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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
October 2007

Scottish Vision

Scottish people have a lot of wonderful traits including honesty, hard work, education, and advancing the well-being of the human race. Many are attracted to the legal, medical, and religious professions. All of these professions contribute to the well-being of humanity as a whole, not just to the Scottish population. They almost have double vision, seeing the immediate needs around them, but also looking forward into the future.

Consider the work of Scots in the field of medicine. Medicine helps the entire human race, not just a particular group. Doctors seek an immediate cure, but they also look into the future to see prevention. For the most part, early physicians in America, “many of them of Scottish descent themselves” emigrated to Scotland for their training.1 It is believed that John Moultrie, Jr. (1729-98) was the “first native American to receive a medical degree from Edinburgh University.”2 It is well documented that after being educated in Scotland Samuel Bard established the medical college at Columbia University.

In the comprehensive book The Mark of the Scot by Duncan Bruce, there is a listing of the accomplishments of Scottish physicians. Here are just a few that describe their great value to the human race.

1. William Leishman - perfected a typhoid vaccine, 1913
2. Sir Ronald Ross - malaria fever, Nobel Prize winner in 1902
3. Sir Alexander Fleming - discoverer of penicillin in 1928 “...probably saved more human lives than any other man.” 1945 Nobel Prize winner.
4. Samuel Guthrie - chloroform in 1831
5. Dr. Ephraim McDowell - performed “the world’s first “ovariotomy” and he did it on the frontier.
6. Alexander Graham Bell, “was the first to publish the idea of treating deep-seated cancers with radium.” (Ibid, page 226)
7. Dr. Robert Guthrie - “...has saved thirty thousand people from mental retardation and will continue to save more. His test for PKU is given to all newborn infants and costs about three cents.” (Ibid, page 227). Dr. Guthrie died in 1995 refusing all royalties.

Two doctors have served as President of our Society: Dr. John A. McGill and Dr. William Ferguson Dickson. We will not soon forget Dr. Andrew Thomson, not only for his contribution to the work of our Society but also his contribution to the greater Chicago area, and he was our Distinguished Citizen in 1993. Another Distinguished Citizen was Dr. James Allan Campbell who was recognized in 1975. Dr. Campbell was the chief architect of the rise of Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center to national prominence. An enjoyable new book about his life is now available.

I have often wondered about the statement in 1871 which said that the Society wanted to build a “home and hospital.” We know they later built a home, but what was this vision for a hospital? Did others share that same vision? In 1907, three Scottish American physicians named Alexander A. Whamond, Fred G. Whamond and Joseph Mills founded the Robert Burns Hospital at 3807 West Washington Blvd. The hospital had a capacity of 25 beds.

These men and others said they wanted to build a “practical and substantial memorial” to the Scottish poet. The Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 1, 1913, stated that the hospital was “designed to be free to the poorer patients and especially to Scotchmen...” The physicians served without pay. The provisional officers were: Dr. J. H. Bates, Dr. Brydon, Robert Hill, Robert Stuart and Robert Matheson. The attorney was Erskine MacMillan. McNeal Hospital was founded by Dr. Albert Hall and Dr. MacNeal, who also served the residents of the Scottish Home. They served without remuneration.

John Crerar, a life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, was always a generous donor to our work. However, his vision was greater. Like Andrew Carnegie, he saw a greater community and a greater need. Crearer left a fortune to our Society, but the bulk of his money was given to the opening of a “free library.” Thomas C. McMillan wrote: “He made the public his heir, and erected a monument which will endure after marble has crumbled to dust, and the fame of mere earthly deeds all have faded from the memories of men.” His will provided two and one half million dollars for the establishment of a “free public library” which is now part of the University of Chicago.

One of my favorite Chicago people is Joan Pinkerton. She married William J. Chalmers in 1878. Five hundred invitations to the wedding were mailed and 3,000 young people arrived in horse drawn carriages. They were both first generation American Scots. Her husband became the president of Allis-Chalmers which in time became the largest maker of mining machinery in the world. They were often contributors to the Saint Andrew Society, especially in 1910 when the first Scottish Home was built and they continued their support for the next 30 years.

