Biography of Hon. William McEniry

In considering the prominent legal firms in Rock Island County one’s mind instinctively turns to the firm of McEniry & McEniry, a firm composed of the two brothers, Hon. William McEniry and Matthew J. McEniry, having offices both in Rock Island and Moline. It is the life and character of the former of these two gentlemen that we pro-pose to depict in the sketch that is to follow. The life and character of Matthew J. McEniry will be found elsewhere in this work treated at length.

William McEniry was born in Rock Island County, Illinois, May 9, 1860, his parents being William and Elizabeth (Coughlin) McEniry. William McEniry, Sr., who was a farmer, came to Illinois in 1841 and settled in Moline, making his home there until 1852, when he took up his residence on a farm in this county. In 1846 occurred his marriage to Miss Elizabeth Coughlin. To this couple eight children were born, six sons and two daughters. Two of the sons, however, died in infancy. The death of the father occurred February 18, 1874. His widow survived him until May 30, 1907, when she passed away. Both were devout members of the Roman Catholic Church. In a panegyric at the time of Mrs. McEniry’s death one of the Moline daily newspapers spoke of her life as follows: “Mrs. McEniry was identified with the history of Rock Island County. She was the first Catholic woman to reside in what is now the City of Moline, and the first mass of the church ever said in that city, was celebrated in her house by a Davenport priest. She was a remarkable character in many ways. Her life was as calm and gentle as its close and yet it was active. She was of firm faith and resolute purpose and courage.”

William McEniry, the son, whose life we will now discuss, received his preliminary education in the public schools of Rock Island County. Later he pursued a commercial course in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Upon the completion of this he entered upon a literary course in the University of Notre Dame, at Notre Dame, Indiana. Then he chose the profession of law as his life’s vocation, and in order to fit himself for the practice of that science he entered the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in that state. Here he graduated in 1885.

Soon after his graduation the young barrister opened a law office in Rock Island, and his immediate success proved him to be an able lawyer. He possesses a keen and analytical mind, and a broad and comprehensive mental vision, enabling him to assimilate the correlation of ideas and to instinctively grasp the fundamental and basic elements of the subject under consideration. Added to this he is a logical reasoner and an eloquent and forceful public speaker. These attributes and accomplishments are essential in a successful legal career, and by the possession of these superior qualities, which in themselves are marks of distinction, Mr. McEniry has attained an enviable station in his profession. He has served as counsel in some very important litigation that has attracted widespread interest. In legal ability he is one of the foremost lawyers in Western Illinois, and his superior merit has obtained the recognition that it deserves.

Ever since entering upon the practice of law in Rock Island and taking up his residence here, Mr. McEniry has been constant and untiring in his endeavor to promote that city’s best interests and has given his support to all measures for the public benefit. He was actively instrumental in the work of securing a new court house and was also a potent factor in determining the location of the Western Illinois Hospital for the Insane at Watertown, and was asked by Governor Altgeld to act as a member of the board, but declined. He secured the passage of the bill making possible to remove the Woodmen office to Rock Island.

On October 15, 1890, Mr. McEniry was united in marriage to Miss Alice Cleary, a young lady of New Orleans, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Cleary of that city. To them four children have been born, John, Elizabeth, William and Katherine. Both Mr. and Mrs. McEniry are members of the Roman Catholic Church. Their many excel-lent qualities and bountiful hospitality have made them favorites in the best social circles of the Tri-Cities.

In political faith Mr. McEniry has always been a staunch Democrat, and he is one of the acknowledged leaders of that party in Rock Island County. Although zealous in striving for the success of his party at the poles, Mr. McEniry has never been a bitter or a narrow partizan, and as a leader in his party his conduct of campaigns, although vigorous, has been such as to insure him the respect and friendly regard of his political opponents.

In 1887 Mr. McEniry was nominated by his party, and was elected city attorney of Rock Island. He filled that office with ability and distinction. In the autumn of 1896 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives in the Illinois State Legislature, running far ahead of his party ticket. In this capacity he served upon several very important committees, and although his political party was the minority party nevertheless every one of the five bills introduced by Mr. McEniry passed both the House and the Senate, and became laws of the state. Of his ability as a legislator the Inter-Ocean, of Chicago, spoke in the highest terms of praise.

No words of fulsome praise are necessary to embellish the life and character of William McEniry. He is a patriotic citizen, a scholarly and able lawyer and a Christian gentleman. No higher encomium can be bestowed upon any man.



Biographical Publishing Company. Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock Island County. Illinois; Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co.

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