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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 2007

Ethel Forgan Serves in France - 1918

Ethel Forgan was the only daughter of David and Agnes Forgan. Her father was born in St. Andrews, Scotland on April 16, 1862. Mr. Forgan was the President of the National City Bank of Chicago and was very involved in the work of the Illinois Saint Andrews Society. He and Agnes had five children: Robert Russell, Marion, Ethel, David and James.

Our story centers around their daughter Ethel and a young man named Vernon Booth. Vernon was born in Chicago, but at the time of our story his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. Vernon Booth, were living in New York City. Vernon was a graduate of Harvard and the New York Law School. In 1918, he was living in New York and practicing law. We do not know how the couple met, but we presume it was in Chicago.

Ethel Forgan and two other young ladies volunteered for duty in France to aid the wounded. Ethel and Helen Farwell and her sister Sarah would work under the supervision of Mrs. Benjamin Lathrop. The three girls had been active in the Bandbox Shop which sent its proceeds to help the fatherless children of France. They were also “excellent motorists.” Ethel left for New York accompanied by her parents on February 3, 1918. The two Farwell sisters were accompanied to New York by their mother, Mrs. Grace Farwell. the Chicago Daily Tribune on February 22, 1918, reported that “all three had arrived in Paris and were engaged in the work of the American Fund for the French wounded.”

Vernon Booth was a cousin of P. D. Armor III, John Lester Armor and Patrick A. Valentine, Jr. Their mother was the widow of Philip D. Armor, Jr. and after his death married Patrick A. Valentine. (Those of you who attend the History Club meetings will recognize those names.) Vernon Booth had volunteered for the French Aviation Corp in 1917, after being rejected by the American Air Force. He and Ethel Forgan were married in Paris during the month of May in 1918.

Lieutenant Booth was a war hero. He shot down three German aircraft and on June 25, 1918, while flying over enemy territory, he was attacked by German war planes. His plane was set on fire but that fire was extinguished as his plane fell. A “poisoned bullet” shattered his leg, but he was able to land his plane in “no man’s land.” “He had the presence of mind, despite severe burns, to extinguish the fire and land between the lines forty yards from the enemy trenches. He set fire again to his plane and regained the French lines through a heavy barrage of machine gun fire.”

Lt. Booth was taken, interestingly enough, to the Scotch Woman’s Hospital located northeast of Paris, where he remained until he died. A single cablegram brought the message to Mr. and Mrs. David R. Forgan, who lived at 1112 Greenwood Blvd., Evanston, Illinois. It simply said “Vernon died today.” The same telegram came to his aunt, Mrs. Patrick Valentine of 8 - 69th St. and to his parents at 14 East 69th St.

Vernon Booth was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with palms and the Military Medal, the highest honors given in France for bravery. It is not known where he was buried or when his wife, Mrs. Ethel Forgan Booth, returned to the United States.

It is known that on December 26, 1929, Mrs. Vernon Booth married Philip Lyndon Dodge of New York City and after the wedding they lived at 111 East 88th Street.

Mrs. Fernando Jones

Students of early Chicago history will know the name Fernando Jones. He founded an abstract company which, after the great fire of 1871, became Chicago Title and Trust Company. He arrived in Chicago with his father at the age of 15 in 1835.

Jane G. Jones was a Scottish girl whose maiden name was Grahame, and whose Clan Chief was James Grahame, Duke of Montrose. She came to Chicago with her parents when she was ten years old and in 1853 married Fernando Jones. They had two children.

For more than 50 years, she was identified with the progressive movement in Chicago, especially as they related to women’s rights. Her obituary states that she was the founder of the Twentieth Century Club and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. “Mrs. Jones had the personal friendship of many notable figures of the last century. It is said to have been partly because of her appeals that General Grant wrote his memoirs.” She died December 7, 1905. Her husband died November 8, 1911. They are buried at Oakwoods on the south side of Chicago.

Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Jones lived in a three-story red-brick house at 1834 Prairie Ave. It was located directly across from the home of Marshall Field. Their home was included in Old Chicago Houses by John Drury, page 31. They often lived abroad, but when they were home, their house became a gathering place for early Chicago citizens who had attained wealth and status. It was magnificently furnished.

Those of you in the History Club will remember that Fernando Jones evidently knew David Kennison and helped to establish his grave in Lincoln Park.

Pictured:  Fernando Jones house

Jessie Smith

The newspaper headlines read “Fernando Jones’ Domestic 44 years: Jessie Smith Dies.”

The date is January 14, 1913. Ms. Smith had been born 64 years earlier in Edinburgh, Scotland and came to Chicago as a young girl to join her brother John who was a stone cutter. In 1869, Mrs. Jones had employed her and she had remained for forty-four years. The paper states: “Probably no woman in her time in Chicago has such a record of continuous service.” When Mr. and Mrs. Jones traveled abroad, she was entrusted with the care of their home.

