Cass County

P. H. McGarry

In the rapid development of the Northwest new words have been added to the English language and old words have been given a new meaning, making them practically new. As a rule they express tersely characteristics, conditions, and results peculiar to the region, and have become current among the people because the ideas could not be expressed so forcibly by any other terms. At first these words were regarded as "slang." Common use, however, compelled their recognition as something necessary, and they gradually lost the opprobrium of "slang" and gained a foothold in the dictionary as "colloquial." Some have finally been admitted into the society of respectable words without being tagged in any doubtful manner, and they will remain to do a service which no other term could perform. One of these words is "hustler," meaning a person of intense energy, enterprise and industry. The Northwest needed just such men, and ''hustler" was needed to describe them, for there was no other word which combined the characteristics peculiar to the class. Hustlers are venturesome, sometimes to rashness; hopeful to a degree bordering on the visionary, and courageous to the point of foolhardiness, at times, but without them the progressive, bustling, thriving Northwest could not have been. All honor to the "hustlers." If there were more of them the world would be better.

The subject of this sketch, P. H. McGarry, of Walker, Cass county, Minn., is fairly typical of this western ozone of energy. He was born at Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1860. He received an academic education and developed literary and even poetic gifts which might have made their mark in the field of letters, had not almost abnormal activity given a trend in other directions. Instead of going through the tentative process, common to young men searching for a business, be leaped at once, by one bound, as it were, into active business life, for at eighteen years of age he took charge of a hotel at Stanton, Mich. That he was successful is evident from the fact that he was appointed postmaster of the town in 1884, although only twenty-four years old. He also built two hotels in Stanton. One, the "Grand Central," was of brick, with the woodwork finished in hard wood. It cost $20,000. He finally resigned his position as postmaster and moved to Chicago. It seemed as if that city was too nearly finished to suit him, for he moved to Rhinelander, Wis., and again back to Michigan and settled in the new town of Ewen, where he erected a number of substantial buildings which are even yet the pride of the town. From Ewen he went to Ironwood, Mich., and there built four brick stores. He next went to Grand Rapids, Minn., where he erected a brick block and managed the old hotel Pokegama. When the wonderful iron ore banks of the Mesaba range were discovered and public interest rose to a high pitch, Mr. McGarry was attracted thither. He went to the town of Merritt, and with his usual dash he built the Merritt hotel. Then he went to the town of Virginia, and in thirty-one days put up the Virginia hotel, a hostelry large enough to accommodate one hundred and fifty guests. From there he went to Biwabik and built the Edna hotel. Returning to Virginia, he erected a large business block, which, however, was destroyed by the great forest fire which raged so furiously there a few years ago. The hotel was also swept away. His indomitable spirit is shown by the fact that before the ashes were fairly cooled he had a force at work on a new structure. Nothing seems to discourage or daunt him; no obstacle can thwart him; his dictionary does not contain the word "fail." In fact it seems to have but one word, and that is "Hustle."

While conducting the Virginia hotel he visited Minneapolis, and formed what is now the Leech Lake Land company. Mr. McGarry was appointed general manager, and went to Walker, where he still resides, to take charge of the enterprise. When the village was organized the people elected Mr. McGarry president. He has been at work with his characteristic "push," to use one of the new western words. He erected a handsome brick block, which is now used as the court house, for the town was made the county seat. He also built a fine hotel, the "Pameda," which is a model of convenience and one of the best appointed houses in the northern part of the state. When the organization of Cass county was pending in the legislature the bill was defeated in the senate. Mr. McGarry "snatched it from oblivion," it may be said, and finally succeeded in having it made a law. Mr. McGarry's migrations, so numerous that the record reads almost like an itinerary, were not due to mere inane restlessness. There were in them purpose and method which brought forth such substantial results that the towns favored by his operations will long have cause to rejoice in the visit of the "hustler," P. H. McGarry, whose name must ever be identified with their growth and prosperity, and whose architectural mementoes will long continue to be an inspiration to the faint-hearted.

Contributed 26 Jul 2022 by Norma Hass, extracted from History of the Great Northwest and Its Men of Progress, published in 1901, pages 105-106.

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