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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 2011

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The Order of Scottish Clans

The Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans was founded on November 30, 1878 in St. Louis, Missouri. A number of Masons were involved, led by James McCash. I could find no further information about Mr. McCash. It is described as a mutual-aid society that provided insurance to Scottish immigrants and their descendants. The Order provided both life and disability insurance. It was especially valuable to coal miners.

There was also a cultural component because they wanted to help preserve the culture and traditions of Scotland among Americans of Scottish ancestry. The lodges took the form of combined clans. Each state would be called by its own name: Grand Clans of Illinois, for instance, and then the clans would be numbered as they joined.

Here is how they described themselves: “The Order of Scottish Clans is an international institution, founded at St. Louis, Missouri, on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30, 1878, by a few enthusiastic Scots-men, loyal citizens of the land of their adoption while retaining an ardent love of their native land, of its history, traditions and ideals; and their loyalty and love for the land of their adoption and their respect and admiration for its institutions, so much in keeping with the democratic ideals of their own native land, inspired them to found the Order of Scottish Clans for the dual purpose of, on the material side, providing a fund from which on the death of a member, a sum would be paid to his wife and bairns, or whoever his legal beneficiaries might be, and, on the ideal side, to be leal (loyal) and true upholders of the institutions and laws of their adopted country, and to cultivate fond recollections of Scotland, its history and traditions, its literature and ideals, its minstrelsy and song, and its customs and amusements.”

There are few records available to help us understand how many clans were members.  We do know that Clan MacDuff #16 existed in Chicago. Clan MacKenzie #42 was in Braidwood, Clan MacGregor #66 was in Streator, and Clan Cameron #47 was in Coal City. Samuel Fulton (1863-1901) was a member of Clan Cameron #47, and at his funeral 125 members in uniform attended his funeral in Coal City, IL.

Clan Scott in Chicago was number #265. This would indicate that at one time 265 clans were members of the Royal Order. Today, hundreds of Scots in Illinois have a clan membership but I don’t know of any active clans meeting on a regular schedule within the state.

Clan Scott #265 met in Anderson’s Hall at 69
th and Halsted on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. Their Chief was Alexander Arnott and the Financial Secretary was Stanley Oke, who lived at 3248 W. 62nd St. (I wonder if this is the Stanley Oke that I knew? If so, his children and grandchildren still attend the Scottish Home picnic.)

Every two years the Order held a national convention in a major city: Chicago, Houston, New York and Boston. At these conventions they elected their Royal Chief who served as the president of the organization. William H. Steen of Braidwood, Illinois served as the Royal Chief for a record twelve years. Walter Scott of New York City also served in that position.

Membership was originally open only to Scottish male descendants but in the later years it was opened to Scottish females.

While the history of the Order is very difficult to piece together, we do know that the mutual aid part of the Order finally experienced financial difficulties. In 1971 the insurance portion was taken over by the Independent Order of Foresters. Before they merged, the Order had about 16,000 members.

Marv Ronaldson, who died some years ago, knew a lot about the Order of Scottish Clans. The merger apparently did not end well for everyone involved, and this may have contributed to the end of the Order of Scottish Clans.

Daughters of Scotia

The auxiliary for the Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans was called the Daughters of Scotia. They were organized July 2, 1895 in New Haven, Connecticut. “Originally a number of male members of the Order of Scottish Clans were dual members of the Daughters of Scotia until the organization was up and running.”

The Daughters of Scotia still exists and they have a web site at www.daughtersofscotia.org. Jean Brown is the current Grand Chief Daughter. They will hold their 113th annual convention on September 18-19, 2011 in Hanover, NJ. On their web site they list 39 current Lodges including Lady MacDuff #45 at Riverside, IL. Is that Lodge still active? Over the years a number of those ladies resided at the Scottish Home. We do have some items in the Museum about the Daughters of Scotia. Mr. James Patton of Downers Grove, Illinois generously donated beautiful membership pins belonging to his family. Fifteen or more women may still form a lodge and apply for a charter.

The Daughters of Scotia Society of Chicago held their initial meeting on June 12, 1907. They met in the Athenaeum Building Hall, 26 Van Buren Street. Mrs. Elizabeth Valentine was elected president. Other officers were: Mrs. Annie Crowe; Mrs. Jeanette Russel and Mrs. Catherine Fraser. “Its chief work will be to care for needy Scottish old people in Chicago.” The Daughters were always very active at the Scottish Home.

On November 13, 1908, this article appeared in the
Chicago Tribune: “Inmates of the St. Andrew’s Home for aged Scottish people will be benefitted by a bazaar to be given by the Daughters of Scotia in the hall of the Scotch Westminster church this afternoon and evening and tomorrow afternoon and evening.”

This article appeared June 9, 1909: “A picnic and automobile ride to Garfield park will be given the sixteen inmates of the present Scotch old people’s home at 43 Bryant avenue today by the Daughters of Scotia. Mrs. Robert Ballantine, president of the organization will be in charge of the outing.”

The last article that I can find in the Chicago Tribune on the Daughters of Scotia is dated September 16, 1963. It announces the 65th annual convention of the Daughters which was being held at the Pick-Congress hotel. “The organization has 17,000 members in the United States and Canada.” The estimated attendance was 1,600. There are no more reports or announcements.

