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Death of J.A.C McCune

Bio following his death in 1895

Death Of J. A. C. McCune, Esq.

An Eventful History

After a long period of ill health, which, however, assumed a fatal form only about a week before his death, John A. C. McCune, Esq., for twenty-seven years a leading lawyer of this community and widely known, died at his home on Normal avenue Sunday, April 14, shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. McCune had taken his bed On Saturday, April 6, suffering from rheumatism, growing out of Bright's disease, with which he had been afflicted for some time, and on Wednesday following was seized with apoplexy which rendered his case hopeless. From that time he sank into a state of coma, from which he only partially aroused at rare intervals, and passed away in an unconscious condition. He leaves a wife, who was Miss ElIzabeth Rankin, daughter of the late Dr. William Rankin, to whom he was married in 1868, and five children, Mrs. Carrie Weston, of New York, Alex. C., of Philadelphia, William A, of Sewickley, Pa., and Mary and Lillie at home. All were at his bedside when the end came.

The early life of Mr. McCune was so eventful and full of adventure that the history of it reads like a romance. From one who was well acquainted with his entire life we obtained the following account:

Mr. McCune was born on December 3, 1827, a half mile south of Middle Spring Presbyterian church, and in the immediate vicinity of the spot where his great-grandfather, Captain Samuel McCune, one of the early pioneers of the valley, took up his abode 1731 to 1733. His father, Alexander McCune, was a farmer and miller, and the early years of his life were passed on the farm. He attended school at the country school known as Shady Grove, having for a teacher during the latter years of his attendance Dr. John McLean, of Fayettesville, Franklin county, who boarded in his father's family, and, with whom, out of school hours, he studied surveying, algebra, etc., not then taught in the common schools. He then attended a private classical school in Shippensburg under the care of Prof. James Huston.

In 1845, he entered the store of John Fulwiler, as clerk, in the building lately torn down, adjoining the residence of the late Nannie Harper. In 1849 he began reading law with R.P. McClure, Esq., but in the early spring of 1850 was carried away with the gold fever, resulting from the discoveries of gold in California, and in the first part of April, embarked from New York by way of Panama for the New El Dorado. This trip was made, on both sides of the Isthmus, in sailing vessels, and with the crossing of the Isthmus occupied over four months. Owing to the crowded condition of the ships, and insufficient supplies, the voyage was far from being pleasant.

On his arrival in San Francisco, Mr. McCune at once proceeded to the mines and for nearly two years was engaged in mining on the Yube river, near Rough and Ready. Having, by hard work and frugality, made some money in the mines, his thoughts turned homeward, but attracted by the allurements of speculation, he, in company with some business friends in Sacramento, charted a sailing vessel and went to Astoria, Oregon, and purchased a shipload of hogs, which at that time were commanding almost fabulous prices in the state of California. With his all staked on this venture and with high anticipations of fortune, they set sail for San Francisco. But man proposes--God disposes. A few days out the ship encountered violent storms, and for nine days was entirely at the mercy of the winds. The decks were washed with the waves and all the hogs drowned and washed overboard.

The ship, being entirely dismantled drifted with the storm and finally found shelter in one of the inlets of Puget Sound on the southern coast of Vancouver's Island. Here they remained for about six months. The coast being uninhabited and so far north and of the line of travel, the ship's officers had no chart and were entirely ignorant of where they were. Establishing communication with the land they procured fuel from the dwarf cedars, with which the island was covered, and a supply of food by scraping from the rocks at low tide the small mussels, which covered them thickly. In the Spring following they were visited by some Indians, who came into the Sound for the purpose of fishing. By means of signs they were able to communicate with them and ascertained that the Indians knew of white men inland, from whom they obtained axes, ammunition, etc. They accompanied the Indians and after a considerable journey reached Walla Walla, a station of the Hudson Bay Fur Company, on one of the tributaries of the Columbia River, about two hundred miles form Astoria, from where they had set sail some six months previous.

When he arrived at San Francisco, on his return to California, Mr. McCune found that the American Hotel, where he had left all his effects when leaving for the Oregon, had been burned, so that he was short on everything except health and energy. During this period, no tidings having ever been heard of the ship after sailing, it was reported as lost at sea, and his friends having received letters written on the day of sailing, and knowing of the non-arrival of the ship at San Francisco, gave up hope of his return and mourned him as dead.

Upon his return to California he established an Express for the delivery of letters throughout the mining camps of the state, visiting San Francisco on the arrival of the steamers from the states with mail, and lifting letters for those for whom he had orders to do so. This service he performed himself, carrying his mail on pack mules and receiving $1.00 for the delivery of a letter, usually in gold dust, in which, after realizing some money from the business, he began to deal, making a considerable profit on the resale to the bankers at San Francisco. After establishing this business he sold it out to other parties and engaged in the lumber business in Sacramento, and in a cattle ranch in Solano County, Cal., both of which by fire, floods, and drought, proved disastrous.

In 1865, he left California for Mexico to join his brother E. J. McCune, then in business in the city of Mexico. Landing at Matzalan, on the west coast, he bought a horse and rode the entire distance alone, and this during the time of the French occupation of Mexico, when the country was overrun with guerrilla and other lawless bands of banditti, fighting under one flag or the other, and often under neither. After spending the summer in the City of Mexico he returned to the States and to Shippensburg, and after an absence of nearly sixteen years, resumed the reading of law with his old preceptor, R.P. McClure, Esq., and was admitted to the bar in 1867. In the spring of 1868, MR. McClure's health became impaired, followed by mental weakness, which required his removal to an asylum, and Mr. McCune fell heir to a considerable portion of his practice, which he continued to enjoy during the years since intervening.

From the time that Mr. McCune returned to this town he took his place as one of its leading citizens, and continued to maintain that distinction, his influence increasing as the years went by. He was one of the men who secured the Normal School for this place and from the first was closely identified with its interests, giving freely of his time and money to help place it on its feet. As the time of his death he was treasurer of the institution, having held that position for a number of years. He was a Democrat in politics and in 1886 was appointed postmaster at Shippensburg by President Cleveland and served the full term, four years, with entire satisfaction to the patrons of the office.

An appreciative friend sends the following tribute:

Mr. McCune was a man of marked individuality, This was made evident to everyone who came in contact with him. Possessing a courtly dignity and graciousness of demeanor that made him never either offensive or haughty in manner, no one, not even his most intimate associates would have presumed to take the slightest familiarity with him in speech or behavior. Yet the smallest child or the most obscure citizen in need of his help or counsel could approach him without the least fear of embarrassment. We believe we say what will be accepted by every one who knew him, that since his residence here no one has surpassed, if indeed, anyone has equaled him in those lofty attributes which are indispensable to the highest standard of social and business amenity. It would be too much to say, nor would it be flattery to say that he excited no antagonisms in his life. A positive character like his must necessarily do so. As the late Judge Watts used to say, "The man who has no enemies must necessarily be a fool." Mr. McCune's antagonisms were those which grew out of an unavoidable difference of interests or an honest difference of opinion. They were not born of envy not nurtured in malice.

It is not hard to tell wherein lay the strength of Mr McCune's character and the greatness of his life. He was the soul of honor. All the kingdoms of the earth laid at his feet would not have tempted him to barter his consciously superior manhood. Nature stamped him a nobleman, and no pottage of favor or flattery could buy his birthright. He cared for honor more than he cared for wealth or power.

Linked toJohn Augustus Colwell MCCUNE

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