Tag Archives: McDermott

Snow, snow, snow…

We are in the midst of a blizzard here in Saint Paul, and throughout Minnesota.  I have lost count of how many inches of snow have fallen and how many miles per hour the wind is blowing.  At this point, I don’t even care.  I am safe and warm in my condominium with a batch of chili on the stove and a pan of johnny-cake just out of the oven.

Swift County is under a blizzard warning, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like out on the prairie.  I don’t know how you all do it today, much less how our great-great-grandparents who settled in Clontarf and Tara Townships in the late 1870s managed.  I know there are some fantastic stories and legends out there about Clontarf residents coping with the treacherous winter weather.  Please share these stories – leave a comment!

On the third of December 1883, Mr. McDermott made a special delivery to a Mrs. Forster (or Fortser?) – I don’t recognize the name.  Any ideas about who she was?  At any rate, she had quite an order…

  • 1 Mallard coat ($3.50)
  • 67 yards cotton flannel (($1.04)
  • 10 yards shirting ($1.25)
  • 4 spools (.20)
  • 5 rolls batten ((.85)
  • 1 shovel (($1.00)
  • 1 skirt (.75)
  • coffee (.50)
  • baking powder (.20)
  • sugar (.50)
  • prunes (.25)
  • kerosene oil (.08)
  • D apples (.25)
  • coffee pot (.40)
  • arithmetic (.50)
  • needles (.03)
  • 2 copy books (.20)
  • comb (.25)
  • soap (.25)

That’s quite a list!  Not sure what “D apples” are…dried apples?  This list looks a bit like it is for someone who is going to stay in for a while.  Maybe a blizzard was on its way to Clontarf?

Stay warm.


Filed under McDermott's General Store

Odds and Ends

I would like to share some feedback I have received on a couple of recent posts:

First Communion Photo

Jackie Byrne Doherty and Alice Molony Bird have been pondering the 1929 First Communion photo I posted on October 20th.  They have identified Alice’s father, Leo Molony, as the altar boy holding the cross, and they believe the other altar boy to be Leo Cameron.

Jackie and Alice don’t think this photo is of the 1929 First Communion, because they are unable to locate Kathryn Molony (name misspelled on Church listing) – they have a photo of Kit’s First Communion, so they know who they are looking for!

Please take another look at the photo (click on it to enlarge) and let me know if you recognize any of the children…maybe we can get the correct date.  I was wondering if this could this be a Confirmation group? That would make a bit more sense for the number of people in the group, since by the 1920s, the First Communion groups were becoming rather small.  In 1928, there were only eight: Donal Regan, Edward Daniel, Rose Reardon, Catherine Perrizo, Dorothy Langan, Anna Mae Mikkelson, Bernice Daniel, and Dorothy Hargreaves.  The next time there was a First Communion at St. Malachy’s was 1931 when 38 children were in the group.  Take a look and see if anyone looks familiar…

McDermott General Store Ledger

Margo Ascheman was doing exactly what I do when I look at the pages from the store ledger – trying to match people up to her family tree.

She was interested in the family of frequent shopper Francis McMahon.  He was my great-great-grandfather who came from County Fermanagh, Ireland in 1856.  He settled initially in the Red Wing, MN area, but married Catherine McAndrew from the Ellsworth, WI area.  There were some McMahons in Wisconsin.  Margo’s great-grandfather McGeary married Bridget McMaha(o)n in Monchas, Wisconsin.  Not sure if that is near Ellsworth…need to do a bit more digging on that…

Does anyone have any information on the Galvin family?  Margo, where did Maurice and his wife live?

Now for something new…

I was looking through some obituary clippings I had received from Marlys at the Swift County Historical Society, and I found this tidbit (sorry it is crooked):

Swift County News May 18, 1922

Maybe Margo can tell us how this McGeary is related to her?  Sad news from the Gossons as well.

No one guessed who bought the broom suspiciously close to Halloween in 1883.  You still have time to compile some entries in the September/October drawing.  Every comment is an entry in a drawing for an official Clontarf Prairie Pub T-Shirt!  There will be two winners announced early next week…

Happy Halloween everyone!  Oh, if you have any memories from Halloween in Clontarf, share them!  I bet you guys had  some tricks up your sleeves…


Filed under Clontarf

McDermott General Store: Late October Business

During the last week in October of 1883, the McDermott General Store was busy with customers settling their tabs and selling butter (and other products) for credit on their accounts.  For instance, on October 6th Patrick Langan sold a 211-pound hog @ 6-cents a pound.

I gather hunting was on the minds of several Tara residents, including Frank McMahon who purchased 2# shot (20-cents) and 1/2# powder (20-cents) and Tim Galvin who picked up 1 box caps (10-cents) and 1/4# powder (10-cents).

In preparation for the cold season fast approaching, people bought lots of yarn, no doubt to create scarves, hats, and mittens to ward off the winter chill.  More kerosene oil was purchased as well, to shed a little light on the long, dark evenings spent knitting or crocheting.  Thomas O’Brien would stay warm that winter in his 2 suits of scarlet underwear.  They better have kept him warm, he paid$4.75 for the two pairs!

The biggest ticket item sold that week was a $7.00 shawl purchased by Stephan Owens on October 23rd.  He also received some sort of “cash advance” from Mr. McDermott as “cash – $2” was added to his total bill.  I wonder what that could have been for?

With Halloween just around the corner, I had hoped to see some purchases that would indicate a celebration of some sort.  Maybe the peck of apples John Maher bought for 50-cents were for a rousing game of bobbing for apples?  There was one suspicious purchase made toward the end of the month.  In order to protect the good names of her descendants I will keep her identity to myself, but it’s interesting that Mrs. X just had to have a new broom on October 29th…

Psst…I left a clue to the woman’s identity…care to guess?



Filed under McDermott's General Store

A Path to Tara Township


State House - Concord, New Hampshire (1816)


The Patrick Foley family lived just a few blocks from the New Hampshire State House in the Fisherville neighborhood of Concord during the 1870s.  This was before the family settled in Tara Township.  The four Foley children – Timothy, Margaret, Mary, and John – were baptized at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord.  Patrick worked at the Concord Axle Works, as well as in a machine shop.


St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church Concord, NH


Patrick Foley was able to read and write English, which were unique skills among immigrants from County Cork, Ireland during this period (he immigrated in 1864.)  I knew that Patrick had served as a Tara Township clerk for many years, and I learned in Concord last week that Patrick served as secretary and president for both the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society and the Catholic Temperance League.

By the 1886 Tara plat map, Patrick Foley owned 80 acres in section 16 and 240 more in section 21.  Matthew Quigley, who also came from Concord, was sandwiched  in between, owning 80 acres in the northeast quarter of section 21.

When Patrick Foley died in October 1913, his pallbearers were, according to his obituary, “Thomas O’Brien, James Flemming, D.F. McDermott, J.L. Doherty, John Gossen, and James O’Donnell.”  All men were either Tara neighbors or fellow pioneer settlers in Clontarf.

I will have more to say about other Tara pioneers who came from Concord once I sort through my research!


Photographs taken by Regan McCormack

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Settlers, Family Histories, Tara Township

Arbuckles: 19th-century Starbucks?

Business was a little slow during the first week of October in 1883 at McDermott General Store.  I suppose the farmers were busy harvesting –  no time to drive into town and shop.

However, there were several  interesting transactions on October 1, 1883…

  • Patrick Conroy collected on 17-cents worth of butter he sold to Mr. McDermott.
  • James Kent stocked up on needles (.05), 4 yards cotton flannel (.52), one spool (.05), hose (.20), and 5 yards Irish Frase (?) (1.40).  Looks like someone was going to do some sewing!
  • Michael Shea (by Tom) purchased one pound of Japanese tea for 60-cents.
  • M. Chinnery sold almost 11 dozen eggs (10 and 9/12 dozen to be exact) for $1.60 and bought 3 lace front shirts for $6.00.
  • John Cusick bought, among other items, six pounds of Arbuckles’ Coffee for$1.00.
  • John Regan paid the balance on some kerosene oil (.12), and added a pair of sox (.50) and 3 pounds of oat meal (.15).

In one of the entries, granulated sugar is specified.  I wonder what the regular sugar that other people bought was? Brown sugar? Any insight into sugar in the 1880s?

Also, can anyone figure out what type of fabric James Kent bought?  It looks like Irish Frase…I have no idea about that.

The history of Arbuckles’  Coffee is fascinating.  It was around a long time before Starbucks, but I wonder about the similarity in the names?

