Tag Archives: 1880s

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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Father Oster in Action

My mom reminded me of a photo she found at the Archdiocese Archives in Saint Paul, Minnesota…

Oster on the Farm, no date (courtesy of Archdiocese Archives - Saint Paul, MN)

Oster is the one with the beard. Does anyone recognize the two gentlemen and the boy baling hay with Father?

Note to Jim: I forgot about Shannon’s book – I do have a copy.  I need to look at his bibliography again. I still would love to find some sort of advertisement for the settlement at Clontarf.

 

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Heading East: The Cadegan & Kelliher Families

While browsing through some St. Malachy Catholic Church records today I came across a rare item.

Click image to enlarge

The name – Mary Anatole Cadegan – caught my eye. Back in September, Sean Fitzpatrick posted a comment on one of the McDermott General Store ledger entries. Two of that day’s shoppers were his great-great-grandfathers – Cornelius Cadegan and Patrick Kelliher.

In a subsequent email exchange, Sean told me that his ancestors had settled in Clontarf in response to Bishop Ireland’s colonization efforts, but the families went back east in the late 1880s, resettling in Boston, Massachusetts. Sean says, “Family lore is that the Minnesota winters and the tornadoes were just too much for them.”

Michael Francis Cadegan married Margaret Kelliher on November 23, 1882. Sean says they settled in the Six Mile Grove area after marrying. Mary Anatole was born on March 11, 1884 and baptized at St. Malachy Catholic Church on April 16th.

The church records spell the last name Cardigan but Sean tells me it is Cadegan, but also seen as Cadigan or  Caddigan…I wonder if Father Oster was trying too hard with this name, since I have heard Irish people say “cardigan” and it sounds more like “cadegan”. When they say Cadegan, maybe it sounds like “cardigan”????

Father Anatole Oster must have been a very important figure in the lives of the Kellihers and the Cadegans since Mary was given his name as a middle name at baptism. Judging from the church records, it seems unusual for an infant to be given a middle name at all at baptism. Father Oster was a tremendous help to the pioneer settlers in Clontarf, both in a spiritual sense and on a more practical level.

Sean remarked that although it has been more than one hundred years since his family called Clontarf home, they still appreciate their ties to the town out on the prairie of Western Minnesota.

Here on the blog we have heard from a number of people who trace their roots to Clontarf. Sean mentions that his family is scattered throughout the United States – the same can be said for nearly all the pioneer families who established the Clontarf Community from the late 1870s through the early 1880s.

I would love to find some proof of the Catholic Colonization efforts, like a newspaper article or advertisement, specifically naming Clontarf and the names of the communities from which the settlers came. Any examples out there? Send me an email (clontarfhistory@gmail.com) or post a comment!

By the way…I would love to see a photograph of the Kellihers and the Cadegans. Do you have any old photos, Sean?

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Memories & Looking Forward to December

Let’s take a look back at Thursday November 29, 1883 — Thanksgiving Day. Should have done this a couple of weeks ago…better late than never!

McDermott Store Ledger - November 29, 1883

Well, I suppose Thanksgiving Day is as good a day as any to buy a new pair of overalls, Patrick Langan.

I wonder what Thanksgiving was like for the pioneer settlers of Clontarf in 1883? Would they have killed a wild turkey for dinner? I don’t think I saw any turkeys being purchased at McDermott’s leading up to the big day. Maybe they had pheasant instead?

Alas, Thanksgiving is but a memory to us now. Time to look forward to December and the Christmas holiday. I wonder how soon the residents of Clontarf begin their Christmas shopping?

McDermott Store Ledger - December 1, 1883

Looks like Mr. McDermott is paying bills on this first day of the month. Rent is $5 per month. It could take him a few days to make that back in any given month!

What is the final entry for James Flynn all about? I can’t quite make it out.

On a sad note, Austin McGeary of Danvers passed away last Thursday, December 1st. I met Austin and his wife several years ago. My mom and I learned that Austin had boarded with my great-grandfather Neil Regan in Clontarf while he worked at Perrizo’s store in the late 1930s. Austin shared his memories of the time he spent at Neil’s as a young man, and for that we are very grateful.

Read Austin’s obituary here: http://www.wctrib.com/event/obituary/id/87235/. Our thoughts are with the entire McGeary family.

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July @ McDermott General Store

Come on…somebody’s got to have something to say about Mystery Photo #6!  Here is a hint: this tiled floor appeared in a much-beloved and sorely missed Clontarf establishment.  Leave a comment and let me know your answer!  The first correct answer wins a Clontarf Prairie Pub T-shirt.  What are you waiting for?

It has been a while since we have taken a look at Mr. McDermott’s ledger.  I wonder what the folks of Clontarf were buying in the Summer of 1883?

On July 4th James Shea outfitted himself with a new pair of overalls for 90-cents, two pair socks for 35-cents, and a pair of suspenders for 40-cents.  John Schinnick was also in the market for new togs, picking up a linen shirt for $1.

A descendant of Timothy Galvin commented on the blog recently.  Her great-great-grandfather stopped in on July 13th for a few supplies: 1/2 gallon lard oil, yeast cakes, matches, and one fence board – all for 90-cents.

I hope that Mrs. James McGary (McGeary?) was O.K. with a 55-cent charge on her account July 30th.  One pound of chewing tobacco went “to her boy”.

We will check back with the ledger in August…

 

 

 

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McDermott General Store Ledger

I recently obtained the complete first volume of the McDermott General Store ledger.  Three volumes of this ledger, covering 1884-1887,  are housed in the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Center at the University of Minnesota Morris.  This is a fantastic collection: oral histories, business records, personal papers, government documents and more.  The materials come from Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Swift, and Traverse counties in West-Central Minnesota.  We were tickled when Archivist Steve Gross made the scanned ledger available to us.

The scans are fairly light, so I am not sure how they will appear on the blog.  Please let me know if you can make them out.  Volume I begins on May 1, 1884.  Here are the first few pages…tell me what you think.  Click on the images to enlarge.  And if you are using a laptop to view, tilt your screen back which will darken the image and make it easier to see.

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

Ledger can be found at the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Center, University of Minnesota Morris.

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