmer House. Among the 1,300 who attended was Mr. & Mrs. McMillan.  It was his 45th consecutive time to attend the banquet.

Thomas C MacMillan died December 13, 1935 at the age of 85. According to his death certificate he suffered from “General & Coronary Arteriosclerosis” for five years. His physician was J. C. Clark of LaGrange.

We will pay our respects to this great man and his wife on the July 20 history tour.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Home office 630-629-4526

Upcoming Events:

The Annual History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church at the Sag Bridge where we will pay our respect to James Michie, president of our Society in 1847.

Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families.

Our last stop will be at the Na-Au-Say cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907, is buried. Tina Beaird will meet us at the cemetery and she is an expert on this entire area. Tina is the Reference Librarian at the Plainfield Public Library. She is also a Blackhawks fan.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. You can register using our secure website, call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516. Don’t be Scottish and wait til the last day. Call now!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Scot and Freedom of the Press

In America’s quest for freedom, the case of John Peter Zenger is a milestone. Journalism students learn that the trial was the first major court test over freedom of the press. What they probably don’t know is that the case was won by the eloquence and acumen of Andrew Hamilton, perhaps the most able lawyer in the American colonies at the time.

Zenger was a New York printer. Four Scots named Alexander, Morris, Smith and Golden asked Zenger if he would print their New York Weekly Journal with James Alexander as editor. He agreed. Alexander’s editorials roasted New York Governor William Cosby, who was heartily disliked for being arbitrary and unfair.

Andrew Hamilton was born in Scotland about 1676. Other than that his early life is shrouded in mystery. He emigrated to Virginia about 1697. There he married a well-to-do widow and practiced law. Later he moved to Philadelphia.

Governor Cosby was outraged by Alexander’s attacks, but jailed Zenger as owner of the printing establishment. The trial judge, a friend of Cosby’s, wanted to confine the issue to whether Zenger printed libel and lies as charged.

Hamilton was called in on the case and rejected the court’s hypothesis. He insisted that the jury had the right to decide the truth or falsity of the charges. Hamilton’s defense included a polemic on press freedom as a control over tyranny no matter what the source.

To tumultuous applause, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.” Hamilton was also a founder of the colonial postal service. He died April 16, 1741, at Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Though he is virtually unknown, the role he played in the Zenger case made a lasting contribution to the doctrine of freedom of the press in America.

(The above information was taken from the Scottish American Hall of Fame, maintained by the Illinois St. Andrew and located in North Riverside, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. The Hall of Fame was the work of James C. Thomson, former editor of the "Prairie Farmer." He was a friend and greatly missed.)

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

The Annual History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church at the Sag Bridge where we will pay our respect to James Michie, president of our Society in 1847.

Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families.

Our last stop will be at the Na-Au-Say cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907, is buried. Tina Beaird will meet us at the cemetery and she is an expert on this entire area. Tina is the Reference Librarian at the Plainfield Public Library. She is also a Blackhawks fan.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. You can register using our secure website, call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516. Don’t be Scottish and wait til the last day. Call now!

Monday, June 17, 2013

James Michie, A Robert Burns Look Alike?

James Michie was born in 1806 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He married Margaret Katherine Guthrie who was from the area around Huntly, Scotland. They emigrated in 1835 to Boston, Massachusetts and from Boston came to the Township of Lyons in Cook County, Illinois. He was an original land owner in the County owning 123 acres, and paying $3.50 per acre. It is unclear what inspired them to make the long and difficult trip, and I don’t know the exact location of their farm.

James Michie most likely attended the first St. Andrew’s Day dinner in Chicago in 1845 although a list is not available. He was elected president of the Society in 1847 becoming the third person to serve in that capacity. He must have been an educated man although I know nothing of his life in Scotland. An honest man who could read, write and do math was very valuable to his community. The majority of the frontier people were illiterate.

