Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Sad Day in Tara

The following story appeared in the August 8, 1882 edition of the Benson Times.  This obituary serves as an example of how fragile life was for the pioneer settlers of Clontarf and Tara.  Obituaries from the area tell the sad stories of children who succumbed to whooping-cough and scarlet fever, fathers who died in terrible farm accidents, and mothers who passed away in childbirth and left behind young families.  There are more dramatic deaths as well – a young man who was struck by a train, a little boy who ate poisoned plums, and a Clontarf woman who caught fire.

John Kenna was one of the pioneers in Tara Township, arriving with his family in 1878 from Concord, New Hampshire.  For more on the Kenna family click  here.

John Kenna Obituary 1882

Mr. Kent and Mr. Duggan were neighbors of the Kenna family in Tara as well as being old friends from New Hampshire.  I wonder if there is any further information about this incident in the Benson paper?  I am curious if the Kenna-descended readers had heard this story, and if here are any  family anecdotes surrounding  it?

(Thanks to the  Swift County Historical Society for the obituary!)


Filed under Tara Township

A Page From Mr. Oleson’s, I mean Mr. McDermott’s, Ledger

On August 27, 1883 William Duggan of Tara sold 13 dozen eggs to Mr. McDermott for $1.62.  That seems like a lot of eggs.

I know I shouldn’t rely on a TV series from the 1970s as my frame of reference, but on Little House on the Prairie, Caroline Ingalls would walk into town with a basket of eggs over her arm to sell to Mrs. Oleson at the mercantile.  If 13 dozen eggs only fetched $1.62 in 1883, then Ma’s measly dozen or so (whatever her little basket held) would have hardly put a dent in the Ingalls’ tab at Oleson’s Mercantile.  LHOTP took place ten years earlier than the McDermott ledger, so Caroline probably would have made about a dime.

It will be difficult, but I need to  refrain from making comparisons to LHOTP every time I look at the McDermott Store ledger.  Not all of my historical context comes from TV programs.

Back to McDermott’s.  Pork was a popular item at the store this day.  I had not noticed it in the ledger before, but Frank Casey picked up 16-1/2 pounds of pork, M. Chennery bought 24-1/2 pounds, 18-1/2 pounds for Michael O’Neil, and 22 pounds for Thomas O’Brien.

Of course there were also the usual purchases of assorted dry goods, tobacco, and lamp oil.  Something a little different – Stephan Owens of Tara (later of Clontarf) purchased 50-cents worth of black berries.

A note to Keith: an entry in the ledger reads, John Casey (Marysland).  I think this confirms what you thought about a previous John Casey entry.


Filed under McDermott's General Store

Hughes Family Part II: John & Mary McGeary Hughes

The Hughes story continues…

John Hughes married Mary McGeary of Marysland Township in 1898.  They had 10 children: Anthony, William, John, Mary, Rose, Joseph, Anne, Janet, Agnes and Florence.  Anne Hughes and Rose Hughes Perrizo live in Clontarf and Janet Hughes Strand lives in Benson.  The four sons are deceased and Mary, Agnes, and Florence live in California.

John Hughes was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.  He hauled rocks from his farm for the foundation of the present church of St. Malachy and also helped in the building of the A.O.H. Hall.

I was cross-referencing with the Swift County History book and it looks like the McGeary family from Marysland came from County Tyrone, Ireland, as did the Hughes family.  I also noted that Patrick McGeary married Mary Hughes, daughter of Cornelius and Catherine (Dunn) Hughes.  If anyone is interested, we can look further into it.

Remember…every time you comment or reply to a comment on the blog, your name is entered in a drawing to win a special Clontarf prize!  The drawing takes place at the end of the month, so you have less than a week to build your entries.


Filed under Family Histories

The Hughes Family

A reader of the blog asked what we knew of the William Hughes family.  What follows is the entry in the 100th anniversary booklet from 1978:

William Hughes-Margaret Campbell Family History

Great Grandfather Paul Hughes and his wife, the former Mary Martin, lived in County Tyrone, Ireland.  They had 9 sons and 2 daughters.  Paul Hughes was a blacksmith and was killed by a horse and buried at Pomeroy, Ireland.  Later his widow married John Hamilton, a widower.  Her brother,  James Martin, was a poet and song writer who had left Ireland and gone to America.  He was employed by a steamship company to encourage people to emigrate to Canada and the United States.

He wrote “The Good Ship Caledonia” and “Farewell to Erin” and other ballads.  The older members of Great Grandmother’s family settled in Quebec, Canada, and later she and her husband, John Hamilton and Grandfather William Hughes, who was then 10 years of age, followed them to Quebec.  One of Grandfather William’s older brothers was drowned in the St. Lawrence River.

Grandfather William Hughes married Margaret Campbell in the Province of Quebec, Canada.  They had 9 children, 4 daughters and 5 sons when they left Canada to come to the United States.  The 2 oldest sons died of cholera en route – Henry on the Great Lakes, and Daniel in Chicago.

The family then came down the Illinois River to the Mississippi River and traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Paul on the immigrant steamer, The War Eagle.  They were urged to come to St. Paul by Grandfather William’s uncle James Martin, the poet and song writer who then lived in St. Paul.  Betsy, the oldest daughter, died at Greer’s Cabin in Dakota County before the family moved into their home in 1854.  They settled at Pig’s Eye and also lived at Pine Bend.

