Monday, December 26, 2011

Food for Thought

This is the time of year for remembering.

One way our family has chosen to remember our loved ones was to start a memorial in their honor.

The George and Ann O’Connell Burns
            Memorial Fund

I encourage you and your loved ones to support St. Thomas in a similar way--or in any way you can. 
Donations may be sent to Tom Connelly, 30700 241st Ave. Le Sueur, MN 56058.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

John H. Shea of St. Thomas visits the "Auld Sod." 1902

     John H. Shea was the son of Timothy Shea and Mary Hessian.  He was born in 1861 in Derrynane.  He married Ellen "Nellie" Lynch in 1895 at St. Thomas. Timothy Shea was the son of Thomas Shea and Ellen Sullivan. It is believed Thomas died before the family emigrated.  Ellen Sullivan Shea lived in St. Thomas and is buried in St.Thomas Cemetery.
     In 1902 there was an article in the Le Sueur News about John's trip to Ireland. The Sheas emigrated from Carragraigue, Dromtarriff, Cork, Ireland according to several of the family members' baptismal records. At the time of this article, Jeremiah Shea was living in Ireland.  He was an uncle of John H.  Jeremiah moved back to Ireland about 1894.  He returned to Minnesota about 1904.

Here is the text of the account of John H. Shea's trip to Ireland in 1902.  It appeared in the Le Sueur News 17 July 1902.

John H. Shea of St. Thomas, Describes  the Scenes and Incidents of His Recent Trip to Ireland

Editor to the Le Sueur News--By request I send you a few lines about he journey I just completed. After leaving Montgomery at 9 o'clock in the morning of March 31st, at daylight next morning I was at West Liberty and the country was beginning to put on its coat of green.  From there to Chicago it looked fine. I stayed an hour in Chicago then went to Mansfield, Ohio, the city where the Aultman & Taylor threshing machine works are located, a place of interest to me. I secured a pass from the superintendent and viewed all of the magnificent works. Next morning, I started for the smoky city of Pittsburg, with its coal mines and coal cars standing on all railroad tracks in that city. After seeing the places of interest, I took the Valley Road for Ford City, forty miles from Pittsburg and looked at the glass and pottery works of that place. There glass is made of sand and all kinds of pottery is made. The gas wells in the mountains are also seen.  The gas is conveyed for miles in pipes from one city to another.  There are not many oil wells in this vicinity but many are found in eastern Ohio and in parts of Pennsylvania.  Leaving Ford City for Philadelphia, I went to Blaisville Intersection, a small town at the foot of the Alleghany mountains. When the train arrived we went over the mountains, a fine sight, the most important point is horse shoe bend, where the train almost runs double on a steep down grade.  As it was Sunday I remained in Philadelphia, a nice city, and went to New York the next morning. The sun was bright, the country fine, and the train run fast, but I was lonesome, being so far from home and the ones I left behind. Arriving in New York, I almost felt lost with its elevated railroads, electric cars, horse cars, drays and buggies and people of all kinds. Staying there long enough to see the metropolis, I bought my passage for Queenstown and arrived there April 16.  As the big ship does not go to the harbor I went in on a tender and Ireland looked beautiful and strange to me. With its barracks, stone cliffs and green fields to the right and no less beautiful Spike Island to the left.  
