Anthony McManmon, wife Mary (McManamon) McManmon and family Bridget, Michael, Anthony and Margaret left Blacksod Bay on the 22nd June 1883 onboard the SS Waldensian bound for Boston, with an onward destination stated as St. Paul, Minnesota.
We thank Virginia Kuenster Yarbrough (great-great-granddaughter of Anthony and Mary McManmon) for kindly sharing their story.
The McManmons Leave Ireland
Virginia Kuenster Yarbrough – November 2015
At high tide on Friday morning, June 22nd in 1883, Anthony McManmon and his wife Mary McManamon McManmon waited with four of their six children (Bridget, Michael, Tony and Margaret) for the shore-boat that would carry them into Blacksod Bay in the west of Ireland to board the ship Waldensian, bound for America. With forty-eight other Belmullet area families, the McManmons had been selected to have their passage subsidized on this voyage by the Tuke Fund Committee in a program of assisted family emigration. Their two oldest sons, James and Patrick, had preceded them in April on the Phoenician, passage also subsidized by the Tuke Fund, with additional help from their grandmother, Maud Haggerty McManamon, whose recent death had allowed them to sell her family cows.
At the time, it was more than thirty years after the Great Famine, but bad harvests once again “foreboded distress. The rain was continuous, and Ireland was threatened with a double calamity, a potato famine and a peat famine: for the potato crop was a failure, and as there was no sun to dry the peat, a fuel famine seemed imminent.” James Tuke, a wealthy English Quaker who had advocated for the impoverished and starving inhabitants of Ireland in 1847, once again went into action, re-establishing his humanitarian Committee in 1882.
Tuke visited the West of Ireland to “concern himself once more with its welfare.” He found that tenants were still “trying to eke a living on holdings that were much too small to support a family,” and proposed a plan of assisted emigration. He traveled to North America seeking support and looking for country places where work could easily be obtained. In Minnesota he noted that “many a poor Irishman had found a home and an honourable future, under the Catholic Colonisation Association directed by the splendid energy of Bishop Ireland” whose parish priests “go with the people and enter into their interests. Schools and chapels are opened at once, and strict rules are enforced against the sale of spirits.”
Tuke’s committee decided to focus its efforts on the poorest areas, Clifton in County Galway, Newport and Belmullet in County Mayo. They interviewed and selected only the “strongest and the brightest” as emigrants. In addition to bearing most of the cost of passage, the Committee provided travelers with tickets to their final destination, clothing when necessary, and ‘landing money’ to assist in their relocation. The
committee engaged ships from the reputable ‘Allan’ line which provided passengers with blankets and mattresses for the voyage.
After being chosen for Tuke’s final emigrant group of the year, the McManmon family spent two weeks settling affairs in their tiny townland of Tallaghanduff. They said good-bye to neighbors and friends with “little hope that they would ever see each other again,” and spent their last Thursday night at lodgings in Belmullet. Next morning, they climbed into a skiff that ferried them to a larger boat for transport to the waiting Waldensian. Their two pieces of luggage followed. Once aboard, after an interview with the ship’s doctor, the emigrant passengers climbed ‘below decks,’ Anthony and the boys going to the forward compartment with the men, Mary and Bridget staying ‘amid-ships’ with most of the women and infants. Only seven-year old Margaret was assigned ‘aft.’
The Waldensian was headed for Boston. Originating in Glasgow where it had boarded about 70 Scottish passengers, the ship stopped first up north in County Donegal at Moville before arriving at Blacksod Bay, and would be making one more stop, in Galway, before steaming across the Atlantic. The 517 passengers who would land in Boston two weeks later included 198 souls hailing from areas around Belmullet, and a baby girl born to James and Mary Lynch about 200 miles off the Irish coast. On this voyage, the McManmons were the only passengers traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota.
In a June 1883 letter to the Times of London, James Tuke had written: “This may undoubtedly be said, that no emigrants have left their homes in Ireland under happier auspices, with less risk of failure, or with better chances of success. Well clothed, and conveyed from their door to the port of embarkation, where they are met and have lodgings and food provided by the agents of the Government and the Committee, until the ocean steamers are ready to convey them to their destinations; provided with free passages and railway tickets to any part of Canada or the United States that they may select and are approved by the Committee; and, on landing, met by agents appointed by the English or Canadian Governments, the emigrant feels that he is cared for, and that friendly hands have been stretched out to aid and succour him.”
On Independence Day (July 4th) 1883, the Waldensian steamed into Boston harbor. Agent Fitzgerald of the Tuke Fund was on board to dispense family travel allotments (in general, 1₤ per emigrant) and to facilitate the travelers’ onward journey, which in the case of the McManmons meant a four-day overland journey by rail. Soon they would take a westbound train from Boston to Albany (New York), change to a long-distance train that traveled along Lake Erie, through Cleveland (Ohio) and Fort Wayne (Indiana) to Chicago (Illinois), and once again change trains, traveling twelve more hours west through Wisconsin and north to Minnesota. It would seem like an eternity, but the family finally reached its destination.
