Clontarf is similar to the hundreds of small towns that popped up along the railroad as it stretched through the western United States.  Settlers came to Clontarf from all over the country.  For most of Clontarf’s pioneer settlers, this was a second, third, or fourth stop in the migratory process.

The two main groups who chose to settle in the Clontarf area were the Irish and the French.  For the most part the Irish settlers came as a result of Bishop Ireland’s Catholic colonization efforts.  The French settlers must have also been attracted by the presence of  a Catholic Church and a resident priest, the two major draws for the Irish colonists.

Here is a brief time line showing the early history of the development of Clontarf, Minnesota:

1870 Siding and section house put up 7 miles west of Benson on     St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, station named Randall

1876 February: Catholic Colonization Bureau (Bishop Ireland) gains control of 117,000 acres of unsold railroad land in Swift County; acting as agent for the railroad, Bishop Ireland arranges sale of the lands

1877 January 16th: Township of Clontarf organized, officers included Michael Donovan, William Duggan, Henry and John Reardon, John Bond, Frank Bennett, and James O’Donnell

Summer: Name of township officialy changed to Clontarf, in accordance to Bishop Ireland’s platting

1878 Considered the official birth year of Clontarf: St. Malachy Catholic Church and rectory completed

March: Public school district #25 organized

September: Grain elevator opens

1879 After a slow start, more colonists begin arriving from East Coast and due to influx of colonists, Clontarf Township is divided and Tara Township established west of Clontarf

1880 Past year saw new settlers arriving on the train almost daily – reunion for many families whose father/husband had been in the area for over a year, building the house, preparing for wife and children

1896 Present-day St. Malachy Church building constructed and dedicated on December 15th

1899 Ancient Order of Hibernians (later the parish hall) built

1904 April: Village of Clontarf incorporated, population 147


Clontarf  becomes known as the “Hay Capital of the World”

1912 Farmers State Bank of Clontarf organized (sold in 1931)

1918 December 24th: Devastating Christmas Eve fire destroyed all the buildings located on the south side of the main street

22 responses to “Background

  1. Anne Schirmer

    The end of Sept. 1948, the Peavey Elevator burns down. It was a huge fire. The other elevator in town had been bought by Peavey and MOVED a block or so to connect it with the other elevator, Wayne Klucas told me. I have not found a picture of the two connected, but I have 2 views of the elevators, one is an arial view. So, it was, in essence, two elevators burning. Russell Bouta was the operator of the elevator at that time, I’ve been told. He was a young man of 20 or so…There was a dance at Danvers going on, but when news came that the elevator at Clontarf was on fire, everyone left… Marge (Reardon) Klucas had pictures of the smoldering rubble…. All that remained was the office that had been build of masonry block…I remember seeing that building when I was attending Clontarf Public School, with trees growing around… I never knew what it was for….

    • Do you remember my mother Winifred Fiala, or my great Aunt, Rose Perrizo?

      • Hello! I am passing your comment on to Anne Schirmer of Clontarf. Thanks for reading the blog!


      • Anne Schirmer

        I never met your mother, but after I saw her picture on the funeral leaflet, I remember seeing her in Clontarf. I’m sure my mother-in-law (Agnes “Aggie” Schirmer) would have known her. Aggie worked for Rose whenever Rose needed cleaning done. Rose (Hughes) Perrizo was just the sweetest lady. My husband remember going to her house (basement) for religion class(CCD) and Rose would let them watch TV if they came early. She had a COLOR tv, and STARTREK was a new program! OMG! Talk about exciting! It was the year 1970…

  2. Anne Schirmer

    Ellard Chamberlain (Jr.) was telling his grandson Andrew Rentz that “Pike” Chamberlain, Ellard’s dad, had helped build the cement highway in the 1930s that we refer to State Highway 9. At the end of each day, Pike would take home any unused cement and put it to good use at his home in Clontarf….

