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.