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McGowan Family History
This history is written by Meg McGowan.  Family members are free to cite it with permission and proper attribution.  It is a work in progress and will be updated as new information become available. For this reason, please do not copy the material and post it elsewhere, as the material may be outdated over time.  

Earliest Records

Patrick and Ellen McGowan were Irish immigrants who settled in Underhill, Vermont, in the 1840's. The first record we have of the McGowan family is a baptism record for the eldest son Hugh. There are many inconsistencies in the early records of the family but the church records indicate that Hugh was baptized on March 30, 1847. His parents are listed as Patrick McGowen and Marg.t Martin. Baptism records of four other sons of Patrick McGowan list the mother's name as Ellen Martin, so it is likely Hugh's mother was recorded incorrectly.

Patrick McGowen died June 13, 1858 in Underhill of Dropsy, according to town records. He was 45 years old at the time of his death, his birthplace was listed as Ireland, and his parents' names were unknown. After Patrick's death, Ellen was faced with raising with eight children under the age of 15. Ellen continued farming, frequently buying and selling land in Underhill, and the children grew to adulthood in Vermont. The family must have been persuaded by efforts of the Catholic church in Minnesota to attract settlers, and by the end of the 1870's joined other Irish families in settling in the grassy prairie of Swift and Stevens counties.

Irish Origins

Patrick's naturalization record, dated December 16, 1854, lists him as a native of County Leitrim in Ireland. Leitrim in northwest Ireland was devastated by the Great Famine of 1845-49, when population began declining and has declined ever since. His age was noted as 46 at the time of naturalization, suggesting he was born in 1808.  Ellen's naturalization record doesn't list her place of origin in Ireland, but indicates she arrived at the port of New York in June 1838.

To trace the family further, it is necessary to make some guesses. Irish families often followed a traditional naming pattern naming the oldest son after the father’s father; the second son after the mother’s father; the third son after the father; the fourth son after the father’s elder brother; and the fifth son after the mother’s elder brother. It appears the family followed the naming convention to some degree in that the third son John was named for his mother’s father, and the fourth son was named Patrick after his father. It is possible then that the elder Patrick’s father’s name was Hugh, or possibly Terrence.

McGowan's in County Leitrim were heavily concentrated in Rossinver civil parish in the mid-1850's according to Irish sources. Griffith’s Valuation, which was conducted between 1848 and 1864, listed landowners and lease holders of that time. If Patrick’s father’s name was Hugh and if he was still alive, he might have been listed in Griffith’s Valuation. Of 24 Hugh McGowans in Griffith’s valuation, 13 of them lived in Rossinver civil parish in Leitrim, and the others in other counties.

Kinlough is a central town in Rossinver parish, in Co. Leitrim. A history of the area (no longer available on the internet) compiled by a local school indicates the McGowans came to the area from Co. Down via Donegal, when they were probably displaced by the plantation of Ulster, the settlement of Scottish and English who loyal to the Tudor monarchs.

The McGowan Clan is said to be of the race of Ir, or Clanna Rory, descended from the famous warrior Conall Cearnach, or Conall of the Victorious, who was chief of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster, about the commencement of the Christian era, according to the Milesian Genealogies.

Many of the McGowans in Rossinver parish, Co. Leitrim in the 19th century, were tenants of the Johnson family, the major landowner in the area. The rental book for the Johnson estate from 1889 lists many McGowans who were in arrears in their rents. We find many given names which were common in the American branch of the family, including, Terrence, Hugh, Patrick., although of course these are common names in Ireland. There continue to be many McGowans living in the area, active in all walks of life.


Although Ellen Martin McGowan reported in her 1883 naturalization papers that she arrived in New York in 1838, the likely arrival date was July 13, 1839. There is an Ellen Martin, age 20, listed as arriving on the ship Troy on that date, from Liverpool to New York. She was traveling alone, with no other family members listed.

Of 104 passengers listed on two pages of the ship's manifest, about 37 are young Irish housemaids. There are also 21 Irish men listed as laborers. A comprehensive study of Irish emigration by Kirby Miller (Emigrants and Exiles) puts this voyage in some context. Liverpool to New York had become a main route of Irish immigration. Ships traveled this route so frequently with trade that the passenger fares became almost as inexpensive as the fares to Canada, about 2 or 3 pounds. In 1837-38 financial panic in the US temporarily disrupted Irish emigration. It picked up in 1839 for the remainder of the pre-famine years and became a flood during and after the famine. A change in the Irish economy in the post-Napoleonic period stimulated emigration. The change was from communal landholding, in a subsistence economy to a cash based economy. This economic dislocation prompted more and more Irish to seek to achieve economic "independence" in the New World. Miller makes note of the larger numbers of young women who emigrated learning from letters from America that young women "who can wash and sew well can find plenty of employment' in American cities. Not all those who emigrated were able to find jobs easily at this time, Miller notes.

