The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), June 19, 1911

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M. J. Cummings

Michael J. Cummings, one of Oswego's most successful business men, died at Atlantic City last night at eight o'clock. News of his death reached here this noon and the announcement, while received with great regret by citizens generally, was not unlooked for.

Born in the county of Rosscommon, Ireland, between 74 and 75 years ago, at the age of about six years came with his mother and step-father to this country and the family settled in Oswego. That was 64 or 65 years ago and their home has been here ever since, a family large in numbers and active in the commerce of the community.

When Mr. Cummings was a boy in his teens the commerce of the harbor was large and the ferry boys about the dock, who carried captains, owners, brokers and agents from one side of the river to the other, were numerous and made good pay. Mr. Cummings was among the number and when the other boys spent nickels he saved and soon was the possessor of several hundred dollars.

One day the schooner "Augustus Ford" was on the market and the fact that the season was dull and that vessels were lying at the dock without anything in sight made her cheap property at the time and she was purchased and became the first of Mr. Cummings' extensive vessel property. That Fall, after Mr. Cummings became the owner, business began at once to get better and before the season of navigation had closed the Ford had paid for herself.

From that first day as an owner of schooners and steamers his long career in the commerce of the Great Lakes was marked by successful operations. He owned the "Maple Leaf,: the bark "Indiana," schooners "James Navagh," "Accontias, "Seminole," "Persian," "Commodore Foote," "Rising Star," "Guiding Star," "Mystic Star," "Blazing Star," "Wayne, "Cortez," "Leadville," "Monteagle," "Parnell" and "Western Star. "

But before these acquisitions of vessel property Mr. Cummings had formed a co-partnership with the late John Joyce and engaged in buying and selling great quantities of junk that came from the shipping in the harbor. Later he became identified with the late John Dunn in the wholesale grocery business under the firm name of Dunn & Cummings.

This firm did a large and successful business. In the days of the war the members would go to Chicago and buy droves of hogs which they would have dressed and packed. This was in the days before the big meat packers had combined to control the business. Some of the hogs thus bought for $8 per hundred were sold for $30 per hundred in the open market.

The firm was also successfully interested in milling and at one time he was handling the output of three local mills, amounting to approximately 1,000 barrels o flour a day. The milling and his commercial business held his closest attention for years.

With the passing of sail craft Mr. Cummings went in for steamboats. The "Monteagle" was his first, in her day one of the finest on the lakes and for which he paid $90,000. Then came the "Charles Stewart Parnell," still larger, and costing $110,000. The "Western Star," the last of the steamers, and the only one which he still owed, cost about $200,000.

Though always a close business man, Mr. Cummings was also a much traveled man both in this country and in Europe. He made three tours of Europe, the first of which was to his old home in the county of Roscommon, Ireland, with his mother many years ago, where they visited the scenes of childhood.

In the early 1880s, with Nicholas Finn, who was then in Leadville, Colorado, Mr. Cummings became interested in smelting. This was about the only enterprise with which Mr. Cummings was connected that did not prove successful.

Aside from his vessel property the only enterprise with which Mr. Cummings was connected at the time of his death was the Ontario Industrial Company. For the past two years his health has not been good and he was not looking to encumber himself with further business cares.

A citizen Mr. Cummings was held in the highest regard by all who knew him. A man of high ideals, he carefully avoided parade or anything that could be allied to it. he was a devout Christian, a firm believer in the teachings of his Church, yet tolerant of the opinions of others. A man of strong convictions and purpose he never obtruded his ideas upon others. He never said ill of any; if could not say good he avoided all personal reference.

By those who know him best he was loved most, a man of broad charities, devoid of ostentation, exceptionally modest, he believed in the simple life and the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would be done by. "

In his death Oswego has lost one of its foremost citizens; a man whose broad charities, so quietly bestowed that few knew, will be missed by many and by the charitable institutions of the city.

With him when he died was his brother, Captain William Griffin, who with one sister, Mrs. George Schaffer, of the East side, are the only immediate relatives, aside from widows of deceased brothers, nephews and nieces.

The remains will arrive here at none o'clock tomorrow morning.

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June 19, 1911
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), June 19, 1911