In the 1970s or 1980s, my mom embroidered the saying, “Mother is another name for love,” and placed it in a green-painted frame as a Mother’s Day gift for her mom. I can see it hanging on grandma’s wall, and I remember when I was young, considering the idea that my mom could possibly love her mom as much as I loved both of them.
I have shared this photo several times, but it is my favorite for Mother’s Day.
My great-grandmother Mary Foley McMahon is with her seven children outside of their Clontarf, Minnesota, home. My grandma(Agnes) is standing on the chair before her mother.
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” — Abraham Lincoln
I thought I would share a few pages from the family album featuring Fran, my first cousin once removed (she and my mom are first cousins). Am I choosing today to share these photos for any particular reason? Perhaps, but Fran doesn’t like to make a fuss, and neither will I.
Fran’s mom was Mary McMahon Fuchs, the eldest sister of my grandma Agnes McMahon Regan. Agnes, her parents, and five siblings moved to Minneapolis in the mid-1920s, while Mary stayed behind in Benson to work and help their Aunt Maggie. That’s where Fran was born, in the house her mom and dad shared with Aunt Maggie. Fran was the second of five girls in the family.
In the 1930s, Agnes regularly visited Mary and her growing family. Often she and a friend would don traveling clothes (jodhpurs, jackets, and tall boots) and hitch a ride from the city, making their way 140 miles west on Highway 12 to Benson. Although eight years separated the sisters, Agnes always said that she and Mary were best pals, and these visits were happy times (look – even Aunt Maggie is smiling in the pic below).
Fran thought the world of her Aunt Ag, and I know the feeling was mutual.
When Fran graduated from Benson High School, she moved to Minneapolis to work. She lived with Agnes and her family for a couple of years. The whole gang would drive out to Benson on the weekends. I don’t have any photos of Fran from that time, so this one will have to do; Fran and her sister around Mary’s table in Benson, a bit later.
The years go by, and so much in life changes and becomes almost unrecognizable, yet family can always connect us – to one another and the past. In Fran, and my mom, I see the women I knew – Grandma and Aunt Mary – and all those I never knew, those who came before any of us.
I think the world of Fran. I hope she has a lovely day!
I am getting old. I’m not saying this because I am over fifty and my hair is gray, but because I said this to friends last weekend when we were planning a night out:
“Let’s go somewhere quiet…so we can chat.”
Turns out my friends had the same idea and the four of us spent a lovely Saturday evening gathered around Ace’s dining room table, catching up, laughing, and snacking on chips and guacamole, chocolate-covered pretzels, and brownies. The evening was low-key and comfortable and felt old-fashioned (the Hamm’s may have added to the nostalgia).
My mom often reminisces about the regular family dinners, get-togethers, and card parties of her youth. Often hosted by her parents, John and Agnes (McMahon) Regan at their South Minneapolis home, the evenings and Sunday afternoons were sometimes held at McMahon and Regan cousins’ homes peppered throughout the city.
Here are a few snapshots of my Irish American family around the table. The common denominator of these photos is the McMahon family – three generations of descendants of Francis and Catherine (McAndrew) McMahon. Once the McMahons moved to Minneapolis from the Clontarf area in western Minnesota, they branched out making matches with those of non-Irish heritage. Names like Fuchs, Freitag, Nelson, Oien, and Bebus joined the McMahon family tree. My grandma Agnes was the only of her siblings to marry fellow Irish American (and Clontarf native) John Regan.
My grandma Agnes McMahon Regan is on the right, resting her head in her hand, next to my grandpa John Regan. The others are identified only as, “Foley girls – Aunt Bid and Uncle Tim’s.” Aunt Bid was Bridget McMahon. Mom says this is most likely is at Aunt Bid’s kitchen table. Maybe the others are Kit, Cecilia, or Loretta Foley?
Rose McMahon is on the left, with her sister Mary McMahon and husband Will Herr. Could this be at Mary and Will’s fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration in Bristol, South Dakota? Written on the back is, “Eileen and John Regan may be at next table.” Mom can help me out with this.
