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Erie Cemetery History Project

Francis McMahon (1866-1924)

An obituary in the August 29, 1924, edition of the Erie Independent, attached below, describes the life and accidental death of Francis McMahon, an Erie area farmer. But the obituary failed to mention a special survivor of Mr. McMahon -- a collie dog named Shep.

When Mr. McMahon was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony's Hospital in Rock Island, his young dog was allowed to ride along. At the door to the hospital, the dog could follow his master no farther, and Mr. McMahon told Shep to "wait." And that the dog did... for 13 years. Mr. McMahon died after surgery, and his remains were removed out a back door and returned to Erie. At the front of the hospital, Shep waited faithfully. Hours turned to days and days to months. Nurses at the hospital kept him fed and watered and helped make him comfortable.

As Shep's vigil continued, his story was shared in newspapers throughout the country and even drew the attentions of Robert Ripley of "Believe It or Not" fame. He became a well-known example of "man's best friend."

After 13 years of waiting for his master's return, Shep was hit by a car near the door he had guarded. At the time of his death, it was said that he would be buried next to his master. Although there are no records for any animal burials at Erie Cemetery, there is an unidentified burial listed as "child grave" next to the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Francis McMahon.

August 29, 1924

A Fatal Accident

Happened Saturday Night to
Francis McMahon

Last Saturday night Francis McMahon, well known farmer residing in the East Sandridge district, met with an accident, his health resulting from the injuries received. He was leaning against or sitting on an iron railing in front of the basement entrance to the Hotel Robert Lee on the Main street side of the hotel, when he lost his balance and fell in the areaway a distance of about nine feet.

He was found there about nine o'clock by Bert Byam who with assistance had him removed upstairs into thc hotel and Dr. LaRue was called. The physician found both wrists fractured, a couple of ribs broken and some other cuts and bruises. The injuries were attended to and his family was notified. Friends cared for him during thc night. Sunday morning he complained of severe pains in his abdomen and Dr. LaRue advised that he be taken to the hospital An ambulance was procured and Mr. McMahon was taken St. Anthony's hospital at Rock Island. An operation was preformed but he failed to rally from the effect and passed away about 3 o'clock Monday morning.

The remains were brought to Erie and taken to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Byam. The funeral services were held Wednesday morning from the Catholic church and the remains were laid at rest in the Erie cemetery.

Francis McMahon was born in Fulton fifty-eight years ago and was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis McMahon. His childhood was spent in and around Fulton. In October, 1899, he was united in marriage to Miss Margaret McGowan, of Fulton. A few years later, the young couple moved to Erie, where Mr. McMahon engaged in farming. To this union were born three sons, Charles, Austin and Leon, and three daughters, Genevieve, Marjorie and Vivian, who, with his wife, survive. There are also one brother, Charles McMahon of Fulton, and four sisters, Mrs. A.J. McDonald of Portland, Ore., Mrs. Austin Bell of Rock Island, Mrs. Ellen Oakes of Clinton and Mrs. Howard Snyder of Fulton, who mourn his passing. Mr. McMahon was a hard working, industrious man who made friends wherever he went and all regret to learn of his untimely death.

(From the Erie Independent, census records, correspondence and oral traditions.)