213 – Will and Josie Get Together

It’s 1891. We’ve met Will Riley’s family. Josie Pensa is spending a lot of time in Sedalia. They’re an item.

They want to get married.

A wedding

Artist’s sketch of Josie and Will Riley on wedding day

On Wednesday, October 14, 1891, Josephine Pensa married William J. Riley. They were wed at St. Lawrence O’Toole Catholic Church in St. Louis, Dr. Rev. John H. May officiating. Witnesses were J.D. Murphy and Rosa Pensa. Josie was age 23, Will was 28.

Irene Marie Riley

A year after Josie and Will married, on Wednesday, October 12, 1892, a daughter Irene Marie Riley was born. I don’t know the origin of the name Irene Marie.

Maybe one of these names was the middle name of William’s mother Ann Riley.

A house of their own

When they married, Will and Josie Riley lived in a rented house at Ninth and Vermont.

In 1893, E.G. Cassidy helped Will and Josie buy the house at 624 West Fifth Street on the northeast corner of Fifth and Harrison from Mrs. King. It was a large two-story house in a fine neighborhood six blocks west of downtown. The price was $1,600.

Fifth and Harrison – Sedalia – 2022

Ed and Kate Cassidy’s stately home was just across Harrison Street to the west, at 706 West Fifth Street.

Joseph Aloysius Riley

Two years later, on October 16, 1894, Joseph “Joe” Aloysius Riley was born. His forename Joseph could be based on his mother’s name Josephine and his father’s middle name Joseph.

Aloysius was historically common in Ireland, and is occasionally passed down in Irish families today. The feminine form is Aloysia.

Nameberry – Baby Names

Based on the above definition, I wonder if Aloysius is William Riley’s paternal grandfather and John Riley’s father. Maybe someday we’ll find out.

Pehl & Riley

1895 was notable as Will Riley’s entry into the hospitality business. E.G. Cassidy and Josie’s brothers in St. Louis were doing well in the saloon business. Will and Josie decided they would too. But Will kept his good job as a salesman for E.G. Cassidy.

As we’ve seen, Will partnered with Peter Pehl to open a high-class bar Pehl & Riley at 309 South Ohio Street, a prime downtown location.

The Sedalia Democrat – June 23, 1895
The Sedalia Democrat – November 25, 1896

Saloon advertising Lemp Beer – 1890s

In 1896, Will bought out Peter Pehl’s partnership in the bar. Then, in 1897, he sold the business to G.N. Boutell. There was a lot of back-and-forth. Will would soon buy back in.

Antonio Pensa returns from Italy

In 1896, Antonio Pensa returned to St. Louis after spending eight years back in Roccatagliata, Italy. He was a frequent visitor to his daughters Kate Gardella and Josie Riley in Sedalia.

The Sedalia Democrat – July 21, 1896
The Sedalia Democrat – May 13, 1896


It’s noticeable that the newspapers report on frequent family health crises, from common illnesses to dangerous bouts of health.

Lots of other family members got sick. But Will Riley seems to have gotten sick more often. No wonder. He traveled on the train several days a week and made sales calls in bars and restaurants.

The Sedalia Democrat – 1890s

Fortunately, Will recuperated from those reports of sickness. On September 9, 1897, Will celebrated his 34th birthday.

The Sedalia Democrat – September 9, 1897

In 1897, Andy Gardella suffered from chronic illnesses. He went to Oregon to recuperate, but didn’t. He visited the nearby spas at El Dorado and Monega Springs, to no avail. Andy died on October 5, 1897.

In Andy Gardella’s will, he bequeathed to his children a property that he had inherited from his mother in Roccatagliata, Italy.

Lemps-Sedalia Ice and Refrigerator Company

The Sedalia Democrat – May 31, 1898

Recall that Cassidy and Riley in 1898 had suggested to William Lemp that he build a distribution warehouse for Lemp Brewing. The building would also serve as an ice manufacturing company and sell electricity. A grand complex was built.

Cassidy and Riley were stockholders, along with Lemp and two others from St. Louis.

Lemps-Sedalia Ice and Refrigerator Company

A Park Commissioner

Will Riley was appointed park commissioner in August 1898. He would serve for a decade.

William Edward Riley

William Edward “Bill” Riley was born Wednesday morning, October 26, 1898. Bill was the third child of Will and Josie Riley.

William’s name was the namesake of his father. The middle name Edward was taken after Will’s uncle, John Riley’s brother Edward.

An actor

Will Riley loved the theater. He was in many play productions around Sedalia.

A house across the street

In June 1899, Will and Josie traded their house at Fifth and Harrison for one across the street at 615 West Fifth Street.

Excerpt – Sedalia map – 1908

A toast to the 1890s

The decade of the 1890s had been kind to the Rileys and Pensas.

Josie Pensa and Will Riley had married and had three children. Will’s job was going very well. They had a fine house. Will had owned a bar business off and on. The family had suffered some illnesses, but everyone made it through.

Josie’s brothers had been successful in St. Louis with their saloon businesses. Her sister Kate had moved from Sedalia back to St. Louis after her husband Andy Gardella died in 1897. Josie and her siblings visited often, either in St. Louis or Sedalia.

In 1896, Antonio Pensa had returned from a long stay in Italy. He was glad to be home and spend time with his children.

Wherever the family spent New Year’s Eve 1899, some must have toasted to continued health and prosperity in the new century.



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