A lad coming to America with a widowed mother and two small brothers and one small sister, apparently has little chance for success, unless he brings with him wealth in some form, whether this be a bank account or a stout heart and willing hands. To be sure, the former of these assets hardly can be acquired at the age of seven, which was the age of Patrick McMahon when he journeyed across the ocean with the fatherless family, resting his hope for the future in himself, and perhaps in expectation of the help and encouragement of their nearest male relative, an uncle living in Janesville, Wisconsin.|
Patrick McMahon was born on September 5, 1849, County Tipperary, Ireland, the son of John and Bridget (Needham) McMahon, both natives of Tipperary. When Patrick was a very small boy, his father died of glanders, a disease which he contracted from a horse, as the elder McMahon was a farmer, and a well-known dealer in horses. Then it was, in 1855, that the little family sought their relative in America, emigrating to Rock county, Wisconsin, where they found the uncle, a hotel keeper in Janesville, and there they made their home, the mother passing away in 1889. Patrick was the third child of this family, the others being Maria, now Mrs. Michael O'Brien of Rock county, Wisconsin; Michael, who, previous to his death in Carroll, Iowa, was a railroad man and farmer, and John, who lives in the state of Washington.
The subject of this brief biography has demonstrated by his subsequent success in life that the little Irish boy, who arrived in America apparently equipped only with health and hope, in reality had resources which were to be a great asset in the struggle which was before him. He possessed determination and the capacity for hard work. And it is these qualities which enabled him to reach the prominence in his community which justifies the appearance of his name in the present volume.
Until his sixteenth year, Patrick McMahon attended school in Janesville, Wisconsin. Then he became a fireman on the Chicago and Northwestern railroad, with headquarters at Rockford, Illinois, following this occupation for a year and six months, at the end of which time he was transferred to a passenger train running between Madison, Wisconsin and Harvard Junction. Later promoted to the position of engineer, he then ran on a freight train between Baraboo, Wisconsin, and Harvard Junction for several years. Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were the extremes between which he ran a passenger train until the year 1892, when, for some reason, he left the road, and moved to Audubon, this county. For the next eighteen years, he took care of a school building in that town. Then, it seems, his interests began to turn toward his land. In 1877 he had bought one hundred and sixty acres in Douglas township, this county, paying ten hundred and forty dollars for the tract, which was a splendid piece of property. Twenty-seven years later he sold the same land and bought two hundred and forty acres near Lukin's Grove, three and one-half miles east of Audubon, the sale price being one hundred and twenty-five dollars an acre.
On April 15, 1880, Patrick McMahon was united in marriage to Mary Desmond, who was born in McHenry county, Illinois, a daughter of Cornelius and Honnorah (McEniry) Desmond, natives of Cork, Ireland, who came to America and became pioneers of McHenry county, Illinois. Cornelius Desmond was a farmer, and passed the remainder of his life in that county. The mother of Mrs. McMahon lived with her until 1907, when she died at the age of ninety-three years. To Patrick and Mary (Desmond) McMahon but one son was born, John, who now is in the real estate business at 5501 South Ashland avenue, Chicago, Illinois. John McMahon was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 31, 1883. He is a graduate of the Audubon schools, and of St. Ambrose College at Davenport, Iowa, as well as of Armour Institute, Chicago. In the latter school he took a course in civil engineering. The home of Mr. and Mrs. McMahon, a splendid building erected on three acres of ground in the east corporation of Audubon, was purchased in 1892. Valuable improvements have been added, including attractive shade trees and a fine orchard.
Busy with his agricultural, and in early life, with other enterprises, Mr. McMahon's tastes and ambitions have not led him into political fields, but he has always voted the Democratic ticket. He and his wife are among the prominent members of the Catholic church in the town in which they live. Both appear young for their years and are interesting acquaintances and excellent company, for they have a goodly supply of Irish wit. For several years, Mr. McMahon has not been engaged actively in business. He is fond of his home, and of the quiet mode of life which he has chosen, and is a good neighbor; a friend worthy of friendship.
The little lad who came from Ireland, leaving his father in the churchyard there, has become a successful American citizen, and when success came, he remained loyal and kind to the mother, who, with faith in God and in herself, brought her small family to a country where the conditions seemed less difficult to overcome, and where industrv was more certain of reward.
Transcribed from History of Audubon County, Iowa Its People, Industries and Institutions With Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families, by H. F. Andrews, editor, Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1915, pp. 455-457.