Outside Looking In
One of my favorite things to write about is when it involves local history that many people are unfamiliar with, making those stories even more interesting.
A lot of these lesser-known stories are discovered when I am working on the 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago articles for the Mascot. When I find something of interest, I challenge myself to find out as much about the subject as I can within a short period of time. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes not. If not, I move on to another topic.
I came across such a story in a 1902 Mascot about one of the busiest businesses in town during the Christmas holiday that year. You would assume it would be a grocery or clothing store, but it turns out this was a cigar store.
An Irish immigrant by the name of James McGinn, who served as Minneota postmaster here from 1895-1897, lived on a farm in Westerheim Township that was later owned by the late Louis Buysse, who passed away in March of 2019.
McGinn, who once served on the Woodrow Wilson administration, moved into town in 1892 and five years later decided to establish a cigar factory on main street near where the post office is now on First Street.
Before moving to this area, McGinn had previously worked at a cigar factory in New York and was familiar with the operations.
In a December, 1902 article in the Mascot, "The McGinn Cigar Factory is one of the busiest places in town during this time. Five weed rollers are kept constantly at work and some very 'delicious' articles are being prepared for the Christmas trade. The little fancy Tom Watts boxes will make a very acceptable present for a man who enjoys and appreciates a good smoke. If your wife prepares turkey dinner and some friend remembers you with a box of Tom Watts cigars, it will be your fault if you don't have a Merry Christmas."
The cigars sold for five cents apiece. McGinn named his various cigars "The Mascot", "American Queen", "Modern Woodman", and "Ole Olson".
The better brand of cigars sold for 10 cents apiece and were called "The Octavia".
The cigar factory employed four people, including James' brother Arthur. The business was termed "the most up-to-date institution of its kind in southern Minnesota.
There was a room in the back of the store where the cigars were made. The front of the store had all the cigars displayed and McGinn would have sample sized cigars for men to try. McGinn's goal, it was noted, was to have every many in town smoking his cigars.
Apparently, his goal wasn't met as McGinn closed the business in 1908 and sold it to a group that turned it into real estate and insurance partnership.
McGinn's son, James McGinn Jr., was the first commander of the Minneota American Legion Post 199.
McGinn Sr. died on Feb. 11, 1920 and is buried in the St. Edward's Cemetery east of town.