After Fernando Jones died in 1911, the family kept the home open and allowed Jessie Smith to remain there. Grahame Jones, their son who lived in New York, would occasionally return to visit; but now, with the death of Jessie Smith, the home would be closed. Several years before, she and her brother had bought a lot in Rosehill Cemetery and she was laid to rest beside him.

Joan Pinkerton Chalmers

Joan Pinkerton was a first generation Scottish woman whose father had been born in the Gorbals of Glasgow. She was by all accounts: strong willed, educated, attractive and full of energy. When she and William J. Chalmers fell in love and wanted to get married, her father, the famous detective, was furious. This was the only living daughter of the great detective and he apparently thought she would remain in the home forever. After a tumultuous period of time, part of which Joan spent in New York City with her brother, permission was finally given and wedding plans were finalized.

They were married on October 21, 1878 in the Third Presbyterian Church located at Monroe St. and Ogden Ave. in Chicago. Five hundred invitations were issued but more than 3,000 people, mostly young, arrived for the wedding. The Chicago Tribune reported that, “The galleries, the seats, and the floor - every available space was taken. A large number stood upon the seats, much to the disgust of the church trustees.” Outside, the streets were jammed with horses and carriages for blocks around. “There was never such a wedding in Chicago.”

In 1911, Joan Chalmers established the Convalescent Home for Crippled Children near Wheaton, Illinois. This home was to perpetuate the memory of her crippled sister Isabelle. She involved people with influence and money in this effort and once took 200 people on a special train to see her work out in the country. The main building was designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw and the school building was a gift from John G. Shedd and named in honor of his daughter, Laura. James A. Patten built the hospital and J. Ogden Armour paid for a “special skilled teacher” who helped with special instruction. The 90 acres of land had been donated by R.W. Sears and the farm and dairy was supervised by B. M. Winston. The nursing department was supported by Mrs. C. H. McCormick, Sr. In 1927, the Home was taken over by the University of Chicago and in 1948, it was sold to Wheaton College who operates an academy on the property.

There is not enough space to fully recount the life of Joan Chalmers. She was one of the undisputed social leaders of Chicago and involved in everything that happened in her city. Apparently, her wedding dress is now in the possession of the Chicago History Museum. It has been modeled at least twice, once in 1934 and again in 1937. Upon her death, many of her paintings, etchings and a valuable collection of war medals were given to the Art Institute.

The Chalmers were liberal supporters of the Scottish Home when it was founded in 1910.

Joan Pinkerton had two children, a son Major Thomas Stuart Chalmers and a daughter Mrs. Joan Chalmers Williams. Thomas died on March 26, 1923 and Joan died April 3, 1923 - just eight days apart. In honor of their children, Mr. & Mrs. Chalmers placed a magnificent window in St. Chrysostom’s Protestant Episcopal Church located at 1424 N. Dearborn Street. The window was designed and executed by Charles J. Connick of Boston.

The Chalmers family plot is located in Graceland cemetery.

Pictured first:  Joan Pinkerton
Pictured second:  Convalescent Home for Crippled Children, Wheaton, Illinois
Pictured third:  Joan Pinkerton's 1878 wedding dress as modeled in 1934

From the Editor

This edition of our newsletter is devoted to some of the Scottish women who left their imprint on Chicago history. The culture of their day was that men and women would have separate organizations and this was true in almost every organization. It may seem strange today, but was perfectly acceptable and normal for their time. The public influence of women who began to join with men in common enterprises began sometime in the 1890s.

Perhaps it all began with Bertha Palmer and her work with the Columbian Exhibition of 1893. At any rate, by 1891, men and women in the Scottish community were working together to build the Robert Burns Memorial in Garfield Park. In fact, Helen Fairgrieve Lonie was serving as the Assistant Secretary to the Burns Memorial and Monument Association of Illinois. There is a picture of this group in the museum and out of the 30 individuals shown, six are women.

The strongest of these women was surely Mrs. R. Ballantine. She is always referred to by her married name and it is not quite clear who she was. In 1903, Mrs. Ballantine visited the sculptor in Edinburgh and arranged to have the monument completed and paid for on the installment plan. Without this effort, the statue may never have been completed. Other women in the picture are: Mrs. M. Strong; Mrs. R. MacWatt; Mrs. W. A. Barclay; Mrs. Fairweather; and Miss Helen F. Lonie. There is also a picture of the Ladies’ Auxiliary Burns Memorial and Monument Association and there are 29 ladies shown. At the dedication itself, Mrs. Kate Campbell Saunders, elocutionist, gave a select reading of Burns poetry.

Women were admitted to our Saint Andrew’s Day celebration in 1917 by world-renowned banker James B. Forgan who also forbade the drinking of alcohol. The first women were admitted as members in the Society in 1964, and our first woman president was Nancy Strolle in 1990-91.

Pictured:  Mrs. R. Ballantine

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