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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 1997

The Westward Migration

Forty years before the American Revolution, a group of Highland Scots came to America and settled in Washington County in eastern New York. They were hardy, independent and accustomed to carrying arms; the type of immigrant especially important to the colonial governors who needed protection from the Indians and French along with expanding borders. Their grant of land, consisting of some 40 square miles, lay east of the Hudson River in the foothills of the Green Mountains. The country was then an unbroken wilderness without roads. The only means of travel was on foot or horseback.

In the years 1738, 1739, and 1740, Captain Campbell brought 472 prospective settlers to the same frontier. Alexander McNaughton in 1764 brought a large number of colonists to a nearby area known as the Argyle Patent which contained 47,450 acres. That same year, a group of Ulster-Scots, many related to persons already residing in the area, came from Pelham, Massachusetts.

In 1764, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Clark brought his entire Presbyterian congregation of about 300 Ulster Scots. This is said to be the only ecclesiastical body that came here as an entirety, with no break in their religious services. These colonists possessed a strong bond in their allegiance to the Presbyterian Church and through inter-marriage the ties of kinship had become even closer.” Their lives centered around the church and the local church school. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War many of the men took up arms for independence.

In the center of the Argyle community, near Cossayuna, New York, lived George Beveridge and his wife, Ann Hoy. Their white clapboard house was home for seven children. After a century of settlement, the Beveridges came to believe that Washington County was no longer the land of opportunity. Land, once almost free, had become very expensive. The future for their children lay in the new world beyond the Alleghenies. After much prayer, thought and discussion, it was decided that this middle-aged father and his 14 year old son would go on the long journey westward in search of new lands.

In 1838, George Beveridge took a pair of stout horses, loaded his wagon with woolen cloth, and traveled across New York, Ohio and Indiana. It was a journey of one thousand miles that finally brought him to the village of Chicago. Leaving Chicago, his face still towards the west, he took the newly-opened stage road leading toward the lead mines of Galena. Sixty miles west of Chicago, he came to a log cabin where the stage coach ran before its door. It had been the first white man’s house in DeKalb County. Before retiring for the night, Mr. Beveridge had traded what remained of his woolen cloth, together with his wagon and horses, for the cabin with squatter’s rights to 400 acres along either side of the stream. It would be a year before he returned to the mountains of Washington County for his wife and children.

“There is something valiant and courageous in the picture of this middle-aged pair, planning to break with all the traditions of life as they knew it, to leave their comfortable house and a lifetime’s associations to set out for a new country, a veritable wilderness to their eyes, and begin as pioneers at a time of life when they might have thought only of rest and surcease from labor.”1

— Continued in the April 1997 Issue —

David Robertson Forgan
*Someone You Should Know*

David Forgan was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, August 16, 1862. His father was a maker of fine golf clubs in St. Andrews. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, James Berwick, he came to Nova Scotia in 1880, and at the age of 15 became a runner at the Clydesdale Bank. In 1885, he married Agnes Kerr of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Through a series of events he became the President of National City Bank of Chicago in 1907. He wrote many articles on banking and was often asked to speak on the subject. He belonged to the following clubs: Chicago, Bankers Commercial, Mid-Day, Onwentsia, and Evanston Country Club. His residence was 1112 Greenwood Boulevard, Evanston, and his office was at 105 S. Dearborn St., Chicago.2

David Forgan, ten years younger than his brother James, was a man of attainments beyond being a successful banker. He was good enough to win the very first Western Amateur Championship in 1899, by defeating Walter Egan in the final at Glen View. Around the turn of the century he delivered an address at a Chicago Golf Club dinner which included the following:

The Golfer’s Creed
“Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you may exhaust yourself, but never your subject. It is a contest, a duel, or a melee, calling for courage, skill, strategy and self-control. It is a test of temper, a trial of honour, a revealer of character. It affords a chance to play the man and act the gentleman. It means going into God’s out-of-doors, getting close to nature, fresh air, exercise, a sweeping away of mental cobwebs, genuine recreation of tired tissues. It is a cure for care, an antidote to worry. It includes companionship for friends, social intercourse, opportunities for courtesy, kindliness and generosity to an opponent. It promotes not only physical health but moral force.” (Credit: Chicago Golf Club 1892-1992, by Ross Goodner. The book was a gift from Ed Rorison, past president of the Society.)

David Forgan was a life member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and served on many committees including the Board of Governors. He was often the master of ceremonies at the annual St. Andrew’s Dinner in Chicago. Mrs. Henry P. Wheeler, known affectionately as “Sissy”, is a granddaughter of David Forgan and also a member and supporter of the St. Andrew Society.

