Biography of William McEniry

William McEniry, one of the early settlers of the County of Rock Island, was born in Charleville, County Cork, Ireland, a village near the line of County Limerick, on February 15, 1817, where he received his education and where he was engaged in mercantile business two years prior to his departure for America which was in April 1840, having heard much of the United States from an uncle who at that time lived in Albany, New York, he concluded to pay a visit to his uncle, and in company with his eldest sister, departed for America, arriving in New York City on a sailing vessel, steam vessels not being in use. He proceeded up the Hudson River on a steamboat to the City of Albany, and while visiting with his uncle he learned much of the country west of the Hudson River along the Erie Canal which had recently been opened to navigation. He decided to take a trip up the canal to Syracuse, and while there formed the acquaintance of John White, brother of the late Spencer White of Moline, who induced him to take charge of the office of a brick factory he was operating. In the Spring of 1841 John White’s father and mother were desirous of coming to Peoria, Illinois, to make their home with a daughter in that city. John White induced him to take the old couple by team from Syracuse to Peoria, driving across the country. After reaching Peoria the old people desired to send a letter to their son, Spencer White, who was in Moline, and he volunteered to bring the letter to Moline, walking over in two days. He was ambitious to see the Mississippi River and took advantage of this opportunity to arrive at its banks. When he arrived in Moline Spencer White, having heard of him from his brother John White of Syracuse, induced him to join with him in the manufacturing of brick, which he did, expecting all the time, however, to sooner or later return to his home in Ireland, but the longer he remained in Moline the more he became attached to the country, and finally decided to cast his lot with the early settlers of this community and as a result enlarged the brick business and acquired considerable real estate in Moline, Rock Island and Davenport. After being in Moline five years, the Summer of 1846 he returned to Ireland to pay a visit to his family, and before returning to America, in the Spring of 1847, he was married to Elizabeth Coughlin, and after relating to his brothers the wonderful opportunities there were in this country and the liberties guaranteed by the Government, three of them and another sister decided to come to America with him and his bride, arriving in Moline in the Summer of 1847, crossing the Atlantic on a sailing vessel taking the better part of a month to reach New York (steam vessels still not being used to cross the Atlantic), traveling up the Hudson River to Albany by boat and from Albany to Buffalo by canal, and from Buffalo to Chicago by Lake vessel, and by stage from Chicago to Galena, and down the Mississippi River by boat from Galena to Rock Island. He continued in the manufacturing of brick in Moline, and dealing in real estate, till 1853 when he decided to go farming and bought the Gorton farm on the banks of Rock River in Zuma Township, where he was engaged in extensive farming and stock raising up to the time of his death, which occurred on the 18th day of February, 1874. He left surviving him his widow and six children: Mrs. T. T. Dwyer, of St. Louis; M. F. McEniry, of Lenox, Iowa; John, Matthew and Mary McEniry, of Moline; and Honorable William McEniry, of Rock Island. After his death his wife remained on the farm with the family, giving them all a collegiate education, and when the last of the children decided to leave the farm she removed to Moline in 1893, her former home, where she lived until the time of her death, the 30th of May, 1907.

Mr. McEniry was the first English speaking Roman Catholic to reside in the County of Rock Island, and his wife was the first Roman Catholic lady who resided in Moline, and the first Mass celebrated in Moline was celebrated in his house by Father Pelemoreus, resident priest of Davenport, Iowa, in July, 1847.

On arriving in this country he affiliated with the Democratic party, the principles of that party of equal rights for all and special privileges for none appealed to his idea of government, the principles of government he advocated in Ireland and for which the Irish people had demanded from the English Government for centuries. Although a firm believer in the principles of his party he was adverse to holding a public office.

He belonged particularly to that class of men who were possessed of courage and determination and who built up the Great West and did so much to leave the magnificent heritage which is now enjoyed by the present generation.



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

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