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!
On Saturday, they are holding an auction at the former St. Malachy Catholic Church building in Clontarf, Minnesota. They are selling pews, windows, plant stands, and anything else that lacks “religious significance.”
I was interested in the half of the old confessional that was stored in the sacristy. They removed it from near the entrance when more room was needed to accommodate the new, larger caskets. I am out of luck; they aren’t selling it. Not sure how it is more religiously significant than the pews which held the devout parishioners week in and week out for over a century…
A report of the Dedication of the “new” St. Malachy’s Church appeared in the December 15, 1896, edition of the Benson Times. The event was a big deal, not just for Clontarf Catholics, but the pomp and ceremony must have intrigued everyone in the area. I wonder if it is the most people who have ever been in Clontarf at the same time? I’ve included a copy of the newspaper article, but it’s not great, so I also added a transcription below.
According to the article, the builders left the plaster ready for fresco painting. I wonder if it was ever done? Did Tim Reardon tell us that there was some painting on the ceiling that was covered up by the 1960s remodeling? My memory fails at the moment. Does anyone know if they ever got a bell?
The Beautiful and Impressive Ceremonies Witnessed by a Large Crowd Tuesday Morning.
Tuesday was a gala day for the Catholics of Clontarf in particular, and of Swift County in general. It brings the occasion of the dedication of the new church at that place. For a number of years the members of St. Malachi’s [sic] parish have had in contemplation the erection of a new edifice of worship, but owing to the stringency of the times, it has yearly been deferred, until early last spring when the contract was let and the work pushed until there now stands in the little town a church which is a credit to the congregation and a standing monument to the untiring efforts of its beloved and respected pastor, Rev. Father Oster.
The building is a substantial frame one, 40×100 in the main with a 20 foot ceiling, with a large and well-arranged sanctuary and sacristy in the rear end. There is a seven foot basement under the entire building, in which is located the heating plant, which is of the latest improved pattern. A very noticeable feature in the church is an alcove just back and above the main altar, in which are placed the statues of the Sacred Heart and adoring angels, the opening being beautifully draped with rich curtains. The roof of the alcove is of colored glass which throws mellow light upon the figures, giving the whole a beautiful appearance. In the front end of the building is located a gallery, which reaches across the entire width, and about 20 feet deep. This will be for the use of the choir and is reached by a winding staircase from the front entry. The plastering has been left in what is known as the “floated” condition, so that at some future time it may be frescoed. Besides the main altar, there are two side ones, which stand on either side of the building inside of the communion railing. The windows are of beautiful colored leaded glass and are the fights of individuals or societies, the names of the donator appearing on each window. Taken as a whole the interior presents a pleasing appearance. On the exterior rises a gracefully modeled steeple, the top of which towers high above the building. In this, provisions have been made for a large bell, which no doubt, will be placed therein at no great distant day. The accompanying cut gives a much better idea of the appearance of the building than words could convey. The church will comfortably seat 500 persons, and will accommodate this congregation for years to come.
The day of the dedication of this building to the purposes for which it was erected was an ideal one, and an early hour delegations from Murdock, DeGraff, Benson, Danvers, Hancock, and in fact from the entire surrounding country, began arriving, and by 10:30 fully 1,000 persons were gathered in and about the building. At the time stated the dedication procession started from the main altar, headed by Father O’Connor of DeGraff who acted as master of ceremonies for the day, followed by six altar boys, Bishop Cotter, of Winona, and a number of priests coming next. A tour of the outside of the church was made and the regular ritual work of the church for such occasions gone through with. On returning, the litany was recited and the interior of the building blessed.
After the dedication ceremonies had finished, the Blessed Sacrament was brought from the old church to its new abode in solemn procession. This was one of the most imposing events of the day: the bishop clad in his purple robes, the priest in vestments, surrounded by altar boys in bright gowns carrying colored lanterns and candles, made a scene which will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
After this came the solemn high mass, which was celebrated by Rev. Oster, Father Kane acting as deacon, Father Egan as subdeacon and Father O’Connor as master of ceremonies. The music was furnished by the combined choirs of Clontarf, Benson and Murdock; Chas. Maginnis presiding at the organ, and assisted by a string orchestra. The fact that the day was the 40th anniversary of the ordination of Father Oster made this mass the more impressive, and many a silent prayer was offered, asking that the life of the “grand old man” might be yet spared for many years. The following priests, in addition to those mentioned above, assisted at the mass: Rev. Gauvreau, of Beardsley; Rev. McDavitt, of Mannanah; Rev. Boland, of Litchfield; and Rev. O’Brien, of Graceville.
