Sunday, February 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #6 Charles A. McMechen – Liar, Liar Pants On Fire

52 Ancestors #6 Charles A. McMechen – Liar, Liar Pants On Fire


            We all have them, at least one person in the family who tells tall tales. One of mine was
my great grandfather. He never let anyone see his real past, just the one they he invented for us to see. He came to Philadelphia from Baltimore. He told his family he fought in the Civil War and that was true. But the
truth was not enough for him. He told his family that his father was Judge Thomas McMechen. He said his father was killed by a freed slave on the steps of the court house. Charles received a pension for his Civil War service. After his death my great grandmother applied for a widow’s pension. And while this would reveal some truths no one knew of it for almost a century. I discovered the truth when I visited the National Archives in Washington DC and viewed the pension record. The pension request was investigated a bit more than most since Charles changed his last name three times during the course of the war from McMechen to McMacken to Macken. Add to that the pension people also suspected he was married to someone else and left behind in Baltimore. Not to be outdone by her husband, my great grandmother, Mary seemed to use her sister Bridget’s name at times. All of this led to seeking out Charles’ sister and taking her deposition which was included in the pension record. His sister stated that their father Thomas was a huckster who was killed in a political riot in Baltimore. That fact makes another family mystery that I’d love to unravel.
Well, here is the truth about Charles, at least as far as I’ve been able to discover. Charles was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 21, 1838. On Aug. 12, 1862, he enlisted in Co. A, 1st Inf. Reg., MD to fight on the Union side during the Civil War. The 25 year old served for the remainder of the Civil War. He was promoted to Corporal on Dec. 6, 1864. According to the database “American Civil War Regiments” the 1st  Maryland Inf. on September, 1862, his regiment fought at Harper’s Ferry. They saw action at Emmetsburg, MD and Snicker’s Gap, VA during 1863. 1864 was very busy year for 1st MD. They fought the Battle of the Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania Court House, Harris’ Farm, Bethesda, Cold Harbor, Mechanicsville, Petersburg, Martinsburg, Weldon Railroad, Reams’ Station, Poplar Grove, Stoney Creek, and other unnamed battles all in Virginia. It was after one of the Stoney Creek battles that Charles was promoted to corporal. The regiment continued to fight in Virginia during 1865. They started at Dabney’s Mills, Hatcher’s Run, South Side Railroad, Five Forks, Petersburg, and White Oak Road. Their last battle was Apr. 1, 1865 at South Side Railroad. Charles mustered out on June 3, 1865. During his military career he also used the following spellings of his last name: McMacken, McMechan, Macken and McMachen. Charles applied for a military invalid pension on September 8, 1899.
            Sometime after the Civil War he migrated to Philadelphia where on Oct. 18, 1870 he married Mary E. Hayes. At that time he listed his occupation as waterman and was using Mackin as his last name. They were married by George Moore of S. 4th St. This was possibly a Methodist ceremony.
            The couple had five children. Charles Mackin, born abt. 1870, William, born abt. 1872, Margaretta Virginia, born August 10, 1874, Thomas H. Mackin, born abt. 1875, and Harry Freely Mackin, born October 29, 1877. All were born in Philadelphia.
            The 1880 census lists his occupation as a laborer. He lived at 609 Annapolis St., Philadelphia.
            He was a member of the Knights of Pithius. This was an organization similar to the Freemasons. Eventually he was buried along with his wife in the Pithius cemetery, Greenwood, in Philadelphia on Arrott St.
            In 1913, Charles was living at Fillmore and Ferry Aves or possibly at 1209 Locust St, his daughter, Margaretta‘s residence. On March 10 at a little past 7:30 AM, he was all dressed up in a blue serge suit and seemed to taking a short cut to the Kaighn’s Point Ferry for a trip to Philadelphia or returning from a stroll. He was walking between the North and South bound
railroad tracks near the intersection of 3rd and Atlantic. A witness named William Morrison heard an approaching train and called to Charles to look out. He stepped onto the north bound tracks and despite the train whistle didn’t or couldn’t move. He was hit by the train and tossed a dozen feet into the air. The train carried his remains to the terminal. Coroner Saunders found that he died from a severely fractured and disfigured skull and a broken leg. He was identified at the morgue by his granddaughter, probably Caroline Moore. His funeral was held at 1209 Locust St. And that’s the truth.


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