Washington’s Scotch Comrades
New York. April 13, 1889

Dear Sir: At the present time when Centennial preparations are being busily pushed forward, it is well to remember that Scotsmen played a very active part in events which made the revolution in this country a success, and rendered possible the inauguration of Washington. Scotsmen were among the bravest of his generals and among them were Alexander McDougall, who at one time had a printing office in the city; Arthur Sinclair, a Caithness man, President of the Continental Congress; Lachlan McIntosh, a “clack-na-cud-den”; Hugh Mercer, an Aberdonian; Robert Erskine, a Dunfermline man, and a son of the famous preacher Ralph Erskine; and the spurious Earl of Stirling, a brave and capable man with a weakness for wearing a title to which he had no earthly claim. The Livingston who administered the oath to the “father of his country” was directly descended from stout old John Livingston of Ancrum, a man who suffered much for the sake of his conscience in the days when Presbyterianism was not fashionable in Scotland. Paul Jones, too, did good service on the sea to the struggling republic and he hailed in the days of his innocence from Kirkcudbright or thereabouts. In these ‘times that tried men’s souls” Scotsmen were found everywhere. In congress, in the field, at the bar, on the bench, in the pulpit, the seminary, the college, in the local legislatures, the centers of commerce, on the farms and penetrating as pioneers through the western boundaries of the young states.

Federal Hall, where Washington was inaugurated, was built by a Scotsman, and a Scotsman named McComb also built the old City Hall which stood nearby. St. Paul’s church at the corner of Vessey and Broadway where the new President attended divine service as soon as the inaugural ceremonies were over, was designed by a Scotsman named Macbean. The interior of the church is beautifully proportioned and shows that Macbean, the architect, must have been a man of exceeding good taste. Behind the pulpit is a neat stone in memory of Colonel Thomas Barclay who must have been a great man in his day to have had his memory so honored. Judging by his name, he was a Scot or of Scottish descent. On the wall directly facing the altar is a plain stone to the memory of David MacKean, third and youngest son of Robert Mckean of Kilmarnock, Scotland, who died in this city of yellow fever in the midst of his youthfulness on the 7th day of August 1795, aged 33 and was interned in the courtyard.

If we were to trace out the entire story of Scotland’s share in the building of this great country, we would find that our native land deserves more credit than it generally gets from American historians or newspapers. Religion, liberty, education, law, commerce and agriculture were all quickened and benefited in the go
od old times by the Scottish pioneers who crossed the seas.

Yours respectively,

Croftan Reigh3

The Kerr Clan

The Kerr Clan name comes from the Gaelic word “kier” meaning “left.” Many of their castles were built with stairways winding counterclockwise, giving their lefty swordsmen the advantage in fights with right-handed enemies.

Little wonder the Kerr’s make such canny lawyers!

The American Scottish Foundation

The American Scottish Foundation, Inc., is a nationwide, non-profit American organization whose purpose is to build bonds of interest between the people of Scotland and the United States. The president is Alan L. Bain. It is the mission of the Foundation to operate as a clearing house and information center for all Scottish activities in the U.S.

In 1970, the Foundation established the Wallace Award to recognize leading Americans of Scottish birth of descent who have made outstanding contributions to this country. “More than 100 men and women have received the Award, including author Louis Auchincloss, actress Greer Garson, TV personality, Hugh Downs, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, opera star James McCracken, poet Archibald MacLeish, newsman Robert MacNeil, baseball great Bobby Thomson, newspaperman James Reston, artist Robert Motherwell, fashion leader Diana Vreeland and No
bel prize winner Dr. James D. Watson.”

Membership information can be obtained from The American Scottish Foundation, Inc., 575 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022.

Benjamin Franklin

At the annual dinner of the St. Andrew Society in Philadelphia in 1760, Benjamin Franklin was one of the guests. That evening the Society was charged for replacing a large number of broken wine glasses and three chairs, all reputedly broken by Mr. Franklin. “A member of the society subsequently waited upon Mr. Franklin and called to his attention the amount of damage he had caused.” It is said that Mr. Franklin declined to pay and suggested he “come to the next meeting to see how much more damage he could do.” Old Ben “apparently was a perennial guest at the Society’s annual dinners.”4

From the Editor...

Last year Mary and I visited San Antonio, Texas, and found some great Scottish stories. This year our annual convention was in Philadelphia, and again, we found a city full of Scottish history.

The City Hall of Philadelphia is the largest municipal building in the world which contains neither steel nor iron. It took some 30 years to build entire
ly of stone and the architect was John McArthur, Jr. On top of the building is a statue of William Penn; the sculptor was Alexander Milne Stirling. His son, Alexander Stirling Calder, designed the Fountain to the Three Rivers, and his grandson, Alexander Calder, created “The Ghost” in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On the grounds of the City Hall there is a great statue of General George McClellan, one of the founders of the Illinois St. Andrew Society. My grandson, J.R., and I have now found two statues of McClellan. The other one is in Washington, D.C.

The St. Andrew Society of Philadelphia was organized in 1847. According to the charter, the sole purpose was the “relief of distressed Scottish immigrants.”

Five members of the Society were signers of the Declaration of Independence: James Wilson, George Ross, Philip Livingston, John Witherspoon, D. D., and Thomas McKean. James Wilson is often referred to as the “father” of the Constitution of the United States. Dr. Witherspoon was president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. One of the more distinguished members was General Hugh Mercer. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Princeton on January 4, 1777. His sword was given to the Society and is one of its most treasured relics. The Society has two ram’s heads similar to the one belonging to the Illinois St. Andrew Society. They have recently donated their library to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. I had the privilege of being the first person to look over the materials after their arrival at the library. The only problem was a lack of time to see everything!

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