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'One of the Special Ones' - Thomas J. McNamara

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Thomas J. McNamara, Pioneer, Is Dead, Aged Seventy-Seven

Thomas J. McNamara, one of the old time pioneers of Montana, died yesterday morning a little after 8 o’clock at St. Patrick’s hospital in this city. Mr. McNamara was born in 1826, in Cratloe Wood, across the river Shannon, a short distance from the city of Limerick, in County Clare, Ireland. He arrived in the United States in the year 1851, and in 1852 he joined the Argonauts for California, arriving in that state late in 1852, or the early part of 1853. He immediately went into the mines on the waters of the Sacramento river, above the city of Marysville, and engaged in mining, which he continued until the great gold excitement caused by the discovery of rich placer mines at Florence, Idaho, in 1861, caused a stampede from California to the new El Dorado.

After arriving at Florence and remaining there a short time, the news of the discovery of rich placer mines on Grasshopper creek, Montana, (then Dakota) reached Florence, when he, in company with others, started for the Grasshopper mines, and arrived in Bannack in November, 1862. He remained at Bannack engaged in mining until the summer of 1863, when the news of the discovery of mines on Alder Gulch reached Bannack. He then joined the stampede for Alder Gulch and secured a valuable claim on the creek, a short distance above what is now the foot of Wallace street, in Virginia City.

He remained in Virginia City engaged in mining until the spring of 1870, when he joined in another mining exodus, this time to Cedar Creek in Missoula county. He remained in Cedar Creek until the fall of 1872, when he removed to the city of Missoula, where he has resided ever since the fall of 1872.

On Sept. 1, 1867, Mr. McNamara was married at Virginia City to Miss Anna Cunningham, who came to Montana in 1866, as a companion of Mrs. Thomas Francis Meagher. On the morning of his marriage, General Meagher and his wife were starting for Fort Benton on their way to the states.[1] The ceremony was performed and the newly made bride accompanied General Meagher and wife to Benton, and then returned to Virginia City, where the newly married couple took up their residence and remained until 1870, when they removed to Missoula county. Mr. McNamara left no known relatives in the United States. He leaves to mourn his loss his wife, of Missoula, and one brother and two sisters in Australia.

Mr. McNamara was a true Montana Pioneer in every sense of the word. He came in the early period and helped make Montana what she is today. He was a devoted Christian, a kind neighbor, a true friend, and above all an honest man, “the noblest work of God.” He leaves behind a legion of friends who will be grieved to learn that “Tom Mac,” as he was familiarly called, has passed into the great beyond.

The above article appeared in the Semi-Weekly Missoulian on March 20, 1903.

Another article in praise of him appeared later in the same edition of the same newspaper:

T. J. M’Namara.

A good man and a good citizen passed when Tom McNamara turned his face to the range all must cross and left the camp. Born in Ireland, he came to this country when in the bloom of youth and went resolutely to work to earn a place among men, which he acquired. In all that goes to make up manhood Tom McNamara was lacking in no particular. Quiet and reserved in manner, he responded quickly to the greeting of his fellow man and was warm and genial in intercourse. He was full of reminiscence and quaint oddities that made him friends and endeared him to them. He lived beyond the allotted age of man and in all his long life it can not be truthfully said that Tom McNamara ever wronged a man. May the turf rest lightly upon him.




[1] The date here is likely incorrect. General Meagher disappeared off the Missouri River steamboat G. A. Thompson on July 1, 1867. Several books have been written about Meagher’s life.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 January 2018 16:09