The Strange Case Of Horatio Nelson McCully (Junior)

   When Horatio Nelson McCully Sr. was born in 1820, Horatio Nelson -- the British Royal Navy hero of the Napoleonic Wars -- had been dead for fifteen years. Were people still naming their children after him, or did Horatio McCully's father name him after their neighbor, friend, and Horatio's (far in the future) father-in-law, Horatio Nelson Morton -- who had been born in 1798, at the height of Admiral Nelson's fame, and surely was named for the Admiral? And when in 1854 Horatio Sr. named his second son Horatio Nelson, was he meant to be a junior, was he named after his grandfather Morton, or was his name another homage to the Navy war hero? Apparently, nobody knows -- and if this was the biggest mystery concerning Horatio Jr., I wouldn't be writing this essay.


   When, seven or eight years ago, I first researched the family of Horatio Sr., I drew a blank on Horatio Jr. Other than a general family acknowledgment that he had existed - and a spot on the family tree where another child could have been placed - I couldn't find any specific records of him. When I wrote my descriptions of the family, I speculated that Horatio Jr. might have "died young." But, if this was the greatest mystery surrounding Horatio Jr., you probably wouldn't be reading this essay.


   This year, I started to finalize the McCully genealogy (as if a genealogy is ever "finalized"), and thought I would give Horatio Jr. another shot. With new material being added to the Internet daily, I hoped for some new clues to his existence. I knew that an uncle and two of his brothers had left New Brunswick, Canada, for Massachusetts, so that was the first direction I looked. The search paid off quickly with a record of his U. S. naturalization at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1879. So, he hadn't "died young," after all.
   Knowing that he had been somewhere for 25 years, I went back to the New Brunswick censuses to see if I had missed anything. I had. By placement within the family of Horatio Sr., and by the approximate age shown on the census, I determined that a close-to-illegible name really was "Horatio." Ten years later, another nearly undecipherable scrawl turned out to be Horatio, almost doubly lost this time because the census taker had identified him as "a daughter."

   So, Horatio Jr. was in Canada until at least 1871, and he was in Massachusetts by at least 1879. To try to fill in the middle space, I turned to Massachusetts newspapers for possible mention of him. The first I found, dated September 1871, was curious:

   "Last Saturday evening as Horatio McCully was standing by Dr. Barton's window, he slipped and fell through one of the large panes of glass. He offered $1 to pay damages."

   I had made a break-through! Well, actually, Horatio had made the break-through -- and it might have been a fall through Alice's Looking-Glass, rather than a window, because he disappeared from the record for the next eight years. His brother Albert had returned to Canada for awhile; did Horatio go, also, or did he just fail to do anything noteworthy in the United States during the rest of the 1870s?
   There is no obvious reference to him in either the 1880 United States census, or the 1881 Canadian census, but by 1882, Horatio was living in Peabody, Massachusetts, employed as a currier (the chosen work of most of his men relatives). If he had been hard to find previously, suddenly his name appeared almost daily in the local newspapers. He was accepted as a member of the local Masons Lodge in October 1884. In 1885 he was an active participant in the local "roller polo" league (a polo-like game played on roller skates), and was president of the Massachusetts Polo League. He leased the Willows Skating Rink in Salem, Massachusetts, for the summer, for playing roller polo and for local entertainment. He arranged a midsummer carnival at the rink in July 1885, and received rave reviews for it. And then.....

   And then, Horatio Nelson McCully Jr. just disappeared. The only record after 1885 was an 1888 ledger note that he was no longer a Mason in the Peabody lodge. There were no records of him alive or dead, no indication that he was in the U. S. or in Canada. I looked for any evidence of him north, south, east or west - in logical or illogical places - but he was gone. The trail wasn't cold; there wasn't a trail.

   And then, after the less than charitable things I have said about Internet "family trees" (see "Family Trees," link above), I found an odd postscript attached to a web reference to Horatio's family. It reported that Horatio Jr. had owned an orange grove, sold it, headed for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and was never heard from, again. I contacted the person who had posted that information, but she advised she really knew nothing about Horatio McCully; it was just an old family story that she had heard. Still, with these apparently improbable leads, I intensified my search in Florida and California (the orange growing areas), and in Chicago. I couldn't squeeze anything out of the orange story, but Chicago did pay off. In a December 1893 newspaper, I found this:

   "H. N. McCully, formerly a traveling salesman for Armour & Co., Cudahy & Co., mysteriously disappeared from his hotel at Chicago August 12 last and has not been seen or heard from since... On the day of his disappearance he notified the proprietor of the De Soto club of his departure and had his trunks sent to the union depot. His baggage is still at the station."

   Well, I got him 40 years farther along than the first time I looked for him, but looks like I lost him, again. The news article said that his friends were "very worried." I can imagine. I wonder if they ever got any more information.


* * *

   A postscript to the story of Horatio: From Oregon, another McCully had started for the Chicago World's Fair in the spring of 1893. Harry McCully, a third cousin to Horatio Jr., made it to the fair, but stopped writing to family and friends on the West Coast by about 1896. With no further word, and the need to settle a family estate that had been in probate for 20 years, an Oregon judge in 1919 declared Harry to be dead. I don't know if Harry knew he was dead, or if anybody in Oregon knew he wasn't, but he managed to exist in Chicago another 24 years, finally dying a real death in 1943.
   I wonder what it is about McCullys and World Fairs?


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