Published in Times Mail newspaper Feb. 6, 2019, by Becky Buher, Guest columnist
An American Dream…
Nearly 100 years ago, the limestone industry was booming in the city. An amazing object from this period is one of the museum’s highlights. It is a 40-link endless chain carved from one limestone block. Andrew Duncan created this piece of art and museum visitors are amazed by it.
Each link in the chain was carved using only a wooden mallet and a set of stonecutter’s chisels. Links were smoothed and polished with pumice stone. The finished product required more than 200 hours of labor. The carver’s son, John Duncan, donated this amazing chain to the museum many years ago. He also provided the lighted wooden box in which the chain is displayed.
A similar limestone chain was once displayed at a local business in 1915. The Bedford Democrat newspaper wrote: “There is at present [Nov. 15, 1915] on display in the window of the Bedford Furniture and Carpet Co. a bit of stone work that represents an unusual amount of labor and patience and is receiving much favorable comment from the hundreds of passersby who stop to view and admire the work. The product of the local quarries has been made into a chain with a small box containing a ball at the end thereof. The work is that of Andrew Duncan, foreman of the Struble mill and is truly a piece of art from the standpoint of workmanship.”
Like so many immigrants who have contributed to our community, Andrew Duncan was not born here. He was born Jan. 21, 1877, in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. John and Mary McAustan Duncan were his parents. He began learning to cut stone in Scotland when he was 12 years old. He spoke Scottish and English.
In 1905, he acquired a second-class ticket on the Anchor Line’s ship Astoria and departed from Glasgow, Scotland. He arrived at the port of New York about a month later. He was listed on the ship’s manifest as a 28-year-old single male whose occupation was mason.
Two years later, he came to Bedford and accepted the position of foreman at the Henry Struble Cut Stone Co. mill.
By 1910, he was living at a house at 1310 13th Street. Widow Carrie M. Priest owned and operated a boarding house there. His occupation was a stonecutter at a stone mill, and he had received papers to become a naturalized citizen.
The next year, an article in the Bedford Weekly Mail reported that Andrew Duncan and his friend Daniel Frazier, both of Scotland, were made citizens of the United States on March 13, 1911.
Duncan married Jeannie Hamilton Thompson in Bedford. She, too, had emigrated from Scotland.
On Jan 2, 1914, The Bedford Daily Mail reported that realtor John Hudson sold Andrew and Jeannie Duncan a 5-room house at 1711 L St. for a price of $2,750. It was said there was no nicer place in Bedford.
Andrew and Jeanie had two children, John and Nancy Duncan.
As a naturalized American citizen, he registered for the draft in 1917 with willingness to serve in World War I.
He worked at the Struble mill until he became ill. Dauntless efforts were made in hope for a recovery. He left Bedford for Rochester, Minn., but when he reached Chicago, he entered the hospital there and was treated under the care of a specialist.
By 1923, the family had moved to 1124 W. 16th Street, and after a valiant battle, he succumbed to the white plague (tuberculosis) and died Aug. 19, 1923.
He had been an active and successful participant of the Masonic order, and impressive ritualistic services were performed at the cemetery. Pallbearers were all of the Masonic order: Henry Struble, George Struble, Donald Fraser, Edward McGinnis, David Warnock and Clifford Bickenhauser.
Rev. D. T. Scott spoke of his Christian character and his high standing with his employers who appreciated the true service he gave them, his devotion to the teachings of his (Masonic) order, his deep and reverent attitude toward his Maker and the deep quality of his friendship for his fellowman as well as his devotion to his family.
Some years after his death, his widow, Jeanie, married Frank Owen. Jeanie lived until 1975. Jeanie and Andrew Duncan are buried at Green Hill Cemetery.