Monday, May 19, 2014

The Ring of the Logans

The family of Logan lived in the Highlands of Scotland for many centuries and the chieftain of the clan was defeated at Flodden Field (1513). Before he died he gave to one of his faithful men a finger ring with the request that the man should deliver it to the chieftain’s wife. She was to keep it for his son and heir. The ring could only be worn by the Chief and had gone from one Chief to another for several hundred years. It was gold with a large Onyx setting on which was carved the family coat of arms. The coat of arms is a heart pierced by a dagger and surrounded by the words Hoc Majorum Virtus, which translated means, “This valor of my ancestors.” The ring was given to the wife and in the course of years to the son who in time gave it to his son. It was lost and stolen several times but always was returned to its rightful owner.

In the early 1840s a young Scotsman landed in New York. He was the son of a clergyman of the Presbyterian Church and was recognized as the Chief of Clan Logan because he wore the ring. He enlisted in the Northern army and fought in support of the Union during the Civil War. For gallantry on the field of battle he rose in the ranks and at the close of the war was a Lieutenant. He stayed in the Army and was sent West to fight the Indians. “In the early 1870s the Indians were troublesome along the foothills of the Rockies. Capt. Logan participated in almost every campaign...” He had many narrow escapes. In 1877 he and his troops were led into an ambush. The battle was called “Battle of the Big Hole.” Capt. Logan and all his troops died. After his death his body was mutilated and every article of wearing apparel including a 32nd degree Masonic ring and the Logan Ring were taken.

Mrs. Logan then moved with her family away from the frontier and took up land in Montana. Her daughter married Captain Comba who was a member of the regular Army and the family did everything within their power to find the Ring of the Logan’s. One day a trapper called at one of the posts on the Indian reservation in Idaho and showed the officers a 32nd degree Masonic ring. He had found it on the skeleton of an Indian in one of the canyons of the Judith Basin four hundred miles from the battle of the “Big Hole.” They bought the ring from the trapper for four dollars worth of provisions. They advertised for the owner, and Col. Comba of the fifth United States infantry saw the ad. The Captain who knew about his father-in-law’s ring visited the post and obtained the ring.

In 1898, 22 years after the death of Capt. Logan, his oldest son, William Logan, was appointed an Indian agent and stationed in Montana. For years he made a diligent search and inquired at all the Indian agencies in the Northwest hoping to find some trace of the ring which rightfully now belong to him. Finally he gave up hope and wrote to his a maternal grandfather in Scotland asking for a description of the ring and a copy of the family coat of arms because he intended to have a similar ring made here. The old gentleman declined to send it, reminding the grandson that the ring had been lost many times before and would in time be returned to the rightful owner.

One day William Logan was in his office in a small town in the Northwest when an Indian “squaw” entered. She placed her hand on the railing around his desk and there on the middle finger of her left hand was the missing ring. He quickly purchased the ring and the Indian “squaw” told him this story. The Indian who had scalped his father had taken the ring and as he was dying had given it to the Indian “squaw.” Just to be sure, William Logan sent the ring to his sister who was the wife of Captain Comba.

Captain Comba, who in 1877 made such a diligent search for the ring was now a Colonel in the Fifth Infantry and was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, with his family. He was commander of the Twelfth Infantry that captured the stone fort in the battle of El Caney, “where the real fighting in Cuba was done.” At the time this story was published in the Chicago Tribune he was in the Philippines.

The story ends here in the Tribune but if you goggle the name William Logan you will find more information about his life and the rings are mentioned. Also, if you look for Clan Logan on the Internet, you will discover that the clan does not presently have a Chief recognized by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

The question is what happened to the original “Ring of the Logans?” Perhaps some of our readers who belong to the Logan Clan can help us with an answer. It appears to be a true story.

Note: I have quoted freely from an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 April, 1901, page 46.

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

Upcoming Events:

June 7, 2014 - Next meeting of the Scottish American History Club. We will talk about D-Day, June 6, 1944. We will remember and honor those who died and the Flag under which they served. 

