The Young Americans

The Young Americans

This photo appeared in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Irish America Magazine.  Looking back at the text, there is more I have learned about the families and there is much more to tell about their lives in Clontarf and Tara Township.  We will hopefully be able to cover the details here in upcoming posts.

Here’s the text that accompanied the photo:

In March 1864, boyhood friends John Regan and Patrick Foley from Macroom, County Cork, arrived in New York port on the City of Baltimore sailing from Cobh.  They took to life in America quickly and in 1870 both were married.  John Regan married Mary Quinn and they had four sons and two daughters: Cornelius (Neil) , Ellen, John, Patrick, Jeremiah (Jerry), and Mary.  Patrick Foley married Mary Crowley and the couple had four children: Margaret, Timothy, Mary, and John.  After 15 years at work in the mills and machine shops of Fisherville, New Hampshire both families seized the opportunity to move west, own their own land, and raise their families in an Irish Catholic community.  By 1880, the Regan and Foley families were established in Tara Township near Clontarf, Minnesota – active in township government, members of St. Malachy Catholic Church, and proud farmers on land they owned.

This photograph of the sons of John Regan and Patrick Foley – four first generation Americans – captures one of those moments in American history when anything seemed possible.  It is the turn of the twentiesth century and Neil, Jack, and Jerry Regan and John Foley look poised to take on what the world had to offer.  Their confidence is palpable and represents the optimism shared by many Americans at the time.

Over the years, confidence waned as youth faded and the realities of life took hold.  This included falling crop prices, farm failures, personal hardships, and economic depression, but on the day this photograph was taken, with cigars pursed in their lips and hats perched jauntily on their heads, these four young men look as if the world is their oyster.

The Regans and the Foleys came together again in the next generation –  Mary Foley  was my grandmother’s mother and Cornelius (Neil) Regan was my grandfather’s father.

(Submitted by Aine C. McCormack, Saint Paul, Minnesota)

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Young Americans

  1. Eileen

    James J. Hill would love the idea of this blog! He expected that the towns settled along his rairoad would live forever. Clontarf, one of the smallest towns on his Great Northern Railway, is still there almost 100 years after his death. And his railroad, a forerunner of the BNSF, is still traveling over the rails through town.

    • Thanks for commenting, Eileen! I am curious, are there many towns along the railroad that have disappeared completely?

      • Eileen

        Not entirely sure how many small railroad towns are still in existence. Many, like Clontarf never had a large population, however they served the numerous individual small farms that surrounded them. Since most of those small farms have given way to large landowners and transportation of farm products is completely different than in the 1880s, railroad towns no longer are necessary for the agricultural process. The trains no longer stop in many of these towns, including Clontarf.
        It would be an interesting research topic to determine how many Great Northern/Northern Pacific towns are now completely gone. Maybe this question has already been answered?

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