Saturday, October 25, 2014

Murder in the Family- James Joseph McGowan 1875-1940 #52Ancestors #41

Sometimes you come across something you never expected to find in your family tree. James Joseph McGowan was my grandfather's uncle. He was the son of James McGowan and Bridget Conlon. He was born February 15, 1875 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jacobum, {James} born 15 Feb 1875; baptized 18 Mar 1875; father: Jacobo [James] McGowan; mother: Brigit Conlon; sponsor: Winifred Gowey.
James was baptized at St. John the Evangelist in Southside Pittsburgh. He was the seventh child of eight born to this family.

He is found in 1880 in Pittsburgh
1880 United States Census Household:

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Race Age Birthplace Occupation Father's Birthplace Mother's Birthplace
James MC GOWAN Self M Male W 42 IRE Boiler IRE IRE
Bridget MC GOWAN Wife M Female W 40 IRE Keeping Bdg House IRE IRE
Patrick MC GOWAN Son S Male W 19 PA Boilers Helper IRE IRE
Mary A. MC GOWAN Dau S Female W 16 PA At Home IRE IRE
Joseph MC GOWAN Son S Male W 13 PA Wks In Rg Mill IRE IRE
James MC GOWAN Son S Male W 5 PA IRE IRE
Thomas MC GOWAN Son S Male W 2 PA IRE IRE
James CONAWAY Other S Male W 40 IRE Boiler IRE IRE
Edwd O'MALLEY Other S Male W 30 IRE Boiler IRE IRE
William RILEY Other S Male W 36 IRE Boiler IRE IRE


In 1900 James was living with his widowed mother and his brother in McKeesport:
1900  PENNSYLVANIA ALLEGHENY 5-WD MCKEESPORT

Series: T623 Roll: 1368 Page: 224
630 Jerome St,

MCGOWAN BRIDGET 57 F W IREL Jan 1843, Widowed. 5 children, 5 living, Immigration 1855, Years in US 45
McGowan, James, son, Feb 1875, 25, born PA, parents Ireland, laborer pipe mill
McGowan, Thomas, Oct 1878, 21, born PA, parents Ireland, laborer pipe mill


Sometime after the 1900 census, James married Clara Elizabeth Wordtt of McKeesport.
They had a daughter, Catherine, born October 31, 1915 in Monessen, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.

By 1920, James and his family had followed other members of the McGowan family to Birmingham, Alabama.
1920  ALABAMA  JEFFERSON  BIRMINGHAM

Series: T625 Roll: 22 Page: 145
Surname GivenName Age Sex Race Birthplace

MCGOWAN JAMES J 42 M W PA , parents Ireland, Machinist-Crane Co
Claire, wife, 35, born PA, Father Germany, Mother Ireland
Catherine 4, born PA

They were still in Birmingham in 1930.

James J Mcgowan M 48 PA parents Ireland
spouse Clona E Mcgowan F 46 PA father Germany mother Ireland
child Catherine E Mcgowan F 14 PA parents PA

I was unable to find James in the 1940 census, so I searched for an obit in the Birmingham papers using the Obituary Index : Birmingham Area Newspapers. Two entries came up:

Name: McGowan, James J.
Newspaper: Birmingham NewsDate: May 12, 1940
Edition: Section: Announcements/Deaths Page: 10*
Notes: *Sports; Financial/Want-Ads section

Name: McGowan, James J.
Newspaper: Birmingham NewsDate: May 12, 1940
Edition: Section: Page: 1
Notes: article; murder

I couldn't wait to get to the library and check this out!
I found the obit as expected.


And then the murder:



What a sad end! I was unable to find if anyone was ever charged. The distance from Ensley to Brewton is almost 200 miles. It's also interesting that his trailer was still in Ensley, so I would think that he was not on a jaunt to the Brewton area. The article makes no mention of his car, which in 1940 you would have had to have to pull a trailer.

I wonder if I could get any more info from the sheriff's office?
Murder Creek near Brewton from http://wildflowers.jdcc.edu/Rivers%20and%20Streams.html