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Ann Carty Clonan
   Born: Between 1793-1800, County Meath, Ireland
July 15, 1885, Gallitzin, Cambria County, PA
St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Gallitzin

Ann Clonan was styled “a venerable mountain lady” by the Gallitzin Item’s obituary in July of 1885. At the time of her death, she had been a citizen of the Gallitzin/Tunnelhill area for over three decades. But surely her life’s greatest challenge was met and surmounted in the arduous task of getting her family across the Atlantic Ocean thirty-five years before her obituary was written.

Ann (or Anne, as she is listed in parish records in Ireland) Clonan was born Ann Carty, and the first record we have of her is of her marriage to Matthew Clonan in the town land of Corballis in Kildalkey Parish in County Meath Ireland, on May 22, 1830. While Matthew Clonan was from Corballis, there is reason to believe she was herself from the nearby town land of Ballynadrimna (also part of Kildalkey Parish). Parish records show that she gave birth to eight children in the parish over the next eighteen years” Mary (1831), Bridget (1832), Judith (probably later or also known as Julia, 1833), Mary (1836, suggests the couple’s first child had died), Thomas (1839), Elizabeth (1843), Patrick (1845) and Anne (1848, presumably Anna). We know also that her husband Matthew, still a member of Kildalkey Parish and resident in Corballis town land, died on 10 Feb 1849.

Widowed in the land of her birth, Ann Clonan brought her children to America, sometime in the early-to-mid 1850’s, from an Ireland devastated by the Great Famine. In the Ireland-wide property valuation published in 1855 (called Griffith’s Valuation) there is a record of Ann Clonan renting a house and garden from a Charles Gasteen. While published in 1855, the actual property survey probably took place one or two years earlier, which would allow for her emigration as early as 1853. The valuation also tells us that the Clonans (as least by the time of the survey) were landless and almost certainly poor, making them like tens of thousands of families who fled Ireland in this period, seeking relief in flight to America and elsewhere. Herded together like cattle in overcrowded and unsanitary vessels – forever known by their survivors as the “coffin ships,” in stark testament to the high mortality rates suffered in passage – the journey was characteristically made in desperation and fraught with suffering and risk. To complete such a journey successfully, with children and without a husband, speaks volumes about the strength and character of this woman. Her daughter Elizabeth, who made the journey with her, would later ally these Clonan family traits to the equally redoubtable Delehunt clan my marrying Joseph Delehunt.

The particulars of the Clonan family’s trans-Atlantic journey remain obscure. Until more information is unearthed, it is impossible to say for certain where they sailed from and when, when they arrived, etc. Ann Clonan’s obituary of July 1885 states she came to America “about thirty-four years ago.” A 1982 newspaper article detailing the celebration attending the 60th anniversary in the priesthood of one of Ann Clonan’s great-grandchildren (Monsignor Gregory Smith – more on him and the Smith family shortly) references the journey being made in the 1840’s but, given the Griffith’s Valuation reference, this date seems early. The obituary for Monsignor Smith’s grandmother – Julia Clonan Smith, who died on December 30th, 1911 – says she came to America “about sixty years ago.” It is probably safe to assume the family’s arrival sometime in the 1851-55 period.[1] According to Ann Clonan’s obituary, they settled first along “the Old Portage”, Plane No. 8 (near present-day Summit – the Old Portage Railroad was a series of ten incline planes which connected the western and eastern segments of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, which had opened in 1831), before moving to Tunnelhill / Gallitzin after “a couple of years.”

Ann Clonan brought six children to America with her. The five who survived her and who are listed in her 1885 obituary are: Bridget Clonan Ratchford, Julia Clonan Smith, Elizabeth Clonan Delehunt, Patrick Clonan and Thomas Clonan. When Julia passes away in late 1911, only her two brothers Patrick and Thomas are still alive.

The youngest child, Anne or Anna Clonan Trainor, was recorded, age 12, as living with Patrick and July Clonan Smith (Anna’s older sister) in Loretto at the time of the 1860 census. Two residences down the street from the Smith family were the Trainors, including a John Trainor listed in the census as 23 years old. In 1907, the Gallitzin Item has an obituary for a John Trainor, age 72, who was married to “Miss Annie Clonan” at St. Aloysius Church in Summit on June 14, 1868. John Trainor’s obituary states the “Mrs. Trainor died thirty-five years ago,” or about 1872 – thirteen years before her mother’s passing. John and Anna had a daughter Rose, who was living at the time of her father’s death in 1907. John Trainor’s funeral mass was celebrated by the twin priests, Thomas and Matthew Smith (see below), and attended by Elizabeth Clonan Delehunt who traveled to Gallitzin from Uniontown for the occasion.

