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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 10:

Irish Settlers

-As transcribed from pages 143 - 150

The Irish settlers of Trempealeau County have not been very numerous, although there are some among them who have taken a prominent part in the development and history of the county.  There are only five sections of the county where they have settled, and, with the exception of Beaver Creek, the number who have settled in these sections are very few.

Thomas Drugan was perhaps the first Irish settler in Trempealeau County.  He came to Trempealeau in 1853 and settled on a farm in the town of Trempealeau.  At that time Trempealeau was a part of La Crosse County.

Patrick Lowery and Patrick Drugan, the latter a brother of Thomas Drugan, came to Trempealeau in 1855.  Lowery settled on the place which had been previously occupied by one Winkleman in 1848, and which is now known as "The Old Grant Place," while Patrick Drugan settled in the town of Trempealeau on the lace now owned by Patrick Lowery.  The Drugans came from the county of Tyrone in the North of Ireland and lived some five years in Illinois before coming to Trempealeau.

Frank Feeney settled in Trempealeau in 1855 and bought a place near the old Ed Elkins home.  Daniel Gallagn came to Trempealeau in 1856 and settled on the place where John Reid now lives.  In 1858 James Brady settled under the bluff which bears his name, and in 1859 Sullivan settled on the place now owned by Fred Ford.

About this time McCarthy, who was quite a character in his way, settled on a farm lying west of the village of Trempealeau along the Mississippi.  McCarthy was a man who took great pride in his physical prowess, and on many occasions attempted to settle his differences with others without the intervention of the law.  When under the influence of liquor there was always something doing when Jack McCarthy was around, and yet withal he was generous to a fault and had many qualities that commend him to the admiration of people.

These men were all typical Irishmen, and were the earliest Irish settlers in Trempealeau County.  They cultivated the soil in a small way, accumulated but a small amount of this world's goods, and were not very active factors in the organized movement of their local communities.

J. H. Pierson came to Trempealeau in 1860, but did not take up his residence there until 1861.  He came from Dublin, Ireland, and was in the constabulary service in that city before coming to America.  He had been trained as a druggist in Canada and worked in the drug store at Trempealeau until 1871, and later bought a stock of drug store of his own.  The store is still run and known as "The Pierson Pharmacy."  He was the father of James and Charles Pierson, who are residents of Trempealeau, and of Fred Pierson and Lottie Pierson, who have moved out of the county.  He was a fine type of an Irish gentleman, refined, law-abiding in all respects, and left a deep impression upon all with whom he came in contact.  He died at a ripe old age in Trempealeau in 1911.

James Dolan came to Trempealeau and settled in the town of Caledonia in 1857. A typical Irishman who came to Trempealeau in 1867 is Barney McGraw, who still resides there.  McGraw can tell you more of Irish lore than any other Irishman in the county, unless it be Dennis Lawler, of whom something will be said hereafter.  The greatest regret of Barney is that although every inch an Irishman, he was born in New York City instead of Ireland.

A few, but prominent, Irish settlers lived in the town of Hale.  The first Irish settler there was Robert Warner, who came to Trempealeau County in 1863.  He raised a family of ten children, five boys and five girls, all of whom are now living except his oldest son John.  Two of his girls are now living in the towns of Unity and Albion, one Mrs. Margaret Wingad, and the other Mrs. Catharine Wingad.  One son, Robert, is a Methodist preacher, and two of his sons, Raymond and Rufus, are living with their mother on the homestead in the town of Hale.  Robert Warner died February 10th, 1908, and is buried in the Hale cemetery.  he was a prominent, successful and respected resident of the county,a nd had much to do within his sphere in the development of his community.

