Tag Archives: Doherty

It might not look like much…

My sister and I were browsing through my grandma’s old recipe book the other day and came across this little gem:

Mary to Agnes - page 1 - click to enlarge

Mary to Agnes - page 2 - click to enlarge

This letter was written to my grandma Agnes McMahon Regan by her older sister Mary McMahon Fuchs. When the McMahon family moved to Minneapolis in 1924, Mary stayed behind in Benson and lived with her Aunt Maggie Foley.

My grandma told me that growing up, Mary was often needed to help out at the Foley house in Benson. Aunt Maggie worked as housekeeper for Father Shea and took care of her parents, pioneer Tara settlers Patrick and Mary Foley, in their old age. My grandma never understood why Mary had to go to the Foleys all of the time, since her own mother could have used her help on the farm. Plus, my grandma would point out, her mother would also have enjoyed the company of her eldest daughter.

Let’s take a closer look at the letter…

The folks at Archival Solutions were kind enough to transcribe the letter for me so I could bypass the step of deciphering mid-century cursive writing and get right to the good stuff: the content. I find with transcribed letters, I am better able to appreciate the flow and nuances of the text that I sometimes miss when I am struggling with spelling and punctuation errors in the original documents.

My grandma would tell me how she and Mary were “great pals” and this is clear in the first part of the letter:

So you and Margaret (their sister) are doing your Christmas baking together. That sure is nice. I sure miss you…I have made some cookies and candy. Wish you were here and would make coffee and we could munch. Ha, Ha!

When I was a kid, I don’t think I really got the “great pals” thing…they were both old. Of course, I grew to understand that even old people had pals, but I don’t think I realized how close Mary and my grandma were until I read this letter.

A Fuchs, several Regans, a McMahon, and a couple of Byrnes

Mary talks a bit about family and friends, commenting, “Poor Jack Byrne. Does he suffer much?” Jack Byrne had roots in Tara Township and was married to Nellie Regan. Jack died in February 1954, which is one clue for my dating the letter to 1953. The photo at the left shows Mary’s daughter Franny, my grandma, their sister Rose, Nell & Jack Byrne, with my mom and her brother Johnny in front.

On page 2, Mary expresses her disappointment that they will not be going to Minneapolis for Christmas. We also get a glimpse into her feelings for her Aunt Maggie:

Well Agg, as things look now, we won’t be able to come down for Christmas – sure are sorry about that – but her nibs was in the hospital for 8 days and they gave her some drug and they gave her too much of it – took her appetite and she still doesn’t eat…

“Her nibs” was a slang term meaning a self-important person. It was used much like we might say “her majesty”, and not to refer to actual royalty. This was Aunt Maggie to whom Mary was referring… I will talk about Maggie Foley in a future post with some insight from my grandma as to why she might have been referenced in such a manner!

Mary inquires on Eileen’s (my mom’s) Christmas vacation and hopes the family will come to Benson for a visit: “Let us know when you can come and stay as long as you can…” My mom says they went out to Benson often, and she has fond memories of the visits. She said she could always tell Mary was so pleased when they would come for a visit, but was especially pleased to see her sister.

Mary ends her letter asking my grandma for several addresses – cousins, aunts, and uncles who lived in the Cities. And finally, the reason the letter was saved in the first place…a recipe. Mary doesn’t indicate what the recipe is for, but my mom says it is definitely a Christmas favorite – spritz cookies. When these McMahon women baked, they meant business! The recipe calls for 10 cups of flour and four cups of shortening!

My grandma kept the letter initially because the recipe was something she only made once a year – otherwise she would have committed it to memory like so many of her other recipes. After years of making the cookies, she didn’t need to look at that letter for the ingredients or baking instructions. I suspect that she kept it and looked at it for the exact same reasons I treasure the letter today.

When I first read the letter, I immediately remember the year we all made Christmas cookies together. When she was done mixing the dough by hand, I had the task of scraping my Great-Aunt Mary’s fingers with the dull edge of a knife to make sure not one scrap was wasted. That memory leads to how much I miss my grandma and love my own family and great-pal-older-sister.

Each time my grandma unfolded that piece of paper, long after her days of baking 10 cup cookie recipes had passed, I can only imagine what memories filled her heart, but I know she never forgot the love she had for her sister and pal, Mary.

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If you would like to see an example of what the transcribed letter looks like, please email me clontarfhistory@gmail.com.

Please visit the Archival Solutions website for more information on transcription and other services. They believe that history matters and we must preserve our history in order to keep the stories alive for future generations.


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Wonder who the “dry” votes were?

