I've been reading the wonderful book about President Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin titled, A Team Of Rivals. Ms Goodwin is a Pulitzer prize winning author well known for her historical writing. This particular book looks closely at the cabinet members, (the rivals), during the Lincoln administration, one of whom was William H. Seward, a former governor of New York who lived in Auburn in that state, the place many of my Irish ancestors settled after arriving in America. While looking online at some articles about Mr. Seward I came across this description of a holding at the University of Rochester library--
Box 6 Jan 13, 1844, New York Weekly Tribune page 3, an address by the Irishmen of Auburn, New York, to Governor Seward with his reply."The Irishmen of Auburn", well that got my attention! I knew my McGarr ancestors were in Auburn by the early 1840's, well before my O'Horas arrived there during the famine, I needed to see this article and find out what those Irishmen were up to. I looked around the net and finally found the edition of January 13, but no article. I was getting a little discouraged but I did some wider searches and finally found it in the January 9 edition and also in the Auburn paper. I'm glad I persevered, it was a fascinating article. The so-called address to Governor Seward was actually a letter written to him dated December 19, 1843, the second signatory of which was John Magar.
In part, the letter mentioned, "patriotic zeal in and of a people long oppressed by tyranny, and who at this time loudly invoke the generous efforts of every man who has a heart to feel for the woes of others; for a country blighted by the withering hands of despotism which would otherwise compare with other nations of the earth...poor and lonely though she be, the time is at hand, we trust, when her spirited sons, aided by American liberality, and patriotism, will raise her to eminence... The letter closes with, "gratitude, respect, and esteem" from the signers as "Irishmen and Friends to Ireland".
It's not often I find such a personal connection to events, usually I find myself wondering what my ancestors thought of what was going on in their world but this pretty well spells it out. What, I wondered, had Governor Seward done to merit this appreciation? And who were these Irishmen, were they part of a political club? Auburn had an active branch of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the late 1850's, so it was reasonable to think there may have been earlier political groups.
But first, what was going on in Ireland in 1843? Why did the Irishmen of Auburn believe the time was near when Ireland would be raised to eminence? Because, 1843 was the year of Daniel O'Connell's monster meetings and agitation for repeal, with a goal of abolishing the Act Of Union passed in 1800 that made Ireland a part of England. Further research in newspapers showed Auburn had it's own Repeal Association which assembled at the town hall on the 25th day of November in 1843, (three weeks before the letter of appreciation to Seward), to accept from Governor Seward's hand a letter he had written, at their request, to Daniel O'Connell ... and my relative was a member ... I just love this stuff. You can read Seward's letter here if you're interested.
Now the question became, who was John Magar who signed the letter to Governor Seward? There were two in Auburn at that time, one is the man I strongly suspect was the brother of my third great-grandfather Daniel McGarr, the other was Daniel's cousin. It's going to be hard if not impossible to figure out which John signed the letter, but in the end I guess it really doesn't matter. They were both relatives of mine and I'm proud of what they were doing. It also amazes me that John was familiar with William H. Seward, governor and later secretary of state to President Lincoln. Genealogy never stops surprising me.