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Bridget Murphy Kelly


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Bridget Murphy Kelly


Bridget 1825 to 1908 in M.6 in the Murphy Book

Adapted from the Murphy Book.

The below was written by Mary Jayne Knaff. Our thanks to her

Bridget Murphy is my name and my home is Limerick County

These were the words embroidered on a sampler hanging on the wall in Bridget’s home at Long Lake, Polk County, Wisconsin as remembered by her grand daughter Mae Hurley Pickle. Mae was 90 years old when this was written in the 1970’s and was living in her own apartment in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Why County Limerick instead of County Cork? Living Irish relatives suggest that Bridget was living at the time with her O’Donnell grandparents.


Edmond and Bridget Murphy Kelly farm Long Lake area of Polk County, Wisconsin taken around 1975

Bridget is best seen through grand daughter Mae’s eyes. For 8 years after the death of her mother Mae made her home with her Gram as her lovingly called her. The above sampler was embroidered by Bridget as a young student at a fashionable girls school in Dublin Ireland where she was enrolled for a time. Her education was cut short by the untimely death her father a landowner Sir William Murphy. She was called home to care for her ailing mother and younger brother and sister. These are only a few of the many tales passed on to grand daughter Mae by her grandmother. Mae says, I can still remember my Gram wandering along telling me stories of her early life reliving that part of her girlhood. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest periods of her life. And before the onset of the personal sorrow and adversity that was to mark her life for years to come.

The potato famine of the 1840’s proved disastrous for the Murphy family. Here is the story as Bridget told it many times to Mae. Picture Grandmother in her big chair and her grand daughter curled at her feet listening most attentively. The Murphy family enjoyed the luxury of living in a large stone house situated on the family’s vast acres. Her father was active in Irish Politics and loved fine horses. The blight, which struck the potato crops in the mid 1840’s, ended this life of relative ease for many people. The Murphy’s soon found themselves living in what has been described as reduced circumstances. Undoubtedly concern over the financial plight of the family contributed to the fatal heart attack suffered by Bridget’s father. Misfortune breeds misfortune and shortly after Bridget was called home because of her father’s death the family was robbed at gunpoint of many valuable possessions, including household goods. It was a wild and lawless Ireland at the time.

There followed a period of a few years that Bridget was careful never to speak of. One can only gather they must have been extremely difficult one for the young girl in charge of her brother and sister. Her mother lived only about a year after the father’s death. Nothing is known of where or when she met Edmond Kelly whom her married at Ballyhea in County Cork. The record of their marriage on February 23 1848 and the baptism of their first born on January 20 1849 can be found in the parish records today. In 1850 the Kelly’s with their two sons and Edmond’s two sisters started on their journey to the New World. It was to be a long, harrowing experience. Navigation problems, 6 weeks at sea, a leaking vessel and just miserable conditions made it a journey that Bridget would never forgot. She promised herself and the Good Lord that if she would and her family survived she would never cross water again in her life. So seriously did she take this vow that Mae laughingly says, “you could hardly get her to stem across a puddle”. Gram often reminisced in later years about the fearful crossing and her anxiety over her “two little boys” who were both under two years old.

Those early years in America were tragedy filled also. Their first daughter Mary Ann lived only eleven days. Their five year old son John was killed by a train as his mother watched and then her eleven year old son James would die working in the mines in Pennsylvania. Bridget would ultimately outlive six of her eleven children and be called upon to help rear seven motherless children of two of her daughters, who died early in life. She must surely have had a deep and abiding faith to have survived so much tragedy. Her obituary describes her as “ A women loved and respected by all who met her, a good and kind friend to everyone. “To know her was to truly love her and none spoke of her but well”, says Mae of her grandmother. She also describes her as a well educated woman who kept history alive by reminiscing. Bridget was a devout Catholic and ever missed a day praying her rosary.

Of her personal appearance, Bridget was described as “kindly women with a pleasing face and bright blue eyes. Her hair was white when Mae knew her but as “Gram” braided her granddaughter’s long hair, she could recall that “once upon a time” she had also had “bonny brown hair”.

Bridget was known for her home nursing and healing skills and had a better than fair knowledge of medicine, so was much in demand in medical emergencies because the nearest doctor lived ten miles away. Bridget was also a good cook and known for her “lovely light bread”. She had just made some on the morning of the day she died.

Another granddaughter of Bridget’s, Sadie, remembers this about her: She was very light on her feet and it was indeed a treat to see Grandma daintily hold up her skirt to expose a once trim ankle and do a clog dance with the “best of them” at family gatherings at her brother William Murphy’s home and farm a short distance away. A glimpse of young Bridget Murphy at their Ardglass home in Ireland perhaps?

When the Kelly’s reached Wisconsin in 1882, after 32 years in eastern mining towns, the green, rolling hills and sparkling lakes of Polk County must have looked like a “bit of heaven” (Ireland) to Bridget’s with her ailing husband and four young children. No wonder she was so adamant in her refusal to return to Pennsylvania to visit her son Mike, even at his own expense.

Bridget had eleven children, but was survived by only 8 grandchildren, three Hurley’s, two Kerons and three adopted Rooney children. Bridget’s obituary list her survivors and among them were: William Murphy; brother, Mrs Michael Williams: sister. Not included were her brother, James in Ireland who lived until 1920. The pall bearers were 6 of Bridget’s nephews; James, William Jr., Patrick, Ed Murphy and Mike and Dave Williams.

Editors note by Byron: Mary Jayne Knaff, author of this biographical sketch adds this; Mae admits that at times in her later life she wondered about some of her grandmother’s tales of the “good life” in Ireland, her faith was restored when she saw a recent picture of the stone house “Gram” lived in, even the windows were as described by Bridget, “unbelievable” says she!

Note: look at William Murphy’s senior page on this website for a picture of the old house in Ireland.

Below are Bridget’s children:

M.6.1 – Michael, The first glimpse of Mike is on the baptism register at Ballyhea, County Cork, Ireland. (1) Arriving in America before his second birthday he moved with his parents from New York to Pennsylvania. He remained with them until he as old enough to find work on the railroad.

Ballyhea parish record says Michael; son of Edmond Kelly and Bridget Murphy baptized 20 January 1849. Sponsors: Jerry Malone and Johanna Power.

Because of his early departure from the family fold it maybe that he seldom if ever saw his youngest brother and sisters. The family Bible records his marriage on June 15. 1887. He would have been 38 years old at this time.

Grandniece, Mae Pickle although she never saw him feels she knew “Uncle Mike” well through his kind letters and many gifts to her in the years following her mother’s death. She still wears an amethyst ring he gave her so long ago. She recalls writing to him at (street number she could not remember) N. Orriane St. in Philadelphia where he and his wife Emily who didn’t have any children but enjoyed raising dogs. Other than this, he is remembered for his wealth of dark hair and not being able to get along with his sister Mary Ann. He tried in vain for years to persuade his mother to visit him in Philadelphia, but to no avail. Bridget’s traveling days were over.

He was still living at the time of her death in 1908 but later lost touch with his Wisconsin family. In her obituary he is listed as son, Thomas of Philadelphia. Since it also lists her Hurley grandchildren as nieces and nephews, it perhaps at best should be considered an uniformed source of information.

Editors note from Byron: It is possible that Michael did not survive his mother, Bridget, as stated in her obituary. Consider the following comments made by Mae Hurley Pickle in a letter to Mary Jayne. Mary says “Had just finished this when I rechecked a letter of Mae’s where she indicates they had stopped hearing from Uncle Mike before “Gram” died. Mae says, “he just stopped writing and Gram wondered if he died” Mae was commissioned to write to Emily to inquire as to Mike’s health but no answer. Since the 1900 census indicates that Emily could neither read nor write, this maybe why she did not answer.

Note: Michael by 1900 may have started to use Thomas as his given name the 1900 census shows a Thomas Kelly, wife Emily at 2548 No. Orianna St. Philadelphia. His occupation states he was an conductor. He and Emily shows as being married for 15 years and no children.

M.6.2. John: John was a baby in arms when he arrived in America. Little else is known about him but the sad circumstances of his death. He was given a few coins for candy at a family gathering when he was five years old. He started for the store without being noticed by the family the same time the Daily Express was coming through town. The train hit John while his mother was watching. We’ll never know the terror that went through his mother’s mind.

M.6.3. Mary Ann: Mary Ann was probably named after her maternal grandmother. She was the first child born in America and she only lived 11 days.

M.6.4. James: “Jimmy” died in an accident in the mines where he was working. He was just shy of his 11th birthday. James was the third in this family to die in childhood.

