Cemetery spotlight: Edward and Elizabeth McCormack

Ever wondered about the story behind this large monument in the St. Rose Cemetery? Who does it memorialize? What type of people would have such a grand gravestone?

The monument belongs to Edward J. McCormack--Irish immigrant, farmer, mining speculator, community leader, and lumber dealer-- and his wife, Elizabeth A. Faherty McCormack, member of a prominent family of farmers and businesspeople in Elmo and Cuba City.

Edward J. McCormack immigrated to the United States from his native Ireland as a young man in the 1870s. He was likely drawn to the tri-state area by his older brother, Patrick, who worked as a cooper in Galena.

Within ten years of arriving, Edward met Elizabeth Ann Faherty and the couple were married around 1885.

"Lizzie" had grown up on a farm just east of Elmo. Her parents were early settlers in southwestern Wisconsin and, in addition to being successful farmers, several of her siblings were members of Cuba City's business community. Emma Faherty had a millinery and dressmaking shop, William operated the Dewey Hotel, and Francis sold coal and ice and later ran the Faherty Shoe Store.

Elizabeth herself was well-educated for the time. She was still attending school at the age of 15 when the 1880 census was taken.

Her husband, Edward, was also a bright young man and signs of his ambition were evident from the start. After a stint laying railroad tracks in Georgia, the couple took up farming and settled near Lizzie's family homestead in Elmo.

Edward McCormack's property, in the southeast corner of section 18, Elk Grove Township, 1895.

The McCormack and Faherty farms were in the midst of rich mining country. Speculators could be found drilling for minerals on their land at the turn of the twentieth century, and Edward McCormack was a stakeholder in the nearby Wicklow mine, located beside the St. Rose Cemetery.

McCormack also set his sights on business opportunities in Cuba City. He partnered with Charles Eustice and John Jenkyns around 1895 to operate a farm supply, grain, and livestock business. The operation--called E. J. McCormack & Co.--added a lumberyard in 1897. It was located where the former racquetball courts and Cardins pharmacy stand today.

E. J. McCormack & Co. can be seen on this fire insurance map from 1900. 

These images from Cuba City's centennial history were taken after McCormack's departure from the lumberyard in 1901, but it gives us an idea of what the business looked like. 

Edward, Lizzie, and their three children--Regina, Ione, and Floyd--moved to Cuba City to be near the lumberyard. Edward was actively involved in the community, serving as fire chief of the village's first fire company by 1898, and village president by 1900.

Edward J. McCormack, Cuba City Fire Chief. Ca. 1898.

Edward continued to eye new opportunities and left Cuba City in 1901 to open a lumber and coal business in Rochelle, Illinois. While newspapers claim that he was well liked and successful in Rochelle, he opted to return to Cuba City within the year.

The decision may have been related to Elizabeth's health because, sadly, she passed away on December 3, 1901, at the age of 37.

In 1904, Edward married Irene Brown, a young woman half his age. The family relocated to Stockton, Illinois, where Edward operated a lumber business for several years. The couple had four children together--Lucille, Donald, Alice, and Helen. They left Stockton around 1915 for Kenosha, and then on to Burlington, Wisconsin in 1919.

Edward and Irene's marriage was a stormy one, at least in its later years. Irene petitioned for a divorce in 1923, citing cruel and abusive treatment. She sought custody of their four children and a division of their property. It is unclear whether she succeeded in securing the divorce because when Edward died in 1925, Irene is listed as his widow, and she kept the name Irene McCormack until her death in 1976.

Whether it had been planned in advance, or whether it was an indication of the couple's relationship status, Edward's body was returned to Cuba City to rest with his first wife, Elizabeth, in the St. Rose Cemetery.

The McCormack grave is visible on the left in this early photo of St. Rose Cemetery, taken sometime after 1903.

Edward J. McCormack's obituary, published in the Racine Journal News (October 10, 1925).


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