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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 2001


William Maclure

William Maclure was born in Scotland in 1763 and made his fortune in a London mercantile firm before he devoted his life to science and philanthropy.

He had become an American citizen by 1803, when President Jefferson appointed him to a commission to settle claims between the U.S. and France. Then, mostly alone, Maclure set out to survey the regions east of the Mississippi River. He made a geological map of the U.S., one of the first of its scope ever prepared, which he published with “Observations on the Geology of the United States” in 1809.

maclure-william-jan01 An early member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Maclure was elected its president in 1817 a position which he held until his death in 1840. He was the Academy’s major benefactor in those years, giving it his library and scientific collections, as well as financial support. A correspondent of Jefferson’s on scientific matters, Maclure is known as the “father of American geology.” In 1824, he visited Robert Owen’s cotton mill at New Lanark, Scotland, and the following November, he met Robert Owen in Philadelphia and decided to join his group at New Harmony, Indiana.

In 1818, Thomas Nuttall named the genus Maclura to honor William Maclure. It is a medium-sized tree native to parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is noted for its beautiful glossy leaves and curious citrus-like fruit. Because native Americans prized its wood for making  bows, the French called it Boisd’arc,

 The University of Pennsylvania houses a Maclure Collection that contains more than 25,000 items mostly materials on the French Revolution. Maclure was an “enthusiastic advocate of the benefits of the French Revolution to the people of France.”

The University of Indiana also has a collection of his work where he is recognized as the founder of free libraries in both Indiana and Illinois. Maclure spent the last years of his life in Mexico and died there in 1840. His place of burial is unclear.

Note: Some of the above information was taken from a card distributed by The Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. The Internet also contains a great deal of information about William Maclure.

Dr. Alexander Stewart
Someone You Should Know
Dr. Alexander Stewart was a veterinary surgeon in Scotland who had studied in London and Edinburgh. For 14 years he was a surgeon to the Perth Agriculture Society. In 1817, he came to America and because there was so much “sickness--chill and fever” he took up the practice of medicine and was very successful. He was especially kind to the poor and often took people into his own home where he would treat and care for them.

He always had a desire to come to America and began reading literature produced by a Mr. Flowers who apparently gave a graphic picture of life in America. Finally, he began preparing for the trip, but grandparents on both sides of the family pleaded that his four daughters should remain in Scotland and that his wife and four sons should make this initial trip. Once settled, the daughters would follow.

After crossing the Atlantic, they finally arrived in New Harmony, Indiana, but stayed only a short time because they were not altogether satisfied with life in the community as envisioned by Robert Owen. After traveling over southern Illinois, they finally took up a homestead of 200 acres in the northern part of White County, about a mile from the “Scotch settlement” of Liberty.

About this time, he began writing to a friend and neighbor in Edinburgh, Scotland, trying to persuade him to bring his family and come to America with the next group of emigrants. Dr. Stewart sent money to this friend for his daughters transportation along with instructions on how to reach his home in Illinois.

It took seven weeks to reach America in a sailing vessel and after landing in New York, the friend went into the city to find lodging. He left with all their money, letters of introduction and instructions on how to reach Liberty, Illinois. He never returned. The girls waited all afternoon and “in their great disappointment and fear for what might happen to them they were all in tears.”

Toward evening, “they saw a very fine looking gentleman with a tall silk hat and gold headed cane walking toward them from the city. He came up to them and asked how they came to be there at such a late hour. Then they told him their story of their father’s misplaced confidence in this man who had been their neighbor for years.” It happened that the man in the silk hat was a “Scotchman and could understand them perfectly.” Not only was he from Scotland with a “kindly Scotch tongue” but he had been a classmate of Dr. Stewart. That night in his elegant home they enjoyed a fine supper.

The four girls now ranged in age from 11 to 19 and they have not seen their parents in seven years. The girls were placed with Scottish families except for Mary, the youngest, who stayed with Dr. Ferguson. “They were all sent to school and given dancing lessons and had the advantages of the wealthy children of that day.”

“The father of the girls knew about when they were to start on their voyage and could guess about the usual time of seven weeks for them to make their landing in New York. He also knew it would take weeks and perhaps months for them to make their way through the broken country to his home. After he had allowed a reasonable length of time for this to happen, and his daughters had not arrived, he was quite disturbed and finally concluded they were lost or had met with some accident.”

The girls did not have their father’s address and thus had no way of communicating with him, except by writing a letter to their grandparents in Scotland and waiting for them to notify their father in Illinois. “As mail traveled very slowly in those days, it took months for their father to get the message of their whereabouts.” In the meantime, the oldest daughter, Jessie, had met and fallen in love with George Dick on the trip across the Atlantic. Finally, word reached the father, who started on the long trip alone, “armed with his gun and on foot.” After a wedding for the oldest daughter, they began the long journey back to Illinois.

The above story was written by Isabella Miller, a granddaughter, and our thanks to Ted Reeves in Merced, California for sending this story and several others.


