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Dunn

An Immigrant's Leap from Kildare to Troy

By Mary Lee Dunn

Michael Dunn was a Kildare man, the fourth son of Laurence and Mary Connelly Dunn. But he was the first of their offspring, and perhaps of the extended Dunn family, to break with the Old World and strike out for the new only a few years after Ireland's Great Famine ended. It was said that he took his father's horse and sold it to buy passage to America, but that tale has been told too often about too many in the family that it borders on family legend.

The territory of Michael's birth in August 1836 straddled the Grand Canal in the townland of Derrymullen, civil parish of Kilmeague, Barony of Great Connell, County of Kildare, Province of Leinster, some 30 miles west of Dublin, but still within the orbit of the capital. It was just beyond the Pale.

In the 5th Century, St. Brigid founded an order of holy women nearby on the huge plain called the Curragh. Centuries later, Kildare became the ancestral home of the Fitzgeralds, who were granted their lands after the Norman invasion. The Fitzgeralds were powerful during the Middle Ages but lost status in the early 16th Century when "Silken Thomas," misinformed by his enemies that his father the earl had been put to death in London, turned against the English king. Eventually, Thomas and five uncles were executed. Besides the Fitzgeralds, other prominent 18th Century Kildare families were the Aylmers, Wogans, Eustaces, Connollys, and Wellesleys. These names were familiar to Michael's family who had lived locally for at least several generations, perhaps much longer, as farmers, turfmen, and boatmen on the Grand Canal that wound east through the flat green countryside to the capital. The waterway had been completed as far as nearby Robertstown in 1784 to help serve the growing country whose population had ballooned then to nearly six million.

Michael's great grandparents were Edward and Catherine Dunn, both born in the middle 1700s, about 100 years after Irish Catholics lost in battle to the notorious Oliver Cromwell. For Catholics, one loss had followed another: first, the battle; then their lands; and then their rights. England imposed Penal Laws on Ireland in 1703 to keep Catholics in social and political bondage. For scores of years, it worked. But during the later 1700s, finally, Catholic relief measures met some success and a Catholic middle class was developing.

Edward and Catherine Dunn had raised their children in that time, while the canal was building, threading through the boggy landscape near the Hill of Allen, which was the home in ancient times of the legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill and his band of warriors called the Fianna. Local story, which persisted into the 1830s, said that Fionn had buried a treasure in the Hill. The Dunns' church, the Catholic church at Allen, was known as The Leap because it was built on the place where Fionn had landed when, with a mighty bound, he had jumped off the Hill of Allen. Both the Hill and the canal were prominent features of the local landscape.

The Dunns' home was in Mylerstown, part of Robertstown, which sidled up to the canal. Near the close of the 18th Century, several of the Dunn children had married, but daughter Margaret, at least, was still single and at home, and Edward had set aside money for her dowry -- 20 to 50 pounds, depending on how well the match pleased parental interests. Edward laid down those terms for Margaret when, evidently ill or injured, he wrote his will on November 19, 1798. He directed that several of his children -- Daniel, Mary, and Elizabeth Hayes -- should receive only a shilling and a penny, probably because they already had received their shares. Daughter Honora Logan, her father said, should get a rood of a turf bank, adjoining the shoemaker's portion. All else, by Edward's dictate, was to go to his wife and sons Laurence and George "share and share alike" but reserving business decisions to Catherine, suggesting great faith in her judgement without giving any clues to the nature of the "business." Edward, evidently unable to write his name, signed the will with an X, his mark. It is not known when or how he died, whether by the infirmities of old age or something else altogether.

