Title: Centenarian
Birthdate: October 10, 1829
Death Date: February 13, 1930
Plot Location: Section 41, Lot 24, northeast corner

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Mary Poynter’s family was created when William Poynter married Ann Savin in 1828. The only other family information available is that Olive was their oldest child and that they lived near Smyrna, Delaware. Mary’s obituary, shown here, says she moved north and never looked back after she married.

Joseph McClure was born the same year as Mary. He was the oldest son of a farm family from Chester County, Pennsylvania, but he never looked back after he became Mary’s husband. They joined their lives together at Ninth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1851.

His career was in the sale of iron and steel, and it took off just as the industry did in Pennsylvania. Although not on the manufacturing side like Andrew Carnegie, Joseph became quite wealthy in a short amount of time from the sale of various forms of iron. It was the “high tech” product of the era, replacing wood in the construction of bridges, ships, and office buildings. The expansion of railroad service across the country was literally built on iron.

Philadelphia was already home to saw and gun factories, naileries, and carriage makers, plus ship builders and the Baldwin Locomotive Works. By the 1870s there were 900 manufacturers of iron goods in the city, not counting nearly 250 blacksmiths. Joseph “rode the wave” as he sold iron, steel, and scrap iron. What he called himself changed over the years, from dealer and merchant to broker and contractor.

Sometime in the 1850s the couple bought their home at 2230 Green Street in the Spring Garden neighborhood. It was the same house where Mary died in 1930. Their first child, Walter, was born there in 1860. Their last child, Mabel, died there in 1955. The McClures joined their neighbors in starting the Spring Garden Methodist Episcopal Church in 1861. Joseph’s financial support helped build the sanctuary at 20th and Spring Garden Street. Although closed, it still stands today, as does his house.

Elmer was the second child, born in 1865, followed by Mabel in 1867. The family always had a domestic servant as well. Both boys became bookkeepers after completing their high school education. Mary completed a college degree.

Walter married in 1886 and had two children. One died in infancy and the other when she was 24 of spinal meningitis. Walter’s understanding of machinery led him into hosiery manufacturing. In the 1891 city directory he was living in Norristown, having formed W.P. McClure & Co. By the turn of the century he was president of National Automatic Knitter Company, splitting his time between New York and Philly. A 1915 passport application (with this handsome photo attached) revealed his plans for a trip to sell his knitting machinery in England and France.

Elmer remained at home and joined his father’s business which became known as J.H. McClure & Son. He also served from 1888-1892 in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Joseph died in 1899 from chronic prostatitis and had this monument erected in his plot. It would serve to mark the graves of his wife and children plus their spouses and Walter’s two children. 

Meanwhile, Elmer continued selling iron, retaining the company name in honor of his father. He married in 1911 but had no children. They lived in Trenton after the Great War where he was a scrap iron dealer, then lived for a time in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Mabel had no need to work as she and her mother lived off of Joseph’s estate. In the 1900 census she said she had a job as a public school teacher, but she returned to unemployment by the time of the next census. In 1920 she married James Mann, a surgeon, and they lived with her mother.

Mary celebrated 100 years of life with a party on October 10, 1929. When someone reaches such a milestone they are often asked about their secret to a long life. If Mary was asked, she probably would have attributed it to her faith, church friends, and her family. It was less than three weeks before the stock market crashed and the industrialized world spiraled downward into the Great Depression. As the winter dragged on, so did Mary’s battle with bronchitis. From that illness she died in February of 1930.

Mary had the joy of loving her two grandchildren, but also had the sadness of grieving their deaths. Fortunately, all three of her children were alive when she breathed her last. Elmer lost his wife sometime after Mary’s death, and he followed not long afterward, in 1938. Mabel inherited the house and remained there until her death. 

Unfortunately, Walter’s story did not have a happy ending. There were no divorce proceedings recorded, but he continued to live in Manhattan after about 1917 while his wife, Lizzie, stayed in Philadelphia. The 1930 and 1940 census shows she was living with Mabel and James Mann. Mabel lost James in 1941 so the two women shared 2230 Green Street until Mabel joined him here in 1955 at age 88. Walter died in New York and was buried here in 1950 at age 89. Lizzie’s burial in the McClure plot was in 1959 when she was 97.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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