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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 1997

The Journey West
The Westward Migration

d from January 1997

“Finally all was in readiness and in the month of May, 1842, the Beveridge family set out on their pilgrimage.” The party consisted of the parents and four unmarried children, the youngest being Agnes who was just thirteen. Also in the party was an older daughter Isabel and her husband William French. Jennett, the oldest child, who was married to James Henry was left behind, as was the second son, Andrew. He was about to enter Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. This time the Beveridges made use of the canal and traveled the Great Lakes. The journey took seventeen days.

When they finally reached Somonauk, Illinois, it was raining. “The mud was deep and black.” The log house was leaking. The next morning, John Beveridge found his mother weeping as if her heart was breaking. “As she cried, she said she could never live here. She had come from the land where she was born and where she had lived fifty-four years...to a new land to dwell among strangers, from a comfortable home where she had raised her family, into a poor log house on the frontier of civilization.”

Three years later she returned to Washington County, N.Y., for a visit, “strange to say, she was glad to return to her log house, and she never regretted the change in her life.”

The log house was built of rough logs, “chinked and daubed with clay, with puncheon floors and shale roof, consisting of five rooms, an attic, and a lean-to.” The men and boys slept in the attic, “with rain drops in the summer and snowflakes in winter enlivening sleep.” A large room next to the granary contained a chimney and two small windows. This was the sitting room, dining room and the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Beveridge.

Travelers often stayed over night in the log house, which had once been used as a county inn. They were served good meals and had a good bed. The cost was seventy-five cents and included lodging and meals, with their horses being fed and stabled.

Somonauk History Tour
May 18, 1997

The History Club will sponsor its next trip on May 18, 1997. A charter bus will leave the Scottish Home at 1:30 p.m. and there is room for only 40 people. The trip will take us across the prairies of Oak Brook and Naperville. Looking north, as we cross the Fox River, the area known as “Big Woods” can be viewed. Part of our journey will be along the road that ran from Chicago to the lead mines of Galena. The final destination will be Somonauk, Illinois. Here we will view the location of the Beveridge home, see the Presbyterian Church established by these early pioneers and visit the cemetery where they lie buried.

Each participant will receive a notebook of information about the great prairies of Illinois and the Scots who settled the land. You will read eyewitness descriptions of prairie life. We invite you to join us as we look back to the 1800s and these courageous Scottish pioneers.

Seating is very limited, so don’t delay. Children are welcome. The cost is $15.00 per person, including lunch. There will be very little walking.

See Somonauk United Presbyterian Church for more information.

Sarasota, Florida

In February of this year, I attended a symposium called by the Caledonian Foundation USA, and held in Sarasota, Florida. There I met Bernice Brooks Bergan, a weekly columnist and feature writer for the Sarasota Herald Tribune. She gave me the following story about the founding of Sarasota.

In 1885 “Great Britain was threatening to swallow the county up into its vast empire. The average Scot, beset by taxes, the threat of war, and a staggering depression, made plans to immigrate to a promised land called Florida, specifically, ‘a wonderful new town called Sarasota, on Sarasota Bay, in the richest and most beautiful section’ of the state. A man named John B. Browning was attracted by the claim that in Sarasota ‘a man does not have to work hard for a living’...merely exist off the land and the sea.

The president of the company advertising the merits of Sarasota was a man named Sir John Gillespie, owner of a large estate near Edinburgh. Browning and his brother-in-law, John Lawrie, sold their holdings, paid a hundred pounds for a forty-acre estate and town lot, and joined some fifty other colonists looking for a break in the promised land as described by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company.” They called themselves the Ormiston Colony after Gillespie’s home.

“After a rough voyage both on the high seas and overland, the little band of colonists found, to their dismay, that there were no housing accommodations in the new land, only a company store, a shack in the woods housing fish oil plant employees, and a home farther on down on the bay. It was chilly in Florida during that December of 1885, and the new settlers were disheartened by the fact that the so-called model town with its pretty landscaping and platted avenues existed only on paper.”

