John Horatio Finnegan was born in New York in 1856 to William Finnegan and Margaret Shaughnessy. His father was born in New York and his mother immigrated during the potato famine of Ireland. His upbringing was probably meager. He was working with sewing machines at the age of fourteen, living in lower Brooklyn near the docks.

He married Frances Dench in 1876. She was born in St. Enoder, Cornwall, England, to Jonas Dench and Fannie James, who had immigrated with their two sons and two daughters around 1859.

By 1880, John and Frances “Fanny” were living on Decatur Street in St. Louis with their daughter, Elizabeth. John was a “weigher” at the cotton compress, and he remained in the cotton industry most of his life. His grandson, Jim Finnegan, wrote “Grandpa bought cotton in Texarcana and sold it in Tiverton, Rhode Island, having homes in both places.” The family’s activities were reported in society pages, and, in 1895, John made the news in a street cable car accident, “The rest of the story is best told by Mr. J.H. Finnegan, a prominent cotton buyer in the city, who was on the trailer at the time. . . . Altogether it was a very narrow escape and much closer than I would like to come to an accident.” John served as a vice president of his ward’s Civic Club in 1896. On 29 May 1897, John represented G. B. Emmons & Company when he was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the feasibility of a “cylindrical form of cotton baling.”

In 1889, John and Fanny were living at 2249 Missouri Avenue, where the family would live for many years until their move to Grantwood after Fanny’s passing in 1928. Before John passed in 1949, he said he had married the “best looking girl in Red Hook Point.”

The Finnegan children:

    • Daughter Elizabeth married a commercial artist, George Geselschap, and the couple had a son, John, in 1902. They later divorced, and Elizabeth worked for various retailers. She lived with her father until her passing in 1946 at the age of sixty-seven.
    • Son William James, born 1880, married Nettie Steitz on Thanksgiving Day of 1903 in St. Agnes Church in St. Louis. Will became an electrician and the couple had two daughters and one son. They lived for many years with Nettie’s father and their daughter, Margaret, lived in the house next door with her husband. Will passed away in 1947, and Nettie went on to live with her son and his family.
    • Daughters Gertrude, Frances, and Marguerite moved to Florida. Gert was a secretary and the others married. Marg later returned to St. Louis.
    • Amelia married William Smith, who established St Louis’s Amy Smith Candy Company. The couple lived with her father all of his life and had one son, Constantine. Amy passed away in 1950 and Will eventually remarried.
    • John Horatio Jr. married and had one son, James. He was in real estate and was a senior executive with the Clarence Turley Company.

Written by Cindy Finnegan
January 2019
© 2019, St. Louis Genealogical Society

John Finnegan Sr.
John Finnegan Sr.
Photo in the collection of Cindy Finnegan
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 17-May-2019 12:46