John Purcell McKenna arrived on the shores of Lake Worth in October 1885 aboard the schooner, “Mary B.” His brother, Christopher, joined him a few months later, and they both left the area in the summer of 1886.
Born at Dublin, Ireland, on 11 June 1848, John P. McKenna emigrated to America in 1865, became a U.S. citizen in 1877, served in the U.S. Army in the West, and was a rancher in Texas when he decided to have a look at South Florida.
That he liked what he found is evident in the fact that, in 1889, he returned to stay, bringing his bride, the former Eleanor Ridge Bagnall, a native of London, England.
They lived at first on Government Lot #3, about a mile south of the present Port of Palm Beach. There, on 9 August 1890, Eleanor bore their son, John Purcell Alderson McKenna, the first Catholic child born on Lake Worth.
John then homesteaded 160 acres on the west shore of the lake about four miles south of present-day West Palm Beach. While he and his wife and son lived there, a daughter, Mary Teresa, was born on 20 April 1893. After his homestead was proved, John moved his family back to the east shore of the lake to a new, two- and-a-half story house they named “Laguna Vista” on North Lake Trail. There, the last three children were born: Edward Ridge on 1 March 1896, Eleanor Bagnall on 19 September 1897, and Jessie Agnes on 4 January 1901. The family lived at Laguna Vista until 1923 when John sold it to Gurnee Munn and they moved to their final home at 206 Dunbar Road, Palm Beach.
The Dade County Deed Book #1 records a sale of 56 acres of land to Thomas P. McKenna by the State of Florida in January 1881. In June of 1886, Thomas sold 1/3 of that property to his brother, John P., for $1.00, and presumably an equal amount to his other brother, Christopher C. for $1.00. If the deed book is correct, Thomas P. McKenna was here first, and his land was the attraction that brought brothers, John and Christopher. Only John became a permanent resident. Christopher lived in Portland, Oregon, and Thomas resided in New York City. In 1902, in poor health, John retired to Palm Beach where he lived another twenty years.
Besides farming, John served as Palm Beach’s first town clerk. He and Eleanor were active in Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association, John served a term as president, and she served as treasurer for several years. Eleanor died 30 July 1931, and John died 18 October 1931, a devoted couple who contributed much to the community they helped develop. They are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
John Purcell Alderson McKenna (Alderson) served in the National Guard in the Mexican border wars and in the U.S. Army Reserves during World War I. He married Anna V. Waldron of Providence, Rhode Island, and they had two sons, John E. and Robert W. McKenna. Alderson died 17 April 1947 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
Mary Teresa McKenna (Teresa) volunteered for service with the Post Office Department, Foreign Mails, during World War Tin Washington, D.C. She later attended University of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and graduated in 1926. Teresa served as permanent Historian of the Lake Worth Pioneers’ Association and was often asked to write articles about local history for the newspaper. She died, unmarried, on 19 December 1969, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
Edward Ridge McKenna, after a course at Massey Business College in Jacksonville, joined the National Guard and served on the Mexican border in 1916. When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in France.
He married Alice Leona Loomis in Washington, D.C., and brought her to Palm Beach, where both of their children, June Magdalen and Edward Ridge, Jr., were born. In the construction business, Edward, Sr. also served a term on the town council of Palm Beach and was postmaster of Palm Beach for twenty-five years. He died 17 June 1974.
Eleanor Bagnall McKenna served in the office of the Quartermaster-General of the Army in World War Tin Washington, D.C. She continued in civil service after the war, working in the Palm Beach Postoffice. Eleanor married Andrew Pickens Talley in 1928 and died a year later on 14 December 1929. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.
Jessie Agnes McKenna married Thomas R. Foy of Paducah, Kentucky, in 1922 and died 29 August 1924. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach.