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Dick Taylor


The Wisharts: Out of Scotland

On Sunday, October 8, 1871, inside a barn on De Koven Street in the large shipping center of Chicago, the devastating hoof of an apathetic bovine carelessly whacked Mrs. O'Leary's lantern, and the big shambling town of wooden frame buildings and extensive stockyards burst into uncontrollable flames.  The business district of the prominent city representing the American meat-packing industry was mostly destroyed, losing 17,450 buildings in a holocaust raging two days and two nights.  The destruction totalled a staggering $190,000,000, with 70,000 Chicagoans left homeless and 200 unlucky residents perishing in the historic fire near the western shore of Lake Michigan. 

On that same Sabbath day, David Wishart's wife and children were sequestered snugly aboard a southwest-bound train rumbling along over the rails through Hamburg, Ia., and onward into Missouri.  The seven youngsters, ranging from 13-year-old William down to the year-old babe-in-arms named John, and their chaperoning mother were contentedly on their way again after a Friday layover, having switched trains at the Chicago station just a couple days before. 

The Wisharts had been two weeks crossing the Atlantic Ocean, steaming from the port of Liverpool, England, to New York City's harbor, after which they caught the train running up to Albany, then across to Buffalo, through Canada to Detroit, and over to the ill-fated Chicago.  They were among the very final eyewitnesses to recall the wooden-structured city which was later rebuilt with stone and metal. 

When Jane Wishart later received shocking news that the Windy City had just burned down, she realized some of their belongings may have been consumed in the flames.  From Hamburg, Ia., they had continued on down to St. Joseph, Mo., where they transferred to a train chugging west toward Sabetha, Kan.  As the wandering family approached the final leg of a long journey from Letham, Forfarshire, Scotland, Jane Wishart's thoughts were disturbed with that distressing possibility of having lost their personal property. 

An anxious 37-year-old David Wishart, sr., was relieved when his family arrived safely at Table Rock in mid-October, 1871, concluding their inconvenient separation of the past two years.  He was glad to see his wife and children again.  Little John was born after David had left Scotland, and this was actually the first meeting of parent and child.  The missing Wishart luggage fortunately showed up within a few weeks at Sabetha, with the massive Chicago disaster causing only a delay in the transport of their baggage. 

Before his family's emigration, David Wishart had been working at Marysville, Kan., while lodging with the Campbells and McDonalds.  For nourishment, perhaps he occasionally sipped Campbell's soup, while at other times he surely enjoyed a happy meal at McDonald's.  David had also helped John Taylor build a large new house on the farm near Table Rock where David's sister Mary had died the previous year.  The reunited Wishart family would remain with John’s family through the approaching winter.

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