John and Anna Fitzgibbon
A teenaged girl and her
brother, Anna and John Fitzgibbon, living at 2954
Michigan Ave. in Chicago, died at the Iroquois
Their classmates from Notre Dame and Saint Mary of
the Woods academy in Terre Haute, IN attended their funeral. That is the total of
what was said about these young people at the time
of their deaths and, despite wearing out the web,
I've been unable to learn much more. About their
parents, however, I found rather a lot (not photos,
John and Anna were the oldest son and daughter of
Annie Cunnea Fitzgibbon (c.1851-1927) and the late
John J. Fitzgibbon Sr. (1836-1892).
Notre Dame University and Saint
Mary of the Woods Academy
John Joseph Fitzgibbon Jr. (b.1885) was in his
second year at Notre Dame University, having
matriculated in 1901 at age sixteen. His sister, Anna G.
Fitzgibbon (b. 1887), attended boarding school at
Saint Mary of the Woods academy in Terre Haute.
Grieving with Annie were her surviving three
children: James C. Fitzgibbon (1889-), Gerald A.
Fitzgibbons (1888-) and Coaina J. Fitzgibbon
Annie may have adopted Coaina, sometime between 1901
and 1910. Though eight years old, Coaina did not live
with the Fitzgibbon family in 1900 and in that
year's census Annie reported having only four children,
all living. After 1910 Coaina was living with the
family and in the 1910 & 1920 census Annie reported
having had five children, of which three survived.
Verifying Coaina's name took some effort because
census worker handwriting in 1910 made it look like
Colina but subsequent census reports, as well as her
passport, show it as Coaina. Still, it is an unusual
name so I dug a little deeper, first finding a bit
of evidence that I'm probably not the only person
who is not familiar with the name: only seven people in
the U.S. are named Coaina presently. More
interesting is that in 1867 a novelist, Anna Hanson
Dorsey (1815-1896), who specialized in
Catholic-themed fiction, gave the uncommon name
Coaina to a character in one of her best known
books, "Coaina, the Rose of the Algonquins." The
novel told the story of a pretty Algonquin maiden
living in a Catholic community near Montreal who
chose to marry God rather than a mortal man. As a
recipient of Notre Dame's annual Lætare medal in
1889, Dorsey's work was likely familiar to Annie
Fitzgibbon, who had attended St. Mary's Academy. I
wonder if Coaina was given her name by her birth
parents or by her adopted mother, and if she was
given the name because she was a native American or
as a homage to a favorite fictional character.
Whatever her parentage, Coaina lived a long life.
She published a book in 1927, "The Influence of
Donatello on Florentine Painting of the Fifteenth
Century," traveled to Europe several times and died
in San Sebastian, Spain at age eighty-nine. No evidence of a
marriage or children.
Annie married Irish immigrant, John Joseph
Fitzgibbon Sr. in 1884. John graduated from college,
tried his hand at teaching, then went into business
and became prosperous. From a family of little
means, immigrating to America in 1867, John
Fitzgibbon Sr. worked to pay for his 1859-1862
education at Notre Dame University, graduating in
1862. It is not known if he fought in the civil war.
He taught school for a time at St. Mary’s Academy.
He then became a traveling salesman for a wholesale
liquor distributor and in 1879 joined four others to
form the Chicago Distillery company, which was very
successful. John married Annie the following year.
In 1884, to Annie’s relief (she
had temperance views), he retired from the
distillery. In 1887 he sold his shares (as a protest
against his partners’ action to enter the business
into a trust) and used the money to invest in the
Calumet National Bank in South Chicago -- that Annie
and her brother, John Cunnea, had just purchased.
Fitzgibbon was active in
a variety of Irish organizations, including Fenian,
and was a lifelong book lover.
Annie takes hold
In the decade between her
husband’s death and 1903, Annie was busy raising
their five children and tending to their assets. In
1902 she purchased a three-story brownstone for her
family at 2954 Michigan Avenue (for $20,000,
comparable to half a million today). The home was
previously owned by
Joseph Austrian, possibly built
by Dr. J. S. Mitchell. After the deaths of John and
Anna, the challenge of managing her banking assets
gave purpose to Annie’s life that helped relieve her
Annie the Feminist. Sort
Banking was the Cunnea
family business and Annie’s involvement in banking
persisted through marriage, childbirth and
widowhood. Nevertheless, in 1902 Annie expressed the
opinion that women should not work outside the home.
(Or vote. Annie said women would probably vote just
like men so their votes were not needed. An
Illinois native, Annie was one of eight children
born to Irish immigrants. Her father, James Cunnea
(sometimes called John), founded the First National
bank in Morris, Illinois. Upon his death, her
brother, John Cunnea, became that bank's president,
a role he also assumed for the Calumet National bank
upon the death of John J. Fitzgibbon Sr. Annie's
brothers were also Notre Dame graduates.
When not studying bank stocks and mortgages, or
raising her children, Annie (sometimes going by Mrs.
J. J. Fitzgibbon or Mrs. A. Fitzgibbon), played
euchre with a group of women in the Catholic Women’s
League and helped with various church sponsored
The 1929 stock market crash destroyed the Calumet
bank but Annie and her siblings had sold their
interests in 1919 for $85,000.
The Fitzgibbon family burial plot is in the Cavalry
cemetery in Evanston, IL. John and Anna's
bodies were identified by a G. J. McCambridge, relationship unknown.
While learning about the Fitzgibbon family I was
struck by the number of ways in which their paths
may have crisscrossed those of the family of
Iroquois theater manager
Will J. Davis. Will Davis’
Jessie Bartlett Davis, grew up in a large
family in Morris Illinois, as did Annie Cunnea
Fitzgibbon (albeit in a more prosperous family).
Will Davis' lifelong friend, a fellow Elkhart, IN
boy, Orville Chamberlain, graduated from Notre Dame
the same year as John J. Fitzgibbon Sr., 1862. Will
Davis and John J. Fitzgibbon both collected books
and counted several Catholic priests as friends.
Jessie Bartlett Davis contributed financially to St.
Mary’s Academy, attended by Annie
Fitzgibbon. There were differences too. While the Bartletts were singing, and Davis was putting on
shows, the Cunneas and Fitzgibbons were getting
degrees and opening banks.
In an newspaper interview Annie referred to her son
by his middle name, Joseph. In a family with two
John Josephs and two Annas, one of the John's was
called Joseph and one of the Annas was called Annie
The name Fitzgibbon is frequently spelled
Fitzgibbons but I think this family spelled their
name without the s.