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Settlers XXI: William and Catherine "Katie" Sick of Forks

The material in this article was contributed by Kathy Chassin of Buffalo, NY unless otherwise indicated. She is a great-granddaughter of WILLIAM SICK and CATHERINE "KATIE" KELLY. The Sicks were a German family of farmers, leather workers and shoemakers who settled in the area. Their history is told eloquently on Settlers Page XX by Bettyann Goodyear. The Kellys were an Irish family from the Clonakilty area of County Cork. Four brothers and a sister emigrated at the time of the Great Famine and eventually came to Kelly Hill in the Overton-Forks area along the Bradford-Sullivan County lines. Katie was one of 18 children of DANIEL KELLY and MARY LAHEY, and was also the older sister of AGNES ELIZABETH KELLY, the grandmother of Bob Sweeney. Bob is the Coordinator for the Sullivan County Genealogical Project. So, Bob and Kathy Chassin are second-cosuins, once removed. Small world, is it not! We never even knew each other existed until about eight months ago. The Sullivan County Settlers Web Page, and Bob Sweeney personally, are grateful to Kathy for her contribution of information and pictures.

WILLIAM SICK and CATHERINE KELLY: An Irish-German Family of Sullivan County

By 1825, Sullivan County began to attract the German and Irish pioneers who would come to make the backbone of the county forty years later. Although neither spoke very good English and they could hardly understand one another, these poor refugees from persecution and deprivation in Europe understood they were in a new place and time. We know this because they were able to overcome their fears and prejudices to pray in the same building. Today, the Peace Church in Cherry, PA stands as a reminder of how the Irish Catholics and the German Lutherans and German Catholics shared a church as well as a life of hard times, risk and challenge in the wilds of Sullivan County. Over the next generation, as they came to respect one another's industry, integrity and values, the Germans and Irish began to intermarry and make a reality of the American "melting pot". They also left their valorous mark at the Sunken Road at Antietam, September 17, 1862, the "bloodiest day" in American history and at the stone wall at Fredericksburg and at Little Round Top, and elsewhere. For the blood that preserved the Union flowed heavily from Irish and German veins.

Not everyone was a soldier or a settler. The second generation bred farmers and merchants and teachers. Such was the lot of our protagonists: William and Catherine Mary (Kelly) Sick.

If we go today to a grass field behind the St. Francis Xavier Church in Overton, PA, we will find their grave, shown here in a picture taken by Lynn Franklin in 1998.

Tombstone of William and Catherine Kelly Sick
St. Francis Xavier Church Cemetery

In this simple field, lie the remains of most of the Kelly family and their descendants. William Sick in a sense is a "visitor", since most of his family lineage lies at rest in the cemteries of Dushore and Cherry.

WILLIAM SICK, b. 11-28-1863, d. 7-29-1938, married CATHERINE "KATE" KELLY of Overton. They had ten children:

STEPHEN FRANCIS; his daughter HILDEGARDE SICK was the mother of our storyteller,KATHY CHASSIN
MARY ETHEL, later known as SISTER MARY HILDEGARDE, Sisters of Mercy
AMELIA, born on 8-16-1910, married ED BARRY.

We can gain an overview of William, Kate and their family from this compelling Excerpt from Ken Beirne's The Best Things Always Disappear: A Family History (2013). Ken is a descendant of another of Kate Kelly Sick's sisters, Josephine Kelly Sammons, and has created an online history of the Kelly, Beirne and related families.

Let's now turn to a picture of the young family, showing Bill and Katie with their sons Stephen and Augustine. The picture was taken at the A. J. Fisher studio in Towanda, PA about 1890, from the known ages of the infants.

The William Sick Family
William, Kate, Stephen (top) and Augustine

William, born in Cherry Mills, PA, was still quite young when his mother, Hannah Reinfried Sick, died. He therefore lived with and was raised by one of his older sisters, Mary Sick. On July 8, 1886, in Dushore, he married Katherine. Their marriage license application lists New Albany as William's residence and Overton as Katherine's. Originally from Forks Township, died August 28, 1910, twelve days after the birth of her tenth child. William, a harness maker, shoemaker, and farmer, moved from the family farm to New Albany when he married for the second time to Mary Louise Bauer Hannon. He died July 29, 1938, in New Albany where he had a harness shop in the Exchange Hotel, owned by Mary Louise.