“It was the ‘native’ families, who had endured untold hardships settling in the Florida wilds...who helped the miserable little band of Scots unload their belongings from the ship, cart them ashore, and make the most of a bad deal. The locals brought fish and game to feed the hungry new settlers, but only the hardiest began clearing land, digging wells and building lean-tos.

Later on, Gillespie sent his son, Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie to Florida to create some kind of order. Portable shelters were hastily erected until permanent ones could be built. Even though the first little colony had ceased to be by May of 1886, other Scots began to migrate here during the succeeding decades. Gillespie’s son introduced golf to the area and became a real estate tycoon. Tough Scottish cattle were imported and bred. It was soon evident that in spite of its unfortunate beginnings, Sarasota was destined to become one of the most desirable locations on the Gulf Coast.”2

For more history of Sarasota see Sands of Sarasota
More on John J. Gillespie

Margaret Cochran Corbin

When she was four years old her father, an Ulster Scottish pioneer in Western Pennsylvania, was killed by Indians and her mother taken into captivity. She was raised by an uncle and in 1772 married John Corbin. When the War of Independence began her husband enlisted in the Pennsylvania Artillery and was mortally wounded at Ft. Washington, New York.

Margaret then took over his duties on a small cannon near the ridge later named Ft. Tryon. She was severely wounded and was discharged from the service. Margaret was later granted a pension by Congress at half-pay for life. It is said to have been the first pension granted to a woman.

She settled in Westchester Co., N.Y., where she died a hard-drinking, impoverished veteran at the age of 48. In 1926 her body was moved from an obscure grave to the West Point Cemetery.3

More on Margaret Corbin

The Waltz King

Some of our readers will remember Wayne King who played often at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. He was born in Savannah, Illinois in 1901 and graduated from Valparaiso University. During World War II he served in the special forces and after the war obtained the title, Waltz King.

Wayne King became a member of the Illinois St. Andrew
Society on September 11, 1946. He listed his home address as 517 Greenwood Ave., Kenilworth and his office at 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. He often attended the Anniversary Dinner. His great-great grandfather was Donald H. King who was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

Full biography available at CMT

obert Tait McKenzie

Robert T. McKenzie was born in Canada and graduated from McGill University in 1889. In 1904, he became head of the department of physical education at the University of Pennsylvania where he served until 1931. During World War I he served as a surgeon in the British Army with the rank of Major. “ McKenzie is best known for the Scottish-American War Memorial, ‘The Call’, on Princess Street in Edinburgh, which was dedicated in 1927. Mr. McKenzie was an active member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia.1 In 1924 James B. Campbell gave the Scottish Home several photographs of “The Call”. They are framed and located on the wall opposite the elevator on the main floor. Mr. Campbell was treasurer of the Illinois St. Andrew Society.

One other note about the Philadelphia Society which was contained in their materials at the Balch Library. The By-Laws said that “In order to observe that frugality which becomes a charitable society, the four assistants shall take care at the quarterly meetings to provide a neat and plain supper.”

At one of these “neat and plain” suppers on September 3, 1775, “the following victuals were consumed: two hams, 24 pounds; round of beef, 23 pounds; sirloin of beef, 29 pounds; four tongues, dozen of fowls, side of lamb, 10 pounds of veal, pigeon pie, pound of butter, 5 pounds of cheese and 10 six penny loaves. The number of persons present was not indicated. However, “On December 1, 1788, 45 gentlemen, obviously good drinkers, consumed 38 bottles of Madeira, 27 bottles of Claret, 8 bottles of port wine, 2 bowls of punch, plus Welsh rarebit, bread and cheese.”

More information on Robert Tait McKenzie is available at the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center


Ninety years before Christopher Columbus discovered America, a Scottish explorer by the name of Sir Henry St. Clair, with a party of 200 knights, monks and 12 ships set foot on American soil. Henry St. Clair (also spelled Sinclair) was born in Scotland in 1345. His captain and navigator was an Italian named Antonio Zeno. Since they did not claim ownership in the new world, they are overlooked on the pages of history, just as their ancestors the Vikings are. Sinclair landed first in Nova Scotia and they explored the land and waterways during at least one season.