A very active man in serving his community, he was one of the first officers of his township. In 1850, he was elected town clerk and Justice of the Peace. He owned the first private road in the county with Eden Eaton and Samuel Vail. In 1855 he was elected as “Overseer of the Poor.” He started the first public school in Summit, Illinois in 1846. He was a member of the Board of Commissioners for Cook County from August 1845 to August 1848 and was a member of the Board of Education in Chicago.

James Michie and Margaret Guthrie had 11 children but only three children lived to adulthood: Jane, John Charles and Katherine MacGregor. Margaret Guthrie Michie died in 1873 and her husband, James Michie, died in 1876. They are both buried in the St. James cemetery at the Sag Canal. One of their descendants lives in Oak Park and has his original membership certificate as a charter member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. If she is able to attend the History Tour she may bring along the framed certificate. I saw it several years ago but have forgotten what it looks like.

It is fascinating how Scots are connected. For instance John McGlashan was a brother-in-law to James Michie and he was president of the St. Andrew’s Society in 1853. We have little information about John McGlashan except he may have been an early Chicago farmer living at 22nd street and the Chicago River.

Here is another interesting connection: Katherine MacGregor Michie married David Francis Bremner on November 30, 1865 in Chicago. He was born in 1839 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and was of Scottish descent. He came to Chicago at the age of nine and when the Civil War began, he served with the 19th Illinois regiment. It was he who raised the flag on Missionary Ridge. Not completely confirmed but David F. and Katherine may also be buried at St. James.

Please read the Blog posted on October 27, 2010.

Thanks to a grant from The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, we now have the Scottish American Museum on line. In the museum there is a picture of young James Michie and he looks a lot like Robert Burns. Here is how to access the museum and see the photograph.

Go to:
On the left side click on "museum"
In the first line, click on “PastPerfect web site”
In the “search box” type in the name “Michie”
To see the entire collection of over 1,000 items, click on “Random Search” 

Years ago, I was in touch with Tawnya Michie Kumarakulasingam who lived in Lawrence, Kansas. She was a direct descendant of James Michie through his son, John Charles. Her husband is from Moolai, Sri Lanka. She sent a large amount of information about the family which I can bring on the tour is anyone is interested.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
630-629-4516 (home office)

The annual History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church at the Sag Bridge where we will pay our respect to James Michie, president of our Society in 1847.

Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families. Our last stop will be at the Na-Au-Say cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907, is buried. There are always surprises along the way.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. To register call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 6, 1944

You are receiving this Blog today because it is D-Day. This is the day that 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on the shores of Normandy. It was a massive force; 5,000 ships stretched as far as the eye could see. From British airfields, 800 planes carried over 13,000 men consisting of six parachute regiments. That was preceded by 13,000 bombs being dropped immediately ahead of the invasion. By nightfall 9,000 soldiers, many Americans, were either dead or wounded.

This past Friday, I drove to Springfield, Illinois to attend the funeral of one soldier who landed on D-Day. Stephen L. Gasparin was born July 5, 1921, in the mountains of south-east Oklahoma. He died May 28, 2013. Pam Crombie, his daughter, lives in Winthrop Harbor with her husband Jack. They are a Life Members of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.

I don’t know the entire story about Stephen Gasparin, but he served with the 5th Infantry Division which came under the command of General George A. Patton. “He fought during the brutal winter in the Ardennes mountain range in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. His division fought their way across Germany becoming the first to cross the Rhine on the night of March 22, 1945. They drove across Germany liberating concentration camps and stopping at the Czechoslovak border as the war ended. He left the army with five Bronze Stars for bravery in action.”

In 2012, Mr. Gasparin was recognized by France for his bravery by naming him a “knight (chevalier) in the National Order of the Legion of Honor.” It is the highest recognition given by the French government and it is a beautiful medal. When war broke out he tried to enlist but was deferred because he was a tool-and-die maker in Detroit. On his second attempt it was discovered that he was color-blind. The doctor said: “don’t you worry about that. We’ll put you right up front where you can see everything." And they did. Two of his strongest memories were: “praying on his unit’s departure for France for all the soldiers who’d never go home, and the reaction from French citizens as Allied soldiers pushed German forces out of their communities.”