Don Buik recently gave me some materials that belonged to his father who was very proud of the fact that he came from Dundee, Scotland. Dundee was once known by the three “J’s” - Jute, Jelly and Journalism.
In one envelope was a handwritten story about marmalade. The story as written by George Buik reads like this. When ships would arrive from Spain, they often used bitter oranges for ballast. Loading materials for the return trip, the oranges were dumped overboard. An enterprising lady in Dundee, saw them floating in the river and took a basket home. “When she tried to get her family to eat them, they were so bitter they couldn’t eat them so she made jelly out of them.” Then she sent her son out to sell the jelly. When he returned, she asked what he had been told and the son replied, they said, “mair ma lad.” A rough translation of this, I am told, is “sell me more, or I want more.” This is how she obtained the name marmalade. Keillers Marmalade in a white pot became a best seller around the world.

Dorothy Taylor, who lives in Dundee was kind enough to send me a lot of information about the history of Keillers’ marmalade. It seems her boss was an accountant for the company before its final demise. “He has a number of leaflets, papers etc. consigned to the dustbin that he rescued before the final closure of the Maryfield factory.” Some of the information may take exception to the story by George Buik, but the basic facts are the same.

The first factory was located in Albert Square in the very heart of Dundee. In 1846, because of a duty imposed on sugar the factory was moved to the Channel Islands. In 1879, a factory that would in time cover seven acres, was opened in London. In 1905 a Grocers Exhibition was held at Islington and the company rented an entire hall to display its products. The display line took 12,000 feet to show their entire product line of 63,000 preserve packages. “During the first large-scale raid on London in September 1940 the Silvertown factory, was completely destroyed.” In 1945, a new factory was built at Maryfield on the northern outskirts of Dundee.

Dorothy from Dundee says: “Keiller’s was sold to Cross & Blackwell in the 1950 or 60's, then to Nestles, then to a local company, before finally closing in 1991. Confectionery is still manufactured at the Maryfield site, but the only connection to the original Keiller’s is that the owner once worked there. I think that Keiller’s marmalade is still manufactured by Robertson, who bought the brand name.”

 Scots Pioneers

  • General Forbes, who christened Pittsburgh, William Paterson, who gave his name to Paterson, N. J. and Moses Cleveland, who gave his name to Cleveland, Ohio, were of Scottish blood. 
  • John Kinzie, the first white settler on the site of Chicago, was a Scot; and John Whistler (1756-1829), the grandfather of the painter, was born in Ulster. He fought in the British army under Burgoyne at the battle of Saratoga, afterward settling in America and joining the United States army in 1791. He was sent to Chicago with his company in 1803 to build Fort Dearborn.”
  • John Harris (1716-1791) was the founder of Harrisburg, Pa. He built the first ferry across the Susquehanna at that point and was the principal storekeeper of the frontier. He had by his fair dealing, the implicit confidence of the Indians and many important councils were held at his house . . .”
  • John and Samuel Finley, nephews of Rev. Samuel Finley, president of Princeton College, both served with distinction in the Revolutionary War. John was a noted Indian trader and in 1767 preceded Boone by two years into Kentucky.
  • Simon Kenton (1755-1836), Boone’s companion in many of his daring enterprises, was the son of a Scottish mother and an Ulster-Scottish father. At the age of sixteen he ran away beyond the Alleghenies. He joined with George Rogers Clark and was with him at Kaskaskia. Kenton County, Kentucky, is named for him. He was one of the last surviving of the early pioneers.”

Caledonian Society of Chicago

The Caledonian Society of Chicago was founded on June 8, 1884. They endeavored to encourage fellowship among Scots, to encourage the wearing of the Scottish national costume and to perpetuate Scottish music, history and poetry. The club achieved these goals through such annual celebrations as Burn’s anniversary suppers, the Caledonian games, and Halloween activities. In addition monthly socials, usually of a literary nature, were presented during the winter months. Business meetings were held on the second Thursday of the month at their 45 E. Randolph Street location. They also held an annual picnic and games at such places as Riverview Park at Belmont and Western Avenues. Races, football matches, and ballroom dances were common activities.

“In April, 1869, the members proposed that a union of Scottish societies in Chicago take place or, at the very least, that the various societies jointly sponsor national celebrations, events, picnics, and so on. Both the Orkney and Shetland Society and the Caithness Association tentatively approved the idea in principle. Other organizations however, such as the Scottish Assembly, did not express much enthusiasm for the proposal.

At least one editorial writer, though, thought the idea a good one. ‘There is no city in the country in a better position than Chicago to have a really good Scottish organization of some kind.’”

In February 1934 the Caledonian Society of Chicago celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a concert and dance at the Auditorium Hotel. It is unclear when the Society ceased to operate.

From the Editor

Believe it or not, another year has passed, and we have now completed our seventh year of publication.

We invite you to send us your family stories. We hope this newsletter will be a venue to share your family history with other Scots.


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