Great Scots

Scottish Name List



Visit our Blog




The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 2003

St. Andrew's Society of the State of New York

On November 19, 1756, a small group of native-born Scots and Scottish-Americans met in lower Manhattan to form what is now the oldest established charitable organization in the State of New York. Plans are already underway for the celebration of their 250th anniversary in 2006. Their membership now totals nearly a thousand men of Scottish heritage residing in all regions of the tri-state area and beyond. Their predecessor was the Charity Box of the Scots Society of New York founded in 1744.

It is very possible that our Saint Andrew Society used this organization as a pattern when they met in January 1846 to formalize their interest. There are several similarities; for instance, the New York Society maintains a large plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn much the same as we do at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. They also used the term Almoners¯ to describe their help to Scots in need, infirm, or have pressing pecuniary requirements. Our charitable efforts use the same word in spite of the fact that most of our members fail to understand the meaning of Almoners.

Today, the New York Society grants scholarships and gives significant grants to outstanding charitable and cultural organizations in Scotland and the United States...¯ They still maintain an active Almoners Program. Through the generous support of Robert Crawford, who is past Chairman of the Board of Managers, the New York Society has recently purchased an office at 150 East 55th Street in New York City. Annual dues are $45 for ages 21-34, $50.00 ages 35-64, $30 ages 65 and over and $900 for Life Membership. Additional information could be obtained by calling 212.223.4248.

Noted Members

Philip Livingston ~ First President and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the founder of King's College which is now known as Columbia University. Other signers of the Declaration of Independence who were members include Lewis Morris and the Rev. John Witherspoon. 

The Rev. John Witherspoon ~ Founder and President of the College of New Jersey, now called Princeton University. He was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was directly responsible for removing an ethnic slur, the reference to Scotch and Foreign mercenaries, from an early draft of the Declaration. The Society erected a memorial plaque at his birthplace in Yester, East Lothian.

Dr. Peter Middleton ~ President of the Society from 1767-1770 and performed the first dissection in America. He was also the founder of the Columbia University Medical School.

John Loudon McAdam ~ He was a member of the Society who made a fortune while in New York. He returned to his native Scotland in 1783 and there he invented a process for paving roads, still called macadam or tarmac. He became general supervisor of roads in Great Britain and paved the streets of many cities and hundreds of miles of roads.

Andrew Carnegie ~ President of the Society 1899-1902 was the richest man in the world. His bequest increased the Permanent Fund by hundreds of thousands of dollars, which allowed the Society to increase its charitable works.

Ward Melville ~ Founded the Melville Shoe Company and the Thomas McAn Shoe Store chain. The company evolved into the present day CVS Drug Store chain. 

Alexander McGillivray ~ He was of a partly Native American ancestry and Chief of the Creek Nation. He negotiated a treaty for the Creek with President Washington, which was signed in an elaborate ceremony, the last official act of the United States Government with New York City as the capital. 

Archibald Gracie, Sr. ~  President of the Society 1818-1823, he was a fabulously rich shipping merchant and immigrant from Scotland. He was immortalized by his friend, Washington Irving, as The Merchant Prince. His country home, Gracie Mansion (on the East River at 88th Street) was built in 1799 and is now the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York.

Hon. Robert R. Livingston ~ While President of the Society in 1789, was called upon as Chancellor the State of New York to administer the Oath of Office to George Washington as the first President of the United States. A kilted Vice President of the Society, Brig. Gen. William Malcolm, commanded the military escort to the ceremony held on Wall Street. As minister to France, Livingston increased the size of the United States...as he masterminded the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

¯The list goes on to include such names as: Washington Irving, Alexander Hamilton, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, John Reid The Father of Golf in America, Malcolm S. Forbes, Mayor John V. Lindsay, Cliff Robertson and Hugh Downs. At least five members served as Royal Governors of the original colonies.

Reprinted from the Saint Andrew Society of the State of New York brochure.

Orcadians and Shetlanders

Last year, someone gave me a directory of the Orcadians and Shetlanders who were residents of Chicago as of July, 1912. I have lost the notation of who gave me this information, so that person will need to call me again. The Directory was issued by the Orkney and Shetland Society of Chicago. The list contains all Orcadians and Shetlanders in Chicago, together with the descendants 14 years old or over, and all those married to O. and S. people. The grand total is 845 people. That total is broken down to include: 257 Orkney born, 207 born in the Shetlands, 130 of Orcadian descent, 122 of Shetland descent, and 129 adopted by marriage.¯ First the name is given, followed by the maiden name of the married women, along with the address and place of birth.

The Orkney and Shetland Literary, Social, and Benevolent Society was formed on February 7, 1885 by twenty-six gentlemen, Captain A. Leith presiding. Their mission was to help those Islanders who were in need. The desire on the part of its members to assist their needy and destitute fellow Islanders when required has kept the organization in existence, when everything seemed to point to failure...¯ It is unclear when the Society ceased to exist.

The first annual report indicates that the Society was strong in debate.¯ The first debate being led by Mr. A.. S. F. Ballantine on the subject, Are Trade Unions a Benefit to the Working Man?¯ In its first year, the Society voted down the admission of women, but in 1891 altered the Constitution to admit 120 ladies to the full privileges of membership.¯

In July, 1891, the Society held the first Union Scotch Picnic at Des Plaines, Illinois, but it was not very successful because of the inclemency of the weather. This was the first of a long succession of picnics held on July 4 and perhaps the most outstanding annual Scotch event in Chicago. They also had a large library which contained yearbooks, periodicals and novels which have reference to the Islands of Orkney and Shetland, while it subscribes, through its librarian, to all four of the Orkney and Shetland newspapers. The location of these materials is unknown at the present time, but would be extremely interesting to present-day historians.