It is possible that Patrick McGowan came by another common emigration route through Canada. A study of the Irish famine (The Great Hunger, Ireland 1845-49 by Cecil Woodham-Smith) points out that the British encouraged Irish immigration to Canada to fill up ships to Canada that would carry raw materials back to England. To counter the attraction that the United States held for Irish emigrants, fares to Canada were less than one third the cost of fares to the States. But because of their dislike of being under British rule, many Irish emigrants simply walked across the border to America after landing in Canada.

While we don't know where Patrick and Ellen met, it is possible that they lived in Canada for a period after they were married. It is likely they married in 1842, three years after Ellen's arrival in New York, since their first child Sarah was born around 1843. The 1850 census lists Sarah's birthplace as Vermont, but on the 1880 census, when Sarah was living in Tara township in Minnesota, her birthplace is noted as Canada. The records of the birthplace of Sarah's brother Hugh are also inconsistent. The Underhill City Clerk’s record for Hugh’s daughter Ellen, indicated that her father was born in Richmond, probably in Vermont, although there is also a Richmond, Quebec. However on the 1905 census, Ellen McGowan Conroy reported that her father was born in Canada.

Although it appears Patrick and Ellen McGowan arrived in the new world before the Great Famine in Ireland and married after their arrival, much more work needs to be done on the circumstances of their emigration.

Life in Underhill

Underhill, Vermont, which is about 40 miles, from the Quebec border, developed a small Irish community in the 19th century. Loraine Dwyer describes in her book, The History of Underhill, Vermont: The Town Under The Mountain, the Irish immigration into the community:

It wasn't long before settlement started on the northerly roads out of the Center. As early as the 1820's two Irishmen named Doon arrived in Underhill and commenced the settlement we now call the Irish Settlement. When they came, they found Timothy Burdick already here and in possession of a large farm. Then, in a surge of immigration came Brewins, Carrolls, Dorans, Flynns, Marlows, Cales, Shanleys, Riordans, Walls, Connors McCanns, McGuinneys, Greens, Murphys, Hogans and many, many more.

Patrick McGowan bought property in Underhill in March 1849. He paid $250 for a parcel from John Sweeney, who had himself only acquired the land in March 1847 from Alicia Livingston. Patrick agreed to pay Mr. Sweeney $50 in November 1849 and each November thereafter for five years until the full $250 was paid. Sweeney may have been a relative of Patrick McGowan by marriage. The Vermont Vital Records have a marriage record for John Sweeney and Bridget McGowan in Underhill on December 21, 1844.

A few months after Patrick McGowan bought the Sweeney land, he swapped it with Stephen Hale of Jericho, Vermont, for a piece of Underhill land, described as "All of Lot No. 47 in the Second Division . . . supposed to contain 70 acres more or less, reserving to myself (Hale) the spruce timber on the lot." Patrick now had a note of $200 payable to Hale in $25 payments, with the first payment in November, and subsequent payments in January each year. A 1869 Underhill map shows a lot 47 along what appears to be Irish settlement road in School District no. 14 adjacent to property occupied by R. Farral (sic) and M. Hagherty. The map is found in F.W. Beers 1869 Atlas of Chittenden County, Vermont.

Town and Property Records

In March 1855, the lands owned by Patrick McGowan and Morris Haggerty were assigned to school district no. 10 in Underhill. A few months later, a new school district was formed for several Irish families including Martin and Francis Flynn, William Breen, Michael Barrett, Patrick Neffin, Patrick Gill, Walter Kelley, Robert Farrell, Morris Haggerty, Patrick McGowen and Owen Marlow. These families became part of School District No. 14, and many of the families are listed as still living in the district on the 1869 map. Loraine Dwyer makes a brief mention of this school in her history: "The school house stood on the east side of the road not far from the Lawrence Burgess home. This school was in existence from 1858 to about 1920." Lawrence Burgess has lived on the property on Irish Settlement Road and reported that the stone wall around the school was still standing.
In January 1857, about one and a half years before, his death, Patrick McGowan bought another increment of Lot 47 in a complicated three way transaction. Patrick bought an additional 37 1/2 acres from Patrick McGlynn for $170. He agreed to make three payments over three years, the first two for $50 and the last for $70. McGlynn subsequently sold the mortgage for the property to Stephen Hale, who sold the original parcel and may still have held the timber rights to the property. Patrick and Ellen appeared to have refinanced their mortgage for the original 70 acre plot with Hale for $174 dollars payable in four years. Ellen, who was unable to read or write, was a co-signer of this mortgage making her "X" on the document.

After Patrick's Death

Patrick died in 1858. His grave is located in an old Irish Catholic cemetery about 5-6 miles outside of Underhill Center on Irish Settlement Road. It is at the base of Mt Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont. The simple white gravestone lists only his date of death. Beside Patrick's grave is that of his oldest son, Hugh, who died Oct 10, 1873 at age 26.

