Saturday, June 28, 2014

Local Boy Makes Good

Perhaps it was with some parental pride that John E. Creahan opened the pages of The Tippecanoe County Democrat on May 5, 1916, shortly after returning to his hometown from a fourteen year stay in Chicago.

Life in rural Lafayette, Indiana, was vastly different than that in the city, where John and his wife May had raised their two children, Charles and Edna. Still, while John struggled to support his family as a switchman for one of the many railroads moving goods through the Midwest’s main freight capital, as his son came of age, the younger Creahan found the Chicagoland opportunities opened up to him a world of possibilities.

By the time of the 1910 census, Charles—then eighteen—was employed as a clerk in a steel foundry. Apparently, as the next few years flew by, Charles’ skills caught the eye of key people who knew how to make a difference in the Chicago business world. By the time his father had returned to Indiana, the twenty four year old Charles Creahan had ended up as part owner and board member of a Chicago area foundry.

After his parents had settled back in Lafayette, Charles and his wife, the former Mabel Eckstrom, traveled to his childhood home to visit the elder Creahans. It was on the occasion of his arrival in Lafayette that the local newspaper took the opportunity to report Charles Creahan’s most recent business accomplishments in that May 5, 1916, edition.
Has Made a Success.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Creahan, of Gary, Ind., are visiting the parents of Mr. Creahan, Mr. and Mrs. John E. Creahan, of Oakland Heights. The many friends of Charles Creahan will be glad to know of his success in the business world. He left here with his parents at the age of ten and while now but 24 years of age, yet has successfully held important positions with the Pullman Car Co., of Pullman, Ill., and other big concerns. In January of this year, with several associates, he organized a big foundry company with headquarters at Gary, Ind., and of which company he is one of the board of directors and secretary of the parent concern. He is now known among big concerns in Chicago and the Calumet region as an expert bookkeeper and detail man.

Perhaps that 1916 Democrat article could be considered a brag piece. Keeping in mind how many omissions and misrepresentations I’ve observed over the years at the hands of newspaper reporters, I'm thinking a double-check to find corroborating reports might be a wise precaution before accepting such glowing terms.

Fortunately—and thanks to Google Books—I found such a confirmation from the pages of one of those dull, dry trade journals that only those in the profession could love. A mention in the October 9, 1919, edition of The Iron Trade Review, buried on page 101, covered the pertinent details in a column perfunctorily entitled “Business Changes Recently Announced By the Trade.”
Since Oct. 1, the name and office of the Gary Foundry & Machine Co., East Gary, Ind., has been the Calumet Foundry & Machine Co., 148th street and Railroad avenues, East Chicago, Ind. The foundry and machine shop at East Gary is operated as plant No. 1 and the foundry, formerly the East Chicago Foundry Co., together with the pattern shop, formerly the East Chicago Pattern Works, as plant No. 2 at East Chicago. William H. Kleppinger is president of the combined companies; P. S. Graver is vice president; W. F. Graver, treasurer, and Charles A. Creahan, secretary.

What may have come off as a “local boy makes good” story for the Lafayette newspapers turned out to be a lifelong story of success. Indiana native Charles Creahan, having seemingly come to Chicago by the happenstance of parental dictates, found it quite worth his while to continue his big city associations long after his parents decided to return home to the quiet countryside of Lafayette.


  1. After all the false starts and disappointments and twists and turns with the Creahans and variant spellings, it's nice to find something concrete. We can wipe our collective brow and say, "Whew, finally."

    1. ...and we can thank the more modern attitudes about governmental collection of vital statistics for that one, Wendy. Turning around and working forward from those newly-discovered Kelly ancestors, it has been so much easier to trace lines of descendancy after crossing that twentieth century threshold of record-keeping. Thankfully!

  2. Sounds like he did just fine in Chicago:)

    1. Interesting how the life trajectory of various members of the same family can turn out so differently. Charles certainly hit the sweet spot in his family's move to Chicago--a move that made all the difference in his life.

  3. And the difference in years makes a difference too - the Pullman Company and the steel foundry are all long gone now - if he had come into adulthood today... I wonder what career he might have chosen?

    1. Good point, Iggy. Who knows what might have happened if John Creahan's son had grown up in a different era. That window of time might have afforded someone with Charles' capabilities a different reward then than would be available today.

      Interesting that you mentioned that the foundry is long gone. I actually Googled the business name, hoping to find something showing the trail of the company's history. Strangely enough, there was a hit for a Calumet Foundry. The one eery thing about it was that it has been family owned for the past four generations, but the owners' surname is Dolan, not Creahan--with Dolan being the very same surname as the maiden name of that other John Creahan's wife. It is sometimes strange how unrelated details can come back and get tangled up into the same story line, again and again.


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