Saturday, November 9, 2019

Bernarr MacFadden: Master of Self Promotion




The McFaddens were not wealthy men. Pennington and William "Bill" McFadden, two of the children of Samuel and Lucinda (Wallis) McFadden, resided in Greenwood Valley, in Wayne County, Missouri. They were farmers and were involved in horse racing. They were close, and together they filed for bankruptcy in 1868. They were quite well known in their day, mostly for their antics. 

Bernarr MacFadden was my 1st cousin, 5 times removed. His father was Bill McFadden, and my 4th great grandfather was Pennington. Bernarr was born Bernard McFadden in 1869 in Wayne County, Missouri. Most of what I know of him I discovered online. As with many famous people, there seems to be a lot of legend intertwined with fact. There is a Wikipedia page about him HERE, and you can even purchase items with his likeness HERE among other places. He was a master of self promotion, and an interesting character.

I was going to write a full blog post on him, but I found some great things I thought I would share instead. Why reinvent the wheel?

Here is a great article written by Nate Pederson in 2018:


I even found my cousin on YouTube:


On a recent visit to the St. Louis Public Library, I found a picture of Bernard McFadden.



That's actually more than I want to see of any of my cousins!

Bernarr came back to Missouri in 1928 to give a speech in St. Louis.
He decided to visit his hometown, and treated the residents to a day of fun.
From the Greenville Missouri Sun on 25 Oct 1928:


"Famous Publisher Will Visit Piedmont. Extensive preparations are under way for the barbecue and entertainment to be provided by Bernarr McFadden, the world famous physical culturist and publisher, during his visit in Piedmont on next Saturday, October 27. McFadden, whose birthplace was on a farm near Leeper, has invited all of Wayne County to meet him in Piedmont on next Saturday. Free barbecue, prepared by master hands, free picture shows for the children, free music and a general good time is offered. A home coming for Bernarr McFadden with everybody as his guests.
Only a few people in Wayne county were aware that Bernarr McFadden, an international character, was a native of Wayne county. The story of his life and his rise to wealth and fame rivals the imaginative creations of our best fiction writers. He is a son of Bill McFadden, remembered by the old timers, the McFadden family being one of the pioneer families in Wayne county. Bill McFadden, as remembered by Wm. Carter, was a big, portly fine looking man, of strong mentality which was put to but little use. He was more devoted to cards and horse racing than to more prosaic pursuits of livelihood. He had quite a reputation as a wit and some of the pranks he played are still the subject of reminiscence when the old residents get together. 
The St. Louis Chamber of Commerce recently invited Mr. McFadden to address it and he will come west with his family from their New York home to fill the appointment. Taking advantage of his nearness to his birthplace he decided to visit Wayne county which accounts for his visit here Saturday. He is anxious to meet the Wayne county people and particularly desirous of meeting those citizens who remember his family and his early surroundings. Some of his family connections are still in Wayne county and these he especially wishes to see.
Wayne county should be proud that another one of her sons has grown to a position of eminence in the world and let us all get out next Saturday to pay our respects to Mr. McFadden, break bread and barbecue with him and incidentally have an awful good time.
Mr. McFadden and his family will arrive in Piedmont in their special car at 9 a.m. Saturday morning to remain throughout the day."

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Unplanned "Adventures" of Michel Messier dit St. Michel, My 8th Great Grandfather




Merriam-Webster defines adventure as "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks" or "an exciting or remarkable experience." Today, our adventures tend to be the latter. They are positive things in our lives, like my solo-trip by car from St. Louis, Missouri to Arizona and New Mexico this past summer. That was truly an adventure! 

My ancestors' adventures were different. They were frightening, life-altering experiences. It's hard for me to think of the things they endured using the term "adventure." This is especially true for my French-Canadian ancestors. They came to the wildest places in North America, broke ground, and established families. They traveled down rivers and lakes, deep into the unknown interior of what is now the United States, and settled there too. Imagine how remote their tiny villages were in comparison to those on the Eastern Seaboard. They didn't live next to their indigenous neighbors. They lived among them. They intermarried with the friendly tribes and fought with their adversaries.

Michel Messier dit St. Michel was one of these men.





Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Tragic Lives of James and Hannah Lowe Flint, My 3rd Great Grandparents



My family tree is full of everyday people. They are not royalty. They are not great war heroes. They are not celebrities of popular culture. They would largely be forgotten if not for the efforts of people like you and me - the family historians. I admit that at times I wish for those great stories and great connections to things we learn in school, but I also realize that it's the contributions made by the common men and women that make our country and our world into a functioning society.

Some of my ancestors struggled and, sometimes, they made decisions I cannot begin to understand. This week's theme "Context" provided me an opportunity to better examine my third great grandparents, James and Hannah Lowe Flint. Their lives did not end well. I first wrote about them in October of 2014 HERE.  James died at the age of 78 after he fell down some cellar stairs in a drunken stupor, fracturing his skull. He was found the following day. It's hard not to feel embarrassed about this. He wasn't a hero. What did his drunkenness do to his family? Was he a burden to them? Were they glad he died?

More recently I learned the fate of his wife, Hannah Lowe Flint.
She committed suicide 12 years before her husband's death. 
She drowned herself.

Again, my thoughts were directed at blaming her. Why would she do this to her family? Was she a burden to them? Were they glad or relieved that she died? Was she the cause of her husband's drinking, or did his drinking contribute to her depression?

James and Hannah were born in Manchester, England. They grew up during the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The city boomed, but the working class suffered. There were food riots, protests, and, eventually, reforms. James and Hannah did not wait for the reforms. A few months after their first son was born, they left for Philadelphia, where their other 8 children were born, including twins who died at birth.

Sometime between 1850 and 1860, James and Hannah moved to St. Louis, Missouri. James was a blacksmith and engineer/machinist. He made steam engines, or at least placed advertisements for them. They were poor, members of the working class.

On the surface, James and Hannah escaped the working class struggles of Manchester. They started a new life in America where they raised their family. But in all likelihood, all they did was change their location. There were working class struggles in the United States too. 

They may have regretted their decision. They may have missed their family at home. It's even possible that Hannah did not want to come, knowing she may never see her family again. By the time she killed herself, 6 of her 9 children had died. 

I do not know the full context of the lives of James and Hanna Lowe Flint. I do not know all of the details surrounding their decisions. I probably never will.
So who am I to judge? 

James and Hannah were my 3rd great grandparents.
I'm proud of them for having the bravery to leave everything they knew to 
move to a new place - twice.
I'm proud of them for trying to create a comfortable life, even if they weren't successful.
I'm proud to call them family, because I wouldn't be here without them.





Bernarr MacFadden: Master of Self Promotion

The McFaddens were not wealthy men. Pennington and William "Bill" McFadden, two of the children of Samuel and Lucinda (Walli...