Tag Archives: James J. Hill

This & That

May Drawing Winner

Winner of the May drawing for a Clontarf Prairie Pub t-shirt is Eileen Doherty Bliss!  Your name was chosen from those who left comment on the blog in May.  I will send you an email to get your address.  Congratulations Eileen, and thanks for commenting!

There weren’t many comments in May, but I suppose that is because there were not many posts to the blog in May!  I will do better…more Clontarf history this summer…I promise!  What do you like to see on Clontarf History?  Photographs? Newspaper clippings?  McDermott Store ledger?  Family histories?  Let me know what you are interested in reading about!

Swift County Historical Society Program

Eileen McCormack will be speaking at the Swift County Historical Society  in Benson on Thursday, June 23rd @ 7:30pm.  The following appeared in the SCHS May/June 2011 newsletter:

The Dutiful Son

Mark your calendars.

Thursday, June 23 – 7:30 PM

Program at the Museum in Benson

The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill

Eileen McCormack, researcher for the new biography of Louis W. Hill, will give an illustrated talk on the book, The Dutiful Son. In addition to talking about the life of Louis Hill, the presentation will include a brief look at James J. Hill and his career as a builder of the Great Northern Railway and a Gilded Age capitalist.

Louis HIll’s life was more than railroads. Eileen will discuss his early life, marriage and family, development of Glacier National Park, involvement in banking and settlement along the railroad and his later life and personal philanthropy.

The power point presentation will give guests an opportunity to view pictures of the Hill homes, family, and other aspects of their lives. It will give an insight to what it was like being a member of the Hill family. Eileen welcomes questions about the Hill family and their empire. Society members are asked to invite family and friends to this special program. There is no fee to attend. Refreshments will be served.

If you are in the neighborhood, plan on attending this program.  Eileen really knows her Hill family history.  Before becoming assistant curator of the James J. Hill Family Papers (formerly located at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul, now at the Minnesota Historical Society) Eileen was an interpreter at the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul.  Today, Eileen’s company (formed in 2007 with daughter Regan) Archival Solutions provides historical research and archival services for individuals, businesses, and local organizations.

Don’t miss it!

Find a Grave

Finally, I wanted to mention the website Find a Grave.  This site has added 118 graves from St. Malachy Cemetery, Clontarf to its database.  Check it out.  More information to come on how we can add more graves to the listing…this is a fantastic resource for genealogists, family historians, and anyone interested in where their family is buried.  Stay tuned…

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Clontarf, Drawing

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

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