John and Catherine McGee gravesite. St. Michaels Cemetary Warsaw, NY
John M McGee was born in 1827 in County Donegal, Ireland. He was the first of six children born to William and Margery Mcconnell. Not much is known about his life in Ireland, the family was Catholic and were likely tenant farmers. The family sailed to America in 1841 aboard the Stephen Whitney. John was 14 years old. His father did not sail with the family, he had gone ahead to get established before sending for his wife and children.
The family sailed to New York City and then made their way to western New York state first to Lockport. It is thought that his father had found work on the canal, then to a small town near Pavilion, NY called Union Corners. In 1849 John’s father, William purchased a farm in Perry, NY (Wyoming County). John and his siblings helped their parents with the running of a farm.
The McGee farm was purchased in December of 1849, on January 7, 1850 John became a naturalized citizen of the United States at the age of 23. A Mr. James Givens and Mr. Mcgrath served as witnesses for John. The paperwork was filed in nearby Livingston County.
In 1853 John married Catherine Gill, she had been born in Dublin about 1830 and came to the United States during the great famine. John and Catherine had 5 children: William (1856-1926), Catherine (1858-1919), Mary (1860-1919), Ella (1862-1897), John B (1863-1932).
John is shown in the Civil War draft registration record for Wyoming County in June of 1863. There is no record that he ever served in the war.
John left the family farm and became a salesman. He travelled the local Wyoming county selling goods to the farmers. The following is an excerpt from Angie McGee’s poem:
John, the eldest, took for his mate
A worthy maiden whose name was Kate.
Dear Uncle John! How we watched for his coming,
And over the hill we all went running
For a ride on his cart was the greatest of treats,
While he sold his fresh fish and sweetest of meats.
In 1860 John and Catherine (Kate) were living in Perry Center and he is listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $1900, son william was 3yrs old, daughter kate 2yrs old and Mary 4 months old. There also had a 17yrd old boy named John Donaldson living with them who helped with the farm work.
In 1870 the family is still living in Perry and John now lists his occupation as a butcher. The family included William, Kate, Mary and now Ellen 8yrs and John 6. Kate’s mother Catherine Gill is living next door.In 1875 the family moved to Warsaw, NY and in 1880 John, Kate and all 5 children aged from 23 to 16 are still living at home, Kate’s mother now lives with the family. John is again listed as a Farm laborer, William(23) a butcher, Kate (22) and Mary (20) list their occupations as Tailoress.
In 1890 John and Kate are living at 146 North Main St in Warsaw. Kate reports giving birth to 6 children, 4 of whom are still living. John is listed as a landowner and peddler. Mary 38yrs old is living with them and still a Tailoress. Son John (36) is a grocer. They also list Veronica Derrick aged 9, a granddaughter living with them. The last member of the household listed is a Thomas Murphy aged 25 a border who was a salesman at the grocery store. There will be more to come on the grocery store! Also more coming on little Veronica and how she came to be living with her grandparents.
John died on February 14, 1905 at his home in Warsaw. His obituary is a treasure trove of information:
Warsaw has lost one of its oldest, best known and most respected citizens in the death of John McGee, which occurred at his home on North Main street, last evening, February 14th, at half past eleven. Heart trouble and old age were the causes of death. Mr. McGee was born in Ireland 78 years ago last October, and when a lad of 14 years his parents came to this state, first going to Lockport. Shortly after they came to Middlebury, but for over fifty years his home has been in Warsaw. He spent some time in agriculture, but most of his life work was as a butcher. He was a man of strict honesty in all his dealings, kindly and approachable, and few men of his wide acquaintance had more friends or was more generally respected.
His wife survives, also four children, John B., William and Miss Mary Mcgee of Warsaw, and Mrs. Chris O’Melia of Rochester. One brother, William, lives in the town of Perry.
(Warsaw, NY, Wyoming County Times, Feb. 15, 1905)
I also found a mention of John’s death in a New York City paper, Irish World. People in Ireland and the US frequently subscribed to the paper to pass along information about the family. John is the only one of the McGee’s that I have found mention of in this paper.
The paper says that John was a native of County Donegal and lists his wife and 4 surviving children.
(NY, NY, Irish World, March 11, 1905)
Kate died in 1908
John and Catherine are buried in St. Michaels Cemetery in Warsaw, NY
Mary Angela McGee, Family Papers (N.p.: n.p., 16 November 1929), Poem by Angie McGee.