The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
The Forgotten American
Thomas Nelson, Jr., was not really a “junior” but a
“II.” He was the grandson of Thomas “Scotch Tom” Nelson
and the son of William Nelson.
Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he was elected, sight
unseen, by the House of Burgesses while still at sea on
his way home to America. He was then 21 years of age.
After he had signed the Declaration of Independence at
age 37, he told a colleague “that he was the only person
out of nine or ten Virginians that were sent with him to
England for education that had taken part in the
American Revolution. The rest were all Tories.”
After signing the Declaration he resigned from Congress
because of ill health and was appointed commander in
chief of the state militia. By 1781 he was governor of
Virginia, succeeding Jefferson and also commander of
Virginia’s troops at the siege of Yorktown.
During the battle for Yorktown, Nelson observed that his
artillery men were directing fire all over the town but
were being careful to avoid the area where his own
beautiful home was located. Nelson asked why they were
not firing in that direction. “Out of respect to you,
Sir,” came the reply. As Lord Cornwallis approached to
occupy his home, Nelson offered five guineas to the
first gunner to hit the house. The house was damaged,
and a cannonball, carefully preserved, still lodges in
After the war the ex-governor and ex-general was reduced
to near poverty. He sold his property and used the money
to pay the debts and moved to Henrico County near
Richmond. He had acquired his huge debts paying for
military expenses during the war.
Nelson was the first signer of the Declaration from
Virginia to die. He went to his grave a pauper at the
age of 51 and was buried in 1789 without a tombstone.
His body was placed at the foot of his father’s plot at
Grace Church in Yorktown. Only in this century was a
marker provided. It is inscribed: “He gave all for
Patrick J. Buchanan recently said: “History may view it
differently, but one senses we are living today in
unheroic times. Our senators argue the cruciality of
their retaining free parking at the National Airport,
while our president wails that no other leader as he has
suffered as he has been made to suffer—at the hands of
those cynical radio talk-show hosts.” Men like Thomas
Nelson, Jr. believed in a cause far beyond themselves.
His family later immigrated west and established
Abington, Illinois. Mrs. John Markham, a member of the
Illinois St. Andrews Society, is a descendant. Thanks
for calling this story to our attention.
More information about Thomas Nelson,
Jr. can be found at
Colonial Hall and pictures of the house are at
*Someone You Should Know*
Carol Brown was a two-time Olympian and bronze medalist
in rowing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A graduate of
Princeton, she was a member of the first U. S. crew ever
to row in the World Championships, finishing second. In
1976, she rowed in a four-oared shell which took a World
Championship silver medal in New Zealand. In 1979 her
crew took the bronze in the World Championships in
She was once described as “the most successful athlete
in rowing in the U.S.—male or female.” Like many other
top rowers, she had never participated before college.
In fact, while at Princeton she was captain of the
varsity swimming team and held the American record for
the 200-meter freestyle relay. She graduated from
Princeton with a degree in economics and politics. After
graduation in 1975 she moved to Seattle and obtained a
masters in forest management policy at the University of
In 1978 in order to pursue her rowing interest, she
became the first woman truck driver for Alpac Corp., the
Seattle-based maker of Pepsi Cola and 7-Up. She later
became assistant to the vice president of operations for
Alpac. In 1984 she was honored as a recipient of the
prestigious Southland Olympia Award. She is also a
member of the Northwest Sports Foundation Hall of Fame.
Carol Brown is the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Harper Brown
of Lake Forest, Illinois, who are active members of the
Illinois St. Andrew Society.
President's Report: three
having been admitted, 4 having passed on and
1 has been dismissed.
San Diego, California
January 2, 1921
To the members of The Illinois Saint Andrew Society:
“During the year 40 old people have been cared for at
There have been many festivities during the year:
friends of the Home gave dinners at Thanksgiving,
Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter time and on Robert
Burns Day. Many of the Scottish Societies have given
delightful entertainments, and more visitors have been
at the Home than ever before, including Sir Harry Lauder
and Lady Lauder. It has, in fact, been one of the
showplaces of the suburbs during the summer, the
visitors book showing that 797 have registered.
I look upon being a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew
Society as quite an honor, and I hope the Scots of
Chicago will look at it in the light, I do. The fees and
dues are smaller than any other Society in Chicago,
therefore The Illinois Saint Andrew Society ought to be
the banner society of Chicago.”
Dr. J. A. McGill,
What did Scots Die of?
The leading causes of death in the 1700s were recorded
in the Melrose Parish Records of Marriages, Session
Minutes, and Mortuary Rolls, 1642-1820. The current
leading causes of death in the U.S.—cancer, heart
attacks, strokes, and accidents—were not included in the
first ten causes of death.
