Tag Archives: McDermott

A New Bank for Clontarf!

John Conroy submitted this clipping from the Hancock Recorder…

The new building was scheduled to be built “as soon as the weather permitted” in the Spring of 1912. The bank was Mystery Photo #3 back in July of 2010. Take a look at the post and the comments to learn more about the bank.

Bank - Clontarf, MN

Recently Gretchen, who lived in the bank building as a child, told us about when the nearby elevator burned down, the building grew so hot they were actually able to fry an egg on the floor! I would love to hear any other memories you have of living in the old bank, Gretchen…please feel free to leave another comment!

My last post Remembering Julia was very popular and that got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to feature residents of Clontarf, to remember them on their birthday, wedding, or the day they died? The problem is, I don’t know much about the personalities who have called Clontarf home (other than my relatives, and you may be tiring of reading about them!)

Here’s what I propose:

If your grandma, great-grandparent, aunt, or father (you get the picture) was born in or lived in the Clontarf/Tara area and has a special day coming up and you would like to remember her or him, let me know. You can either write a short essay telling us all about your family member from Clontarf, send it on to me, and I will publish it on the blog,  or if writing is not your thing, simply fill out the form below with the details and I will write the tribute. Of course, photographs always make the stories special.

Remembering a common relative is a great way of reaching out to family members scattered all over the country. Think about it…

If you would like me to write the essay, I will need a little bit of notice. But if you send me one ready for publication, I will post it right away.

I can’t wait to see learn more about the people who made Clontarf their home! Use the form below, add a comment to this post, or email me directly clontarfhistory@gmail.com.


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Thanksgiving Memories & Looking Forward to December

Let’s take a look back at Thursday November 29, 1883 — Thanksgiving Day. Should have done this a couple of weeks ago…better late than never!

McDermott Store Ledger - November 29, 1883

Well, I suppose Thanksgiving Day is as good a day as any to buy a new pair of overalls, Patrick Langan.

I wonder what Thanksgiving was like for the pioneer settlers of Clontarf in 1883? Would they have killed a wild turkey for dinner? I don’t think I saw any turkeys being purchased at McDermott’s leading up to the big day. Maybe they had pheasant instead?

Alas, Thanksgiving is but a memory to us now. Time to look forward to December and the Christmas holiday. I wonder how soon the residents of Clontarf begin their Christmas shopping?

McDermott Store Ledger - December 1, 1883

Looks like Mr. McDermott is paying bills on this first day of the month. Rent is $5 per month. It could take him a few days to make that back in any given month!

What is the final entry for James Flynn all about? I can’t quite make it out.

On a sad note, Austin McGeary of Danvers passed away last Thursday, December 1st. I met Austin and his wife several years ago. My mom and I learned that Austin had boarded with my great-grandfather Neil Regan in Clontarf while he worked at Perrizo’s store in the late 1930s. Austin shared his memories of the time he spent at Neil’s as a young man, and for that we are very grateful.

Read Austin’s obituary here: http://www.wctrib.com/event/obituary/id/87235/. Our thoughts are with the entire McGeary family.

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July @ McDermott General Store

Come on…somebody’s got to have something to say about Mystery Photo #6!  Here is a hint: this tiled floor appeared in a much-beloved and sorely missed Clontarf establishment.  Leave a comment and let me know your answer!  The first correct answer wins a Clontarf Prairie Pub T-shirt.  What are you waiting for?

It has been a while since we have taken a look at Mr. McDermott’s ledger.  I wonder what the folks of Clontarf were buying in the Summer of 1883?

On July 4th James Shea outfitted himself with a new pair of overalls for 90-cents, two pair socks for 35-cents, and a pair of suspenders for 40-cents.  John Schinnick was also in the market for new togs, picking up a linen shirt for $1.

A descendant of Timothy Galvin commented on the blog recently.  Her great-great-grandfather stopped in on July 13th for a few supplies: 1/2 gallon lard oil, yeast cakes, matches, and one fence board – all for 90-cents.

