The Irish Railroad Workers Museum is different from any other. We develop relationships with many of our visitors, and build up our understanding of an immigrant Irish community that began dynamic lives among their own. These arrivals were our ethnicities' founding fathers and mothers in America, as it were, and we share our enthusiasm about their stories together.
Many who are experiencing these strange days in our nation and world have become a bit reflective, putting effort into better understanding the lives and challenges of those who came before them. Thousands are following this online series, known as "The Big Pivot", and have reached out to us with intriguing photos and information. We are sharing some of this with you today.
Historian John McGrain responded magnificently with the above photo, taken in 1950. We talked about the Irish parish known as St. Mary of the Assumption in North Baltimore just a few days ago. A beautiful sketch of the church from its earliest days was included for your enjoyment, and today we contrast that image with an eerie photo taken just a few years before its demise. The old building had served the community for 100 years, but now seemed to fit in just fine with the memorial stones that surrounded it. My reflection of the photo was that the old place had sloughed toward those who once worshiped within, and had found its rest alongside those thousands in the church yard. All seems to be at peace, and my mind's eye sees a place of remembrance and thankfulness. Thank you, John for this compelling image.
James (pictured: second row, far right) was born in 1837 in Monaghan townland, County Fermanagh (present day Northern Ireland). He was the eldest of four children, including Rosamond, John and Edward. James arrived in Baltimore on May 20, 1851 on the Annapolis, traveling alone.
He married Anna McAdams and they had eight children: Mary Ann (1860), Catherine "Kate"(1861), Rosamond (1864), Jane "Jennie"(1866), James Terrence Jr. (1868), Louisa (1869), Elizabeth "Lizzie" (1871) and Anna May (1876). The Connolly family lived in South Baltimore, baptizing their children at St. Joseph Catholic Church (formerly at S. Howard and Barre Sts.) and later at St. Mary Star of the Sea, dedicated on March 26, 1871. Both parishes were distinctly Irish.
From 1860-1878, James worked as a laborer, and then became a policeman with the Baltimore City Police Department, Eastern District. He served between 1878-1885, and retired in 1886.
James and his son Terrence became horse collar makers, and also opened a bar named "Connolly's" at 1122 South Charles Street in 1887. It was there that he was assaulted by a police officer in 1890, who shot him in the head, right through the front door.
Somehow James survived, and eventually retired in 1894. He died of a stroke on November 25, 1898 at age 61. A life of challenges and blessings was over.
His obituary was included in the November 28th issue of the Baltimore Sun, and a poem of dedication was included by his many children:
"Praying Angels, come comfort us now;
In saddest affliction we mournfully bow.
‘Tis only in prayer we can lift up our heads
And ask thine assistance-our Father is dead.
We may follow him, none can tell when
In Heaven we will soon be united again.
May we all in the way of our duty be led
And again meet our father, our Father who is dead”.
His viewing was held at the family home at 1452 William St., followed by a Requiem High Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church. His wife Ann joined him in death on February 6, 1906. They were buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in West Baltimore.
We've talked a bit about how Board Members, docents and volunteers are finding their niche of effectiveness in these strange days. Cecilia Wright (above)is one who stays active on our behalf. When she is not introducing the dearly departed at our annual Wake presentation (please, please can we have it this year?) Cecilia stays active in researching several compelling stories, including two in particular these days.
James Feeley and Sarah Liberty Feeley were the man and woman of the house where our Museum is located, at 918 Lemmon Street. She and Docent Jackie Frank have developed our understanding of their family tree, and we have learned of how a simple family of famine survivors from County Tipperary developed into an important network of workers, clergy and women religious in the Archdiocese. Our goal is to present their work in a compelling way in the coming months, once this is all over (?).
About that second project in the works...have you heard the news about our Museum's purchase of another row house along Lemmon Street? It became available for a price that was right, and our team of researchers and the Board Committee are doing the leg work to make great things happen there.
An Irish family was among the residents of 910 Lemmon Street, and Cecilia has discovered their story: one for the text books. These famine survivors came via chain migration just like the historians tell us, with Dad arriving first from County Wexford. He got a few things settled, and a few dollars saved. A second and third wave of his household made the voyage across the Atlantic, and his large family was fully reunited in Baltimore after three years of hoping and longing for each other
The men and women of the O'Leary family contributed towards the building and flourishing of Baltimore City, each in their own way. We look forward to memorializing them as we present the "910 Project" to those who might help us with the restoration of an Irish home, built in 1848.
Thanks to all who are following this series, and support the Museum during these difficult days. Who ever heard of a Museum with no visitors? Thankfully, it's only for a season...we appreciate your engagement as we produce "The Big Pivot", and your generous giving to the Museum.