"B. J. Lindsay, The Insurance Man"
Brainard J. Lindsay (1865–1934)
Mary Veronica "Vernie" McInerney Lindsay (1890–1975)
Brainard J. Lindsay was the eldest of ten children of George Fry Lindsay Sr. (1844–1913) and Sarah Angeline Smith Lindsay (1850–1928). George was born in Bates County, Missouri, but moved with his family to McKinney, Texas, where he married Sarah on December 28, 1864. Brainard was born nine months later and was named for his father's older brother. The Census of 1870 found the family in Sherman, Texas, where George spent his working life as a saddle maker and sometime blacksmith. In addition, as a Sherman newspaper once observed, "For years Mr. Lindsay was a second hand dealer in this city ... Mr. Lindsay has perhaps the finest miscellaneous collection of curios to be found in North Texas and is very fond of the collection and preservation of valuable specimens."
According to family obituaries posted on Ancestry.com, B. J.'s grandfather, Francis H. Lindsay (1808–1880), came to Sherman after the Civil War and taught at Captain Letellier's School for Boys, an early private academy. It is likely that B. J. attended that school. At age 20, in 1885, Brainard married his first wife, Anna Louisa L. Fritch (1862-1927). Born in 1862, she was older than he and may have been married previously, as the 1900 Census listed a daughter, Fay A. Lindsay, born in August 1884. It is not known what became of Fay.
The only "second-hand dealer" in Fannin County, came to Bonham and opened a large second-hand store on South Main street, in the fall of 1884. He has, in connection with his business of selling and buying second-hand-goods of every description, a mattress factory, and a line of furniture. This is a new departure in the business world of Fannin, and its success is attracting some attention.
Young Lindsay was born and raised in the state. At the early age of eighteen he contracted marriage with a young lady of Sherman, Texas, and moved to Bonham. Although young, the rough western life of a boy without parents to depend on and go to for advice and solid assistance, has posted him in the ways of men and of the world. His business judgment, energy and close application, are evidence of his future success in business and value as a citizen. The sooner the average young men of the county become convinced that a course like his is the proper one to pursue, the better for them and the county.
[Source: W. A. Carter, History of Fannin County, Texas: History, Statistics and Biographies; Business Cards, etc. (Bonham, Texas: 1885).]
In 1887, the couple had a daughter, Birdie, who died as an infant. By 1887, Brainard, Louisa, and Fay were living in Denison. The 1887 City Directory showed "Braynard" working for Henry Mayer, agent of W. J. Lemp's Western Brewery, St. Louis, Missouri. Mayer also sold ice and had beer vaults and an ice house at the corner where East Woodard Street met the railroad lines. His office was at 111 West Woodard Street, just west of Houston Avenue. "Braynard" oversaw deliveries made within the city by the ice wagons, as well as seeing that other purchases arrived at their destinations. He lived at 608 West Sears Street.
In 1888, Brainard partnered with John Simon Knaur and his brother Schuyler Knaur to form the Knaur-Lindsay Grain Company on the east side of South Houston Avenue, between Chestnut and Crawford streets, southeast of the Waples-Platter buildings.
Meanwhile, in addition to his other enterprises, by 1891 Brainard had become a butcher. The Denison City Directory listed his residence at 430 West Johnson Street at the corner of North Fannin Avenue. In 1896, he was listed as a wholesale butcher and was living at 430 West Morgan Street. By 1900, B. J. (still a butcher), Louisa, and Fay had moved to an elegant Victorian cottage at 527 West Gandy Street. The 1901 City Directory listed Brainard as a wholesale butcher with an office at 401 West Main Street. In 1903, he was a "cattle dyr" (a term of unclear meaning, perhaps dealer or drover). Then in 1905, he was again listed as a wholesale butcher, with office at 405 West Main.
By 1907, Brainard appears to have turned his energies away from the butcher business and devoted them to the grain enterprise. Knaur-Lindsay had a feed and grain store at 401 West Main Street. The company expanded, building a tall grain elevator and a new structure to house operations. John Simon Knaur soon took over the Lindsay interest, and the company became Knaur Grain.
Around 1912, Brainard was advertising himself as a real estate agent. Judging from City Directory listings, around 1913, he decided to simplify his life, defining himself primarily as an insurance agent. He did business as "B. J. Lindsay, the Insurance Man." The 425 West Main Street address, across the street from the Rialto Theater, now became known as "The Lindsay Building."