The year he made his will though was a crucial one for oppressed Irish Catholics, coming on the heels of a decade of political ferment kindled by the American and French revolutions. Indeed, Napoleon Bonaparte was sweeping across Europe and the Americans had begun their grand governmental experiment. It was during this democratic mood in 1793 that Irish Catholics secured the vote, providing they had a 40-shilling freehold. Importantly, in 1791, the radical mood had spawned an organization called The United Irishmen, formed under Theobald Wolfe Tone to press for rights in Ireland and was roiling the traditional sectarian factions of Irish society, as scholar Kevin Whelan explores in his book, The Tree of Liberty. Tone was a Kildare man whose brother, Matthew, a coffin-maker, lived in Prosperous, not far from the Hill of Allen and the canal. Prosperous was a planned industrial community optimistically named and developed by an Englishman who had founded a linen business there in the 1780s. The remarkable Sir Edward Fitzgerald of Kildare also took a leading role in the new organization and was its only leader with real military experience, gained in the American war. The United Irishmen quickened the latent political consciousness of the Irish people. At the same time, constitutional reform became controversial. In the spring of '98, it all culminated in a massive but ill-fated rebellion which sputtered for months, abetted by rumors of an armed invasion from France that would help the people overthrow the English tyrant. In that summer of chaos, about 30,000 people died.

The rebellion's fate likely was sealed in March when traitors to the United Irishmen gave information that enabled the British to break into a high-level rebel meeting in Dublin and arrest several of its leaders. Fitzgerald, however, had missed the appointment and gone into hiding for weeks. In late May, he too was betrayed. Only days before the rebellion was set to begin, Fitzgerald was cornered and grievously wounded in the room where he was lodging. For days afterwards, he languished in jail as the rising began, and he finally died in early June.

County Kildare played an enormous role in the rising because of its location, just west of Dublin, and its rebel sons who led the United cause for the county -- men like William Aylmer of the Painstown Aylmers, near Kilcock. It was in Kildare that the United Irishmen -- nearly 12,000 locals -- were perhaps best organized. Suspecting as much, the British targeted the county after the rebel leaders' arrests in Dublin. The military mounted a brutal campaign to disarm the people; their tactics included floggings, pitch caps, half-hangings, torture, and the burning of homes and churches. The savagery cost the Kildare rebel organization many fearful members; 10,000 arms were surrendered. But it also provoked the people to action -- when the rebellion finally ignited, Kildare saw the first sparks.

The rising in Prosperous is detailed in a history of the town called Prosperous, A Village of Vision, in Thomas Pakenham's account of The Year of Liberty, and in Sir Richard Musgrave's loyalist accounts. The town's Catholics had been goaded by an overzealous militiaman named Swayne, who by late May was the lone officer in the county who was still seeking arms from the people by threat, intimidation, and punishment. Swayne had moved forces into the old mill in Prosperous to quell any signs of trouble and swept the area to confiscate weapons. In one search, he and his troops ripped open all of the feather beds in Healy's Ostelry as they looked for hidden arms. Swayne was a Protestant who tortured local Catholics by "picketing;" and the picketings in Prosperous had become notorious. Pickets were sharp pointed stakes upon which the victim was forced to stand until he gave information. Swayne had burst into Sunday mass in the town that spring and warned the people to give up their arms. "If you don't have it done," he growled at the priest, "I'll pour boiling lead down your throat." By experience, the Catholics had learned to take Swayne's threats seriously. Within days, he burned down their church and fifteen houses and arrested a dozen men. The people feared he would torture his prisoners, as had been done at nearby Athy, and perhaps execute them. Indeed, a ballad written later described Swayne's reputation:

"For those monsters of oppression and dark dishonour reign
In that district long abandoned to the tyrant rule of Swayne."

So when the Irish rose around Prosperous in the early morning darkness on May 24, they pursued the vicious Swayne. The rebels swung into action aiming to burn the militia's temporary barracks. On the wooded banks of the canal, near the 18th lock, a crowd of them gathered, about 500, mostly farmers and former mill workers armed with crude pikes, knives, pitchforks, scythes, and perhaps a few guns. Their leaders included a man named Dunn of the Clane Yeomanry who often provided information. Other participants named later in official papers included Andrew Farrell, who was the son of Daniel Farrell of Hely's Bridge, and a Patrick Farrel [sic]. After dark, the rebels moved to Swayne's barracks where, facing volleys of gunfire, they torched the military quarters with burning furze. Swayne was cornered in his room and killed. His body was dragged out into the street and burned in a barrel of tar. When the fleeing militiamen took refuge in the former mill, the townspeople burned it to the ground, too. Casualties were put at seventy loyalists and nine rebels, including a daring Irish woman named Ruth Hackett who, armed with a mattress as a shield, carried blazing furze through the line of gunfire to the rebels until she was shot dead.

