Biography of George H. McKinley


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Comparatively few really successful men attain success in the community of their birth and it is a patent fact that a man who starting in life, the son of parents who barely wrested a living from a small farm, and yet reached the goal without leaving his native village, must have strong qualifications, and particularly so in the gaining and retaining of friends. This latter attribute has been one of the causes to which George H. McKinley’s successful business career in Clayton is directly traceable—his pleasing personality and readiness to help others.

Mr. McKinley was a son of one of the pioneers of this section, a native of Ireland who had emigrated to this country in early life. John McKinley was industrious and frugal, and soon gained the entire respect and confidence of his fellow townsmen. Of his union with Eleanor Murphy, seven sons and one daughter were born, the subject of this notice being the fifth child, born January 26, 1852. With the other members of the family he assisted in the farm work, as soon as he was old enough, and thereby early learned that “Man’s best friends are his fingers.” Whenever possible he was sent to the district schools of the neighborhood and so acquired a rudimentary education. At the age of seventeen he began his business life in Clayton village as a chore boy in the employ of Dr. Amos Ellis, who at that time conducted the principal drug and grocery business of the; village. He remained with Dr. Ellis two years, during which time he attended the village school in addition to performing his routine duties, which were by no means light. At the expiration of his two years’ service in this position, A. F, Barker, a leading dealer in general merchandise, offered him a clerkship, which he accepted, and when a year later the business was purchased by H. S. and S. B. Barker he was still retained, remaining in the employ of the latter firm five years.

To a man of his healthy ambition and intense desire to better his condition it was comparatively easy to save money, and in April, 1877, he was able to go into business with Capt. M. Halpin, with whom he was associated under the firm name of G. H. McKinley & Co. until Captain Halpin’s death, which occurred in 1882. At this time he purchased the remaining share of the business and has since devoted his entire energy to its upbuilding, and with remarkable success. Mr. McKinley can be justly said to be one of the foremost merchants of Northern New York. The block of stores and offices which is his present business home was erected by him in 1889. It is a three. storied building, eighty feet square, and fronts on James street, directly opposite the Hubbard House.

In politics Mr. McKinley is an ardent Democrat and is known as such througout this section. He has been a rigid partisan, always supports unreservedly the party platforms, and is recognized by Jefferson County Democrats as one of their leading spirits. Mr. McKinley does not, however, engage in politics for purely personal reasons. He has long held to the belief that every good citizen should take an interest in political work. He has served on the Democratic County Committee for twelve years, and had charge of the Roswell P. Flower gubernatorial campaign in District No. 3 of Clayton, which gave Mr. Flower the largest percentage of votes cast of any district outside of the metropolis. He has served as village trustee and in 1893 was the unanimous choice of the people for the office of village president, serving the term with credit to himself and to the village. Mr. McKinley’s devotion to the cause of education is well known and he has faithfully and intelligently served on the village board of education for eighteen years, being now the president of the body. In 1894 Mr. McKinley was appointed by President Cleveland postmaster at Clayton village and has given a creditable and popular administration. He is a member of a number of fraternal organizations and was a charter member of the National Exchange Bank of Clayton, still serving on the board of directors.

Mr. McKinley married, in 1876, Margaret E. Halpin of Clayton. Seven children have been born to them: Francis M., student at Cornell (Ithaca) Law School; John Henry, Lena Eleanor, Edward Emanuel, George Victor, Hilliard Arthur and Florence Marie.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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