The 1860 census describes Ellen's situation after Patrick's death. (Census takers must have been avoided inquiring very directly about Ellen's age, as she listed as age 50 on the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. Her death record indicates that she was born in about 1819 and thus about 40-41 in 1860.) Ellen's two oldest children, daughters Sarah and Mary, age 17 and 15, must have been living outside the home in 1860, helping to earn money to support the family. All the sons are listed as born in Vermont, and all except Daniel, who was then 3, attended school. Another member of the household in 1860 was Matthew Farrell, age 80, who was born in Ireland. Ellen's real estate was valued at $100, perhaps reflecting the mortgages on the property, and personal property is valued at $50.

Real estate values of their neighbors were higher.  Next to the McGowans are Robert Farrell, property value $800; and Patrick Gill, value $400. Other neighbors are Walter Kelly, Michael Barrett, Morris Haggerty, and Patrick Nefin, with real estate values of $500 to $1000. William Green has property valued at $1500.

Ellen appears to have worked hard to improve her land holdings in Underhill, although it is not certain if she suffered some reverses through the years she lived there. On December 24, 1864, she again bought three pieces of land from Stephen Hale, one of which is described as a 22-acre lot 65 in the fourth division, for a total price of $2400. She may have been a good land dealer as she then sold this land on November 7, 1866 to Patrick Corbitt for $2600, with Corbitt apparently taking over the balance of the mortgage on the property held by Stephen Hale in the amount of $1940.60. Ellen then put her capital into the purchase of the estate of Francis Campbell, buying from executor, Patrick Barrett, "all the real estate together with the reversion of the widow' dower therein" for $1450. The land records also show another transaction between Ellen McGowan and Nancy Campbell for the same description of land, "All and the same land conveyed to Francis Campbell by Morris Hagerty by his deed dated November 25th, 1862 and recorded in Vol. 18, page 73 of Underhill Land Records" for a purchase price of $500.

Ellen decided to lease this land in April 1868 to Sidney Jackson for one year "to be occupied as a tenement and tillage farm." Jackson was to occupy the premises "in a good husband-like manner." He was to "have what hay there now is in the barn and the Mow(meadow) on the south side of the barn on the premises and is to leave as much & as good hay in said barn at the end of the time specified and the said Jackson is not to sell any hay as fodder off from the said premises. . . " The lease also included farm equipment including: "one ox cart, 1 land side plow, 1 side hill plow, 2 hay forks, 1 manure fork, 1 harrow, 1 chain hoe, 1 scythe (saith), 1 short sled, and what wood there is . . ." Jackson was to pay the rent of $100 at the end of the rental period and surrender the property at that time.

Ellen had been apparently renting the property until her oldest son Hugh, then about 22, could buy it from her. On April 17, 1869, Hugh paid Ellen $1550, and assumed the existing $650 mortgage to Patrick Barrett, the Campbell estate administrator. Hugh is listed as the owner of the property on the 1869 map in Beers Atlas.

The 1870 census lists a much smaller McGowan household consisting of Hugh, whose age is incorrectly listed as 28; Ellen, whose age is again listed as 50; and Daniel, age 13. Hugh is listed as born in Vermont and eligible to vote. The real estate is valued at $1500 and personal property at $800. The other sons, who would have ranged in age from 15 to 21, must have been working elsewhere. Pat, age 17, was living and working on the farm of Gaius Thompson, in nearby Jefferson, Vermont. The family living on the farm adjoining Ellen and son Hugh was the Cale (Cahill) family. Hugh married Jane Cale on Jan. 8, 1871. Fr. Patrick O'Carroll officiated. The witnesses were James Cahill and Honora Eagen. Hugh's birthplace is listed as Richmond. Hugh also made an additional land deal a few months before his early death. Listed as "Hughy" on the record of sale, he paid $200 for his partner's share of land he had purchased jointly with John Hoskins a year earlier.

Hugh's brothers Terrence and Patrick also got into land deals. On Nov. 25th 1874, when Terrence would have been 25 and Patrick 21, they bought a "Quit-Claim Deed," for the north half of lot 69 in the third division "drawn to the original right of Samuel Sackett and leased by the University of Vermont & State Agricultural College the 28th day of January 1870 to Samuel Chase." The brothers took on a mortgage with the seller, H. A. Naramore, of $600 to be paid in 12 payments of $50 over six years. The property was subject to a yearly rent payment to the University of Vermont of three dollars.

