Tag Archives: St. Malachy Church

Happy Birthday Minnie!

Mary Foley, 1875-76

I originally posted this last year in honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday. Well, looks like that time of year is upon us, so I thought I would share this again. Happy New Year to you all!

Minnie was my great-grandmother, and according to my grandma she absolutely hated the nickname “Minnie”. Please forgive me, Great Grandmother, but I think it’s cute, and since your real name Mary is shared by about 75% of women in your family tree, I chose to call you Minnie.

Minnie Foley was born in Fisherville, New Hampshire on January 2, 1875. She was the fourth of five children born to Patrick Foley and Mary Crowley (their eldest son did not survive infancy.) She was baptized a few weeks later on January 24, 1875 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord, New Hampshire. John Foley and Mary Casey were her godparents.

Three years later, Minnie and her family came to Clontarf, Minnesota with several other Irish families from the Concord, New Hampshire area, including the Regan family. Minnie and Nellie Regan were best friends from a very young age.

My grandma told me that Minnie worked hard her entire life, and that included working on the family farm in Tara Township while she was growing up. Her sister Maggie worked inside, while Minnie and her younger brother Jackie worked outside. My grandma confessed, she wasn’t sure where Minnie’s older brother Tim worked!

The McMahon family lived about a mile from the Foleys in Tara. Minnie married Thomas McMahon at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf on June 28, 1904. Minnie’s sister Maggie and Tom’s brother Frank were their witnesses. I imagine Minnie and Hoosie (as Tom is referred to in Minnie’s autograph book) having secret meetings over hay bales and missing chickens during their courtship…

Wedding photo, 1904

I won’t go into the entire McMahon family history now because this is about Minnie. She and Tom raised seven children and after giving farming all they had the McMahons moved to Minneapolis in 1925.

When she died in 1945, Minnie was living with my grandma, her husband John Regan, and their new baby (and my mother) Eileen. My grandma said that Minnie was smitten with Eileen. Minnie would say that she had never known a baby to sleep as much and as well as little Eileen. Minnie marvelled at how Eileen would even fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.

In my grandma’s recipe book are a few recipes attributed to Minnie, her “Ma” – I think I will make “Ma’s Spice Cake” in Minnie’s honor today.

Nellie Regan Byrne and Mary Foley McMahon, about 1943

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Views of St. Malachy’s

I recently found a few photos of St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf.

 

The first one is mounted on cardboard, like the old studio photographs from around 1900. I don’t think this is that old. Any ideas? Maybe you can tell by how old the trees look?

St. Malachy Catholic Church – Clontarf, MN

 

The next photo is from the mid-1930s. It is a small snap-shot and is the same size and photo paper as other photos I have from that time. My mom thought it could have been taken from the old rectory yard. What do you think?

St. Malachy Catholic Church – Clontarf, MN – 1930s

 

And finally, this one was probably taken in the late 1940s or 1950s.

St. Malachy Catholic Church – Clontarf, MN – 1950s

 

 

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Noble Patriot and Irishman

Sandwiched between two legendary figures in Clontarf’s history, Father Anatole Oster and Father Patrick Kenny, was a young priest from Ireland who only served the parish for two years (1899-1901). Little attention is paid to Father McDonald in the history of Clontarf, but judging from letters written by Clontarf resident Stephen Owen, I think he deserves a closer look. (I typed the content of the letters just as it appears in the transcriptions…among other issues, Mr. Owens was not a fan of punctuation.)

Father McDonald

St. Malachy Catholic Church – Clontarf, MN

On December 4, 1899 Stephen Owens writes from Clontarf to his niece in Skerries, County Dublin, Ireland:

Dear Niece Celia I will let you know what this Parish of Ours is doing at Present Our Priest the Rev. Father McDonald is holding a three Days fair in the Town Hall. We have a nice one in the Town for the Benefit of Our Church it is a new one and there is Sixteen Hundred Dollars of a Debt on it so he expects to realize about 5 or 6 Hundred Dollars at this fair and then About two more years would wipe out the Debt on the Church. I think his fair will be a success there is great crowds here those last two nights and we expect a large attendance tonight. Our priest is a Kilkenny Man about 30 years of Age, a fine Man I like him very much he does come see us quite often I and him does have great times nights Playing Checkers he likes to get all the Games he don’t like me to Beat him at all…

This is our introduction to Father McDonald through Mr. Owens’ pen. Already we see that he was responsible for building the new church in Clontarf (the one standing today) and was working hard to pay for it by organizing events such as the fair Mr. Owens mentions. Plus, we learn that he was a competitive checkers player!

On March 19, 1900 Mr. Owens describes the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in town (I highlighted this in an earlier post – click here.) He writes that Father McDonald had been rehearsing the play since January with the young people. Mr. Owens writes, “Our Priest is a Noble Patriot and Irishman.”

