Tag Archives: Regan

Happy Birthday Minnie!

Mary Foley, 1875-76

I originally posted this last year in honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday. Well, looks like that time of year is upon us, so I thought I would share this again. Happy New Year to you all!

Minnie was my great-grandmother, and according to my grandma she absolutely hated the nickname “Minnie”. Please forgive me, Great Grandmother, but I think it’s cute, and since your real name Mary is shared by about 75% of women in your family tree, I chose to call you Minnie.

Minnie Foley was born in Fisherville, New Hampshire on January 2, 1875. She was the fourth of five children born to Patrick Foley and Mary Crowley (their eldest son did not survive infancy.) She was baptized a few weeks later on January 24, 1875 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord, New Hampshire. John Foley and Mary Casey were her godparents.

Three years later, Minnie and her family came to Clontarf, Minnesota with several other Irish families from the Concord, New Hampshire area, including the Regan family. Minnie and Nellie Regan were best friends from a very young age.

My grandma told me that Minnie worked hard her entire life, and that included working on the family farm in Tara Township while she was growing up. Her sister Maggie worked inside, while Minnie and her younger brother Jackie worked outside. My grandma confessed, she wasn’t sure where Minnie’s older brother Tim worked!

The McMahon family lived about a mile from the Foleys in Tara. Minnie married Thomas McMahon at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf on June 28, 1904. Minnie’s sister Maggie and Tom’s brother Frank were their witnesses. I imagine Minnie and Hoosie (as Tom is referred to in Minnie’s autograph book) having secret meetings over hay bales and missing chickens during their courtship…

Wedding photo, 1904

I won’t go into the entire McMahon family history now because this is about Minnie. She and Tom raised seven children and after giving farming all they had the McMahons moved to Minneapolis in 1925.

When she died in 1945, Minnie was living with my grandma, her husband John Regan, and their new baby (and my mother) Eileen. My grandma said that Minnie was smitten with Eileen. Minnie would say that she had never known a baby to sleep as much and as well as little Eileen. Minnie marvelled at how Eileen would even fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.

In my grandma’s recipe book are a few recipes attributed to Minnie, her “Ma” – I think I will make “Ma’s Spice Cake” in Minnie’s honor today.

Nellie Regan Byrne and Mary Foley McMahon, about 1943

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99 Years Ago Today…

Today is my grandpa John Regan’s 99th birthday. He was born in Tara Township on July 23, 1913, the only child of Neil and Annie Regan. He was baptized John William at St. Malachy Catholic Church on August 10th.

John William Regan

John lived the first eight years of his life in Tara with his mom and dad.

Neil, Annie, and John – 1915

John must have had fun helping his dad on the farm.

John and Neil on the farm in Tara

John also kept Annie company.

Annie and John on the farm in Tara

In 1921 the family of three moved into Clontarf, and age eight-years-old John finally started school.

John – about 1921

In Clontarf my grandpa was known as “Red” Regan for his hair.  John’s life-long love for cars and driving began at a young age.

Beginning with the 1932-33 school year, upperclassmen from Clontarf went to Benson High School. Grandpa drove a car full of Clontarf students to and from class in Benson every day. Gerald Regan, Bob Mikkelson, Florence and Gertrude Reardon were his regular passengers.

1933 High School Graduation

After graduation, Grandpa worked at Bruno Perrizo’s. Here he is in his apron with childhood pal and fellow Clontarf resident Leo Molony.

Leo Molony and John Regan 1935

My grandpa moved to Minneapolis in the late 1930s.

It is strange to think of my grandpa’s 99th birthday because he didn’t even live to see his 58th. Since I never knew my grandpa, I am thankful to the relatives and old friends we have met in Clontarf who have generously shared their memories of Red.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa.

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Tara Township Autographs

Best friends Nellie Regan and Minnie Foley

I am currently working on a project involving my great-grandmother Mary Foley McMahon’s autograph book from the early 1900s. Mary, or “Minnie” as she was known, grew up in Tara Township. The autograph book includes signatures and inscriptions from friends, relatives, and neighbors. Most are from the years 1903-1905, but there are a few entries from when her children got their hands on the book in the mid-1920s.

I recognize most of the names in the book – they are either relatives of mine or I have seen the names on the Tara plat maps. Fortunately I have many photographs to correspond with the signatures as well.

But, there are several people I don’t know anything about. If you can help me out, please leave a comment. Of course, if you have a photograph you would like to share, even better! I have listed the date and location of the autographs (if given) along with the name.

  • Teresa McAuley – Tara, Minn – Aug. 13, 1904
  • Lizzie D. – Tara, Minn – Jan. 3, 1904
  • Julia Connolly – Ettrick, Wisc – Jan. 3, 1904
  • Mary McCant (?) – Feb. 15, 1894
  • Thomas Doran
  • M.V.D. – Benson, Minn – Jan. 10, 1904
  • Katie Kane – Benson, Minn – Jan. 10, 1904
  • Mary Fleming – Tara, Minn – Jan. 21, 1904
  • Annie Doran – Tara – Jan. 5, 1905
  • Celia A. VanDervoort – Tara – Jan. 10, 1904
  • J.L. Gaul – Chicago, Ill.

