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Autobiographical Reminiscences of David Johnston
Chapter XXVI

"Each year to ancient friendship adds
A ring as to an oak, which, without the aid of any merit
Of our own, becomes more and more precious."

IT is painful to record the downfall of the grand old Caledonian Club of Chicago, the origin of which in 1865 may here be dated, for although we stood indebted to General Ducat for the insurance on our burnt library of two thousand dollars, this amount, added to the balance on hand, forming a handsome sum, and being just at this juncture at a loss to find suitable ground whereon to hold our annual picnic, formed the double incentive to induce the club to venture into the bewitching yet dangerous arena of real estate. Hence the collapse of one of the most healthy and promising organizations that ever blessed the efforts of the Scottish element anywhere. Alas! for the instability of human affairs. Should the reader be desirous of obtaining more information thereof I refer him to William Forrest, who is still chief, and who holds the charter and documents of the club in his possession, with a hopeful pertinacity that reflects credit to his honest, loving heart. As for myself, I bless God for the memory which enables me to live those happy days over again. While Chicago was, phoenix-like, rising in tenfold grandeur out of her own ashes, I became for the winter of 1871-2 a book peddler, undertaking to supply the citizens of St. Louis, or such as would buy a book with a copy of Goodspeed's story of the great fire, selling to the tune of one volume per diem during the winter, clearly proving that as a book canvasser I was anything but a success. On my return to Chicago I took the route of the Illinois river, which, with a little divergence, gave me a chance of revisiting the scene of my earliest American experience in search of a home. I found the whole community in a very thriving condition; my quarter-section not only well cultivated, but yielding coal for the market. My appearance, like that of the Rip Van Winkle of Irving, had assumed in the long interim an aspect which placed it almost beyond recognition. Indeed, the unmarried daughter of the Oliver family (Annie) was the only person who could salute me by name. Staying a few days with John Turnbull, and paying a hasty visit to the neighbors around, I returned by Kewaunee and Elgin to Chicago, and recommenced viewing. On August 14, 1873, it fell to my lot, as chief of the Chicago Caledonian Club, to give a name to its beautiful grounds, which were, in the presence of a large and brilliant audience, denominated Chicago Caledonian Park, and which were intended to furnish a healthful retreat occasionally from the cares of business within the confines of a city which in magnitude was rapidly becoming metropolitan; The above park was, by the action of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway, rendered nugatory. In fact, so far as pertaining to the purposes for which the purchase was made, the ground might as well have formed part of one of the islands of the sea.

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