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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 1995


Letter to the Editor

The following letter appeared in The Chicago Tribune sometime in the 1950s.
Chicago, Dec. 9

I was extremely interested in your story of the Englishman who is translating the poems of Robert Burns into English. I don't like the heading of the story. We Scots never refer to Burns as "Bobbie," perhaps because that is the slang for an English cop.

Burns has been translated into many languages, so we Scots, perhaps, should be gratified that still another country has chosen to become better informed on the works of our national bard. One thing is certain, a nation sincerely searching the works of Burns will find two themes pre-dominant: friendship and the dignity of the individual, regardless of his social background.

England stole our Stone of Scone, but you may be sure that they cannot take over our national bard; he is too well enshrined in the hearts of Scots everywhere; millions of them who need no English translation to understand his message.

In conclusion, if your translation of the "Address to the Haggis" is a sample of Mr. William Kean Seymour's work, we can "dae withoot it."

George C. Buik
Burns Society of Chicago


Abraham Lincoln loved to read the Bible, the writings of Shakespeare and Robert Burns. He was introduced to these writings while living in New Salem, Illinois, by Jack Kelso, the village philosopher.

When the centennial year of the birth of Robert Burns occurred in 1859, more than 900 celebrations were held around the world. In Springfield, the Illinois State Journal carried the following announcement: "The Festival, in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of the birth of this gifted poet, comes off tonight at Concert Hall.

We understand that every arrangement has been made to render the occasion a most agreeable reunion of his friends and admirers..." The cost was two dollars per gentleman and the proceeds were to be given to the poor. His Honor, the Mayor, was in charge of the distribution.

The program started at 8:30 p.m. with supper being served. Instrumental music was provided by the Young American Brass Band and two pipers who were dressed in Highland costume. In the first half seven toasts were given, each accompanied by special music. Part two consisted of twelve musical renditions. The last song, of course, was Auld Lang Syne.

"The Company sat down at nine o'clock and after satisfying the appetite with eatables, the 'mountain dew' was brought out, and together with a large number of mysterious looking bottles, was freely circulated during the remainder of the evening... The regular toasts were responded to in order by Messrs. A. Lincoln, Linder, Matheny, Blaidell, and others..."

On Thursday morning, January 27, 1859, the Journal carried an extensive account of the celebration. "It appears from the program, which was long enough to have been the work of a Scotch preacher, that everyone was to have a chance to take part."

Mrs. Robert Ballantine
*Someone You Should Know*

On October 25, 1888, some sixty-three gentlemen met at the Grand Pacific Hotel and organized the Burns Memorial and Monument Association. It was their intent to erect "in one of the leading parks a fitting monument to Robert Burns." Nine men signed the papers of incorporation and the first donation was a silver dollar from James Murray, on the eve of his departure for South Africa.

Governor Moonlight of Wyoming attended "a grand demonstration" in Central Music Hall on January 24, 1889. Later, on August 10, a picnic and games were held at Elliott's Park, Matteson, IL. A number of clans donated money, including Clan McKenzie of Braidwood, IL. Very soon it was announced that one thousand dollars had been collected. But, the times were difficult and it would be several years before any substantial progress would be made.

On June 25, 1902, James D. Carrie issued an invitation to Scottish ladies "by birth, descent or marriage" to meet at the Sherman House with the object of forming a Ladies Auxiliary. A large number of ladies attended and their number would grow to 75 members. "By parlor socials, entertainments, etc." the Auxiliary raised over two thousand dollars. For two years "a pleasant meeting place" was furnished to the ladies by the Paterson Shorthand Institute "absolutely free of cost."

The role of women in the Scottish history of Chicago has been rather difficult to define. We do know that early in the history of the Saint Andrew Society, women had worked side by side with their husbands in distributing the charity of the organization. Ladies were assigned to each of the three districts in Chicago, but they received little in the way of public recognition and their names were seldom recorded. The first woman was not admitted to full membership in the St. Andrew Society until 1947.

The leader of this new group was always Mrs. Robert Ballantine, but there is little known about her life. We do know that at the annual meeting of the Burns Monument Association on November 23, 1903, Mrs. Ballantine was elected a Director of the Association and was to serve with Daniel Ross Cameron, William Ritchie, and Dr. R. A. Sempill. It was the first time a woman was elected to such an office and invited to serve with men.

