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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 2000


William Bryce Mundie, Scottish Home Architect  

This year the Illinois St. Andrew Society will begin celebrating the 100th birthday of the Scottish Home. Since the first St. Andrew?s Day Dinner was held in Chicago on November 30, 1845, the care of elderly Scots has been the heart of this organization. It all started with a rented two-story brownstone on the south side of Chicago. In 1910, Dr. John A. McGill gave the Society five acres of land in Riverside, Illinois, to construct a home for elderly men and women. The architect was William Bryce Mundie.

?Bill? Mundie was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, April 30, 1863. Both his parents were born in Scotland. He was educated at the Hamilton Collegiate institute and decided to follow the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become an architect.

After the great fire of 1871, Chicago was the place to practice architecture. Just before his 21st birthday, Mundie arrived in Chicago. On his first day in the city, he was hired by William LeBaron Jenney and never left the firm. Within seven years he was Jenney?s partner, a partnership that lasted until the Major?s retirement in 1905. Mundie continued to run the office until his own death in 1939.

On June 2, 1892, Mr. Mundie was united in marriage in Plainville, Ohio, to Miss Bessie Russell Jenney, a daughter of Ansel G. Jenney of Cincinnati. (Editor?s note: It is thought that Miss Bessie Jenney was a niece of William LeBaron Jenney.) Her ancestors in both the paternal and maternal lines were members of the Plymouth Colony and came over as passengers on the ships John and Little James. Three daughters were born: Elizabeth J., Margaret B., and Jean F. William Mundie is buried at Rosehill, but there is no stone to mark his grave. The Society has lost all contact with members of his family.

For a number of years, Mundie was a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois St. Andrew Society. When land was given in 1910 for the Scottish Old People's Home, Mundie became the architect. (You can obtain more information about Mundie and his work in the latest issue of the Tartan Times.) After fire destroyed the Home in 1917, Mundie again became the architect. The present building, with few alterations, is the home he designed. Many of the large trees on the present property are the result of Mundie?s interest. In 1919, he asked each Governor to purchase a tree to replace those lost in the fire.

In 1986, William Bryce Mundie was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Union League Club of Chicago. The speaker for that occasion was Donald A. Gillies who was serving as the President of the Illinois St. Andrew Society. Much of the material used in this article came from his presentation.

Read more about William Bryce Mundie in Chicago: Its History and its Builders

Col. Robert Bruce Fraser
Someone You Should Know

The following story was published in a local newspaper. We do not know the name of the paper, but the year should be 1968 and the caption was World?s Oldest Scout.

?Col. Robert Bruce Fraser, know as the world?s oldest scout, now resides at the Scottish Home, North Riverside. In his wanderings, he has been aide-de-camp to a duke, has fought in the Boxer Rebellion and Boer War, has brought the Boy Scout movement to Chicago, worked nights to get a degree in civil engineering and has studied for the ministry.?

?He was born this day in 1876 in Beaufort Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the home of Lord Simon Fraser, Earl of Lavat, head of the Fraser clan. His mother died when he was 18 months, and his father when he was ten years old. He was brought up by his maternal grandfather Sir Frederick Pierce Campbell, a judge of the English Circuit Court, duke of the Argyles Family. ?

His education was left to private schools and tutors until he attended Winchester School, where he began a life-long friendship with Sir Winston Churchill. At the outbreak of the Boer War, he chose to enter the army, where he became a captain. ?In South Africa, he again saw Churchill, who was at that time a war correspondent. Col. Fraser found him hiding in a freight yard, with a price on his head. The Colonel put Churchill in a piano packing case, in which he was shipped to Cape Town and from there, Churchill returned safely to England. For this he was knighted by Queen Victoria.?

?After numerous adventures, he came to America aboard the Saxonia. He moved to the south side of Chicago when he married and lived there for 51 years until his wife died. Before World War I, he was valuation engineer for various railroad companies, while establishing the Boy Scouts in the Back of the Yards.?

?Among his other memories is the time he was aide-de-camp to the Duke of York, later King George V. In this position, the Colonel bought the first pair of pants for Prince Edward, now the Duke of Windsor.?

?I neither drink intoxicating liquor or smoke and teach my boys that there is a Divine Maker whether we are Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish, to Whom we must give an account of ourselves when we leave this earth.?

Bath, New York

Bath, New York was founded in 1793 by Captain Charles Williamson, a native of Edinburgh. He was one of the many soldiers who settled in America after the Revolution. In 1791, he was made manager of the company organized by Patrick Colquhoun, Lord Provost of Glasgow, and others, which had purchased a tract of 1,200,000 acres in New York.

He also founded Williamsburgh on the Genesee River. For three terms he represented Steuben County in the New York legislature, was county judge and a colonel of militia.

He died on shipboard between New Orleans and Jamaica in 1808.1

More about Charles Williamson can be found at The Crooked Lake Review.

The Minutes of 1912

James R. Glass, the secretary, reported that four quarterly meetings were held at the Great Northern Hotel with an average attendance of 35. The Executive Committee had met nine times with average attendance of five. Application for membership totaled 51, of which 9 were elected to life membership. Total membership was 446, an increase of 19 over the preceding year. Total cash assets of the Society were $45,165.70.

