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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 1999

The Saint Andrew’s Society of Albany New York

The Society was founded in 1803 at the Tontine Coffee House in Albany and, like so many others, was founded for benevolent and social purposes. The Society has continued steadfastly “To Relieve the Distressed” for the past 196 years. The first president was John Stevenson, a close friend and business associate of Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The “Historical Sketch of the St. Andrew’s Society” published in 1903 records some of its activities. For example, July 26, 1804, a resolution was adopted expressing grief at the death of Alexander Hamilton, “one of the first members of a kindred society in the City of New York.” On July 7, 1810, a special relief was granted to Mrs. Young, a native of Scotland, who was 76 years of age. On May 13, 1847, a grant of $200 was given for the relief of suffering of the poor in the Highlands and islands of Scotland. In the period 1900-1920, the Society regularly issued orders to local rooming houses and restaurants to provide “bed and board” for Scottish laborers passing through the city.

A letter dated November 30, 1862 from Captain James Dodds expressed thanks for support of his Civil War recruitment drive and closed with the following: “May each and all of you ever have enough and to spare, and never be without a shot in the locker.” They are not quite sure what the “shot” refers to!

Since 1899, the Society has maintained their own building in Albany. The original St. Andrew’s Hall was sold in 1928 and was replaced by a four-story brownstone house. It was refurbished by David C. Lithgow, 47th President of the Society, and a noted artist and sculptor. The “rooms” as they are known to members are a source of great pride and all the meetings and social functions of the society are held in the “rooms.”

Today, the Society helps to maintain two statues in Albany parks, dedicated to Robert Burns and Joseph Henry. In addition, they have three burial plots in the Albany Rural Cemetery. One of the plots has a memorial with a life-sized statue of St. Andrew by David Lithgow. The monument is inscribed, “Sacred to the memory of natives of Scotland who, having sought a home in this land, died while yet strangers in it.” Nearby are seven headstones marking the graves of Scots interred by the Society in the middle of this century.1

Scots of Note

Rev. George Keith, a native of Aberdeen, became Surveyor-General of New Jersey in 1684. He founded the town of Freehold. In 1693, he issued the first printed protest against human slavery.2

James Alexander, a Scot was disbarred for attempting the defense of John Peter Zenger, the printer, in 1735. Along with Benjamin Franklin
, he was one of the founders of the American Philosophical Society.2

Andrew Hamilton was the most eminent lawyer of his time. He was Attorney-General of Pennsylvania and Chief Commissioner for building Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He successfully defended Peter Zenger and was the champion of America’s freedom of the press.2

Major Stobo, a native of Glasgow, served in the Canadian campaign against the French. It was he who guided the Fraser Highlanders up the Heights of Abraham.2

Thomas Leiper, born in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, emigrated to Maryland in 1763. He was one of the first to favor separation from the mother country, and raised a fund for open resistance to the Crown.2

Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders of the Republic, served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, but it was as a Statesman of the highest ability that he acquired great fame. He was one of the most prominent Members of the Continental Congress (1782-83), of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and Secretary of the Treasury (1789-95). He was born in the West Indies, the son of a Scots father and French mother.2

John Macintosh, the developer of the Mackintosh red apple was born in New York State. His father emigrated to the U. S. from Inverness. Apple Computers has named a range of computers after him.3

FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, was a grandson of a Scottish Presbyterian minister. His invention of a hybrid corn, increased agricultural production many times over.3

The creator of the gardens of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco - John McLaren - was born in Bannockburn, Stirlingshire.3

General Winfield Scott was the grandson of a Scot who fought in the Battle of Culloden. He became the commanding general of the American forces during the Mexican War of 1846-48.3

Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, who was descended from a long line of Scots, founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809 in Baltimore. She was canonized by Rome in 1975.3

Robert Walter Weir (1803-89), of Scots parentage, is best known for his historical pictures, he being one of the first in America to take up this branch of art. “The Embarkation of the Pilgrims” (1836-40) in the Rotunda of the Capital at Washington is by him.2

Russell Smith, born in Glasgow in 1812, was a scientific draughtsman and landscape painter. Two of his finest landscapes, “Chocorus Peak” and “Cave at Chelton Hills” were exhibited in the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876. His son, Xanthus (b. 1839), was a well-known marine and landscape painter and painted many of the naval engagements of the Civil War.2

Joseph Henry
Someone You Should Know

Joseph Henry’s discoveries in the field of electrical generation, transmission, and utilization were the basis for much of today’s advances in electricity, radio and other communications. Henry was a ponder in the science of meteorology. He also did extensive experimentation in the field of electromagnetics.

