Saturday, July 30, 2016

Myles Keogh And Grandather

Myles Walter Keogh

     I love history, I think alot of genealogists do.  I will read just about anything that deals with the story of humankind; most especially if that story concerns Irish humankind.  Awhile ago my wonderful cousin on the opposite coast, the one who sends me books, sent me one about Custer's last stand on the banks of the Little Bighorn in eastern Montana Territory.  It's such an interesting topic, made more so to me by the presence at the battle of Myles W. Keogh.  What does Myles have to do with my family history?  More than I would have thought.  Myles was born in 1840  at Orchard, Leighlinbridge in County Carlow about 20 miles from where my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora was born at Ricketstown, it's probably not in Ireland however that their paths may have crossed.  

     Myles would have been thirteen years younger than my grandfather, and from a much more prominent family.  Myles attended college while Grandfather was recorded in early US censuses as illiterate and signed his naturalization papers with an X, though he did at some point learn to read and write.  While Myles became a soldier of fortune, serving with the Irish Battalion of St. Patrick and with the Papal forces of Pope Pius IX, James came to America, settling in Aurelius, New York near Auburn.  As James was leading a quiet agricultural life and raising a family, Myles was fighting the forces of Garabaldi in Italy where he was awarded several Papal medals.

     Myles so loved military life that he also traveled to America,  fighting for the Union during the Civil War in a cavalry unit.  While in the army, he made the acquaintance of  General Emory Upton and the two became close friends.  In 1867 Myles traveled to Owasco, New York to serve as best man when the General married Emily Martin of the wealthy Martin family  at their estate, Willowbrook.  It's here, many miles from County Carlow, where paths might possibly have crossed.  James O'Hora was then leasing a farm from the Martin family there in Owasco very near the estate.  While I'm sure James was not invited to the wedding, or any other events at Willowbrook for that matter, Myles was a popular guest of the Martin family and visited many times over the years.  There is even speculation that the incredibly handsome Myles and one of the Martin daughters were in love, a romance made impossible by his Catholicism.

                      Andrew R. Pulsipher
     The story of Myles Keogh of course does not end well, but on the grassy plains of Montana Territory.  He and General Custer were the only two soldiers whose bodies were not mutilated that day, supposedly because of the Papal medals he still wore.  It's said that when Sitting Bull was killed years later, he was wearing one of those medals. After Myles' death he was buried on the battlefield with the others-- the only survivor of the fight was his horse Comanche.  His body did not remain in that lonely, windswept grave for long.  His friends, the Martin family, had his remains shipped to Auburn where he rests in their own family plot at Fort Hill Cemetery.  It's somehow fitting Myles is buried in a cemetery with a military sounding name though it is not a military cemetery.  His sister Ellen in Ireland was reportedly horrified that her brother's final resting place was not a Catholic burial ground.  To appease her, the Martins had a cross placed on his grave.

     So, did Grandfather ever meet Myles Keogh?  It's sort of doubtful, but certainly not outside the realm of possibility.  Perhaps on the road or if Grandfather had cause to visit the grounds of Willowbrook as an employee at some point.  One of those questions that will probably never be answered, but intriguing to think about.

     There is a short You Tube video about Myles here.



  1. Fascinating possibilities! I love looking at things from this perspective of knowing an ancestor was part of history and crossed paths with those whose history is well known and recorded. Wonderful post.