Mr, Gasparin was buried with full military honors in the Camp Butler National Cemetery. As we made our way to the cemetery, I was impressed with the citizens of Springfield who stopped their cars as the procession moved by. Only one car passed the long line of mourners and we were on a boulevard at the time. It was as if they knew a hero was passing. I didn’t even mind the heavy rain in view of the suffering that soldiers endured during the Battle of the Bulge.

There are days about World War II that I will never forget. One is D-Day and the sacrifices made so the world would be free from oppression. The other is December 7 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The next day sitting in the auditorium of a school, we listened to the distinctive voice of President Roosevelt and his “Day of Infamy” speech. I can still hear the voices of Roosevelt and Churchill today.

If you are a veteran of WW II and served in the military or the Merchants Marines, would you please contact me? I am compiling a list of veterans. You can contact me by email or call my home office at 630-629-4516.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

P.S. We had a most enjoyable History Club meeting this past Saturday as we paid tribute to our veterans. John LeNoble lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance and then gave us an excellent summary of his trip to Washington and the WW II monument. We were also privileged to have Mike and Mary Jane Cole as speakers. They are heavily involved as volunteers with the Honor Flight Chicago program. It was a very good day.

The annual History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church at the Sag Bridge where we will pay our respect to James Michie, president of our Society in 1847.

Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families. Our last stop will be at the Na-Au-Say cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907, is buried. There are always surprises along the way.

Cost $30.00 per person includes a box lunch. To register call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516.

Friday, May 24, 2013

St. James Church at the Sag Bridge

Our summer history tour is scheduled for July 20 and the first stop will be St. James Church at the Sag Bridge in Willow Springs. Saint James was founded in 1833 as a mission of the Catholic Church. Archeologists claim that Father Jacques Marquette may have offered Mass on the bluff in 1673. This location has been inhabited for centuries because of its importance as a lookout.

The present stone church is one of the oldest churches in Illinois and the existing church is the “oldest parish in northern Illinois still functioning at its original location.” It was founded in 1833. (The original church was a rough log cabin located on an Indian trail that we know as Ogden avenue.)

The stone is from a local quarry known as the Lemont-Sag. The Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Avenue and Holy Name Cathedral used stone from the same quarry. It took six long years for the people to haul enough stones to the top of the hill. “Those that did the most work were given cemetery plots closest to the church.”

“Some unique features of St. James are: the urn-topped wrought iron gates which were installed in 1914 and serve as the church entrance; the buttresses that were added to the church building in 1919 when dynamiting the Cal-Sag Channel weakened the foundation; the limestone Stations of the Cross lining the church and cemetery walkway were constructed in the 1920s and donated by parishioners in memory of deceased family members; and the historic wrought iron entrance gates to the St. James complex that were acquired from the Western Electric Hawthorne Plant in 1976 and originally fabricated in 1905.”

We are not only interested in the church but the cemetery as well. James Hunt Michie was a charter member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and president in 1847. He is buried at St. James along with his wife, Margaret Guthrie. Both were born in Scotland.

Their daughter, Katherine MacGregor Michie married David Francis Bremner on November 30, 1865.

For more information on the Bremner family, please read the Blog for October 27, 2010.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

History Club meeting, June 1, 2013. We will honor veterans at this meeting so if you have served please join us. John LeNoble and his daughter, Nancy Strolle, have recently taken the “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C. John will tell us about his trip. There will also be a video showing the landing of our troops on Normandy, June 6, 1944 (D-Day).

The History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church and cemetery where we will find and pay our respect to James Michie. Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families. Our last stop will be at the NaAuSay cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery is buried Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907. There are always surprises along the way.

Cost $30.00 per person. To register call 708-447-5092 or my home office at 630-629-4516.

Friday, May 17, 2013

It only took 37 years!

1889, October 19 - John Crerar, an American of Scottish descent, dies and leaves Chicago money for a library and $100,000 for a “colossal” statue of Abraham Lincoln.