Terrence served as administrator of Hugh's estate after his early death. The estate was sold back to his mother Ellen on August 31, 1874 for $1500. The record of sale does not indicate any outstanding mortgage on the property. Ellen sold this property about two years later, on November 18, 1876 to V. H. Ellsworth for $1950. She was apparently getting out of farming (or preparing for a move to Minnesota) as the sale also included 4 cows, 2 yearlings, 2 sheep, . . ., 1 five year old Bay White Faced Mare, 1 Sett Traverse Sled, 1 two Horse Wagon, 1 Pr Double harnesses, 1 plow. . . , 2 cultivator, 1 crow bar, 3 hay forks, 1 manure fork, 1 shovell, 1 harrow, 1 single sleigh, 1 horse rake, 2 shoals, all wood in shed, 2 axes, 2 scythes snaiths, 1 grind . . . all the corn, oats and barley on the . . , 3 chains, . . . 1 ox cart, 1 kettle, 49 tin buckets, 1 basket, . . . all the potatoes in the cellar, . . tin pans.

Not all the family were engaged in farming. The fifth son, James, had apparently been working in Rutland, Vermont.
 There he met Bridget Mattimore, the daughter of Bert and Catherine Mattimore. James and Bridget married on March 2, 1878 when James was 23 and Bridget was about 19. The marriage was performed by Fr. Charles O'Reilly. James occupation was listed as laborer. Bert Mattimore was marble sawyer, and many Irish Americans living in Rutland in 1870 worked in the quarries there.

In the late 1870's the entire family, leaving behind the graves of Patrick and Hugh in Underhill, followed the call of Bishop Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota to move to that state. 

Catholic Colonies in Minnesota

Bishop John Ireland was the organizer of a major effort to bring Catholics from the Eastern US to settle the open areas of Minnesota. Although he originally hoped for laborers from urban tenements, most of the settlers were farmers who left their farms in the East for larger land holdings on the prairie. In January 1876, Bishop Ireland established the Catholic Colonization Bureau of St. Paul and announced that he had signed a contract with the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, making him the agent for railroad lands in Swift County. This land included four townships he handled, a total of 23,040 acres, which were taken up by settlers so quickly that Bishop Ireland obtained an additional 26,000 acres in the same area. As part of this colonization effort, Bishop Ireland plated out the towns of Clontarf and DeGraff.

The railroads had been given state and federal land grants providing alternate sections of land for three to five miles on each side of the railroad right of way. The alternate sections were retained by the federal or state government and given out to settlers under the Homestead Act of 1862. Settlers could claim up to 80 acres of these lands within 10 miles of the land grant railroad if they agreed to live on the land for five years.

Getting started in Minnesota

The now oldest brother, Terrence, was the first to file a homestead claim in the area, settling on April 28, 1877, according to his homestead application. He applied for lots 1 and 2, in section 4 in township 122 north, 41 west, which is the technical designation for Tara township. Terrence's brother Patrick filed another application soon after for the south half of the northwest quarter of the same section as Terrence. His application indicates he first settled this area in June 1877 and began residing in September after he built a frame house. Patrick may have arrived in the area somewhat earlier, as his 1899 obituary reported that his first work in the area was on a farm about one mile north of Benson "at that time owned by an Eastern capitalist."

The History of Stevens Co., by Edna Mae Busch, describes some large farms, called "Bonanza Farms" as "the farms of, usually, wealthy men who wanted these large tracts to further their wealth. Some lived on their farms but many did not. They hired a manager and much help. " A McGowan of Philadelphia, was reported in 1876 to have 800 acres broken near Donnelly in Stevens county. Another bonanza farm near Donnelly was owned by Ignatius Donnelly, with 300 acres in 1876; and 500 acres in 1879. He had 800 acres on a later, undated list, according to the Busch history.

The McGowan brothers took up homestead land at an inopportune time in Swift County history. A large number of Catholic settlers had arrived in the spring of 1876, and had been overcome with a grasshopper invasion in July 1876. In the spring of 1877, 165 farmers received aid to obtain seed for spring planting as a result of the previous season's disaster. The pests returned in the summer of 1877, but on July 10, they disappeared "as miraculously as they had come," according to A History of Swift County, by Stanley H. Anonsen. That summer, 388 farmers applied for state aid for the damage to crops, but over 95,00 bushels of wheat, averaging nearly six bushels an acre were produced that summer in the county.

The following year two more family members began homestead claims a couple of miles north of the two brothers, in Stevens county. The brother's mother Ellen applied for 80 acres of land in the south half of the southwest quarter of section 22 in Township 123 north, range 41 west (Moore township). Ellen's widowed daughter-in law Jane applied for a claim on the north half of the same quarter section. Both began residence in September 1878, with Ellen's application stating the residence began on September 12.

A law passed in March 3, 1879, made it possible for homesteaders to apply for up to 160 acres of land. Terrence was the first to make use of this opportunity applying on June 2, 1879 for lots 3 and 4 to the west of his established claim. Patrick followed, applying on June 10, 1880 for the south half of the northwest quarter of section four in Tara township. Patrick's application indicated he had cultivated about 35 acres of his original 80 acres, and had planted wheat, potatoes and corn. He had built a new house in October 1879, and the improvements to the property were then valued at about $250 James McManus, who lived in the same section, and Jane McGowan provided testimony supporting Patrick's claim for the additional property.

