Sunday, November 1, 2015

Black Sheep Sunday/They Really Didn't Like Us Much

Gilman Bigelow Howe

     Check out the snooty looking fellow above.  He didn't much care for Irish Catholics.  Sure and he wasn't alone, there is a long history of such bigotry in America which after all, was settled primarily by the English.  Since colonial times there has been a strong bias against Catholicism culminating with the Know Nothing Party of the 1850's.  It didn't end there of course, but over the intervening years has slowly diminished.  Historian Arthur Schlesinger termed prejudice against Catholics, "the deepest bias in the history of the American people."  In 1925 the "cartoon" below featuring the KKK appeared.  That's right, even the Klan didn't like us.

     But back to Gilman-- in 1890 he published a genealogy of the Bigelow family which can be found online at Google Books.  The only reason I'm interested in the Bigelows is that George N. Bigelow Jr's wife was one Bridget from Ireland.  They had two sons, and then divorced.  Bridget Bigelow is buried in the family plot of Darby Hogan in Palmyra, NY along with my 3rd great-grandfather Cornelius Ryan and his son Cornelius Jr.  I'd like very much to know Bridget's maiden name, so yesterday I was searching all over the net to see if I could locate it.  I can just go down to the parish and check the records, I live about two miles from Palmyra, but I work and their hours are limited so I thought I'd try the net first.

     I searched Gilman's book and found George, but all it said was he "married in Palmyra".

     Just about every other entry in this lengthy book gives the name of the subject's bride or husband, except in this case.  It wouldn't have been difficult to find her name, they married in 1863 less than thirty years before the book was written, not in the distant past.  I believe she was excluded due to who she was.  I did have a laugh at Gilman's expense, George Jr. was not a photographer, his and Bridget's son George (4133) was.  In fact George Jr. must have been a huge disappointment to his Yale educated father, who was a doctor.  George Jr. was listed as a "gardener" in one census" and a "stone cutter" in the next.  And he married an Irish immigrant who was Roman Catholic to boot, talk about black sheep!

     Another case I found was that of Timothy E. McGarr, a distant cousin who despite being orphaned at age thirteen rose to become secretary to United States Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York, and later the secretary of New York State's Department of Mental Hygiene and in the process became a wealthy man.  He was listed in "The Albany and Troy Society Blue Book: Elite Family Directory" in 1917.  Still, his protestant father-in-law despised him for his Catholic faith.

     While there are still pockets of intense anti-Catholicism today, for the most part those sentiments are a thing of the past, though not long past.  Pope Francis' overwhelming welcome to these shores was welcome proof of that. 



  1. It's always been interesting to me that people came to America and wanted freedom to choose and yet they didn't always want to give that same privilege to others.