  3. Anne Schirmer

    From the Dec. 2. 1904 (reprint), column from the Historical Society in the Swift Co. Monitor-News
    I find the reference to the F.M. Goggin’s General Store, Clontarf. Anyone have more knowledge about that busines or proprietor?

    • Where do I begin? Again, so much great information. I don’t think I have any information on F.M. Goggin’s General Store. Do you think that he sold it to the Mikkelson’s? Not sure of the time frame. I have seen the name, but I don’t know anything about him or his family. I will keep an eye out for it…

  4. Anne Schirmer

    Stacey (Trager) Elfelt of Anoka, MN, started a correspondence. I was handed her letter. She says her grandfather was Simon Conaty, and he built the Catholic Church at Clontarf. In fact, his name is written in the stained glass over the entry door! Simon and wife Anastacia were from Canada, and had 2 children: John and Margaret. John married Nora Lynch. They had no children. Margaret married Max Trager and they had 2 daughters: Mary Agnes (“Mugsie”) and Anastacia (Stacey). Simon built many homes in Benson, she told me. In his obit, it only says he ran a pool hall. It’s been an interesting exchange, but most of it revolves around Benson, not Clontarf, at this point. She was married in the Catholic Church in Benson 8/21/1942. She has now sent me a picture of the 1st Catholic Church in Benson ( a wood structure ), but doesn’t say Simon Conaty built it. I’ll give it to the Swift County Historical Society.

  5. Anne Schirmer

    Today I went to a funeral in Belgrade, MN. While at the luncheon, I asked one of the gentlemen that had been an alter server if he was from Iowa. “No, I’m from Belgrade. Ever hear of it?” he joked. I replied “Yes. And I am from Clontarf. Ever hear of it?” “Why, yes I have. And that fellow sitting there was from there!” Okay!! Bingo! 🙂 I met Pastor Marlyn Sundheim, son of Malvin Sundheim. He lived in Pope County, north of Clontarf. Off the top of his head he mentioned the Chevalier & Chamberlain names..He attended West Zion Luthern Church and attended Pope County School Dist. #44, but could only remember Miss Benjaminson as one of his teachers. He talked of using the blue grass strippers, and joked that Cloontarf was famous for its “strippers.” It was such an unexpected conversation that I never looked any farther for the gentleman from Iowa that I meant to have a conversation with! I hope to hear more from Mr. Sundheim. I gave him one of the business cards, Aine! He said he even considered writing a book titled ” From Clontarf to Cyrus and BEYOND” His parents took him to Cyrus for music lessons! He talked of Telford Aslakson & Clara and also Esther Lein, but I didn’t take enough notes to recall why he mentioned those names… I told him that Emily Anderson Avok probably mentioned his name in conversation, because I’ve heard that Sundheim name before.. Small World.

  6. Anne Schirmer

    My niece, Terri Gorres Baker, experience the “Small World Syndrome” late last year. She has been a CNA (certified nursing assistant) at nursing homes for many years, She’s been working at the healthcare center at Belgrade, MN. An elderly couple have been living there, one across the hall from the other. Two of the sons were asking her what items they could supply for their parents. Terri explained what she saw as their needs. Following that discussion, one son asked her if she was from Belgrade.

    She replied that she’s been living west of Brooten since she got married 27 years ago, but before marriage the was raised on a farm west of Clontarf on Hwy 9. “But you’ve probably never heard of Clontarf” she said… “Oh, we’ve heard of Clontarf. We’d drive through Clontarf to visit Ray & Esther Ollendick and family. Did you know them?” “KNOW THEM?? They are my GRANDPARENTS! How did you know them?” Well, our dad ued to go to to country school with Esther outside of Granville, Iowa. If you are a granddaughter, who was your parent? Terri responded “Lucy was my mom,” Oh….she’s the one I knew best. She was MY age…
    Terri said she got goosebumps, she laughed, she cried…as did the sons…

