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DINNER & SPIRITS The History & Hauntings of the McMackin House Restaurant

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Author Topic: DINNER & SPIRITS The History & Hauntings of the McMackin House Restaurant  (Read 93 times)
Keira Kensington
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« on: October 19, 2008, 10:30:51 pm »

THE MCMACKIN FAMILY

The McMackin family came to Salem back in 1850. The patriarch of the family, Warren E. McMackin, was born in Morganfield, Kentucky in 1817 and enlisted in the Third Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War. After the fighting ended, Warren became the minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and part of his duties included riding a circuit to surrounding areas for churches that had no pastors. His journey often took him from Fairfield to Salem and in 1850, he decided to make the small town his home. He settled down and became the minister of the Salem Presbyterian Church, marrying Delilah Jane Cruise a short time later. Together, the two of them raised seven children; May, Emma, Charles, Fred, Edwin, John and William.

Around this same time, Warren and his brother Thomas opened a tavern near the Old Park Hotel. This was their first business venture in the area and it became the foundation of the family’s later political and business successes. The tavern became a stopping point for westward bound travelers and gained a reputation for its food, drink and warm beds. It also helped Warren to become more widely known in the area and his prominence soon got him appointed to the position of Marion County Justice of the Peace.

In 1860, the brothers expanded their holdings and Thomas began speculating in land while Warren opened a furniture store and a funeral home. This was a common combination in those days as the proprietors who made the furniture usually built the caskets for the local dead as well. This time period marked the early days of the embalming trade and “undertaking” was just coming into fashion.

When the Civil War broke out the following year, Warren left his growing business in the hands of his children and family members and enlisted in the 21st Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry under the command of Ulysses S. Grant. As the war continued on, Grant became President Lincoln’s choice for the head of the entire Union army and so Warren McMackin was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and replaced him as the commander of the regiment. He fought through one bloody battle after another for two years and then was wounded and captured at the Battle of Chickamauga. He was eventually released during a prisoner exchange near the end of the war.

Warren returned home to his family and to the gratitude of the people of Salem. In 1865, the same year that the city was officially chartered, they elected him the mayor of the city and in addition, he served as Salem’s postmaster and as the region’s Civil War Pension Disbursement Officer. He remained in these positions until 1870, when he also handed over the ownership of his furniture and funeral business to his son, Charles L. McMackin, Sr. Warren passed away in 1884, still suffering from complications from the wounds he had suffered in Tennessee during the war.

Charles Lincoln McMackin, Sr. carried on his father’s business interests and followed in his footsteps by serving as the city’s mayor and also as a four term state representative. In 1886, Charles married the refined and beautiful Eugenia Aline Drake, heiress to the prominent Merryfield Plantation in Virginia. Together, they had two children, Omar James (OJ) McMackin, born in 1888 and Helen May McMackin, who was born in 1895. During this period, the family hosted many elegant parties and gatherings for important guests from across the country.

The present day mansion was constructed during this time when Charles moved the family’s existing home to erect the house that now stands in its place. The house was designed after the style of a southern mansion so that Charles could provide his bride, Eugenia, with all of the comforts that she was accustomed to. He had made a pledge to his wife’s parents that in exchange for their permission to marry their daughter, he would build her a grand home that suited the heiress of the well-known Merryfield Plantation. So, in 1910, he had the family home moved to North College Street and the present mansion was built on the site.

Omar McMackin grew up working alongside his father in the family business. He married Mary Belle Wells in 1910 and they had two sons, Charles Lincoln McMackin II and Matthew Wells McMackin. They resided on North College Street, not far from the McMackin mansion, until tragedy struck in 1915. During that year, Matthew fell ill during a deadly influenza outbreak. Mary Belle, unsure of what else to do, brought the little boy to her in-law’s home and everyone worked to nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, they did so without success and he died a short time later.

Mary Belle was distraught over the loss of her son and her depression may have contributed to her own death a short time later, when tragedy struck the McMackin’s again. Just six months later, Mary Belle was at home and was attempting to adjust a kerosene stove when her hair caught on fire. OJ tried in vain to extinguish the fire, and to save his wife, and sustained serious burns in the process. Young Charles, only three years-old at the time, watched as his mother burned to death. It’s likely that he never forgot it…

OJ then returned to his family home to live and stayed there with his son, his parents and his sister Helen until the outbreak of World War I. Omar decided to enlist in the military and leaving his son in the care of his family, he left for Europe. Thankfully, he returned safely and in 1920, he married again to a woman named Anna Bessie Cope. Together, they had two more children, Lorin and Martha Jean. In 1921, he organized Company I, 130th Infantry and 33rd Division of the Salem National Guard, of which he became a captain and later retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1941, death came calling again for the McMackin family. Charles Sr. died in a fatal automobile crash on his way home from a furniture-buying trip to Chicago. Ironically, his funeral was the second to be held in the family’s newly built funeral home, which still operates today in Salem as the Rankin Funeral Home.

After his father’s death, OJ took over the funeral business and Helen operated the furniture store. OJ went on to serve four terms as the Salem Commissioner and played an important role in formulating the G.I. Bill of Rights. He served as the mayor of the city for three consecutive terms between 1935 and 1948 and was credited with the building of the Kaskaskia River Water Line in Salem. The city also enjoyed the prestige of being the only city in Illinois in those days to own, and operate at a profit, its own water, sewer, gas and electric utilities. OJ and Anna divorced after his final term as mayor and he later married Ruth Allen in 1949 and remained with her until his death in 1963.

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