The insurance firm had its offices upstairs. B. J. and Louisa still lived at 527 West Gandy. Around 1920 they moved to 902 West Morton Street.
Brainard's prominence on the local scene is suggested by the fact that he was president of the Denison School Board at the time a new school was constructed near his home on Gandy Street. In 1917, the new Central Ward Elementary School was built in the 700 block of West Sears and West Morton Streets. Though the building was in deteriorated condition in 2013, a plaque could still be seen there, bearing Lindsay's name and marking the event.
Louisa passed away in September 1927, and was buried in Fairview Cemetery. Then B. J.'s mother Sarah died on February 21, 1928, and was buried in West Hill Cemetery in Sherman.
Over a year later, on June 7, 1929, Brainard remarried. His new wife was Mary Veronica McInerney, called "Vernie." She had been a fixture in his insurance office for at least eighteen years.
Mary Veronica "Vernie" McInerney Lindsay
The McInerneys had come to Denison from Alton, Illinois, a Mississippi River town about fifteen miles north of St. Louis. James J. "Jim" McInerney (1853–1909) had been owner and editor of the Alton Sentinel-Democrat for thirty years, until his death in 1909. At that time his newspaper boasted the largest circulation of any paper in Southern Illinois. His wife was Alice Susan Mullen. Two daughters, Mary Veronica "Vernie" McInerney and Lucy Monica McInerney (1893–1980), were still in Alton at the time of the 1910 Census but would spend their adult lives in Denison. The sisters' formal education (four years of high school) was likely completed before they moved to Denison around 1911.
The following two obituaries shed much light on the circumstances that brought the mother and daughters to Denison.
McInerney, Austin J. [Brother of Vernie M. Lindsay]
Young Reporter/Editor Dies
[Source: Alton IL Evening Telegraph, March 15, 1909]
Austin J. McInerney died at 5 o'clock Monday morning at San Antonio, Texas, where he had been staying for some time for the benefit of his health. His father was with him at the time of his death and sent a message saying that he expected to be home Wednesday morning.
"Austie" McInerney was born November 8, 1883, in Alton, and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James J. McInerney. He was connected with the Sentinel-Democrat, of which his father is president and managing editor. He was first a reporter on the paper and afterward took charge of the city news end of the work, and was for a time in the post of acting managing editor during the absence of his father from the office. He remained in active charge of the paper until ill-health, due to close confinement in the office, caused him to give up his work.
He was advised to make a trip to Texas in the hope of benefiting his health, and remained for a long time at Denison, Texas, with his uncle, afterward going to San Antonio, where his father stayed with him when he began to show signs of a complete collapse.
He was possessed of much ability as a news gatherer and writer, and was a hard worker when at his post of duty. Too continuous confinement at his desk is believed to have been responsible for his breakdown. He had a vein of humor in his writings which was very pleasing, and had his health and life been spared he would doubtless have accomplished much in the newspaper work. For eight years he served as city editor of the Sentinel-Democrat.
He had a very large circle of friends and much solicitude has been manifested by them for his welfare during the time since his health began to fail. His death caused deep sorrow both in his family and among his friends. He was the oldest son and the mainstay in his health of his parents, with whom the sympathy of the entire community will be in their heavy affliction.
The funeral may be held Wednesday morning from the Cathedral, directly after the arrival of the body from San Antonio, but announcement of the funeral plans will be made later.
McInerney, James J. [Father of Vernie M. Lindsay]
Managing Editor and Proprietor of "Alton [Illinois] Sentinel Democrat" Dies
[Source: Alton IL Evening Telegraph, November 4, 1909]
James J. McInerney, managing editor and proprietor of the Alton Sentinel Democrat, died this morning at 1:30 o'clock at his residence on Common Street, after an illness that began nearly three years ago. His friends had long ago given up any hope that he would recover. The great vitality he showed even when it was considered impossible for him to get well was the wonder of those who attended him.
Mr. McInerney's illness was undoubtedly due to the bitter cup of sorrows he was compelled to drink during the last three years of his life. To those who were intimately acquainted with him, it was known that he had been bowed down by grief from which he could not recover. The death of his son and chief assistant, Austin J. McInerney, was the most bitter dreg in the cup. He forgot his own condition when his son became ill and endeavored to do everything he could to save his son's life. He brought his son home from the South after hope had proved in vain, to be buried in Greenwood Cemetery. When death was nearest to the father during the last day, when his mind was no longer conscious, he called continually for Austin and seemed to feel that his son was near him.
