Patrick Henry McNamee was born at sea off the coast of Florida while his parents were fleeing the Irish famine in 1849. Bound for St. Louis, they were stopped on the Mississippi River below St. Louis because there was cholera in the city. They made their way overland to Jefferson County, Missouri, to join relatives in the Irish settlement known as “Little Ireland.” Patrick grew up there and attended the McNamee School, which had been founded by his father. His parents, George McElmeel and Sarah Traynor, adopted the surname McNamee in America.

Patrick became a miner in 1876 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He made a fortune but lost it to bad investments. During the 1880s, he was based in New York, working for the Forbes Steam Engine Company, but he traveled widely in Europe trying to promote its rotary steam engine. However, in 1886, the engine was declared to be a patent infringement, so Patrick went back to St. Louis, to work as a foreman and to live at 2000 DeKalb Street.

He said that he “always made money in mining and lost it when he turned to something else.” So, in 1893, he returned to mining, this time in Mexico, working as an assayer and chemist for a smelting company at Sabinal in Chihuahua, meanwhile scouting around for rich lodes. By 1898, he had purchased leases on promising mines in Sonora. The mines were remote and inaccessible but he built roads and trails, set up camps and organized and developed them. He hired Mexican workers, organized pack trains, built houses and water systems, etc. He hired “scouts” to prospect for him. And it paid off, mostly in gold and silver, but sometimes in lesser ores, such as copper or sulfur. In one fourteen-month period, he took $680,000 worth of silver out of one Mexican mine. He got along well with Mexican officials, “from President Diaz down.”

He had a wife in his camp, but we know nothing about her, except that she was “cheery” and did not complain of the hardships of camp life. We know her only as Mrs. A. J. King. For unknown reasons, Patrick McNamee used an alias, Captain A. J. King. He had a wife in Missouri, Ann O’Neill. They had a daughter, Mary Alice O’Neill, born in St. Louis on 25 April 1876. Were Mrs. A. J. King and Ann O’Neill one and the same person? Probably.

In 1883, Patrick visited his roots in Clogher Parish, County Tyrone, Ireland. He often visited Missouri. Sometime after 1911, he returned to live in St. Louis, at 3521 Laclede Avenue, and to work at a St. Louis foundry. On 2 April 1918, he patented an invention, a wall safe used on Pullman cars. He died in St. Louis on 18 August 1918, survived by his daughter, siblings, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren, and was buried in Park Lawn Cemetery.

(Sources include newspaper articles, city directories, family sources, and a book called The McElmeels of Clogher.)

Written by John Sullivan
September 2017

© 2018, St. Louis Genealogical Society

Patrick McNamee
Patrick McNamee, a.k.a. A. J. King
Photo in the collection of John Sullivan
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 26-Oct-2018 19:18