MCGINTY CLUB. The McGinty Club was a men's fun-making group that also contributed to civic development in the bustling frontier town of El Paso in the "wonderful nineties." Almost every historian of El Paso in that era has dealt favorably with it. A convivial group of El Paso men loved to gather at the assay office of Dan Reckhardt and O. T. Heckleman on San Francisco Street. Between them, "Reck and Heck" owned a guitar and a mandolin. The crowd joined them in singing songs of the day, the most popular being "Down Went McGinty."
One evening in 1889 found the gang singing and planning a desert picnic east of town. One member, "Peg" Grandover (so called because of his peg leg) was a painter, especially adept at painting signs. On the morning of the picnic, Peg showed up at the assay office, driving a buckboard adorned with signs reading "barbecued burro meat," "ice water" and, most important, "Hunting for McGinty." This was in answer to the expected question, "Where are you going?" and referred to a well-remembered phrase of the McGinty song, "Down went McGinty to the bottom of the sea. He must be very wet, for they haven't found him yet."
From this beginning, the McGinty Club soon sprang into full being. Reckhardt, a hearty 300-pounder who had been an oarsman at Columbia in his college years, was the only president the club ever had. Peg Grandover was involved in everything the club did. Without any firm rules and with a constitution that was largely a joke (it stated the club's purpose as "to put down liquor"), it nevertheless drew to its membership lawyers, three mayors, three prominent bankers, several judges, the manager of Myar's Opera House, a tax assessor, two physicians, and "almost everybody who was anybody." The club had more than 300 members. It named as its "poet liar-ate" the poet–scout Capt. Jack Crawford, whose daughter later became Mrs. Dan Reckhardt.
The club enlisted the aid of the bandmaster from Fort Bliss, and throughout the 1890s the McGinty marching band was a part of almost every civic endeavor. The club established "Fort McGinty" on a hill near the downtown area; its booming cannon would wake the town for the next big civic event. Long before El Paso dreamed of a chamber of commerce, the McGinty Club was the town's chief booster organization. The projects were endless. Among them were bicycle races made famous by the appearance of Miss Annie Londonderry, who had just completed a world tour by bicycle; the appearance of such theatrical lights as Edwin Booth, Lawrence Barrett, and Madame Luisa Tetrazzini at Myar's Opera House (Reckhardt bought two seats, both for himself, with the partition removed); the hometown baseball club, the El Paso Browns; a United States Department of Agriculture experiment that used explosives in a valiant attempt to produce rain; a world's heavyweight championship boxing match; a reception for President Benjamin Harrison; a major railroad convention for the proposed White Oaks Railroad; and the volunteer fire department. The McGinty Club was never formally disorganized. It simply died out with the coming of a new and more sophisticated century. By the end of 1902 it was a glorious but fading memory.
Conrey Bryson, Down Went McGinty: El Paso in the Wonderful Nineties (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1977). C. L. Sonnichsen, Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande (2 vols., El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968, 1980). W. H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on November 1, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.