June 20-21 - Chicago Highland Games

July 19, 2014
- Annual History Tour.  Save the date and watch for details.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The General Died and Chicago Mourned

“The Clan MacArthur was the dominating clan of Scotland from A.D. 300 to 1750. This clan crowned and uncrowned the kings of Scotland for more than 1,000 years. For more than 600 years they were the keepers of the Stone of Destiny. Upon this stone, all the kings of Scotland were crowned, and since it’s removal to England in the time of James the First, every ruler of England has been crowned upon this stone. The legend is that this is the stone upon which Jacob rested his head when he saw the vision of the angels upon the ladder, ascending to and descending from heaven.” (Source unknown)

This is the heritage and background of General John McArthur. We know very little about his ancestors except that they were Highlanders. His father, John MacArthur, was a native of Islay in the Western Highlands. He was a blacksmith and a tenant of Lord Balantyre. His son, also named John, was an excellent student and his parents and the parish minister wanted him to study for the ministry. His patron offered him a full scholarship at the University of Edinburgh. John respectfully declined and began working with his father as a blacksmith.

John McArthur was a soldier at heart. His ancient heritage called him and so did America. He was attracted to this country by reading accounts of the Mexican war. “The uniform success of our soldiers filled him with admiration for the American people, and he determined to cast his life with them.” Little did he know how this would determine his future.

He came to Chicago early in its history and began manufacturing boilers. He became one of the trustees of the United Presbyterian Church. Before the Civil War he organized a militia company known as the Highland Guard. When the first call for volunteers was issued by President Lincoln, Capt. McArthur tendered his services and those of his company. He was at once elected a Col. of the 12th Illinois infantry.

The Scottish citizens of Chicago presented to McArthur and his Regiment an American flag and a smaller flag of white silk which bore the following words:

“Dinna ye hear the slogan?
Tis McArthur and his men.”

At the battle of Fort Donelson, early in the war, he had command of a brigade, and ”displayed such gallantry that he was at once made a Brig. General.” He was unschooled in the science of war but his “McArthur blood” made him skillful and brave. He was born a soldier.

We don’t have time to give all the details in the career of General McArthur. We do need to say that at the battle of Pittsburgh (Shiloh) he was severely wounded and carried from the field of battle. When he recovered he was put in command of a division of the Army of the Tennessee and remained in command until the war ended.

In 1848, at the parish of Erskine, Scotland, he married Miss Christina Cuthbertson. The marriage produced eight children. After the war, he served for a time as the Commissioner of Public Works for Chicago and in 1872, President Grant appointed him Postmaster. He was an active member of the George H. Thomas, Post No. 5, Grand Army of the Republic.

The General was president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1871 when the city was destroyed by the Great Fire. What a strong leader he must have been during this critical time.

In 1877, John McArthur was forced into bankruptcy. In my files is a copy of all the creditors listed in Document 4014. I recognize many of the names as people associated with the Society who must have come to his aid and loaned him money. The total debt was $72,446.22.

Most of the articles about his life indicate that he was a poor businessman. You decide. Here is what was written in the Memorials of Deceased Companions, page 357. “In 1872, President Grant appointed him Postmaster. In 1874, the bank which had been designated by the Secretary of the Treasury as a depository of public funds failed. General MacArthur had at the time a balance of $73,000 on deposit, and a judicial ruling held him indebted to the government for that amount. With characteristic integrity, he went to work to make good the loss, with the result that he depleted his own fortune down to the borderline of want. From this misfortune, he never fully recovered, but with the same heroism which characterized him in war, he did not surrender, but fought adversity and succeeded in securing sufficient to enable him to rear and educate his family.”

The John McArthur Clan is buried in Section 90, lot no. 155. Twenty-eight people are buried in this large lot. Gus Noble, our president and I visit this plot at least four times a year. In a line are the burial lots of Mason, McArthur and Badenoch. All important names in the history of the Scots of Chicago.

Let me quote again from The Memorials: “On the evening of May 15th, 1906, the Angel of Death came and kissed down his eyelids, and his remains were laid at rest in Rose Hill Cemetery. Thus we close the story of this sturdy life, hoping to meet him in the great beyond.” (Written by Edward A. Blodgett, George Mason and Richard S. Tuthill.)

A great man died, and Chicago declared a day of mourning.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

History Club - Next meeting, June 7, 2014. We will discuss and celebrate the sacrifices of those who fought on D-Day.