The 1880 census shows that Patrick's older brother John McGowan was living and working on this farm with him. Although Patrick is the younger brother, he is listed as head of the household, age 29, (he was actually 27) and John was 28. The census also showed that Terrence, age 32 had been joined by his older sister Sarah, age 35, whose birthplace was indicated as Canada (supporting the notion that the family lived in Canada for a while before settling in Underhill Vermont). The census records show that Ellen and Jane maintained a combined household, rather than two, as the homestead applications might indicated. Ellen is listed as the head of household, occupation farmer, and her age is still listed as 50 (for the third consecutive census). Jane's children, Ellen and Frederick, were then 8 and 6

A fourth brother was also farming in Tara township, according to the 1880 census. James McGowan had moved to Minnesota sometime after his March 1878 marriage in Vermont. In 1880, he was 25, his wife Bridget 22 and they had a year-old daughter Mary. Since a homestead claim cannot be found for James, it is possible he obtained his farm through the Catholic Colonization bureau.

The 1880 census also showed that the youngest McGowan sibling, Daniel, then 24 was living in Darnen township in Stevens county, working on the farm of 32-year old widow, Kate Galwin, born in Ireland. Daniel's recollection of the family's early settlement in an article in the Swift County Monitor on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary indicated he had also joined Patrick and Terry when they established their claims in 1877. Another sibling, Mary McGowan, was working as a servant at the Benson House in Benson, owned by Luther Aldrich in 1880.

Terrence was the first to have his claimed approved. He made his final application on May 5, 1882 and submitted supporting documents by two neighbors, Charles Levins and Santiago Hitchen, who lived in Moore township, near his mother and sister in law. Terrence had a 18 x 22 foot frame house, a stable and granary on the property, improvements estimated at a value of $800. He had planted crops for five seasons. His claim was approved on July 22 and he received his patent (MN0210__.162.PDF) on August 25, 1882. Daniel reported years later that Terry left his claim shortly after it was established. Terry, John and Daniel went into the dairy business near Kerkhoven. With 70 cows they supplied the milk for a cheese factory which Terry operated at Kerkhoven,

Patrick obtained his homestead patent (MN0210__.272.PDF) on March 30, 1883. At the time of his final payment on July 11, 1882, he had 70 acres under cultivation and had just seeded his fifth season of crops. He had improvements worth $700-800, including a frame house, a stable and a well. He had letters of support from George Flanagan of Benson and Eugene Calahan of Contarf. He registered his deed to the property on Feb. 13, 1883, Later reports indicate that Patrick moved from his farm in the spring of 1882 to Benson. If so, this was inconsistent with his claim testimony of July 11, 1882, when he indicated he had lived on the land continuously.

Although Ellen and Jane had applied for their claims at the same time, Jane's was the first to be approved, on September 10, 1883. She had letters of verification from James McManus and Terrence McGowan (who had already moved to Kerkhoven, but was also still listed as residing in Tara township) and James McManus, who also had supported Terrence's application. They verified that she had 33 acres under cultivation, had planted five seasons of crops and had improvements valued at $800, including a frame house, 12' x 16'. .

Ellen's need to verify her U.S. citizenship delayed approval of her claim for two years. Until 1922, women were naturalized automatically with their husbands, and Ellen's late husband Patrick had been naturalized in Vermont in 1854. She had stated on her initial homestead application in 1878 that she was a naturalized citizen. Before giving final proof of her claim in 1883, she had to show evidence of her citizenship. According to an affidavit filed to clear up the matter, she had made repeated efforts to obtain proof of citizenship from the court records in Vermont. When she was provided only with the final declaration of Patrick's intent to become a citizen, "Then she thought she had better obtain a certificate of citizenship in her own name, which she did do," according to the affidavit. She was apparently able to go through an abbreviated two step process to establish her own citizenship, declaring her intent in March 1883 and taking the oath of allegiance on October 3, 1883 at the Swift County courthouse in Benson. Her daughter Mary and son Daniel signed as witnesses on the latter document.

She submitted her new certificate of citizenship with the final proof for her homestead claim on Nov. 13, 1883. This apparently caused the homestead authorities to feel that she had lied about her citizenship on her 1878 application. However, in the affidavit submitted by Ellen on April 1, 1885, she explained her reasons for applying for citizenship, and indicating that she had made her initial application "in good faith, and no intention of fraud, acting principally upon the advise of others. She being ignorant of the laws or requirements of the government in such cases, and she now asks that her final entry made Nov. 13, 1883 be raised from suspension and that patent be issued thereon." The patent was subsequently issued June 12, 1885.