Hancock Record (compliments of Anne Schirmer)

Judging from some of the stories I have heard about Clontarf, it comes as no surprise that a wet-dry vote would have this outcome!  Readers contributed comments to my post earlier this year on the Clontarf Club referencing the days of bootleg whiskey in Clontarf – click here to read the post and comments.  I am a little confused as to when Prohibition was repealed – I thought it was later in 1933.  This autumn there will be a new Ken Burns documentary on PBS, Prohibition.  I guess I will learn more about it then!

This clipping is from 1933, the year my grandpa John Regan graduated high school.  After graduation, he worked behind the bar at Bruno Perrizo’s in Clontarf.  This photo was taken some time during his tenure at Perrizo’s (the apron and the train in the background tipped my grandma off to the time-frame and place.)

Leo Molony and John Regan (1933-35)

Leo Molony (in the hat) and my grandpa grew up in Clontarf together.  When I met Kit Molony Doherty in 2004, one of the first things she told me was the story of how my grandpa saved her brother Leo’s life.

When the boys were about ten-years-old, they were playing “cowboys” with several other boys from town in McDermott’s pasture.  We can imagine them having a grand old time – riding the cattle and doing tricks.  The fun ended when Leo Molony was poked in the eye by a horn.  Scared of the blood and the prospect of being caught goofing around where they ought not be, the boys quickly scattered.  Leo and John were left alone in the pasture.

Kit said she remembers the howl let out by her mother when she saw John with one arm propping Leo up and his other hand pressed to Leo’s face.  There was blood everywhere, and my grandpa was holding Leo’s eye in place in the socket.

Leo lost vision in the eye, but a doctor was able to perform surgery so he didn’t lose the eye itself.  Kit said how grateful her family was to my grandpa for taking care of Leo that day.  She said his presence of mind not only saved Leo’s eye, but probably saved his life.

Somehow I don’t think John received a hero’s welcome when he returned home to his mother after his cowboy adventures!  I wonder if the boys learned their lesson about trespassing in McDermott’s pasture?

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A couple of notes…

  • The winner of the June drawing is…Mary D’Agati! I will send you an email to get your address for your Official Clontarf Prairie Pub T-shirt.  Congratulations and thanks for the comments!
  • Speaking of t-shirts…any ideas about a design for a new Clontarf t-shirt?  Let me know what you think (leave a comment.)
  • St. Malachy Summerfest is this Sunday July 10th.  This is a fundraiser for the Church.  Anne Schirmer has donated some lovely photographs of area farm places that will be for sale.
  • Monday July 11th is the Annual Meeting for Swift County HIstorical Society.  This year’s meeting and dinner will be held in DeGraff, Minnesota, and museum director Marlys Gallagher will present a program on the Catholic Colonization Bureau settlements in Swift County.

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More on the Clontarf Play (plus…a few news items)

After reading my previous post about the Clontarf play (click here to see original post), cast member Tom Doherty sent me this email:

Hi,
I believe that the year of the play was 1956.  I know that it wasn’t the late ’50s.  All of the characters we played were still alive in 1956, such as Doc Apitz who died in 1958.
I broke my arm about 10 days to 2 weeks before the play and it looked like I wasn’t going to play my Dad (Joe) as scheduled.  Then Annie Ascheman, who worked on the play with all of us, came to me with a solution.  She got the Buck Eucker players to sit down and start dealing and then she had me go and sit down and join them.  Then they all started asking me about the arm – was it broke, etc., and how did I break it.   I said that I was patting myself on the back for playing good cards and I broke my arm.
The whole house just howled and I looked out in the audience and there sat my Dad glaring at me.  Annie was over by the stage and she was in convulsions laughing so hard.  I believe her husband was Fred and they lived out in Tara & Hegbert area.  They went to church in Clontarf, so she knew about all the characters inside and out.  She put in many hours with practicing and rehearsing on this play.

Tom Doherty

What a treat to have this first-hand account!  Thanks for sharing Tom!

Anyone else remember this play, or perhaps other performances put on my the residents of Clontarf?  Leave a comment or send me an email (clontarfhistory@gmail.com)

The big news in Clontarf this week is the new sign that went up on Thursday.  It is a great sign.  I forgot to take a picture, so if someone could email me a picture, I would like to post it.

In a couple of weeks, on Sunday, July 10th, St. Malachy will be holding their annual Summerfest.  This is a fundraiser, complete with Mass, a silent auction, games, and a pot-luck.

Eileen would like to thank everyone who came out Thursday to the Swift County Historical Society for her talk on, The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill.  If you missed it, the book is available from Ramsey County Historical Society…just click here for more information and to order a copy.

Have a good weekend!

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The Clontarf Grace Avenue Theatre Proudly Presents…

Anne Schirmer shared this gem with me on my last visit to Clontarf in April:

A Jack Langan Production.

