Great Scots

Scottish Name List



Visit our Blog




The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 1994


Cyrus Hall McCormick

Cyrus Hall McCormick appears to have had a fierce Scottish temper. He would fight at the drop of a hat if anyone dared venture into his space, especially if it dealt with personal possessions. In 1862, when traveling from Washington, D. C. to Chicago, he found himself at odds with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

His entourage included his wife, two children, a cousin, two servants and nine trunks. In Philadelphia, the railroad sought to impose a charge of $8.70 for excess baggage. Mr. McCormick refused to pay and ordered his luggage off the train, while he and his party made their way to a local hotel. The railroad, for whatever reason, failed to remove the luggage from the baggage car and it came on to Chicago. Here it was unloaded and, being unclaimed, placed in a storage building. The building was then destroyed by lightning.

Mr. McCormick sued the railroad for damages. He lost, but appealed and lost again. He appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where he won a judgment of $18,000 against the railroad. It took 23 years to resolve the case and, when it was finally concluded, Cyrus Hall McCormick had been dead a full year. This ruling, however, set the present day legal policy that a carrier of passengers also assumes liability for their luggage - thanks to the untiring efforts of Mr. McCormick.

More information about Cyrus H. McCormick is available at Northern Illinois University

Laflin Street

Laflin street in Chicago runs 1500 West from 356 North to 12258 South. It is named for Matthew Laflin (1803-1897) whose family came from an Ulster-Scots strain. He was born at Southwick, Massachusetts.

His father was a manufacturer of gunpowder and Matthew Laflin learned the trade. He was attracted to Chicago because of the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and hoped to sell gunpowder to the construction company. The first home in Chicago for Matthew Laflin was at old Fort Dearborn, because no other shelter could be found in the "embryo city."

Early on, he began to purchase real estate and once owned 140 acres of land within the city limits. He bought the land for $300 and lived to see it worth millions. In 1849, he purchased 100 acres of land on the west side, extending eastward from Madison Street and Ogden avenue. Here he built the Bull's Head Hotel. He also built barns, sheds and cattle pens and so established Chicago's first stock yards.

Matthew Laflin built one of the first plank roads, known in those days as the Blue Island toll road. He operated the first omnibus line to carry his hotel patrons to his stock yards and the State Street markets. He also established the first water works system in Chicago by building a pine-log reservoir at Lake Street and the lake shore. Water funneled into the reservoir was distributed through wooden pipes to the city.

His gift to Chicago was a building to house the Academy of Sciences in Lincoln Park. It is called the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building.

Captain John Sutherland  -  
Someone You Should Know

John Sutherland was a veteran salt water sailor who left Chicago in 1897 for Seattle, Washington. From there he sailed to Alaska in the spring of 1900.

Captain Sutherland was the last man to reach Nome, Alaska, over the ice in 1900. He left Dawson in March behind 8,000 people who made the trip by dog team. All were in search of gold. When he reached Norton Sound, he found the "ice was out", so he walked 360 miles around the Sound through swamps and "through mosquitoes" making the very difficult trip in 62 days.

He didn't actually walk, he rode a bicycle! "I rode my bicycle night and day...well, sometimes it rode me," he corrected himself, "and many mornings I started out when it was 68 degrees below zero." Missing for more than 30 days, his family in Chicago and Scotland began to mourn, fearing he was dead. During the trip he lost 20 pounds, but still weighed 230.

"I came across some Indians on the way. They were frightened by the bicycle, and their medicine man told them if they did not kill me all the fish in the sea would die. They started to shoot at me and just missed. Some soldiers from a nearby fort came to my rescue. The next day the Indians came to the fort to make peace, with offerings of food and fruit. They punched me to see if I were real flesh and blood, and went away satisfied."

"One of the Indians asked me how much my bicycle was worth. I told him $200. He grunted and went away. He came back the next day with the money in gold pieces of $20 and $10. He insisted that he have the bicycle, but I got away from him."

John Sutherland died in 1940 and is buried in Washington Memorial Park, Seattle. He was survived by a daughter, Mrs. William Whiteside, Riverton Heights, Washington, and a son, John S. Sutherland of Redding, California. Captain Sutherland was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska. Any additional information from our readers on the West Coast would be greatly appreciated.

The story about John Sutherland came from Margaret Baikie Johnson. She, and her husband, Carl, live in Lynwood, Illinois. Her father was William Baikie who was Chief of the Caledonian Society of Chicago, established in 1883. Mrs. Johnson, famous in her own right, was queen of Scottish Day at the World's Fair in 1933. She also played the pipes and was a medal-winning Highland dancer. Margaret Johnson has taught scores of young people Scottish dancing. Today, she is an active member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and participates in lawn bowling tournaments around the country. Thanks to Margaret for the newspaper story about her uncle, John Sutherland.


