For more than a decade, and through the war years, the McNeary family had been running a grocery store on Spruce. James McNeary had started the business, most likely with the help of his wife. As their sons grew older, they began to take on some of the responsibilities and duties involved in running the store, a process that almost certainly accelerated upon the death of their father. Thomas, John, and William were all listed in the city directories, in 1867 and 1870, as working at the store, and all of the McNeary brothers were still living at home with their mother.iii The family, living and working together, had forged a stable life in the face of the perils of immigrating to a new country and the divisions of war.
The year of 1871 marked the first major change in the life of the McNeary family since the death of James. That year, the family moved from Spruce, where they had lived for twenty-five years, to the corner of Olive and Garrison. A new grocery store was opened at 3001 Olive and was called Thomas McNeary & Bro.iv This move – from Spruce to Olive – put Thomas McNeary on a path that led to his involvement in baseball.
Over the next decade, the McNeary family situation remained stable, with the brothers running the store and everyone living together at 3001 Olive.v The only major changes in the documented life of the family is that they expanded their business interests to include the operation of several saloons and the running of one baseball club. Again, it is important to stress the closeness of the McNeary family. The brothers lived with their mother, at Olive and Garrison, until her death in 1885. After that, it appears that they continued to live together into the 1890s. They had several joint business ventures and seem to have worked together in the running of these ventures. While Thomas McNeary was the nominal head of the family and had his name on the grocery store, his brothers were all involved in the running of the store, the saloons, and even the baseball club. It was not Thomas McNeary, alone, who was running these ventures but, rather, the McNeary family, working and living together.
In 1873, the McNeary's opened their first saloon. While the 1873 city directory notes that this was located at the same location as the grocery store (the corner of Olive and Garrison), the 1874 directory lists the family operating the grocery store out of 3001 and 3003 Olive and the saloon out of 403 Garrison.vi It seems likely that, after moving the grocery store to 3001 Olive in 1871, they expanded to 3003 Olive and then opened a saloon around the corner from where they lived and ran the store. The exact layout of these buildings is unknown but it appears that the McNeary's had done well for themselves in their move from Spruce to Olive and had physically expanded their business interests to take up the entire corner of Olive and Garrison.
While the business interests of the McNeary brothers would expand again in the next decade to most notably include the ownership and operation of Uhrig's Cave, a popular St. Louis entertainment spot in the late 19th century, it is the saloon on Garrison that appears relevant to Thomas McNeary's involvement with the Red Stockings. The corner of Olive and Garrison, where the McNeary family lived, worked, and operated their saloon, was located less than a mile north of one of the major baseball grounds in St. Louis, the Veto Grounds, which were also known as the old Jackson Grounds. Located just south of St. Louis University, on Compton Avenue, baseball had been played at the Veto Grounds since at least 1865vii and some of the most prominent clubs in the city, including both the Empire and Unions Clubs, played games there.viii
i 1867 St. Louis City Directory, p 546.
ii 1870 Edward's Annual Directory, p 249.
iii 1867 and 1870 directories.
iv Edward's Thirteenth Annual Directory, p 434.
v 1872 Edward's Directory; 1873-1875 Gould's Directory; 1876 Missouri State Gazetteer and Business Directory; 1879-1880 Gould's; 1882 Gould's.
vi 1873 Gould's, p 548; 1874 Gould's, p 1030.
vii St. Louis Daily Press, June 21, 1865.
viii Missouri Republican, July 3, 1867 (among many other games).