The Irish in America

Happy Birthday Minnie!

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Can’t believe an entire year has passed since I posted this in honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday last year. Hope your 2013 is off to a good start — thanks so much for reading. Now, better get to baking that spice cake…

Minnie was my great-grandmother, and according to my grandma she absolutely hated the nickname “Minnie”. Please forgive me, Great Grandmother, but I think it’s cute, and since your real name Mary is shared by at least 75% of the women in your family tree, I chose to call you Minnie.

Minnie Foley was born in Fisherville, New Hampshire on January 2, 1875. She was the fourth of five children born to Patrick Foley and Mary Crowley (their eldest son did not survive infancy.) Patrick emigrated to the United States from Kilmichael, County Cork in 1864. Mary came a year earlier in 1863, also from County Cork.

Minnie was baptized on January 24, 1875 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Concord, New Hampshire. John Foley and Mary Casey were her godparents.

Three years later, Minnie and her family moved west to Clontarf, Minnesota with several other Irish families from the Concord, New Hampshire area, including the Regan family. John Regan and Patrick Foley emigrated together in 1864 from Kilmichael. The families settled on farms in Tara township. Minnie and Nellie Regan were best friends from a very young age.

First-Generation American Girls: Minnie and Nellie in about 1886

My grandma told me that Minnie worked hard her entire life, and that included working on the family farm in Tara Township while she was growing up. Her sister Maggie worked inside, while Minnie and her younger brother Jackie worked outside. My grandma confessed, she wasn’t sure where Minnie’s older brother Tim worked!

The McMahons, an Irish family from County Fermanagh, lived about a mile from the Foleys in Tara. Minnie married Thomas McMahon at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf on June 28, 1904. Minnie’s sister Maggie and Tom’s brother Frank were their witnesses. I imagine Minnie and Hoosie (Tom’s nickname in Minnie’s autograph book) having secret meetings over hay bales and missing chickens during their courtship…

Minnie and Tom raised seven children and after giving farming all they had the McMahons moved to Minneapolis in 1925.

When she died in 1945, Minnie was living with my grandma, her husband John Regan, and their new baby (and my mother) Eileen. My grandma said that Minnie was smitten with Eileen. Minnie would say that she had never known a baby to sleep as much and as well as little Eileen. Minnie marvelled what a good baby she was, and how Eileen would even fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.

In many ways things came full circle for Minnie. Also living with my grandma in 1945 was Neil Regan, Nellie’s older brother and my grandpa’s father. Eighty years earlier Patrick Foley and John Regan had journeyed to the United States. After Fisherville, New Hampshire and Clontarf, Minnesota, the families came together again in Minneapolis…a long way from Kilmichael.

In my grandma’s recipe book are a few recipes attributed to Minnie, her “Ma” – I think I will make “Ma’s Spice Cake” in Minnie’s honor today.

Nellie Regan Byrne and Minnie Foley McMahon, 1942

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Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Minnie!

  1. Pingback: Life is a Game of Cards « The Irish in America

  2. I would love to see scans of some of the autographs! I have actually never seen old autographs from Ireland. Are they from County Carlow? My family names of JACOB, PIERCE, and WALTON!!!

    • Sorry Carol, I forgot to reply to your comment. The autograph book is from my great-grandmother in Minnesota, USA around 1910. So, most of the signatures are from her family, friends, and neighbors, most of whom are fellow first-generation Irish Americans. They are really neat, though. Most people wrote rather silly poems – good fun!

  3. I enjoyed reading this post about your family history too. It’s great that you have so many pictures and an autograph book too!

    • Thanks, Carol! I need to remember how lucky we are to have a lot of family photographs any time I get frustrated that none of them are identified! The autograph book is a treasure! Enjoy the weekend + have a happy new year!

      Aine

    • Thanks, Dennis! Enjoy the weekend!

      Aine

      On Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 11:04 AM, Aine McCormack wrote:

      > Thanks, Carol! I need to remember how lucky we are to have a lot of family > photographs any time I get frustrated that none of them are identified! The > autograph book is a treasure! Enjoy the weekend + have a happy new year! > > Aine > > > On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM, The Irish in America <

  4. Enjoyed reading your history.Thank you

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