The statue of Robert Burns might have never become a reality without the work of Mrs. Robert Ballantine, for she made a trip to Scotland and called upon the sculptor, W. Grant Stevenson. During this meeting she arranged for payments to be made; and, on May 12, 1904, the first installment was sent to Edinburgh. One year later, on May 8, 1905, Mr. Stevenson notified the Association that the statue and panels for the pedestal had been successfully cast. At the annual election in 1905, another woman was added to the Board, Miss Helen F. Lonie, who was elected Assistant Secretary.

The "grand parade" for the dedication was held August 25, 1906. It began at California and Washington continuing westward to Garfield Park. The Ladies' Auxiliary, under the leadership of Mrs. Ballantine, "all dressed in white, with brilliant silk tartan sashes, filled about a dozen carriages."

The exercises at Garfield Park, commenced shortly before 3 p.m., in the presence of thousand of enthusiastic Scots." Mrs. Kate Campbell Sauders, "the favorite Scottish elocutionist," gave several readings from Burns. Four-year-old Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson unveiled the statue.

This 'n That

In 1993, Jack and Gayle Baker gave me a book entitled, "Mither Wit and Native Fire: The Genius of Robert Burns." The book was published in 1992 by The Robert Burns Club of Milwaukee and includes pictures of a number of statues to Robert Burns.

How many of these monuments have you visited? Alloway, Arbroath, Dumfries, or Edinburgh, Scotland; New York City (Central Park); Albany, NY (Washington Park); Barre, VT (Spaulding Campus); Falls River, MA (Public Library); Denver, CO (City Park); Chicago, IL (Garfield Park); San Francisco, CA (Golden Gate Park); Milwaukee, WI (Knapp & Prospect).

If you know the location of other monuments and statues to Robert Burns please let us know.

In 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth to give the New York Giants a dramatic victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The win gave the Giants the National League pennant. Thomson was later honored by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society as the "Athlete of the Year" and was given a gold watch. Whatever happened to Bobby Thomson, the Scottish ballplayer?

In 1977, the "Sixth Annual Highland Dancing Competition" was held at the Scottish Home. One of the participants was ten year old Eric Johnston of Hinsdale. The article also speaks of Mrs. Wendy Massie who taught highland dancing in Berwyn, Illinois. Her husband, Graham Massie, was a piper with the Stockyard Kiltie Band. Whatever happened to these people?

More Golf Stories

The Downers Grove, Illinois, Golf Course now claims to be the first golf course west of the Allegheny mountain range and the first 18-hole course in the United States. So says the Suburban Life Citizen newspaper of October 1, 1994. According to Carol Tapio "The first nine holes were laid out on a farm belonging to A. Haddow Smith in 1892. The land was purchased with $10.00 donations from 20 or 30 members of the Chicago Golf Club, with the effort spearheaded by Charles Blair Macdonald."

Macdonald made his living at the Chicago Board of Trade and was apparently a rather cantankerous Scot. He loved golf, but had a terrible slice, so he designed the holes "to play toward the right." He added the back nine in 1893, but their exact location has been lost. "The holes that exist now are on the land that held the original nine." The course was originally chartered as the Belmont Golf Club.

In 1894, the Chicago Golf Club abandoned the Belmont site and moved to its present location in Wheaton, Illinois. At the beginning of the Great Depression, the Belmont Club was sold to the Slepicka family who opened it to the public. In 1968, the Downers Grove Park District purchased the course for $750,000.

Pictured:  Charles Blair MacDonald


Whatever happened to Jeannette Miller "Queen of the Heather" in 1968? She is now Mrs. Jeannette Colombi and lives in Rockford, Illinois. She was a student of Margaret Baikie Johnson and attended New Trier High School. She had a "mother who encouraged me to keep my Scottish heritage and a great dance teacher...". Thanks for answering our letter and sending the newspaper articles. One more Queen has been found.

