By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
The Canning Tomb, also known locally as the Rock Tomb, is the largest known 19th century memorial in Texas County and is located near Licking.
Thomas M. Canning is buried within the structure and his wife, Catherine Skelly Roy, is buried next to the rock tomb. Catherine’s sister’s child is also buried to the side of the memorial. Several Skelly family members are buried in a cemetery on Highway 32, in Dent County, near Rhyse.
“The stone house over grandpa’s grave was built by Mr. Paddy Brummint, who lived near Bean Creek…. In the 1940s, lighting struck the tomb, tearing it completely down and Rev. A.B. Garrison of the Methodist Church raised funds and had it rebuilt. In the 1950s, it happened again and myself and Uncle Raymond and Aunt Francis built it back and have tried to care for it since. It is said that a beautiful white marble dove once sat on top of the eight-foot monument but some local boys shot it and destroyed it about 60-years ago,” wrote grandson Lee Roy Maxey in a July 14, 1983, article in The Licking News.
The white marble dove was replaced with another by grandson, Eugene Maxey in approximately 2008.
“Farewell dear friend, wipe off your tears. Here I lye till Christ appears; when Christ appears I hope to rise unto a life that never dies; to weep for me, alas is vain, we only part to meet in Heaven again.” – Inscription on the monument.
Thomas and Catherine immigrated to the U.S. and arrived in Texas County in 1853. They married April 12, 1860, in St. Louis, according to a marriage certificate on file. However, conflicting dates recorded in the St. Louis marriage archives list Thomas’ marriage date as April 21, 1860, and Catharine’s as April 12, 1860.
The 1870 Census for Texas County, Missouri, listed three people in the Canning household, Mr. and Mrs. Canning and an adopted son, Thomas, born March 2, 1864, and known thereafter as Tom Maxey. Thomas’ occupation was listed as a farmer.
According to Goodspeed’s 1889 State of Missouri, History of Texas County, Canning paid taxes during the Civil War on land he owned here. Grandson Eugene Maxey said that approximately 600 acres comprised the Canning Place, which included a Canning Road and Canning Spring. A tornado severely damaged the property in 1880; this same tornado severely damaged additional property in Licking proper and surrounding areas.
Thomas M. Canning, was born December 25, 1819, in County Derry, Ireland, and “died instant” on January 11, 1885, aged 66 years, 17 days.
An Irish immigrant advertisement placed under Missing Friends, in the December 24, 1859, edition of the The Boston Pilot under “Armagh” inquired, “Of Thomas and Bernard Canning, who came to this country about 10 or 11 years ago; when last heard from Thomas was in St. Louis, and Bernard left Stratford, Canada West, for the States about three years ago. Any information will be thankfully received by their brothers, Francis and Philip, corner 40th and Oak streets, West Philadelphia, Pa.” (One reference to Armagh is that it is the county town of County Armagh, and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.)
Catherine Skelly Roy, was born February 15, 1838, in County Longford, Ireland, and was deceased August 2, 1895. After the passing of Thomas, she remarried prior to 1888, to Mr. John Kaighan, and remarried a second time to her third husband, a prominent resident of Licking, Mr. William Roy. Roy buried her next to her first husband, Thomas.
According to the same article by Lee Roy Maxey, he says, “There were large photographs or paintings of both the Canning’s, which Dad always kept in the attic…. He (Thomas) was a handsome man with wavy hair and neatly trimmed beard and she was a lady of extra-ordinary beauty. They were just a couple of pioneers of this area who took in a homeless child who was my grandfather. In 1883 he married and they raised a large family; most of them are gone now. But Tom and Mary Maxey’s descendants are scattered all over the U.S.”
Please note historical records show two spellings of Catharine and Catherine, as well as her surname being listed as Skelly, Shelly and Kelly. Ireland is also spelled Iraland on the tombstone. Inconsistency in spellings is not uncommon in older documentation.
The Licking News offers special thanks to Linda Mondy and Eugene Maxey for their valuable assistance in providing documentation and information.
Photos courtesy of Linda Mondy