Another Irish settler in the town of Hale is Honorable M. J. Warner, who moved to Hale in 1864 and took up a homestead of one hundred sixty acres in Section 33, Township 23, Range 8 West, where he still resides.  he was born in Ireland, February 15th, 1842, emigrated with his mother to Massachusetts in 1854, moved with his brother Robert and mother to Adams County, Wisconsin, in 1856, enlisted as a member of Co. K, 25th Wisconsin Infantry at Friendship, Adams County, August 15th, 1862, and was discharged in September, 1863, on account of disabilities contracted in the line of duty.  He was married to Sarah Risk, November 17th, 1868, and became the father of five children, four boys and one girl, all of whom are still living.  M. J. Warner has been one of the most active and prominent citizens in Trempealeau County.  He has been an oracle of Democratic wisdom, has served his state in the Legislature, and has a great many times served the town of Hale on the county board.  he is one of the very strong characters who has had much to do, not only with the pioneer development of the county, but in its more recent history.

Another early Irish settler who had much to do with the development of the town of Hale was David Maloney, who moved there in 1866 and took up a homestead on Section 28, Township 33, Range 8 West.  He raised a family of seven children, all of whom were a credit to his name, five girls and two boys.  Of the girls, two, Mrs. Catharine Bucholz and Nellie, who died at the age of four years, are laid to rest in the Hale cemetery.  Mary Rorabeck is living at Ryegate, Montana; Maggie Harrington in Liberty, Canada; Mrs. Esther Elsom at Britton, South Dakota; James, the oldest son, is living on the old homestead and cultivating as many acres as any farmer in Trempealeau County, while the youngest son, David, lives at Ladysmith and is the County Judge of Rusk County.  David Maloney and his wife are both death and buried in the Hale cemetery.  Mr. Maloney, although deprived of the opportunities of an early education, was a great reader and became a man of wide information and very set in his convictions.

This trio of Irishmen had as much, if not more, to do with the early development and history of the town of Hale than any other set of more numerous individuals who could be selected, and were all types of the better and more prosperous class of Irish.

The next Irish settler of the town of Hale was Charles Donnelly, who settled on a homestead in Section 30, Township 23, Range 7 West, in the year 1867.  His early experience coincided with that of most of the pioneers of Trempealeau County.  He came to Hale without a dollar, but in a few years, by industry and thrift, he became the owner of a comfortable home.  He died about thirty years ago and was buried in the Hale cemetery, where a few years later his wife was laid to rest.

The difficulties to be overcome were hard enough in the pioneer days for men to face, but how much more discouraging was the work of a woman, yet there came to the town of Hale in 1866 an Irish woman by the name of Mary Bryan, with seven small children, four girls and three boys, who took up an undeveloped homestead in Section 30, Township 23, Range 8 West, proved up, broke and cultivated it, and continued to liver there until the children married.  Mrs. Bryan died and was buried in the Hale cemetery about three years ago.  Her son Thomas now lives on a farm near Eleva.

This constitutes, I believe, all the Irish settlers who have lived in the town of Hale.

In the town of Preston there have lived only two Irish settlers of whom I have knowledge.  One was a strong character and left behind a family of strong individuals who have had much to do with the development of this county.  I refer to James McKivergin, who was born near Belfast, Ireland, February 13th, 1818, and who was married to Annie Conway, who was born at Limerick, Ireland, June 20th, 1830.  Mr. McKivergin came to Grant County, Wisconsin, in 1845, and worked in the lead mines for two years, when he moved to Troy, Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he engaged in milling.  he moved to the town of Preston in 1862, where he continued to live until he died, August 15th, 1886.  At the time he came to Trempealeau County there was no railroad nearer than la Crosse.  Henry Lake then drove a stage from La Crosse to Osseo and carried passengers and baggage.  Mr. and Mrs. McKivergin and their six children, and what baggage they possessed, went by stage with Mr. Lake from La Crosse to the log hut of Mr. Carpenter's near the present McKivergin homestead.  As soon as the Homestead Law was passed in 1863, Mr. McKivergin homesteaded the farm now occupied, in the town of Preston, by his wife and son Edward.  In the early days their markets were Sparta, Trempealeau and La Crosse, with no conveyance except by oxen.  There is now surviving him and residing in Trempealeau County his widow and seven children, Edward McKivergin, William McKivergin, Mary Young, Rose A. Immell, Alice McKivergin, John McKivergin and Maggie Immell.  Mrs. McKivergin's father, John Conway, came to Trempealeau County in 1864 and lived with Mr. McKivergin until he died in 1886.

