Endurance: Irish Immigrant Phebe Monaghan Irvine (1832-1908)

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” ~ W. B. Yeats

It being St. Patrick’s Day, this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “luck of the Irish.” As it happens, I haven’t found Irish born ancestors in my pedigree. The closest relation I’ve come across is the wife of my 2nd great grand uncle, Tellsford Irvine (1827-1859). Her name was Phebe Monaghan, and her life wasn’t filled with much luck. The Irish, as we know, are about as unlucky as a race can be, and Phebe’s life fit the pattern.

Phoebe was born in 1832, in Ireland. Her father was Charles Monaghan. He 40 years old at the time of her birth. Phoebe was the third of four children. Her older siblings, twins Jane and John, were 2 years old when she was born. Her brother, Charles, was born the year after Phebe. I don’t know what part of Ireland the Monaghans came from, but Charles identified himself as a farmer, so perhaps they came from a rural area.

Passenger list - ship Metoka - 1842

Passenger list – ship Metoka – 1842 (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Charles Monaghan immigrated to the United States the summer of 1842 with his four children. Presumably, the children’s mother had died. Like many Irish Catholics of that time, it was probably to escape persecution and poverty that Charles made the voyage across the ocean with his young children. They sailed aboard the ship Metoka, their belongings held in just 3 boxes. The Monaghan family, along with 771 other passengers, arrived in New York harbor on Thursday, August 11, 1842.

Where the family located immediately upon arrival is uncertain. Being rural folk, they may decided to leave the big city and travel west via the Erie Canal. 7 years after their arrival in New York, Phebe is found in the 1849 Rochester City Directory living at 14 North Saint Paul Avenue working as a domestic. She was 17 years old. While there are 6 other Monaghans listed in the 1849 directory, her father and siblings are not among them. But it’s likely that these other Monaghans were related to Phebe in some way; I cannot imagine Phebe being alone in a city at that age.

Upper Falls in 1865

Photo Credit: “From the collection of the Rochester City Hall Photo Lab” (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

On November 14, 1849, Phebe escaped the servant’s life and married 22 year old Tellsford Irvine. Tellsford was a Canadian Catholic of Scots-French descent. He was a blacksmith by trade and found work with with the Rochester & Southern Railroad. Tellsford and Phebe made their home in the city’s 2nd ward, west of the Genesee River and east of the Erie Canal, not far from the Upper Falls.



The year after their marriage, Phebe gave birth to a son, William, named for Tellsford’s father. Sadly, little William did not survive; he died October 21, 1850, and was buried at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. In 1852, the couple welcomed another son, Charles.

Susan_B_Anthony_c1855Tellsford and Phebe lived during an interesting time in the history of Rochester. The population was near 40,000 people, making it the 21st largest city in the nation. Industry in the city was growing and the University of Rochester was founded. In the years leading up to the Civil War, Rochester became a hub for the abolitionist movement with leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony making important speeches. Rochester was a significant stopping point in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves heading to Canada for freedom.

Before the War broke out, Phebe lost her husband. Tellsford died April 12, 1859. He was just 31 years old. How he died is not yet known; perhaps a railroad accident? Phebe was made a widow at age 27 and left with not only a 7 year old son to support, but the couple had taken in Phebe’s 5 year old niece and namesake, Phebe Smith. Presumably, the daughter of her sister, Jane. What happened to Jane and her husband that their daughter (and, as will be seen later, a son as well) was left an orphan?

It appears that Phebe’s younger brother, Charles, came to the young widow’s aid. The 1860 U. S. Census shows Phebe working as a seamstress and Charles as a machinist. I’ve seen many men listed on the 1860 Census working as machinists who were employed with the railroads, so though Charles’ employer is not  named, it’s a safe bet that he, too, worked with the railroad. They were big employers at that time. Of note on the census is that Phebe owned the home they lived in. Sadly, it was of little value ($1200) compared to the homes of neighbors on either side of her ($6000 and $8000).

1860 Census
The location of her home in 1860 may be at the same address where Phebe is found listed in the 1863 Rochester City Directory: 49 Jay Street. If so, Phebe was to live on Jay Street for the next 49 years.

On November 11, 1864, tragedy again struck Phebe’s life — her 12 year old son Charles, died. The loss of her mother … he firstborn … her sister … her husband … and then her only surviving child. How did she endure? In the months to come, the rest of the nation would also mourn, as President Lincoln was assassinated in April, 1865. About the same time there was devastating flood in Rochester, bringing even more disaster close to home for Phebe.