1897 - Augustus Saint-Gaudens was chosen as the sculptor. Born in Dublin, his father was French and his mother was Irish.

1904 - St. Gaudens studio was destroyed by fire, including the model of the Lincoln statue. He was well known to Chicago having sculpted the General John A. Longan monument and the “standing” Lincoln statue in Lincoln park. 

1903 - Stanford White visits Chicago to study the location. He was a member of the firm of McKim, Mead and White who were all Scottish Americans.

1904 - Stanford White was chosen to design the architectural settings. The statue would sit on a monolithic pedestal of pink Stony Creek granite surrounded by an excedra or semi-circular area 153 feet in diameter.

1906 - White was murdered by Harry Thaw. White and St. Gaudens were close friends.

1907 - St. Gaudens dies in Cornish, New Hampshire. Before his death he orders the statue of Lincoln to be cast in bronze. It took 12 years to complete the statue and he regarded it as his “crowning glory.”

(Before the statue could be placed in Grant Park there were legal issued to be settled “as to the right of the South Park board to use Grant Park for certain purposes,” and then there was A. Montgomery Ward, known as the “Watchdog of the Lakefront.”)

1908-1913 - The statue lay crated in the basement storerooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Some sources say it was displayed; others say it was not.)

1913 - In September it was brought back to Chicago and stored.

1914 - “Until the Federal government passes on the question of how far we may project our improvements into the lake and until we know definitely whether we are permitted to construct the proposed strips of land for Park and Boulevard purposes we can say nothing as to the site for the new Lincoln statue. The erection of the statue can’t be hurried anymore that the other lakefront matters can be hurried. It all depends on the government” and the legal actions of A. Montgomery Ward.

1915 - The statue was displayed at the San Francisco World’s Fair and returned to Chicago. It may have also been displayed in other cities but I could not find a list.

1916 - The statue was stored for ten years, covered with dust, in a shed in Washington Park.   

1926 - May 31 - Statue was finally unveiled. Judge Charles S. Cutting made the principal address. “Abraham Lincoln has become a world figure. He is the symbol of law and liberty throughout the world.” 

1985 - The Chicago Tribune reports that the statue was cleaned and restored. Lights were also added to the area. 

Summary: The artist wanted to show the loneliness and isolation that Lincoln endured during the Civil War. His head is slightly bowed as if in deep thought. He is a gaunt figure. Two columns, each 50 feet high, rise from the ends of the excedra. It’s a wonderful work of art, just south of the Art Institute along Michigan Avenue made possible by a Scot and life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

Upcoming Events

History Club meeting, June 1, 2013. We will honor veterans at this meeting so if you have served please join us. John LeNoble, and his daughter, Nancy Strolle, have recently taken the “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C. John will tell us about his trip. There will also be a video showing the landing of our troops on Normandy, June 6, 1944 (D-Day).

The History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church and cemetery where we will find and pay our respect to James Michie, president of the Society in 1847. Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families.

Our last stop will be at the NaAuSay cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery is buried Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907.

There are always surprises along the way.

Cost $30.00 per person. Register online, call 708-447-5092 or 630-629-4516.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Who was James McVicker and does he deserve a street name?

A number of streets in Chicago are named for Scots. McVicker Avenue is located at 6032 West and 7347 North to 6258 South. Those familiar with street numbering in Chicago will understand this designation. Who was James McVicker and does he deserve a street name?

James Hubert McVicker was born in New York City on February 14, 1822. His parents were Ulster-Scots but I don’t know their story. His father died the year he was born and the family lived in very moderate circumstances. He had little schooling. At the age of ten he was working as a printer’s apprentice and for the next five years worked in New York City. Then he moved west to St. Louis where he found work as a journeyman printer. At night he studied because his ambition was to become an actor.

In 1840, he was acting in New Orleans. He had small parts in the beginning but gradually increased his roles. By 1848, he was in Chicago at “Rice’s Theater” on Randolph Street, a small frame building. He was married now and his wife was acting on the same stage but in a different play. (His wife had been married previously) They soon leave for a tour of Europe and “find fame and fortune.” Upon returning to this country, they managed a theater in St. Louis but in 1857 moved permanently to Chicago.