    • Bryon Hornick

      Hi, i knew Terri before she got married. We met while our dads were in Granite Falls at the same time. Not sure if she would remember me. Just wanted to say hi to her and hope she is doing well. Have her email if she wants to. Thanks. Bryon H

      • Anne Schirmer

        I never met your mother, but after I saw her picture on the funeral leaflet, I remember seeing her in Clontarf. I’m sure my mother-in-law (Agnes “Aggie” Schirmer) would have known her. Aggie worked for Rose whenever Rose needed cleaning done. Rose (Hughes) Perrizo was just the sweetest lady. My husband remember going to her house (basement) for religion class(CCD) and Rose would let them watch TV if they came early. She had a COLOR tv, and STARTREK was a new program! OMG! Talk about exciting! It was the year 1970…

  7. Roisin O'MEACHAIR


    Just a quick note to say hello. I live in Clontarf, Dublin 3, Ireland. I came across this site by accident and am fascinated to find your Clontarf. If I can help you with any history or anything from this side of the Atlantic, please let me know. For starters Clontarf is from the Gaelic words Cluain Tarbh meaning Meadow (Cluain) of the Bulls (Tarbh). Best wishes.

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog, Roisin. I have been meaning to write a post on Clontarf in Ireland, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I will definitely take you up on your offer for information!


      • Anne Schirmer

        Oh – Meadow of the Bulls! Nice! We’ve had “Clontarf” decifered before and they came up with “Bull Pasture”. (There has been a lot of “bull” in this town, I’ve been told.) I like yours better! We’ve had a few locals make the trip to Ireland and have visited Clontarf there. They tell us our Clontarf is just a wee bit bigger. But that was just a guess…

  8. Anne Schirmer

    Commemorative Plates were made up for the 90th celebration (cream colored plate with silver depictions and lettering) and 100th celebration in 1978 (cream colored plate with green depictions/lettering and gold rimming), and finally for the 125th in 2003 a commemorative plate with artwork by local Bob Perrizo depicting two gents – one Irish and one French Canadian. He was raised in Clontarf where his father ran the Perrizo Store and was also postmaster. He and his 2 brothers and cousin Wini Fiala (Belle Perrizo Fiala’s daughter) lived over the store with their mother Rose (Hughes). Later a family home was built on Armagh St., half way between the Church and the Parish Hall. All the avenues in Clontarf are named after Irish people Archbishop John Ireland knew or held in great esteem, and all the streets are named for places in Ireland – Sligo, Armagh, Clonmel, Dublin, Cashel, & Kildare.

  9. Debbie Hoeft

    Will be going to Clontarf hopefully this weekend for the first time. We have Chevalier ancestry there and also a strong Irish connection. Excited to go and do some searching.

  10. Anne Schirmer

    HANCOCK RECORD July 3, 2014 – “Looking Back” 50 Years Ago
    Baumgarten Produce at Clontarf, MN, burned to the ground late Saturday afternoon with a loss estimated at $100,000. The owner, Herman Baumgarten, suffered a heart attack shortly after the fire broke out and was taken to the Swift County Hospital (in Benson).

  11. I am the last, by marriage, member of the family of Francis and Mary Agnes (nee McGraw) McMahon. He was the Great Northern depot agent for many years, having strokes that made him bedridden. My husband was Joseph Jerome McMahon, one of their eight children. I found a picture of Richard as an altar boy. I can supply a few pictures, but don’t see a page like that. I am 91 and in fairly good health, but use phrase ‘I can’t remember’ way too often. As usual we did not ask the questions we should have.
    I lived there as two sons were born in Benson and note the ‘bull’ as what Irisher is not full of it!!!!

    • Mark McGraw

      Margaret McMahon, I ran across this site while searching for information on Clontarf, where I believe my great great grandparents lived. They were Thomas and Bridget McGraw. Bridget died in 1904 and her obituary said she was a long time resident of Clontarf. Their son Richard lived there as well. I wonder if you or anyone here would have any information on them?
      Thank you

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