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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
October 2002

Stanford White

Stanford WhiteThe architect Stanford White was born in 1853 and died in 1906. He studied under Henry Hobson Richardson of Scottish descent who designed the home of John J. Glessner on Prairie Avenue in Chicago. White was influential in founding the firm of McKim, Mead and White, and all three men were apparently of Scottish descent. Stanford White was most active in New York City where he designed the Washington Square Arch, the Century Club, and a lavish Madison Square Garden on whose rooftop he was murdered in 1906. His killer was a jealous husband, Harry K. Thaw, whose wife’s affection White had once enjoyed. From the trial came the epithet the “girl in the red velvet swing.”

Recently the “Standing Lincoln” statue in Lincoln Park was designated as Chicago’s 200th landmark. The towering sculpture of Lincoln standing before an ornate chair, deep in thought, clasping his lapel and stepping forward as if to speak to a waiting crowd was sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The face and hands are based on life casts by sculptor Leonard W. Volk, but Saint-Gaudens had also seen Lincoln in person, once in life and again when his body lay in state. The sculpture is widely considered to be his most significant work. When it was unveiled in 1887, 10,000 people watched as Lincoln’s grandson, Abraham Lincoln II, dedicated the sculpture. The pedestal was designed by Stanford White.

Astor Street

McCormick MansionAstor Street in Chicago started as the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast area beginning in the 1880's. The street was named for John Jacob Astor, and the earliest house is still the residence of the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

The largest house on Astor Street is at the north-west corner of Burton and Astor. The house was commissioned in 1892 by Chicago Tribune publisher Joseph Medill as a wedding gift for his daughter and son-in-law, the Robert Pattersons. The next owner was Cyrus Hall McCormick II. The designer of this finely proportioned example of Renaissance revival was Stanford White.

See more pictures at Chicago - Architecture & Cityscape


Dennis Swenie

Dennis Swenie was the only Captain who lost an engine during the Great Fire of 1871. “That was old No. 14. She was a good engine and never ought to have been lost, and never would have been had I had my way.” It appears, after trying to read the old newspaper article, that a mistake in communications allowed someone to stop the flow of water to No. 14, and she was lost in an alley at Clinton and Polk. The engine house on Chicago Avenue was also burned, and Chief Swenie says 29 citizens lost their lives around the engine house because they thought it would not catch fire. According to Swenie, the city only had 200 firemen, 17 engines and 34,000 feet of hose. (Not much for a city its size.) He continues, “there was no system for anything. Fire alarm boxes were stuck around wherever they could find a post to hang one on. There might be three to a block, or one to four miles, you never knew which...”

D. J. Swenie was born in Glasgow, Scotland, July 20, 1834. He came to Chicago in 1849 and started to manufacture fire hoses. In the same year he joined Hose Company No. 3, and later Niagara No. 3. In 1852, he became assistant foreman of the Red Jacket Engine Company No. 4. That was his first step from the ranks. “Chief Swenie was the organizer of the paid steam Fire Department. In this work he encountered the most violent opposition, but he triumphed and lived to see the Chicago Fire Department the best in the world.”

The Chicago Journal, Oct. 9, 1893

More information is at the Chicago Metro Fire Department

General John McArthur
“Someone You Should Know”

mcarthuroct02The Clan McArthur was the dominating clan of Scotland from A.D. 300 to 1750. This clan crowned and uncrowned the kings of Scotland for more than a thousand years. In addition, they were the keepers of the Stone of Destiny for 600 years. The legend is that this is the stone upon which Jacob rested his head when he saw the vision of the angels upon the ladder, ascending and descending from heaven.

John McArthur was born on November 17, 1826 at Erskine, Scotland. During his childhood, all the great stories of clannish traditions and valorous ancestors were told to him over and over, and it is said he never knew the meaning of the word “fear.” He was a soldier born. John finished all 14 years of parish schooling and was offered a scholarship at the University of Edinburgh on condition he would prepare for the ministry. He refused and became an apprentice in his father’s blacksmith shop. With his bride, Christina Cuthbertson, he sailed for America in July, 1849. It appears he was attracted to America by reading accounts of the Mexican War. Eight children were born to John and Christina.

After arriving in New York, this descendant of such a powerful race came to Chicago. He was a sturdy Highlander, six feet in height, broad shouldered and vigorous. In Chicago, he became a mechanic and learned the construction of engines and boilers. In 1851, he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Carlile Mason. The firm of Mason & McArthur, builders of heavy machinery, was located on Randolph Street, between Clinton and Jefferson. In 1855, the firm built a larger shop at Canal and Carrol.

In 1856, McArthur became connected with a military organization known as the “Chicago Highland Guards.” It was composed almost entirely of Scotsmen and under his leadership they became one of the most disciplined heavy infantry groups at that time. “They wore tall bear-skin caps, the kilt of the clan McArthur, and with their bare legs and brawny shoulders, they were the pride of the city and the state.” When President Lincoln called for volunteers the Highland Guards enlisted almost to a man. They were ordered to Springfield and became the nucleus around which the Twelfth Illinois Infantry was formed and mustered into the United States service on May 3, 1861. McArthur was elected Colonel of the regiment.

