James Joseph McCann was born in Dublin, Ireland June 24th 1826. He was predestined to be closely associated with calamity. Three weeks before he was born, his father fell into an open well and drowned while riding a horse through the country side. His mother died about a week after he was born, leaving James and his older brothers John and Owen orphans in the world. They were reared by their aunt Sarah, and according to the family history, John and Owen went and joined the British Army. At the age of 13 James ran away to follow after his brothers and at some later time all three met in Calcutta, India while serving in the Army.
Also according to family history, on the 25th of October 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava these three brothers stood side by side. With Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them they bore their arms and fought like men. While the Light Brigade made their famous bloody charge into the maws of death, James saw his two brothers cut down at his side by saber, while he himself was seriously wounded. But with the tender care of a young woman named Florence Nightingale, James was nursed back to health.
After James had served seven years in India, he was called back to England where Queen Victoria decorated him with three medals for his service to the crown. Upon his return to England he met young Eleanor (Ellen) Collin. After a ridiculously long courtship of three weeks the two were wed in the Church of England August 29th 1857. Nine months later their first child Katherine was born in London. Then later in the year of 1858 James was placed in the Guard of Honor to Prince Albert and sent to Quebec, Canada.
The one month voyage across the Atlantic discouraged Ellen from ever wanting to return to England, and James liked Canada well enough they were both persuaded to stay. They had four more children born to them while at Quebec; namely Mary, Elizabeth, James Jr. and Eleanor.
Sometime around 1868 the McCanns left Canada and moved to Bloomington, Illinois. There were more children born into the family; Anna and Theresa (Tressa) whose twin died in infancy. There was also another set of twins which James named after his fallen brothers, Jonny and Patrick Owen. The two boys seemed quite healthy, but at nine months old both were teething and feverish. It was suggested to the McCanns to take the boys to a doctor to have their gums lanced. They did so, and both babies slept on the way home. However, one little boy aroused from his sleep, smiled and then fell into an eternal slumber. The other baby followed within a week.
The family left Illinois and settled in Missouri where the oldest daughter Katherine met and married Hudson Benson. They had a little boy named Willie. When Willie was about a year and a half old the family was once again preparing to migrate, this time to Kansas. While at a friend’s house for a farewell dinner, Willie was missed at the table. A black worker of the friend’s discovered that Willie had fallen in an open well, just as his great-grandfather, excepting the horse.
The McCanns moved to Concordia, Kansas where their last child was born in 1878. From there they ended up moving to Denver, Colorado where James had a job with the railroad. After living in Denver for a few years the family moved back to Kansas and bought a farm four miles southwest of White City. It was always said that the McCanns moved there so that their daughters could marry Clarks Creek men, which they did. But what is James Joseph McCann’s significance to Morris County you ask. Well, James and Eleanor McCann were the first to live in the town of Latimer. They did not remain at Latimer for long. By 1892 all but two of the girls were married off and so the McCanns decided to sell the farm and move to Herington.
James McCann passed away December 14th 1909 at 83 years old. His wife of 52 years followed him December 9th 1929 being 90 years old. Although Eleanor was 13 years her husband’s junior, she outlived him by seven years. Both died at the home of their daughter Anna four miles southwest of White City, where it appears they were being cared for during their advanced years. The McCanns were both laid to rest at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Herington.