From left: Fran Fuchs Lainsbury, Dody Fuchs Abbott, and their mother, Mary McMahon Fuchs at the table in the Foley house in Benson. That’s my Aunt Mary (actually a great aunt, but always just Aunt Mary to us). I think Aunt Mary looks so cute here. I only remember her when she was twenty years older.
Some members of the McMahon family gathered at the wedding of Mary Fuchs (possibly). From the bottom left: Frank, John, Aunt Rose McMahon, Ella (John’s wife), Benie Oien, Rose “Dodo” McMahon Oien. I bet Frank’s wife Bertha took the photo unless Frank had a penchant for handbags (“Frank, hold my purse for a minute while I take a picture.”) I wonder where John and Agnes are sitting? And who is that guy standing on the left, behind the table, like he is in the picture?
Does anyone else wish we could step into old snapshots like these and stay for a moment, just long enough to catch Bertha asking the table for a smile and to hear John laughing? And maybe even long enough to pull Dodo aside and ask her why old Aunt Rose is sitting between John and Ella.
Note: Mom told me that the guy at the left behind the table is her cousin Jim Nelson. So, if this was a modern photo, he would have squeezed himself in somewhere to be part of the shot! Also, mom thinks this may have been Dodo and Bernie’s wedding (that would explain Bernie’s natty ensemble.
It was never the couch; never the sofa. For Grandma, it was always the Davenport.
That Grandma called the multiperson upholstered seating apparatus the davenport had nothing to do with her Irish heritage, but everything to do with regional and generational influences. I am sure that many members of the Greatest Generation in the Midwest used the term, but Grandma was the only person I ever heard call it a davenport, so I have forever associated the word exclusively with Grandma, and thus, cozy comfort and love.
“Come on in and sit yourself down on the davenport.” was the invitation equivalent to Grandma’s hand smoothing the hair from my tear-soaked face or a boiled dinner she made with enough potatoes for an army. Grandma’s davenport was like a warm hug.
Here’s my grandma in the 1960s, sitting on the davenport. I am not sure it is her davenport – Mom will let us know. That lamp does not quite look like Grandma’s style.
Here’s a davenport full of family. Eileen Regan, Margaret McMahon Nelson, John Regan, and Agnes McMahon Regan at the Regan house on Tenth Avenue in South Minneapolis in the late 1950s.
One more group of Irish Americans on the Davenport, although “Cousins on the Couch” has a better ring. Tom McMahon, Carol and Betty McMahon, and Eileen Regan in 1962.
I have observed a few other prominent settings in my collection of family photographs, namely the dinner table, the sidewalk, and next to a car. Stay tuned…
UPDATES per Mom (2/22/2023):
Photo #1 of Grandma was taken at the Roth family home. The Roths were members of Holy Name parish and they belonged to the parish book club, as did Agnes and John Regan.
Photo #2 correction made – sitting next to Eileen is her aunt Margaret, not Rose.
Mom thinks Photo #3 was her high school graduation party. She remembers the dress she was wearing: yellow with eyelet trim at the neck and sleeves. I didn’t ask, but I assume Grandma made it!
When we moved my grandma from her apartment, there were dresser drawers full of neat little bundles of fabric, remnants from decades of sewing projects. Tucked into one of the drawers was an embroidery hoop holding a once-taut piece of muslin. Work had begun on the piece but was interrupted.
Mom could tell by the signature brown stitches that this was Minnie’s handiwork. Was it abandoned when she had to go to the hospital in October of 1945, where she would pass away? It is likely that is why my grandma would hold onto an unfinished embroidery project for nearly sixty years. That’s why Mom and I have kept it for twenty more years. I can picture Minnie smoothing the fabric and tightening the hoop, threading the needle, and eventually slipping the needle through the cotton and setting the work down for the last time.
This is an embroidery pattern that was also floating around in Grandma’s things:
Now, I am off to bake a spice cake. For me, molasses, nutmeg, and cloves combine to create an olfactory time machine. In a couple of hours I will be enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee and a slice of spice cake with Minnie.
