Patrick J. Bolger was a hard worker and a capital fellow, but in describing the luck that followed him through life, the adjective “bad” fails to express the fullness of his misfortune.
Take, for instance, the fall from a hay wagon. That’s a bad piece of luck for anyone, but Patrick Bolger fell from a hay wagon onto a pitchfork. It was a summer day in 1891, and he was working as a driver for James Holmes in Auburn when the front wheel came off and spilled Patrick into Market Street, where the tine of a pitchfork that had accompanied the load of hay passed through his arm, “causing quite a serious wound.”
A hay wagon was involved in another of his misadventures as well. In August of 1898, a party of young people from Auburn enjoyed a hayride to Skaneateles where they were joined by Bolger, who was now a soda bottler working for the firm of Holmes & Bolger here in the village. Around midnight, after an enjoyable supper, one of the party held up a hat and challenged another to an exhibition of “high kicking.” The party’s host went first, and then…
“Mr. Bolger followed his lead but with different results. He jumped in the air, kicked the hat with his left foot but could not regain his balance, falling to the floor in such a manner that his right leg turned under him, breaking the knee-cap with a cracking sound that was heard all over the room.”
The newspaper account noted that this “put an abrupt end to the enjoyment and cast a gloom over the whole party.”
The year before, Bolger had come to Skaneateles, still working with James Holmes of Auburn, to open Holmes & Bolger Bottling. The new enterprise occupied the ground floor of the Rawlins Block (today home of The Kinder Garden) at 3 East Genesee Street, and Patrick and his family moved into the floor above. In May of 1897, the Skaneateles Press wrote:
“The firm has put in the latest improved machinery. They manufacture their own sodas, making various kinds, all of which give the best satisfaction and are their own recommend. Holmes & Bolger also bottle the celebrated Milwaukee, St. Louis and Rochester lagers, and the Robert Smith, Evans, Hudson and High-Hop ales, and also furnish Saratoga, Hawthorn, Vichy, Geyser, Kissingen and Apollinaris waters.
“The establishment is kept in apple pie order. The utmost cleanliness is observed in the process of manufacture of their sodas. The firm delivers goods to various dealers in this and surrounding towns, and also supplies private families. The firm has invested several hundred dollars in the business, and is a local enterprise that will be appreciated. The works are under the personal supervision of P.J. Bolger, the junior member of the firm, who accords prompt service and courteous treatment to all patrons.”
In July of 1897, however, an advertisement in the Skaneateles Press suggested that counterfeiting was afoot:
“NOTICE: [It] is a misdemeanor for any person or persons to buy, sell, give, take, trade, traffic, fill or use any bottle, box, syphon or keg with the following names or marks blown, stamped or branded thereon: Jas. H. Holmes, Auburn, N.Y. or Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles, N.Y. The special detective of the New York State Bottlers’ Association has full power to arrest and prosecute all persons found violating the Bottle Law. Anyone having Jas. H. Holmes or Holmes & Bolger bottles can send postal card to 38 and 40 Chapel st. Auburn, or Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles, and avoid all trouble.”
The bottles were not necessary for long. “Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles” was a short-lived company. Perhaps Skaneateles was too small for a bottling business to flourish, and close enough to Auburn for the village’s bottling needs to be served there. In 1899, P.J. Bolger moved to Fulton, N.Y., with a new partner, and established a new bottling works.
However, in July of 1899, Bolger reappeared at a baseball game in Skaneateles, apparently healed from his “high kicking” mishap. In the course of the game, “P.J. Bolger, who by the way formerly resided here, kept third base supplied with a case of pop and any runner who reached third was entitled to a drink… After the game, a foot race was run and this was won by William Meagher, the undertaker, with P.J. Bolger a close second.”
Back in Fulton, however, Bolger was again injured, this time badly cut on the hand when a bottle exploded while he was bottling mineral water. And in 1904, his health failing, Bolger was forced to sell his Fulton bottling works and return to Auburn.
In January of 1906, Bolger died at home of the kidney ailment known then as Bright’s Disease. He was 39 years old, and left a widow and five young daughters. A choir of 100 children sang at his funeral. The Auburn Democrat-Argus noted, “His wide acquaintance made for him many friends. A man of generous impulses of head and heart, his charity was unbounded. He was a zealous worker for the church and its societies, loved his home and his family and his early demise will be deplored by all who knew him.” The next month, the people of Auburn held a testimonial concert and dance to benefit Bolger’s family. In friendship, at least, he had been very, very fortunate.
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My thanks to the person who listed a Holmes & Bolger bottle on eBay and set me off on this quest.