Mr. Robert Falconer was a delegate to the Scottish Societies, but it was decided that the By-Laws prevented the Illinois St. Andrew Society from making a contribution to the organization. A Button and Badge Committee was functioning with some difficulty. For instance, a motion to adopt the Stewart Plaid for the badge died for lack of a second. There was also a question raised as to the constitutionality of spending money for button and badges. Later, Mr. Robert W. Millar, attorney for the Society ruled that it was permissible to spend money for the badges, so 500 were ordered at a cost of $100.00.

At the end of June, 1912, the cost of operating the Home for six months was $2,055.97. The average number of ?inmates? was 22 for an average cost of $92. The Cemetery Committee presented its annual report which showed that 213 adults and 37 children had been buried in the ?new grounds? and 52 adults and 4 children were buried in the ?old grounds? of Rosehill Cemetery.

The Board of Governors met 12 times during the year and always at the Scottish Home. Sir George Reid from the Commonwealth of Australia had visited the home in August. The Treasurer reported that a football game between the Campbell Rovers and the MacDuffs had produced $103 for the Scottish Home. Total contributions for the year was $11,250.92

The Banquet Committee reported that the St. Andrew Day Dinner was the largest attendance ever and required the use of two large rooms at the LaSalle Hotel. John Williamson sold $1,435 in tickets and the total receipts was $4,415. A profit of $1,736.45 was realized.

Fifer James Swan

James Swan was born in 1754 in Fifeshire, Scotland. He immigrated to Boston as a boy and became a counting-house clerk. He became a member of ?The Sons of Liberty? participating in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and was wounded twice at Bunker Hill. During the Revolutionary War he rose to the rank of colonel.

Having married into money, Swan bought a number of confiscated Loyalist properties and was involved in land speculation. In 1786 he purchased a group of islands off the coast of Maine, the largest of which bears his name. Champlain had visited these island 150 years before Swan bought the islands. On Swan's Island, he established saw mills and built a colonial mansion for himself.

James Swan owned a famous ship by the name of Sally. It was built in 1791 and was employed in the salt and spare trade between Wiscasset and La Havre. The captain of the ship was Stephan Clough and he once sailed the ship to France to deliver a load of lumber. When Captain Clough arrived in Paris, he was instructed by Swan to take on a cargo of furniture, tapestries, family plates, and valuable paintings belonging to Marie Antoinette and other royalty. Local legend has it that Marie Antoinette was suppose to board Captain Clough?s ship to escape the guillotine. Remnants of her furniture can be seen today at the Deck House where she was suppose to settle.

In 1787 assisted by Lafayette, he gained control of the US war debt to France. It totaled $2,024,899.93 and consisted of money advanced during the Revolution. ?Swan decided to liquidate it. His decision was breathtakingly unselfish. He paid it out of his own pocket. On July 9, 1795, he reported to the United States Government that ?the entire American debt was paid and does not exist any more.? (1) Cheer, a Monthly Publication (Editor?s Note: We have tried to obtain additional confirmation about the debt retirement, but have been unable to do. We repeat the story with some trepidation.)

Thirteen years after his unprecedented gift, he was cast into a debtor?s prison for nonpayment of a judgment for $150,000 obtained by a German firm. Swan denied that he owed the money and rather than pay it spent 22 years in prison.

At the outbreak of the July Revolution of 1830, he was liberated, but died three days after his release.

James McMillan

James McMillan in 1937 said, ?Like most Scots, I came to the United States with preconceived ideas of America and American ways. These were soon shattered. Very soon, I learned to appreciate the fine democratic spirit prevailing everywhere in this country. Here a man has to show his worth before he gains respect. I learned that the first week when my office boy told me where to get off. I took it and profited. I have not yet made good. The feudal system with its respect for inherited place and privilege seems never to have existed. That appealed to me?

This statement was read at the memorial service of James Gellatly McMillan in 1965. He was a member of the Illinois St. Andrew Society and a major donor in 1964. The McMillan wing at the Scottish Home is named in his honor.

From the Editor...

We have appreciated the continued support of so many of you over the past few weeks. Our thanks to everyone who has mailed a check to help with our postage. During the summer months, a special committee will be working on the celebration planed for the Scottish Home. The first event will be a formal dinner planned for August 4. It will be held in Heritage Hall and will feature a power point presentation of the first 100 years. You should also read the stories in the Tartan Times as we review this great story and those individuals who made it happen.

The Illinois St. Andrew Society is the oldest philanthropic organization in Illinois. It was chartered by the State Legislature in 1853. It continues its charitable work at the Home and though a great deal is done, there are still many more who could benefit.

On another subject, one of our efforts in publishing this simple newsletter is to tell the history and accomplishments of Scottish Americans, not only in Chicago, but also in the entire country. One of the purposes of a National Tartan Day is also to show their contributions. I was in Washington, D.C. during part of Tartan Week and participated in some of their events. If every community will observe this special day in 2001 it can only add to the historical understanding of what our Scottish population really accomplished.


        1. Scots and Scots? Descendants in America, D. MacDougall, Caledonian Publishing Co., NY

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