Monday, February 5, 2007

John F. Wilcox

John F. Wilcox
1818 – (circa 1890?)

(Note: The National Flood Memorial’s list of Club members states incorrectly that John F. Wilcox was a civil engineer. He was not. This error is based on there being a John F Wilcox in the 1880 census in Allegheny PA, age 26, whose profession was listed as such. However, careful research indicates this was a different John Wilcox from the SFF&HC member whose biographical sketch appears below).

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The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member, John F. Wilcox, was a partner in the firm of Wilcox, Shinkle and Miller, founders, machinists, and makers of grist and sawmill machinery. In the 1870s, their offices were located at 39 Water Street in Pittsburgh. The Wilcox family’s Allegheny PA home was at 17 Marion Avenue as listed in the Pittsburgh directory of 1877-78, in which their firm was listed under the heading “Blacksmiths”.

He was no ordinary blacksmith, however. John F. Wilcox was a member of the elite Duquesne Club, and by 1888 the family had become socially prominent in Pittsburgh, as noted in this reference:

“Mrs. John Wilcox is one of the finest vocalists in Pittsburgh. Her voice, while of great compass, is a pure mezzo-soprano. It is rich in tone, of sympathetic quality and has received the highest cultivation, she at different times having been a pupil of [Ettore] Barili, the celebrated maestro, [internationally renowned Italian soprano Madam Adelina Juana Maria]Patti’s half brother and Prof. [Clement] Tetedoux*. Mrs. Wilcox was before her marriage a Miss Mygat of Washington. She sang first at Trinity and then St Matthew’s Catholic Church which has a very fashionable congregation, most of the diplomats attending.” (The Social Mirror, 1888).

By 1890, SFF&HC member Edwin A. Myers had become a partner with Charles H. Shinkle in the successor firm to Wilcox, Shinkle and Miller. One suspects that the 1890 change in the business may have been caused by the death of Mr. Wilcox, which will warrant further investigation.

*Frenchman Clement Tetedoux trained most of the fine vocalists of the 1870s era in Pittsburgh; he was a teacher of voice culture and a promoter of concerts and other musical enterprises and founder of an operatic society called the Gounod Society. His wife, the former Eliza Cowley, was from an old Pittsburgh family.

Here is the Wilcox family as they were in the 1870 census for Allegheny City, PA:

John Wilcox – age 52
Work: saddler and hardware
Born in England
Harriet – age 52
Born in England

George – age 21
Born in France
The following 1880 census represents the correct John Wilcox:

John WILCOX - Married, Male, W, age 61, born in ENG; occupation Foreman; parents born in ENG
Harrit WILCOX - Married, Wife, Female, W, age 61, born in ENG; Keeping House, parents born in ENG
Census Place: Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania

(Son George is by now married and lives next door, in the 1880 census)

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John F. Wilcox was 71 at the time of the Johnstown Flood.

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