Anne had a chat with Mary Reardon Langan, wife of play producer Jack Langan, and Mary shared some of her memories of the play…

Mary said the action of the play centered around a game of Buck Euchre, which apparently was a big part of “a typical business day in Clontarf” during the 1920s and 1930s!  The actors are listed on the left and each portrayed a Clontarf resident from back in the day.  A couple of guys (Bob Perrizo and Jim Benoit) did double-duty playing two characters.  Jack based the play on his first-hand observations of these Clontarf businessmen and card players, according to Mary.

Mary also remembered some of the special guest celebrities: Brother Bones was played by Dick Perrizo, and The Dolly Sisters were Gretchen and Robbie Apitz.  This must have been quite a production!  I bet the people of Clontarf really enjoyed themselves.  I love the idea of an old-fashioned basket social.

A couple of other notes from Mary…

  • The first actor on the list should be Jerry Goulet, not aTerry.
  • “Gus’s” Place refers to Gus Heschke’s.
  • Sis Mikkelson was responsible for creating many plays in Clontarf over the years, especially St. Patrick’s Day productions.

Anyone out there remember this play, or events like this in Clontarf?  I am not sure if Mary and Anne came up with a year for this…maybe the late 1950s?  I must say that I am impressed by Mr. Langan’s production, and I would love to know about others he presented in Clontarf over the years.  Please share any memories you have by leaving a comment.  Let me know if you have any photos from this time (school photos, baseball team, etc.) or any other momentos…it would be great to see them.

Many thanks to Anne and Mary!

Have a great weekend!

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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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A Path to Tara Township

 

State House - Concord, New Hampshire (1816)

 

The Patrick Foley family lived just a few blocks from the New Hampshire State House in the Fisherville neighborhood of Concord during the 1870s.  This was before the family settled in Tara Township.  The four Foley children – Timothy, Margaret, Mary, and John – were baptized at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord.  Patrick worked at the Concord Axle Works, as well as in a machine shop.

 

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church Concord, NH

 

Patrick Foley was able to read and write English, which were unique skills among immigrants from County Cork, Ireland during this period (he immigrated in 1864.)  I knew that Patrick had served as a Tara Township clerk for many years, and I learned in Concord last week that Patrick served as secretary and president for both the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society and the Catholic Temperance League.

By the 1886 Tara plat map, Patrick Foley owned 80 acres in section 16 and 240 more in section 21.  Matthew Quigley, who also came from Concord, was sandwiched  in between, owning 80 acres in the northeast quarter of section 21.

When Patrick Foley died in October 1913, his pallbearers were, according to his obituary, “Thomas O’Brien, James Flemming, D.F. McDermott, J.L. Doherty, John Gossen, and James O’Donnell.”  All men were either Tara neighbors or fellow pioneer settlers in Clontarf.

I will have more to say about other Tara pioneers who came from Concord once I sort through my research!

 

Photographs taken by Regan McCormack

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The Duggan Family of Tara

I will begin with the Duggan history from the 1978 Clontarf Anniversary booklet, which includes a bit of Regan family history.

(Please note : I am a little sketchy on a couple of details in the Regan history, but like most of the family histories in this booklet, it is based on oral history, which is not always 100% accurate.)

Duggan, William – Regan, John Family History

William and Julia (Credan) Duggan came from Ireland in 1862 and lived for a short time in Concord, New Hampshire.  In 1876 they arrived in what is now Tara Township and homesteaded there on a 160 acre farm.  They had eight children viz. Margaret, William, James, Mary, Catherine, Cornelius, John and Julia.

Julia Duggan married Patrick Regan and lived on a farm one-half mile northeast of Clontarf.  Patrick Regan’s parents, John and Mary, came to the United States in 1865 and settled in Massachusetts.  In 1876 they homesteaded in the present Tara Township and had six children viz. Nell, Cornelius, Patrick, Jeremiah, John, and Mary.  Patrick Regan was in the hay business – farming nearly all of the land between Clontarf and Benson.

Originally, William Duggan owned the south 80 acres of the southeast quarter of section 10 and the north 80 acres of the northeast section of section 15.  On the 1886 plat map, William’s mother-in-law, Catherine Credan owned 80 acres in the northeast quarter of section 10. Mrs. Credan died in 1887.

Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, son James Duggan’s name appears on William Duggan’s original 160 acres as well as various other parcels in section 10.

William Duggan played an important role in early Clontarf history.  He might even be considered one of the “founding fathers” of Clontarf; his name shows up frequently in early township records.

Located on the eighty acres in section 15 is a schoolhouse – known as the Duggan school, of course.

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