In 1906 he was the Democratic nominee for congressman and was defeated by Congressman [William August] Rodenberg. The following spring he was a candidate for the office of Mayor of Alton, and was defeated by Mayor [Edmund] Beall. These two elections were a heavy strain upon him, and afterward he was able to be out but little. He was never able from that time on to undertake any ordinary tasks that would be incident to the management of his paper. His paper was the object of his greatest interest outside of his family, and it was a great sorrow to him that he was unable to direct it.
He attempted a number of times to assert his physical strength, but failed. About a year ago he was stricken with what appeared to be a paralytic stroke, while he was downtown. Afterward he had several other strokes, the last coming a short time before his death. During the last week Mr. McInerney was unconscious most of the time, and members of his family were almost constantly in attendance.
James J. McInerney was born in Alton November 23, 1853. His parents were natives of County Clare, Ireland, and came to Alton in 1852. He completed his course of study in the Cathedral schools at the age of 13, and began working as an apprentice at the printer's trade in the office of the Cumberland Presbyterian, afterward working on the Alton Telegraph until he was 17 years of age.
In the spring of 1876 he entered upon his first newspaper venture, starting the Morning News, which proved short lived. In 1879 he opened a job printing office, and in October of that year began the publication of the Alton Sentinel, a weekly paper. A few years later he started the Morning Sentinel, which was later merged with the Alton Democrat, then owned by Perrin and Smith. Subsequently Mr. McInerney purchased the interest of Perrin and Smith and became the controlling factor of his paper.
He was always Democratic in politics and was the central figure in many stern factional fights in the party. He was always outspoken with his views, and at one time he was fined for contempt of court for speaking his opinions on matters arising from political factional fights. However much they may have differed in life, the approach of death hushed all, and when the great silence fell upon Mr. McInerney, his one time political opponents are perhaps in a better position to weigh his real worth to the community. A man with as positive convictions as he had made many enemies, and he also made many good friends who have rallied to him and his enemies have in a great measure forgotten. They regret that the declining days of a man who attempted as much for his own city should be filled with so much sorrow.
They recognize that for many years he advocated many big enterprises and saw some of them become successful, to the everlasting benefit of the city. He was one of the advocates of building associations of the early day, and always claimed to have been the first man who advocated the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition held at St. Louis in 1904.
Mr. McInerney was married to Alice Mullen, daughter of John Mullen, in Alton in 1881. He leaves beside his widow, five daughters and one son. Mr. McInerney leaves one son, Felix, and five daughters, Sister Aurelia [O.S.U.], who is in a convent at Dallas Texas; Misses Katibel, Vernie, Lucy, and Loretto. He leaves also three brothers, Thomas, Matthew, and Austin J. McInerney, all of Alton. The funeral will be held Saturday morning at 9 o'clock from SS. Peter and Paul's Cathedral.
After so much loss, it makes sense that the McInerney women would seek refuge far from Alton. Perhaps they also looked to that unidentified uncle in Denison for aid and protection. Almost certainly he was Patrick J. Mullen, grocery store owner.
The 1911 Denison City Directory listed Alice S. McInerney (widow of James), Catherine I. McInerney (bookkeeper), Lucia McInerney (no occupation), and Mary Veronica McInerney (printer at the Denison Herald) living together at 519 North Austin Avenue. Alice was head of the household. It seems likely that Vernie had learned her skills as a printer in her father's newspaper business back in Alton.
Soon the McInerneys moved to a home recently built or acquired by Patrick J. Mullen at 411 West Sears Street. The 1913 Denison City Directory showed him living there, along with Alice M. (widow of James J.); Bernie; Catherine I. (bookkeeper at P. J. Mullen); Loretto; Lucia; and M. Veronica (now bookkeeper at B. J. Lindsay). Loretto, Lucia, and Veronica were daughters of Alice. Patrick the grocer almost surely was Alice's brother.
411 West Sears Street
Photo by Mavis Anne Bryant, ca. 1995
Two years later, in 1915, Bernie and Catherine had left town, and Lucy had become cashier at the Mullen grocery store. The Denison City Directory listed Patrick Mullen heading the household at 411 West Sears Street. Also living there were four McInerneys: Alice S. (widow of James J.); Lucy; Veronica (bookkeeper at B. J. Lindsay); and R. Loretto. Loretto had left by 1917, and Lucy subsequently became a bookkeeper. Before she married B. J. Lindsay, then, Vernie had worked for him at least sixteen years.
