The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
Creation of the Scottish Home
The need for a home in which elderly men and women of
Scottish ancestry could spend their last years in
comfort and dignity was recognized long before steps
could be taken to make the dream a reality. The
uncertainty following the world’s fair in 1893, which
slowed the Burns Monument, also had a dramatic effect on
the construction of the Scottish Old People’s Home.
The notion of having a home for needy Scots occurred
quite early in the history of the Society, although no
actual date can be discovered from the records. We do
know that by 1870 the idea was well on its way to
completion. The Society most certainly would have been
aware of the Old Peoples Home of the City of Chicago,
which was founded in 1861 by various Protestant
congregations. This home, located on the south side of
the city, was the first institution in Chicago to
provide quality health care for elderly women. It is
now known as The Admiral and is located at 909 West
Foster Avenue in Chicago.
The Solicitation Committee had started to do its work
and it was expected that by May 1871 a proposal would be
presented to the Society for ratification. A site had
already been selected at the corner of Washington and Desplaines Streets since the committee felt that a
central location was very important. The site was
apparently owned by a Scot, and, hence, it was felt that
a favorable price could be negotiated. Just in case
this option was not available, however, the committee
also researched the area near Lake and Van Buren Streets
and between the Chicago River and Halsted Street.
Two things were to interrupt the project:
-- members were unable to secure the desired location at
a favorable cost, and
-- the Great Fire would ravage the city.
At the anniversary dinner in 1870, a model of the
proposed home had been on display and plans had been
drawn. Unfortunately, both the model and the plans were
destroyed in the Great Fire on October 8, 1871.
After the fire, so much energy was consumed in
rebuilding lives that little thought was given to
establishing a place of charity. Indeed, the idea of
creating a Scottish Charitable Home would not surface
for another thirty years. Instead, funds of the Society
were loaned without interest and directed toward the
rebuilding of homes and factories. In the years ahead
members would return the money through gifts and
contributions. These gifts would then become the
foundation of the present Endowment Fund, so important
to the Society.
Some of the painting in the Scottish Home have been
cleaned and restored by Barry Bauman of River Forest.
Mr. Bauman, who is now a life member of the Society, has
spent his life in the field of conservation. We only
recently met Barry and was surprised to discovered his
Scottish connection. Many years ago his father went to
Scotland to study medicine and in the process met and
married a Scottish lass. Barry now donates his time to
charitable organizations like the Scottish Home and has
just completed three restorations.
After being cleaned it was discovered that the “Castle
of St. Andrew’s” which for many years hung above the
fireplace was painted by William Mundie. We have at
least two paintings done by Mundie and both have now
been cleaned and restored. In 1910, Mundie, also a life
member of the Society, was hired as the architect for
the Scottish Home. Mundie charged $1,013.72 for his
services and after receiving the check gave the money
back to the Society. By the time you read this
newsletter, the two large portraits in the dining room
will be in Barry Bauman’s workshop being cleaned and
restored. There is no way to thank Barry for his
donation of time and knowledge, for without him the
paintings would have never been cleaned and restored.
The cost would just be prohibitive.
Our heartfelt thanks to Barry Bauman. You can observe
his work at his
Mr. & Mrs. John Roche of Wilmette recently donated a
wooden carving of the Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns. He
wrote: “Some hae meat and cannae eat, Some would eat
that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let
the Lord be thankit.” The carving is now installed above
the entrance doors to the main dining room. It belonged
originally to George Buik, the father of Mrs. Roche and
Don Buik, both life members of the Society.
The history of the carving is unknown, but is believed
to be more than 100 years old. It was displayed for many
years in the home of their father, George Buik, who took
an avid interest in Robert Burns and all things
Scottish. George Buik was president of the Society in
1948 and 1949. We have a number of things that belonged
to Mr. Buik including his kilt and jacket which has real
silver buttons and is now displayed in our museum.
Not long ago, a lady brought a box to the Scottish
Home and left it as a gift. The box was dropped off on a
weekend and sadly no name or address was obtained. The
lady apparently lives in Wisconsin and was cleaning out
a house and giving away various items.
Inside the box was a book with the name John F. Holmes
on the front cover. All we know is that John Holmes was
the secretary of the Society for many years. Inside the
book were copies of the Annual Reports for 1889, 1900,
1901 and 1902. It also contained a copy of the
constitution and by-laws and a list of members.
Interestingly, in those years, the society is called
“Illinois St. Andrew’s Society of the City of Chicago.”
The materials were printed in Chicago from the press of
Cameron, Amberg & Co. The financial reports show that
the Society was renting a “Society room” for $150 a
quarter at 81 Clark Street. This is new information and
we are not quite sure what it means. Did it serve as an
office and meeting room for the board and perhaps the
quarterly meetings? What building was it in and what is
at 81 Clark Street today?
If the person who donated the items reads this
newsletter, please call. We are grateful to have the
book in our museum.
Alison Templeton Binnie
Internet has certainly made the world smaller. Our web
site receives thousands
of visitors each year. Since January almost 750,000
people have visited from all parts of the
world. Many of those people are working on family
histories and seeking information in Chicago. Recently,
Mr. Bob Rankin wrote from the United Kingdom seeking
information about his great grandfather, William Hector
Rankin, who joined the Society in 1921.One of those
persons whom the web site and the Internet brought us
into contact was Barb Norbie whose great-great-great
grandmother was Alison Templeton Binnie. She was born in
Airdrie, Scotland in 1776 and married John Binnie in
1803. Together they had ten children. One son, David
came to America in 1847 and settled in Kane County,
Illinois. He then persuaded three of his brothers to
join him in America.
Mrs. Binnie’s husband John had died at the age of 100
and so she decided to join her sons in American at the
age of 74. In 1850, she sailed with her other three sons
on the ship Khatadin for Dundee, Illinois. The Aberdeen
North American Investment and Loan Co. had bought up
large tracts of land in Illinois and Scottish banks in
Chicago and Milwaukee helped finance the immigrants.
Using these loans, her son Alexander was able to acquire
land on the west side of the river along Sleepy Hollow
road between Higgins and Huntley Roads.
She says, “It was not an easy life in the beginning. We
tried to time our arrival in the spring so there would
be time to plant and harvest before the first winter.
For once winter arrived, it was more difficult to hunt
and fish. We could bring only the bare necessities with
us from home. A few cooking utensils, an axe, a saw and
kindred tools, a Bible, a few pictures, a plow if there
was room and most important a rifle. We brought as much
money as we could. Some of the women brought cuttings
from shrubs and plants and seeds. The provisions we
brought were just enough to keep us from starving.”
They made their own candles and soap. The women would
hold quilting bees and the men would seine for fish. The
fish were dragged in by the bushels and were divided and
salted. The men would also hold turkey shoots for food.
“Sharing with others was the spirit of the frontier.”
“Her son Robert and his family took up farming and
raised sheep. Robert would travel from farm to farm
shearing sheep sometimes as many as 40 a day and he
would be paid 10 cents a head. Great flocks of sheep
would be taken to the river to be washed at shearing
time...The life of a farmer is not an easy one, but I
truly believe that if you work for ‘Mother Nature’, ye
get paid by ‘Father Time.’” ”
Mrs. Binnie died September 23, 1866 at the age of 90.
She is buried in Dundee, Illinois.
We Get Letters
Tartan TV can now be seen in Chicago on WYCC every
Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The program is a fast-paced
magazine format that takes viewers on a half-hour
journey through the rolling hills, scenic glens,
medieval castles and famous links courses of Scotland
celebrating Scottish celebrities, movies, music and
- Bryan Adams sent materials to the newsletter from
Williamsburg, VA, concerning Robert Burns. The Heather
and Thistle Society of Houston, TX has presented a bust
of Robert Burns to the City of Houston to mark the 50th
anniversary of their founding. From the picture it
appears to be a rather large bust with a plaque below. The location in Houston is not given..
- Sandra Smith has written from Cisco, Illinois,
looking for information about Charles Laing who was
a stonecutter in the 1920s. Records indicate that
he had a workshop at 7055 South Chicago in 1928.
Robert Allerton commissioned him for works of art on
his estate near Champagne, Illinois. Allerton later
gave his estate to the University of Illinois in
1964 for a public garden. Charles Laing was born in
Aberdeen, Scotland, and may have been a member of
the Saint Andrew Society. If anyone has additional
information about Charles Laing, please
and I will forward the information to Sandra Smith.
Fiona Kennedy, who has often visited Chicago and is a
friend to many of us is the presenter of Tartan TV. She
is a multi-talented entertainer and has appeared in a
number of television dramas including Mauro the Gypsy
which won the Gold Medal at the Moscow Film Festival. Fiona was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, LLD (Hon), by the University of Aberdeen in July 2002 in
recognition of her achievement in entertainment and her
recognized work for charity.
The 132nd Anniversary Dinner
The 132nd Anniversary Dinner was held on December 3,
1977 at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The invitational letter
says that few organizations can claim such an unbroken
“We have been extremely fortunate to obtain as our
speaker, the distinguished Senator from Illinois, and a
fellow Scot, Charles W. Percy. The Master of Ceremonies
was Bill Mason, a Chicago radio and television
personality and a member of the Society. This festive
occasion which we enjoy every year has a high and noble
purpose, to raise money for our Scottish Home.” The
Home was recently updated and added new kitchen
facilities, a fully air-conditioned infirmary, and new
physical rehabilitation facilities.” The ticket price
The president of the Society in 1977 was Robert Lewis
William Graham, who was the father of Robert Bruce
Graham. Bob is actively involved and is a member of the
Board of Governors and the Home Committee. Following his
father’s example, Robert Bruce Graham was president of
the Society in 1984 and 1985.
The 159th Anniversary Dinner Benefit to celebrate Saint
Andrew’s Day and support the Scottish Home will be held
November 20, 2004 in the grand ballroom at Navy Pier.