     When landed we passed through the custom house and had our baggage examined.  The first thing I noticed odd was instead of using trucks in moving trunks to the custom house the men carried them on their backs. Next was the money and when I asked for a ticket there were three classes, first, second and third, all paying the way they wished to travel. I arrived at my uncle's in the evening in the County Cork. The next morning we went to see a small mountain with a castle on top of it, large trees cover the mountain and ivy has grown over the castle. The fields are small and fenced with stone walls; the roads are wide and in good condition made of limestone and kept in repair by the government. There is but little cultivation in the South of Ireland.  The chief occupation is raising cattle and selling milk.  Most of the work is done on two wheel carts drawn by a donkey jennet or horse.  The wages for men are about one half what they are here. The cities are built of stone and look old; in every town there are many bakeries, the bread being taken on carts through the country and sold to the farmers. I traveled most of Ireland and saw the Galty mountains with their tops in the clouds and the Lakes of Kilarney, the noted lakes of the Emerald Isle, also saw the International Exposition at Cork. 
      Leaving Ireland Sunday morning, the sun was shining bright and Cork harbor was filled with ships of all descriptions. About 200 emigrants left the harbor for America. We sailed out to meet the big ship, four miles distant. We met a ship returning form South Africa loaded with soldiers and by the color of their uniforms which was brown they looked like a swarm of bees in a hive.  When we came in light of the big ship which was a very large one--650 ft. long , with a crew of 450 men, traveling 525 miles a day and uses 500 tons of coal each day, it had 130 first cabin, 174 second cabin and 800 steerage passengers a board. I arrived in New York Friday night and remained on the ship until 10:30 a. m. Saturday.
     The passengers did not sleep much Friday night as all were on deck at four o'clock Saturday morning.  Three other big ships were in the bay as well as many small ones and when the sun arose and shown bright it made Long Island with its rich looking residences look grand, also the fort , on the other side with its cannon pointing out to the water.  When we landed and had our baggage examined I took the first train from New York for the town of Schaghticoke, twenty miles north of Albany where I remained for a short time with cousins. There are fine orchards and living springs of water at almost every house.  The country from New York to Troy, along the Hudson River, looked beautiful with the river in the center, boats running up and own and the mountains on each side, covered with green trees. The mountains in Ireland look black being covered with moss, turn and rocks. 
     After leaving Albany for home, I took the West Shore road to Niagara Falls, one of America's most wonderful sights, then through Canada to Detroit, were our train of ten coaches was run onto a ferry boat and taken across the river.  Having crossed Michigan to Chicago I remained there three house then took the Wisconsin Central for Minneapolis, where I stayed a short time and went to Le Sueur arriving on the noon train glad to see a town I knew after the long journey about strangers where "I knew none, and none knew me."  I enjoyed the trip for I went to see and I have seen.  --John H. Shea

