Sunday, March 3, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday/How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down On the Farm After They've Seen Tralee

   George Gunn, the brother of my second great grandmother Mary Elizabeth, was christened on a spring day in 1854 in the Catholic chapel of Listowel, County Kerry.  He was the first child of John Gunn and his wife Margaret Browne, residents of Ballygologue, a small townland just outside Listowel.   Not much is known about George’s early years.  His first mention in official records after his baptism came at the age of 25 and was a record of his arrest in Tralee in 1879… and another in1880 and 1887 and 1888.  The charge in 1888 was drunk and disorderly compounded by an assault on Constable Doyle Green.

     Around that time, perhaps with some encouragement from local authorities, George decided it was time to pull up stakes and head for America where his sister Mary was living.  In 1890 George traveled the 84 miles to Queenstown where on the afternoon of May 15th, the Steamer City of Berlin sailed for New York with George aboard.  It seems however, a cloud followed George.  Even the ship got into trouble, being boarded by five special treasury agents looking for smuggled goods upon its arrival in New York on the 28th.  None were found by the way. I know this because I read it in the NY Times and you know what they say, it must be true.  They have a free searchable archive commencing with the year1851:  (When looking for ship information try the search term “Marine Intelligence” with a date and ship name if known.)

    By 1892 George was living in Macedon, New York, a small upstate community on the Erie Canal, probably working on one of the local farms.  His sister lived just a few miles away, with her husband and children.  I’ve found no evidence of misbehavior during George’s time in America, but as we shall see, he clearly was not walking the straight and narrow.  

Palmyra Aqueduct
     One August night in 1892 George had been out on the town and as was his wont, he wanted to drink.  Later that evening he started for home, taking a shortcut along the canal tow-path.  At some point George apparently lost his footing and he fell or staggered into the canal.  His body was found the next morning floating near the aqueduct just outside Palmyra, a small village that adjoins Macedon.  

 His Obituary read:
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 8-15-1892
Palmyra, Aug. 14.-The body of George Gunn was found floating in the Erie Canal early this morning near this place. Gunn was in Palmyra late Saturday evening and the supposition is that he had been drinking and while on his way to Macedon by tow-path he fell into the canal and met his death by drowning.  He was last seen with a companion named Smith on Main Street about 9 o'clock. The body was taken to the undertaking rooms and Coroner Chase notified, and he will hold an inquest to-morrow. Gunn was a laborer and came to this country from Ireland two years ago.

     Georges sister Mary claimed her brothers body and arranged his Mass and burial.  At least she tried to.  The local priest deemed George undeserving of a Catholic burial, apparently he was familiar with Georges shenanigans.  Mary had her brother buried just outside consecrated ground and she and perhaps his brother Francis, who had arrived in America in 1885, erected a headstone for him, she even planted lilies under it.  So ended the short somewhat sad life of George Gunn of Ballygologue.  RIP Uncle George.

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