Joan Pinkerton Chalmers was highly educated, attractive, popular and with a temper inherited from her detective father. She had this mysterious Scottish motivation that caused her to look at the greater needs of her community and beyond. In 1911, she established the County Home for Convalescent Children. It was located on a working farm of some 180 acres in DuPage County, near Wheaton. The Home was available to any child who needed their help. She involved the people of Chicago including: Mrs. Lolita Armour, Mitchell Wilder, James A. Patton, Laura Shedd Schweppe, Mrs. Anna M. Raymond and others. It was a very successful venture with a dairy in full operations. This Home in 1927 became a part of the University of Chicago Clinic who later moved the operation to Chicago and then sold the land to Wheaton College.

If I could replay my historical research for the last 15 years, I would make several lists. One of those lists would include all of the people who gave their valuable possessions to the various institutions in Chicago. The Art Institute received many of these gifts. For instance, Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers gave a valuable collection of war medals. On the death of Philip Armour Jr., his valuable library and many pieces of art were given to the Art Institute. I have read of many others who gave to the Field Museum and the Newberry Library.

Why would people give their valuable collections away? There can be just one reason - a desire to serve the greater community. Is that a Scottish trait? It may just be!

1Scottish & Scotch-Irish Contributions to Early American Life & Culture, by William C. Lehmann, page 68
2 Ibid. page 70

Pictured first:  Samuel Bard
Pictured second:  John Crerar
Pictured third:  Joan Pinkerton Chalmers

Dr. Will J. Cameron

Dr. Cameron was born in Canada and was a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He was the president of the Cameron Surgical Specialty Co. The newspaper indicates that he was a surgeon. He is listed in “Stopping at the Stevens” among the distinguished guests for the 1929 St. Andrew’s banquet. He is described as a “noted explorer and hunter.” I have been unable to find an obituary for Dr. Cameron

An article in the Chicago Daily Tribune dated May 30, 1928, reports that Dr. Cameron and two others were leaving on an expedition to the “unexplored regions of the Kalahari desert in the center of the South African continent.” Dr. D. C. Ernest Cadle, of the Colorado Museum of National History at Denver, and Prof. Richard Mannen of the University of Texas were the other members of the party. Their mission was to study a primitive race believed to inhabit the area “in the hope of gleaning new facts concerning the ancestry of man.” They spent a year and half in Africa and returned with sixty head of game. There are two pictures of Dr. Cameron in the Chicago Daily Tribune, January 6, 1929.

I believe someone on our mailing list is related to Dr. Cameron and I would request that they get in touch with me.

See a 1928 Time Magazine article here.
Pictured:  Will J. Cameron, unknown child and leopard

The Stevens Hotel

The Stevens Hotel, now the Chicago Hilton and Towers, published a magazine called “Stopping at the Stevens” and, in our historical files, we have Vol. 6, No. 122, dated November 30, 1929. The issue features the Society’s annual dinner and has pictures of the following persons: David R. Forgan, Luke Grant, and Robert Black. Also pictured were the entertainers for the dinner, Cameron MacLean and Muriel M. Kyle.

It was interesting to see the picture of Luke Grant in the Stevens magazine. He appears to be a small man with round, dark glasses. Mr. Grant served as the publicity manager for the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. He died suddenly in Stuart, Florida, and his funeral was held December 5, 1930. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery. As a memorial to Mr. Grant and to celebrate the 172nd birthday of Robert Burns, eleven members of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society laid a wreath at the Burn’s monument in Garfield Park. The Chicago Daily Tribune shows a picture of the men and the monument. John T. Cunningham presided and the following men attended: Robert Falconer, Robert Eadie, Dr. Robert W. Hall, Donald Fraser, Robert Black, Samuel Hutcheson, Thomas Catto, John F. Holmes, Dr. W. F. Dickson and William Lister.

At the Stevens you could rent a portable radio for $1.50 per day. The Grand Ballroom was advertised as the “largest ballroom in the world” measuring 169x85 with a capacity of 4,000 people. The hotel also contained a bowling alley, library, five cigar stands, and a Western Union telegraph office.