From the Melrose records consumption (tuberculosis) was
the leading cause, followed by old age, smallpox, fever,
and chincough (whatever that might have been). Other
leading causes at that time were colic, childbirth,
measles, hooping cough (sic) and scarlet fever. There
were a few odd deaths and some sad ones, too:
Thomas Bell died at age 36 of Elia’s passion. Andre
Pringle died at age 15 of the King’s Evil (scrofula).
John Hunter perished in the snow, and James Williamson
lost his life while bathing in the Tweed.1
Duke of Sutherland
George Granville William Leveson-Gower arrived in Tarpon
Springs, Florida, in the year 1887. He arrived on an
ocean-going yacht with the name of Sans Peur (Without
Fear). At his side was a beautiful woman, a commoner,
named Mary Caroline Mitchell Blair. She was the widow of
Arthur Kindersley Blair of the 71st Highlanders
regiment. His wife, the Duchess Anne, mother of his four
children, was serving as Mistress of the Robes to Queen
Victoria in London.
The Duke was well known on both continents. He had
attended the opening of the Suez Canal and the
celebration in Delhi when the Queen was proclaimed
Empress of India. He had also visited the United States
to inspect railroads and in Scotland he had built a
17-mile railroad to reach his vast estate at the
northern tip of Scotland.
The Duke was taken to see forty acres of land on the
north shore of what is now Lake Tarpon. He bought the
land and began to immediately construct his mansion. No
expense was spared especially for a huge drawing room
with a polished hardwood floor suitable for dancing.
Parties were held on a regular basis and the empty
bottles of champagne were shoved “neck deep into the
soil flanking both sides of the broad sidewalk from the
door of the mansion down to the lake.”
The Duke and Mrs. Blair frequently took rides on
perfectly matched white horses. They often rode as far
as Dunedin and Clearwater. Another trip was made by boat
to Fort Myers, “where the Duke, preceded up the wharf by
bagpipers, and paid his respects to Thomas Edison.” So
prominent was the Duke that the town of Palm Harbor was
Responding to a request to help build a new church in
Dunedin, the Duke responded generously. The Church of
the Good Shepherd was completed in 1888 and the first
wedding was that of the Duke of Sutherland to Mary
Caroline Blair on March 4, 1889, the Duchess Anne having
died on November 25, 1888. The church, located at 639
Edgewater Drive in Dunedin, has now been restored to its
Shortly after the wedding the Duke and Duchess retired
to his baronial estates in the north of Scotland where
he died on September 22, 1892. The Duchess Mary Caroline
was married again in 1896 to Sir Albert Kaye Rollit, a
wealthy ship owner and M.P. for Islington.
“The property on the shores of Lake Butler remained
neglected. The broad lawns were overgrown with weeds,
the windows were broken and the building fell into major
disrepair...The village of Sutherland returned, though
not for many years, to its original name of Palm Harbor.
And leading down to the shores of Lake Tarpon there is
still a brick wall, though the champagne bottles are
gone. But the memories linger on, and sometimes,
visitors still say they can hear the popping of corks,
and sometimes the wail of the wind in the palm trees
sounds like the wail of bagpipes.”
Taken from an article by Howard Hartley which was
published in Beach Life, March 1975. Thanks to member
Sheila Wilson of Dunedin, Florida, for sending the
William Sleigh Kerr died January 31, 1998 at the age of
86 in Vero Beach, Florida.
In WW II, he spent three years as a Colonel with the
United States Army leading an effort to build railroads
through India, Burma and China. After the war, he spent
25 years with the Burlington Railroad and designed the
Double Decker Commuter Rail Car so familiar to those of
us who live in the Chicago area. The last 25 years of
his working life was spent as Vice President and
Business Manager with Northwestern University in
Evanston, Illinois. In the early 1960’s he conceived and
developed the J. Roscoe Miller Lakefront Campus of over
Mr. Kerr was the father of Andrew Kerr who presently
serves on the Board of Governors of the Illinois St.
Andrew Society and the uncle of Alexander Kerr,
immediate past president of the Society.
As most of you probably know, April 6 is now officially
designated as National Tartan Day. The resolution
introduced by Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi passed
unanimously. I understand the Senate received thousands
of letters in support of this resolution. Some 200
Scottish organizations in the United States helped make
the effort a success.
Many of you in Illinois wrote our two Senators asking
for their vote on Senate Resolution 150. Thanks to all
of you who wrote letters and made telephone calls.
The Board of Governors at their meeting on April 6, gave
special recognition and honor to the contributions that
Scots have made to the United States. Our thanks to Will
Norman for playing his pipes that day on Wacker Drive.
Several Chicago radio stations picked up the story and I
was interviewed by Stu Cohen and Clark Weber concerning
the significance of National Tartan Day.
The celebration was somewhat dampened by the loss of a
true friend and generous supporter, Dr. Andrew Thomson.
His memorial service was held April 6, 1998. Members of
the Board of Governors attended the service in full
Scottish attire. He will be greatly missed.
1. The files of James Thompson
2. 1921 Annual Report of the Illinois Saint Andrew