My mom just returned from a trip to Glacier National Park for the Park’s 100th anniversary. It was a good opportunity to promote her book, recently published by Ramsey County Historical Society – The Dutiful Son: Louis W. Hill. Click here for a synopsis of the book and more information. My mom, Eileen McCormack, did the research for the book. She worked for a number of years as a curator at the James J. Hill Collection and is one of the most knowledgeable people around in the history of the Hill family.
(Note: the Hills I mention in this post are not related to the Empire Builder; the name is purely coincidental.)
On her way back to Saint Paul, she stopped in Chinook, Montana and met her cousin Jack O’Brien for the first time. Their grandmothers were sisters – my mother’s was Annie Hill Regan and Jack’s was Mary Hill O’Brien.
Early on, Mary Hill was one of the big surprises in our research. We had no idea that Annie had an older sister in Clontarf who arrived from Ireland nearly ten years before Annie. Below is the Kildare, Ireland church in which the Hill sisters were baptized.
St. Brigid Church Kill, Co. Kildare, Ireland (photo by Regan McCormack)
In 1889, Thomas O’Brien purchased the north eighty acres of the northwest quarter of section 10 in Tara Township. Tom’s first wife Ann Owens passed away in 1892, and he married Mary Hill in 1894. Although we have learned much about the O’Brien family, we still are unable to figure out what brought Mary Hill to Clontarf. We suspect the Catholic Church had something to do with it – where else does a young widower with two small children go for a wife in the late 1800s in Clontarf? If anyone has any ideas, or if an ancestor of yours followed a similar path to Clontarf, please share your stories and ideas.
By 1914, the O’Brien family moved to Chinook, Montana. Tom died in 1917 and Mary in 1924. A couple of the O’Brien daughters visited Clontarf during the 1920s to spend time with their Aunt Annie, Uncle Neil, and cousin John Regan. I have previously posted a couple of photographs from the album of one of the O’Brien girls here and here that were taken during such visits to Clontarf.
The eighty acres Thomas O’Brien owned was purchased by Neil Regan in March of 1914. Neil, Annie, and John Regan lived there until the autumn of 1920 when they moved to a little house on Cashel Street in Clontarf, across the tracks from the Patrick and Julia Regan family.
What did eighty acres cost back then? In 1889 Thomas O’Brien purchased the parcel for $664. Neil and Annie Regan sold it for $12,000 in 1920.
In case you were wondering, Mystery Photo #5 could have been the house where the O’Brien family and then the Regan family lived. It was located on the eighty acres in section 10. You will have to take my word for it, because a couple of years ago the place burned down. Good guess, Regan! Indeed, there is a good chance your grandfather did live in that house.
Next time we will continue our historical jaunt through Tara section 10 by looking at the land owned by the Duggan family.