The immigrant Scots who left a “stain” on America

Opera star Mary Garden, from Aberdeen, became embroiled in a newspaper scandal surrounding her love life after moving to Chicago. PIC Wikicommons

Opera star Mary Garden, from Aberdeen, became embroiled in a newspaper scandal surrounding her love life after moving to Chicago. PIC Wikicommons

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From the army general who ambushed his own men in a drunken haze to a serial poisoner and a mass murdering Mormon, the Scots who “stained” American history have been laid bare in a new book.

The mass exodus of Scots to America in the 18th and 19th Century is often marked by tales of hope and endeavour but author Iain Lundy has uncovered those who left a far darker legacy on New World soil.

Dr Thomas Cream, born in Glasgow, a backstreet abortionist, poisoner and murderer.PIC Whittles Publishing.

Dr Thomas Cream, born in Glasgow, a backstreet abortionist, poisoner and murderer.PIC Whittles Publishing.

Lundy, who himself moved from Scotland to Arizona two years ago, became fascinated by the Scots in America whose stories were little told either side of The Atlantic.

After researching around 600 emigrants- from preachers to tavern owners and those who signed the Declaration of Independence - Lundy became immersed in the crooks, the killers and the depraved among them, as well as the social and political climate that allowed them to thrive.

READ MORE: How the Scots diaspora spread across the world

“I think if we are honest, Scots know that not everyone who went abroad from these shores was a saint, there were plenty of desperate people and some blundering incompetents,” Lundy said.

Charles Forbes, of Wigtownshire, who stole millions of dollars of Veterans Bureau funds that had been intended to help soldiers returning from WWI. PIC Whittles Publishing/National Congress Library.

Charles Forbes, of Wigtownshire, who stole millions of dollars of Veterans Bureau funds that had been intended to help soldiers returning from WWI. PIC Whittles Publishing/National Congress Library.

“The ones included in the book are, I suspect, the tip of the iceberg,” he added,

His book, Between Daylight and Hell - Scots Who Left a Stain on American History, is the result of seven years of research conducted in the libraries and newspaper reading rooms of both Scotland and the United States.

The book opens with the story of Adam Stephen, born in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, who was induced into the “military hall of shame” after his disastrous drunken leadership at the pivotal Battle of Germantown in Pennsylvania in 1777.

READ MORE: 25 observations of an American tourist in Scotland

William Cameron Stewart, of Lochaber, who took part in the  Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 which left around 120 men, women and children dead. PIC Whittles Publishing.

William Cameron Stewart, of Lochaber, who took part in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857 which left around 120 men, women and children dead. PIC Whittles Publishing.

Concerns had long been raised about his behaviour - his love for drink, snuff and ‘strumpet’ was well talked of - but his hugely embarrassing blunder on the battlefield cost him his military career when, in booze-fuelled confusion, he ordered fire on his own men.

Dr Thomas Cream, originally from Glasgow, is also featured. Born in 1850, he later moved to Quebec and then Chicago where the highly-qualified physician - with a growing interest in chloroform and strychnine - ran a back-street abortion surgery for prostitutes.

Linked to the deaths of four women in Chicago, Dr Cream was jailed for killing Daniel Stott, the husband of his mistress Julia, with enough strychnine to end six men. After serving nine years in prison, he returned to London where he was later convicted of murdering four women and the attempted murder of fifth.

Known as the Lambeth Poisoner, Dr Cream was hanged on November 15 1892.

Adam Stephen, of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, a major general of the Continental Army who drunkenly ordered fire on his own men in the Battle of Germantown. PIC Whittles Publishing.

Adam Stephen, of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, a major general of the Continental Army who drunkenly ordered fire on his own men in the Battle of Germantown. PIC Whittles Publishing.

Lundy said the worst story he came across was that of William Cameron Stewart, of Lochaber, who played a key role in The Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah on September 11 1857.

Barely known either side of the Atlantic, Stewart was one of the thousands of Scots who became Mormons on arrival in America with the religious group heavily persecuted since its inception in the early 1820s.

As part of a militia, the Highlander was to take part in on “one of the most cowardly and barbaric massacres of defenceless men, women and children ever witnessed on American soil,” Lundy said, with at least 120 people killed in the ambush on a wagon train.

On account of an Indian tribesman who witnessed the massacre, said: “Many a little girl pleaded with Stewart not to take her life.

“Catching them by the hair of the head, he would hurl them to the ground, place his foot upon their little bodies and cut their throats.”

Following the massacre, Stewart toyed with returning to Scotland but fled to a Mormon colony in Mexico, where he died in 1895.

“That description of his behaviour that haunts me,” Lundy said.

“Nothing about Stewart was good. Yet in Scotland I bet few if any people have ever heard of him.”

As well as the truly depraved, Lundy features the simply crooked, such as Charles Forbes, born in 1877 in the village of Glenluce in Wigtownshire.

He was appointed to run the Veterans’ Bureau after the First World War, and pocketed millions of dollars that were intended to help soldiers coming back from the trenches.

Mary Garden, an Aberdeen chorister who rose to become America’s greatest opera star, is the only female in the book. Lauded as the finest soprano of her time, she became embroiled by scandal after becoming pregnant while in France, where she had been sent by her wealth American benefactors in the 1890s.

The singer’s subsequent rift with her high-society sponsors was to become newspaper fodder of the day.

Lundy said he hoped the book would stand as a reminder that not every Scot who emigrated to America was a “John Muir of this world”.

He added: “Deep down we all knew there were baddies so here they are in all their glory.

“I think this book will go down well with Americans. In my experience they are very down to earth, not afraid of a few uncomfortable home truths, and they don’t necessarily always like the good guy.”

Between Daylight and Hell - Scots Who Left a Stain on American History, published by Whittles Publishing. Available from December 12.