Friday, April 1, 2011

St. Thomas Man Recalls Trapping of Fifty Years Ago (Dan Shea)

This article was written by Win V. Working and appeared in the Belle Plaine Herald, 15 July 1926:

     On winter evenings when the wind shrieks around the corners of the house and rattles the window panes and shakes the rafters, the average small town or farm boy often sits beside the table in the cozy kitchen and examines a price list of traps, guns and the vast and varied paraphernalia considered indispensible to the equipment of the trapper and hunter.  Sighs escape from him from time to time as he ruminates on his lot and wonders whether he will ever get a chance to get out into the open spaces, trap rare fur-bearing animals and track and shoot moose, bear and other big game, in the nonchalant manner of the heroes in the pictures accompanying the price lists usually supplied by the hardware merchants of the town in which the boy's parents happen to trade.
      This is as true in Scott county 50 years as it is today.  However, there were more opportunities to emulate the pictured sportsmen nearer home for the resourceful boy.  In fact, there were a great many fur-bearing animals in this part of the state 50 years ago and some big game as well.
     In the St. Thomas community in Le Sueur county, where the transforming hand of the white man was not as busy in the earlier year years as in some other neighboring sections, and where the dense forest longer resisted the taming influence of the settlers, there was much to attract the youngster who like to trap and hunt. One such a youngster was Danny Shea, who lived in a little cabin in the woods, three miles south of the St. Thomas Catholic Church.
     Danny became interested in trapping and hunting at an early age.  When he was about 12 years old there were many more lakes in that district than there are now.  That was 50 years ago, because Danny was born on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, 1864.  Muskrats were numerous, minks were plentiful also and even beaver were to be found. The youngster soon learned the habits and characteristics of these animals and it was not long before he was proudly displaying pelts to his parents and other elders of the neighborhood.  He did not have much opposition as most of the men and older boys were busy clearing land and performing other tasks associated with pioneer farming.
     He trapped hundreds of muskrats and mink and also managed to take a number of beaver.  In the early days there were no regulatory laws and it was not necessary to worry about game wardens.  But then, the pelts were not worth much either.  However, it was great sport anyway and the St. Thomas lad had a fine time. He did not confine himself to trapping though; the woods were full of raccoons and foxes were numerous. By way of variety Danny would hunt coons in the fall and occasionally go after foxes.  There also yielded pelts, of course, and, all told, his activities brought him in a tidy sum for those days.
     But while most boys lose their interest in such things about the time they are old enough to go 'acourting" Danny never did.  In fact, there is no reason to believe that he ever went courting, since he is still a bachelor and is 62 years old.  Since we have revealed these facts, perhaps we should refer to him as Mr. Shea, hereafter. Mr. Shea, while he is not so keenly interest in the inhabitants of lakes and streams and woods as he was in earlier years, has found some time for the sport nearly every year of his life and in fact, still traps and tramps through the countryside with his gun. But the laws are strict nowadays and Mr. Shea is careful to observe the regulations prescribed.
     Except for a few years spent at Le Sueur after he left home he has always lived in the St. Thomas community and has been a resident of the village 20 years. Near his home is a lake, now nearly dried up, but in wet seasons it becomes a fair-sized body of water and there, in season, Mr. Shea still catches muskrats.  Prices are higher now and the reward is greater. During the war period, for instance, he sold $700 worth of furs.
     "There is a lot of sport in trapping when you understand it," Mr. Shea told the writer.  "It takes patience and a good deal of scheming to outwit the animals you're after, but that makes it all the more interesting." The veteran sportsman can tell many tales of thrilling coon hunts on moon-lit October nights and we hope to be able to present some of them to Herald readers.--Midland Feature Service.
     The Dan Shea in this article is the son of John T. Shea and Hannah Donovan.  His siblings were Thomas J. Shea and Ellen Shea McCourtney.  John T. Shea's parents were Ellen Sullivan and Thomas Shea.
     Ellen Sullivan Shea emigrated to America.  Her husband died before she emigrated.  Her other children were Timothy,  Mary Shea Murphy, Johanna Shea Kehoe, Thomas, Jeremiah and Denis.
Dan Shea's House

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ellen Hennessy Sullivan Murphy Jago

St. Thomas Cemetery
My great-great grandmother was Ellen Hennessy Sullivan Murphy Jago!  She was first married to James J. Sullivan and had two sons, Tim Sullivan and James J. Sullivan.  I believe her husband James died before or around the time of her son Jim's birth in 1858.  She is listed on the 1857 Minnesota Territorial census as Ellen Sullivan.  She married Dennis Murphy around 1860 and her daughter Kate was born in about 1861, Anna, my great-grandmother, was born in 1862, and Hannah was born in 1864.  I have no information about Dennis Murphy and would appreciate any info or connections that you may have.  Ellen married for the third time to a man named Jago from Ireland.  They had a son Henry, who was born in 1872.  According to later census information Ellen lived with James J. Sullivan and his wife Catherine in her later years.  James J. Sullivan Jr.'s son Jim was my grandmother, Cora Abbott Welter's cousin.  He was a frequent visitor to our home when I was a child.  I attended his funeral in probably the mid to late 1980s and met Marion Callahan afterwards.  We talked a bit about our "Grandma Jago" and I later received some family history notes from her sister, Mary Sheridan.  They may have another sister, Theresa Krenik.
Info from Sheila Farrell Johnston  (replace at with @)
Sheila is still looking for Sullivan and Murphy connections.  You may contact her at the above email.