The Second Generation

Three of the McGowan sons found their wives among the Irish community in the adjoining townships of Moore in Stevens County and Tara in Swift County.  Patrick McGowan married the daughter of his mother’s neighbor in Moore township, Sarah Breen.  The family bible says the couple were married in Morris, Stevens county on August 31, 1881. The Morris Tribune of September 1, 1881 reported:

    “A quiet wedding party arrived at the Central House yesterday morning, where they were made welcome by mine host Folsom who always exercises a fatherly care and manifests a paternal solicitude for the welfare of all about to form partnerships or embark on life’s troubled seas, or words to that effect. The high contracting parties were Mr. P. McGowan, of Benson, and Miss Sarah Breen, of Hancock, the ceremony being performed at the Catholic church, Rev. Father Watry officiating.”

Sarah's obituary reported that the couple lived on their farm for about six months before moving to Benson in the spring of 1882. In 1884 they moved to Kerkhoven. The 1885 Minnesota state census show Patrick and Sarah were farming in Pillsbury, Swift county, which had a Kerkhoven post office. They had two children, Gertrude, born June 26, 1882 (and incorrectly listed on the census as a son, Gilbert) and Laura, born March 30, 1884. James and Bridget are also listed in the Pillsbury census and their family had grown to include Bert age 3 and Ellen (incorrectly listed as Elbert) age 1 along with Mary now 5. Patrick and James may have been in the dairy farm business which Daniel reported in the 1933 newspaper article as operated by Terry and John).

The next family wedding was that of Daniel and Sarah O'Reilly on April 5, 1883 in Morris. Sarah was the second daughter of James and Bridget O'Reilly and had been born in Michigan. Her family originally settled in southern Minnesota prior to the Sioux uprising. After losing their land when someone filed claim on it before they were able to do so, the O'Reillys moved to Stevens County in 1877. In 1885, Daniel and Sarah were living in Tara township, possibly on the farm which Patrick had originally claimed.

On May 23, 1884, Terrence McGowan married another member of the O'Reilly family, Mary, the fourth child and third daughter of James and Bridget. Father Watry again performed the ceremony. In the 1885 census, Terrence and Mary were living in Hancock. Mary is age 24, and listed as born in Minnesota. The 1885 Minnesota census doesn’t list occupations, so it is not clear Terrence was still farming. However, an 1886 map of Swift County, in the Swift County Historical Museum shows Terrence on his original claim in the northern quarter of section 4 in Tara township, with Daniel holding the next lower quarter (which had originally been claimed by Patrick). Their sister Sarah may have moved to Morris after Terrence's marriage. The 1885 census shows a Sarah McGowan age 36, born in Canada living with Paulina Hanson, age 26, who was born in Norway (and who was listed as “deaf and dumb”).

Life on the prairie was not easy. A family history prepared by a member of the O'Reilly family describes the harsh winters.

    "It was a time of terrible winters--three day blizzards when they would have to put up a rope from the house to the barn, so they wouldn't get lost. When the storm was over it would turn cold--20 and 30 below zero. Some people died in these blizzards. . . But they were using sleds which would not get stuck very easily. They always had straw in the sled, blankets, usually buffalo robe or two, and warm clothes. And those were not mountain roads--there was not much danger even if they did get off the road."

Social life was probably very limited. Again, from the O'Reilly family history:

 "They went to Clontarf or Morris to Church, either town ten or twelve miles away. They, as most of the other settlers, only had oxen at first, so it was really a full day. When it was time for Mass to start the old French priest at Clontarf would go outside and look for any other would-be worshippers who might be coming, and as he could see five miles in every direction, he often spotted someone. So the early comers had to wait for them. On the way home the younger men like to have races. A snap of the whip started them off--no lines to control them as with horses, no way to guide them except yelling gee and haw. Oxen can run pretty fast and it must have been thrilling racing over the rough prairie, no roads, and in a lumber wagon. I don't think they all went to church every Sunday and they probably did not go very often in the winter."

The next update on the family comes from the 1895 Minnesota census, which has much information not included in earlier censuses. Patrick and Sarah had moved to Benson in 1891 with their growing family. By 1895 they had six children, from Gertie age 13, to Francis age 5 months. The census says that Patrick had lived in Minnesota for 17 years, indicating he moved from Vermont about 1878. It indicated he had been employed as a butcher at least the full year prior to the census.

James and Bridget McGowan were still on their farm in Pillsbury in 1895. They had a fourth child, Frank, 5 years old. James is listed as moving to Minnesota about 1879 and moving to Pillsbury (Kerkhoven) about 1883. Mary McGowan was still working in Benson as a servant in the hotel owned by L. R. Aldrich.