In Chicago, he built the first McVicker’s Theater which was the biggest and best playhouse the city had seen. It cost $85,000 and his backers were Potter Palmer, Marshall Field and W. W. Kimball. He and his wife continued acting but his greatest service was bringing to his theater the brightest stars of the day. I could list the names but they mean very little to us now. This first playhouse was destroyed in the fire of 1871.

After the fire, he spent $200,000 to build another theater. Sarah Bernhardt on her first American tour appeared at McVicker's Theater. In 1862, John Wilkes Booth appeared in Richard III. That theater stood until 1922 when it was replaced by a structure seating 1,921. Many of you will remember that last theater. It was destroyed in 1984 when Citicorp Savings of Illinois bought the property.

The McVickers had two children, a beautiful girl named Mary and a son, Horace

They were the children of Mrs. McVicker whose married name was Mary Frances Runyan. In 1867, the General Assembly of the State of Illinois, granted a request to have the children’s name changed from Runyan to McVicker. That resolution can be found on the Internet. Harry followed in his father’s footsteps as a theater manager but in New York City.

The youngest child, Mary McVicker, became an actress at the age of ten and was very popular with the people of Chicago. When she was 18, she married Edwin Booth, the brother of the assassin. The date was June 2, 1869, four years after the death of Mr. Lincoln. I don’t know how the marriage worked out but it appears to have been one of controversy. Edwin was afflicted with Melancholia as was Robert Burns and Abraham Lincoln.

Mary McVicker Booth died November 13, 1881, of consumption at her father’s New York City residence, 13 West Fifty-third street. She had accompanied her husband as he toured Scotland, Ireland and England. Her health and mental status deteriorated and finally her parents went to Europe and brought her back to New York. The Chicago funeral was held in St. Paul’s Universalist Church on Michigan Avenue. Professor David Swing assisted in the service. Mary was a regular attendant at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. She is buried at Rosehill. (Some have written that Mary refused to be buried with members of the Booth family but I don’t know if this is true.)

James H. McVicker died March 10, 1896, and the funeral service was held at the residence, 1842 Michigan avenue. The Rev. H. W. Thomas, pastor of the People’s Church, conducted the service. (McVicker was also a great admirer of Prof. Swing and attended his Central Church for several years.) Burial was at Rosehill. His estate was valued at more than $850,000.

Mrs. McVicker appears to have died in Pasadena, California on August 25, 1904 at the age of 81. She is also buried at Rosehill. There were several attempts to break her will, estimated at $350,000, which also included a statement “that no other burial shall be made in the McVicker lot after that of the testatrix.” I assume this may have been her attempt to keep members of the Booth family from being buried in their family plot.

The McVicker plot is located on the west side of section B, Rosehill Cemetary, Chicago, Illinois. It is marked by a large, polished granite stone with the engraved name, McVicker. I visit at least four times a year and Gus Noble often visits on his walks through the cemetery.

James H. McVicker was an active and popular member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He was one of the 100 chosen to accompany the body of Abraham Lincoln from Chicago to Springfield for burial. He deserves having a street named in his honor.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

June 1, 2013 - Next History Club meeting. Watch for further announcements.

June 14-15, 2003 - Highland Games, Itasca, IL

July 20, 2013 - Summer History Tour.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Library and a Statue

John Crerar was a Presbyterian who loved to read. He was also a railroad man and made millions after the Civil War. Crerar died in 1889 and left $2.5 million for a “free public library” and for a “colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln.” He was a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and left the charity $10,000 which was distributed to the poor over time.

Mr. Crerar was born in New York City of “Scotch parents” and never married. He is interred in Greenwood Cemetery with his parents. Greenwood Cemetery is located in Brooklyn, New York and I visited his grave and that of Walter Scott in 2005. For many years Crerar was a member of the Scotch Presbyterian Church in New York City and left the church $25,000 in his will. In Chicago, he was a member of the Second Presbyterian Church.