1865 Flood on State St.

Photo Credit: “From the collection of the Rochester City Hall Photo Lab”

Phebe may have received some comfort when her father, Charles, came to live with her. The 1865 NY Census lists the 74 year old Charles living with Phebe. This 1865 Census is the only record I’ve found for Charles Monaghan beyond his name on the 1842 Metoka passenger list. Curiously, 11 year old Phebe Smith is not with them on the 1865 Census. The enumerator may simply have missed the child, as on every census record afterward, Phebe Smith is listed living with her Aunt Phebe.

Phebe’s neighbors on Jay Street included many immigrant families, and that didn’t change over the years. By the time of the 1870 U.S. Census, Charles Monaghan may have died, for Phebe and her niece are living alone on Jay Street. The value of her home had dropped to $200, a mere 10% the value of her neighbor’s homes. Though Phebe (age 40) is listed as “keeping house,” city directories and later census records continue to show her working as a seamstress or tailoress. At the time of the 1870 Census, Phebe’s brother-in-law, Arthur Irvine, was also living in Rochester, along with his wife Belle and infant son Charles. It’s good to think that with the loss of so many loved ones, Phebe had some family living in Rochester … at least for a while. (Arthur later moved to McKean County, PA)

1904 map of Rochester

1904 map of Rochester – Location of Phebe’s home on Jay Street marked in red.

Phebe never remarried. She was a widow for almost 50 years. Her niece, Phebe Smith, remained living with her and she never married. Both women worked as seamstresses. Though many seamstresses listed their services in the city directory, Phebe did not. Yet, somehow, eventually she was able to purchase a home of greater value, also on Jay Street (see the 1900 U. S. Census). It was a two-family home and she rented out one side. In 1894, she had the deed for the property re-written to include her niece.

Phebe watched the world change around her as a result of the industrial revolution. In her lifetime, she saw Rochester grow from a frontier town to thriving city. The modern world intruded nearly to her doorstep when the city installed a street car line right down the middle of Jay Street, stopping just at the end of her block. The 1890 photo below shows employees of the Rochester Railway Company posing with street car #123. A sign indicates the car ran along the New York Central Station, Allen, Jay and St. Joseph Street line. Did the 68 year old Phebe ride the street car? Probably so!

1890 Street Car

Photo Credit: Rochester Public Library Local History Division

Another archival photo provides a view of Jay Street as it looked in 1900. The street car track ran down the center of the street, but it stopped just a block short of Phebe’s home.

Street Car Track on Jay Street

Photo Credit: “From the collection of the Rochester City Hall Photo Lab”

Phebe died at age 75 on October 6, 1908. She was laid to rest with her husband and two sons at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. Phebe Smith remained living in the house on Jay Street, eventually joined by her brother Thomas. She lived there until her death in 1932.

The Entrance to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester, N.Y.

Photo Credit: “From the collection of the Rochester City Hall Photo Lab”

Reflecting on Phebe’s life, a word which comes to mind is endurance. She went through so much: the loss of her mother, her homeland, her sister, her husband, her children. My hope is that she found peace in life, despite so much sorrow, through her Catholic faith. Perhaps the famed Irish poet, Thomas Moore, expressed the faith Phebe held in this poem.

Is it not sweet to think hereafter


Stormy Weather for Abraham Rice (1697-1777)

Site Admin:

With the 52 Ancestors Week 10 theme being “stormy weather,” I could think of nothing better than to re-post the story of Abraham Rice!

Originally posted on Rememberal:

Abraham Corent Rice gravestone

Poor Abraham suffered a bizarre end: he and a neighbor, Mr. John Cloyes, were struck and killed by lightning during a very short thunder squall on 3 Jun 1777.

An account of the event appears in A History of Framingham, Massachusetts: Including the Plantation, from 1640 to the Present Time (1847):

The following particulars were taken by the author from Mr. Josiah Clayes, now living, who was son of one of the victims, and a spectator of the scene. Mr. Laban Wheaton was at the time preaching in the first Parish, and had employed Mr. John Clayes, (who lived in a house a few rods E. of the one now occupied by his son Josiah), to try a horse he had proposed to buy. On the day above mentioned, a little after noon, the neighbors assembled at Mr. Clayes’ house to see the animal, viz…

View original 510 more words

John Benton Hoover: School teacher, Fifer, Railwayman & Oil Company Superintendant

My Hoover ancestors of Pennsylvania are something of a mystery, in that I have not been able to trace them back further than my 4th great grandparents. The name Hoover is Dutch in origin and a lot of Hoover’s can be found in Pennsylvania … the Pennsylvania Dutch.