The rebels, under Dunn, then turned to Downings House in a search for landlord's agent Henry Stamer, who allegedly had mistreated local tenants and had gone into hiding that night disguised as a dairy maid, in the home of Mrs. Bonynge. Local tradition says that Stamer hid in the cellar of an outbuilding (which became known as Stamer's Vault), but a cook told the rebels where to find him. Stamer was piked to death and the mansion was burned to the ground after the Bonynges were allowed to leave. Elsewhere, Brewer, the Englishman who had founded Prosperous' mill, was killed by axe, and some loyalist troops quartered privately around Prosperous were rounded up and executed.

Local accounts hailed the Battle of Prosperous as "the first military exploit of the United Irishmen." Afterwards, its leaders scattered, but the town history noted that "long after the rebellion had been extinguished elsewhere, they continued to hold out in the open field for a longer period than any other given group."

It is not known whether Edward Dunn of Mylerstown or any of his family took part that night, but the timing of his will raises questions about whether Edward's poor health somehow was linked to the notorious battle near his home that was part of the failed national insurrection. The available record so far has neither answered the question nor yielded the date of Edward's death. Whether or not he or his sons or daughters took part, like many Catholics in that community, they surely had to wrestle with the question of joining the United Irishmen. Each family had to follow its conscience and its heart.

It was months, even years, before the events of '98 had spun themselves out. Minor skirmishes continued in outlying areas. Trials and executions of the leaders followed. Matthew Tone was hanged. Wolfe Tone was captured and faced trial and execution but he slit his own throat and died a week later. It was said that he had used a razor blade left behind when his brother went to the gallows. One group of rebel prisoners made a deal with the government, and many of them were sentenced to be transported out of the country. The loyalists' losses in the rebellion were compensated. The lot of the Irish people otherwise included continued unemployment, rising rents, and, soon, a poor harvest in many areas which threatened famine. In a politically controversial position, Britain's top representative in Ireland, Cornwallis, the veteran of the American Revolution, generally advocated conciliatory measures toward the people, a policy he thought would help Britain maintain control. In this position though, he met great opposition. And, finally, Britain passed the Act of Union. The Irish Parliament voted itself out of existence. The Act became official on Jan. 1, 1801.

Early in the new century, in 1803, Edward Dunn's son Laurence, then 28, leased his brother's business on the Grand Canal for eight years. Their transaction was recorded at the Registry of Deeds in Dublin; the document says that George Dunn turned over his business to Laurence; their brother Daniel signed as a witness. Included was part of a turf bank, boat No. 267, called the Lunden, and "the bay horse that plies or draws the same," along with various tackle and appurtenances. Laurence was identified as a farmer and boatman; George was listed as a boatman; Daniel was a turfman who signed his own name. But the document does not say what Laurence paid for his new enterprise. Since Laurence's son Laurence was born the following year, the father obviously was making provision for his young family by leasing the canal business that must have carted turf to Dublin.

Little more is known about the canalman's life or family. In addition to the son who was his namesake, Laurence and his wife, Mary, certainly had a son named Edward. Since Ireland's population was exploding at that time, most probably there were a number of other children. Sons Laurence and Edward named each other years later as godparent for their children.The baptismal records of Laurence's and Edward's children name other Dunns as well, suggesting their siblings may have been called Sally, Esther, Mary, George, and Patt.

When the canalman's oldest children were young, Ireland experienced an economic boom. Scholar Whelan defines the period of prosperity as 1780 to 1815. Indeed, the country's agricultural production rose enormously even though it had a poor reputation in Europe. Historian Kevin O'Neill calls Ireland's farm productivity during this time a "conundrum" and a great untold and unexplained story of European history. But when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815, Europe's agriculture revived and Ireland's fell on hard times. Afterwards, a potato called the lumper assumed even greater prominence in the people's diet. At the same time, coastal fishing declined and the kelp industry disappeared. In the north though, Belfast's linen industry burgeoned, undermining the cottage spinning and weaving which helped the Irish people to survive. While it did not particularly influence affairs in Kildare, Belfast's growth had a devastating impact on the northern counties. The people depended on the potato, which Irishmen often consumed at the rate of fourteen pounds a day. As Whelan says, "they forgot oatmeal." The potato was an available foodstuff while the Irish family's effort went to pay the rent twice a year.

Reliable as it was, the potato crop was not immune to failure; it happened twice in the decade after 1815. During that period, in a strangling economy, the secret agrarian societies increased their activity, with sporadic incidents of violence. The times reminded some worried Britons of the volatile political situation of the 1790s, before the rising of '98, according to author Robert Kee. Those British fears were fulfilled in a way when the 1820s culminated with a spectacular political success for Catholics. Attorney Daniel O'Connell of an old Kerry family had organized the Catholic underclass, pressed for, and won Catholic Emancipation in 1829. It meant the end of the hated Penal Laws. Catholics could now hold high office though the fearful British immediately increased the property requirement for voting to ten pounds. While O'Connell's success had little practical effect on most people, still, he had wrested change by legal means from a system that tried to avoid it. He had demonstrated that Catholics could achieve change by peaceful means through organizing. It was a great moral victory, appreciated by the Irish people and stunning to the Anglos. O'Connell also had won a contested seat in Parliament. In the following years, confirmed in his strategy, the new leader of the people bent his energies to repeal of the Union, culminating in the early 1840s with "monster meetings" around the island that drew hundreds of thousands of Irish and intimidated the British officials.

Undoubtedly, the Dunns, who were Catholics, welcomed these developments, but family matters also preoccupied them during this time as their children came of marriageable age. Laurence and Mary's son Laurence married Mary Connelly on January 5, 1830, recorded at the church at Allen. Witnesses to the marriage were Patt Dunn, perhaps his brother, and Mary Logan (was she a daughter of Honora Logan who had inherited the patch of bog next to the shoemaker's?). The young Laurence and Mary very soon went to live in Derrymullen, not far from Allenwood Cross and the canal, and not far from his parents in Mylerstown. The elder Laurence Dunn, the canalman, is listed there in the Tithe Applotment records which valued Irish property for the purposes of determining what the landholders, Catholics included, had to pay in support of the official church of England. Laurence, then advanced in age, held 30 acres and 15 perches; six acres were top quality land; fourteen acres were second-level lands; and the rest were fourth-level parcels. Laurence paid 1 pound 18 shillings a year for the Protestants' church. As Catholics' farms went, Laurence's was a sizable holding; the list showed it was among the largest in his neighborhood. He also had a tenant -- Martin Cunningham -- nearby on a small plot. Cunningham was probably a cottier.

By the summer of 1834, the younger Laurence and Mary had three sons -- John, Patt, and a new child, Laurence. That year, just before Christmas, the elder Laurence Dunn, the canal man, then 59, died. He was buried at old Allen cemetery. His son Edward erected a stone whose inscription memorializes his "beloved father." His son Laurence took down the family bible and entered a record of his father's death on Dec. 20, just as he had entered his children's births and the family's deaths, and kept a treasured copy of his grandfather Edward's will.

Not quite two years later, Laurence and Mary had a fourth son; they named him Michael. He was born on August 26, 1836, in Derrymullen, and when he was baptized, his father's brother Edward Dunn and Judy Kennedy were listed in the church ledger as his godparents. Two years later, Mary Connelly Dunn's father died. The record of his death in the family bible though did not disclose his name, identifying him only as "Mary's father." The births of four more children to Laurence and Mary followed: Mary, in 1839; Edward in 1842; George in 1845; and Catherine in July 1850.

When Michael was nearly five years old, on June 24, 1841, Edward, his uncle and godfather who then lived in nearby Killeagh, married Eleanor Walsh of the same townland. Standing up for the couple were James Walsh and Garrett Farrell. Farrell was a close friend of both Edward and Laurence Dunn; three decades later, his niece became Michael Dunn's second wife in the U.S. Edward and Ellen's ten children, born over the next 18 years, were Mary, who arrived the next year; Laurence, 1843; Patrick, 1844; Catherine, 1846; Anne, 1848; Ellen, 1850; Margaret, 1852; Thomas, 1854; Rose Anna, 1856; and Alicia, 1860.

By the 1840s, much of the land in Kildare had been turned from potato farming to pasturage, according to James G. Ryan's book, Irish Records. Thus, the people of the county rode out the famine far better than the populations to the north and west. Proximity to Dublin's commercial activity also helped them through the time. Kildare's population of 114,000 in 1841 dropped to 96,000 a decade later near the end of the famine. "Of the difference, about 14,000 died and the remainder emigrated," Ryan said. In contrast, County Galway's population of 442,000 in 1841 fell by 100,000 during the same period; nearly 75,000 of them died during the famine years.
When Richard Griffith valued property in Kildare in the late 1840s, as he did throughout the country around that time, Michael's father Laurence Dunn, then nearing 50 with seven children, was still living in Derrymullen. His oldest son was about 18, Michael was about 13, and the family was not yet complete -- daughter Catherine was born in 1850. Laurence leased his property -- house, offices, and land -- from Sir Gerald G. Aylmer, whose family had settled in Kildare after the invasion and whose ancestor had been tutor to Lady Jane Grey before she became a princess of England. The Aylmers had forfeited their estates to Cromwell in the mid 1600s, but later recovered much of their property. In the late 1600s, the Donadea Castle branch of the family received the estate of Allen, 9,000 acres in Kildare, and 1,600 more in Sligo. In the rising of '98, an Aylmer had succeeded Edward Fitzgerald as leader of the Kildare rebels after Fitzgerald's arrest.

Griffith's mid-century valuation shows that Michael's father leased 14 acres, 1 rood, 30 perch, and it was valued altogether at 6 pounds, 15 shillings. Nearly all of the value was in the land, rather than in the buildings. Sir Gerald owned most of the surrounding property, although the Grand Canal leased out some and a Patrick Callan had several tenants. Of the townland's 23 tenants, a woman named Margaret Cribben, also a lessee of Sir Gerald's, had substantial holdings. One of the tenants was the Irish Amelioration Society which leased charcoal sheds and bog. In fact, Griffith described much of the local property as bogland.

In 1854, Michael's grandmother, Mary Dunn, 79, died and was laid to rest next to her husband Lawrence in the cemetery in the shadow of the Hill of Allen.
It is hard to know what spurred Michael to start thinking about America, but surely he was doing so by the mid-1850s. His parents, obviously, were not very well off, though many others in the townland, judging by Griffith's information, had less. Michael had three older brothers, all of them quite content, it must be surmised, to stay put, since that's what they did. Elizabeth Dunne of Carbury (not far from Derrymullen), the young woman who Michael married soon after he arrived in America, apparently emigrated before him, in 1857, so perhaps by going he was following his heart. On the other hand, it is not known whether he knew Elizabeth in their homeland or met her in America, or even whether she was somehow related. Carbury, however, was only a few miles northwest of the Dunns' townland. Perhaps Michael had friends who planned to leave for America or already had left and, prospects being what they were at home, he decided that America offered opportunity.
When he was 21, Michael pursued want he wanted. In May 1858, he said farewell to his family, left Derrymullen, and landed in New York City 45 days later. His port of embarkation and the ship that provided his passage remain unidentified. From New York City, he apparently went very soon to Troy, 150 miles north on the Hudson River across from the state capital. It was there that he married Elizabeth a year later at St. Joseph's Church in south Troy. Michael found a job at an iron works where he remained for years while his family grew. Son Laurence was born in 1862; James in 1864; George in '66; Elizabeth in '68; Michael in '69.

Around that time, Michael's cousin, Laurence Dunn, the oldest son of Edward and Ellen Walsh Dunn, landed in Troy. Perhaps Michael had encouraged his move and offered to help him out. Whatever the case, Laurence, 29, contracted typhoid fever in the summer of 1872 and died. Michael saw to his young cousin's funeral and burial in Troy and was named to handle Laurence's small estate, whose records document their relationship. Laurence was still single; and he was the only one of his siblings to emigrate. In the 1850s, his younger brother Patrick apparently had died in Kildare and had been buried with his Dunn grandparents in Allen graveyard. Now, Edward and Ellen had lost two of their three sons, one far from home.

New Year's 1873 began auspiciously for the Michael Dunns with the birth that day of their sixth child, a daughter they named Mary. Barely a week later though, Elizabeth, 33, was dead. The child lived only days longer. Michael became a widower with five children under 11 years old. A year later, news came from Ireland of Michael's father's death on January 20. Sometime during this sad cycle of birth and death, perhaps impressed with the fleeting quality of life, Michael took out the prized family bible he had brought to America and started entering the records of his and his children's lives. In an impressive script, he put down the dates of his and Elizabeth's departures from Ireland, their marriage, the births of their children, and Elizabeth's death, along with baby Mary's. For decades afterwards, Michael noted the big events in his and his children's lives as his father had done before him in the same bible, which contained entries before Michael's birth. Michael also owned a prayer book which contained the terms of the 1798 will of his great grandfather Edward Dunn and named Edward's and Catherine's children.

At some point, Michael's younger brothers, George (called the "Fuzzler," which was thought to be a shortened version of Fusiliers, an Irish military unit) and Edward, and his sister Mary came to America. The brothers hovered near New York City, and Mary settled in Orange, New Jersey. There must have been contact among the Dunn siblings though because eighteen months after Elizabeth's death, Michael married again at St. John's Church in Orange. He was 38. His bride was Catherine (Kate) Walsh, who was 28. The site of the marriage suggests that Mary Dunn may have had a role in her brother's match.

Kate was the daughter of Walter and Anne Farrell Walsh, who had married at Clane, near Prosperous in Kildare, on September 20, 1840. At the time of Kate's marriage, her family lived in Brockagh, near Derrymullen. Kate's mother, Anne, was the daughter of James and Catherine Farrell, and Anne had at least three brothers, one of them Garrett Farrell who had stood up for Edward Dunne when he married Ellen Walsh some thirty years earlier. Garrett Farrell, too, had married a Walsh (Anne), but the relationships among Ellen, Anne, and Walter Walsh are a mystery. Likewise, nothing is known about Walter's parents and siblings. Walter and Anne had seven children: two sons, Oliver and William, and daughters Rose, Catherine, Mary, a second Catherine (probably the first died as a baby), and Anne. Kate's brother Oliver had come to America and settled in Connecticut. Her sister Rose also had emigrated, married a Clinton, and settled in Troy, apparently before Kate's marriage; Rose, however, died young. (During the 1920s, one of her descendants became mayor of Troy.) Michael's and Kate's parents evidently knew each other in Kildare since Anne Farrell Walsh conveyed Dunn family news in the letters she sent to America after 1876. Kate's father, however, is not mentioned in any of those letters and therefore may have died some while before they were written.

After their wedding, Michael brought Kate home to Troy. Over the next sixteen years, they had eight children: Ann, John, Catherine, Mary, Walter, Edward, Rose, and Thomas (who died soon after birth). In the 1880s, Michael moved his growing family to 500 Second Street, corner of Tyler, one of the tall, narrow, flat-faced brick buildings in the south part of the city a few blocks from the river, and he opened a grocery business there on the first floor. At the same time, he and Kate became citizens of the United States. As their children reached an age that they could help in the store, one handled accounts, another made deliveries, and so on. Kate helped out sometimes too behind the counter which was laden with cookies and candy, jars of olives with pimentos, and cheeses and meats.

The business prospered, even though the river occasionally overflowed and Michael gave credit in the store. Allowing his customers to run accounts evidently made Michael uncomfortable at times. When the priest from St. Joseph's came to see him about going to church more often, he said if he did, he'd only have to meet the gazes of the neighbors who owed him money. Michael and Kate occasionally sent money home to Ireland to Kate's mother, whose circumstances -- relayed in her letters -- were strapped. Eventually, Michael bought up some of the properties around him and the family acquired a large square-shaped piano. The Dunns also had a dog, a St. Bernard, at least for a while. Some people referred to Michael as Old Smokey for a reason lost to present time, although it possibly stemmed from the nickname of the national heavyweight prizefighting champion of 1853, John 'Old Smoke' Morrissey of Tipperary, who arrived in Troy as a child. (Kevin Kenny, The American Irish / A History) As he aged, Michael was a robust, genial-looking fellow with a round face, white hair, and astute eyes.