If Janesville, Wisconsin, was the sixth golf course established in the U.S., where are the first five?

Connected to golf, do you know the name Donald Ross? How about John Gillespie?

The Anniversary Dinner in 1965 was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel on November 5. The general chairman was Angus J. Ray. The "Queen of the Heather" was 18 year old Arlene Auld. Whatever happened to Arlene Auld?

In 1904, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Burns Memorial and Monument Association of Illinois, made and sold a quilt. It was an "elaborate autograph quilt with over 900 well-known names on it." The quilt sold for $150.00. They made another quilt the next year with 600 names, and it sold for $125.00. Where are they now?

In Rosehill Cemetery, the plots of the families of Byron Smith, founder of The Northern Trust and Matthew Laflin (see above) are together. The middle name of Byron Smith is Laflin. Does anyone know the connection?

How many of the following places have you visited? Aberdeen, Scotland; Aberdeen, Sk., Canada; Aberdeen, South Africa; Aberdeen, Idaho; Aberdeen, Maryland; Aberdeen, Mississippi; Aberdeen, North Carolina; Aberdeen, Ohio; Aberdeen, South Dakota; Aberdeen, Washington; Aberdeen Lake, Canada; or the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland?

Wilmer McLean

"When I first joined the Army of Northern Virginia in 1861, I found a connection of my family, Wilmer McLean, living on a fine farm through which ran Bull Run, with a nice farm-house. General Beauregard made his headquarters at this house during the first affair between the armies - the so-called Battle of Blackburn's Ford on July 18.  The first hostile shot which I ever saw fired was aimed at this house, and about the third or  fourth went through its kitchen where our servants were cooking  dinner  for  the headquarters staff.

I had not seen or heard of McLean for years, when the day after the surrender, I met him at Appomattox Court-house, and asked with some surprise what he was doing there.  He replied, with much indignation:  "What are you doing here"  These armies tore my place on Bull Run all to pieces, and kept running over it backward and forward till no man could live there, so I just sold out and came here, two hundred miles away, hoping I should never see a soldier again.  And now, just look around you!  Not a fence-rail is left on the place, the last guns trampled down all my crops, and Lee surrenders to Grant in my house.?

McLean was so indignant that I felt bound to apologize for our coming back, and  to throw all the blame for it upon the gentlemen on the other side 

E. P. Alexander,
Brigadier General

We are indebted to Society member Richard Springer for this great story.  Mr. Springer is a well-known military artist now living in Wisconsin.  He did not include the source of this story, but I am sure he would be happy to give this information to any of our readers. (Picture of McLean house in Appomattox taken in 1865 by Timothy Sullivan.)

Alexander Galbraith

We recently received a letter from Clyde M. Clark who lives in Bradenton, Florida.  He has expressed an interest in the Saddle and Sirloin Club that once existed in Chicago.  There were a large number of paintings displayed in the club and he wonders if anyone knows what happened to them.  He sent along a booklet that shows the paintings and a number of prominent Scots are included, among them Alexander Galbraith.

Alexander Galbraith was born in Killearn, Scotland in 1853.  In 1874 he married Christina MacNichol in Glasgow and six years later they came to the United States. They settled in Janesville, Wisconsin, where they became involved in the raising of Clydesdale horses.  Each year, they would return to Scotland and bring back horses to their farm in Janesville.  He was also noted for raising Scottish sheep dogs.

In 1892, he also brought back 15 golf clubs and a number of golf balls.  With friends, he established the Janesville Country Club which was officially organized in 1894.  It was the sixth oldest golf club in the nation.

Mr. Galbraith regularly sold his horses in Chicago and served as the Secretary to the American Clydesdale Breeders Association.  After World War I, he sold the Janesville Stables and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he served as the head of animal husbandry, mainly doing horse show judging.  He died August 20, 1927, and is buried along with his wife in the Edmonton Cemetery.

Alexander Galbraith was the grandfather of Mrs. Clyde M. Clark of Bradenton, Florida.  Mr. and Mrs. Clark plan to visit Scotland this summer to watch the British Open which will be held at Turnberry.  They also plan to visit Chicago, and we are looking forward to meeting them.  Thanks to them for the story and subscribing to the Newsletter.  Clyde also bought a subscription for his friend, Robert McConnachie, who also lives in Bradenton.



Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546