Storekeep helped boost Stanislaus ag and land

With the Scottish Games to be held soon in Modesto, it's worth noting those of Scottish heritage who made Stanislaus County's interests their own.

Born at Cook's Run, Pennsylvania on Feb. 6, 1858, George T. McCabe's life would bring him to Stanislaus County, where he would become a tireless worker for the area.

His grandfather, Alexander, was a native of Scotland who immigrated to Nova Scotia. George's father, Asa, was born there.

Asa worked as a bridge builder and was involved in the construction of many of the river and canyon passes on the Pennsylvania Central Railway from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.

Moving into the same area of work as his father, George went to Johnstown, Pa., where he worked as a machinist until 1883.

That's when he started working with the Union Switch and Signal Co. He worked with George Westinghouse, who had made rail travel safer with his brake systems, signal lights and railway switches.

McCabe came to Stanislaus County in October 1884, when he was offered a job as a manager for an Oakdale lumber company. The company failed within a year.

He found greater success with a general store in Knight's Ferry. He married there in 1888.

Having attained some financial comfort, McCabe began to become involved in local affairs. He served four years as head of the Modesto Creamery and worked as secretary of the Stanislaus Board of Trade.

Moving to Los Angeles in 1907, he spent six years there lecturing on Stanislaus County to promote its real estate and its farm products.

The newly formed Stanislaus County Board of Trade picked McCabe to be its field man at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where he had the special responsibility for setting up an exhibit to promote the county. That assignment had him traveling back and forth to San Francisco several times a week from 1913 to 1915.

According to historian George Tinkham:

"When the Exposition commissioners received the exhibits, it was admitted that the products from Stanislaus were the best selected for quantity, quality and variety."

McCabe was called upon to help his country as the nation prepared to enter World War I in 1917.

He was selected as secretary of the Stanislaus County Council of Defense, and went about finding people to work the fields since large numbers of those who regularly worked in agriculture were serving in the war.

McCabe was so successful that within six months the federal government sent representatives to see how he was achieving his results.

For his efforts, McCabe was appointed to a government position similar to his local one but with greater responsibility.

When the war ended, the Council of Defense was changed to the Committee on Readjustment. On Feb. 1, 1919, McCabe was made chairman of the Home Service Section of the Red Cross, which worked hand in hand with the Committee on Readjustment.

McCabe continued his involvement in Modesto's interests until his death on April 16, 1925.

The St. Andrews' Society of Modesto will be holding its Scottish Games on June 5 at Tuolumne River Park, Modesto. Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. Admission is $13 for people 13 and older. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

Sources: George H. Tinkham, "History of Stanislaus County" (1921)