Tag Archives: Tara Township

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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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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