I hope that Mrs. James McGary (McGeary?) was O.K. with a 55-cent charge on her account July 30th.  One pound of chewing tobacco went “to her boy”.

We will check back with the ledger in August…




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Wonder who the “dry” votes were?

Hancock Record (compliments of Anne Schirmer)

Judging from some of the stories I have heard about Clontarf, it comes as no surprise that a wet-dry vote would have this outcome!  Readers contributed comments to my post earlier this year on the Clontarf Club referencing the days of bootleg whiskey in Clontarf – click here to read the post and comments.  I am a little confused as to when Prohibition was repealed – I thought it was later in 1933.  This autumn there will be a new Ken Burns documentary on PBS, Prohibition.  I guess I will learn more about it then!

This clipping is from 1933, the year my grandpa John Regan graduated high school.  After graduation, he worked behind the bar at Bruno Perrizo’s in Clontarf.  This photo was taken some time during his tenure at Perrizo’s (the apron and the train in the background tipped my grandma off to the time-frame and place.)

Leo Molony and John Regan (1933-35)

Leo Molony (in the hat) and my grandpa grew up in Clontarf together.  When I met Kit Molony Doherty in 2004, one of the first things she told me was the story of how my grandpa saved her brother Leo’s life.

When the boys were about ten-years-old, they were playing “cowboys” with several other boys from town in McDermott’s pasture.  We can imagine them having a grand old time – riding the cattle and doing tricks.  The fun ended when Leo Molony was poked in the eye by a horn.  Scared of the blood and the prospect of being caught goofing around where they ought not be, the boys quickly scattered.  Leo and John were left alone in the pasture.

Kit said she remembers the howl let out by her mother when she saw John with one arm propping Leo up and his other hand pressed to Leo’s face.  There was blood everywhere, and my grandpa was holding Leo’s eye in place in the socket.

Leo lost vision in the eye, but a doctor was able to perform surgery so he didn’t lose the eye itself.  Kit said how grateful her family was to my grandpa for taking care of Leo that day.  She said his presence of mind not only saved Leo’s eye, but probably saved his life.

Somehow I don’t think John received a hero’s welcome when he returned home to his mother after his cowboy adventures!  I wonder if the boys learned their lesson about trespassing in McDermott’s pasture?


A couple of notes…

  • The winner of the June drawing is…Mary D’Agati! I will send you an email to get your address for your Official Clontarf Prairie Pub T-shirt.  Congratulations and thanks for the comments!
  • Speaking of t-shirts…any ideas about a design for a new Clontarf t-shirt?  Let me know what you think (leave a comment.)
  • St. Malachy Summerfest is this Sunday July 10th.  This is a fundraiser for the Church.  Anne Schirmer has donated some lovely photographs of area farm places that will be for sale.
  • Monday July 11th is the Annual Meeting for Swift County HIstorical Society.  This year’s meeting and dinner will be held in DeGraff, Minnesota, and museum director Marlys Gallagher will present a program on the Catholic Colonization Bureau settlements in Swift County.

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Spring at McDermott’s

It’s been awhile since we’ve taken a peek at the McDermott General Store Ledger.  The month of May saw many of the typical purchases: tea, tobacco, soap, coffee, nails, sugar, and yeast cakes.  There was much building and a quite a bit of sewing going on in the Clontarf area during the Spring of 1883 as well.

One transaction that caught my eye came on May 18, 1883 when Frank McMahon bought 1 pkg envelopes and some letter paper (10-cents each.)  This stood out to me because Frank (my great-great-grandfather) was unable to read and write.  The paper and envelopes must have been for his wife!

Albert Hilla purchased 3 cigars, some ginger snaps, and a can of oysters for a grand total of 45-cents on June 7th.  Michael O’Neil spent 80-cents on a brand new manure rake.  I would bet that Mr. Hilla enjoyed his purchases more than Mr. O’Neil!