Documents written by Antonio Zeno validate the voyage, while legends of the native Americans, the Micmac Indians, reflect upon the harmonious relations of these explorers. Using Sinclair’s ship, a careful study of the north Atlantic Ocean was conducted by Zeno in 1393. “Recently a U.S. Air Force map was found to have 34 points of identity with the Zeno map”.

Traveling with St. Clair was his cousin, Sir James Gunn, also a native of Scotland. “As children, they shared similar education and training to be knights. While on an inland excursion in Massachusetts, James Gunn took sick and died on a hillside in Westford. To memorialize him, the troupe carved an effigy in a rock ledge, outlining the image of the stricken knight. Even today, one can see the 600 year old marking of the “Westford Knight.”

Plans are being made for elaborate celebrations in 1998. “St. Clair Voyage 1398-1998 Ltd.” has been formed for the purpose of building and sailing a replica 14th century Scottish Galley across the Atlantic. The ship measures 60 ft. long with a beam of 15 ft. Construction will be done in Stromness, Orkney. Scheduled departure is June 1998 from Kirkway in Orkney. More information can be obtained by e-mail: Henry1398@aol.com or by writing to Peter Cummings, P.O. Box 158, Worchester, MA.

Visit Westford for more information.

Cooper Union College

In one of our previous issues, we told the story of Peter Cooper (1791-1883) who was a Scottish manufacturer, inventor and philanthropist. Our story dealt with his inventing the first practical locomotive in America which he named “Tom Thumb.” He made a fortune in the manufacture of glue and also owned iron and steel works.

In 1859, Peter Cooper established Cooper Union College in New York City. It is said to be the only tuition free college in the United States. Abraham Lincoln gave his famed address in the Great Hall at Cooper Union on February 27, 1860, in which he upheld the federal right to ban slavery in the territories.

His grandson, Peter Cooper Hewitt, was the inventor of the Cooper-Hewitt vapor electric lamp. We would like more information about the college if anyone knows a source.

More information is available at Cooper Union College.

harles Blair MacDonald

Born in Niagara Falls, Canada in 1856, Charles Blair Macdonald was sent to St. Andrews at age 16. He enrolled in the University and lived with his grandfather. In time, his grandfather took him to the “old course” to meet Tom Morris who was then known as “Old Tom” to distinguish him from his famous son “Young Tom.”

Young Tom Morris won the British Open in 1868, 1869, 1870 and 1871. He was now only 21 years of age. Young Tom and Charles Blair often played the Old Course at St. Andrews and by the time he left, Macdonald was frequently breaking 90.

After completing his education and returning to Chicago, he endured a long period without golf. He often called this time the “Dark Ages,” He later wrote, “During the Dark Ages I made one fruitless attempt to play golf in America. My friend and fellow student in St. Andrews, Edward R. Burgess, visited me in Chicago in August 1875. We would take my clubs and balls which I brought from St. Andrews and repair to the vacant land where Camp Douglas was during the Civil War . We cut our three or four holes, putting in them some of the empty cans which the soldiers had left. To these holes we enjoyed driving and approaching, recalling our college days. We were not long left undisturbed . The hoodlums in the vicinity tormented us to death. Evidently they thought we were demented. Burgess soon going home, my golf clubs were stored away until such time as I could go abroad.”

Macdonald was a member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and Herb Graffis once humorously and accurately described him:

“What Macdonald didn’t like didn’t have much chance of getting by. If he hadn’t been such a distinguished looking, financially solid citizen, he might have been referred to as bull-headed. As it was, he was respectfully termed opinionated.”

April 6 is National Tartan Day.  Show Your Colors!


1. Balch Library, Philadelphia. St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia Collection.

2. Bernice Brooks Bergen, 8420 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota, Fl. 34242. Weekly columnist, feature and free-lance writer Sarasota Harold Tribune.

3. Internet Civil War discussion group.

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