Monthly Archives: September 2010

On a Roll…

I stumbled upon an interesting family history blog the other day – Roll Family Stuff.  Click here to read a post about a former resident of Clontarf who moved away  in 1887, leaving some relatives behind.  The post contains a journal entry by Frank Roll that recounts where he worked and lived from 1873 to 1887.  Take a look, then come back and read more here.

What a treasure to have such an account!  I would love to have information like this on my ancestors.   Frank Roll’s journey is fascinating.  Sometimes I think of migration in America as following a purely westward path, but it was often more complicated than that.  For the nineteenth-century American pioneer, moving to a new area was always a gamble – sometimes it paid off and sometimes they had to cut their losses and move on.

Here’s what the 100th anniversary booklet has to say about the Rolls…

August Roll – Family History

August Roll and his brother, Frank, homesteaded in Clontarf Township – having come from Michigan – in 1876.  Frank and his family, as well as a sister of Frank and August, disappointed with the treeless, desolate nature of the prairie returned to Michigan.

August married Victoria Back at St. Malachy Church, Clontarf, in 1883.  They had two childern: Edward, who married Anna Scheid and William.  Edward and Anna Roll had two children: Bernice who married Donald Kent and William who married Marie Tosterud.

Donald and Bernice Kent farmed in Tara Township for many years.  Donald was a parish trustee for ten years until his death in 1975.  Bernice had been a school teacher before her marriage and was in charge of the CCD classes at St. Malachy’s under Father King and Father Cooney.  Bernice still has the farm in Tara.

William and Marie Roll live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and they have four children (Charles, David, Mary, and John.)

It is interesting how the family history makes it sound like Frank came to Clontarf, didn’t like the flat landscape, and left.  But from his own account, we can see he tried to make a go of it in Clontarf, including having the blacksmith shop and going elsewhere to find work.

This got me thinking about who were the blacksmiths in Clontarf over the years.  About a week or so ago, the Birhanzel family history mentioned Patrick McCarthy worked as the blacksmith, and now we know about Frank Roll.  Anybody know who else was the blacksmith in town?


Filed under Clontarf, Family Histories

The Duggan Family of Tara

I will begin with the Duggan history from the 1978 Clontarf Anniversary booklet, which includes a bit of Regan family history.

(Please note : I am a little sketchy on a couple of details in the Regan history, but like most of the family histories in this booklet, it is based on oral history, which is not always 100% accurate.)

Duggan, William – Regan, John Family History

William and Julia (Credan) Duggan came from Ireland in 1862 and lived for a short time in Concord, New Hampshire.  In 1876 they arrived in what is now Tara Township and homesteaded there on a 160 acre farm.  They had eight children viz. Margaret, William, James, Mary, Catherine, Cornelius, John and Julia.

Julia Duggan married Patrick Regan and lived on a farm one-half mile northeast of Clontarf.  Patrick Regan’s parents, John and Mary, came to the United States in 1865 and settled in Massachusetts.  In 1876 they homesteaded in the present Tara Township and had six children viz. Nell, Cornelius, Patrick, Jeremiah, John, and Mary.  Patrick Regan was in the hay business – farming nearly all of the land between Clontarf and Benson.

Originally, William Duggan owned the south 80 acres of the southeast quarter of section 10 and the north 80 acres of the northeast section of section 15.  On the 1886 plat map, William’s mother-in-law, Catherine Credan owned 80 acres in the northeast quarter of section 10. Mrs. Credan died in 1887.

Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, son James Duggan’s name appears on William Duggan’s original 160 acres as well as various other parcels in section 10.

William Duggan played an important role in early Clontarf history.  He might even be considered one of the “founding fathers” of Clontarf; his name shows up frequently in early township records.

Located on the eighty acres in section 15 is a schoolhouse – known as the Duggan school, of course.

