Folks I Have Known Personally and Otherwise – William McCanney

by James M. Woodman

There are not many historical stories that are of greater interest than the one telling of the movement of population, in all directions from the settlement known as Chicago, in the years 1831-1835.

During those most epochal years in the developing of northern Illinois, men, women and children from New England and lands across the Atlantic, were frequently arriving by boat or crude overland conveyances, expecting to find a modern Utopia. The mud and swamps proved unattractive to many of these fortune-seeking adventurers. They soon tired of the settlement’s monotonous life and struck off into the virgin country.

The well defined Indian trails that led to the north and north-west proved alluring to many, and soon there were erected along the north shore of Lake Michigan and the banks of the Des Plaines and Chicago rivers, the log cabins of the whites who had come to take over the lands were on had tread none others than the tribes of red men.

One of the attractive locations reached by the old trail that traversed the lake shore country was Grosse Point, a settlement back some distance from the water’s edge, later to become a part of the beautiful village of Wilmette. It was to this place, during those early pioneer days that Michael and Mary McCanney, natives of the Emerald Isle, came to make their home. It was here, as farmers, they reared a family of eight children, one of whom was the man whose life and residence in Waukegan, prompted me to present him to the readers of this newspaper–William Martin McCanney.

He was born March 4, 1867, on the McCanney farm at Grosse Point, in Cook county. His boyhood was spent working on the land and attending the common schools. His playtime was spent in the manner of youngsters of that period. Occasionally, visits to the lake shore and close-up investigation of the old Grosse Point lighthouse, sails of ships far out upon the water and exploration of grounds upon which the Potawatami chieftains had held their pow-wows, implanted upon his mind the glories of a time that would pass away, to live only in his memory so long as it might endure.

He engaged in the grocery and meat business in Wilmette and succeeded. He took an active interest in the affairs of the village. Politically he was a Democrat, but in a strong Republican district, the voters elected him to the office of commissioner of public works, where he officiated in a manner satisfactory to those who had chosen him for a most important position.

In 1897 he came to Waukegan and engaged in the tavern business. He purchased the Henry Herman property, 34 N. Sheridan rd. for a home, later erecting on a portion of it, the three-story building at the southwest corner of Sheridan rd. and Madison st. He also built the three-story building at 7 S. Genesee st., and occupied the ground floor as a place of business. He acquired other properties in the city, among them the old Dr. J.M.G. Carter place at Clayton and County sts.

In 1899 he was elected and served one term as alderman from the First ward. His interest in and for Waukegan was manifested in many ways. In 1924 he retired from the tavern business and became superintendent of public works at the Speedway hospital, Maywood, Ill. He remained in the place for ten years after which he engaged in the real estate business at Maywood.

He was married to Miss Christina Sasch who was reared on a farm owned by her parents and now occupied by Ravina Park. They had three children: Florence (Mrs. R.B.Johnston), William J., both of Waukegan, and Ruth (Mrs. M. Burkert), Beech Grove, Ind.

William M. McCanney passed away Oct. 2, 1941.
Mrs. McCanney preceded him in death Oct. 28, 1937.


Contributed May 2000 by Brenda Gaetz [This newspaper article was clipped from a newspaper by the nephew of Christina Sasch McCanney. The date and name of the newspaper is not known.]

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