He was born December 17, 1797, in Albany, New York, of Scottish ancestry. At 13 he was apprenticed to a watchmaker. His interests lay elsewhere, however. A book on natural science stimulated his interest and he entered Albany Academy at 16. After finishing his course of study at Albany, he taught rural school. At the same time he continued his studies in chemistry and medicine.

He switched to engineering but took a job teaching mathematics and philosophy at Albany Academy. Working with electromagnetics, he was the first to insulate wire for the magnetic coil and invented spool winding. He produced a working model of a telegraph and in 1829 constructed a pioneer electromagnetic motor. He was the first to use self-induction and the first to relate the principal of grounding through the earth as a return conductor.

Transferring to Princeton, he taught physics and mathematics as well as chemistry, mineralogy, astronomy, geology, and architecture. He was an early sunspot observer. In 1846, he became the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institute where he started the corps of weather observers that developed into the U. S. Weather Bureau.

He mobilized scientific effort for the benefit of the North in the Civil War and was the prime mover in the organization of the National Academy of Sciences. He died in Washington, D.C., on May 13, 1878. His funeral was one of the most impressive ever seen in the nation’s capital. Among those attending were President Rutherford B. Hayes and his cabinet, Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court, congressmen, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of the nation’s leading scientific societies.

Memorial services for Henry were held in both the U. S. House and Senate and Congress voted $15,000 for his likeness to be cast in bronze and dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The statue of Henry has stood in front of the Smithsonian Building since 1883. Joseph Henry was a close friend of Presidents Lincoln, Buchanan, Johnson, Grant and Hayes.4

Albany, New York

The State of New York began as a Netherlands colony in 1625, unlike the surrounding English colonies. New Amsterdam was well founded from the beginning and there was not a period of enduring hardship as suffered by other colonists. In fact, the Dutch exported grain to other colonies the next year.

In 1664, James VIII, then Duke of York, conquered New Holland and renamed it New York. One of the early, famous families in America was that of the Livingstons'. The first of the family in America was Robert Livingston (1654-1672) born at Ancrum, Roxburghshire. He came to America about 1672. His second son, Philip, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Robert Fulton, the inventor, married the daughter of the Livingstons and thus got the necessary financial backing to make the Claremont a success. The family also founded the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Lord Loudin was governor of New York in the 1750’s. He was also a Scot who offered opportunities for people of Scottish descent to settle in the New World. The Black Watch was shipped to Schenectady, New York, in the French and Indian War and won the honorific “Royal Highlanders” at Ticonderoga, about 80 miles north of Albany. After the war the privates were discharged in America while the officers were shipped back to Scotland. By 1800, there was a large Scottish community in Albany.

The St. Andrew’s Society of Albany was founded in 1803. The Albany Society has had many prominent members. including Joseph Henry, the first director of the Smithsonian.1

Grant’s Home in Galena, Illinois

Ulysses Simpson Grant moved to Galena, Illinois in 1860. He had left the military and in the intervening years things had not gone well for Grant and his family. He took a job working for his younger brother as a clerk in his father’s store. They rented a modest brick house on the western branch of the Mississippi river. During this time, Grant traveled throughout the Northwest selling to customers.

The Civil War came and everything changed for Grant. He would return to Galena a hero of the republic and perhaps the most famous man in America, after Lincoln.

Four months after Grant had received a sword of surrender from Robert E. Lee, he returned to Galena. The town was wild with celebrations and presented the Grants with a handsome, furnished home. It was “lovely villa exquisitely furnished with everything good taste could desire.” They spent little time in the home, but it was always kept ready for their visits.

Much of the furniture is original and the house is open daily. Admission is free. For more information, call 815-777-0248.5

From the Editor

This issue marks six years of publishing our simple newsletter. It began as a means of dispensing information about the Scots of Chicago to our History Club, but obviously we have expanded the field of interest. Many of you have been kind enough to write and express your interest in the various subjects and those letters are much appreciated. We considered stopping in January because of the press of other business, but have decided to continue a little longer. A special thanks to the members of my family who help and to the Illinois St. Andrew Society for underwriting the mailings. Many of our readers have helped with donations and that is also appreciated.

This issue is dedicated to the St. Andrew’s Society in Albany, New York. They have a great history and we have hardly touched on all of their accomplishments. They are now planning for a great celebration on their Bicentennial. I understand the Highlander Magazine will publish their story, with pictures, in a future edition. For the past year, we have been compiling a list of the St. Andrew Societies in the United States and you will soon be able to access this information
online.We now mail this newsletter to all the Societies in the United States.

If your Society has a written history, please share it with us.


1. Roger L. Creighton, John A. Wilson, and Jay Higle
. Scotland’s Mark on America, George Fraser Black, Ph.D., published in 1921.
3. www.tartans.Scotland.net
4. From the files of James Thompson
5. Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Homes of the Midwest and Great Plaines

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