Another Irish settler in the town of Preston was Patrick Bennett, who settled on what is now known as the Densmore farm about 1856 or 1857, who continued to reside there until 1864.

A number of Irish have resided at or near Arcadia.  The first Irish settler at Arcadia was James Gaveney, who came there in the Fall of 1856.  He was born at Balla Bay, Monaghan County, Ireland, April 25th, 1825.  At the age of 20 he entered the constabulary of the city of Dublin and served for three years.  In 1848 he came to America and worked in the lead mines at Mineral Point for two years, and in 1850 crossed the plains to the gold mines of California, where he became acquainted with a man, though not Irish, who had very much to do with the pioneer history of Trempealeau County - Noah D. Comstock.  He settled at Arcadia in 1856 upon a farm, which is now part of the village limits of the village, where he continued to reside until the time of his death, June 18th, 1889.  he was engaged quite extensively in farming at Arcadia and in the town of Burnside, and also in milling and in the lumber business at Independence.

Among the Irish settlers in the town of Arcadia are J. H. Gleason, Michael Arrigan, Patrick, John and James Manning, Edward Creeley, Michael Gleason, James Gibbons, Jerry O'Brien, Thomas Moriarity, Daniel English and Phillip English.

A strong character among them was Daniel English, who was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and came to America in the latter '50s.  he was engaged for some time in the construction of the Vermont Central Railroad and of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, and settled in the town of Arcadia about eight miles south of the present village in 1861.  He was a fine type of an Irishman, who made the most out of life without having any of the advantages of an early education.  He cleared a farm of heavily timbered lands into one of the fertile and most valuable farms of the town, and raised a family of four boys and one girl, two of them, Michael English and John H. English, now reside at Arcadia.  He was the father of Dr. William E. English, who died some years ago at Winona, and also of Edward G. English, who is one of the wealthy lumbermen of the State of Washington.  No finer example of the possibilities of this county can be found than in the history of this family.  Although the father and mother came to the county with little book education and with practically none of this world's goods, they raised and educated, some with college educations, a family of five children, and left besides an accumulation of several thousands of dollars. 

The three Mannings, John, Patrick and Michael, were all good citizens, but men of no marked characteristics.  John was born in Limerick, Ireland, June 12, 1835, and died March 19, 1895.  He emigrated from Ireland in 1855 and settled at Arcadia in 1862 on a farm two miles south of the village.  Patrick Manning also was born at Limerick, Ireland, in 1838, came to America in 1858, and located at Arcadia in 1863, and Michael Manning, who was born at Limerick, Ireland in 1840, came to America in 1863 and located at Arcadia in 1864.  They all raised respected families, some of whom are railroading and others farming.

Edward Creeley was another early Irish settler of the town of Arcadia.  He located on a farm about two miles south of Arcadia in the latter '60s, where he continued to live until about ten years ago, when he moved to the village of Arcadia.  Besides being a farmer, he was an engineer, and put in part of his time working for different railroads.  He was, in some respects, an eccentric character, with a genius for machinery.  He patented several devices for locomotives, none of which ever proved of practical utility.  He is survived by his widow and three children, two of whom now reside at Arcadia.

Michael Gleason was also an unusual personage - a marked character for a novel.  He was politeness personified.  He homesteaded a farm in Bills Valley, three miles south of Arcadia, in 1866, which is now owned by the family.  His wife was Mary A. Cashel, a sister of Michael Cashel, a very strong and active character who had much to do with the development of Buffalo County.  He leaves his widow and several children, who are now farmers in Trempealeau and Buffalo counties.

