Thursday, September 15, 2022

"In a Business Way"


Give a promising young man with good business sense a modest sum of money and see what happens. In the case of young Samuel McGarry, beneficiary of his uncle John Murdock's bequest upon his untimely death, his $1,000 inheritance may have become a good investment, indeed.

According to inflation calculators, a gift of $1,000 in 1874 would be the equivalent of receiving nearly $27,000 in today's money. Regardless of what other typical twenty-one-year-old young men might do with such an amount today, Samuel McGarry put his inheritance to good use in a business way.

When we discussed young Samuel yesterday, he was living in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1880, along with his young wife and baby. Samuel's wife, as we discovered, was the former Mary Finnigan who, a decade prior, had been living with her mother and brother John in her step-father's household in the same city.

What became of them next? After all, census records leave a twenty-year gap after that 1880 census—a gap of time in which quite a bit can change in a young family.

If it weren't for the quintessential "some kind soul" of the Find A Grave volunteer variety, perhaps I would never have guessed what happened next to favored nephew Samuel McGarry. Fortunately, that thoughtful volunteer posted an old newspaper clipping on the memorial for Samuel's brother Thomas, who died in Lafayette in 1895.

According to that brief notice, among Thomas' surviving family members was one "S. J. McGarry" of Atlanta, Georgia. 

Really? Could the business-savvy Samuel McGarry have left his family's home—and all the network of business connections forged by his successful uncles in Lafayette—to strike out on his own?

Answer: you bet he did.

Just to double check that I had the right person in Atlanta, I not only found Samuel in the 1900 census—remember I would never have guessed to look for him there otherwise—but also in the city directory for that same year. Note how many McGarry names show up in that directory: not just Samuel and his wife Mary, but two other McGarry men, James F. and John J.

Each of the men are listed by the occupation of boilermaker. All worked for the same company, J. J. Finnigan. By now, that name is starting to sound familiar, so I double-check the others listed in Samuel's household. Sure enough, John J. and James F. were Samuel's sons, as well as a daughter, also named Mary.

Samuel's household in 1900 also listed another member, a man listed as a boarder. His name turns out to be John J. "Finigan." Not just because this John Finigan happens to coincidentally also have been born in Indiana—same as Samuel, his wife Mary, and their two sons—but that name sounds familiar for other reasons.

It is. This lodger, John J. Finigan, had the same name as Mary's brother John Finnigan from the 1870 census—and when we skip forward another decade to the 1910 census, the enumerator clarified that very relationship.

This John J. Finnigan happened to also be a boilermaker, same as his brother-in-law and nephews—and likely also was the namesake of the Atlanta business known then as J. J. Finnigan & Co.

I can't determine just how successful Samuel McGarry was in that business endeavor—his will doesn't reveal much, other than his business interest in the company and some real estate holdings in the city of Atlanta. But the many entries in the local newspaper upon his "untimely death" present a hint of how well known Samuel McGarry was in the area. Called a "pioneer business man," he was considered a "leading citizen of Atlanta" who was "interested in a number of progressive movements."

We can glean from the articles written after Samuel's passing that he had arrived in Atlanta "in the prime of life" in about 1888. While we can infer from his entry in the 1900 census that the McGarry family had stopped first in Alabama, where their daughter Mary was born in 1885, Samuel must have learned of a business opportunity farther to the east and made his move there while his daughter Mary was just a toddler. Whether John J. Finnigan accompanied Samuel's family on that entire route through Alabama, I can't yet tell. One thing, though, is certain: the connection between John, Samuel, and Mary went far beyond what the Atlanta Journal called being "in a business way."

Still, with the forward-facing obituary style at the time of Samuel McGarry's untimely death, we find no mention of those who went before him. Thus, our hope in following Samuel's story nets us nothing more than an interesting diversion. As the oldest son of our Eliza Murdock's sister Ellen, Samuel would have been the most likely to reveal any clues to his mother's origin, and thus his Murdock grandparents' roots. While I'll follow the stories of Samuel's younger siblings—three brothers and four sisters, as we remember from their father's obituary—perhaps it is time to explore whether we can find more answers by researching the other sister mentioned in John Murdock's will. With tomorrow's post, we'll begin our exploration of Sarah Murdock Nolan's story.  



No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...