Maybe those of you who know something about construction could help me figure out what Frank McMahon was building with these supplies (I can’t even decipher some of Mr. McDermott’s script):

  • 904 ft. Dimension (?)
  • 1100 ft.  Shapers (?)
  • 1200 ft. Siding
  • 800 ft. Flooring
  • 7 X Shingles

All of that for $119.23…I can’t read the second item on the list, and I don’t understand the first one.  Any ideas what he was building?  Leave a comment!


Don’t forget about Eileen McCormack’s talk at Swift County Historical Society this Thursday (6/23) @ 7:30pm.  She will be discussing her latest project, a biography of Louis W. Hill, son James J. Hill.  Copies of the book,  The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill, will be available for purchase or order at Thursday’s event.  Please attend if you are able.


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McDermott General Store Ledger

I recently obtained the complete first volume of the McDermott General Store ledger.  Three volumes of this ledger, covering 1884-1887,  are housed in the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Center at the University of Minnesota Morris.  This is a fantastic collection: oral histories, business records, personal papers, government documents and more.  The materials come from Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Swift, and Traverse counties in West-Central Minnesota.  We were tickled when Archivist Steve Gross made the scanned ledger available to us.

The scans are fairly light, so I am not sure how they will appear on the blog.  Please let me know if you can make them out.  Volume I begins on May 1, 1884.  Here are the first few pages…tell me what you think.  Click on the images to enlarge.  And if you are using a laptop to view, tilt your screen back which will darken the image and make it easier to see.

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

McDermott General Store Ledger -- Clontarf, MN (WCMHRC, UofM-Morris)

Ledger can be found at the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Center, University of Minnesota Morris.


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In like a lion…or maybe it was a lamb?

March is known as a month of weather extremes in Minnesota.  Blizzards, tornadoes, ice storms, flooding, and mild sunny days are all common occurrences in March.  I am not sure what March 1884 was like in Clontarf, but odds are there was a little bit of everything in the weather department.

There wasn’t much going on in March 1884 at the McDermott General Store.  The only clue as to the weather is that a number of pairs of boots and rubbers were sold.  The regular customers came in for the staples – sugar, tobacco, and oil – but it looked like several residents were busy sewing new Spring clothes.  The spools of thread, pins, and gingham fabric were flying off the shelves – well, that might be an exaggeration, but indeed many customers came in for these items.

My great-great-grandfather Francis McMahon was a loyal customer of Mr. McDermott.  I may have mentioned before the frequency with which he visited the store.  Even in the middle of winter, Grandpa Bushy (as he was known) managed a shopping trip at least once a week.  The McMahon family lived in section 22 of Tara Township, and in 1884 the family consisted of five children under the age of seven.  Most of the pioneer families of the Clontarf area would have had similar young, growing families.  That translates into lots of sewing to keep everyone in clothes, diapers, bed-clothes, etc.

On March 17th, Francis McMahon came to the store and this was his tab:

.50     5 yards gingham

.50    2 yards ticking

.38    3 yards towling

.38     3 yards shirting

.05     Pins

.25     1 potato dish

.60     1# tea

.25     2 tin cups

.10     candy

Grandpa Bushy returned to the store the next day for a pair of boots for $2.75 and 50 cents worth of sugar.

What would be the use for 1/2# of sulfur?  John Ledwidge paid 10 cents for it, and Michael Donovan sold Mr. McDermott 5 and 28/60 potatoes @ .25.  I wonder how they measured potatoes and had Mr. Donovan been saving them in his root cellar all winter?  Maybe he realized he had more potatoes than he was going to use and unloaded them…any ideas?  Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Do you have any stories to share?

Since we were talking about March 17th, are there any stories out there about St. Patrick’s Day in Clontarf?  Let me know what your memories of the day are, or if you recall any stories passed down about the early days.

What about baseball in Clontarf?  Does anyone have a photograph of a Clontarf baseball team or any information or history?

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