A letter from Sam Harrod III of Eureka, Illinois, tells us that the first golf course in the United States was in Savannah, Georgia in 1796. His information comes from a non-fiction book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," published by the Georgia Historical Society. Thanks for writing. Could you send us more information?

John Fisher writes from Littleton, Colorado, to tell us that he has a book on the life of John Logie Baird entitled "The Secret Life of John Logie Baird." He has offered to loan us his copy if we are unable to find one. He adds that Baird, who is credited with the invention of television in 1926, was the son of a Church of Scotland minister. John Logie Baird died in 1946.

Clyde M. Clark of Bradenton, Florida, has solved the mystery of the Saddle and Sirloin pictures. They are displayed in the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center at Louisville, KY. After writing to the Chamber of Commerce, he was able to purchase a book that tells the story and shows each portrait. There are a lot of Scots among the 330 personalities. Thanks for sending a copy to the History Club Library. Mr. and Mrs. Clark recently visited the Scottish Home and we had an enjoyable visit. They will be moving to Seattle to be closer to a daughter. Good luck and stay in touch!

David McKee

David McKee is thought to have been the first blacksmith in Chicago. He was born in Virginia in 1800 of Scottish ancestry. He married Wealthy Scott, daughter of Stephen J. Scott, who we assume was of Scottish lineage. It is believed that he arrived at Fort Dearborn (Chicago) in 1822 or 1823. He paid taxes in 1825 and voted in 1826 and 1830. His home and shop were located at what is now Kinzie and Franklin.

In 1828, he was the mail carrier between Chicago and Fort Wayne, Indiana. On horseback, it took one month to make the round-trip journey. He is said to have guided the families of Israel P. Blodgett to their new home in what is now DuPage County. He died April 8, 1881, and is buried in Big Woods Cemetery.

Our thanks to Thomas C. McMillan for his speech in 1919 for the above information. Does anyone know the location of the Big Woods Cemetery?

Margaret McNaughton

The history club recently visited the cemetery next to the Lyonsville Congregational Church on Joliet Road in Countryside, IL. We found the grave of Margaret McNaughton (1814-1856) the wife of Samuel Vial. She was the first school teacher in Lyons Township, having come to America with her parents from Aberdeen.

The log school house where she taught was built in 1843 and stands opposite the church on Joliet Road.

Why are Scotsmen so good at golf?
They realize that the fewer times they hit the ball, the longer it will last.

Famous Quotes

"If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scotch-Irish of that region and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger."

George Washington
Valley Forge

John Logie Baird


"To me, seeing by telephone always seemed as reasonable a possibility as hearing by the telephone."

Achieved by Baird, the world's first...

~ public television demonstration on January 26, 1926
~ television transmission across the Atlantic in 1928.
~ first version of color television, 1925 to 1928.
~ The first 3D and color system developed between 1925 and 1946.

Additionally, he was a pioneer in the development of facsimile and fiber optics, his work on radar is being increasingly acknowledged. When he died, June 14, 1946, he left but a few thousand pounds, but his impact on the world was enormous.

More information can be found at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

From the Editor...

This issue of our newsletter is centered around Robert Burns and his birthday on January 25. The residents of the Scottish Home will again visit the Burns statue and lay a wreath. It is a pilgrimage that began about six years ago. Chicago weather is usually atrocious, but we go anyway. The erection of this monument is a great story. I wish we knew more about Mrs. Ballantine, but we will continue the search.

Of course, there will be Burns' dinners around the world. Here in Chicago there are several opportunities to celebrate. The Elgin Society and the "Nicht Wi' Burns" are the two largest. The Elgin Society has theirs at the St. Andrews' Golf Course in West Chicago, and the other one is held at the Hilton Hotel in Oak Lawn. You can get further information by calling The Scottish Home.

The Robert Burns Club of Milwaukee has an interesting newsletter that you might enjoy. The Newsletter Secretary is Patricia J. Kucki, 3712 N. Murray Avenue, Shorewood, WI 53211-2553. We have appreciated our complimentary copies and also enjoyed the book they published.

We continue to receive membership donations and letters from around the country. As time permits, we will try and answer each one; however, we want you to know that it is all much appreciated. As a family, we have enjoyed putting the information together for you. Have a healthy and prosperous New Year.

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