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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Port Huron City

Postcard:  Port Huron circa 1902 - Photographer Unknown
This city is one of the most naturally attractive, as well as pleasantly located, in the State. The streets are nearly all broad, and richly shaded with large trees, the growth of forty years, and the entire aspect of the place is one that Goldsmith would have delighted to describe, so quietly restful and peaceful is the scene, and so far removed from the restless and, more portentuous (sic) activities of large commercial centers. To the north, the broad river trails its beauteous way throughout the land, basking like a silvery serpent beneath the sun's glorious beams, while to the southeast and west extend the farms - the richest portion of the county, presenting to the eye a most magnificent rural view. Any lover of nature will acknowledge the perfection and beauty of the whole picture, and perchance, may indulge a sigh that all the world, and every place in particular, is not so happily conditioned. The inhabitants are generally from the North Atlantic States, or are representatives of the Eastern States, all well known in our vernacular as Yankees, who dropped out of the ever-westward-flowing tide of their brotherhood, and settled down here.

To the people who came and remained we can say - you found a wilderness and cleared a place for habitation. You have taken from the mountains wealth to pay for labor; you have found at hand the clay for brick, the pine trees for lumber, and out of these materials built your towns. No better illustration is afforded anywhere of the skill and ingenuity of man. There is nothing great in this world but man, there is nothing great in man but mind. He found materials in nature's great storehouse; but he was the master, they his slaves. He found the land wild and inhabited by savages - lo! the change! The great stores, the busy banks, the restaurants, the hotels, stand where a few years ago the tangled underbrush gave [489] shelter to wild beasts and creeping reptiles. The morning whistles, the school and church bells ringing from the hillside, have supplanted the wild yell of the Indian. The newspaper, the great modern missionary, is abroad in your midst, and reports to you the outside world. The telegraph and telephone are yours; a railroad system is yours; a well organized society is yours. These are your statistics! This is your civilization! Withal, your neighbors in the old countries may enjoy some advantages which you do not; many live in the midst of culture, in a region of accumulated wealth, yet would you change places with them? Would you go back to the quiet life, so poor in experience, as the old past you left in your old home? Nay, tarry here, amid these scenes, full of the romance of promise, the mysteries of illimitable possibility, where opportunity - a goddess shy in the older communities, and coy and hard to win - extends a friendly hand on hill-top and in vale, and fairly leads you to the summits of success.  (History of St. Clair County: Port Huron Township and City - A T Andreas 1883)

Port Huron, which is located in St. Clair County, Michigan was grew quickly after the 1850's due in part to the shipbuilding and lumber trade.  In 1857 it was incorporated.  By the time Michael and Bridget (Dunn) Murphy had moved there in was a thriving town.  By 1870 the population had exceeded that of the surrounding villages and in 1871 the Supreme Court designated it as the county seat. That same year the city and surrounding areas burned.  Ten years later the Thumb Fire again engulfed the city.

LOC Collections

The  Port Huron City Directory, Brown, 1871-2 and the Port Huron City Directory, Leath & Talbot, 1881 show Michael living on Chestnut, between 7th and 8th.   The Port Huron & St. Clair County Directory, Sherman, 1893-4  lists Bridget as a widow living at 2211 Willow.  The directory also lists Michael, a fireman, living at the same address.  It seems likely that this is in fact her son, John, who was a fireman later in Chicago.  It is also possible that Michael was not deceased, but rather absent and living in Chicago.

Neither of these areas were included in the detailed Sanborn Maps of 1898, however, you can see the streets in the main map above.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Growing up in the nether-lands of California we had no family to join us for Thanksgiving, although I remember an occasional stray joining the table.  Even so the day was festive, we would gather leaves and small bunches of grapes from the neglected vineyard across the street to decorate the holiday table.  The wonderful smells of cooking would permeate the house all day. 

There were always home made rolls, Waldorf salad, piles of mashed potatoes and turkey with all the trimmings.

Over the years the family has grown and shrunk.  In the early years of marriages travel was too expensive for trips home each year...and for that matter my childhood home was gone.  But there was always a feast somewhere for everyone. 


Monday, November 5, 2018

Family Gatherings - 1999

The furthest we have traveled for a family gathering was to Ireland in 1999. The entire family at the time made the trip, except Alex, who stayed home with his grandparents.

The Gardens - Killarney
We spent the first week in Killarney.  There were side trips to the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and for some the Blarney Stone, Aghadoe and Ballybunnion.
Aghadoe, Co Kerry

Ring of Kerry

Muckross Abbey

A second week was spent in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, the market town for Derrycoosh where the Walshes lived.  Again there were many side trips, to Kylemore, Westport, Crough Patrick, Islandeady Relict and more.



More Pictures

Everyone eventually made it safely home, except Dad. The whole trip was planned because he had never managed to make the trip to Ireland.  We brought him to the land of his ancestors!

Monday, October 22, 2018


Grimalkin Studio: Celtic Artwork Gallery &emdash; Samhain
Courtesy - Grimalkin Studio
In Celtic Ireland, Samhain (/ˈsɑːwɪn, ˈsaʊɪn/; Irish: [sˠəuɪnʲ]) marked the change from the lighter half of the year (summer) to the darker half (winter).  It was believed that during this time the division of this world from the otherworld was at it's thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. "...time lost all meaning and the past, present, and future were one. The dead, and the denizens of the Other World, walked among the living. It was a time of fairies, ghosts, demons, and witches. Winter itself was the Season of Ghosts, and Samhain is the night of their release from the Underworld. Many people lit bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay. Often a torch was lit and carried around the boundaries of the home and farm, to protect the property and residents against the spirits throughout the winter." [1]  Household fires were extinguished and then rekindled from the bonfire.

