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Personal histories tied to industrial histories: “Wee Scotty,” James Stewart McLaren succumbed to pertussis

This marker illustrates that James Stewart McLaren’s parents loved their first-born son and how much they loved the country where they had been born and which they left in order to build new lives in the United States.

James’ marker is one of a kind here and under a large tree by several smaller markers that have carved lambs resting on top, the style of marker for most graves of babies and young children. James’ marker is tall with a loving cup on top of a three and a-half foot pedestal. James’ name, birth and death dates are carved on the base with the “love of homeland” words, “Wee Scotty.”

By Sue Hunter Weir

All that it takes is one look at his grave marker to understand how much James Stewart McLaren’s parents loved their first-born son. The marker also reveals how much they loved the country where they had been born and which they left in order to build new lives in the United States.

James’ marker is unusual for an eight-month-old baby, and in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery it is one of a kind. It sits under a large tree surrounded by several smaller markers that have carved lambs resting on top, the style of marker most commonly used to mark the graves of babies and young children. James’ marker is tall with what looks like a loving cup sitting on top of a three and a-half foot pedestal. James’ name, the date of his birth and his death are carved on the base as are the two words that tell of his parents’ love for him and their home country—they called him “Wee Scotty.”

Wee Scotty’s marker appears to be based on a Scottish quaich (pronounced quake), a shallow bowl with handles on each side. Traditionally quaichs were made of wood or silver and were used to mark rites of passage—weddings, christenings, welcomes and departures. This one marks a baby’s passing. James Stewart McLaren died on August 10, 1913 from whooping cough (pertussis). He was eight months and five days old.

McLaren is an old Scottish clan name that originally meant the Son of Lawrence. There were no Lawrences in Wee Scotty’s immediate family tree. Instead, he was named after his paternal grandfather and his father’s oldest brother. His father was named Mungo, a name that is not common in the United States, but which is fairly common in Scotland; it is thought to be a variation of the Welsh word that means “kind” or “gentle.”

Mungo Reed McLaren was born in Dundee, Scotland on June 4, 1883, the fourth child of James and Christine McLaren. He left school after seventh grade and eventually developed the skills necessary to work as a mechanic, most likely in one of the many factories in Dundee, a city known for shipbuilding and for manufacturing jute.

In March 11, 1905, at the age of 21, he sailed from Glasgow, Scotland on the Columbia bound for New York. His destination was New Jersey where he planned to join his older brother David. It’s not clear what prompted Mungo to relocate to Minneapolis but he did, and on September 8, 1907, this is where he married Williamina Nivin.

They settled in what is now the Seward neighborhood, and on December 5, 1912, James Stewart McLaren was born. At the time Mungo was working as a machinist for the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company which later became Minneapolis Moline.

In 1916 the McLarens built a new home at 3627 Cedar Avenue, six blocks from the cemetery where their son was buried. In 1917 Mungo applied for a passport in order to return to Great Britain to help out with the war effort. The company that he worked for at the time, the Bull Tractor Company (see page for more information), provided Great Britain with equipment and Mungo went back to train British mechanics to assemble the machinery and keep it in good working order. He returned to the United States at the end of the war, and he and Williamina had three more children. They remained in the house of Cedar Avenue until Mungo retired.

The Bull Tractor Company was more or less put out of business by the Ford Company which had developed its own line of tractors. Bull’s owners retooled and put their company’s energy into producing tractor engines and smaller lawn-care equipment. The company later changed its name to the one that we recognize today as Toro. Mungo worked for Toro until he retired and moved Texas, to live with his son Peter. He died in Dallas, Texas on March 13, 1965, and his remains were returned to Minnesota where he was buried in Crystal Lake Cemetery.

Whooping cough, the disease that caused Wee Scotty’s death, became much less of a threat to infants born in the United States after a vaccine was developed in the 1940s, but the incidence of whooping cough is on the rise. In 2014 there were almost 33,000 cases of pertussis reported in the United States, a 15% increase over the year before. While the number of deaths caused by whooping cough remains relatively low, the majority of those who died were infants. Children in developing countries are at much greater risk—around the world an estimated 195,000 children died from whooping cough in 2015.

Wee Scotty’s marker has stood up well for over 100 years although Minnesota winters with their alternating freezes and thaws have caused the ground where it stands to shift. Mike, the cemetery’s caretaker, and Tim, the cemetery’s archivist, leveled the marker last year to keep it from toppling over. On Memorial Day weekend, we will, as we have for the past 15 years, plant flowers in Wee Scotty’s marker.

James Stewart McLaren is buried in Lot 26, Block L of Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery.


TC Tractor at “Target”/”Bull” to “Toro”

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Mpls. Steel & Machinery Co. built Twin city Tractors until ‘29 merger with Moline Implement Co. Ill. and the Mpls.Threshing Machine Co. Hopkins, MN and became Minneapolis Moline where Target is now. TC Tractors had a logo like the MN Twins.

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