Anyone ever heard of someone with the nickname “Woddle”? Or “Nibbs”?

Let me know if any of this catches your eye…I’d love to hear from you!

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“They string up the flags just for me!”

Or so my great-grandfather Neil Regan used to say. Cornelius “Neil” Regan was born on June 14, 1873 in Fisherville, New Hampshire, the oldest child of John and Mary (Quinn) Regan. He lived much of his life in the Clontarf area, arriving in Tara Township with his parents and siblings in 1879. After years on the farm, he moved into Clontarf in 1921 where he lived for over twenty years before moving to Minneapolis in the early 1940s to live with his son John – my grandpa. There he would stay until he passed away in 1951.

Earliest photograph we have of Neil, about 1888

My mom remembers a dapper grandfather, dressed in a three-piece-suit every day and smelling of Listerine (she said he used to put it on the nose-pads of his glasses each morning – she has no idea why!) Grandpa Neil read books to my mom and thought he had a genius on his hands when she read them back to him. This was before she even started kindergarten – she wasn’t actually reading the books, she just memorized them!

Mom said Neil was very mild-mannered. The only time he would show any kind of frustration would be when he left his hat on a chair and her younger brother Johnny would toddle over, grab the hat, and pull the lining out of it. That seemed to frazzle Neil.

Neil was a quietly devout man. His nephew Gerald Regan recalls seeing Neil, kneeling next to a chair on the back porch saying the rosary. He did this every morning.

Gerald also remembers how when my grandpa John would ask for money when he was young, Neil would get up and walk away. Neil would pull out his wallet, inspecting the money carefully, and give some to John. Gerald always though this a bit odd, but Neil was a very deliberate man, so he didn’t think too much about it. Only later did Gerald realize that Neil was not being circumspect at all, but rather the cataracts on his eyes made it impossible for him to see the bills in his wallet unless he went to the window.

Shortly after Neil moved to Minneapolis he had the cataracts removed at the University of Minnesota. My grandma remembered how Neil exclaimed, “It’s a miracle! I can see!” Apparently all those early morning rosaries paid off!

Neil and Annie Regan, with two unknown women, 1936

When I see the flags decorating the porches in my neighborhood today, I will smile to myself and think of my great-grandfather Neil. Happy Flag Day everyone and Happy Birthday Neil!

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A Wedding, A Funeral, and A Banana Bread Recipe

My grandma was the best “figure-outer” I have ever known. She completed the crossword puzzle every day, was a fiercely competitive card player, and always got the maximum number of cookies cut out of a rolling of the dough. Grandma was a meticulous seamstress who could alter any pattern for the perfect fit.

She never used a calculator to balance her checkbook. Often, the number associations Grandma would think up seemed convoluted to others, like the code to get into her building (“The first and last numbers are eight and the first two numbers add up to ten, while the second two add up to fifteen…” – it was easier to memorize the four digits out-right), but she loved to solve problems and see connections between numbers, letters, and people.

Eight years ago today I was sitting in the chapel at my grandma’s funeral. As the service began, I remember I tried to think about anything that would not make me cry. This would be a challenge, but the first thing that came to mind was how there was a pretty good crowd for the funeral that Monday morning in April. Not that Grandma would have been too concerned with how many people turned out, but she would have liked to see the family all together and old friends there to pay their respects.

Next, it dawned on me that April 26th was my grandparent’s wedding anniversary. I immediately thought of their wedding photograph:

Agnes McMahon and John Regan - April 26, 1941

Grandma would have liked this over-lapping of important dates. I wrote about my grandparents and their 70th wedding anniversary last year – click here to read more.

At the luncheon following the service, I met Francis Byrne, my grandpa’s cousin. After an adorable story about my grandma helping him out of a bind in the 1960s when his daughter was stung by a bee, Francis said, “You know, Agnes and John came to visit my mom and dad in Pine River while on their honeymoon. I remember I brought them out to the sanatorium where I was working. I think I took a picture of the two of them…”

Honeymooners - 1941

As I chatted with Francis, I began to piece a few things together. My grandma always told me how on their honeymoon, my grandpa’s Aunt Nellie Byrne gave my grandma a recipe for banana bread. It was the recipe Grandma always used and passed on to my mom and me. When I asked Francis if he remembered his mother’s banana bread, his eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, it was delicious!”

I made a new friend that day in Francis. Whenever I see him, I remember how much he helped me get through that difficult day and subsequent years, and I always bring him a couple of loaves of his mother’s banana bread. I think my grandma would have appreciated this connection as well.

Thinking back, my grandma was a total perfectionist (maybe with a little OCD!) but to me she was just the perfect grandma. We all miss her very much.

Agnes Regan is buried in Clontarf, with her husband John W. Regan and Cornelius and Annie Regan, her in-laws.

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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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