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James is dead, let the battle begin
Curiosity led me into a strange tale about the man I refer to as "the third James McLaughlin," who in some ways is more interesting than the other two – James "40 Acres" McLaughlin and his son, James McLaughlin Jr., who was called one of Skaneateles' captains of industry.

I was looking for the obituaries of "40 Acres" and James Junior, who died in 1911 and 1914. When I found this one — for a McLaughlin from the same Irish town as the father of "40 Acres" — I jumped to the assumption they must be related. (From what I have since learned, this James and "40 Acres" almost certainly were first cousins.)

In reading the 1910 obituary for this third James, I made another assumption, this one obviously foolish. I assumed this McLaughlin was the least known and least successful of the James gang. A subsequent story showed me how wrong I was.

Skaneateles Free Press, March 25, 1910
OBITUARY: James McLaughlin

James McLaughlin, for over 54 years a resident of Skaneateles, died at the home of his niece, Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald, in this town, Wednesday, March 23, 1910, aged 85 years. The cause of death was Bright’s disease and heart failure and he was confined to bed only two days.

Deceased was a native of Linsfort, near Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland. He first came to this country in 1850, spending six months in Pennsylvania, after which he returned to Ireland, remaining six years, and in 1856 he again came to America and made his home in Skaneateles. Forty years ago he spent two years in Iowa.

For many years he resided on the west side of the lake and for the past 38 years made his home with his niece, Mrs. Fitzgerald. He was a very frugal and industrious man. He took the Father Matthew temperance pledge in Ireland when a young man, always keeping it and retaining the medal given him on the occasion.

He never married and is survived by several nephews and nieces, residing in Iowa, Ireland and Scotland, and Mrs. Fitzgerald of this town.

Funeral services will be held at St. Mary’s church in this village, Saturday, March 26th, at 10 a.m. Internment in St. Mary’s cemetery.

 
Syracuse Post Standard / March 28, 1910
Fight planned before funeral
While funeral services were held at 10 o’clock Saturday morning over the body of James McLaughlin, a farmer-poet of Mandana, near Skaneateles, relatives east of the latter village were preparing to contest his will, disposing of an estate valued at $50,000. The contestants, it is said, will be Mrs. Edward McLaughlin, whose late husband was a nephew of the dead man, and Mrs. Hannah Carey of this city, a cousin.

All the property was left, members of the family declare, to Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald, a niece with whom Mr. McLaughlin lived, and her three children. The contestants will allege that undue influence was exercised on the aged man in disposing of the property in the will. It be possible that a sister of Mr. McLaughlin, who lives on the Pacific coast, and relatives in Ireland may be brought into the contest.

John McLaughlin, a son of Mrs. Edward McLaughlin, and with whom she lives on a farm near Skaneateles, has retained C. R. Milford, an attorney of Skaneateles, to represent the contestants. His first move in their behalf will be made when the will is filed in Surrogate’s Court. Mr. McLaughlin, who was 90 years old, died Wednesday. [Obituary said he was 85.]

Mr. McLaughlin was reputed to be the wealthiest farmer around Skaneateles. He went to the village forty-five years ago from Ireland and bought the farm at Mandana. It was an unusual transition, from poet and famous writer of folks songs in a mountain village of County Cork, to a farmer in Onondaga. He was one of the strangest characters in the countryside then and held that distinction until his death. He refused to buy clothing made in this country and wore suits he brought from Ireland and clothing made at home after the same pattern.

It is declared that some of his folk songs are being sung in many of the inland districts of Ireland today.

Mr. McLaughlin’s death was due to asthma and heart trouble. His will will be filed this week, it is announced, and the contest will be begun then.

This story is as confusing as it is interesting. Since reading it I've been unable to find any evidence that this James McLaughlin was a poet or composer of folk songs that were performed in Ireland. However, I have been given a family tree which says his nickname was "Poet."

I'm still hoping to learn more about this battle over the will ... like did it ever really materialize? Four years later a central figure in this dispute passed away and her obituary made no mention of the controversy.

Skaneateles Free Press / February 27, 1917
Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald

Mrs. Ann McLaughlin Fitzgerald, wife of Thomas Fitzgerald, who died Friday morning, February 23, 1917, at the family home in this town (Skaneateles), had been ill only a short time. She was a native of Ireland, 75 years old, and had been a resident of Skaneateles many years. As a wife and mother she was devoted to her husband and children and she was held in high esteem by all her neighbors and friends. She was a faithful member of the Catholic Church.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Fitzgerald is survived by one daughter. Miss Mary Fitzgerald of Skaneateles: three sons, William H. Fitzgerald and James Fitzgerald of Skaneateles and John Fitzgerald of Auburn; two grandchildren and two brothers, Dennis and James McLaughlin of Ireland.

Funeral services were held at St. Mary's Church in this village at 10 o'clock. Burial in St. Mary's cemetery.

 
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