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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 1999

Peter Marshall

The personality of Peter Marshall flashed like a meteor across the conscience of America. Regretfully, it was extinguished with his early death at age 45.

As U.S. Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Marshall challenged the best in the nation with his piquant and pointed references to the problems of the day in his prayers.

Peter Marshall was born in 1904 in Coatbridge in the industrial Clydeside. His father died when he was four. He studied engineering, and was encouraged to pursue his career in the U.S. where he arrived in 1927. He worked in New Jersey and Birmingham, Alabama, where he was inspired to study for the ministry.

After graduation, he became pastor of a church in Covington, Georgia, and later in Atlanta. By 1933, he was attracting large crowds with his sermons. He moved to Washington where he was well known as the preacher at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Here hundreds were turned away every Sunday.

He was asked to preach the Christmas sermon to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and family. Before long he was appointed Chaplain to the Senate. It was said that Senators started coming early just to hear his prayers which were widely quoted in national publications. An editorial in the Atlanta Journal said, “His arresting pulpit personality holds his listeners enthralled by the dramatic forcefulness of his delivery.”

He suffered severe heart pains in 1947 and died January 25, 1949. Later, his wife Catherine said of her husband, “There were things that Scotland contributed to Peter - as she does to all her sons - a sturdy independence that scorns hardship, a tenacity of purpose, and a deep appreciation of religion and political liberty with the will to defend it at any cost.”

From the Scottish American Hall of Fame located at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.

For information on the 100th birthday of Peter Marshall see the Presbyterian Outlook

Charlotte Erickson

In the Los Angeles Library, I found a book written by Charlotte Erickson entitled Invisible Immigrants. Its sub-title was The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century America.

Her book consists entirely of letters written between English and Scottish families. There was an interesting passage on page 37.

“In the case of two Scottish families, for which we have letters traveling in both directions across the Atlantic, more consulting and less unquestioning adherence to a tradition of patriarchal authority appeared. Peter McKellar asked the permission of his son to remarry, since the decision would affect him. ‘We want a housekeeper, and I know Persis Butler wants to become my lawful wife; she could make all our cloths, socks and suits; she has likewise got considerable wealth’.”

I wonder if the son gave his permission! Peter McKellar lived in Farmersburgh, Clayton Co., Iowa, and the son apparently still lived in Scotland. The note was marked ‘received April 1852'.

George Calder
* Someone You Should Know *

George Calder was a member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and quite famous in his time as a musical director. For instance, he organized and lead the great Scottish choir at the World’s Fair in 1933. His daughter, Fiona, who is also a member of the Society, recently gave me some materials for our historical collection. Among them is a letter dated August 31, 1936, from Adamson’s Scots’ House, 15 Everett Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, Mass.

“Dear Mr. Calder:

Order at hand for two doz. mens round corner thistle button, and pair of thistle chased shoe buckles, to be sent subject to approval. As no goods can be insured by mail that is sent on approval, the goods have been sent per Express.

That is a fine picture on your letter head, but the first thing I noticed was the same mistake that caused the sculptor of the Walter Scot Monument to shoot himself. (The one in Municipal Square, Glasgow). The plaid is on the right shoulder. As the idea of the tartan sash is to signify something Scottish, it must be worn by Scottish rule - on the left shoulder.

“The horse hair sporrans, two black tassels, white horse hair and metal tops, are $15.00. The Badger, Beaver or Otter Heads run from 18., to 22...”

In his instructions Mr. Adamson writes: “In corresponding with us, give full name and address on each letter. Please write plainly your name, and name of town or city. While, in nearly all cases, you can easily decipher your own signatures, it is generally the case that no one else can. This is especially true of well educated people who have got into the habit of scrawling their names.”

Does anyone know the story of the sculptor of the Walter Scot Monument in Glasgow? I suppose Adamson’s Scots’ House in Boston is long gone. Any of Boston friends know?

In old Scotland, seaport women of the night were what the Scots called a “cutty sark.” But then it meant - fast. This may have inspired the captain to name the world’s fastest clipper ship the Cutty Sark. The figurehead is of a woman in scanty garb.

San Francisco Examiner
March 8, 1998

The Lincoln Church

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is often referred to as “the Lincoln Church” because of his prominent association during his presidency. President Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln decided to make the Church their place of worship during the dark days of the Civil War and actually paid rent on a pew for three and one-half years. “By tradition, Presidents of the United States are seated in this pew when there worship” at the Church. Other Presidents association with the Church are too numerous to mention in this short article.

During the Civil War, Lincoln was often a “silent worshiper” in the Pastor’s study during the mid-week prayer meeting. Hidden from the other worshipers, Lincoln felt this “arrangement best preserved the reverent atmosphere of the service.” “One snowy evening, however, two small boys of the church, full of curiosity , traced the ‘tall stranger’ by following his large footprints in the snow back to the White House.”

“The earliest church history begins in 1793 with a little group of Scottish stone masons and carpenters who gathered for worship in a carpenter shop, temporarily erected on the grounds of the White House during construction.” Not only were Scots involved in the construction of the White House, George Walker, a native of Claackmannanshire, “pointed out the advantages of the present site of the Capital of the United States...”

In 1803 some of the original White House worshipers formed the original church and called Dr. James Laurie from Scotland as their first pastor. This was the first Protestant church in the city of Washington and their original building stood on the site of the historic Willard Hotel building. Dr. Peter Marshall was pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1941-45.

Highland Cattle

Scottish Highland cattle date back to the 12th century. Over the centuries they have developed the ability to thrive in less than ideal circumstances. “They also possess outstanding mothering instincts, longevity, very low calf mortality” and are disease resistance.

“Her majesty Queen Elizabeth keeps a large herd of Scottish Highland cattle at Balmoral Castle for her private stock. It is said that this is the only beef she allows to grace her table. In addition to the Queen, British nobility and multi-billionaires here in the U.S. own Highland cattle.” “As a trial, thirty-five Highland NY strip steaks made their premier on the Metropolitan Opera’s Special Menu. They were sold out in just 30 minutes!”

“Chef Greg Lutes at the Checkerberry Inn in Goshen, Indiana said he has been selling Highland beef for about six months. He sells a 23-ounce Highland steak for $36 and is considering offering it in smaller portions.” You can obtain more information about Highland cattle from Ginnah Moses at ahca@envisionet.net

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

John Forbes (1710-1759) was born in Pittencrieff, Fifeshire, and is recognized as the founder of Pittsburg. “He was noted for his obstinancy and strength of character, and may have been the prototype of the Scotsman in the prayer:

‘Grant, O Lord, that the Scotsman may be right; for, if wrong, he is eternally wrong’”

Robert Burns

The following information was obtained on the Internet.

“Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children born to William Burness, a farmer. As such he had plenty of hard work to do.

There is a myth that he was largely self-taught, but in fact he had a tutor, John Murdoch, who taught him everything from English literature and French to dancing. So he was far from a simple country lad. His education was encouraged by his father, but it was his mother, Agnes Broun, eldest child of Carrick farmer Gilbert Broun, who, being well versed in songs but not in books, who taught him the Scottish folk songs, legends, etc., which we find throughout his works.

His father died in 1784, when he was 25, and for a time he took over the farm. He had already been writing his first works.”

We have often heard that Burns was a non-conformist and a radical who upset most of the conservative society with his lifestyle. Burns supported privately and sometime publicly the revolutions that were spreading around the world. He would have had first-hand knowledge of the American Revolution which began in 1776. In fact, some believe that Scots Wha Hae was a cry for liberty and the independence of Scotland.

You can obtain additional information from Jeremy Boot


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