At the close of the mass Bishop Cotter took the pulpit and read the 83rd Psalm, which he used as his text. On opening, he paid a glowing tribute to the life and work of Father Oster. He told of his work in the pioneer days of Minnesota, how he had visited and ministered to the sick and those in want when such services called for long tiresome rides over unsettled country, and that he had never been wanting where duty called. The bishop congratulated the members
Of the parish in their good fortune of having such a man as Father Oster to lead and teach them. Assuring them that if they would but follow his counsel they would certainly reach the goal for which all christians are striving. After further congratulating the congregation on the completion of their beautiful house of worship, he proceeded with his sermon, and for over an hour held the vast audience spell-bound and all were loath to have the discourse come to a close. Bishop Cotter is a sound reasoner, a profound scholar and a finished orator, and it is indeed a treat to hear him. At the close of the sermon he gave a few words of advice in regard to the financial management of the church affairs. The services of the day then closed with a solemn benediction.
While the bishop and priests were administering to the spiritual needs of the congregation, the ladies were busy preparing for their temporal needs, and by the time services were over, they had a bountiful dinner in readiness in the old church, and to this place a grand rush was made. The sum of 25 cents was charged and it is needless to say that the ladies realized a neat sum for their efforts.
It was expected that Arch-bishop Ireland would be present, but just at the last moment he was called to Chicago.
Sketch of Rev. Oster.
This article would be incomplete without giving something of the life and work of the pastor who has spent so many years in building up the Clontarf parish.
Rev. Anatole Oster, the senior pastor in charge of the Clontarf parish and also the Benson Catholic church is very favorably known to most of our readers. He is highly esteemed, not only by the members of his several parishes, but by all who know him regardless of religious affiliations, for his many estimable qualities and deep religious convictions, He was born in Alsace Lorraine about 63 years ago. He spent his early childhood in France, where he commenced his studies for the priesthood. He came to this country in early manhood and finished his studies under the venerable Bishop Creaton [sic], the first Catholic bishop of St. Paul, by whom he was ordained to the priesthood 40 years ago; the festivities of the dedication of this new church being the 40th anniversary of the celebration of this first mass. He has spent all the years of his ministry in Minnesota and was identified with the growth and development of the early settlement of the territory as well as the state since its organization. He shared in the privations of the early settlers and missionaries, and has seen and rejoiced at the development and growth of the state as well as the church of which he is a conspicuous member. He has seen the latter institution grow from a society of only three priests to minister the religious wants of its members in Minnesota and the Dakotas, to the proportions it now assumes, viz: An archbishopric at St. Paul, with five suffragan bishoprics located at Duluth, Winona, St. Cloud, Sioux Falls and Jamestown, N.D., respectively, and a working corps of nearly 500 priests, besides numerous hospitals, houses of refuge, and institutions of learning, two of which latter institutions are located at St. Paul, being St. Thomas college and the HIll seminary, which ranks with the best in the country.
In all of the work incident to this tremendous growth and development, Rev. Oster has taken a very conspicuous part, and always with great credit to himself and his church. He is a man of deep and scholarly attainments, and an exemplary citizen as well as a model minister of the gospel. He has been located at several different points in this state during his ministry, and has built a number of other churches as well as the dedicated one on Tuesday. He came to Swift county in the early part of 1878 and has since resided at Clontarf, also having charge of the Catholic Church in Benson, and those at Danvers and Hegbert.
We have many of this style of photo in our family collection: studio portraits of people in their twenties and early thirties, taken circa 1900. This is a favorite because it reminds me of one of our first meetings with my grandpa’s cousins Donald and Gerald Regan.
I remember showing them this photo and Donald saying, “Ah, yes, that is Pat on the left and that would be Uncle Jim on the right. Isn’t that right, Gerald?”
Gerald nodded in agreement.
You could just about see the memory wheels turning in the brothers’ heads as the smiles crept across their faces. Chatting with Donald and Gerald about the old days was always a treat.
“Pat” was their father, Patrick Regan, and “Uncle Jim” was James Duggan, their mom Julia’s oldest brother.
It might not look like much to you, but this somewhat crudely fashioned checkerboard has always been a treasured relic of my family history.
