Behind the simple listing of the name “R. C. Flannigan” in the news report of his older brother Patrick’s will lies a story studded with the rugged individualism of one lifting himself by his own bootstraps to high achievement—or so it might seem. R. C., or Richard Charles as it turned out after a bit of online research, was most likely born in the humble log cabin pictured here in Thursday’s post. In a family that claimed him twelve other siblings in total, he couldn’t escape the reality of the hard work necessary to survive in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A biographical sketch puts the scene of his early educational training in a “pioneer log schoolhouse” in Ontonagon County. Sometime after the 1870 census—which shows the Flannigan family residing in Greenland Township in Ontonagon County—the family moved to Marquette. There, as one 1911 history records it, young Richard found work as a checking clerk and bell boy at the scales of the Marquette, Houghton and Ontonagon Railroad some time after attaining the ripe old age of twelve. He eventually advanced to a position on the ore docks.
Richard continued his schooling each year after the docks closed down for the fall. However, his—or the family’s—economic situation must have required that he shoulder more of his share of the burden, for he sought a year-round position with his company. There was only one offer made to him. It was for the position of assistant to an agent in another town, at the monthly salary of twenty dollars.
This is where serendipity kicks in: someone in a law office in town offered Richard a position that would enable him to stay at home in Marquette—all at the same salary as the out-of-town position with the railroad.
Surrounded, in this new job, by all sorts of opportunity for study, law thankfully became a subject for which he developed an interest. After four years serving in the law offices of Parkes and Hayden, Richard had benefited from due diligence in studying the material at hand. He was able to enter the law department of the University of Michigan.
Schooling, degree requirements and the plain old burdens of life being different then than they are now, after one year of study, Richard ran out of funds and had to return to Marquette. This didn’t present much of an obstacle to his ambitions, though, for he soon found a position with another law office in Marquette. When he reached the age of twenty one, Richard applied to the Circuit Court of Marquette for admission to the bar. Once his request was granted, Mr. Flannigan began his practice in Marquette, where he remained until 1881, when he relocated to Norway, Michigan.
I am not sure what prompted that move to Norway, rather than a return to his family’s home town. However, because of Richard’s involvement in the legal affairs of both mining interests and railroads, his proximity to the area of Iron Mountain may have been seen as helpful to his own future prospects. In any event, Norway, Michigan, became the location of Richard C. Flannigan's practice and residence for many years to come.