Sunday, July 27, 2014

Will Flynn, Long-time Zookeeper At Memphis

Will Flynn was born in Olive Branch Mississippi to Haden and Dora Flynn.  His death certificate spells his
name as Flynn but in Census records it's Flinn.  His father appears as either Hayden or Haden Flinn.

We first find the Flinn family in the 1880 Census records for DeSoto County Mississippi in dwelling 305. Hayden Flinn is 24 and born about 1856.  His spouse, Dora, 20 years old.  The couple have three children: Haywood age 4, Mary age 2 and an unnamed female infant age 1.  In dwelling 303 is the family of Glass Flinn age 35 and  in 308 is Nash Flinn, age 45 and his family.  It's easy to assume these three Flinn families are related but if you look at the place of birth for the parents, they are all different.  All of the Flinn's are employed as farm workers.

Skipping to the 1900 Census for Beat 1, Desoto County Mississippi, we find a 14 year old Will Flynn with his father and siblings.  Haden Flinn is now 45 with a birth date listed as February 1855, Mississippi. Dora has passed away.  In addition to Will we find his sister Ida was born July 1887, brother Tom in September 1893, and brother Earl Jones May 1896. A cousin, Joe Flinn, was also in the household born in Dec 1883. The elder Flinn was a farmer and Will a farm hand.  There is no mention of Haywood, Mary or the unnamed infant that appeared in the 1880 Census.

The next time we see Will Flynn is in the 1940 Census for Memphis.  He's 58 years old and working as a feeder at a park.  In reality he was an animal caretaker at the Memphis Zoo.  He also has a wife, Nannie, age 52 however it's probably correct to say that Will and Nannie were married in spirit because they weren't married physically until 1947.  The couple applied for a marriage license in Shelby County Tennessee and were married in Mississippi by J.W. Hall on April 26, 1947.

In Memphis City Directories he can sometimes be found as Will or William.  His occupation varied from laborer, feeder and attendant at Overton Park Zoo.  

Will Flynn appears in the September 3 1953 edition of Jet Magazine as "Zoo Keeper of the Week."  He reminisced about his time at the zoo including how in 1903 the Memphis Zoo had only one animal, a black bear named Nat.  More animals joined Nat including a deer named Jake and Coothey the monkey.  Will Flynn enjoyed his work so much that even after he retired he continued to volunteer his services to the zoo.

Nannie Flynn was the daughter of Crawford Williams and Harriet White.  She born in 1893 in Lucy, Tennessee.  Nannie passed away May 1 1957 and was interred at Mount Carmel Cemetery.  William Flynn joined her a year later when he passed away on November 25 1958.  

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