Tag Archives: Maguire

Clontarf Goes Green in 1899

These days it seems everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. Target’s shelves are stocked with strings of  shamrock lights, pot of gold window decals, sparkly green headbands, and leprechaun costumes complete with a long red beard and top hat. Bars put up tents to accommodate the revelers, while the restaurants add corned beef and cabbage specials to their menus. The fountain at the White House is turning green, and I heard even Niagara Falls will be dyed green (is that even possible?)

Let’s put aside the more commercial side of St. Patrick’s Day for a moment and take a look at the March 17, 1899 celebration in Clontarf – the last St. Patrick’s Day of the nineteenth century. By 1899, the children of the original Irish settlers in Clontarf were beginning to marry and start families of their own. Most of this first generation of Clontarf Irish-Americans married fellow Irish-Americans, thus Clontarf’s Irish identity remained strong. A new Ancient Order of Hibernians hall had just been completed in 1899 and would be the venue for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

The March 10, 1899 edition of the Swift County Monitor outlined the events planned in Clontarf for Friday March 17th:

It is fitting the day began with High Mass, since the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, was a holy day in Ireland where attendance at Mass was obligatory. Dinner followed in the Hall. Corned beef and cabbage? Perhaps, or maybe roast turkey or chicken. I am sure there were plenty of potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables as well.

Outdoor sports and listening to a lecture by Father Cahill (anyone know who he was?) must have worked up an appetite. The ladies of Clontarf were back in the kitchen to put on a supper before the dramatic presentation hit the stage. I was interested in learning more about the play, “Shaun Aroon” and a Google search brought me to a newspaper article from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada from 1896. Click here to take a look – it provides a bit more background on the play. It seems “Shaun Aroon” was a popular play by American Charles Townsend. The article says it was considered a “new Irish play” in that it avoids perpetuating stereotypes of the Irish that prevailed in American culture (inebriation, forever fighting the British, etc.)

The cast features familiar names from Clontarf and Tara: Kent, Foley, Hurley, McDonald, Purcell, O’Neill, Maguire, and Donohue. When the play was over, “the floor will be cleared and a dance given.”

I imagine the people of Clontarf had a great time in 1899. How does this St. Patrick’s celebration compare to ones you remember in Clontarf? Any plans for this year?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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It’s 1884 at the McDermott General Store

Judging from the records I have, business was anything but brisk in January 1884 at the McDermott General Store in Clontarf.  It stands to reason…January on the prairie could be (and is) brutal.  Most people came in to pick up the essentials: coffee, tea, oil, and tobacco.  There were a few purchases that stood out to me…

January 8th

  • James Flynn bought a buffalo robe ($4.50) and a cap ($3.30)
  • One pair overshoes ($1.75) was charged to Frank McMahon’s account by Tim. Cain

January 29th

  • Rev. Anatole Oster purchased 4# F.G. tobacco ($1.00)
  • William Purcell picked up 1 candy pail (.20)

January 31st

  • Frank McMahon parted with .60 for 1# wax candles
  • Charles Maguire purchased 1 bottle peppernuts (.25) and 1/2# tobacco (.15)

There were a couple of interesting transactions that could relate to some type of building or works project in Tara Township.  Patrick Foley, who was Tara Township clerk, was given $40.00 by a Swift County order.  On the same day, James Conaty was given $40.00 cash.  I know that Simon Conaty was responsible for building the current  St. Malachy’s in the 1890s, but I don’t know anything about James.  Any ideas?

 

On January 24th Tom and Jackie Doherty left the following comment.  I wanted to post it here to make sure everyone saw it, even if you don’t read the comments.  Enjoy!

In the 50′s and 60′s, everyone in attendance eagerly awaited the big event. It usually happened about midnight. Earl Gilbertson and Otto Sluter (sp?) would dance cheek to cheek on the dance floor. Any newcomer’s would really “gawk” at the scene. Afterwards, the two men would get lots of grins, laughs and applause. Earl’s wife was Jeannie Christopherson (Ma Pete’s daughter).
Also regarding the Clontarf Club – Before George Gilbertson sold to Lyle Kesting, there was a card room in the back part of the club. They had poker games that would last for days non stop. Some players would go for a day or two and then take a break and then come back. George was said to have played 4 straight days before he bit the dust one time.
Also – George used to tell me about the time my uncle Andy Doherty, went broke playing poker there. George then gave Andy some money to go and get him and the rest of the players something to eat. Andy took the $20.00 and drank most of the money up. He returned to the game with the food that he had enough money to buy – a box of animal crackers. George used to laugh so hard telling the story, he would be crying.

Thanks for a great story, Tom and Jackie!

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