Ann Hughes married Ed McGinley and they had no children.  Ed McGinley served in the Civil War with the Union Army and was acquainted with the Minnesota area so he and his wife homesteaded in the township of Tara.  They encouraged Grandfather and Grandmother William Hughes and their son, John, to take homesteads in Tara, also.  Grandfather William Hughes and John each homesteaded 80 acres of land.  By building a house partially on each homestead, they were able to occupy the same home.  Grandmother William Hughes died in 1895 and Grandfather William Hughes died in 1903.  They are buried in St. Malachy’s Cemetery.

I find stories like this fascinating because you don’t come across detailed immigrant accounts like this very often.

Part II will continue with John Hughes and his family.  Check back tomorrow.


Filed under Family Histories, Tara Township

The Boutain Family & Clontarf’s “Hay Day”

This history appeared in the Clontarf anniversary booklet from 1978.  It contains a great story about when it was all about hay in Clontarf.

Edward Boutain, Sr. Family History

Edward Sr. was born in 1852 in Quebec Province, Canada.  He married Belsimire Mercier and came to Clontarf in 1900.  The family operated the Clontarf Hotel with their sons helping with the livery stable while the daughters worked in the restaurant.  The children born to Edward Boutain, Sr. and Belsimire were: Delvina, Georgiana, Thomas, Edward Jr. who married Mary O’Brien (Leona, William, Maire, Lucille, and Edward), Rosie, Leona, Clara, and Annie.

Edward Boutain, Jr. and his brother Thomas were engaged in the hay business at Clontarf during the early 1900s when Clontarf was the Hay Capital of the World.  Leona remembers how the farmers would squabble (fight) for the railroad cars as they came into Clontarf to pick up hay with many farmers running out to meet the train as it neared Clontarf – and climbing into the cars while on the move to claim them for their hay.

Everyone in Clontarf during this time was involved in the hay business.  If you weren’t growing hay, then you were buying and selling it.  I am sure my great-grandfather was not the only one in Clontarf to lose the “fortune” he made in hay nearly as quick as he made it.

I think I have mentioned before that we have quite a large collection of photographs which roughly date from 1900-1910.  Most of the photographs are formal and feature men and women who are well-groomed and in their Sunday best, bright-eyed and ready for the camera.  But there are a couple of the photos where the mood is much more relaxed – hats are askew, suits are  sloppy, and posture is slouched.  I have a hunch that it isn’t a coincidence that these are all-male group photos.  We have heard plenty of stories of farmers who went into town after a good harvest or market and didn’t come home for a week…maybe they stopped off at Brandmo’s for a photo so they would remember it when the week was up?

The man seated on the left is my great-grandmother’s brother Tim Foley, and the man standing on the right is my great-grandfather’s brother Jack Regan.  I am not sure about the other two guys.  Maybe they are Boutains?  Any guesses?

I’ve always kind of liked this one.

Four Guys from Clontarf


Filed under Clontarf, Family Histories

I say Bouta, you say Boutain

And I think we are both saying the same thing: boe-tay.  I am not clear on who is who in the Bouta/Boutain family.  I read up on the families in the anniversary booklet from 1978, and I quickly became more confused than ever over the spelling.  For example, there is an entry on Edward Boutain, Sr. and his wife Belsimire Mercier.  Then the next entry is for Thomas Bouta, “the son of Edward Bouta and Belsimire Mercier…”

But we are going to begin with another Bouta history from the Clontarf anniversary book…

Thomas Bouta – Jane Clint Family History

Thomas Bouta (sometimes spelled Boutin) arrived in the Clontarf area from the Province of Quebec, Canada in 1870.  His coming here coincided with the completion of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad as far as Benson in that year.

Thomas married Jane Clint whose father was at one time foreman and later roadmaster of the Benson division of the railroad.  Thomas was foreman of the grading crew of the railroad and also helped construct the first section house in Clontarf.  A Catholic service was held in this section house in 1871 by a Father McDermott (no relation to the Dominic McDermotts).  The first child born to Thomas and Jane Bouta on July 10, 1876 was the first “Clontarf” child baptized in the DeGraff Catholic Church on July 28, 1876.  The church was then named Our Lady of Kildare (later to be changed to St. Bridget’s).  Margaret and Mrs. Oscar (Florence) Arne are the two remaining members of the Thomas and Jane Bouta Family.

Rose Bouta (a child of Thomas and Jane Bouta) married Edmund Columbe in 1898 and they had twelve children of whom five are still living viz. Edward, Rosella, Florence, Margaret who became Sister Wilma of the Order of St. Joseph, and Emma.

I wasn’t aware that there would have been a section house in Clontarf as early as 1871 – that’s even before Randall Station, the precursor to Clontarf, was established.

Just what I need, this story throws another spelling into the mix: Boutin!

I would love to hear any comments, insights, or anecdotes about the Bouta(in) names and families.  Please leave a comment!

Tomorrow we will look at the hotelier Edward Boutain, Sr.


Filed under Early Settlers, Family Histories, French

Mystery Photo #4

On warm Sunday afternoons, what do most of us like to do?  Go to the lake, play with the kids, have a picnic, relax with family and friends…

A little bit of all of that is going on in this Mystery Photo, except for the going to the lake part – unless Byrne “Lake” or “Lake” Malachy counts.*

Mystery Photo #4

Do any of these people look familiar to you?  Click on the photo to make it larger.  I believe this photo was taken in 1918, could be Tara Township or Clontarf.  Actually, I suppose it could be almost anywhere.

The woman on the far left is my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan, standing behind her in the vest is great-grandfather Neil Regan, and in the front on the left is my grandfather John (“Red” as he was known in Clontarf) Regan.

Any ideas? Something to ponder over the weekend…

*Byrne Lake and Lake Malachy show up on Plat maps, although their existences can’t be proven.


Filed under Mystery Photo