Daniel and Sarah and their growing family moved to West Superior, Wisconsin in 1889 where Daniel worked in a steel plant. He returned in 1896 or 1898, according to conflicting recollections several years later. The oldest sister Sarah may have moved to Duluth. The 1900 census lists a Sarah McGowan, born in Vermont with both parents born in Ireland. Her occupation was dress maker and she was living alone. Terrence and his wife Mary moved to Grey Eagle Township in Todd County, near Sauk Center, where their family grew to include seven children. No further record has been found for the third brother John.

 Deaths in the Family

The matriarch Ellen McGowan died Nov. 16, 1893, at age 74, of pneumonia. She is buried in St. Malachy’s Cemetery in Clontarf, Swift County. Her death record in the Stevens County Court house indicates her parents names, John and Sarah Martin, her birthplace in Ireland, and her occupation as farming. Ellen's son Daniel, came from Superior, Wisconsin, to attend the funeral.

In 1895, in Jane McGowan’s son Fred then 22, was farming the Moore township farm and was listed as head of the family. Her daughter, Nellie McGowan, age 23 was a teacher.

Four years later, Patrick McGowan, like his father, died an early death, on December 7, 1899. The death surprised the community of Benson, according to the Swift County Monitor:

 “He had been out around town the day before, attending to his business in the usual way, but was taken ill that night. Early Thursday morning he felt some better and thought that he was improving, but during the forenoon commenced to grow worse and gradually sank away, the end coming about 8 o'clock Thursday evening. Mr. McGowan had been in poor health for a number of years, having considerable trouble with his stomach. It was not known that his heart was affected, but death was caused by a complication of stomach troubles and heart disease. He had sold out his business only about ten days prior to his death and had expected to try another climate this winter, hoping that his shattered health might be benefitted. But the summons came without warning and the old saying, "Man proposes and God disposes," was again vividly illustrated.”

His death certificate listed the cause of death as gastrointestinal catarrh, and listed his age as 45 years, 9 months. The newspaper reported that Patrick's business affairs were left in good condition, although his widow had eight children to care for. The funeral was held on Sunday morning and Father Shea preached "an eloquent sermon."

Patrick had been a member of the community organization Degree of Honor at the time of his death, and the lodge published a Resolution of Condolence for the family in the Swift County Monitor of Dec. 15. The resolution ordered that the charter of the Benson Lodge No. 45 would be draped for 30 days and was signed by committee members Emma Jensen, Adelaide Gallagher and May Wakefield.

Patrick and Sarah's ninth surviving child, Lucy, was born less than one month after her father's death on January 8, 1900. According to the 1900 census conducted four months later, Sarah Breen McGowan then age 36, was working as a milliner and owned her house free of mortgage. Four children were at school, from Laura age 16 to Joseph, 7. Gertrude’s occupation is not listed, and the children at home are Francis 5, John 4, Leo 2 and baby Lucy.

By 1900, Fred McGowan had left Moore township for Great Falls, Montana, where is worked as a laborer and lived in a boarding house. Jane and her daughter Nellie remained in Moore township, rooming in the home of Roy Monford, who may have taken over the farm.

Daniel McGowan had gone into partnership with Arthur Robinson to purchase his brother Patrick's meat business in Benson in the spring of 1899 a few months before Patrick's death. He had been in the same business with his brother James in Hancock for one year before moving to Benson. By 1900, Daniel and his wife Sarah had a family of six children, with one child having died previously.

The challenges of opening a butcher shop at the time were illustrated by a story in the Benson Times on 26 December 1899:

    “Dan McGowan had a lively time while taking a big short horn heifer to the slaughter house Thursday [Dec. 21, 1899]. She became frightened and putting her horns under the wagon tipped it upside down in front of Arnesen's store, throwing Dan and the box off and mixing things up generally, and it was only by the hardest work that the team was kept from running away. They stood squatting and shivering while the bovine would take a snort now and then and give the box, which had fallen off behind the wheels where she was tied, another hoist, when the horses would quake again. Help was secured and the team was finally unhitched, the heifer secured by heavier ropes to a telephone pole and the wagon put together again, when with several men around and behind her she was finally lead to her doom.”

A Tragic Year

The year 1901 was also a tragic one for the family. Daniel's sister Mary was boarding with his family, and it wasn't clear whether she was still working in the Luther Aldrich hotel. The Benson Times reported on Jan. 15:

    "Miss Mary McGowan, who has been ill for some weeks, both physically and mentally, burned herself quite seriously Thursday evening in her rooms in the upper part of her house in the south part of town. Just how it happened is not known, but it is supposed she did it with a lighted lamp or some matches, most likely the former, and when her brother's family below got up there and found her, she had sustained such injuries as will keep her in bed and suffering for quite awhile."

The paper reported the following week:

    "Although we did not know it at the time, Miss Mary McGowan, whose so serious burning at her house we mentioned in last Tuesday's paper, had expired that morning as a result of her injuries, and the remains were taken to Clontarf and interred in the Catholic cemetery Thursday, Father Shea officiating. Miss McGowan had passed most of her time in Benson for the last twenty years and was an excellent and deserving woman and leaves many friends who grieve over her sad and untimely death."

