Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More About Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company Who Owned an Estate in Pelham Manor

On Friday, December 23, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "The Pelham Manor Residence of Martin J. Condon of the American Snuff Company". In it, I detailed a little about the life of one of the nation's most famous financiers and industrialists of the 19th century who once owned a mansion in the Village of Pelham Manor that rivalled the finest palatial residences in the nation. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide additional detail about Martin J. Condon.

Condon served as the first Catholic mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee according to an article about his life by Jack Neely that appeared in "Metro Pulse Online". See Neely, Jack, Metro Pulse Online Secret History: Pooh Bah Go Bragh - The Career of Knoxville's First Irish Catholic Mayor, Vol. 11, No. 11 (Mar. 15, 2001) (available at http://www.metropulse.com/dir_zine/dir_2001/1111/t_secret.html ). According to that article:

"Martin Condon's parents were John and Bridget Condon, who migrated from County Clare to Tennessee, where John got work as a stonemason for the railroad. After the war, older sons Michael and Stephen formed a wholesale grocery, Condon Brothers on Gay Street. Young Martin worked for them as a clerk. They were a politically active family; in the early 1880s, both the older brothers, michael and Stephen, were elected city aldermen.

First known here as the pitcher on the baseball team, Martin showed some independence from his Republican older brother, Michael, by calling himself a Democrat. By the time he was 27, the papers were calling him an 'Irish-American statesman,' a member of several boards, including the City Charter Committee, the School Board; he also served as a 'colonel' on Gov. Bob Taylor's staff.

He married Margaret McMillan, daughter of an old Knoxville family, who converted to Catholicism. They'd eventually have at least three kids, two boys and a girl. They settled on East Fourth, on the more affluent side of old Irish Town.

In a closed-door meeting just after Christmas, 1887, Martin Condon -- barely 30 years old -- was picked to be the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Knoxville."

He reportedly was elected by a landslide -- 2,229 to 1,304. He entered office as a reformist, reportedly "cleaning up the messy account books". Neely wrote that "He and his friend and sometime baseball teammate, William Hunt, bought the Garret Company, a chewing tobacco business in Philadelphia. With five years, Condon and Hunt parlayed it into the biggest chewing-tobacco company in America, controlling 97 percent of the market. They dominated the market until their Memphis-based American Snuff Co. was broken up by Teddy Roosevelt's trustbusting."

The article further notes that Condon "lived for a time in New York, pursuing interests in a Fifth Avenue jewelry store" and in Nashville, Tennessee "where around 1900 he helped establish a Paulist Chapel, served by a school run by Dominican nuns" and also in Memphis.