Two hills in the Boyne Valley were associated with the festivities. Tlachtga, the location of the Great Fire Festival, which was begun on the eve of Samhain (Halloween) and Tara.  Some Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise around the times of Samhain and Imbolc. These include the Mound of the Hostages(Dumha na nGiall) at the Hill of Tara,[12] and Cairn L at Slieve na Calliagh.[13]

Families honored their ancestors, inviting them home.  At the same time they tried to ward off harmful spirits by disguising themselves with costumes and masks.  Food was prepared for both the living and dead. The ancestral food was shared with the needy. 

With the coming of Christianity to Ireland, Samhain was incorporated with the feasts of All Saints (All Hallows) and All Souls at the beginning of November. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits were incorporated into what became Halloween. 

In medieval Ireland the festival marked the end of the season for trade and warfare and was a time for tribal gatherings. These gatherings are a popular setting for early Irish tales.

The Irish brought their Halloween traditions to America where today it is a major celebration

Monday, October 8, 2018

Nora O'Connor Donovan

Last September we spent part of a day looking for the grave of Timothy Donovan's wife Nora O'Connor.  Nora died on 31 Jul 1953 and was buried the next day in Kilsarcon (Cill Arcon) Cemetery.  The cemetery lies at the top of some rolling hills and has a wonderful view. 

I thought it interesting that Nora was not buried in the same cemetery as Timothy, who died in 1950 and is believed to be buried with his family in Castleisland.  However, since then I've discovered that it is not uncommon in Ireland for wives to be buried with their birth families instead of their families by marriage.

It seems possible that the Nora listed near the end of the O'Connor tombstone is Nora O'Connor Donovan.  James is most likely her brother.  But the burial book gives only the cemetery and not the grave, so it isn't certain. 

Timothy Donovan - Dropbox
Kilsarcon CemeteryDú
Kilsarcon Cemetery - Wikimapia
Kilsarcon Cemetery - Find A Grave

Monday, September 24, 2018

Family Gatherings 1990

Maura and William rented homes on the coast many summers. and often invited family to join them.  Most years the Greg couldn't get vacation at that time, however, 1990 the Trindles joined in for a few did Erich, Mom and Dad.

One of the activities was an ocean fishing trip.....Greg and Jess fed the fish :)  while Andi caught the biggest salmon.

Also on the agenda was Dune Buggy riding in the sand dunes. 

More Pictures

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bridget Dunn

Bridget the daughter of John Dunn and Bridget Lonergan was christened on the 3rd of March 1836.  Later records give many different birth years from 1833 to 1838, it is more likely that she was born in 1836 or late 1835 as Catholic christenings  are usually soon after birth.

Bridget was about 10 when the family emigrated from Mocklershill, Tipperary, Ireland to Ontario, Canada.  Little is known of their life in Canada before her marriage to Michael Murphy in Stratford in 1861.  Within the next seven years Bridget had four children, Mary and Ellen born in Stratford, then John  and William born in Port Huron, Michigan.

All indications are their's was not a happy household.  It appears that Michael was in trouble, most likely in Stratford and most definitely in Port Huron.  I haven't been able to dig up what exactly the trouble was, but I wouldn't be surprised to find he was part of the "Irish Mob". 

Before 1870 daughter Ellen passed away and in 1880 son John died of dropsey.  Sometime after the 1880 census was taken, Bridget kicked Michael out of the house.  Michael went to Chicago where he disappeared into the streets.  Someday, perhaps, he will be found.  Bridget remained in Port Huron.

William followed his father to Chicago where he died under suspicious circumstances in 1904.  His death certificate says he is married and is a fireman. Bridget brought his remains back to Port Huron to be buried near his brother.

Daughter, Mary, married in 1888 and settled in Bay City, MI.  

Family tradition states that Bridget was divisive, always creating problems in the family.  I heard this from family of my Great Aunt as well as family members of Bridget's sister Mary Kelly.  Bridget was the second generation in my story of Sarah (Bridget) Lonergan's Legacy.

Bridget Dunn Murphy
James Howard Madden
abt 1925   -- Age 90+
In 1910 it appears that she was living alone in Port Huron.  By 1910 she is living with her daughter Mary Haffey in Bay City.  I haven't located her in 1920, but in 1930 she is again living with Mary and her family.  Shortly after the census was taken she entered Grand Traverse Hospital  in Grand Traverse, Michigan.  

Bridget was well liked within the hospital according to all known remaining records.   Her reputation for creating turmoil in group situations does not seem to have followed her there, perhaps she had mellowed as she reached the century mark.  Her entry into the hospital was arranged by her grandson Joseph, and it was noted that dementia had begun about twelve years earlier but had only lately become impossible to manage at home.  It was also noted that the family was attentive, writing and visiting often.d

Bridget died 13 Oct 1931.  Her death certificate gives he age as 98, but it is more likely she was 95.  It is thanks to the notes in her hospital file that we have been able to locate not only her christening, but those of all of her siblings in Ireland.