Harry Curry’s father, William, was a boy of fourteen when he left Ireland in 1840. He worked in Wilkinsburg and Greensburg, earning enough money to buy some land outside of New Castle on which he set up a farm and raised a family. Harry was his third son.
In August 1899, when Harry was nineteen, the congregation of the Mountville U P church in Perry township, east of New Castle, were listening to a lecture from a visiting doctor of theology when they were disturbed by the sound of fighting and heard a loud slam as someone was thrown against the side of the building. They went outside and saw Harry Curry and his three brothers brawling with Jesse Burnsides.
Jesse Burnsides’ sister, Ella, a frail, feeble-minded girl, had been sent to work on the Curry farm. She became pregnant shortly after. She claimed that the father of her child was Ross Smiley, a young man who lived with his widowed mother in Perry. He denied any connection with her. In court, she admitted that the child’s father was William Curry—Harry’s father—who had promised her a good home if she would charge Ross Smiley with the crime, saying that he did not want to become a scandal in the area. The fight between William’s sons and Ella’s brother had arisen from the affair.
The Curry brothers were found guilty of riot, affray and disturbing a public meeting. They were released after agreeing to pay the costs of the trial.
When William died in 1911, his illegitimate daughter was twelve years old. There is no further record of her life.
Harry and his brothers sold the farm for around $2,000 each. Harry moved to New Castle and gave his money to the most respectable attorney in town, Edward T Kurtz, to invest on his behalf. Kurtz took the money, along with money he had been entrusted with by dozens of other New Castle families, and invested it in high-risk irrigation and oil projects out west, all of which failed. Kurtz fled the city to avoid arrest and was never heard of again.
Harry’s money was all gone. He signed on at the Shenango tin mill, as if he were just another of the thousands of new immigrants that were arriving in the county to work in the factories. When he appeared in court in 1935 to be fined on a charge of driving while intoxicated—six years after his wife, Lucy, had filed divorce papers at the same court, charging that he had called her vile names and otherwise abused her—he would have passed the impressive wreck of Edward T Kurtz’s mansion, across the road from the court house, which had been taken over by the county for delinquent taxes and ransacked by pillagers who tore out the sinks, baseboards and chandeliers and broke all the windows. It stood on its prominent location, overlooking the city, until it was torn down in 1948.
Harry died of a heart attack in 1950, at the age of seventy-one.Sources: New Castle News (7 December 1898, “In Court”; 13 September 1899, “Joseph Beard is Cleared”; 20 September 1899, “Possum Hollow Case In Court”; 13 December 1899, “Ross Smiley Was Acquitted”; 27 April 1911, “Deaths Of The Day”; 23 March 1914, “Portersville”; 11 February 1916, “Supreme Court Opinion Received”; 8 March 1916, “E T Kurtz Indicted By Grand Jury”; 17 October 1929; “Cruelty Charged In Divorce Case”; 16 June 1945, “Deaths Of The Day”; 22 May 1948, “County To Raze Old Early Home”; 25 October 1950, “Deaths Of The Day”).
Really impressive research and a fascinating story Diarmid. Really great to read.
Thanks Katherine! I enjoy researching the ones that end up as sort of family histories…