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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 2008

Fort McCoy, Wisconsin

A friend of mine is a Major in the U.S. Army Reserves and has recently been assigned to active duty at Fort Sheridan and Fort McCoy. Since I had never heard of Ft. McCoy, I did some research and here is what I found. Ft. McCoy is located on some 60,000 acres in West Central Wisconsin. Its “primary mission is to underpin readiness of the force by serving as a training center and support site for power projection missions.” In the 1930s it was a Civilian Conservation Center and also housed 15,000 Cuban refugees in the 1980s.

The Fort is named for Major General Robert Bruce McCoy who died in 1926 at the age of 58. With a name like that there must be a Scottish connection. It took some research to find the reference but in 1971 an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune that shed light on the subject.

General McCoy’s great-grandfather was John McCoy who participated in the Stuart Rebellion of 1745. That rebellion failed as most of you know and many of the captured Scottish soldiers were exiled to the new world. John McCoy was brought to America as an impressed sailor in Lord Howe’s fleet. In New York’s harbor, he jumped overboard, swam ashore and joined Washington’s army. Later he also served in the War of 1812. The newspaper gave no references for their story. Perhaps, our readers in Wisconsin can give us more information.

“General McCoy was a lawyer, soldier, judge and a politician. He was also a debater, an athlete and the business manager of the first high school newspaper.” He is also said to have been the assistant secretary of the Board of World Fair Managers in Chicago in 1893. In 1895, he enlisted in the Third Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and fought at Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. Enlisting again in World War I, his unit was sent to France and soon he was in command of the 128th infantry and fought at Chateau, Thierry, Juvigny and the Argonne. He was awarded numerous honors and medals by the French government especially for his capture of Romagne in the Argonne.

After the war, he ran for governor and was elected Mayor of Sparta several times. Three-thousand mourners attended his funeral. General McCoy was the father of six sons and a daughter. He married Lillian Riege of Platteville in 1893. She died in an automobile accident in 1910. “McCoy outlived his father by less than a year. The father, Bruce E. McCoy, a Civil War veteran, died in his sleep at 96.” I am sure there is much more to the story. Some descendants are probably still living in the Sparta area. Additional information would be appreciated.

More information on Fort McCoy is available on their website.

Highwood, Illinois

Highwood is located in Lake County, some 24 miles north of the Loop. It is a residential community with lovely homes and fine restaurants. It sits on the Skokie ravine and is the highest point between Chicago and Milwaukee. The town was founded in 1868 by William Wallace Everts who was a Chicago civic leader and a famous educator. He also had a Scottish heritage. Dr. Everts was born in Granville, New York, March 13, 1814. He graduated from what is now Madison University in 1837 and was pastor of numerous churches. He spent 20 years as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Chicago, and he was actively engaged in founding the University of Chicago and the Baptist Theological Seminary. “Everts Park, in the heart of downtown Highwood, has been named in the founder’s honor.” Highwood is just one of many towns and cities in Illinois that have a Scottish heritage or a Scottish name.

My thanks to David Forlow for this information.

John Witherspoon

John Witherspoon was born in Scotland in 1723 and he received his divinity degree in 1743. He was an outspoken champion of religious liberty and the popular rights of common people.

He came with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then on to Princeton, New Jersey, to assume the presidency of Princeton University (then called the College of New Jersey). He held this important educational post until his death in 1794. During the period of his work in his new home in America, the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon gained great fame and honor as an extraordinary leader. He helped unify the American Presbyterian Church and advocated a “common sense” education philosophy. As a delegate to the 1776 Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence (the only active clergyman to do so) and continued to serve in the Congress until 1782. At various times, he served also in the New Jersey legislature.

What quality of leader and educator was Dr. Witherspoon? Think of this: Six of his students served in the Continental Congress, 39 served in the House of Representatives, 21 served in the U.S. Senate, 12 became state governors, and one (James Madison, Class of 1771) became President of the United States of America. John Witherspoon well exemplifies our Presbyterian emphasis on education and public service. We are honored to memorialize his witness to Christ and His Church.

Submitted by Rev. Dr. Randall Saxon, United Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Peoria, Illinois

The Gammie Family

James Gammie was raised on a farm on the banks of the Spey. He later moved to Glasgow, Scotland and became a coachman with a firm of undertakers. He and his wife had six boys and their desire was to see that each son learned a trade. In 1910, Jimmy, one of the sons, announced he was going to America to earn his fortune. In a short time they all came including the parents. The sons all became successful.

Alec Gammie, the plumber, became the head of a plumbing, heating and air-conditioning company. Jimmie, the first to make the move to America, became the superintendent of all the pattern shops for American Steel Foundries. Eddie, became vice-president of the Victor Gasket Company and George became President of Illinois Brick. His company made 700,000 bricks every day. John was knighted for his work in World War II. He “was a top man in New York with our Ministry of War Transport” and was an advisor on shipping to General Eisenhower. When John’s wife died in 1959, “three full admirals attended the funeral.”

Robert Gammie was a bricklayer and became the superintendent of buildings for the International Harvester organization. One of his early projects was the old Chicago Stadium where he served as the masonry foreman. In those days the bricklayers made 75 cents an hour. Mr. and Mrs. Gammie were avid hockey fans. They saw the first game played by the Blackhawks, December 18, 1929, and from 1966 until 1981, they saw every home game. They took a cruise to Hawaii in 1961, but when they heard a news report that the Blackhawks had defeated the Montreal Canadians and were in the finals, they immediately left the ship and flew home to see the team win the Stanley Cup. When Bob Gammie came to America in 1912, he was supposed to sail on the Titanic, but his sister’s boyfriend worked on another ship so he changed his plans. He and his wife would later make three trips around the world.

