Biography of Charles B. McCanna

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Dairying and the industries which are allied thereto have ever constituted an important source of the wealth and prosperity of Racine County, and among the most enterprising and progressive business men of the district are those who have turned to that line of labor as a source of their business development. One of the well known, successful and highly respected representatives of the business in Racine County was Charles B. McCanna, who became an influential citizen of Burlington and one whose activities constituted not only a source of individual success but. also constituted one of the strong elements in the advancement of public prosperity.

His life record covered the period from April 21, 1851, until December 11.. 1913. He was born and reared upon a farm in Jefferson County, New York, and, after mastering the branches of learning taught in the district schools, pursued a high school education and following his graduation engaged in teaching through five or six winters. The occupation to which he was reared, however, seemed to offer better opportunities and he took up the business of dairying and cheese making in Jefferson County, New York, conducting a cheese factory for two years. Attracted by the opportunities of the growing west, he came to Wisconsin in the spring of 1876 and after two months spent in Fond du Lac, removed to Allen Grove, Walworth County, where in partnership with T. P. Davis he purchased and operated a cheese factory. After two years he came to Racine County, settling in Rochester, and a year later removed to Springfield, Wisconsin, where he resided for several years. In 1887 he became identified with the interests of Burlington and there continued until his demise. Soon after his arrival he built and operated a large cheese factory and creamery, doing business under the name of the McCanna Cheese & Butter Manufacturing Company. He also became interested in a number of the leading factories of the surrounding country. In 1893 he joined R. C. Fraser, of Glasgow, Scotland. in forming the _McCanna & Fraser Company, and they took over the business which had formerly been conducted under the style of C. B. McCanna & Company. Their interests included eighteen or twenty creameries in Burlington and the surrounding country, which they operated very successfully, and they also purchased butter front several independent creameries, marketing their product in Philadelphia, where they maintained a large store. The excellence of their product insured a ready sale and the business grew to extensive and gratifying proportions. The utmost care was exercised as to the high quality of their product, and the business methods of the house, too, were such as conformed to the highest commercial standards.

Mr. McCanna’s partnership in that company constituted but one phase of his business activity, however, for in 1898, associated with R. O. Fraser and others, he organized the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company, one of the leading industries of the northwest, which developed a business of very extensive proportions and also established branch factories at Pecatonica and Grays Lake, Illinois, their business constantly developing until their output ranged from twelve to fifteen cars of condensed milk per week. Mr. McCanna was president of both the McCanna & Fraser Company and the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company, with his son, Charles Roy, as secretary. Something of the volume of their business is indicated in the fact that they employed from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty people. Not only did they have the original plant established in Burlington but also built another in 1901-2. Mr. McCanna displayed marked executive ability in controlling his interests and at all times his course was characterized by an indefatigable energy that brought splendid results, making him one of the foremost business men of his section. In addition to his interests in connection with the creamery and cheese manufacturing business he became the president of the Burlington Land & Improvement Association; president of the Burlington Brass Works; president of the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Refrigerator Car Company; was one of the organizers of the Farmers & Merchants Bank at Pecatonica, Illinois, and served as president until his death; and likewise served as president of the Bank of Burlington from October 1, 1906, until his death. He erected the beautiful bank building at the corner of Pine and Chestnut streets, a building that is a great credit to Burlington and a lasting monument to his memory. All of these institutions profited by his co-operation, sound judgment and wise management. He was much interested in later life in the raising and breeding of pure-bred Holstein cattle and hogs and was the owner of the well known Edgewood Stock Farm at Burlington.

In September, 1879, occurred the marriage of Mr. McCanna and Miss Pauline Cheeseman, native of this County and a daughter of Edward and Eliza (Johnson) Cheeseman, who came from England and settled in Racine County during the pioneer period in its development. Mr. and Mrs. McCanna had but one child, Charles Roy, who became the active and valued assistant of his father in business and is now president of the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company and also president of the McCanna & Fraser Company:

Mr. McCanna was a communicant of the Catholic faith and to the church his family belongs. He was also identified with the Knights of Columbus but politically maintained an independent course, having preferred to exercise his right of franchise in support of the candidates whom he regarded as best qualified for office. He was also a member of the Chicago Athletic Club. He never sought political preferment but was officially connected with the schools as a member of the Burlington board of education and was active during the erection of the Burlington high school. He served as the first president of the board of the County Agricultural School at Rochester, was an untiring worker in securing its erection in this part of the County and served as a member of the board of trustees until his death. He was much interested in the Burlington Business Men’s Association and especially in the younger members of the organization. In an unostentatious way he was a most liberal giver and the needy never appealed to hint in vain. His fellow townsmen spoke of him in terms of high regard, recognizing his ability and enterprise in business, his fidelity in citizenship and his loyalty to the ties of home and friendship. Wherever known. he was highly esteemed and most of all where he was best known, and his death, which occurred December 11. 1913, was the occasion of deep and widespread regret. Burlington could ill afford to lose a man like Mr. McCanna. He was foremost in all movements that tended to make a bigger and better city and his memory will ever be cherished by all who knew him.




MLA Source Citation:

Racine County Wisconsin History: Racine Belle City of the lakes and Racine County Wisconsin a record of settlement organization progress and achievement. SJ Clarke Pub Co. Chicago. 1916. 1216 pgs. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 18 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/wisconsin/biography-of-charles-b-mccanna.htm - Last updated on Aug 12th, 2012


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