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The Mysterious McPaddens

December 3rd, 2021

By Becky Chapin, Archivist

When writing finding aids, there is a section to write up background information on the subject. This is incredibly helpful in-house or for researchers to get a better idea of a family or organization. Sometimes we already have histories written, and other times I have to do some research to give a more comprehensive history.

This was the case for our collection on McPadden Laundry Ink. Heard of it? Me neither.

Family photo of McPadden Family - four men and three women

William and Stephen McPadden are in the back row. Other identities are not known

Hugh (1834-1909) and Margaret McPadden (1845-1921) emigrated from Ireland to Rochester, New York where their six children Stephen, Mary, Sarah, Hugh, Frank/Francis, and William were born; Margaret reported in a census as having eight children with six living. Indications from cemetery records are that none of the McPadden children married.

You may have heard of Stephen or William McPadden if you’re a member of the St Francis/St Stephen’s parishes. Stephen came to Geneva in 1896 to be the assistant rector at St. Francis and was appointed the pastor of the new St. Stephen’s congregation in 1904. The congregation worshipped in the Old Dutch Church (south corner William and Main) until the new building was completed in 1911-1912 under the direction of Stephen.

By 1909, William had moved to Geneva to be the assistant rector at St. Francis and Francis, Mary, Sarah, George (Hugh Jr.), and their father Hugh had moved as well; their mother isn’t listed, but presumably she moved with them. While Stephen and William lived in their parish houses, the rest of the family was living in 27 North Genesee Street and only Francis was employed by Rice Bros. nursery.

Photo of Stephen McPadden in religious garb

Stephen McPadden, 1908

Mary soon passed away at age 44 in 1915 in the family home at 56 Hamilton Street and their mother died in 1921. Sarah adopted an Abigail Mosey, probably around 1918-1919, when Abigail’s parents died of influenza just days apart; Abigail is mentioned in the obituaries of her mother and of the other McPadden siblings as a niece.

Tragically, Stephen also dies young at age 52 in 1924 shortly after his abrupt return from a trip to Europe. William, having been assistant rector of St. Stephen’s, is appointed as pastor of the parish soon after and serves the congregation until his death in 1953.

Brothers Frank (1879-1965) and Hugh Jr. (1875-1940) bought the laundry business known as Shyne’s Geneva Steam Laundry around 1909; several other names for the business include Geneva Steam Laundry, Geneva Laundry Co., and McPadden Bros. Laundry. Frank developed the McPadden Laundry Ink under Seneca Chemical Co. and shipped nationwide to various laundries.

The Laundry Ink collection is composed of two series from two donors, one of whom was someone that shared the Mosey name with Abigail. This series also included photos of the McPadden siblings which indicated that the donor’s relation to the family may be via Abigail.

Photo of William Mcpadden in religious garb

William McPadden, 1908

I started out in my research confused about the McPadden siblings, and though William and Stephen’s stories became clear, the other siblings are still a mystery. Hugh dies at age 64 after 25 years as head of the Geneva Steam Laundry, but almost none of the papers in the collection involve him at all. Frank’s battle with the Civil Service Commission to receive his pension is well documented in the personal papers of the collection, but a majority is just business correspondence related to ink orders.

The biggest mysteries are the sisters Mary and Sarah; the former is listed as a dressmaker only once in a census, but the latter never has any more information connected to her in directories or censuses.

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