An 1886 letter from his mother-in-law Anne Farrell Walsh brought the news of Michael's mother's death. About that time, the struggling Anne Walsh, then in her 70s, finally gave in to pressure from her children in America and emigrated along with her bachelor son, William, whose health was not good. Perhaps William's health finally gave her reason to take the step she had rejected so many times; or maybe it was the punishing economics of the time which caused her to leave. She spent the last ten years of her life in America where she moved in with Michael and Kate in the late 1880s. Anne Farrell Walsh died in April 1897 and was buried in Troy's St. Mary's Cemetery, though in Kildare she had wanted to rest with her parents in Downings graveyard, a half mile or so from Prosperous.

Also emigrating in their time were at least a half dozen of Michael's nephews, the sons of his brothers John and Patrick. Most of them stayed around New York City and several of them, brothers, ran a saloon; over time, the branches of the family in upstate New York and in New Jersey lost contact.

Into the new century, when his children took husbands and wives, Michael dutifully recorded each of their weddings in the family bible that had been his father's.

Michael was still running his store when World War I broke out. A number of his children lived nearby in houses that he owned; some brought their young families to live above the store with Michael and Kate when the Hudson River flooded over or some other misfortune struck. Michael, it seems, had an open-door policy when it came to bids for aid. He also had taken care of various Irish immigrant newcomers who arrived periodically at the store because they were told Michael Dunn would help them find work. One of these new arrivals was a young man named Barnes from Donegal, smart as a whip with a national scholar's prize in math to prove it, whose mother had packed him off to America rather than see her son teach in a school for English children. Michael took the young immigrant to an outlying farm for his first job in America, but not before young Annie Dunn had spied the newcomer, liked what she saw, and set her cap for him, successfully it turned out.

Michael presided over domestic and business life there at Second and Tyler Streets in South Troy and provided for his large family. It must have been no small feeling of accomplishment for a man born in another time, the fourth son of a Derrymullen farmer.

Michael Dunn died on January 10, 1916, in Troy; Kate died the following year.
A set of letters from Anne Farrell Walsh to her family in America, written during the 1870s and '80s, was handed down through their son Edward's family. Michael left his bible to his son James, a lover of books, who evidently passed it to his nephew, James, a physician, who took it to Virginia, but who willingly shared its secrets when asked to do so in the 1970s by Michael's son Walter's granddaughter who used the family information in both the Dunn bible and the Walsh letters to find Dunn cousins in the early 1990s in County Kildare (the descendants of Edward and Ellen Walsh Dunn), to learn the family's story, and to visit Laurence and Mary Dunn's resting place under a tilted, moss-covered stone in old Allen graveyard. It's likely that Edward and Catherine Dunn are buried there as well, though no stone says so.

Like Fionn mac Cumhaill, the legendary hero of his Kildare childhood, Michael had taken a great leap from the Hill of Allen to an altogether different place. In doing so, he had safeguarded not only the present and the future but also the past.

The Dunn Line: County Kildare to Troy
Edward and Catherine Dunn (born middle 1700s)
,
Children: Elizabeth, Daniel, Catherine, Mary, Honora, Laurence, George, Margaret

Laurence and Mary ___ Dunn
Children: Laurence, Edward, _____

Laurence and Mary Connelly Dunn
Children: John, Patrick, Laurence, Michael, Edward, Mary, George, Catherine


Michael (immigrant ancestor, born August 1836) and
1. Elizabeth Dunne Dunn
Children: Laurence, James, George, Elizabeth, Michael, Mary

2. Catherine Walsh Dunne
Children: Ann, John, Catherine, Mary, Walter, Edward, Rose, Thomas

Walter and Mary Maloney Dunn
Children: Jane Frances, Walter Charles

Walter and Frances Allen Dunn
Children: Mary Lee, Jane, Norma, Patricia

Researcher: Mary Lee Dunn

 

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