M.6.5. Edmond: (May have went by Edward or Edwin) Edmond the fifth child born in the family, was only the second to reach adulthood. In the tradition of the working class of the day, he was put to work in the mines at an early age. Supposedly a man of some musical ability he was able to continue his schooling part time and appear in vaudeville as a member of a “Song and Dance” act to earn extra money. He remained in Pennsylvania when the family moved to Wisconsin and was later employed full time in Show Biz. After Mike married, Ed lived with them for a while. When he followed the family west he lived with Bridget and John Hurley for a time, probably until Bridget became terminally ill.

Niece, Sarah Hurley Rogers remembered much about her Uncle Ed. Small in stature his musical talent, ready wit and sense of humor made him popular with she and younger brother Guy. Her favorite memories were of the musical parodies he seemed to produce so easily and the big words he used solely to impress his small audience. Being known to drink a bit from time to time, his best parodies resulted when he was “in his cups”. He remained single all of his life. Eventually he moved to Canada and was living with Lizzie and James Rooney in 1910. He died in a Spokane hospital in 1929 and was returned to Long Lake where he is buried.

His last years appears to have been spent in Spokane with his niece, Mae Keron Drury, M.6.8.2.

Friday January 11, 1929: Deaths in the Spokane Paper Edward Kelly: age 73 his home was at N. 2812 Standard. Edward Kelly passed away at the Sacred Heart Hospital on Thursday afternoon. Survived by two sisters, Mary A. Kelly of Olyphant, Pa; Mrs Joseph Rooney of Central Butte, Saskatchewan; Brother, Pat Kelly of Centuria, Wisconsin. A niece, Mrs C.H.Drury of Spokane. Remains are at Hennessey and Calloways. Funeral Monday January 14 Monday at 9:00AM from St. Ann’s Church, the Rev. Fr. Pypers officiating. Remains will be shipped to Centuria, Wisconsin on Monday evening for interment.

Editors note: An early plat map of Rolling Prairie District, Township 20, Range 6, Saskatchewan, shows Ed Kelly preempted and homesteaded 320 acres in Section 4. This land lies directly north of the land presently owned and operated by George and Pat (Raymond) Jennings today, (1979) in Aquadell.

M.6.6. Bridget: See M.6.6. In the “Murphy Book”

M.6.7. Mary Ann: Mary Ann was the second daughter to bear this name. She comes through as the stern, uncompromising member of the family. Her picture shows her to be a handsome but rather solemn looking woman. Reared in the household of her cousin, Monsignor Murphy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, she took over the duties of housekeeper for him upon the death of his sister. She spent her entire life in Pennsylvania, making only one visit to Wisconsin in 1885 to visit her mother. It has been reported that she did not care for the pioneering life she found there and was happy to return to the East Coast.

Mary Ann was well remembered in the will of Monsignor Patrick Murphy. She likely remained in the Scranton, Olyphant area until her death in June 1940

M.6.8. Helena: See M.6.8. In the “Murphy Book”

M.6.9. Patrick: Pat, the ninth child and youngest son was 17 when he moved to Wisconsin with his parents and three sisters. His father’s health was failing and he would be the one to run the family homestead. One wonders how his early life in the coalmines could have possibly prepared him for working farming homestead in Wisconsin. He remained on the homestead and cared for his mother Bridget until her death in 1908. A year later he sold the farm and gave up his state of being single at age 44 to marry Lizzie Cosgrove a long time friend and neighbor. They moved to a house in Centuria, Polk County, Wisconsin where he spent the rest of his life. The house still stands today and is owned by a niece of Lizzie’s. A large kindly man, he was remembered with warmth and affection by his Hurley nieces, Sadie and Mae.

M.6.10. Sarah; Sarah was reported to be the family beauty. She was quiet and on the serious side, with red hair, and given to writing poetry. She taught at the school across from William Murphy Sr’s farm and was engaged to be married to Richard Lillis when she died from what was then diagnosed as “quick consumption”. She was 22 years old. She is buried in the family plot at Long Lake, St. Patrick’s cemetery.

M.6.11. Elizabeth: See M.6.11. In the “Murphy Book”

Bridget's grave marker at St Patrick's

Bridget's husband Edmond Kelly's grave marker at St Patrick's

Bridget Murphy Kelly M 6 (Murphy Book) Bridget and Edmond (Died in 1884) are buried at St Patrick's cemetery husband is Edmond Kelly. They had 11 children 4 are buried at St Patrick's. They came to Polk County in 1882. Bridget died in 1908 and is buried at St Patrick's across a field from the house she lived in. It looks like their property is on the East side of St Patrick's.

Milltown TWP - T35N - R17W - Section 32


Click on the Murphy Family Homepage link:

Murphy Family of Polk County Wisconsin