Several days ago, on May 24th I left work and headed home, on my usual path which takes me right through the center of Kalamazoo. I drive down East Michigan Ave headed east towards Eastwood, towards Kalamazoo Township where my home is. I’ve taken this path countless times and on a lark I had the roof of my car wide open and I was stopped at the light where East Michigan and Edwards Streets meet, waiting for the signal to turn. While I was waiting in traffic I idly looked up through the roof and I noticed a building, 275 East Michigan Ave. It was a plain building, tan with red highlights and I didn’t think anything of it until I noticed something unusual about it:
Wha? Hugh J. McHugh 1885. He was someone important as his name was etched into the façade, on a nameplate of all things. This started me thinking. I knew that there were several notable McHugh’s, they had migrated to Chicago and I had a hunch that that family started MCHUGH construction which has been a part of several roadway projects in the city of Chicago. Just the idea that there might be someone with my last name in Kalamazoo isn’t really a huge surprise. Is he a relation of mine, other than his last name? I don’t know. But I did some research on him anyways and added him to my MCHUGH tree on Ancestry.com just for shits and giggles. He’s just an island at the moment as I can’t connect him to anyone in my family tree at all, at least not yet.
This is what I know of Hugh. He was 45 years old in 1880, he was in the US Federal Census in 1880 in Kalamazoo Michigan. He worked as a stone mason and later on he was appointed or elected to “Alderman” in Kalamazoo. I don’t know if the aldermen were elected or appointed. He was also the subject of a Michigan Supreme Court decision, thanks to some documents I found at UMICH online. Something about a law in 1885 and a bond for mechanical something or other. He was married to Ann McHugh (Willson), she was 53 and was a Housekeeper. Rosa, their eldest child and daughter was 17 and worked as a “Servant”, Thomas was 15 and a Painter, Joseph was 11 and listed as “At Home” and they all lived with their maternal grandmother Sarah Willson who was 84 and stayed at home.
One curious little extra bit which I found remarkable was that in the Michigan Supreme Court case, a name shows up, Oscar T. Tuthill. I saw the name and just giggled. Tuthill is a name on my maternal grandfathers side of my family. So, we’ve got McHugh’s and Tuthill’s in Kalamazoo (or Lansing probably for Tuthill), something interesting to knock around at least.
It’s a surprise to see your family name carved in stone and on a building that has been there for 128 years.
I’ve gone as far as I can with Ancestry as I don’t have a paid account. It’s interesting and when I have some spare time maybe I can find the archivist at WMU and make some inquiries there. They’ve got stuff dating back to this period and more.