I grew up in a house full of family heirlooms. My mom liked to incorporate them into her overall decorative scheme. She framed her grandparents’ wedding certificate and put it on the wall amongst old family photographs and used her great-grandmother’s china pitcher as a vase for lilacs and lilies of the valley in the springtime. Mom also lulled us to sleep in the same rocking chair her grandmother once rocked my grandpa. Old stuff and family history were all around the place.
But the checkerboard always intrigued me. It was tucked discretely in the space between a tall radiator and the dining room wall. When I was young I assumed that my mom intentionally put it there to hide it from potential thieves and jealous relatives. In my mind, the checkerboard was an extremely valuable antique.
The checkerboard (we always called it “the checkerboard” but I suppose it could be a chessboard) belonged to my great-great-grandfather, Patrick Foley. Patrick died the year my grandma was born (1913), but she shared what she had heard about her grandpa.
Grandma didn’t have stories about her grandpa, as much as she recounted some random details of a man’s life that survived the generations. My grandma was proud to say that Patrick was able to read and write (a rarity among her grandparents). Patrick was educated in a hedge school in County Cork, Ireland. He came to the United States as a young man with his friend John Regan and settled in Fisherville, NH. When Bishop Ireland started his colonies in Minnesota, Patrick moved west, bought a farm, and raised his family in Tara Township. Patrick was known as “Grandpa Petey” (or P.T. for his initials). He was a prosperous farmer in Tara and eventually moved into a nice house in the nearby larger town of Benson, Minnesota.
I grew up in the 1970s, before the genealogy craze, Ancestry.com, and DNA matches, and was grateful for my grandma’s information, but I did want to learn more about Patrick. What did he do in Fisherville and where did he come from in Ireland? The checkerboard stirred my imagination and inspired me to learn more about my family history. I’ve visited Fisherville (Concord), New Hampshire and Kilmichael, County Cork and I have learned many more random details of Patrick Foley’s life. I guess it is my job to piece it all together and tell the story.
In case you are interested, here are the details of the checkerboard. Maybe you’ve seen something similar hidden in the nooks and crannies of your family home? Let me know!
The checkerboard measures about 20.5 inches (wide) by 19.5 inches (deep) and is about 3 inches thick. This is a substantial piece, I’d say it weighs nearly four pounds. Alternating stained and dark green painted squares create the playing surface (squares range in size 1.5 to 2 inches). In spite of these irregularities, I thought it was quite fancy because it was personalized. “Patrick Foley” is stenciled on one end and “Fisherville” on the other.
My grandma Agnes McMahon Regan graduated from Columbia Heights High School in 1930. She was the only one of the seven McMahon children to graduate. Her dad agreed to let her finish high school because she was smart and liked school and was just sixteen at the start of senior year (she skipped the second grade). Plus, he said she might as well stay in school since there were no jobs. After graduation, Agnes felt lucky to find part-time work in the office of an insurance broker, but she really wanted to get in at Sears. Her older sister Margaret worked at Sears and Agnes would go down to Chicago and Lake in Minneapolis once a week to check in with the Personnel Department about any job openings.
Grandma said her persistence paid off and Sears eventually hired her – temporarily at first, but she had her foot in the door. She stayed at Sears for the next ten years, until her first child was born.
On the weekends, Margaret and Agnes would often travel west to Benson, Minnesota to visit their older sister, Mary and her growing family of nieces. They would catch a ride with someone or hitchhike. Wonder whose car this was?
They say that one of the first steps to learning about your family history is to talk to your oldest living relatives. They actually knew the people behind the names in your family tree print-out. These relatives have stories to tell, memories to share.
Nearly ten years ago my mom and I set out to learn more about our family and arranged to meet two of my grandpa’s cousins – Donald and Gerald Regan. The brothers taught us much more than we thought possible about my grandpa, the entire Regan family, and growing up in Clontarf, Minnesota .
Donald passed away last month, one day shy of his 96th birthday. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, a proud Navy veteran of World War II, a successful businessman, and a former mayor of DeGraff, Minnesota. Donald was friendly, outgoing, and charming. He loved to be in the mix and hear the latest news. Donald’s brother Gerald said he inherited these traits from the “Regan side” of the family. I will miss Donald’s delightful gift for storytelling and am grateful I had the chance to listen.
Donald and his sister, Kathryn.