Of Ann Clonan’s other children, the families of Julia Clonan Smith and Bridget Clonan Ratchford, as well as Patrick Clonan, stay in the Gallitzin area (Ann Clonan dies at Julia Clonan Smith’s home in Gallitzin in 1885). Thomas Clonan becomes a mine boss in Mt. Pleasant in Westmoreland County before fading from view, and Elizabeth Clonan Delehunt – married to Joseph Delehunt in Gallitzin – goes on to live in Clearfield and Fayette counties before being brought back to St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Gallitzin for burial in 1908.

Ann Clonan and her brood can be truly said to be among the founders of Gallitzin. As late as 1845, present-day Gallitzin was still no more that unnamed tracts of forest. Only two families lived in what is now Gallitzin-Tunnelhill, engaged in farming and lumbering. But in 1849 the Pennsylvania Railroad embarked on the construction of a new railroad line to connect Philadelphia and Harrisburg with Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania was racing to complete a route west to compete with the New York Central, the Erie and the B&O, which were each pushing in the same direction. The Railroad’s engineers determined that the only way to negotiate the crest of Allegheny ridge was a tunnel. The digging of this 7/8  mile tunnel was undertaken by the Railroad with the service of Irish laborers. Soon after the Railroad began digging its tunnel, the State of Pennsylvania embarked on its own (smaller) tunnel project, the “New Portage,” a few hundred feet south of the railroads. The 300-400 Irish laborers who came to build these tunnels, and their families, lived adjacent to the projects in a village called Tunnelhill or, more simply, “the Tunnel.” This phenomenon – Irish laborers living in makeshift dwelling adjacent to construction projects like railroads – was so common in these Famine immigration years that it gave the language a new expression, “the shanty Irish”. Tunnelhill was located at the western end of what is now Gallitzin (practically on top of the Cambria County – Blair County line). The immense and daunting task of digging the Railroad’s tunnel took the better part of four years, but on December 10, 1852, the first all-rail run from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was completed (though a regular schedule was not up and running until February of 1854). This is the same line that proceeded to Johnstown on its way west, thereby making possible the founding of the Cambria Iron Company and Johnstown’s subsequent growth. After the tunnel’s completion, some of the Tunnelhill workers moved on, others stayed, both to service the tunnel and the railroad and to work in the mines that began to be opened in the area. A stone quarry and local oak stands (the oak trees, when cut, were converted in staves used to make casks for storing sugar and molasses) provided additional employment.

Most of the Clonan family stayed. In May of 1856 the establishment of a Post Office in Tunnelhill recognized the new community. A month later, it was moved “downtown” and renamed in honor of Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, the “Apostle of the Alleghenies.” Born of noble family in Russia, “Prince Gallitzin” forsook his heritage to carry the Catholic faith to the wilds of western Pennsylvania, planting his first seeds in Loretto in 1799. The renaming of the Post Office (and hence the town) was completely consonant with the demography of the new community, which was and remained for some time to come overwhelming Irish-Catholic.

Initially, St. Aloysius parish in neighboring Summit had served the Irish-Catholics of Tunnelhill. From 1849 until 1869, Tunnelhill / Gallitzin was a mission of St Aloysius, a priest traveling from Summit to the new community to celebrate Mass and minister to the needs of the workers. A small church was constructed in 1850 to host these visitations, which was replaced by a larger structure in 1860. It was not until 1869 that a new parish was established in Gallitzin, named naturally enough for the patron saint – St. Patrick – of the country most of the new congregation had so recently left behind. St. Patrick’s first four pastors (serving from 1869 to March of 1923) were all Irish-born priests. The present church was constructed in 1885 and is very much a testament to the pride and resilence of the hard-working immigrants who carved out the mountain, not only a tunnel, but also a community. Buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery are three generations of our forebears: Ann Carty Clonan herself, the matriarch whose gravestone bears the simple title “Our Mother;” Elizabeth Clonan Delehunt and her husband Joseph Delehunt, and three of Jose and Elizabeth Delehunt’s children who died young – Catherine, Mary and Julia.

The close identification of the Clonan clan with St. Patrick’s justifies a fairly lengthy digression in relation to the Smith family. Julia Clonan, who had made the trip over from Ireland with her mother Ann, married Patrick Smith, another recent Irish immigrant who became a merchant in the Loretto / Gallitzin area. Julia and Patrick met and were married in Gallitzin. They had twelve children in all. The 1860 census reflects the birth of their first two: twins, Thomas and Michael, recorded as being ten months of age when the census was taken in July of 1860. These twins both became priests, ordained in 1882. In addition, two of their sisters, Jennie and Annie, became Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (Sister Bernard and Sister Aguinas, respectively).

