Moses McCarty Flanagan
I first knew Moses by his name -- that seemed to be his most distinguishing feature: Moses McCarty Flanagan, my great-grandfather. In a family full of Toms and Bills and Pats, "Moses" stood out.
But as I've gathered more information about Moses, I find he now is star-crossed. Like his biblical namesake, this Irish Moses led his family to St. Louis but failed to see the promised land.
Shortly after the birth of his seventh child, his wife died of uterine cancer. He saw three of his children die: from an abortion; from a gunshot wound; from complications of diabetes and life in an orphanage. Another child was institutionalized. By the time he died in his early fifties, only his daughter Kitty (my grandmother) was thriving. [Timeline]
Some time ago I wrote a piece on my grandmother Kitty. She suffered so many tragedies in life and yet she always bounced back, always managed to counter sorrow with song. When I was writing her story, I wanted to use it to say something general about the Irish character. I wanted to say that the Irish could be melancholy, but that good humor and good friends would always transform that sadness.
But then my gaze would shift to her father -- a darker story.
Moses was the son of a cook who worked on the big steamers between Dublin and England. By family lore we know he went to school in Dublin. If we have found the correct record of his passage to America, in June of 1882, at the age of 20,* he took off to find his fortune in America. Listed as a laborer, he traveled steerage class in the Abyssinia, headed for the Port of New York.
He wound up in the Chicago immigrant community and married Maggie Keville. They moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, before they moved to St. Louis and along the way had seven kids. And then everything fell apart. In 1903, Maggie died, with children ranging from 2 to 14 years old.
The story goes that Moses didn't cope well with the situation. His widowed sister-in-law Delia Keville Walsh moved in from Chicago with her own two kids, but that didn't last long. And then there was a step-mother...
The family was permanently destabilized, with the youngest two children moved to an orphanage for their safety.
Moses worked in various aspects of the carpentry business -- for much his career at a planing mill. He worked as a clerk, foreman, draftsman, estimator, superintendent, and salesman. By 1919, he had opened his own business as a carpenter and builder.
On April 16, 1919 -- 2 weeks after Catherine gave birth to twins -- he wrote this rambling letter to her:
This was his last letter to her and she carefully saved it. In fact, he only lived a few blocks away. It makes me think they didn't see each other often -- perhaps a strain in their relationship. He evidently didn't show up somewhere he was expected and she inquired whether he was sick. If he gave up his apartment to live in his shop, perhaps things weren't going well for him.
The 1920 census reports that as of February 6 Moses was residing in St. Vincent's Institution for the mentally ill, where he died (at the age of 51) on May 6 of that year of "general paralysis of the insane," a central nervous system syndrome that is fatal within 3 years .
NAME (From Irish Names and Surnames, 1923)
MAODHÓG, genitive — id. (the same), Mogue, (Aidan, Moses); a variant of Aodhán, which see. The initial M represents the possessive pronoun Mo, my, prefixed as a term of endearment to the names of saints, while -óg is merely another diminutive termination. Latin — Maidocus.
last updated: 3.30.08
Photos: right, as a young man; left below, with brother-in-law Patrick Keville.
MOSES MCCARTY FLANAGAN
Born: Between 1862-1868*, Limerick Ireland, son of Ellen McCarty and [?] Flanagan
Immigration: [I DON'T KNOW WHERE I GOT THIS INFORMATION... CANNOT CORROBORATE]
**Self-report on census data give immigration year as 1875 (1900) and 1876 (1910).
1890 Chicago Voter Registration. 4446 Cottage Grove Av. Residence in precinct - 8 mo; county - 6 yr; state - 6 yr. (Did he live somewhere else between immigration and residence in Illinois?)
1900 Census. 4267 Kossuth Av, St. Louis MO. (Rented) Listed with wife and 6 children. Occupation: Planing Mill Clerk. **Lists arrival date in U.S. at 1875, which would have made him only 7.
1901 - 1902
1903 - 1909 City Directory (no listing in
1910 Census. 4245 Lexington Av, St. Louis MO. Listed with 2 teenage boys Moses and Joseph. Occupation: Estimator for a Planing Mill. **Lists U.S. arrival date as 1876.
1912 City Directory
1913 - 1915 City Directory
1917 [No City Directory available]
1918 City Directory
1919 City Directory