Recollections of this family are warm and nostalgic. For example, Teresa Walsh (1900-1998), whose sister Mary Agnes married Stephen Sick, remembered the gracious hospitality of this family when the Sicks hosted a gathering for members of both the Sick and Walsh families. Granddaughter Pat O'Brien Burdick, daughter of Jennie Sick O'Brien, was "scared to death" of the bees William kept in the orchard "down back" of the hotel in New Albany. This "scare", however, was followed by a return to the house for cookies and milk before "Grandpa would sit in his wooden rocker by the old grandfather clock." Both Pat and grandson Paul Sick have redolent memories of the leather in the harness shop where William had "everything for horses hanging there and could make just about anything he needed." They also remember playing on the huge organ in the little room off the living room.

Here are two other recollections of William from his descendants:

"As I was using a hammer this weekend, I remembered that William Sick had a glass eye because a nail had hit his real eye. That was why my grandfther was always so particular about wearing saftey goggles."
--an anecdote from Kathy Chassin.

"In the summer of 1937, some of William's grandsons, first cousins Jim and Leonard Sick (sons of Augustine "Gus" Sick), Jim O'Hara (son of Roseanna Sick), and myself, who are all close in age, were visiting our grandfather when we decided to go hunting. Expert checkers player William, however, wanted someone to play checkers with him, so he kept telling me, "You're such a good player." So, I stayed and played checkers, 'William's game', when I really wanted to go hunting with my cousins."
--story from Paul Sick, son of Stephen Sick and uncle to Kathy Chassin.

William Sick and Daughters About 1911
Top: Roseanna and Mary
Middle: Lily, William, and Maud
Bottom: Lucy, Margaret, Amelia, and Jennie

Here are several other pictures of an older William with various members of his family.

William Sick and Sister Mary Hildegarde
Formerly His Daughter Mary Sick
Outside Exchange Hotel, New Albany, PA

William and Mary Hannon
On Their Farm
After 1910

William and Mary Hannon
With a Child of Ed and Amelia Sick Barry
August 1937

STEPHEN FRANCIS SICK, born June 7, 1887, in New Albany, PA, married MARY AGNES "MOLLIE" WALSH, originally of Old Forge, PA, in St. Francis of Assisi Church in Mildred. On April 21, 1959, they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at their home in South Buffalo, NY, where they had moved in April 1918. Interested in his family history, Steve spoke frequently of ancestors and living relatives. He was proud of the efforts of his grandfather, in particular, to build St. Basil's Church. During a drive through the area north of Elmira, this genealogical curiosity prompted him to stop at a farm whose mailbox read "SICK". The farmer, however, rebuffed his inquiries. A former teamster in Sullivan County, Steve later worked as a miner in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. He lived there with his wife Mary when their first child was born in Plains in 1916. After the family moved to the Buffalo area, he held several jobs, although he retired from Hanna Furnace as a welder. During the 1930's, he ran his own welding business.

Able to turn his hand at many skills, it seemed to his grandchildren that he could build or fix anything. Steve rented land to cultivate a vegetable garden and, in his own yard, took pride in colorful perennials. He would have preferred to live in the country rather than the city. Thus, he frequently took his children and grandchildren to visit relatives in the Sullivan County area, especially to the home of his youngest sister, AMELIA SICK BARRY, wife of ED BARRY. He looked forward to summer vacation time to take advantage of picnics in county parks in the Buffalo area. Although he was not a hunter, Steve could shoot well. At fairs with shooting galleries, he would attract a crowd with his shooting ability. Steve died February 17, 1963, in South Buffalo Mercy Hospital. He is buried in the family plot in Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, NY. Steve and his wife Mollie had four children: Hildegarde, Paul, John, and Teresa.

