THOMAS TAGNEY

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 278-279

THOMAS TAGNEY, whose death occurred on the seventh day of September, 1894, at 897 Seminary Avenue, was one of the early settlers of Chicago, having first visited this city in 1836, nearly sixty years ago.  He was a native of Sheffield, England, born May 15, 1818.   His father, Thomas Tagney, was a musician in the British army, as was also one of his brothers.  In 1833 the elder Tagney migrated with his family to Canada, where he taught music, in which he was very proficient, for several years.  The family afterward returned to England, but the subject of this sketch preferred to remain in this country, and continued for a short time with his uncle in Canada.  Young Tagney was of a restless and roaming disposition, and desired to see other parts of the world.   He accordingly went into the Southern States, and was engaged on different plantations in Alabama and Louisiana, in the vicinity of New Orleans, for several years.  Although only a boy in his teens at the time he went there, he rapidly acquired knowledge that enabled him to direct plantation work, and he became an overseer.  In this employment he earned good wages, a large portion of which he managed to save.

Abandoning that life in 1836, he came direct to Chicago, with a small fortune, which he invested in North Side property.  Two lots, 143 and 145 Illinois Street, for which he paid $600, he still had in his possession at the time of his death, and their value had increased to twenty-five thousand.  For several years Mr. Tagney was a steamboat engineer, and sailed all over the Lakes, from Buffalo to Duluth.  On retiring from the lake service he settled at Muskegon, Michigan, where he resided five years, and was engaged as engineer in the sawmill there.  Returning again to Chicago, he engaged as mechanical engineer in the employ of the Fulton & St. Paul Grain Elevators.  He superintended the construction of the former (first known as Munn & Gill’s Elevator), both in its original construction and when rebuilt in 1873.  He was continuously in the employ of this elevator company for thirty-three years, a testimony to his regular habits, ability and devotion to the interests of his employers.

At the time of the great fire in Chicago, in 1871, Mr. Tagney owned houses and lots on Illinois, Indiana and Wells Streets, which, of course, were consumed by the element which devastated the entire North Side.  But he had great confidence in Chicago, and within three months rebuilt the Illinois Street property, selling the other; this property being the first house rebuilt.  In the year 1885, having spent the greater part of a long life in active, arduous and useful labors, Mr. Tagney retired from business and moved to Lake View, where he remained until his death.   In his later years he bought residence property on Fletcher, Baxter, North Halsted Streets and Lincoln Avenue.  In 1847 he was married to Miss Alice Steele, daughter of Hugh and Mary Steele.  She was born in May, 1828, in Canada, to which country her parents had immigrated from the North of Ireland, and died in Chicago on the 7th of August, 1892, aged sixty-four years.  Mr. and Mrs. Tagney were the parents of seven children, of whom five grew to maturity.  Henry Thomas, the eldest, was an engineer by profession, and succeeded to the place made vacant by his father in the Fulton Elevator.  He married Miss Ella Moore, and died in 1893, leaving a widow and three children, Henry T., George and Effie.

The second son, James William, is a sign-painter, and resides on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.  February 27, 1872, he married Miss Kate Casey, a native of County Cork, Ireland, daughter of Dennis and Mary Casey.  They have four living children, Thomas, Charles, Harry and Alice Marion.  Alice Jane, the third child, was married, in 1873, to William Young, and now has two children.  Hugh, the elder, is a salesman, and William, the younger son, is an artist.  Mrs. Young conducts a prosperous business on Diversey Street.  John E. is an engineer.  He married Ada Weinberg, and has three children, Willie, Charles and Nellie.  Charles S., the youngest son of Thomas Tagney, is now engaged in the livery business.  He was married, February 18, 1893, to Miss Hilda Anderson, a native of Sweden; they have one child, an infant.

Mr. Tagney was one of those men whose busy, but quiet, lives have been spent in the upbuilding of the great city of Chicago, and in the accumulation of wealth for his posterity.  He was a man whose temperate life and intensely domestic characteristics were fit patterns for imitation of those who succeed him.  His disposition was quiet and undemonstrative, but his impulses were generous, and he never refused aid to the needy.  In politics he was a Democrat, supporting the men whom he deemed best qualified for the offices which they sought, but never asking for place for himself.  In his early life he was a member of the Baptist Church, but in his later years he cherished liberal ideas.  In his investments he was fortunate, in his domestic life happy, always providing for his wife and children a comfortable and pleasant home.  His sterling qualities of head and heart attracted to him many friends, who are left to mourn his departure from their midst.

 

                                -- Submitted on July 9, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )