Monthly Archives: February 2012

A New Bank for Clontarf!

John Conroy submitted this clipping from the Hancock Recorder…

The new building was scheduled to be built “as soon as the weather permitted” in the Spring of 1912. The bank was Mystery Photo #3 back in July of 2010. Take a look at the post and the comments to learn more about the bank.

Bank - Clontarf, MN

Recently Gretchen, who lived in the bank building as a child, told us about when the nearby elevator burned down, the building grew so hot they were actually able to fry an egg on the floor! I would love to hear any other memories you have of living in the old bank, Gretchen…please feel free to leave another comment!

My last post Remembering Julia was very popular and that got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to feature residents of Clontarf, to remember them on their birthday, wedding, or the day they died? The problem is, I don’t know much about the personalities who have called Clontarf home (other than my relatives, and you may be tiring of reading about them!)

Here’s what I propose:

If your grandma, great-grandparent, aunt, or father (you get the picture) was born in or lived in the Clontarf/Tara area and has a special day coming up and you would like to remember her or him, let me know. You can either write a short essay telling us all about your family member from Clontarf, send it on to me, and I will publish it on the blog,  or if writing is not your thing, simply fill out the form below with the details and I will write the tribute. Of course, photographs always make the stories special.

Remembering a common relative is a great way of reaching out to family members scattered all over the country. Think about it…

If you would like me to write the essay, I will need a little bit of notice. But if you send me one ready for publication, I will post it right away.

I can’t wait to see learn more about the people who made Clontarf their home! Use the form below, add a comment to this post, or email me directly clontarfhistory@gmail.com.

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Remembering Julia

Julia Duggan Regan passed away 35 years ago today, February 22nd.

Julia was born on the Duggan family farm in Tara Township on July 15, 1885. She was baptized on August 2nd at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf, with James Kenna and Margaret Duggan as sponsors.  Julia was the youngest child of William and Julia (Creedan) Duggan. The Duggans were among the pioneer Irish settlers of Tara Township who traveled west from Concord, New Hampshire in response to Bishop John Ireland’s Catholic colonization efforts.

Over the past eight years, I have had the pleasure to get to know two of Julia’s sons, Donald and Gerald Regan. Donald and Gerald have shared many stories of growing up in Clontarf. Individually, their memories are sharp, but when you get them together, the brothers play off of one another’s recollections, with amazing results. Without Donald and Gerald I never would have gotten to know my great-grandmother (and their aunt) Annie Hill Regan (click here to read what I learned about Annie.)

From what I have heard about Julia, she was practical, hardworking, and devoted to her children. For all intents and purposes, Julia raised her seven children on her own, and it was an ongoing struggle to provide for the family. But with determination and resourcefulness, Julia did just that…and more. Julia wanted the best for her children, and did what was necessary to provide them with every opportunity. Her children were educated, served in the military, became teachers, and a mayor. Gerald got his start in a railroad career in part on account of his beautiful penmanship – that surely is a sign of a good mother!

Julia was always trying to improve her home, make it more efficient and more comfortable. Apparently, Julia could not bear to see a good outbuilding go to waste and sent Donald and Gerald out to rescue countless unused structures from family and neighbors in the area. Julia had vision – her brother’s old chicken coop would make a perfect garage and that shed from her parent’s place in Tara would be the ideal addition to the hay barn. Like the good sons they were, Donald and Gerald carried out her plans, moving the buildings and setting them up for their new purpose at Julia’s.

Julia Duggan Regan

And to top it off, Julia made delicious doughnuts. I would say she was quite a woman!

Her grandson John Conroy of Hancock has shared a number of historical items with my mom and me over the years. Julia’s older sister Catherine had put together a fantastic postcard collection and a photo album. Most of the people in the album are unknown to me, but there are some great photographs I assume are of Catherine’s sisters and friends. Like this one…

Duggan Family Album, courtesy of John Conroy

The woman on the right resembles Nell Regan (Julia’s future sister-in-law) and the other two could be Margaret and Catherine Duggan. The only photo with anything written on the back is of my great-grandmother’s brother. It says, “To Kate”.

Tim Foley, courtesy of John Conroy

But of all the photographs in this collection, my favorite is a little snapshot that was tucked at the back of the album.

Donald and his sister Kathryn, courtesy of John Conroy

Take a minute today to remember Julia, and if you live in the Clontarf area, you might just run into someone who could tell you a thing or two about the woman who made Clontarf her home for over seventy years.

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Valentine’s Day…Clontarf Style

I don’t see a mad dash for chocolates and fancy cards at the McDermott General Store on the days building up to Valentine’s Day in 1884.

Typical of the winter months, business was relatively light, with only a few Clontarf residents picking up necessities like tobacco, tea, and sugar. The folks from Tara, or even the rest of Clontarf Township, didn’t seem to make it into town very often in January and February.