One of Steve Sick's aunts was Agnes Elizabeth Kelly Sweeney, Bob Sweeney's grandmother. Agnes was a younger sister of Steve's mother Kate Kelly Sick. Rose Marie Sweeney, Bob's aunt and the last surviving daughter of Agnes, lives in Corning, NY, According to "Aunt Rose", Steve would frequently stop to visit his aunt Agnes at her home in Towanda. Agnes would open the parlor up and tell her ten children, Now your cousin Stephen is coming!". Agnes very much enjoyed the company of her nephew and he always made a point of coming by.

Here are pictures of Steve Sick as a baby and then as a young man with his brother Augustine:

Stephen Sick as an Infant c. 1887

Augustine Sick (1889-1951) and Stephen Sick (1887-1963)

Steve and Molly were married at St. Francis Xavier in Overton. Here is a picture of the inside of the church taken in about 1906. That was two years after Peter Francis Sweeney married Agnes Kelly and three years before Steve Sick married Mollie Walsh, both events occurring in this church:

St. Francis Xavier Church
Overton, PA

Mary "Mollie" Walsh and Stephen Sick
Wedding Picture 1909

Steve Sick was one of nine brothers and sisters, each of whom will be introduced as we go along. In turn, Steve and Mollie had four children:

HILDEGARDE KATHRYN SICK, born April 12, 1916, in Plains, PA, married JOSEPH DUMANSKY in Holy Family Church in South Buffalo on November 7, 1945. They had six children: Kathryn, Mary, Paul, Eileen, Ann, and Francis.

KATHRYN DUMANSKY, born March 14, 1948, was married to John N. Chassin from July 22, 1974 to May 14, 1992. They had two children: John R., born October 10, 1981, and James Paul, born September 18, 1985.
MARY DUMANSKY, born February 18, 1950, married Patrick Churchill on April 5, 1975 at St. Vincent's Church in Buffalo. Father Joseph J. Ruddick, S.J., officiated. They had three children: Brett, born August 3, 1978; Ian, born June 29, 1981; and, Blaine, born July 13, 1982.
PAUL JOSEPH DUMANSKY, born September 11, 1951, married Diane Libraire. They had two children: Stephanie, born January 9, 1972, and Paul, born July 22, 1978.
EILEEN DUMANSKY, born May 8, 1954, is single.
ANN DUMANSKYnn, born August 2, 1955, is single.
FRANCIS JOSEPH DUMANSKY, born October 15, 1957, was married to Jeanne Kocsis from October 27, 1979 to 1983. They had one child: Andrew, born November 18, 1982. On September 8, 1984,he married Catherine Hewner. They had two children: Francis, born September 20, 1985, and Benjamin, born August 6, 1986.

PAUL SICK, called "Uncle Paul", born October 10, 1919, is single.

JOHN SICK, born April 14, 1923, married JOYCE PFEIL in June 1953. He was killed in the Lucidol chemical plant explosion in September 1953.

TERESA SICK, born October 4, 1925, married OLAVI MAKI. They had three children: Mary, Stephen, and Barbara.

Let's continue now with the siblings of Stephen Sick. AUGUSTINE JOSEPH "GUS" SICK, born August 31, 1889, in New Albany, married LOLA MARION PACKARD in 1918 in Overton. Eventually, he settled in the Endicott-Johnson City, NY area where he worked in the shoe factory. He and his wife had seven children: Leonard, James, William (called Frank), Rita, Joseph, Lucy, and Edward. Gus died June 13, 1951, and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City, NY.

MARY ETHEL SICK, born 20 August 1891, in Overton, became SISTER HILDEGARDE of the Sisters of Mercy. She taught in schools in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Her letters to her brother Steve and his family express concern and affection for him and his family, especially during the Depression. Steve, in turn, helped his sister as he could. One time after he bought Sister Hildegarde a pair of good quality shoes, the Mother Superior instructed her to return them to the store in exchange for two cheaper pairs - one for Sister Hildegarde and one for another nun. For some time, she lived in a convent in Hopewell, VA, a building heated by the mines during the week, but unheated on weekends. Her sister-in-law Mollie Sick and sister Jennie Sick O'Brien believed that the damp convents in which Sister Hildegarde had to live contributed to her developing the chronic pulmonary tuberculosis which eventually led to her April 2, 1933 death. Here is a picture of Mary Sick taken before she became Sister Hildegarde:

Mary Sick
Later to be Sister Hildegarde
Sisters of Mercy

ROSE ANNA SICK, born in Overton on September 21, 1895, died March 29, 1926 from tuberculosis. She married JAMES O'HARA, and had a son JAMES O'HARA, Jr., who later remarried to Zita ____.

