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