Continue reading


Filed under Family Histories, Tara Township

Go West

My mom just returned from a trip to Glacier National Park for the Park’s 100th anniversary.  It was a good opportunity to promote her book, recently published by Ramsey County Historical Society –  The Dutiful Son: Louis W. Hill.  Click here for a synopsis of the book and more information.  My mom, Eileen McCormack, did the research for the book.  She worked for a number of years as a curator at the James J. Hill Collection and is one of the most knowledgeable people around in the history of the Hill family. 

(Note: the Hills I mention in this post are not related to the Empire Builder; the name is purely coincidental.)

On her way back to Saint Paul, she stopped in Chinook, Montana and met her cousin Jack O’Brien for the first time.  Their grandmothers were sisters – my mother’s was Annie Hill Regan and Jack’s was Mary Hill O’Brien.

Early on, Mary Hill was one of the big surprises in our research.  We had no idea that Annie had an older sister in Clontarf who arrived from Ireland nearly ten years before Annie.  Below is the Kildare, Ireland church in which the Hill sisters were baptized.

St. Brigid Church Kill, Co. Kildare, Ireland (photo by Regan McCormack)

In 1889, Thomas O’Brien purchased the north eighty acres of the northwest quarter of section 10 in Tara Township.  Tom’s first wife Ann Owens passed away in 1892, and he married Mary Hill in 1894.  Although we have learned much about the O’Brien family, we still are unable to figure out what brought Mary Hill to Clontarf.  We suspect the Catholic Church had something to do with it – where else does a young widower with two small children go for a wife in the late 1800s in Clontarf?  If anyone has any ideas, or if an ancestor of yours followed a similar path to Clontarf, please share your stories and ideas.

By 1914, the O’Brien family moved to Chinook, Montana.  Tom died in 1917 and Mary  in 1924.  A couple of the O’Brien daughters visited Clontarf during the 1920s to spend time with their Aunt Annie, Uncle Neil, and cousin John Regan.  I have previously posted a couple of photographs from the album of one of the O’Brien girls here and here that were taken during such visits to Clontarf.

The eighty acres Thomas O’Brien owned was purchased by Neil Regan in March of 1914.  Neil, Annie, and John Regan lived there until the autumn of 1920 when they moved to a little house on Cashel Street in Clontarf, across the tracks from the Patrick and Julia Regan family.

What did eighty acres cost back then?  In 1889 Thomas O’Brien purchased the parcel for $664.  Neil and Annie Regan sold it for $12,000 in 1920.

In case you were wondering, Mystery Photo #5 could have been the house where the O’Brien family and then the Regan family lived.  It was located on the eighty acres in section 10.  You will have to take my word for it, because a couple of years ago the place burned down.  Good guess, Regan!  Indeed, there is a good chance your grandfather did live in that house.

Next time we will continue our historical jaunt through Tara section 10 by looking at the land owned by the Duggan family.


Filed under Family Histories, Mystery Photo, Tara Township

Another Corner of Section 10 (plus Mystery Photo #5)

Section 10 in Tara Township figures prominently in my research of the Irish settlers in the Clontarf area.  Personally, I can make several connections to occupants of this single square-mile of land.

The southwest quarter of section 10 was owned by Timothy Galvin on the 1886 plat map.  Mr. Galvin came to Tara Township from County Cork, via Illinois.  A Timothy Galvin appears on the ship manifest on a 1864 sailing from Queenstown, Ireland, and his name appears right next to Patrick Foley and John Regan.  There is a very good chance this is the same Timothy Galvin and he went to Illinois while Foley and Regan headed to New Hampshire.  Coincidence or not, they then met up in Tara Township about fifteen years after arriving in America.

Timothy Galvin’s name appears until 1912 when it is replaced by D.H. Lawler.  But by March 1913, John Regan buys the 160 acres for his son Jerry.  By 1913, my great-great-grandfather John Regan was an old man and had sold his farm in section 7.  The house John had built on the land served as his home until his death in 1924.

Jerry Regan Home Tara Township

Jerry Regan died in 1933, leaving his wife Agnes and six children.  The family moved from the farm the following year.

Jerry wasn’t the only Regan to live in section 10.  Next time we will look at the history of 80 acres in the northwest quarter.

