Sunday, May 15, 2011

Death's Grim Harvest: 1901 Obituary of My Great Grandfather, Austin McNally


The hand of death has been busy among our citizens the past week and with deep feelings of regret we chronicle the departure of several old and honored friends who have answered the final summons and gone to that bourne whence no traveler returns.
St. Martin's Catholic Church, Cascade, Iowa

Here is the text of my Great-Grandfather's 1901 obituary.  Austin McNally was an undertaker, and a hardware store proprietor in Cascade Iowa at the end of the nineteenth century.  The obituary is remarkable compared to modern obituaries in its length and use of flowery phrases, and also in its account of the emotional effects of death on the family and community.  I hope you will find it as interesting as I have:

Cascade mourns the loss of a respected and honored citizen in the death of Austin McNally.  A citizen and business man who was identified with the welfare and advancement of this community since the day of his location in the town twenty-on years ago.  Always a leading factor in every public movement and a staunch advocate of every enterprise that tended to turn the wheels of progress, Mr. McNally’s death is a public loss and the keen sorrow that befalls his bereaved family descends alike upon the community.  Genial, whole souled, and generous – Austin McNally was known and held in high respect by all his fellow citizens.  His friends were numberless and expressions of sorrow and regret on account of his demise are common on every hand.  Years of daily intercourse with the public as a business man had widened his acquaintanceship until he was known far and wide, and his retirement after his sickness befell him was an innovation to those who expected to see his familiar form in his usual place of business, and now that death has removed him from the scene of life’s activity the thought is a sad one to his numerous friends that he is no more among them.  Mr. McNally’s illness, which culminated in his death last Sunday afternoon, December 15, at 3:00 o’clock, dated from the 20th of last July, when he was seized with a serious attack of kidney trouble, which subsequently developed cancer of the kidneys.  Skilled physicians, both local and others, were consulted, and beyond a temporary relief failed to affect a permanent cure of the malevolent disease.  After treatment here, with a view to securing the benefit of hospital treatment he was removed to the sanitarium at Anamosa on the 25th day of September last.  The change for a time seemed beneficial and some improvement was noted in his condition, so that on November 9 he was brought home again.  From that time t o the last hours of the deceased his condition was more or less changeable, though from day to day it was evident that the malignant disease was gradually consuming the vital spark of life.  The final depressing attack which ended in his death began on Friday last and continued to be very discouraging the succeeding day, and Sunday, in the afternoon of which Mr. McNally breathed his last, surrounded by the members of his family.  

Main Street, Cascade
Austin McNally was born in Washington township, Jones county in what was then known as the territory of Iowa on the 24th day of May 1843.  His parents Mr. and Mrs. Thos. McNally were among the early settlers of the county, having settled there the year before Austin was born.  The latter’s boyhood and manhood were passed upon the old homestead farm and for sixteen years after attaining his majority he assisted in the material development of his father’s estate.  He continued to live there until his marriage to Miss Mary Quigley, of Anamosa, which took place at the above town April 20, 1880.  In December, 1880, Mr. McNally came to Cascade and opened a hardware store and undertaking establishment, which business he followed almost uninterruptedly for twenty-one years, or until the first of last October, when the business was sold to Devaney & Son.

Early in the 80’s Mr. McNally associated in the undertaking business with S.B. Beatty, but continued under his own name his hardware concern, and in order to take care of the latter properly he built a fine new store building, which was completed in the fall of 1896 and is still owned by his estate.  Always popular and liberal in his dealings he enjoyed an immense trade in the hardware line.  In 1898, when Mr. Beatty sold out and removed to Cedar Rapids the undertaking department was included in the sale and Mr. McNally retired from that branch of business until last year, when he again added it to his business, taking as a partner P.A. Koob, who had served his apprenticeship with himself and Mr. Beatty.

St. Martin's Catholic Church

Mr. McNally, always a public spirited citizen, served his town in the capacity of alderman and was a member of the town board during the period when Cascade made several important additions to its municipal improvements, principally the construction and installation of the water works system, in which purchase and establishment, he was an important factor.  Politically, Mr. McNally was a consistent and unswerving democrat.  He was a member of St. Martin’s Branch R. C. M. Protective Association and an honorary member of St. Gonzaga’s court, Catholic Order of Foresters.  He was a devout Catholic and a God-fearing man whose last earthly days were consoled by the faith of his fathers and the grace-giving sacraments of his religion.
Besides his sorrow-stricken wife he leaves behind a family of five daughters and one son, namely; Bessie, Mae, Irene, Genevieve, Evelyn and Harry.  Four children died in infancy.  He is also survived by his brothers Robert and James McNally of Richland and Washington Townships, and sisters Miss Ann McNally of Washington Township, and Mrs. James Lynch.
The funeral took place at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning from the residence to St. Martin’s church, and was attended by the R.C.M.P. Society and Catholic Order of Foresters, whose members marched in advance of the funeral cortege, followed by many fellow citizens and friends of the deceased.  Solemn High Mass was celebrated with Rev. J. J. Brogan of Placid, celebrant: Rev. L. Roche, pastor, deacon, and Rev. J. Kelly of Gary Owen, sub-deacon.  Rev. L. Roche delivered a very touching address, and referred feelingly to the deceased to whose character as a man and citizen he paid high tribute.  At the conclusion of the services the remains were conveyed to the Catholic cemetery and laid to rest.  The floral offerings were very beautiful and were contributed by the Catholic societies, the Protective society, the Foresters, and the Dubuque Casket Co.
The pall-bearers were: James A. Hayes, James McCue, T.H. McQuillen, J.C. Devlin, T.D. Fagan and P.L. Devaney.

1 comment:

Charles Cowling said...

Splendidly sonorous! What fine antecedents you have, Mr McNally!

I enjoyed the names of the pallbearers -- good Irishmen every one.

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