I would love to hear your comments/ideas…


Filed under Clontarf, McDermott's General Store

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

And the next item up for bid is…


No 1885 farm kitchen would be complete without the utilitarian splendor of this broom, made of the finest broom corn and other materials available this side of the Mississippi.  Sturdy yet sleek, this broom could sweep up a mess of crumbs and dirt from the children in no time and then be tucked discretely behind the kitchen door.

This broom can be yours (not really, it is only imaginary), if The Price Is Right!

How much do you think a broom cost at McDermott’s General Store in 1885?

Add a comment or reply to this post with your guess.  Or if you want your bid to remain private, email me at:


The bidder who comes closest to the 1885 price, without going over, will win five extra entries in the September drawing.

The August drawing winner will be announced on Friday.

So…what do you think?


Filed under McDermott's General Store

Clontarf and Tara: Twin Townships

On December 16, 1878 William Duggan, Michael Shea, Edward McGinley, and James Kent resigned as officers of Clontarf Township.  They no longer lived in Clontarf, but they didn’t move.  The township records state they “resigned on account of town separation”.  Because of the influx of settlers, Clontarf Township was divided in two and Tara Township was born just west of Clontarf Township.

With the Tara cadre gone, the doors were opened to more Clontarf residents wishing to dip their toes in local government waters.  On December 16th Frank Roll and John Ledwidge were elected to the positions of supervisors, and our old friend and general store owner D.F. McDermott became the new treasurer.  Their terms would expire on March 11, 1879.

A couple of other faces familiar to readers of the blog joined the board on March 11, 1879: John Casey as “Assessor”, Michael O’Niell as “Constable”, and Thomas Casey as “Overseer Road District 2”.

D.F. McDermott remained Treasurer for years and must have been an influential figure in the early days of Clontarf.  Legend has it that Mr. McDermott attempted to control, or influence, the government of Tara Township by sending messages via the influential Tara resident Michael Donovan.  Many of the residents of Tara resented these attempts at manipulation.  At least one Tara resident became Republican in response to the Democratic tendencies of Mr. McDermott.

Leave a comment

Filed under Clontarf, Tara Township

The Usual Suspects

Every time I look at a page in the McDermott General Store ledger, I recognize more of the customer names, and I could even tell you a little bit about them (at the very least I could tell you about their shopping habits!)

Saturday August 1, 1885 saw many of the regular customers at McDermott’s store: Frank McMahon, Timothy Cain, Richard McGraw, Martin McAndrew, Mrs. Jane Kenna, John Regan, and Michael Shea.  John Casey (we have heard from his descendant on the blog) spent $4.60 on a variety of items including four cups and saucers (.40) and a sack of flour (2.50).

While all other staples regularly appear in the ledger, flour is rarely purchased.  Does anyone have an idea why this is the case?  I wonder if there was a flour mill somewhere nearby where the residents of the Clontarf area bought their flour?

Two names in the ledger on this day that I know nothing about are Patrick Lynch and Patrick Daily.  Does anyone know about either of these two two families?

One more thing about the McDermott ledger…

Although I don’t have a complete copy of the ledger, I am curious where the French residents of Clontarf did their shopping, since their names very seldom appear.  It could very well be that I am missing those pages, but it seems curious to me that they never show up.  Any ideas on this topic?

I will announce the winner of the drawing tomorrow.


Filed under McDermott's General Store

What she doesn’t know…

Last week in Clontarf Lois Fennell told us the following story.  Lois had heard the story many times, and the woman’s name in the story had been lost to the years, but a couple of former residents agreed it was Mrs. Fleming.  I will say it was Mrs. Fleming, but who knows for certain? 

Mrs. Fleming brought a crock of butter to McDermott’s store. She didn’t intend to sell it, only make an exchange. The night before she had forgotten to cover the butter and a mouse tracked across the surface.

Mrs. Fleming explained to Mr. McDermott that the butter was perfectly fine, but she couldn’t bear to use it, knowing what had scurried over it the night before. She suggested Mr. McDermott smooth out the butter, put a piece of wax paper over it, give her a new crock of butter, and save her butter for the next customer. “After all,” Mrs. Fleming said, “what they don’t know, won’t hurt them a bit.”

Mr. McDermott nodded and brought the mousy butter back. He smoothed it out with a new piece of wax paper. He returned to the front with butter for Mrs. Fleming. She went on her way, relieved to have  untainted butter.

When Mr. McDermott recounted the story, he smiled and said, “Well, what she doesn’t know…”


Filed under Clontarf, McDermott's General Store