The Works Progress Administration

Biography of John A. McGirk of El Monte California

A Justice of the Peace in the early days of El Monte and a citizen of the community since the early eighties, John A. McGirk, has been one of the city’s outstanding residents throughout the years of its steady growth and development. Born of Missouri parentage and nativity, Mr. McGirk is the son of Mathias McGirk, who engaged in farming and in selling wood to the steamboats on the Missouri River, near which his farm was located.  Both father and son were Southern sympathizers during the Civil War, however the father was drafted by the Union and required to serve the Northern Army, but on account of the valuable timber on his farm near the river, he was commissioned to furnish wood for the river steamers during the war instead of fighting.  The son, near the end of the war, after having assisted his father for several months in the preparation of fuel wood, crossed the river and joined the Confederate Army, serving for three months in General Price’s regiment in Illinois.  Mathias McGirk died in 1884.  Following the war, the subject of this sketch was given a farm by his father on McGirk’s Island, in the middle of the Missouri River near Portland, Missouri.  Here, Mr. McGirk farmed and sold wood to the river steamboats until 1875.  In that year, he went to Hamilton County, Texas and for ten years, engaged in raising corn, cotton and cattle. In 1885, Mr. McGirk moved to California, settling at once on a place east of El Monte.  For a number of years, he rented land from E.J. Baldwin and engaged in farming.  In 1896, he moved to a ranch which he had purchased near Riverside, and farmed there for two years, returning in 1898 to El Monte where he bought the ranch north of twon, a portion fo which he still owns.  In 1875, Mr. McGirk was united in marriage with Miss Ellen Shobe who was (as were both of her parents) a native of Osage County, Missouri. To this union were born nine children:  Luther M., now residing in Modesto; L.S. of Baker, California; Kate, (Mrs. Fred Putman) of El Monte; Clara (Mrs. Frank Hayes) of El Monte; Margaret (Mrs. Henry W. Williams) of Douglas, Arizona; William Neal (address unknown); John P. of San Diego; Nellie, who is unmarried, and living with her father in the old home north of El Monte; and J.C. of Watsonville.  The children are all living at this time. The mother died in 1920, and since that time, Mr. McGirk has not been active in managing his farm, preferring to retire and turn the work of his ranch over to his children. In politics, Mr. McGirk is a staunch Democrat.  For several years, he served as Justice of the Peace in El Monte.  He also served as Trustee of the Lexington Grammar School, and was a member of the first Board of Educations of the El Monte High School.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

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