Edward McKenna’s Secret Stash

Those who knew Edward McKenna in life were shocked at the surprise he left in death.

The Cumberland man, described as an “octogenarian gardener and expert fruit grower” by The Washington Post, died in February 1905 and was laid to rest on February 10 in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

The Post article described Edward as “…generally looked upon as poverty-stricken,” so imagine the town’s astonishment when learning that Edward had about $9,000 saved in the bank and more hidden throughout his Fayette Street home.

Although they each had bank accounts, Edward and his wife really did not really trust banks, so they secreted money in their living quarters. After her husband’s funeral and at the urging of others, Mrs. McKenna gathered up some of that squirreled away money, totaling approximately $3,800, and deposited it into the bank.

Stashing money behind religious paintings seemed to be a preferred hiding spot in the McKenna home. Described as devout Catholics, money and gold certificates were found behind paintings of the crucifix, Pope Leo XIII, Guardian Angel and St. Patrick.

The money found with the St. Patrick painting was discovered by happenstance when Sarah McKenzie, a washerwomen who had helped the couple, was given the painting as a gift by Mrs. McKenna.

After bringing it home, Sarah removed the soiled glass and frame to clean it and “…her eyes almost sprang from her head, so great was her surprise when she counted out $1,221,” according to the Cumberland Evening Times. Sarah turned in the money to the executor of Edward’s estate and the article said she would be rewarded for her honesty.

In all, about $16,000 was found hidden in the home, with $7,101 hidden behind paintings, according to The Washington Post.

Two lessons learned: You can’t judge someone on looks alone. And the next time you inherit or buy an old painting at a yard sale, check between the painting and the frame … just in case.

Sources: The Washington Post February 25, 1905; The Cumberland Evening Times February 10, 1905 and February 13, 1905

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