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On our little clan of McNarys
- James E. McNary 1-1-2005

I am a fifth-generation Missourian. On my father's side I come from a family of Border-Staters. When the War Between the States broke out, the part of the McNary family I come from was residing in Kentucky, with relatives in Ohio, after coming out of Pennsylvania. My paternal grandmother's people, the Weavers, were in Indiana.

We don't know much about my mother's side of my family up to this point, my maternal grandmother's family, the Gillens, were potato-famine Irish; they were in northwest Missouri prior to the war (where outside Kearney my great-great-grandfather was a schoolmate of two young men named Frank and Jesse James) and wound up in Iowa afterwards, eventually moving to Dinuba, California, where they owned City Transfer Co, later known as Gillen Bros. My paternal grandfather's people, the Angells, wound up in Florida, and later upstate New York.

On the McNary side, family tradition states that my grandmother's family fought for the north, my grandfather's for the South. While we haven't found records of one of our McNarys in official Confederate service, we do know my grandmother's great-uncle Thomas Weaver was an ambulance driver for a unit of Indiana infantry, and he didn't care whose side you were on, if you tried to take his mules "he was gonna shoot ya."

At the close of the war, about 1891, my great-great-grandfather, James Alexander "James Alec," and his wife Sarah "Sadie" (Crane) McNary, moved to Kingston, Missouri, in Caldwell County, northeast of what became Kansas City. My grandmother's family moved to Breckenridge, Missouri, also in Caldwell County, after having been in Northwest Missouri since the 1850s. This was on the edge of the part of Missouri known as "Little Dixie."

Many other McNary families later moved to Oregon, where one of their number, Charles L. McNary, became a U.S. Congressman. Several schools in Oregon were named McNary, even a dam on the Columbia River (which gave rise the saying, "In Oregon there's a McNary Dam, but in Missouri there's just damn McNarys").

For some reason, our small band of McNarys arrived in Missouri later than the Oregon group, and later still than an earlier, larger group that came from Iowa. Most McNarys in Missouri are descended from this group. We are distant cousins to this group, the split from common ancestry most likely dating to the late 1700s or early 1800s.

James Alec McNary moved on to Chanute, Kansas, around 1910 and lived there until around 1940, where he is buried. My great-grandfather Robert Chesley "R.C." McNary also moved to Chanute, but shortly thereafter he and several others were convinced to move back to Caldwell County, Missouri, by a relative. While residing outside Mirabile, my grandfather Ralph Edward "Mac" McNary was born in 1921, the youngest child of R.C. and his wife Nettie (Scott) McNary. They later moved to outside Breckenridge, where my grandfather met and later married my grandmother, Nancy (Weaver) McNary, oldest child of Ross Tuggle "Teddy" Weaver and Nettie (Harlow) Weaver.

My grandfather finished the ninth grade, after which he ran away from home. He went got work digging post holes out West for an electric utility at $1 a day. He returned to Northwest Missouri about 1938 to help his father farm. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in summer of 1941, and was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He served out the rest of World War II in the Pacific. He was on the USS Northampton when it escorted the carrier group carrying the Doolittle Raiders, and at the Battle of the Coral Sea. He attained the rank of Senior Chief Gunner's Mate, the highest enlisted rank at the time (GMC E-7) before he was 25. [Note: Before 1960, E-7 was the highest enlisted rank in the United States Armed Forces. When the ranks E-8/E-9 were created, Grandpa Mac was serving as an NROTC instructor at Northwestern University in Chicago. Already scheduled for retirement, he was offered promotion to E-9, but it would have required an additional 18 months of service. You can imagine what my granddad said about that. He was raised to E-8 in retirement)]. Mac spent a a total of 20 years in naval service, including most of four years as a specialist on loan to the Brazilian government in Rio de Janeiro and a trip to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd aboard the USS Glacier. He never aspired to become an officer, saying, "At that point the lobotomy becomes complete."

Retiring from the navy in 1961, Mac returned Missouri, again to farm with R.C. outside the town of Hamilton. At one point he ran for county sheriff. After R.C.'s death in the 1970s, Mac and his children expanded the family farm to a 2000 acre operation and owned two RadioShack franchises (as M&P Electronics), in Cameron and Chillicothe. After enduring several years of a poor farm economy, McNary Farms finally succumbed to the farm crisis in 1988. M&P Electronics had closed earlier, and Ralph McNary died in 1990 after having moved to southwest Missouri to be near one of his sons.

That son was my father, Robert L. "Bob" McNary. Born in late 1958, the youngest child of Ralph and Nancy, my father moved to southwest Missouri after graduating from the University of Missouri. He and my mother, Mary (Angell) McNary met in college. His brother had become manager of the farm, his father managed the RadioShacks. Robert became a school teacher, planning to move back to Hamilton as soon as the farm could support his family as well. But in 1988 that became impossible. For 22 years, he was the  advisor of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at Jasper High School, instructing more than 2000 students over the course of his career, several of which also decided to become agriculture instructors.

In the spring of 2003, in honor of having two 2002 national finalists in National FFA competitions and a state officer from the Jasper Chapter for the first time in 14 years, as well has having become the executive treasurer of the Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association (MVATA), the Jasper County R-5 Board of Education, in their infinite wisdom, made some decisions that I still don't agree with. At an impasse, Bob decided it was time to move on.

Later in 2003, Bob became the 4-H Youth Specialist for Barton, Cedar and Jasper counties in Missouri, based in the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage, for the University of Missouri Extension Service.

As for my brothers and I, we started our version of McNary Bros. in 1995. When we moved to a farm near Dudenville in 1997, we expanded in all kinds of directions, considering we started off in lawn care. Right now, things are on hold until we can get freed of "educational obligations". Once that happens we're not sure what we're gonna do, but by that point in time, Joe and I should have an answer for what exactly Dudenville Ventures is.

About These McNarys
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Go To: McNary Brothers Contract Services Operations
“The McNary Brothers Company” refers to James E. McNary d/b/a “The McNary Brothers Company”  d/b/a  “Dudenville Ventures (Gazette) Co.,”  and “McNary Bros. Contract Services Operations”

“The McNary Brothers Company” refers to Joseph C. McNary d/b/a “The McNary Brothers Company” d/b/a “Dudenville Ventures Co.” and “McNary Bros. Contract Service Operations”