On April 1, 1902 Mr. Owens has some sad news to share with his niece. He thanks her for the shamrock she sent him for St. Patrick’s Day and said he gave a sprig to the Priest, but it is a new Priest:

…his name is Rev. Patrick Kenny our beloved Father McDonnoll (sic) was Buried last friday in Calvary Cemetery in the City of Saint Paul. I am awfull sorry to have to tell you this news we will never get the like off him again he was so friendly and sociable I will miss him very much we use to Play so much Checkers in our House Lord have mercy on his soul He dies off Consumption he got a Cough and did not doctor for it until it was to Late he left here last September and went out to the State of Arizona the Doctors sent him there it is a fine climate and thought he would come Back Cured of his Complaint but failed to get his Health he was a fine strong healthy young man I never thought he could be taken away so quick…

I hope Mr. Owens gave Father Kenny a chance. By all accounts he was also a very sociable Priest – he was extremely popular with the Irish families in Tara and Clontarf. He visited folks frequently in their homes and was always ready for a game of cards. Not sure if he played checkers, however.

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The Little Town of Clontarf

Have you ever wondered what life was really like in Clontarf around the turn of the last century? Apart from time travel, the  best way to learn about daily life would be from a diary kept by a local resident. I bet many Clontarfians wrote in a diary , unfortunately these items don’t often survive. Sometimes they are intentionally destroyed, and other times they simply get “lost in the shuffle” of a move or a death.

Another way to find out about life in a town such as Clontarf would be to refer to the newspaper. Clontarf never had a newspaper of its own, so we must rely on the intermittent columns in other area papers which refer to the Clontarf vicinity. Even if there had been a newspaper, that would only provide us with the editor’s perspective of Clontarf, complete with political and social bias, not that of an “ordinary” resident.

So how then are we to learn about the day-to-day happenings of Clontarf? Why letters, of course! Letters written by Clontarf residents to their friends and family all over the United States and the world! But, locating these letters presents a major challenge, which makes the Stephen Owens Collection of letters at the Swift County Historical Society truly a treasure for anyone researching the history of Clontarf during the years 1899-1903.

This small collection of letters made their way back to Swift County when Professor Kirby Miller forwarded them to the museum while he was researching Irish immigration. He had obtained the letters from the Old Skerries Historical Society in County Dublin, Ireland. Swift County has photocopies of the transcribed letters from Stephen Owens to his niece Celia Grimes who lives in Skerries.

In a letter from December 4, 1899 Mr. Owens begins by sharing his thoughts on getting older:

26th of this month I will be 70 years of Age and I am Pretty Smart on the foot yet thanks to God. Your Aunt don’t hear so well as I do, She is Pretty Old Looking She is Able yet to do our Cooking and washing. We had to give up farming we were to Old to work the farm any Longer So I sold it and moved to the Little Town of Clontarf near the Church. About 10 Perches from the Church…we are as comfortable as Old People Can Be. We can go to Mass nearly every Day in the Week…

I guess Mr. Owens is able to forgive his wife’s diminished looks and hearing as long as she is still able to do all the cooking and cleaning! Mr. Owens goes on to tell his niece about an event at St. Malachy’s:

Our Priest the Rev. Father McDonald is holding a three Days fair in the Town Hall We have a nice one in this Town…Our Church it is a New One and there is sixteen Hundred Dollars of a Debt on it so he expects to realize About 5 or 6 Hundred Dollars at this fair and then About two more years would wipe out the Debt on the Church I think his fair will be a success there is great crowds here those Last to Nights and we Expect a Large Attendance to Night.

I have never been able to find any information on Father McDonald, only that he served St. Malachy’s for a couple of years and died of TB. Mr. Owens sheds a bit of light on Father McDonald in the letter:

Our Priest is a Kilkenny Man about 30 years of Age, a fine Man I like him very much he does come see us quite often I and him does have great times nights Playing Checkers he likes to get all the Games he don’t like me to Beat him at all…

Father McDonald

Mr. Owens mentions the weather (“Winter is Just Begin the thermometer goes as far as 35 below Zero”), before asking his niece to pass on his greetings to people he used to know in Skerries. This section is particularly poignant because you can tell that he still misses his friends and family in Ireland, even though he has been in the United States for almost fifty years:

Remember me to John Baulf and to James Russel the Shoemaker and his Brother Mathew…All my  Old School Mates I suppose are nearly all Dead, if I landed in Skerries now I would hardley no one Person in the Town…I won’t forget you night & morning in my Poor Prayers…I hope you won’t forget your Old Uncle…

Next time we will look at a letter from March 1900 where Mr. Owens describes the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Clontarf.

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What’s the gift for a 126th wedding anniversary?

We missed their special 125th wedding anniversary last year, so I am giving you a heads up for their 126th.

On February 16, 1886 Michael Conlogue married Ellen Kenna at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf, Minnesota. Sponsors were John Conlogue and Jane Kenna.

Ellen Kenna was born on June 2, 1863 in Concord, New Hampshire. The Kenna family moved to Tara Township in 1878. Michael Conlogue was born in August of 1858 in Ontario, Canada. He emigrated to the United States in 1884. The couple met in the Lakeville, Minnesota area where Ellen was attending school and boarding with her aunt Kathryn O’Leary, and Michael was working for local farmers. Ellen received her teaching certificate and taught at schools in Clontarf, Tara, and Hegbert townships.