The 1920 Census listed only three people at 411 West Sears—Alice, Vernie (still bookkeeper in insurance office), and Lucy (bookkeeper in grocery store).
A year later, the 1921 City Directory bore no trace of Patrick J. Mullen. Local cemetery listings do not indicate a burial for him; he may have died and been buried elsewhere. Or he may have left town at this point. At Mullen's Grocery, Charles A. Robinson was manager, and Lucy McInerney was still bookkeeper. In 1921, too, across the street from Alice's home, John R. McInerney, a machinist at the MK&T Railway, and his wife Lela lived at 412 West Sears. These people were probably more relatives recently arrived in Denison. Unfortunately, they came just in time for the devastating Railroad Strike of 1922, which wreaked havoc in Denison. John R. and Lela McInerney did not appear in the 1925 City Directory.
Two years later, in 1927, Mullen's Grocery was not listed. The building at 422 North Houston housed the Sanitary Grocery, operated by William B. Senter. He and his wife Ethel lived at 1330 West Woodard Street. Living at 411 West Sears in 1927 were Alice (clerk), Vernie (bookkeeper at B. J. Lindsay), Lucy (no occupation), and a new arrival, Theo McInerney (no occupation).
This year also saw Vernie's employer, B. J. Lindsay, lose his wife Louisa and, a few months later, his mother. Vernie certainly knew what it meant to lose loved ones and could be expected to comfort her long-time associate. Brainard Lindsay and Vernie married in June of 1929, just as the Great Depression commenced. She was 39 years old when she married for the first time.
Brainard had lived briefly at 1131 West Bond Street after Louisa died, but he and Vernie moved to the Hotel Simpson after their marriage. The 1930 Census found them there, both listing their occupations as "insurance agent."
Brainard J. Lindsay passed away on January 30, 1934. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery.
When her husband died, Vernie had been married for four and a half years, but she had worked in the Lindsay insurance office almost twenty years. Inheriting the business, Vernie continued to use the firm's name "B. J. Lindsay, The Insurance Man." The business had been located at 425-1/2 West Main for decades, but now it moved a few doors east to 415 West Main. In 1942, it was at 417 West Main.
At this juncture Vernie adopted two baby girls, Patricia Ann and Barbara Lee, both born in Illinois in 1935. It was said that they were adopted from a Catholic orphanage. Vernie built a large brick home at 1411 West Woodard Street that is still much admired today. The girls graduated from St. Xavier's Academy.
In August of 1937, the Denison Press reported that Lucy had been taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in Sherman "for a rest." She had been ill for some time at the home of her sister, Vernie. Just a year later, Vernie and Lucy sold the house at 411 West Sears to J. K. Megginson and his wife Maudella Megginson, an artist.
Living at 1411 West Woodard in 1940 were Vernie, the two girls, Lucy, and a cousin, Patrick Edward Mullen (age 16, born in California; lived in El Paso, Texas, in 1935; two years of high school). Absent at this time were Alice (Vernie and Lucy's mother) and Theo McInerney. By this time, Lucy had gone to work at the B. J. Lindsay insurance office as insurance clerk.
For unknown reasons, soon after that (certainly by 1946), Vernie sold the Woodard Street house to Franz Kohfeldt and his wife Irma, and acquired a fine Prairie Style red brick home in a less fashionable area, at 514 East Main Street.
With its tile roof and porte-cochere at one side, the house bore a notable resemblance to the home of John W. Madden and his wife Lilla, located at 1101 West Morton Street at Tone Avenue.
According to Mike Scully, the East Main Street home was long owned by Vernie Lindsay's estate and at one time was rented by Leo Murphy, vice president of the State National Bank, and his wife.
Commentators on Facebook recalled Vernie. One who knew her in Denison's Business and Professional Women's club said, "She was a very straight-laced lady but a very good businesswoman." Another stated, "I would go in to pay on an insurance policy with my mother, in the Lindsay agency. Mrs. Lindsay always wore black, a black dress and a black hat." Perhaps she wore black out of protracted mourning for lost loved ones.
The 1959 Denison City Directory listed no occupation for Vernie Lindsay. Perhaps she retired around that time, when she was nearing 70 years of age. She passed away at 85, on October 9, 1975. Her sister Lucy attained the age of 86, living until August 19, 1980. Like Brainard Lindsay and his first wife Louisa, both were buried in Fairview Cemetery.
Elaine Nall Bay