February @ McDermotts (click image to enlarge)

February @ McDermotts (click image to enlarge)

I don’t know how the pioneer settlers of the Clontarf area celebrated Valentine’s Day. Valentines were exchanged in the nineteenth century, but since mass-produced greeting cards were not yet widely available, we can speculate that homemade cards were the norm and exchanged among family and friends.

Here’s an example of the type of Valentine that would have been seen around Clontarf in the 1920s. This one was given to my grandpa, John Regan, from his Clontarf classmate Dick Fennell:

Dick Fennell to John Regan

By the late 1930s, my grandpa was “courting” a fellow Tara native Agnes McMahon. The two grandchildren of original Tara Township settlers had reconnected in Minneapolis and were married in 1941. I thought I would share a couple of the Valentines they exchanged in those early years:

Agnes to John

Agnes to John (inside)

John to Agnes

John to Agnes (inside)

Have you saved any special Valentines? If your answer is “yes”, today is the perfect day to pull them out and take a stroll down memory lane….

Were there any events or programs in Clontarf to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Maybe a special dinner or dance at the Clontarf Club? Leave a comment and share your memories!

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These Old Houses

I posted this article on my other blog –http://www.theirishinamerica.com – earlier this week. Hope you enjoy it…

The first time I visited Ireland in 1988, I was struck by the number of derelict farmhouses dotting the countryside. “Why doesn’t someone just tear those old houses down?” I wondered. “That’s what we do in the good ol’ USA…we don’t leave houses to fall down on themselves. If we don’t want or need them, we get rid of them and build something new and better…”

Abandoned house near Ballyedmond, County Laois (all photos by Regan McCormack)

This sentiment came from a teenage girl from the city who spent more time in the countryside during six weeks in Ireland than she had in sixteen years back home – in the “good ol’ USA”. I thought I was so smart…

Fast-forward twenty years and I am closer to home, driving the country roads of Tara Township, crisscrossing its thirty-six square miles in Swift County, Minnesota. My maternal great-great-grandparents were among the pioneer 1870s settlers of this township on the vast prairie of Western Minnesota. This was my first visit to Tara. I had traveled three thousand miles from home on a number of occasions to visit Ireland, my “ancestral homeland”, yet I had never bothered to drive a few hours west to see where my people settled when they came to Minnesota.

Granted, as far as vacation destinations are concerned, Ireland is a bit more attractive than Western Minnesota, but it turns out, the two places have some things in common.

There are the obvious similarities in place names in this part of Minnesota. Bishop John Ireland established several colonies of Irish Catholic settlers with names like Avoca, Kildare, Tara, and Clontarf. Hundreds of Irish families from cities and communities in the Eastern United States seized the opportunity to own land and live in a community with its own church and priest, surrounded by fellow Irish Catholics.

The Depression came early to rural communities and persistent crop failures and changing farming practices combined to make farming unviable for most small farmers. My relatives moved to Minneapolis, as did several other Tara families. Some of the original Irish settlers had left Tara even earlier, moving further West, always in search of better land.

So, I wonder why I was surprised to find this in Tara Township?

Section 22 of Tara Township – the McMahon place

On nearly every section of land in the township stands an abandoned farmhouse, or at least a grove of trees planted by the original settlers to protect a house. And this in the “good ol’ USA” where we tear things down!

Folks in Ireland and Tara Township have the same reaction when I ask them why they don’t simply tear down the abandoned houses. They shrug and say that they are no bother and they can be used for storage. That is the practical response, but I wonder if there is something a bit more sentimental lurking beneath?

The abandoned houses got me thinking…A similar hopelessness that drove millions of Irish to America during the 19th and 20th centuries could be seen in rural Americans who fled the farm for the city in the 1920s. Major difference, of course, is there was not a famine like Ireland experienced, however there was tremendous poverty, crops failed miserably, families were split up, and life changed permanently and dramatically.

I am rather ashamed of my sixteen-year-old self for not being as smart as she thought she was. She should have realized that the same reason this stands today in Ireland…

Near Ballyedmond, County Laois – 2011

might be why this…

Cahir Castle, Tipperary – 2011

and this…

Rock of Dunamase, County Laois – 2011

and this…

Johnstown, County Kildare – 2009

are still here today. I doubt that the farmhouse ruins will have the staying power of the castles and abbeys of centuries gone by, but in the meantime they can remind us from where we came. Whether it is a farmhouse in Ireland or Tara Township, Minnesota.

Now, if I could only get Jimmy to fix up this old house…

Two Jimmy McCormacks at old family house in Ballyedmond – 2009
Have a great weekend and please visit http://www.theirishinamerica.com!

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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 https://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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