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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 2010

Andrew MacLeish

Andrew MacLeish, a prominent 19th century Chicago merchant, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on June 18, 1838. By the age of seventeen, Mr. MacLeish had completed a thorough education that he put to use within various clerical positions in Glasgow and London. He arrived in Chicago in 1857 shortly after his sweetheart, Lillias Young, moved to Chicago with her parents. Andrew MacLeish and Lillias Young married two years later.

From his earliest days in Chicago, Andrew MacLeish forged a career in retail dry goods. His first employer, J. D. Sherman, was located at 130 Lake Street, the principal retail street during that time. Desiring to open his own store, MacLeish moved to Kewanee, Illinois. Soon after, he determined his preference for Chicago and returned, this time to the employ of J. B. Shay, another Lake Street dry goods retailer. In 1865, he became associated with Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. that operated, at that time, a dry goods wholesale business. The partners were: Samuel Carson, John T. Pirie, George Scott and Robert Scott.

MacLeish founded and managed the retail arm of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. and with it designed the company’s first retail store. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the original store, but MacLeish’ diligent effort saved much of the inventory. He personally directed the transfer of goods by employing whosoever he could and paying whatever prices they demanded. After the fire, the retail operations divided into two stores, one on West 22nd street in Chicago and another on Madison Street in Peoria. Sixteen years later, Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. purchased the State Street store of Charles Gossage. The rest is Chicago retail history.

Andrew MacLeish also persevered within his personal life. Two children were born of his marriage to Lillias Young; Lily Agnes (Mrs. C. L. Day) and Blanche E. (Mrs. C.K.G. Billings). Sadly, Lillias died one year after their second child was born. The circumstances of her death are unknown to us, as is the place of burial.

Andrew married a second time to Louise Little of Chicago. One son, Bruce, was born to the union. The local news-papers did not carry any information or an obituary of her death.

Andrew MacLeish’ third wife, Martha Hillard, shared the rest of his life. The daughter of a Congregationalist minister, Martha hailed from an established New England family. She was educated at Vassar through the generous contributions of a bachelor uncle. After several years of teaching school, Martha Hillard was invited back to Vassar as an instructor. A strong educator, Martha left Vassar and became the principal of Rockford Seminary in Rockford, Illinois. Upon the school’s succession to Rockford College, Martha became the first President.

The daughters of Andrew MacLeish, Lily and Blanche, had attended Vassar during Martha’s tenure. A trip to Chicago to visit Lily and Blanche resulted in Martha meeting the girls’ father. Martha Hillard and Andrew MacLeish were married in 1888; she was 18 years his junior. Mr. MacLeish and Martha Hillard had four children: Norman Hillard, Archibald, Kenneth and Ishbel Marjoribanks, named after Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor General of Canada. Norman was a well-known Illinois artist. Archibald was a writer and Librarian of Congress. Kenneth died in World War One. We are still searching for Ishbel (Mrs. Alexander Sloan Campbell).

The original MacLeish home stood at 627 Adams St. After his marriage to Martha Hillard, the couple purchased 17 acres at Glencoe and built a summer home. Over time, the summer home became their permanent home. It was named “Craigie Lea” after an old Scottish song. “The house, a great three-story residence of brick and frame construction with conical towers, dormers, and high-pitched gables. The house contained more than 30 rooms.”

Mrs. MacLeish “reigned as chatelaine of Craigie Lea, she engaged in religious and cultural activities that made her one of the most esteemed women of Chicago and the North Shore. Each year, on the lawn of Craigie Lea, she presided at a garden fete that was one of the outstanding annual events of social life on the North Shore.” She served as president of the Chicago Woman’s Club. Through her efforts, the Women’s American Foreign Mission Baptist Society was formed. Martha was an intimate friend of Jane Addams, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and helped her in the establishment of Hull House, a Chicago home established to improve the social condition of the underserved. Mrs. Martha Hillard MacLeish died December 19, 1947 at the age of 91.

Andrew MacLeish preceded Martha in death due to complications of old age. He worked until one week before his death on January 14, 1928, refusing to release his responsibility with the Carson, Pirie, Scott Company. “His career had paralleled the history of business in Chicago and its steady rise.” Andrew MacLeish is buried in Graceland cemetery.

Archibald MacLeish, in writing of his father, said: “My father came from a very old country in the north and far away, and he belonged to an old strange race, the race older than any other. He did not talk of his country but he sang bits of old songs with words that he said no one could understand anymore.”

Pictured first:  Andrew MacLeish
Pictured second:  Martha Hillard MacLeish

Thou Bonnie Wood o’ Craigielea

Chorus: Thou bonnie wood o’ Craigielea,
Thou bonnie wood o’ Craigielea,
Near thee I’ve spent life’s early day,
And won my Mary’s heart in thee.

Verse 1: The broom, the brier, the birken bush,
Bloom bonnie o’er thy flowry lea;
And a’ the sweets that ane can wish,
Frae nature’s hand are strew’d on thee.

Verse 2: Far ben thy dark green plantin’s shade,
The cushat croodles am’rously;
The mavis down thy bughted glade,
Gars echo ring frae ev’ry tree.