Info from indicates that Mrs. Ellen Murphey (sic) married Patrick Jaeger (sic) on 4 November 1871 at Le Sueur, Le Sueur, Minnesota.  Her death was recorded under Ellen Jago.  She died in St. Paul, Minnesota on 16 August 1925.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Store

The above photo was taken by William Sharkey.  This was probably taken around 1910.  The photo was reproduced from a glass negative. The following is research done by Kelly Coleman:

Le Sueur Sentinel
November 19, 1896

D. J. Coleman purchases Roynane store building

D. J. Coleman, who has for the last seven years been employed in the wholesale trade at St. Paul, and for most of that time with Koehler & Hinrichs, of that city, has purchased the Roynane store building at St. Thomas and will put in a stock of general merchandise.  Mr. Coleman has a thorough practical knowledge of goods and of business and ought to make a success of his new undertaking.


This is interesting because in the Church of St. Thomas 1883-1983 Centennial book says the following about the Coleman stores:

In 1855 John Coleman came to Minnesota and settled in Tyrone Township.  He operated a general store for many years in St. Thomas.  There was a dance hall over this store.  This store was built by John Ronan and then sold to John Coleman.   John’s son Dave Coleman, built a frame store which still stands.  Dave O’Connell bought the store in 1914.  Mr. and Mrs. Tony Madsen leased and operated this store until 1926.  The O’Connells lived in St. Paul at this time.  In 1928 Dave O’Connell was running the store in Coleman’s original structure. 

Early mail was brought from Belle Plaine by Pat Ronan who walked to get it.  The first post office was in the Coleman store which was a distribution point on the Star Route.  Mail was delivered to the Coleman store once a week from Le Sueur by horse and buggy by Pat Doherty.

So it appears there may have been only one store building at St. Thomas during the late 19th century.  This building was built by John (Ronan) Ronayne (who was also from County Cork) and sold to John Coleman.  David J. Coleman may actually have purchased the store from his father who was 61 years old in 1896.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ode to a Country Church

Ode to a country church

This reflection was printed in The Catholic Spirit back in October 2010. It is one person's way of coming to terms with the changes at St. Thomas.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Last Mass

Today, the Parish of St. Thomas will celebrate the last Mass as a parish community.  It will be a sad and difficult day for many parishioners. The following is an excerpt from the last bulletin.  It was written by Father Dave Barrett.

Ode to the Irish
Ah the Irish what a fine people are thee.  In general they are clever and witty. The Irish can be hard working, out spoken with wee streak of independence.  They are loyal and loving so many more things I could write.  If you have ever been to the Emerald Isle you know that the beauty is overwhelming, just like the Irish.  The Irish did come to America, some by choice others by circumstance to start anew.  They brought their faith with them as well.  These immigrants brought their Catholicism which shows their deep devotion to God.

The Irish settled in St. Thomas.  Names of early parishioners included but not limited to Connolly, Halloran, O’Connell, Burns, Doherty, Moran and Sullivan.  These faith filled pioneers founded this beautiful parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul.  Like the Irish of their home land they held their faith as a priority.  In the early years it was often hard to have a regular priest, but they built 3 different churches to attract a resident priest to build their families in the faith.  The Irish live in St. Thomas and they probably always will.

There is a deep sadness in closing a building built in 1883.  Some of the saddest poems and songs were written by the Irish.  The entire Church needs to comfort St. Thomas in their pain.  With that sadness there is anger and frustration.  These are natural feelings and they should heal over time.  Both parishioners and neighbors need to offer a Christ centered love.

The Church of St. Thomas built 1883 is an important building having deep meaning for so many.  As important as this building is, following the church founded by Jesus Christ is more important than any building.  For we are all living stones making one universal church.  The church calls us to close this parish so that long term the church can be stronger.  We call this church Catholic because this is what universal means.  Through this church we are connected to the whole world. 

Despite only being with the people of St. Thomas for one year, I feel connected to them.  I believe that God has been present in our relationship and that we are more faithful Catholics because of our time together.  My prayer is that we remain connected to each other wherever we worship.  Even though we may not be together as much as we would like, I believe one day we will all be reunited in the Kingdom of Heaven.