She was buried next to her mother Ellen in St. Malachy's Cemetery in Clontarf.

On February 15, the same year, 16-year old Laura McGowan (Patrick and Sarah's second daughter) died of bronchial pneumonia. The Swift County Monitor reported:

    This is the second time within the past few months that the grim messenger of death has darkened this home. Only a little more than a year ago the father died and now the bereaved wife loses one of her girls, and one who has been so helpful in the household since the death of her father. Laura had been afflicted with the asthma for two years or more. A few days ago, she caught a severe cold, and the weakened condition of her throat and lungs allowed the cold to develop easily into pneumonia. She gradually grew weaker, unable to prevent the progress of the disease, and on Wednesday night the sad end came. A telegram was sent to Miss Gertie McGowan, who was in Iowa, calling her home. She arrived yesterday afternoon, too late to see her sister alive.

Four years later in 1905, Sarah and her children were living on 11th Street in Benson. Gertrude may have returned to Iowa. Martin was 17 and worked as a printer, and the other children were students. Sarah was listed as a housekeeper and as having moved to Minnesota 29 years earlier, in 1876.

The Hancock Family Members

In addition to his meat business in Hancock, James was listed as a restauranteur in 1900. In 1905 he had become a carpenter and his wife Bridget had taken over the family restaurant. In July 1899, their 15-year old daughter Ellen had given birth to a son, John Erickson. The Morris Tribune reported Ella's marriage in its Aug 31 1901 issue:

    "A. L Stenger was called to Hancock Monday to officiate at the marriage of John Erickson, Jr. and Miss Ella McGowan. This will dispose of the case of the state vs. Mr. Erickson, which has been in the district court since October 1899."

In the 1905 census, Ella, then 21 and her 5-year old son were living with Ella’s parents and her husband does not appear to be living with them. Other members of the household include Frank 15, and Bridget’s father Bert Mattimore, age 87, the Rutland Vermont marble sawyer. James was listed as moving to Minnesota 26 years and 4 months previous to the June census (1879), and to the Moore township 8 years 6 months earlier (about 1897). James and Bridget’s son Bert James, had established his own home in Hancock by 1905. He is listed as a laborer, age 22, married to Pearl, a housewife, age 25.

Jane Cale McGowan died Dec. 18, 1901 and is buried with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law Mary in St. Malachy’s Cemetery. In the 1905 census, Nellie McGowan had married well digger John Conroy, and was living in Hancock village. She was then 33, he was 40. Listed just below them was William Conroy , age 47, also a well digger, and probably John's brother. Nellie had moved to Minnesota 28 years and 7 months prior to the census, which suggests they moved in December 1876. She had moved to Hancock in 1901.  Family members report that Nellie’s brother Fred moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and married.

In 1905, Daniel and Sarah lived on Atlantic Avenue in Benson. The family included Hugh J. (Jim) 21, William D. 19, Elizabeth 18, Emmet F.16, Alice A. 14, Tressa E. 8. Daniel was listed as moving to Minnesota 26 years earlier.

James’ oldest son Bartholemew (nicknamed Bert) died in 1909 at age 27, after suffering from heart illness for over a year. By 1910, James had become a policeman in Hancock. In 1911, James and two of his children moved to Pennant, Saskatchewan, where he took up land south of the that community. He reportedly operated a chopping and feed mill mill in that area, and was later elected Overseer of the Village of Pennant for 3 terms. He died in April 1920 of heart failure and lung trouble. The Pennant Courier reported:

    “He was a man of great human sympathy and if duty called or need was felt, James McGowan was the first to respond. During the time of the influenza epidemic he was too busy attending to the sick to take rest or even take his clothes off for over a week.”

His son Frank and daughter Mary (Mrs. Frank Huntly) survived him.

Terrence and his family moved from Grey Eagle, Minnesota, to Redstone Montana sometime after 1910. He secured 320 acres of Homestead land in June 1919, and his son Terrence P. McGowan was granted title to another 320 acres in 1920 even though he had died in France in World War I in September 1918.  The elder Terrence’s death was reported on August 1, 1923, when he was 74 years old. He had suffered a paralytic stroke about six months prior to his death. He was survived by his widow, four daughters and three sons.

In 1910, Daniel's son Emmet, was the only member of his immediate family living in Benson. Daniel, returned to Benson in 1917 after ten years living on a farm near Richmond, Virginia. He retired from the meat business in 1927 and had a farm at the Benson city limits until a year before his death in 1935. At the time of his death he was living with his son Emmet in Benson. He died of bronchial pneumonia on Dec. 3 after an illness of two weeks. History_files/MN0210__.162.PDFMcGowan History_files/MN0210__.272.PDF