Monthly Archives: April 2010


Don’t go looking for Mystery Photo #1…it is gone.  Anne reported today from Clontarf, with a sniffle, that the jail was torn down.

It is sad to see it go.  I had big plans for that little building.  I imagined a museum filled with photographs and momentos from Clontarf’s rich past that people would visit from near and far.  It held on for 100+ years, and I guess I thought it would stick around until I could restore and maintain it (which would have been when either I won the lottery or magically developed comprehensive construction skills).

Alas, reality took hold.  The jail was falling apart, posed a risk to children in the town, and no one had the money nor the inclination to fix it up.   Fire has taken many of the buildings in Clontarf over the years and I suppose it was just a matter of time.

It is a shame I didn’t win the lottery in time to save the jail, but when I last looked this schoolhouse was still on the corner of my great-great-grandfather McMahon’s farm place out in Tara Township.

Tara Township Schoolhouse

Maybe I still have a chance with this one…

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Filed under Clontarf, Uncategorized

Mystery Photo #2

What is this?

No one even attempted a guess on the first mystery photo.  It was pretty easy…any last minute guesses?

On to the second mystery photo.  This building was constructed in 1878 and is no longer standing.

Identify the building and the year it was torn down correctly and you will be entered in a monthly drawing for a special Clontarf prize!  You had better hurry – the deadline is Friday, April 30th.  (You can earn an additional entry if you guess on Mystery Photo #1 as well)

Any ideas?


Filed under Clontarf

Andrew Reardon/Mary Callaghan, 1889

I just received the following question via an message board:

Do you have an Andrew Reardon who married Mary Callaghan about 1889? Mary was originally from Ontario, Canada.
Not my line, but I’m helping my cousin on her Callaghans.
Jim McCallum

Anyone have any information on these individuals? Post a comment if you do.  I know there are some Reardons out there in Clontarf…

Andrew was a son of Henry and Bridget Reardon who came to Minnesota from the Eastern U. S. in the early 1850s and settled in Credit River Township, Scott County.  The first lumber yard and general store owner in Clontarf, Dominic McDermott, also came from Credit River.  The family moved to Tara Township (near Clontarf) in 1876.

I don’t have anything on the Callaghans right now, but I remember the name from the plat maps.  More to come…


Filed under Clontarf, Family Histories, Irish

Mystery Photo #1

What is this?

Can anyone out there identify this Clontarf building?

Here are a couple of clues:

  • It was built in the late 1880s and it is still standing today (at least it was last week!).
  • Maybe one of your ancestors spent a night or two here.

Post a comment if you know what this building is.  Let us know any stories or memories you might have of the building, too!


Filed under Clontarf

What’s in a name?

Clontarf was named after a town in Ireland, near the capital of Dublin.  You can read about the history of Clontarf, Ireland here.

It is interesting that Clontarf was chosen for the town’s name.  Before the town was platted, it was called Randall.  When Bishop Ireland, acting as land agent for the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (James J. Hill), decided to establish a Catholic Colony on the land, he must have chosen the name in light of who settled.  Many of the earliest settlers to answer Bishop Ireland’s call were Irish Catholics from the East Coast of the United States.

I wonder if there are any other towns in the US named Clontarf?  Do any Clontarf natives have any stories or memories of the name Clontarf?  In the bigger scheme of Minnesota towns, it might seem unusual, but among the surrounding townships (Tara, Dublin, Kildare) it makes sense.


Filed under Early Settlers

The Young Americans

The Young Americans

This photo appeared in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Irish America Magazine.  Looking back at the text, there is more I have learned about the families and there is much more to tell about their lives in Clontarf and Tara Township.  We will hopefully be able to cover the details here in upcoming posts.

Here’s the text that accompanied the photo:

In March 1864, boyhood friends John Regan and Patrick Foley from Macroom, County Cork, arrived in New York port on the City of Baltimore sailing from Cobh.  They took to life in America quickly and in 1870 both were married.  John Regan married Mary Quinn and they had four sons and two daughters: Cornelius (Neil) , Ellen, John, Patrick, Jeremiah (Jerry), and Mary.  Patrick Foley married Mary Crowley and the couple had four children: Margaret, Timothy, Mary, and John.  After 15 years at work in the mills and machine shops of Fisherville, New Hampshire both families seized the opportunity to move west, own their own land, and raise their families in an Irish Catholic community.  By 1880, the Regan and Foley families were established in Tara Township near Clontarf, Minnesota – active in township government, members of St. Malachy Catholic Church, and proud farmers on land they owned.

This photograph of the sons of John Regan and Patrick Foley – four first generation Americans – captures one of those moments in American history when anything seemed possible.  It is the turn of the twentiesth century and Neil, Jack, and Jerry Regan and John Foley look poised to take on what the world had to offer.  Their confidence is palpable and represents the optimism shared by many Americans at the time.

Over the years, confidence waned as youth faded and the realities of life took hold.  This included falling crop prices, farm failures, personal hardships, and economic depression, but on the day this photograph was taken, with cigars pursed in their lips and hats perched jauntily on their heads, these four young men look as if the world is their oyster.

The Regans and the Foleys came together again in the next generation –  Mary Foley  was my grandmother’s mother and Cornelius (Neil) Regan was my grandfather’s father.

(Submitted by Aine C. McCormack, Saint Paul, Minnesota)


Filed under Irish

What must they have thought?

I just spent a couple of days in Clontarf.  The sky was blue and the sun shone bright on the prairie – absolutely gorgeous.  And then there is the wind.  With little to break it, the wind cuts straight through, chilling to the bone.  When I think about the settlers to this area, especially the earliest ones in 1876-1877, I wonder what they must have thought when they first laid eyes on the land around Clontarf, Minnesota, their new home…


Filed under Early Settlers