If you grew up in Tara, do you have any memories of this house?

I will leave you with a mystery photo.  If you get this one, you will deserve a special prize!  The real mystery might be…whose finger is that?

Mystery Photo #5


Filed under Family Histories, Mystery Photo, Tara Township

From Gosson to Ollendick: Tara Section 10

Last week Anne mentioned her curiosity about the Gosson family who once owned the land her parents purchased in the late 1940s.  Read what Anne had to say here.

Her parents purchased two 80 acre parcels that formed a checkerboard pattern across the middle of section 10 in Tara Township.  Let’s take a closer look at the history of those 160 acres…

Looking back through the old plat maps we see that John Gosson was an early settler in Tara Township.  In 1886, he owned the south 80 acres of the northwest quarter of section 10 in Tara and by 1902 he had added the north 80 acres of the southeast quarter to his holdings.  By the time of the 1917 plat map, William Gosson’s name appears on the two 80 acre parcels.  The next map I have access to is 1931 when William Gosson “et al” are shown as owners.  The Gosson family held on to those 160 acres for at least fifty years.

On September 12, 1885 John Gosson called into McDermott General Store for 1 pound of yarn ($1), 10-cents worth of SM oil (is that oil for machinery?), and 4 yards of muslin (.40).  Mr. Gosson could have made the trip into Clontarf with his neighbor from section 8, Patrick Lawler who picked up a spade for $1.15.

There were a couple of other interesting purchases from that day.  A Mr. H.J. Maher bought a pen knife for 75-cents, and Frank McMahon (my great-great-grandfather) picked up a “first reader” for 10-cents and a “second reader” for 20-cents – one of those could have been for my great-grandfather Tom who was nearly seven-years-old in September of 1885.

I love the little peaks into the daily lives of the early settlers that the store ledger provides.

I wonder what ever happened to the Gosson family?


Filed under McDermott's General Store, Tara Township

Back to School, Back in Time

School District #25 was established on March 19, 1878 by a petition signed by John Casey and eighteen other Clontarf residents.  The first teacher was Kate Shinnick, daughter of William Shinnick, and classes were held in the Catholic Church until a schoolhouse was built in 1880.

By the 1914-15 school year the two-story frame school building was showing its age.  Timothy P. Foley, the school board member who completed the District #25 Record of Application for Special State Aid on June 8, 1915, reported that the building was in “very poor” condition.

Enrollment for the 1914-15 school year was 74, with on average 55 students attending class each day.  The school had one twelve-inch globe, and the library contained 304 volumes, forty of which were purchase from St. Paul Book and Stationery, Co. on January 13, 1915.

The students received instructed from two teachers.  The principal teacher was Loretta Fogarty and the assistant was Mary McMahon.  The principal was rated a “very poor teacher” by Mr. Foley while Miss McMahon did “excellent work”.  I can imagine that Mary McMahon was a fine teacher.  After all, she was my great-grandfather’s younger sister and my mother remembers her as having a great sense of humor.  I suspect, however, that Timothy Foley’s report is not without bias; he was married to Mary’s sister Bridget.

The 1978 Clontarf anniversary booklet indicates this picture is from about 1915.  The old schoolhouse is pictured behind the Clontarf students.  The school was located on the site of the Anna Shinnick home on Armagh Street.

1915 Clontarf School District #25

A brick building replaced the old schoolhouse in 1917 at a cost of $60.000.  It served the  Clontarf community until 1972 when the Clontarf school district merged with Benson.

I am sure many readers of this blog have memories of that schoolhouse.  Please share them…

1917 Clontarf School District #25


Filed under Clontarf

And you thought pheasant was the only game in Clontarf…

From the April 6, 1888 edition of the Swift County Monitor:

A young man, John Kenna of Clontarf was in the village Thursday exhibiting a specimen of a lynx which he caught and killed on the prairie a few weeks ago.

This is the son of the John Kenna who drowned in Tara (read the story here.)

Have there been any lynx sightings in the Clontarf area recently?


Filed under Clontarf