James Gannon was born in Roscommon County, Ireland, about 1814, the son of Patrick and Mary (Meany) Gannon. His wife, Catherine, was the daughter of Thomas Rafferty and his wife, Winifred. Catherine was born in the parish of Tuam, also in Roscommon County.

After their marriage, James and Catherine settled upon a tract of native timberland out west in St. Louis County in what was known as Central Township. At the time, land in Central Township was largely held by Charles S. Rannells, a St. Louis attorney. Rannells had created the Central Suburbs Subdivision in 1866. James at first believed his land was public, but when he learned that Mr. Rannells already owned it, he purchased slightly more than twenty acres on 7 January 1867.

The land was located to the northwest of the current intersection of Delmar Boulevard and Hanley Road. Gannon and his family cleared the land and worked the resulting farm. It was a typical family “truck farm” of the period. They grew corn, oats, and potatoes, and cultivated hay for their livestock, which consisted of a horse or two (and later a pair of mules), a few milk cows, a dozen or fewer pigs, and a few dozen chickens. They sold enough hay, milk, butter, and eggs to make a living. Although no subsequent deeds record any further land purchases, James was farming slightly more than a hundred acres by 1880.

James and Catherine Gannon were the parents of six children, four of whom lived to adulthood but only two of whom married:

    1. Thomas Gannon, born on 3 September 1854, married Mary Rekart, and died on 5 August 1898. They had no children.
    2. Patrick Gannon, born on 8 March 1856; died before 1860.
    3. Mary Gannon, born on 15 April 1857, married Christopher J. Kelly, and died on 4 June 1946. Children: Katherine, Ann married Joseph Phelan, Esther married George Sinnott.
    4. Honora “Anna” Gannon, born on 26 January 1859; died after 1860.
    5. John J. “Jack” Gannon, born on 4 January 1861; died on 13 September 1938, unmarried.
    6. Katharine Agnes “Kate” Gannon, born on 28 June 1864; died on 16 February 1954, unmarried.

On Tuesday, 3 April 1888, James Gannon and his son, Jack, spent the afternoon cutting hay and loading it into their wagon to bring back to the barn. After a long afternoon of work, Jack hitched up their team of horses and his father jumped onto the back of the cart. Heading home, they had to cross a ditch, which jolted the cart. Concerned that some hay may have fallen off, Jack called back to his father but received no reply. He stopped the cart and ran back to find James lying on the ground beside the ditch. Unable to rouse his father, Jack carried him to the house. There they called the family doctor who arrived to confirm that James Gannon had broken his neck and died in the fall.

James’s funeral was held two days later at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Clayton, after which James Gannon was laid to rest in the old Central Catholic Cemetery (known then as St. Martin’s Cemetery) in what is now Olivette. When that cemetery was eventually closed, he was reinterred at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis City.

(Sources include church records, death records, deeds and other land records, newspaper articles, and the U.S. federal census.)

Written by Ted Steele
February 2017 (excerpted from a longer essay originally written in 2004 and revised in 2009)

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Last Modified: 25-Oct-2018 22:19