Verse 3: Awa’, ye thoughtless murd’ring gang,
Wha tear the nestlings ere they flee!
They’ll sing you yet a canty sang,
Then, O, in pity, let them be!

Verse 4: When winter blaws in sleety show’rs,
Frae aff the Norlan Hills sae hie,
He lightly skiffs thy bonnie bow’r,
As laith to harm a flow’r in thee.

Verse 5: Though fate should drag me south the lime,
Or o’er the wide Atlantic sea,
The happy hours I’ll ever min’,
That I in youth hae spent in thee.

The lyric was written by Robert Tannahill (1774-1810) of Paisley.
The music was composed by James Barr (1770-1836) of Tarbolton.

You can hear the audio here.

Daughters of Andrew MacLeish

Andrew MacLeish was the father of seven children, four boys and three girls. The girls were named: Lily, born 1861, Blanche, born in 1864, and Ishbel Marjoribanks, born in 1897. Lily married C. L. Day; Blanche married C. K. G. Billings and Ishbel (correct spelling) married Alexander Sloan Campbell. Let’s begin with the daughters and in our next issue we will write about the sons.

Lily MacLeish Day died August 2, 1941 in Presbyterian hospital. She was 80 years old and a graduate of Vassar college. Her husband, Charles Lewis Day, died in 1936. He had been an executive of the Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company.

Mrs. Day was a charter member of the Women’s Athletic club of Chicago and belonged to the Indian Hill Country club. Her obituary states that “she leaves one daughter, Mrs. Stanley K. Peirce of Glencoe, and one son, Lewis Andrew Day of West Orange, N. J.” Funeral services were held on August 4, 1941 in the Graceland cemetery chapel.

Blanche MacLeish Billings. The History Club has considered the life of Blanche and there is some information about her husband, C.K.G. Billings on the website. (See Chicagoscots.net, look under Newsletters. It’s the July, 2009 issue.) Blanche was born in 1864, was also a graduate of Vassar and married her husband in 1885. His father gave them a fully furnished home at 470 Washington Boulevard. Her father gave them a beautiful grand piano.

The Billings became extremely wealthy and when they died in 1937, they left an estate of $13,046,801 after taxes. Two children were born to the marriage but only one survived, Mrs. William Halsey Vander Poel of New York. Their son, Albert, died quite suddenly in 1926 at the age of 31.

The Billings were involved in racing and their horse, Omar Khayyam, won the Kentucky Derby in 1917. They often traveled in a private railroad car built by the Pullman Company. They owned a mansion and 50 acres of land on the northern end of Manhattan Island, which they later sold to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. After selling the mansion, they took possession of a suite of 21 rooms at the north corner of 5th Avenue and 63rd Street. They also owned homes at Lake Geneva, Chicago, and Santa Barbara.

The end of their fairy-tale life occurred at their home in Santa Barbara in May 1937. They both died within hours of each other, came back together on the same train and were buried together in Graceland cemetery. They had been married 52 years. The History Club has visited their graves at least twice.

Ishbel Marjoribanks MacLeish Campbell was born in Glencoe on March 20, 1897. She died August 15, 1991 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We know she once lived in El Paso County, Colorado and according to the 1930 census she was single, owned a home valued at $20,000 and also owned a radio. The census also listed two servants: Katherine Mahoney and Agnes McTague. We also know that in 1936, she married Alexander Sloan Campbell. Beyond this, we know very little about the life of Ishbel Marjoribanks MacLeish Campbell.

Pictured first:  Blanch MacLeish Billings
Pictured second:  Ishbel Marjoribanks MacLeish Campbell

From the Editor

The Scottish American History Club now has its own web site at http://chicagoscots.net. It is a work in progress but does contain the dates of our meetings and various other items of information. On the left side you will find a “blog button.” I have been trying to post a new blog every day but there is no guarantee that I will not miss a day now and then. The Newsletters are posted and the growing name list is also on the web site. Our site is connected to our parent organization, The Illinois Saint Andrew’s Society.

The History Club continues to meet monthly and you will find those dates at chicagscots.net. As the subjects become available they will also be posted. On February 6, I will continue my story of the Georgeson wing construction project. I would like to tell the story of Heritage Hall which contains our museum. There will also be comments about Helen’s Garden, Uncle Pete and the Pollock Fountain, and I have been asked to relate the story of the “Ghost of the Scottish Home.” You will hear from one person who has actually experienced the presence of the ghost.

Let me thank all the people involved in the publication of our Newsletter. I do most of the research and the preliminary writing. It then goes to Connie Gill who rewrites the articles and makes them interesting. She does a terrific job and is an excellent writer. Elaine Moore then adds the pictures and formatting.

Finally, let me thank Robert Peterson who videos all of our history sessions for future reference. Bob and his daughter are there for every meeting and use the finest equipment — all without charge. I would recommend Bob to any of you who have need of a photographer. He is thoroughly trained in the use of his equipment, which is the best available. He can be reached by email.

If you need more information, call me at 630.629.4516 or send me an email.


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