The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross was the name chosen for the publication of the Order of Scottish Clans. I have two copies in my files. One dated March 1930 and May-June 1941. It may have been a bad choice of names because the Ku Klux Klan used the same name. I have been unable to find any place where the old volumes have been stored for reference. They would be very useful for research and they also contain a lot of pictures.

The term, Fiery Cross, goes back to the Scottish Highlands where there was constant fear of invasions by their enemies. When an emergency arose, the  Fiery Cross was sent around the countryside to gather the men for war. Not to follow the summons was looked upon as being disloyal to their Chief and the clan. Men were required to stop whatever they were doing and report to the indicated spot prepared for fighting.

The Fiery Cross as the official organ of the Order of Scottish Clans was published by the Kable Brothers Company of Mount Morris, IL. Harry G. And Harvey J. Kable were twins born in Lanark, IL. I don’t know if they had a Scottish heritage but it would certainly follow the practice of Scots working with Scots. At one time Mount Morris and the Kable Brothers was the center of printing in our state.

My friends in Rotary will be interested to know that the early editions of The Rotarian were printed by the Kable Brothers. The company maintained a Chicago office in 1912 and Harvey J. was a member of Rotary Club of Chicago. They printed their first copy of The Rotarian in July 1912. It is unclear how long they printed the magazine.

If anyone has copies of
The Fiery Cross and would like to donate them to the museum, please let us know.

The Highland Association

In addition to the Order of Scottish Clans and the Daughters of Scotia, several other Scottish organizations have existed in Chicago.

The Highland Association was formed March 14, 1873. They held their first meeting in the lecture-room of the Scotch Church, corner of Sangamon and Adams streets. Their stated purpose was “The promoting of social intercourse among Highlanders; the forming of a library consisting chiefly of works of Highland interest; the collecting of curiosities illustrative of the customs of the Highlands; the cultivation of the language, poetry, and music, and the preservation of the traditions, legends, and literature of the Highlands, and also the extending of charitable aid where feasible.”

The Association was off to a slow start and for the next six years never held a meeting according to a newspaper article. In October 1880, a meeting was held and George McPherson was elected as a new Chief. They also planned an event to be held in Aurora, IL. and the speaker was to be Robert Hervey who was to lecture on Sir Walter Scott. By 1887, A. Gordon Murray was the Chief and the membership numbered 150. In the same year they held a Scottish concert in Farwell Hall where 1,000 people attended.

Perhaps, their great event was the “Gatherin’ O’The Clans in Burlington Park on August 3, 1890. The temperature reached 102 degrees. “The clans were there, so many in number that they could not be counted. A. Gordon Murray said that all of the sixty-six clans were represented.” That is the highest number of clans I have ever seen noted. It would be nice to have that list. 

Charges were later filed against A. Gordon Murray, because more than $37 was missing in tickets sales from the games held in Burlington Park. He must have survived the charge because in 1888, he was elected to represent Clan Gordon at the Royal Clan meeting in Boston, MA.

I cannot determine when the Highland Association ceased to exist.

Scottish Assembly

This organization has been really difficult to trace. The first article in the Chicago Daily Tribune is dated June 29, 1892. A committee of twenty-five representatives met at the Grand Pacific to make arrangements for the Scottish games and picnic at Burlington Park in Naperville, IL on July 30. “A large amphitheater will be erected to accommodate 4,000 people. Five hundred ladies and girls will take part in the tableaux. One hundred and fifty coaches of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy have been secured for transportation.”

This headline appeared on July 23, 1892: “War among the Scottish lads.” It seems that the Highland Association met and decided to hold their annual picnic at Columbia Park the next Saturday. The Scottish Assembly “immediately selected the same time and place for their picnic.” The paper went on to state “The two societies are antagonistic...” They settled their differences by deciding to hold a parade on the night before and the Scottish Assembly would go to Burlington Park and the Highland Association would go to Columbia Park. (It must be in the Scottish DNA!)

The next article in the paper appears August 7, 1892. The Scottish Assembly is organizing a company of Royal Scots clad in
Highland costume. “Only respectable and well-built men will be permitted to unite with the Scots.” The Assembly was active during the Columbian Exposition and opened their new headquarters at 75 East Randolph St. “Congressman Durborow, Dr Handford and D. R. Goudie will deliver addresses, followed by a musical program and promenade.”

One final mystery to this group is the fact that the “International Directors of the Scottish Assembly” met in Chicago, February 25, 1893. They were here “confirming the action of the local directory” as it related to the plans for the Exposition. Men came from over the country including William McKay of Inverness, Scotland. So, the Chicago Assembly must have been a local chapter of a national organization. Anyone know?

The Scottish Club of Chicago

Created at the Grand Pacific on November 24, 1894. The 30 or 40 people present “were mainly of that faction of the Scottish Assembly which opposed the election of A. Gordon Murray to the Presidency of the Assembly and who withdrew at the time of the election.” Major J. C. Shand was the Chairman and J.D. McKenzie the Secretary. It does appear they had some early success but I have not been able to determine when they ceased to exist.

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