Both the Smith family and St. Patrick’s were extremely proud of these vocations. In 1907, on July 2nd, a Smith / Clonan reunion was convened in Gallitzin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the priests’ ordination. A banquet was held and various family members and guests attended, among them the Bishop for the Altoona Diocese, as well as Capt. Joseph Delehunt and his wife Elizabeth Clonan Delehunt (who traveled from Uniontown for the event). The family and guests posed for at least two group photos, photocopies of which have come down to us. St. Patrick’s has the originals. In one of the two photos, Capt. Joseph Delehunt and his wife Elizabeth are clearly visible, with Capt. Delehunt sporting a full gray beard and standing next to one of the two Father Smiths.

Both Father Smiths enjoyed successful careers in the Church. Father Thomas Smith founded Sacred Heart parish in Altoona in 1890, served as Vicar-General of the Altoona diocese and was raised to the rank of Monsignor in 1922. Bishop McCort presided over the investiture. Monsignor Thomas Smith passed away in 1928. Among other postings, Father Matthew Smith served with his brother as assistant rector at Sacred Heart parish in Altoona (the Gallitzin Weekly Item noted in 1907 that “it is said that they are the only twin brothers located in the same Catholic parish in the world”). He was, according to his obituary in the Item, an eloquent speaker and had won “national distinction” as a Catholic writer. He was a contributor to various Catholic periodicals, and a collection of his sermons was published in book form. He also had an abiding passion for local church history and was the author of numerous articles on Father Gallitzin, as well as a 1920 “History of St. Patrick’s Church.” Father Matthew Smith passed away in 1924.

Nor were these twin priest the last contribution of the extended Clonan / Smith family to the Catholic faith. In the next generation, the Smith family offered up two more vocations to the Church. Two brothers, Matthew and Gregory Smith, followed their twin uncles into the priesthood. Matthew and Gregory were sons of Edward and Annie (Feeney) Smith, born in Altoona into a family of six children. The family later moved to Denver, CO, where both priests resided. Both eventually became monsignors. Msgr. Matthew Smith followed in the footsteps of his namesake uncle by becoming the founding editor of the national Catholic Register system of newspapers. Msgr. Matthew Smith passed away in 1960; Msgr. Gregory Smith celebrated his 60th anniversary in the priesthood in 1982, at age 84. He apparently had an interest in his family’s history, and corresponded with Elizabeth Pie (of Uniontown, part of the extended Delehunt Family) and Thomas Delehunt (then living in California, but also part of the Uniontown branch of the Delehunt clan) about a family history project he was working on in February of 1986. In his letter, he relates being at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Gallitzin on one occasion with his brother, Father Matthew, when they happened to strike up a conversation with two gravediggers, only to discover that the workmen were their cousins – descendents of Bridget Clonan Ratchford! Apparently, the fact the gravediggers “looked a bit like Shakespearian characters” only made the encounter more memorable! Msgr. Smith’s family history, if it was ever written, is apparently lost to us, but perhaps it will turn up one of these days.

Finally, it should be noted that some confusion attends the date of Ann Clonan’s birth. Her gravestone indicates that she passed away “in the 85th year of her age”, which would suggest a birth date of about 1800. Her obituary, however, states that she reached “the venerable and remarkable age of 92 years,” which would place her birth around 1793. Her obituary states that she was born in County Meath in Ireland. The 1/5/1912 obituary of her daughter Julia Smith gives us even further specificity: Julia, says the Gallitzin Item, was born in the parish of “Kaldaky” in County Meath, confirming the accuracy of the research done in Ireland which yielded the information at the beginning of this section. Thus, the Clonan clan represents the only instance to date where any Irish ancestor in the Freeman/Delehunt family tree has been traced back to a specific locality (as opposed to county) in Ireland. From Kildalkey, Ann Clonan traveled far in order to give her children an opportunity to live and prosper in a new land far from the stricken and starving country or their birth.

[1] In the 1900 US Federal Census, dated 6 June, Pennsylvania – Cambria County – Tunnel Hill – Enumeration District 159 (page 1 of 14), Patrick Clonan – in the US 48 years, therefore, the date the Clonan family immigrated sometime between Jan & Jun 1852.
Source: Joe Freeman

Source: St. Patrick's Cemetery

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