John Kilby “J. K.” Cummings was born on 16 June 1832, the son of Cornelius and Jane (Kilby) Cummings of Coleraine, County Londonderry, Ireland. At the age of thirteen, J. K. and his two sisters, Mary and Margaret, were orphans. He came to America on the St. Clemens from Liverpool on 1 October 1854, arriving in New Orleans. Then he rode a freighter up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. He was naturalized in St. Louis County Court on 16 March 1859.

John married Annie Marie Mullen, daughter of John and Sarah (McGuire) Mullen on 11 September 1862 at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in St. Louis. The Mullen family came to America after John’s death. To this union five Cummings children were born. John, Margaret, and James died in infancy; Harry James became a doctor, and Constantine became a lawyer, who loved ships and fishing in New Jersey.

J. K. Cummings worked as a tailor and had other business interests in Ireland. After coming to St. Louis, he worked as an apprentice at St. Louis Glass Works. He soon moved to greater responsibilities after obtaining knowledge of the business.

J. K. served in the Civil War as a private in the Sarsfield Guards, marching to the Kansas border under General Frost. He also served as a private in the Fifth Regiment, United States Reserve Corps, as a drill master, participating in military operations along the Missouri River. He joined General Lyon after the Battle of Boonville, where they protected the mines. J. K. was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Twentieth Enrolled Missouri Militia by Missouri Governor Gamble.

After the Civil War, J. K. partnered with Joseph Bagot forming St. Louis Glass Works. Mr. Bagot took charge of manufacturing, even making vats with his own hands. J. K. managed the books and financial part of the business, along with buying and selling the goods. Together they had mastered the secret and were on the road to success. J. K. Cummings had a patent (no. 14925) design for a bottle or flask in 1884. With Mr. Bagot’s death in 1868, J. K. continued to own St. Louis Glass Works until his death in 1908.

J. K. was a man of liberal and unselfish views and was loved by his employees. Other enterprises in which he assisted were the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad and Coal Company, Cahokia Ferry Company, Grain Association, St. Louis French Window Glass Company, Merchants’ Exchange, Butchers and Drovers’ Bank, Belcher’s Sugar Refining Company, Emma Hill Tunnel and Mining, Jackson Place Skating and Bathing Rink Association, and many more. He was a leading member of the Citizens Committee. J. K. was an open-handed dispenser to charity. His life was quiet and was an unassuming gentleman.

J. K. Cummings died on 23 October 1908 with burial at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, joining other Cummings family members.

(Sources include: Jane Hay “Dearie” Cummings’ notes; St. Louis Archdiocesan records; St. Louis Glass Company History, 1869–1908; Missouri death certificates; U.S. passport applications, 1795–1925; and U.S. patents.)

Submitted by: Abbie Hawkins (Cantwell) Bast
May 2017

© 2017, St. Louis Genealogical Society

John Kilby Cummings
John Kilby “J. K.” Cummings
Photo in the collection of Abbie Hawkins (Cantwell) Bast
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 25-Oct-2018 22:18