The first time I met Donald in early 2004*, he brought my mom and me on a driving tour of Tara Township. As we drove out from Clontarf, with what seemed to me to be an endless expanse of land on either side of the road, Donald began telling us who lived and farmed each section, beginning with the original nineteenth century settlers through the present-day owners. From the front seat, his brother Gerald filled in the gaps. I was in awe – I didn’t even know the names of the forty other residents of my condominium!
As we slowly rounded a corner, Donald pointed out a grove of trees set off from the road, and he stopped the car.
“Can you see a house in there? That’s where John was born. Let’s see if we can’t get closer.”
John was my grandpa and Donald’s first cousin. Donald and Gerald grew up across the railroad tracks from my grandpa in Clontarf. Donald took a sharp turn into the “driveway” – a muddy springtime mess of rocks and decaying twigs. I was certain we would get stuck, but Donald knew what he was doing. We got out of the car and walked up to the house. Donald made sure we didn’t get too close, it wasn’t safe. There was my grandpa’s birthplace, glass gone from the windows and walls gently caving in, but still standing thanks to that grove of trees.
Several years later, when Donald had moved into the Manor in Benson, he navigated his scooter down to the Whistle Stop Cafe to meet us for lunch, with the same purpose and confidence with which he drove up to Grandpa’s house that Spring day. I liked how Donald maintained his independence – with a touch of determination. Mom and I came to town a couple of times a year, meeting Donald and Gerald for lunch and a chat about “old times”. Without fail, Donald and Gerald dazzled us with entertaining tales of life in Clontarf.
At each meeting with the brothers, I waited patiently for Donald to break out his “Annie voice”. In a high-pitched tone he would say, “Oh, Sonny!” mimicking my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan’s chastising her son for some transgression or another. I simply loved how Donald scrunched up his nose and exclaimed this phrase with a twinkle in his eye. This meant the world to me, and I think Donald got a kick out of it as well.
Donald helped fill in the gaps in our family history left by my grandpa’s early passing. My mom and I were a captive audience as Donald and Gerald reminisced about old times. As Donald helped me get to know my grandpa through his memories, he gave me a special glimpse into his own life. The Donald who was a protective older brother to Kathryn, a boy earning a little extra money sweeping out the furnace at McDermott’s in Clontarf with his brother Gerald, and Julia’s youngest son. We were lucky that Donald was so generous with his memories, his time, and his friendship. Rest in peace, Donald.
*I am sure I met Donald in the 1980s at a Regan Family picnic, but I didn’t get to know him until Spring of 2004 when my mom and I first visited Clontarf together.
Donald W. Regan
September 14, 1917 – September 13, 2013
Donald W. Regan, 95 of Benson died Friday, September 13, 2013 at Meadow Lane Nursing Home in Benson. Mass of Christian burial will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, October 5, 2013 at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in DeGraff. Burial will be in the church cemetery. Visitation will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday at the church with a rosary at 4:30 p.m. Visitation will continue on Saturday for one hour prior to the service. Funeral arrangements are with the Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar.
Donald William Regan was born on September 14, 1917 in Clontarf, the son of Patrick and Julia (Duggan) Regan. He attended Clontarf Elementary and Benson High School, graduating in 1936. After his schooling he entered the U.S. Navy where he served his country during WWII. On December 27, 1945, Don was united in marriage to Margaret Helen Coy at the Catholic Church of Visitation in Danvers. They made their home in DeGraff where Don managed the DeGraff Lumber Company. They were able to share in 57 years of marriage before Margaret’s death on July 27,2002. Don enjoyed traveling, dancing, watching sports, especially Notre Dame football, Vikings and Twins. He was the Commander of the Hughes-McCormack Post of the American Legion until his death, was a member of Knights of Columbus and had served on the school board, city council and was mayor of DeGraff.
Donald W. Regan died Friday, September 13, 2013 at Meadow Lane Nursing Home in Benson at the age of 95. He is survived by his children, William Regan of Benson, Julia (Everett) Richardson of Surprise, AZ, Dr.Timothy (Michelle) Regan of Santa Rosa, CA, Patrick Regan of Mpls, Duggan (Cindy) Regan of DeGraff and Daniel Regan of Blaine; 7 grandchildren; 3 step-grandchildren and 6 step-great-grandchildren. Don was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret; son, Bruce; siblings, Clarence, Howard, Catherine, Agnes and Marjorie.