Thursday, November 19, 2009

Papa - The Patriarch

There would not have been a Great Brain Series or a Papa Married a Mormon book, if it wasn't for Thomas Fitzgerald.  Thomas Fitzgerald in life and literature is a delightful man.  Tender and devoted to his wife in both arena's. I was lucky enough to find information on him early on in my search.  Nine years ago, when I began my hunt, very little was found online.  In fact, practically nothing.  I was so excited when a library sent me a brief 4 paragraph biography of Thomas Fitzgerald.  It was eye opening.  I re-read it for days trying to decide what to do with it.

The biography I believe is now accessible online.  I will post sections of it here.  It is part of a multi-volume book series entitled, Utah Since Statehood.  Published in 1919, these books were compiled to share the history of Utah through the biographies of prominent people who helped it develop into a booming state.

The "Old West" is rapidly passing.  Few men are now living who can recall the days of the old Concord coach, the Pony Express rider or the red-shirted miner that depended more upon his "six-gun" than upon the law to protect his claim.
Papa, Thomas Fitzgerald, appears in Volume 4  on page 27.  Who submitted his biography is unknown. His inclusion however supports the idea of Papa being larger than life and vital to the success of his town and state.

Thomas Fitzgerald is a member of the city council of Price and is devoting his attention largely to his official duties, for he has practically retired from business, deriving his income from judicious investments which he previously made.  He was born in Pennsylvania, June 27, 1851...In the acquirement of his education...through to the high school.  In early manhood he came to the west, seeking the broader opportunities which he believed were offered in this section of the country.  He took up the business of placer mining and was thus engaged in Idaho, where he conducted a restaurant for several years.  In July, 1895, he established his home at Price,Utah.
Isabelle Fitzgerald Empey, Thomas' daughter, described him, "Dad was 21 years older than Mom.  He had night black curly hair and deep blue eyes-real Irish."  These characteristics ring true to the Papa readers love. However, Thomas Fitzgerald also carried similarities to another Fitzgerald in the book-Uncle Will. Isabelle's own written words show this.
After dad's graduation from college as a druggist, he got the wanderlust and went to Alaska and Canada as a prospector.  Later he came to Nev. where he struck a claim at Contact...The West intrigued him, he love the mountains and after his father's death, he went to Ida. (Shoshone).  There he had a cafe and Saloon.  He sold out and came to Price, Ut.
No record indicate when Thomas Fitzgerald met Minnie Nielsen, his future wife.  Only the dates of his arrival and their wedding date tell that it was a quick courtship, less than a year.  Wanderlust though continued to drive Thomas even after he was married.  The local paper, Eastern Utah Advocate wrote on Oct. 9, 1902, Thomas Fitzgerald went from Evanston, Wyo., where he is investigating a hotel proposition that has been offered him."  Fitzgerald though decided to remain in Price.

His life, like all of ours had it's ups and downs,  though brief biographies paint a rosy glow, he suffered his share of frustrations and set backs.  One of the biggest was a lifetime battle with rheumatoid arthritis.  With so many cures for disease in our lifetime it is hard to remember that just a century ago more people suffered than we do.  Some newslippings about Thomas Fitzgerald shed a bit of light on that subject.
June 25, 1903 - Thomas Fitzgerald is still in a nurse's care at Shoshone, Ida., suffering from rheumatism.  His doctor tells a sister who has been to see him from Mountain Home, Ida., that he is in very bad shape." A month later - July 30, 1903-Thomas Fitzgerald arrived Tuesday from Shoshone, Idaho, on a visit to his family and to recuperate from an attack of rheumatism.  Tom is barely able to move around with the aid of a crutch and cane and his many friends in Price hope to see him out in a short time.

It is conjecture on my part, but when I read the deed to the Fitzgerald's final home and found that Minnie alone was the original purchaser, I wondered if the arthritis was so crippling that Thomas Fitzgerald was incapacitated more than history would tell us.   Besides  Mamma buying the house under her name, I looked more carefully at the photograph of the Fitzgerald family in Papa Married a Mormon.  Papa remains in a chair on the porch, was it a wheel chair,  or just a porch chair where he could sit and watch.  Lastly his daughter Isabelle's biography clarifys that his saloon closed because, "Utah went dry."  My conjecture is that J.D. didn't have to look much farther than his own dad to help create the convincing character of William Dennis Fitzgerald, saloon owner, cripple, civic pioneer.  (Again these are my thoughts)

Either way when Thomas Fitzgerald left this life the entire town of Price mourned his passing.  Dear friends from both "sides of the tracks" were pall bearers.  The church "Notre Dame de Lourdes" in Price was filled to capacity to bear the grief.


  1. Thank you for this blog! Good research and thanks so much for sharing!