About a month after the McManmons arrived, Bishop Ireland wrote to Mr. Tuke:
St. Paul, Minnesota
August 12th, 1883
Dear Sir, Your last batch of emigrants arrived in due time in St. Paul, and are now earning their own living. All your emigrants sent to Minnesota are, without a single exception, doing well. Beyond a little trouble given after their arrival they are no burden to us. Next Spring we will be ready for fresh installments if you continue in the good work. I will furnish you lists of places in Minnesota to which families may be sent. . .
I have on several occasions had the opportunity to give to the Press my opinions of your work, and I have always – and happily with good effect – asserted that the “Tuke Emigrants” were in all cases selected with care, and are, by their industry and physical strength, of great value to our country. In making these statements I spoke the simple truth. Permit me to congratulate you on the good you have done to so many poor families.
Very respectfully, John Ireland
Unfortunately, Anthony (1836-1893) would not stay. A fisherman by occupation, he became convinced that it would be impossible for him to live so far from the sea and soon departed St. Paul hoping to return home. His wife Mary (1834-1919) worked to keep the family together. Twenty-three year old Bridget took a job as laundress at St. Paul’s Merchants Hotel. The older boys, James and Patrick, rejoined the family from their sojourn in the Pennsylvania coal mines. The younger boys, Michael and Tony, found employment where they could. By 1888, with everyone pitching in, Mary was able to open her first boarding house in the ‘Connemara Patch,’ a neighborhood of humble cottages (“miserable shanties,” according to the newspapers), that lined a foul-smelling creek leading to the Mississippi River mud flats. Six years later in 1894, she moved the successful family business into a neat, red brick house near the Union train station, feeding many a hungry laborer with homemade meals and her famous lemon meringue pie. This is a family photograph of the resilient Mary McManamon McManmon.
A later historian noted that “In November 1888, after the emigrants had been settled some five years in their new home, Father Martin Mahoney, who had helped with the assisted emigration program, had traveled with the emigrants aboard ship, and had himself settled in Minnesota, addressed to Tuke a full report of how they were faring, together with a detailed account of visits to the homes of many of them. The report was little short of a triumphal song; it described the emigrants as busy, prosperous, well fed, and almost, as wealthy.”
At the turn of the twentieth century, Mary’s oldest son (my mother’s grandfather) James (1862-1927) was a family man with four children, working as a freight elevator operator. His brothers never married. Patrick (1864-1927), employed by the Great Northern and other railroads, would eventually make his home in the Alaska Territory until his accidental death on a train trestle. Michael (1866-1924) became a conductor for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad whose routes featured spectacular scenery, traveling through the mountainous mining country of Colorado to Nevada’s exotic salt flats. Tony (1868-1938), a plumber, spent much of his life in Chicago but traveled widely, working on large projects as far away as Bermuda. Older sister Bridget (1860-1931), reportedly a ‘dear woman with a thick Irish brogue’ and loved by all, married happily but remained childless. Younger sister Margaret (1875-1960) married early and divorced soon, raising her daughter as a single mother at a time when that was almost a disgrace. Both ‘Bridy’ and ‘Maggie’ continued to work with Mary at the family boarding house until 1915 when rail lines, expanding into their neighborhood, forced its closure.
Maggie’s daughter (Marie Kneasey Bonner) had three girls whose descendants still live near St. Paul. Of James’ four children, only John and Catherine McManmon Murphy had children. Catherine’s daughter and grandchildren live in Illinois. Two of John’s six children live in St. Paul: Eleanor McManmon Daly (1925 – ) and Elizabeth McManmon who became Sr. Mary Lenore McManmon CSJ (1920 – ) in the order of St. Joseph of Carondelet, which had been joined earlier by Bishop Ireland’s sister. John’s daughter (my mother) Helen McManmon Kuenster (1917 – ) lives in Oak Park, Illinois.
John Thomas McManmon (1891-1966), my grandfather, became a very successful business man. As chief freight claims agent for Great Northern Railroad, he always dressed impeccably. He was a true advocate for education and his children excelled in their studies. At a time when women in the workplace were rare, every one of his five daughters enjoyed a career (as executive secretary, registered dietitian, diocesan teacher, college librarian and physical therapist). His only son, John T. McManmon Jr., became a mechanical engineer for 3M Corporation in St. Paul. John Sr. was the beloved grandfather of twenty-four, three of whom bear the McManmon name.
John T. McManmon is pictured here in 1917 with his grandmother Mary McManamon McManmon, his father James (both formerly of County Mayo), and his daughter Marguerite.
During the “Gathering” in 2013, some of our family visited Ireland and, through Mayo North Family Heritage Centre in Ballina, learned of the humanitarian efforts of James Hack Tuke, a truly remarkable man. Most of the family is now aware of our great good fortune to have been beneficiaries of Mr. Tuke’s work.
We are grateful for the historical investigations of Rosemarie Geraghty, for the establishment of the Blacksod Bay Emigration website and Memorial Garden, and to the people of North West County Mayo for their continuing efforts to reestablish long-lost family connections.
“The best fireplace is your own fireplace.”
McManmon descendants Ginny and Maureen visit Ireland July 2013
We offer all of you our many sincere thanks.
Fry, Edward, “James Hack Tuke, A Memoir” (London, 1899)
Nolan, Rita, “Within the Mullet” (Ireland, 1997)
Tuke, James H., “A Visit to Connaught in the Autumn of 1847” (London, 1848)