MAUD VICTORIA SICK, born Septmeber 26 , 1897, in Overton, caught a cold in a railroad wreck on her way to California. About two years later, on August 2, 1923, she died of pulmonary tuberculosis in the Belvedere Sanitarium.

CATHERINE LILY SICK, called "Lily", was born in Overton on January 14, 1901. She was a high school student when she became the first of the sisters to die of pulmonary tuberculosis on July 2, 1919. She is buried in St. Francis Xavier Church Cemetery in Overton.

JENNIE CLAIRE SICK, born October 1, 1903, married JOSEPH O'BRIEN in Buffalo, NY. They had two daughters, Patricia and Carol. HEr daughter, Pat O'Brien Burdick, recalls summer stays in New Albany. One time, when William Sick's second wife, whom Pat called "Grandma", wanted to visit cemeteries in Overton and Sugar Ridge, Jennie had to drive "the old model T that was in Grandma's barn." As Pat tells it, "Now, my mother wasn't a good driver in new cars, let alone that old Model T. We kids were put in the back seat and told to shut our mouths and not utter a word. With my mother's not being used to the clutch, we hopped and skipped a good deal of the way!" Jennie died May 6, 1976 in Buffalo. This story is exactly reminiscent of one that Kathy Chassin's cousin Bob Sweeney recounts from his father, Robert Gerard Sweeney. Robert was back from the Pacific after serving in the Marines and went down to Sullivan County from his home in Towadna to vist the relatives. One of those relatives was "Aunt May", formerly May Kelly, yet another sister of Kate and Agnes Kelly. May was married to Joe Marshall and had come into a new Model T. Bob's dad often recalled that riding with Aunt May was second only to landing on enemy-infested Pelelieu in terms of the experience!!

LUCY FREDERICKA SICK, born November 21, 1905 in Overton, married photographer FRANK ZEISS of Jersey City< NJ. Sadly, she died May 3, 1941 of toxemia in her eighth month of pregnancy. She is buried in St. Francis Xavier Church Cemetery in Overton.

MARGARET LOUISE "PEG" SICK, born May 6, 1907, in Overton, married ALFRED BLENKLE, father of her daughter SUZANNE BLENKLE, in 1930. With her second husband, PAUL SHUGERMAN, she lived in New Jersey, just outside New York City, where Paul had a business. When Aunt Peg first took this metropolitan New Yorker to visit her family, he asked her what her father had done that he had to live in such a remote area. Margaret, a nurse, and her third husband, ANDREW HOTTENROTH, settled in the St. Louis area, where she died August 17, 1998.

AMELIA SICK, born August 16, 1910, in Overton, married EDWARD BARRY. Two of their four children, Kathryn and Jeanne, survived as of August 2000. Son Bernard, enroute home from Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, was killed in a car crash in 1954. Daughter Joyce Barry Gainer of Endicott, died in the mid-1990's. Amelia, who suffered long from lung cancer, died August 24, 1962. She is buried in St. Basil's Cemetery in Dushore, PA.

Finally, as we close the story of William and Kate Kelly Sick and their descendants, we present a picture of the old house in Overton, PA where Bill and Katie first raised a family. Then, we show a postcard written by Katie to her son Stephen, inviting him to visit her when he got a chance:

The postcard reads: We are all well. Hope you're the same. Come out when you can. It's lovely here now. It is signed: Mother

The Old House in Overton
Original Home of Bill and Katie Sick

Postcard from a Mother
From Katie Kelly Sick to Son Stephen
June 1909

Copyright 2000 Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors. All Rights Reserved. Prior written permission is required from Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors before this material can be printed or otherwise copied, displayed or distributed in any form. This is a FREE genealogy site sponsored through PAGenWeb and can be reached directly at ~Sullivan County Genealogy Project (

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