Robert Gammie said in 1979: “It’s not the same crowds going to hockey games. Used to be mostly businessmen - all dressed up with coats and ties. Now, you have all those roughnecks dressed like bums and out for a fight.” Robert Gammie died Aug. 26, 1987 in Estes Park, Colorado and is buried in the Clarendon Hills Cemetery, Clarendon Hill, Illinois. How could members of the same family become so successful? Alec Gammie, gave the answer in 1959: “We came out here and we came to work. We just got busy and we didn’t waste our time on drinking and that sort of thing.”

Gregg Gammie, a life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and the History Club, brought this information to our June meeting. There is much more about the involvement of the Gammie family in the Scottish Home and the Society. Some of their stories we have covered before.

General W. H. L. Wallace

William Hervey Lamme Wallace was born July 8, 1821, in Urbana, Ohio. He was educated at the Rock Springs Seminary in Mount Morris, Illinois and he had planned to study law with Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. Instead, he joined a practice in Ottawa, Illinois. He married Martha Ann Dickey and was granted his law license in 1846. That same year, he joined the 1st Illinois Infantry as a private. He participated in the Mexican-American War and was at the Battle of Buena Vista.

When the Civil War began, Wallace joined the 11th Illinois again as a private. He quickly rose through the ranks and at the Battle of Fort Donelson in 1862, he commanded a brigade under General John A. McClernand who served under General Grant. His troops saved the day at Donelson even though the 11th Illinois lost nearly two-thirds of its men. For his service at Fort Donelson he was appointed a brigadier general. His next battle was at Shiloh, where he commanded a division and withstood six hours of assaults next to the famous Hornet’s Nest or Sunken Road.

His division was finally surrounded and he ordered a retreat. Many of his men escaped, but he fell mortally wounded on the battlefield. The next day the area was regained by Union troops and Wallace was found barely alive. He was then taken to General Grant’s headquarters. His wife, who had arrived the day before the battle, was at his side for the next three days before he died. General Grant praised Wallace in 1868 as “the equal of the best, if not the very best, of the Volunteer Generals at the date of his death.”

His body was brought back to Ottawa on a special train from Cairo, Illinois. The body was in the charge of his father-in-law, Colonel T. Lyle Dickey and his brother, Major M. H. R. Wallace, both of the 4th Illinois Cavalry. His grieving wife was also on the train and perhaps his horse, Prince. His body was met at the train by two brigades in the charge of Captain Simpson. As the procession moved slowly, the “Court House bell mournfully tolled its sad notes for the departed.” His body lay in state in the Supreme Court room where a guard of honor stood constant watch. The funeral was held at the Episcopal Church.

On a recent trip to Ottawa, I had opportunity to see the Appellate Court Building, the Episcopal Church and the home of General Wallace. His home is located on a bluff on Lincoln Road. It is now a private residence but a marker does designate the house. General Wallace is buried on the property, although nothing could be observed from the street. Wikipedia says that his “war horse, Prince, is buried next to the General he carried into battle at Shiloh.” This could not be confirmed from another source. Traveller, the beloved war horse of Robert E. Lee is buried near him on the campus of Washington & Lee University, so it would not be unusual. Soldiers were allowed to return home with their horses.

Mrs. Wallace made a trip to Europe in 1872 and brought back a “memorial window for the Episcopal Church, which cost $1,000 in Dresden.” She died in 1889 and is buried in the family cemetery on Lincoln Road.

One child, a daughter named Isabel, survived and published a book in 1909 called “Life and Letters of General W. H. L. Wallace.” It is available from the Southern Illinois University Press and on the Internet. A free download is also available here.

Pictured first:  W.H.L. Wallace
Pictured second:  Home of W.H.L. Wallace

Scottish Information from the Internet

Ben Johnson visited Scotland in 1618. He made fun of the Scots and was sentenced to having his nose cut off.

The metal detector was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

Thomas Lord Cochrane was a Vice Admiral in the Chilean Navy, he defeated the Spaniards dressed in full Highland attire.

Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, was written by Scottish author J. M. Barrie.

Butch Cassidy had a Scottish mother, Ann Campbell Gillies.

John Paul Jones is the only man to hold an officer’s rank in the British, American and Russian navies.

On March 13 and 14, 1941, 300 German aircraft attacked factories along the Clyde river and killed 1,200 people.

George Pinkerton, a Scot flying a Spitfire, shot down the first German plane over the Forth bridge. Helmut Pohle, the German pilot, was flying a JU88.

Edinburgh University Library is the largest academic library in Europe.

The 71st Highland Light Infantry fired the last shot in the Battle of Waterloo.

James Patterson, who was the sole owner of the National Cash Register Company, gave free medical care to his workers and installed a cafeteria in his factory. He was the first ever to reward his employees for ideas that improved operations.

Peter Cooper, better known for his locomotive “Tom Thumb” developed the first gelatin desert, or Jello.

David Brewster, born in Jedburgh, Scotland, invented the kaleidoscope in 1816.

Joseph Henry developed the basic principles of the telegraph which was put to more practical use by Samuel F. B. Morse eleven years later.

Alexander Bain, born in Watten, Scotland, developed a clock operated by electricity in 1840.

Pictured:  Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker)


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