A very religious man, he wrote the following in his will “I desire the books and periodicals selected with a view to create and sustain a healthy moral and Christian sentiment in the community, and that all the nastiness and immorality be excluded. I do not mean by this that there shall not be anything but hymn books and sermons, but I mean that dirty French novels and all skeptical trash and works of questionable moral tone shall never be found in this library.”

The first president of the Crerar library was Norman Williams. It is reported that he was one of Chicago’s best known capitalists. There are other people with familiar Scottish names also serving on the board including: Robert T. Lincoln, Edson Keith, Simon J. McPherson, John M. Clark, John J. Mitchell, Robert Forsyth, and George A. Armour.

The first location was on the sixth floor of the Marshall Field building at 87 Wabash Avenue. The library soon outgrew this space, so the Committee began looking for a new location. The place chosen was one familiar to most people in Chicago: Grant Park. The land was located between the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and Michigan Avenue and between Monroe and Madison. The state legislature approved the location and it was placed on the ballot in 1904. Those in favor numbered 50,960 and those opposed 9,329. As a result of a lawsuit, the Illinois Supreme Court said the building could not be built on this land.

The next location was at Michigan Avenue and Randolph, across from the present Cultural Center. The 11 story building was designed by Holabird and Roche and opened in 1920. In 1962, the library needed more space and the building was sold to the George F. Harding Museum who later sold the building to a New York development firm. The library building was destroyed in 1981 so that a 41 story office building could be constructed. This is a building most Chicagoans will recognize, especially at Christmas, because of the unusual “sharply shaped summit.”

In 1962 the library moved into a new building on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Its predecessor was the Armour Institute of Technology founded in 1890 with the gift of $1 million dollars from Philip Danforth Armour. Mr. Armour was also a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and was said to have been its most liberal donor.

The new building was designed by architect Walter Netsch. It was a 92,000 sq. ft. facility “with a pleasing modern aesthetic design inspired by Miles van der Rohe.” Mr. Netsch was married to life member and distinguished citizen, Dawn Clark Netsch. (Mrs. Netsch recently died; please see my Blog dated March 6, 2012.)

The Crerar library is now located on the campus of the University of Chicago not far from the midway of the World’s Fair in 1893. The library moved to its present location in 1984.

I hope you’ve noticed all the Scottish connections in this story. Whenever I look at Chicago’s past this connection is always present. Scottish Americans have made a tremendous contribution to Chicago. It’s a little more difficult to find those connections today, but they are still there. Those “quiet immigrants” and their descendants are still a major factor in the life of this City. There is more to the Crerar story and I hope you can follow all the connections.

Norman Williams, Jr. married Joan Chalmers in 1902. He was the son of Norman Williams (the first president of the Crerar Library) and Joan Chalmers who was the daughter of William J. Chalmers and Joan Pinkerton. Both William Chalmers and Joan Pinkerton were first-generation descendants of parents from Scotland.

Their children, Joan Williams and her brother, Major Thomas Stewart Chalmers died within eight days of each other and thus the memorial window in Chrysostrom church. The son of Joan Chalmers was also named Norman. He was the grandson of Norman Williams, the first president of the Crerar Library Board, and he would unveil the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Grant Park in 1926; thus completing the provisions of John Crerar’s will.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

May 4, 2013 - Please join us for a conversation with Jean Davidson of the famous Harley Davidson Motor Company. Here is just part of the story:

Arthur and Mary Davidson left their tiny house in Brechin, Scotland, in 1852 and headed for America. They had five children: Ann, Margaret, Alexander, William C. and John. It was William C. Davidson who fathered the three Davidson brothers, Arthur, Walter and William A. who co-founded the company with William S. Harley.

Joan Davidson has a wonderful story to tell and you will enjoy her presentation and the great pictures she will shown.

We also celebrate birthdays in May. So, if you have a birthday around this time come and join us for cake, scones, coffee and tea. Reservations can be made at 708-447-5092.