Monday, June 11, 2012

Back to the Papers

Several months ago, I digressed from my original purpose: to examine and post the details of those “precious papers” stashed away in the desk of my husband’s paternal grandmother, Agnes Tully Stevens. We had received these items during a visit to Chicago last August, and I’ve been sorting through them and posting the details on this blog, bit by bit. We’ve already completed the series of World War II era letters sent home to mom and dad by their son in the Navy, Frank. And we’ve explored some letters from various friends—everyone from priests recuperating from tuberculosis in New Mexico to high school chums now employed in businesses far from their Chicago home.

After the detour to explore any possible connections between Agnes’ Flanagan family members and those of the Flannigan family of Michigan, we have yet to conquer this pile of letters and memorabilia, for the collection is not only comprised of Agnes’ belongings, but those of her sister Lily, and, in turn, of their mother, Catherine Malloy Tully.

I had hoped that, as we moved through time, I’d progress with research on some of these less-recognizable names and relationships. However, I’m still as stuck with some puzzles as I was last August when we hauled the cache home. So, once again, we’ll muddle through these things together. I’ll be tossing these pieces up, one by one, in no particular order than in which it comes to hand. Perhaps a stray item will find some connection to family or friends and make its way home—or lead to some enlightening facet of family history being uncovered. Some will just remain anonymous curiosities, though, as I have no inkling how they fit in the larger picture.

Take, for instance, the letter that came to hand for today: an invitation to join in the celebration of a fiftieth wedding anniversary. Addressed not to Agnes, but to her older sister Lily, it was received from the honorees, Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. McCarthy of 519 West Garfield Boulevard in Chicago. If you remember Lily’s parents’ address, you’ll realize that this turns out to be a household just down the street from the Tully residence.

With a simple peek at, it was easy to see that the day of the anniversary celebration itself—April 15, 1934—was the same day as the marriage ceremony fifty years earlier. On that day in 1884, Mr. Charles A. McCarthy, a twenty two year old English immigrant, took as his bride Massachusetts native Lizzie L. Maguire. The ceremony took place at the Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago less than ten years after the building was dedicated to replace the one destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire—a beautiful, brand new edifice in which to exchange their vows.

With Charles and Lizzie McCarthy being neighbors of the Tully family for so long, it was easy to follow them in the census records over the years. By 1900, three daughters and a son were added to the couple: Mary, Alice, Helen and Charles. Sadly—but not an unusual occurrence for that time period—the couple had already lost one child, a son, Thomas.

The two households remained in the same neighborhood over subsequent decades and were recorded on the same pages of each decade’s census records. Their children grew up together; although Lily was six years older than the eldest McCarthy girl, Agnes would have been right in between the ages of Mary and Alice McCarthy.

For whatever reason of sentimentality, Agnes Tully Stevens chose to keep the invitation from the McCarthy family—despite its having been addressed to her sister. Perhaps it was something Agnes inherited from her sister when Lil passed away in 1949. Perhaps Lil was just like Agnes—an aggregator of cards and letters and memorabilia from those who meant a great deal to her.

Though Lil passed this 1934 invitation on to Agnes among her other papers—and thus Agnes passed it along to us—I can’t be an accomplice to this act by perpetuating it by default when I leave my “treasures” behind. This bit of Chicago history will either have to find an appropriate home or suffer its fate in the trash heap.

I have no idea whether there is anyone out there, currently researching the Chicago family of Charles A. McCarthy and his wife Lizzie…but if there is, I’d be happy to part with this item that more appropriately belongs in the McCarthy family history than mine.

1884                                                                                         1934

Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. McCarthy

request the pleasure of your company
on the

Fiftieth Anniversary of their Marriage

on Sunday the fifteenth of April

Will be at home after five o’clock in the afternoon
519 West Garfield Boulevard

Please omit gifts

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