Once married, the couple purchased a 200 acre farm in Tara Township, near the Kenna homestead. They raised eleven children – James, John, Mary, Ann, Jane, Gertrude, Florence, Winifred, Robert, Adeline, and Bernadette. John passed away at ten-days-old,  but the other Conlogue children all graduated high school.

Conlogue Family (photo courtesy of Leo Holl)

You can read more about the Conlogue family here http://clontarfhistory.com/2011/04/09/going-going-gone/ in a post from April 2011.

I would like to share the obituary for James Conlogue, eldest son of Michael and Ellen. It is a great tribute to a man from Tara. I wonder who the schoolmate was who wrote the obituary?

Swift County News - June 29, 1922

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Made in Clontarf (or Tara, to be precise)

My grandma Agnes (bottom) and her sister Margaret - 1919

This photograph was taken on a farm in Benson shortly after the Thomas McMahon family had moved from Clontarf. My grandma Agnes is about six-years-old and is pictured with her older sister Margaret. The only snapshots taken of my grandma as a child are from this one day. I suspect a visitor to the farm had a camera!

Today is my grandma’s birthday. Agnes McMahon (no middle name, much to her disgust) was born in Tara Township on January 12, 1913, the sixth child of Mary Foley (Minnie from the last post) and Thomas McMahon. Minnie milked the cows in the morning, came back inside and had my grandma. Although she was only six when the McMahons left Clontarf for Benson, and twelve when the family left Swift County for good and moved to Minneapolis, my grandma’s fond memories of life on the farm stayed with her until she died.

 

Agnes McMahon and John Regan - 1941 - my grandparents

 

Without my grandma’s stories of her family, the farm, and Clontarf, I doubt I would have become so interested in the history of this little town on the prairie. (I must confess, growing up I pictured Clontarf just like Walnut Grove from Little House on the Prairie.) Nearly every story my grandma told me has “checked out”. It has been fascinating to see her tales come to life in property deeds, sacrament registers, and general store records.

Grandma was misguided on one point, which was her insistence that her Grandpa Bushey – pioneer Tara settler Francis McMahon – was a drummer boy in the Civil War. In fact, he was an enlisted man. I can’t really fault her for this because Grandpa Bushey died when my grandma was only five-years-old and he was a tiny little man with a twinkle in his eye, I am sure she could not imagine him as a soldier.

My grandma enjoyed nothing better than a good puzzle (unless it was a competitive game of cards) and she would be interested in all the little “mysteries” my mom and I have solved in the last eight years of Clontarf research. She was the all-around best person I have ever known, and in my opinion, the best Grandma ever.

And it all started in Tara…

Grandpa Bushey's Tara homestead in 2007

 

The folks at Archival Solutions, LLP have transcribed a couple of items of my grandma’s that I would like to share with you…stay tuned…

 

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Happy Birthday Minnie!

Mary Foley, 1875-76

Minnie was my great-grandmother, and according to my grandma she absolutely hated the nickname “Minnie”. Please forgive me, Great Grandmother, but I think it is a cute name, and since your real name Mary is shared by about 75% of women in your family tree, I chose to call you Minnie.

Minnie Foley was born in Fisherville, New Hampshire on January 2, 1875. She was the fourth of five children born to Patrick Foley and Mary Crowley (their eldest son did not survive infancy.) She was baptized a few weeks later on January 24, 1875 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord, New Hampshire. John Foley and Mary Casey were her godparents.

Three years later, Minnie and her family came to Clontarf, Minnesota with several other Irish families from the Concord, New Hampshire area, including the Regan family. Minnie and Nellie Regan were best friends from a very young age.

My grandma told me that Minnie worked hard her entire life, and that included working on the family farm in Tara Township while she was growing up. Her sister Maggie worked inside, while Minnie and her younger brother Jackie worked outside. My grandma confessed, she wasn’t sure where Minnie’s older brother Tim worked!

The McMahon family lived about a mile from the Foleys in Tara. Minnie married Thomas McMahon at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf on June 28, 1904. Minnie’s sister Maggie and Tom’s brother Frank were their witnesses. I imagine Minnie and Hoosie (as Tom is referred to in Minnie’s autograph book) having secret meetings over hay bales and missing chickens during their courtship…

Wedding photo, 1904

I won’t go into the entire McMahon family history now because this is about Minnie. She and Tom raised seven children and after giving farming all they had the McMahons moved to Minneapolis in 1925.

When she died in 1945, Minnie was living with my grandma, her husband John Regan, and their new baby (and my mother) Eileen. My grandma said that Minnie was smitten with Eileen. Minnie would say that she had never known a baby to sleep as much and as well as little Eileen. Minnie marvelled at how Eileen would even fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.

In my grandma’s recipe book are a few recipes attributed to Minnie, her “Ma” – I think I will make “Ma’s Spice Cake” in Minnie’s honor today.

Nellie Regan Byrne and Mary Foley McMahon, about 1943

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