Saturday, March 21, 2015

The MacFarlanes - from Scotland to Wisconsin

1825 – 1956
Family lineage:  1 George MacFarlane; 2 Mary MacFarlane;  3 Bessie Walton; 4 Mae Finn; 5 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr.

For many generations, the MacFarlanes had made their living off the waters of Scotland, and undoubtedly expected their descendants to do the same.  But, in 1854, 25 year old George and his pregnant wife, Jean Gillis MacFarlane, had dreams of their own, which meant leaving the only homes they had ever known with their toddler and sailing across the sea, in order to build a new life in America.  The exact reason for this decision has been lost in time, but the long-term impact on the family was great. 
After the long arduous trip, first by ship and then on land, the young family finally settled in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, which is nestled on the edge of Lake Michigan 169 miles north of Chicago. This town offered them the opportunity to build their new life on land, while allowing George to do what he knew best - support his family while working on ships.
Not surprisingly, America was not quite what they had expected.  Within seven years of their arrival, civil war broke out, and George attempted to enlist in the Union Army.  Jean must have breathed a sigh of relief to learn that her husband had been turned down because of a disability - perhaps one that had led them to make the journey to America in the first place.
Soon the family grew to four children.  They were:
  • George, Jr. (born in Scotland in 1852 and brought to America as a baby; although there is no description of his career or the people in his life, it is known that he died in Milwaukee on March 13, 1916 while his wife was very ill, and his brother, John, brought his body home to be buried near his parents;  
  • John (born in America but probably conceived in Scotland, who also died in 1916, 5 months after his brother, George);
  • Wallace (only 39 years old when he too died in Indianapolis in 1894 while working as a newspaper city editor, and whose body was also brought back to Wisconsin for burial);
  • Mary "Mattie" (who married an Englishman with whom she had a daughter who had been murdered by her husband (featured in an earlier post), and a son they named Wallace in memory of her older brother.  She died in Chicago at age 85).

    George MacFarlane 1825-1880
      Although he couldn't fight with the Union Army because of an unknown disability, George Sr. was obviously strong enough to work for 26 years as a steward on large ships plying Lake Michigan.  Ironically, his life, which had been lived mostly on the water, also ended on the water when, in 1880, he was killed in an accident on board a ship at age 55, and his body was returned to his family for burial in the Evergreen Cemetery.
    Evergreen Cemetery

    Jean MacFarlane 1820 - 1913
    Thanks to Evergreen being the cemetery of choice for the MacFarlanes, one can find many family members who were close to each other in life - and even after death.
    (Mattie was the exception.  She was buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Chicago near her husband and children).  Jean continued to live for another 33 years before joining her husband at age 93. 

      After the senior MacFarlanes had passed into history, their second son, and his son became an integral part of the town through their work on the local newspapers. Both men were highly thought of and greatly respected throughout their lives.  They were:
      • John, the first MacFarlane baby to be born in America, who was apprenticed as a journeyman printer in Manitowoc as a young teen.  Leaving school in order to learn a trade was obviously the right choice for him.  In 1870, at age 17, he traveled first to Tennessee to gain more experience and then, a year later, to Chicago where he worked as a reporter for several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune. After five years in Chicago, he got his big break when he was hired to be the city editor of the Racine Times, and remained in that position for 15 years. 

        Finally, after many years away from home, 45 year old John was ready to convert the lessons attained while learning the newspaper trade into his own reality. The first step to achieving his goal was accomplished when he was offered and accepted the position as Editor of Citizens Publishing Company in Manitowoc from a man  publishing one local newspaper, The Weekly Citizen, and  preparing to publish a second, The Daily News.  

        After only a year, he bought out the owner of Citizens Publishing for $25,000 and was joined by his son, George "Packy", who had just graduated from high school in Racine.  During the early years not only did both men chase down stories, but John acted as president, manager and editor, while Packy served as secretary, treasurer and city editor.  They also ran a general printing business. 
      A story in one of the local papers described what it took to produce a paper at that time when each letter in a word had to be picked out of a printer's job case, and each line laboriously justified. The columns of type were locked into “chases” and then run off on a hand-fed press. A majority of the space on the first page was taken up by advertising, and it was believed that one of the reasons for all the advertisements on the front page was because businessmen of the day steadfastly refused to believe a newspaper would survive very long, so they might as well get their name out to the public while they could. 
      John married twice, both times to Norwegian women. His first wife died after giving birth to George III; and a daughter, Jean, was born to John and his second wife, Minnie (all three were buried at Evergreen). After his death from cirrhosis of the liver, and shortly after the end of World War I, the Daily News and the Daily Herald merged and became the Herald-News.
      • George III, or “Packy”, as he was affectionately known to legions of friends, continued the career he had started at age 13 under the tutelage of his father. He remained a reporter and editorial writer for more than 55 years. 

        Although the newspaper profession was his great love, George consented to serve four years as alderman on the City Council and several years as a member of the City Safety Commission after leaving the City Council. He had a combination of traits that made him many friends, while exhibiting deep devotion to and talent for a profession that made him unique in the journalistic field.

        Eventually, some members of the family moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin while others found homes further afield.  However, as late as 1946, there was still a George MacFarlane acting as the Managing Editor of what was then the Herald-Times in Manitowoc, and is now the Herald-Times Reporter.  

        For more information on members of this family, see the biographical sketch from "History of Manitowoc County Wisconsin" by Dr. L. Falge, 1911-1912, v.2, p.89-90 and/or  Evergreen Cemetery Obituaries