Another marked character was John H. Gleason, who was born in Tipperary, Ireland, May 18, 1818, and came to America in 1848.  He purchased land from the government in 1856 four miles south of Arcadia, and settled on this land in 1857.  The log house which he built first is now used as an ice house on the farm.  He died May 19, 1894.  His wife was an unusual woman, whose predominating characteristics were friendliness and generosity.  She was born in Tipperary in 1826 and came to America in 1849.  She died July 11, 1910.  they left a family of one boy and four girls, none of whom are now residents of the county, although the homestead is still owned by the family.

Another Irishman who located in the town of Arcadia was Phillip English, a native of Tipperary, Ireland, and whose wife was a native of Galway, Ireland.  He came to America in 1850 and settled in Trout Run in 1872.

Jerry O'Brien, a native of the County of Cork, Ireland, located at Arcadia, July 4, 1864, and homesteaded a farm two miles east of Arcadia.  His wife was Catharine Higgins, who was born in the County of Cary, Ireland.  He left a family of three children, one girl, Catharine O'Brien, who married Edson Morgan, a well-known character in Trempealeau County during the '70s, and Michael O'Brien and Francis O'Brien, none of whom reside in the county.  Mr. O'Brien was an impulsive, decisive character who took an active part int he affairs of his town in the earlier days and was in all respects a good citizen.  The farm he developed is now one of the leading dairy farms in the town.

Another Irishman who prided himself on his Irish ancestry, and who was a very marked character, is Thomas Barry, long a resident of Arcadia.  He came to Arcadia in 1867 and peddled books through Trempealeau and Buffalo counties.  He afterwards was in the implement business and was known over a wide area as a successful auctioneer.

One of the early settlers was James Bigham, who located in Buffalo County in 1855 and moved to Trempealeau County on a farm eight miles south of Arcadia in 1858.  He died in 1874.  He left behind several children, three of whom are well known in Trempealeau County, Daniel and John Bigham of Arcadia, and Mrs. C. W. Thomas of Trempealeau.

Another Irish character particularly worthy of mention is Dennis Lawler, who is now living in the northern end of the county, at a ripe old age.  Anyone who has ever met Mr. Lawler will recall him as one of marked characteristics.  He is a man of many ideas and of strong memory for details.  He was born in the County of Dublin, September 25, 1823.  He was married to Catharine Brown in 1846, and started for America in 1850, when he was shipwrecked and returned again to Ireland.  Seven years later crossed the ocean and landed at La Crosse, which was then a very small place.  From La Crosse he went to Black River Falls by stage, and from there to the Beef River Valley, where he settled on Section 24, Township 23, Range 8.  At that time there were no neighbors within twelve miles.  He squatted upon the land.  When war broke out he enlisted, and after his return homesteaded his farm.  It is a matter of pride to Mr. Lawler that his grandfather was a chum of the noted Robert Emmet, and is buried in the same churchyard.  Mr. Lawler is now living with his son, at a ripe old age, in the town of Sumner.

Another Irishman of marked character who has had much to do with the development of Trempealeau County and Northern Wisconsin is E. J. Matchett.  He came to Trempealeau County in 1866 and settled at Osseo.  He came to America in 1862 and for several years followed the business of railroad construction.  He has held many local offices and has always been an active man of affairs.  Few men have impressed themselves as strongly upon Trempealeau County as has Mr. Matchett.  In his day he made much money and lost much, but whichever way the tide of fortune turns, he has always been the same persevering, plodding worker.  it is needless to say that such a character will never rust out.  Time only can wear him out.

An early Irish settler of the northern part of the county was William Henry, who settled in the town of Sumner in 1854.  He is now alive and living with his son, E. J. Henry.  Michael Merty settled in the town of Sumner in 1859, and died about 1884.  Another Irishman of Osseo was Charles Shores, who was well known by the people of the county during the '70s and '80s.  He ran a store for some time in the village of Osseo.