At Shiloh, Colonel McArthur led his brigade; and when General W.H.L. Wallace was killed, McArthur was selected to take his place. He remained in command of the division until he was so severely wounded that he had to be carried from the field. His wound became badly inflamed and for a time it was feared he would lose his leg. After a leave of absence, he returned to duty, but was unable to walk. At the siege of Corinth, after being made a general, he was assigned command of the Sixth Division. His battles are too many to mention but he was involved in the Battle of Corinth, Vicksburg, Atlanta Campaign, and the desperate battle for Nashville on December 15, 1864.

It is said that McArthur “never disappointed his superiors in command or took his men off the field of battle in confusion.” He was the idol of the people of Chicago and there is barely a newspaper article from 1861-1865 that did not contain something of his military achievements. Upon his return to Chicago he was made the Commissioner of Public Works until President Grant appointed him Post-master. John McArthur was president of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society from 1869-1871. He was president when the Great Fire happened in Chicago and presided over the Anniversary Dinner on November 30, 1871, when George Anderson presented our ram’s head (Old Bailey) to the Society.

In The Scots and Their Descendants in Illinois, Thomas C. McMillan says: “In his residence of nearly three-score years in Chicago, he was the recipient of many honors at the hands of his fellow citizens. When he died on March 16, 1906, his passing was considered as a public bereavement.” His death certificate shows his place of death as 504 W. Monroe and states “hardship and injuries sustained during service which greatly impaired his constitution.” General McArthur was 80 years at death and is buried at Rosehill. The McArthur plot is quite large and contains the bodies of 28 individuals. Note: Much of the information in this article was contained in the Memorials of Deceased Companions located at the Chicago Historical Society.


Vicksburg National Military Park

In searching the Internet for information about the 12th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and General John McArthur, I came across the site of the Vicksburg National Military Park.vicksburgoct02

After the Civil War, 30 states constructed memorials in Vicksburg. Several items about the Illinois State memorial are interesting. The memorial was dedicated on October 26, 1906 and was transferred to the United States by Governor C. S. Deneen. Governor Deneen also accepted the Robert Burns Monument in Garfield Park in 1906. The monument stands sixty two feet in height and has forty-seven steps in the long stairway, one for each day of the Siege of Vicksburg. Inside are sixty unique bronze tables that name all 36,325 Illinois soldiers who participated in the siege. The portico features a golden one-ton bronze eagle which was cleaned and re-gilded in gold leaf in 1996.  Private funding for the re-gilding was provided by the Civil War Roundtables from the greater Chicago area.

The memorial and its base of Stone Mountain (GA) granite was erected by the Culver Construction Company with William B. Mundie contracting the designers and sculptors. The design was by W.L.B. Jenney, and the sculptor was Charles J. Mulligan. William Mundie, as most of our readers know, was the architect for the Scottish Home in 1910 and again in 1917. Many of the older trees on our property were planted as the result of a fund-raising effort conducted by William Mundie. Sadly, Mundie and his wife are buried at Rosehill in what appears to be an unmarked grave.

Newspaper Advertisement

The Chicago Daily Tribune on November 4, 1910, contained the following advertisement:

“There are places where and times when a man hasn’t the chance to finish a Robert Burns 10¢ Cigar and must throw away his half-smoked cigar. Therefore, the Little Bobbie 5¢ Cigar. Exactly the same as his ‘father’ only half the size, so one half the price. Keep a box of both at hand. There’s no difference except in the savings. Same tobacco - same workmanship - same mildness - same aroma - same dealers sell both.

Best & Russell Co.
Chicago, Illinois

Greetings on St. Andrew’s Day

Colonel Walter Scott of New York, wired the following: “Fraternal greetings to all assembled under your auspices tonight. Once more the offspring of dear Auld Scotia gather to observe Saint Andrew’s Day. Once more we proclaim our pride in the bonnie little land of song and romance and our love of its traditions and ideals. Once more we realize the glorious heritage it has bestowed upon us, and in so doing aspire to loftier standards which make us worthier citizens of the land of our adoption. And amid our peace and plenty, let us remember our Saint Andrew motto, ‘Relieve the Distressed,’ and do all in our power to minister to the dire need of our kith and kin in the land beyond the seas who are still suffering from the effects of the part they played in the great struggle.” Saint Andrew’s Day, November 30, 1922.

NOTE: This year, St. Andrew’s Day will be celebrated with a great banquet in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier on November 23, 2002. Full details are on the web site at www.chicago-scots.org. You may also call 708.447.5092.

From The Editor

Last spring, Representative William O’Connor introduced a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives to adopt a State tartan. The bill was overwhelmingly approved in the House and sent on to the Senate. Unfortunately, the Illinois Senate considered the bill as frivolous and it was never introduced for a vote. This means that the process must start over again. If anyone is interested in working on this project, please give us a call. I believe that more than 30 states have now adopted a tartan and Illinois should do the same.

If you look on page 118 of The Scots of Chicago, you will see a picture of a young child playing the drums. That child is now grown but continues to play the drums in a local pipe band. Ian Baker is also interested in the 12th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and is looking for individuals to reenact the American Civil War. His e-mail address is sidedrum@ivillage.com.

We are now completing almost seven years of the History Club Newsletter and we are trying to assess its value to the local Scottish-American Community. The cost of postage has continued to rise and mailing requirements have added to the cost. My age is also playing a factor. It has been very enjoyable to collect these stories, but it may be time to stop. Your comments are very much appreciated.

Be sure to read America’s Founding Secret—What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught our Founding Fathers, by Robert Galvin, retired CEO of Motorola.

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