John Alston

John Alston was president of the Society in 1855-1856 and again in 1891-1892 at the age of seventy. He was a prominent manufacturer of paints and oils and was the oldest merchant in Chicago at the time of his death. He was born in Glasgow in 1811 and died in 1889 at the age of 78. He is buried at Rosehill cemetery, Section P, Lot 39. Thirteen people are buried in the family plot and seven are under the age of twenty-one. A search of the newspapers did not reveal any more information about the persons buried in the plot. In 1896, the paper announces the marriage of his granddaughter, Miss Helen Lyon Alston to Mr. William Losee Bennett.

In doing research for this article, I came across an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated March 1, 1927, with the headlines “Ford’s Lincoln Memorial to Get Abe’s Furniture.” It goes on to report that the drawing room furniture that once belonged to Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln was being sold to Henry Ford. “He will use them in connection with his plan to reproduce a facsimile of the old Lincoln homestead at Springfield, Illinois” I am not sure what that means, because it appears to have never been constructed. But here is the most interesting paragraph in this story.

“Mrs. Lincoln, after the tragic death of her husband, lived in Chicago with the Alston family, who were old friends. In 1867, she sold her house-hold effects, and John Alston bought her parlor suite.” Somehow the furniture was in the hands of C. L. Benedict of Perth, Ontario, “who has had it for a number of years.” It was sold to Henry Ford for $5,000.


Throughout its history, the Scottish Home has had many pets. There have been canaries, a parrot, and farm animals, but most of all dogs. You know the story of the two dogs living at the Home in 1917 when the tragic fire occurred. They lived in the basement where the fire began and alerted Mrs. Cora Cummings to the danger. Topsy survived, but McDougal died in the fire.

The last dog to live permanently at the Home was Chelsea, a pedigreed Labrador Retriever. Chelsea belonged to a veterinarian and she was trained to obey all commands. In fact, Chelsea, would report to the office when called on the intercom system. She came to live at the Home in August, 1989 and died at the age of 13, April 2, 1996.

Her ashes were placed in the memorial garden.

Lawrence Leslie

Lawrence Leslie was a resident of the Scottish Home from 1917 until his death in 1928. He was born in the Shetland Islands on January 15, 1837, and he was 91 years of age at the time of his death. After his arrival in Chicago, he worked for the Illinois Central railroad. We assume he was never married and was survived by a sister, Mrs. George Stout of Joliet.

Every day Mr. Leslie walked to the post office in Riverside to get the daily mail and stop at the local news stand. He never missed a day regardless of the weather from his entrance into the Home in 1917 until the Friday before his death in 1928.

The Riverside News reported: “His daily trip to the village gave him an opportunity to widen the circle of his friends. Among the staff of the local post office and those he met at the L. M. Lies news depot, he had many friends. He considered his daily trip a duty and regardless of weather he made the journey of better than a mile each way, walking the distance with a firm step despite his ninety and more years.”

The Friday before his death while putting on his coat to make his daily trip, “he was stopped by Mrs. Cummings, matron of the Home, because she knew that he was too ill to make the journey.” Throughout the day, Mr. Leslie had run a high fever, and died on Saturday afternoon. “His death was a sad event for the thirty-five fellow members of the Home, as he was well liked by all of them and his passing was mourned by everyone.”

The funeral service was held at Abram’s funeral chapel in Berwyn and was conducted by the Rev. James McLagan, Chaplin of the Society. Interment was in Mount Greenwood Cemetery.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The History Club usually meets the first Saturday of each month, except December, July and August. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and the presentation begins at 10:00 a.m. lasting approximately one hour.

November 3, 2008—“Merchants of Chicago” In this session, we will primarily consider the histories of Carson, Pirie, Scott and Marshall Field. These two companies and others had a great impact on the Scottish community. You will enjoy the stories.

Contributions to the work of the History Club and the Scottish American Museum may be made to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and designated for the Donald A.  Campbell, Jr. History and Museum Fund. Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law. I would also remind all of our readers that your contribution of $10 per year will be greatly appreciated.

Pictured: Marshall Field Clock

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