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The Desmond Family

19th Century (Revised 2007)


City Of Cork, County Cork, Ireland

Michael Joseph Desmond was born in approximately 1839, County Cork, Ireland. No vital statistics are available about his birth, childhood, education, or family at this point of genealogy research. The author recently traveled to Cork City, Ireland in August, 2006 to determine if any genealogical data could be found from available records. He traveled to the starting point of available data, The North Cathedral (formerly Saints Mary and Anne Cathedral) in Cork City. He talked to the Church Sacristan, Mr. Ted O誰eil. Mr. O誰eil stated that without more family data, it would be extremely difficult to find any information about Michael痴 family in Ireland. This was because of turbulent events caused by civil unrest that occurred in Ireland during the mid 19th and early 20th centuries, and many civil and church records were destroyed. Mr. O誰eil was able to confirm the marriage of Michael and Catherine Callaghan (born October 31, 1840) on April 17, 1858 at the North Cathedral. Mr. O誰eil did state that her name was Callaghan not O辰allaghan, as previously recorded by the priest who performed the marriage ceremony. He said this was a common mistake in those days, however, he did not elaborate further, so the author had to accept what he said. Their marriage was witnessed by Callaghan O' Callaghan and Margaret Keily. Whether they were related is unclear, although Mr. O誰eil felt they were probably younger sisters and brothers. During the period (1859-1863), Catherine bore three children, John Joseph, Daniel and Catherine. Mr. O誰eil also confirmed the births of these three children.

At some point in early 1864, Michael Joseph left his young family and emigrated to the United States from either Cobh, Ireland or Liverpool, England. Why he left Ireland is unknown, however, it may have been associated with the Great Potato Famine which occurred in Ireland during the 1840s. We are assuming Michael was a laborer. One suggestion was that Michael was joining either family or friends in the USA. Available records from the passenger lists in Cobh do not confirmed his passage, however.

In late 1864, two of the three children died of unknown causes.


Green Bay, Wisconsin

Michael settled initially in Green Bay, Brown County, Wisconsin. Why he picked that city is unknown. He may have had relatives or friends that lived there. The Northeast section of Wisconsin was very popular with immigrants from European countries in the mid-1860s' who were farmers, because of rich farming land available and nearby timber forests. In June, 1864, toward the end of the Civil War, Michael enlisted as a private in the Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers, 41st Regiment, Company G., Union Army. He mustered out in September, 1864 and then re-enlisted in October, 1864 as a private in the Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers, 17th Regiment, Company E (this Regiment was known as the Irish Brigade). While Michael was in service, this Regiment participated in General Sherman's famous march to the sea in late 1864 Georgia, then continued with mopping up operations in the Carolinas in 1865 and was finally mustered out in July, 1865, Louisville, Kentucky.  A military Company description book noted that Michael was about 5' 9", had a ruddy complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.

After Catherine joined him in Green Bay with the only surviving child from Ireland, they had three more children in Green Bay during the period 1866-1870. Michael Henry, William Richard and Jeremiah. According to history, Wisconsin experienced major droughts during the late 1860-early 1870's period. Whether this was the main reason which caused another move for the Desmond family is unclear.

Ponca City, Nebraska


The Desmond family spent the next decade in Ponca, Dixon County, Nebraska near the Missouri River, NE Nebraska and Iowa state boundaries. Once again, it is unclear what drew them to Ponca. It was noted in the US Census, there appeared to be many Irish settlers living in that area. Catherine bore the rest of her children in Ponca including Timothy E. and Mary Ann. Five of the children died during a smallpox epidemic in 1881. So after having a total of 12 children, only four boys and one girl lived to adulthood. In 1878, John Joseph, the oldest Desmond child at age 19, married Catherine Portis in Jackson, Nebraska, a small community south of Ponca.



Sioux City? Iowa

The 1880's and 1890's proved to be challenges for the stability of the Desmond family. We know the family left Ponca, Nebraska and probably settled nearby across the Missouri River in or around Sioux City, Iowa sometime after 1881. In the 1885 Iowa Census, Michael Joseph, William Richard, Timothy, and a Thomas Desmond? were living in Sioux City. Michael Henry, Mary Ann and Catherine (O') Callaghan were not living with them. John Joseph was living with his young family with Catherine Portis in Sioux City at a separate address. Between 1885 and 1890, Michael Henry, then William Richard were near manhood and probably left the family. It is assumed that Catherine remained in Iowa, maybe in the Dubuque area. Because of his increasing physical disability, Michael Joseph was unable to hold a steady job and probably lived with one or more of his sons in Sioux City.

 The last years of the 19th Century for the Desmonds.

In 1890, Michael applied for a military pension because of disabilities he had received during the Civil War, namely, rheumatism and malaria and was awarded a monthly pension of $8/month in 1891. During the remainder of his life, he was in and out of the National Military Home for Civil War Veterans in Leavenworth, Kansas. Michael also fought to have his disability check amount increased from $8 to $12/month, the government having him constantly going to doctors to get a second opinion on his physical ailments. Michael did travel to Cedar City, Utah around 1900, early 1901 but returned to the VA rest home after 2 -3 months, obviously in poor health. The government finally relented in early September, 1901 to increase his allotment to $12/month, however it was too late. Michael died of heart failure on September 17, 1901 and was buried in the VA Cemetery, Wadsworth, Kansas. Catherine moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. Michael Henry, William Richard, and Timothy had moved there, probably to get jobs in mining, and all were married in the late 1880's or early 1890's. Mary Ann was married to Grant Belangee about 1895, and moved to Fort Steele, British Columbia, Canada. Mary Ann died in Marysville, British Columbia in May, 1902 of heart failure. Her two sons, James Franklin Belangee and Charles Joseph Belangee, died of Scarlet Fever in Jan, 1903. Catherine died in Salt Lake City in 1916 of unknown causes.


Updated by Art Galindo, Feb 3, 2007

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