My great-aunt Dodo was born on this day, December 28th, in 1908. I’ve mentioned her many times, often speculating about the origins of her nickname.
I love this photo of Rose Ann McMahon, aka Dodo. She is often laughing and smiling broadly in the early photographs. As she aged, her smile narrowed, but she always seemed up for a joke and a laugh.
Unrelated to jokes and laughs, I came across this while looking at my archive;
I can’t really picture Dodo as a receptionist, or a switchboard operator. But, she would have been looking for a new line of work in 1946. She worked at the New Brighton ammunition factory during World War II (an actual Rosie the Riveter!)
Today I have enjoyed taking time to reminisce about Dodo (breakfasts at Embers with the coupons), and recall my grandma’s stories (my favorite is the nieces’ Communion dresses). As always, it seems strange that it could be so long ago.
My mom and I have this photo labeled “Old Foley,” but that was just a guess. I think it is time to revisit this lady in her pretty cloak.
If she is an “Old Foley” could she be related to this guy?
Or maybe she’s an “Old Crowley” and related to Patrick’s wife, Mary Crowley. I made a case for this some years ago…
The photo appears to have been taken at a studio in San Francisco. I don’t know of any Foley or Crowley connections to California. My family’s westward journey ended in Tara Township, Minnesota (at least for a couple of generations). But then there is so much we don’t know…
I need some help from my mom on this one. I know that is my great-grandpa Tom McMahon on the right, with his daughter Agnes (my grandma) standing in front of him. Who are the rest? Could they be Tom’s brother Frank (left), his wife Agnes McGraw McMahon and their children? Their oldest, Richard, was the same age as my grandma. That could be him in the cap by his dad. Three girls followed him in age: Florence, Eileen, and Gertrude, but I can’t quite tell.
And then there is the lady next to Tom. Could it be his sister Kate? She may have still been in Clontarf.
Subtract about seventeen years from the gentleman standing on the left above and do you get the one standing on the left below?
I believe this one is from the 1930s. My grandma on the left with her sister Rose and Eileen McMahon, possibly one of the little ones in the first photo.
One more, just because I noticed how my grandma was holding two fingers on her right hand with her left hand and it reminded me of this cute photo.
Mom – please set me straight on dates, identifications, etc.
Catherine McAndrew McMahon sent this postcard to Tom, her oldest son, in early April 1908. She was in Rochester being treated at the Mayo Clinic for cancer, and Tom was at home in Tara Township. Catherine died on April 18th following surgery to remove a tumor.
Tom kept his mother’s obituary folded up in his wallet. His rosary, the postcard, and the obituary are the only things left behind by my great-grandfather.
Tom is standing, second from the left, and Catherine is seated in front, next to her eldest daughter and namesake. The McMahon family would lose its youngest son, Johnny (standing, at far right), to tuberculosis about three years after this photograph was taken.
We have several photographs in our collection that were taken in Manchester, England. These fall into the “Your Grandpa’s People” and remain, to this day, mostly unidentified.
Over the weekend I was working on my Ancestry.com family tree and took another look at our Manchester photos. Frustrated by all the “unknowns” in the captions, I decided to put my best guess IDs on the photos. We will see if they stick.
I will start with one I am fairly certain about. This is my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan’s only brother, John Hill. John was born on April 7, 1870, near Kill, County Kildare, Ireland. He was baptized two days later on April 9th. John was five years older than Annie.
John and his wife, Clara lived in Broughton, Manchester, England.
John’s youngest sister, Bridget “Delia” Hill Reynolds, and her husband John and family also lived in Broughton. I connected with a DNA match cousin whose grandma was Delia. He shared with me that her brother John lived with the Reynolds family.
There is one problem. Mary Hill O’Brien’s daughter Mamie had an album with a photo of the trio (minus John Hill) labeled, “Aunt Maggie and family.” I am pretty sure it is Delia. For a number of reasons, it just makes sense to me. I know nothing about Maggie. Once the Hill girls hit age fifty, they look very similar. I have positive IDs on Mary, Katie, and Annie, so I’ll just keep digging…