Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Tipperary Family Part 5

     By the summer of 1860 the Ryans had all arrived in America, (except probably Michael).  For the most part they prospered.  Andrew purchased a farm in Perinton, NY on a lane now named Ryan Road, after him.  Anna's husband James White purchased a farm in Manchester, NY and shortly after, the widow Mary Ryan Sheehan bought a small one next door, bringing her aged parents Cornelius and Alice with her.  In January of 1877 the invalid Cornelius passed away at her farm.

     Sarah Ryan married a widower named William Slattery in Palmyra in 1864, becoming stepmother to 3 year old Timothy Slattery.  Little Timothy lost another mother in 1867 when Sarah passed away at the age of 29; William Slattery never remarried.  Ellen Ryan married Edward Maher and several years later moved to Ohio where Edward worked for the railroad.  Ellen died in the summer of 1877 of "child-bed fever", leaving 3 children motherless.

     The youngest of the Ryans, Cornelius Jr. did not become a farmer like most of his family.  Cornelius had more opportunities since he was able to read and write.  He became a shoemaker in one of the 2 shoe shops in Palmyra.  Cornelius married Anne Hennessey and they had a son named Oliver.  Tragically, one month after his sister Ellen died in Ohio, Cornelius Jr. also died and 6 short months later, his wife Anne passed away.  Eight year old Oliver was taken in by Anne's brother Edward and raised with his own children.  Oliver was embraced by the Ryan family also, in 1920 we find a news article describing the fifth reunion of the descendants of Andrew and Cornelius Ryan held that year at Oliver's farm in Farmington, NY.

     It is interesting to note that the Ryan children who attained the greatest age were Andrew, Anna and Mary, all of whom were older when the famine struck Ireland.  One possible conclusion is that their younger siblings were not as well nourished in their formative years and their life spans were shortened as a result.  Andrew died at his home in Perinton of typhoid fever in 1888 at the age of 61, Mary Ryan Sheehan passed away in 1891 at a local hospital of pneumonia when she was 62.  Anna achieved the remarkable age of 90, dying at the farm home of her son Thomas White in 1921 of a paralyzed colon.

     Whenever I write about the members of one of my family lines, I am fascinated by them all, but there is always one person I find myself most drawn to. As I wrote this short story of the Tipperary relatives, it was Alice O’Dwyer who pulled at my heart.

     Ally O’Dwyer suffered tremendous loss in her lifetime.  We have all heard stories of English oppression, the famine and coming to America, heard them so often that the pathos often escapes us.  Seldom do we stop and think of the shattered lives, of the truly awful, heartbreaking times they somehow lived through.  While the stories of her sons John and Michael Ryan have yet to be discovered, they don’t seem to have been part of her later life.  Ally lived through a harrowing famine, watched her children depart for America, was herself driven from her home and country, was widowed and of her six remaining children, incredibly only two, Mary and Anna, survived her, Mary by only a year.  In that awful summer of 1877, Ally lost two of her adult children after already having been widowed in January!

     She was only a few years older than me when she arrived on America’s shores.  Starting over at her children’s ages was one thing, but for a woman approaching her 60th birthday to leave her tiny mountain community and arrive in Manhattan must have been overwhelming.  I don’t know how well I would have handled it, yet she persevered for ninety years, and her story was not unique; her daughter Anna White buried four children!   How did they survive in the face of such tragedy?  Was it their faith or that wonderful Irish trait of sheer stubbornness?  We can only speculate, but I think they must have been remarkably courageous women and men.

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