This article has now grown to such length that I can barely mention the Irish settlers of the town of Ettrick.  They are the most numerous lot that settled in any section of Trempealeau County.  Among them was John Mahoney and Dennis Mahoney, John and Daniel Kennedy, Thomas and Andrew Bierne, Peter and Timothy Dufficy, Daniel Nefficy and Patrick McCormick, all of whom are now dead; Michael Connolly, who is yet living on a farm; Pat Cain and Henry Whelan, who now lives at Mankato, Minnesota; James Connors, who left the county years ago; Cornelius Lynch, who came to Wisconsin in 1859, but did not settle in Trempealeau County until 1869.  The older people will remember him as the one-armed school teacher who for a number of years was a marked character among the school teachers of Trempealeau County.  James Quinn, who died last year and is now succeeded by his son, William; James McLaughlin, who is dead a long time and who left no children behind him; John O'Neil, who was a Civil War veteran and who is succeeded by a son; Peter Crogan, who has now moved to Galesville; Hugh Crogan, now succeeded by his son Henry, and Thomas Crogan, who is now dead and is succeeded by his son William; Timothy Lane, who is now dead and whose farm is now owed by strangers; Ed Rielly, now of La Crosse; Owen Thomas and Patrick Mulligan, who left no inheritors; Daniel McGillindy, who was a Civil War veteran, and Michael McGillindy, whose son Wallace now lives on the farm he occupied; Jeremiah McGillindy, who is now dead, but whose sons reside on the farm; James McCarthy, a marked character and excellent type of an Irish citizen; Sylvester McAvoy; Dennis Cavanaugh, who served in the army under General Miles and gave his life for his country; Daniel Cullity, also a Civil War veteran; Thomas and Michael Cullity, both of whom are now dead; Darby Whelan and his father, Thomas Whelan, who lived upon the homestead now occupied by Darby's son; John Harmon; James and John Corcoran; Thomas Wall and Walter Wall, who also served in the Civil War; Patrick Wall, John Wall; John, James and Richard Cantlon, all of whom are now dead, excepting Richard; Thomas Sheehy, whose boys now occupy his farm; Daniel Cahill and Bernhard Brady, now succeeded by his son, Thomas Brady.  I should also mention Maurice Casey, a successful farmer whose land is now owned and occupied by his son and who was a nephew of John and Daniel Kennedy of Ettrick; James Larkin of Crystal Valley, who is now succeeded by his two sons, Michael and Fred; James Dolan, who years ago moved to St. Paul; John Bierne, John Hunt of Crystal Valley, also Thomas Roach, John Dolan of Galesville and Thomas Shaw of Crystal Valley.

All these were early Irish settlers in the towns of Ettrick and Gale.  The data of their lives and work should be gathered and preserved before it is too late, but the limits of this article are such that I cannot now attempt it.  It is worthy of mention that these men established the only Irish Catholic church in Trempealeau County, which was built in 1872 and is known as St. Bridget's Church.

A number of the Irish settlers in the county who should have been mentioned have perhaps been omitted.  It is safe to say, however, that all told there has not resided in Trempealeau County to exceed one hundred Irish families.  Perhaps no other nationality has had among its numbers more men of marked personality, when we consider the number from which to choose.

As a rule they have been good citizens.  some may have been impulsive, some may have been improvident, and it may be possible that some may have been deceitful, yet I venture to say there has been a chord in the make-up of nearly every one which, when touched, vibrated into harmony with the higher and better elements of human character.  No two have been alike.  Every one has had an individuality that separated him from all others.  Very few have seen the clouds - they look more for the sunshine - upon the more optimistic side of life.  Every situation tot he average Irish settler in this county has had its sunny side, its humorous side.  They have mainly lived in an atmosphere of good nature, and they should not be censured too severely if sometimes some of them have taken artificial means to bring it about.

They have been typical in their race.  Their friends have been all the people, their faith their own.  No climate has been so cold as will not produce a shamrock, no soil so barren as will not grow a shillalah.  They have been foremost at a fight, at a frolic and at a funeral, where their generous nature has always found a blow for the bad, a smile for the glad and tear for the sad. 

(Written at Arcadia, November 12, 1912, by John C. Gaveney.)

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