Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday/McGarr Alabama


     After finding so much new information in the recently released Irish Catholic registers, I've been re-reading my McGarr files, hoping that some of the data I've gathered over the years will now make more sense.  I've also been looking at Ancestry's online McGarr family trees and finding some pretty ridiculous stuff.  Catherine McGarr was the daughter of John McGarr from County Carlow, and his wife Mary Kelly.  Catherine married another McGarr, William Lannes McGarr from Wicklow, to be exact.  The online tree submitters are really thrown by her marrying a fellow McGarr, and they have come up with some astonishing scenarios, I'll show you one tomorrow.

   Catherine and William grew up in Auburn, NY, but spent most of their married life in Alabama, where William was a Superintendent and Road Master for the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad.  Just before William's retirement they moved to Pennsylvania where he became Road Master for the Beach Creek Railroad in Lock Haven.

     They had three children, none of whom would survive childhood.  In the 1900 census it's spelled out; mother of how many children--3, number living--0. The 1870 census of Shelby County Alabama lists a one year old baby named Robert in their household, but by 1880 he is gone.  I checked Find A Grave in Shelby County for Robert, and found him in Leach Cemetery, he died a short time after the census was taken at only two years old, on 5 April 1871.  His full name was Robert Emmet, after the great Irish patriot.  It occurred to me then, another of Catherine and William's children just might be buried there, so I did a search of Leach Cemetery.  What I found made my heart drop, then break.  All the McGarr children died that April.  The only name I had known was Robert's from the 1870 census, but now I found William age 3 who died 8 April, and Mary Estelle who died 25 April at 7 months, all engraved on the same monument.  I'm not sure why William Jr. is not listed in the 1870 census, but it wouldn't be the first time I've seen a name omitted.

     I'm at a loss as to what took all three of them in just twenty days, yellow fever, cholera, diphtheria?  All were common back then, two years after their deaths a full blown yellow fever epidemic ravaged Shelby County.  The McGarrs had no more children after this loss, and who could blame them?  Catherine was only 26 when she lost her babies and her mother had passed just two years earlier. It's hard to fathom how she got through a tragedy of such magnitude, and I'm sure there were days when she wondered herself.

     By 1890 she and William were back in Auburn, living in his family's old homestead which he had purchased and renovated.  Catherine was active in the church, and an article I found (and have now managed to lose) spoke warmly of her comforting families of railroad workers who had died in accidents during her husband's tenure.  Somehow she and William got through their horrible loss, bless them both.

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