The Society met the third Saturday of each month at the Colonial Hall, 20 W. Randolph Street in Chicago, in a building now long gone. This society has had it periods of prosperity and also its periods of adversity, but it has ever held a prominent place in all projects of a Scotch nature in Chicago, especially is this so in regard to the Burns Monument Fund, the Victoria Memorial Bed Fund and the Scottish Old Peoples Home fund, and there is no society today so much interested in the uniting of Scottish effort in this city as the Orkney and Shetland Society. The annual dues were $2.00 with a death benefit of $50.00 to its members. Their bank balance was $2,000 in 1912.

What a great history and we wish they were still alive and as vibrant in 2003. If any of our readers have additional information, please let me know.

Scottish Societies

(Reprinted from The Scottish-American History Club Newsletter, October, 1998)

Chicago has had many Scottish organizations in addition to our own Society. A Caledonian Club was organized in 1865 with 100 members. They held what we now call Highland Games in September, 1866, with 5,000 present. Later a Caledonian Society was formed in 1883 with 50 members and they held Highland Games in 1884.

By 1887, there were at least 13 societies in Chicago. They united in what was called the United Scottish Societies in 1901 and by 1911 a total of 17 societies were in a Central Council. These groups were active in erecting the Robert Burns monument located in Garfield Park on Chicago's west side. The history of these societies has regretfully been lost in time. The only surviving member has been The Illinois Saint Andrew Society. Perhaps the last to dissolve was the Orkney and Shetland Society sometimes known as the O. & S. It appears they ceased to exist in the early 1970s.

Our society newsletter published July 1, 1984, speaks of Jim and Clara Manson of Long Beach, California, who had been active in the O. & S. When the O. & S. ceased to function, the money left in the treasury bought a memorial table for the entry of the Scottish Home. We have apparently lost track of that memorial table. Does anyone remember? Please call if you remember the table and/or have a description.

City Water for the Scottish Home

Minutes of Board of Governors
Dated December 19, 1927

Mr. Somerville, Chairman of the House Committee, reported that since the last meeting of the board, he had been successful in inducing the officials of the Forest Preserve to stand the greater part of the expense in extending a water main on Des Plaines Avenue to a point opposite the Home and that the Home is now connected to city water. This necessitated some extra plumbing work, some repairs and changes, all of which amounted to a considerable amount of money. He stated that he thought the troubles in the water supply to the Home which had been experienced in the past were now over.

Prior to this date the Scottish Home water came from a well located somewhere on the property. During the recent construction a large cistern was discovered in the courtyard which was designed to collect and hold rain water, and it is still performing that task.

Board of Governors Meeting
March 29, 1919

This meeting of the Board of Governors was held at 38 South Dearborn Street on Friday afternoon beginning at 4 p.m. Those in attendance were: William Lister, Robert Somerville, R. Douglas Stuart, James B. McDougal, James B. Forgan, A. W. Fulton and James Simpson.

The first order of business was the second appearance of Thomas Simpson before the Board. Thomas Simpson (no relationship to the James Simpson mentioned above) was a resident of the Scottish Home and was apparently creating some problems. It was explained that Mr. Simpson was a resident at the Home, that he was an able and willing worker with no bad habits but was of a quarrelsome nature keeping everyone about him in an air of suspense. On account of excellent recommendations, he was taken into the Home at an earlier age than is usually allowed and on account of being younger, he loses patience with those less able to get about. His own complaint was that he was unjustly treated in being asked to tie small twigs into bunches to light the fireplace. He thought the work useless and tedious and in some imaginary way traced back to the janitor with whom he was not friendly.

Scottish-American Museum  

Our museum continues to grow and each month we add something of interest. During December, we were pleased to add the following items: Dr. Ross Heagar spent six months making a replica of the Scottish Maid, commissioned in 1839. The sailing ship was given in honor of his wife who was a resident of the Scottish Home.

Marthat Herriott Swift presented on permanent loan the Grant of Arms awarded to the Herriott Heritage Association by the Lord Lyon King at Arms. It is to be displayed in the museum in memory of the late A. Dean Herriott of Mahomet, Illinois, without whose foresight and commitment the Herriott Heritage Association would never have come into being.

We also have a collection of six Bes-Ben hats. To our knowledge there is no Scottish connection but there certainly is a Chicago connection. Benjamin Green-Field was born in 1897 to the son of a milliner. His father died when he was three years old and his mother learned the millinery trade to support the family. In 1920, Benjamin and his sister, Bessie, opened a store on State Street using both of their first names to create the famous Bes-Ben logo. Within eight years they had expanded to five shops. Their hats had become a necessary adornment for Chicago's society ladies and beyond. They crafted hats for women, including Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, and Elizabeth Taylor. For Hedda Hopper's appearance at the premiere of The Razor's Edge, they created a hat topped with razors. A Chicago socialite received a little hat covered with clocks to wear at a charity event titled Time for giving¯. The hats originally sold from $37.75 to $100.00 which excluded women on a tight budget. The hats now sell for hundreds of dollars.

Every summer, however, he would clean out his inventory before the new season at a midnight sale, marking down the hats to as little as $5.00. At 2 a.m., he would toss the rest out the front door to waiting bargain hunters. One of our former residents who had worked for a wealthy family in Lake Forest left the hats among her possessions at the time of her death.

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