John Benton Hoover, my maternal 3rd great grandfather, was born in Cambria County, PA, on October 6, 1824, the 8th child of John Hoover and Elizabeth Benton. John and Elizabeth had a large family of four boys and four girls. The family was Catholic, as verified in the marriage record of John and Elizabeth on May 13, 1810, at St. Paul’s Mission Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Goshenhoppen in Berks County, PA.

John grew up in Cambria County, went to school and became a school teacher. He married Elizabeth Plummer on December 28, 1846. This comes from a family Bible transcribed and passed on to my mother. When the Mexican-American War erupted, John was only just married and a young man of 22 years. He enlisted with the 2nd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, and served as fife major for a period of over a year. In May 1847 he was transferred to the regimental staff as principal musician. While in service, he took ill when the army was in Mexico City.

John B Hoover - Service record 1 John B Hoover service record 2

Returning from the War, John and Elizabeth began a family. Elizabeth bore 4 children.

  • Elisha J. Hoover, born Jan. 20, 1850 in in Ebensburg, Cambria County, PA
  • Mary Augusta Hoover, born Sep. 3, 1851 in Virginia
  • John B. Hoover, born May 21, 1853 (he died at age 2)
  • Katherine A. Hoover, born Aug. 12, 1855 in Parkersburg, Wood County, WV

The family is found on the 1860 U. S. Census living in Freeport, Armstrong County, PA. It appears that John’s occupation is listed as “grocer,” though this does not jive with details of his obituary. Note that little John B. is not listed, as he died in 1855.

1860 Census Freeport Armstrong County PA

Within the next year or two, Elizabeth passed away. Like most men left widowers with young children, John found himself another wife. Thus, on April 21, 1863, he married Sarah Margaret Scott, 21 years his junior. With Sarah, John had four more children.

  • James V. Hoover, born Aug. 31, 1865 in Pennsylvania
  • Sarah “Sadie” Hoover, born abt 1869 in Pennsylvania
  • Rose Hoover, born Jul. 15, 1870 in Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Mae Hoover, born May 1, 1873 in Butler, Butler County, PA

For most of his life, John worked in the railroad industry. On the 1870 U. S. Census, he was recorded with the occupation “contractor – rail road” and the family was living in Summit, Somerset County, PA.

1870 Census Summit Somerset County PA

By the time of the 1880 U. S. Census, John and Sarah had settled in McKean County, PA, where they would remain for the rest of their lives. John was employed as a supervisor of an oil lease. Living with the family at the time was young Henry A. Snyder, who would late marry John’s daughter Kate. (They would become my 2nd great grandparents.)

1880 Census Eldred McKean County PA

Because the 1890 U. S. Census was destroyed, the next public record found for John B. Hoover is the 1900 U. S. Census. He and his oldest son, Elisha, were living with Kate and her husband Henry Snyder in Keating Township, McKean County, PA. Where was John’s wife, Sarah? That remains a mystery. She was certainly still alive. Perhaps she was away visiting one of her children.

190 Census Keating McKean County PA

The year 1910 was a very sad one for the Hoover family. First, John died in February. Then, Kate died in May. (Click on the images to enlarge for easier reading.)

John Benton Hoover obituary Kate Hoover Snyder obit

John Benton Hoover was laid to rest at St. Elizabeth’s Cemetery in Smethport, McKean County, PA.

Findagrave photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas

Findagrave photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas

Sarah Hoover survived her husband 7 years, collecting John’s military pension.

Sarah Hoover widows pension
It was the Hoover-Snyder family which passed on the Catholic faith in my family. I can’t help but find it an interesting piece of circumstance that this one family line, of the hundreds of generations on both sides of my pedigree, were those who passed on to me a faith which I cherish. For John B. Hoover, I offer up this prayer with a full heart …

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.


Songstress, composer, poetess and “Spartan Woman” : Helen A. Harris

It happens to all family historians at some point during their research: you come across a collateral relative (i.e. not a direct ancestor) whose life captures your imagination. You find that you just MUST tell this person’s story! And when there are no descendants of this person, all the more reason to memorialize them.

Helen Amanda Harris Deming, my paternal 2nd great grand-aunt, is a woman who deserves to be remembered.

“Mrs. D’s portrait to be seen at Brainard’s is a fine specimen of art, and is said to be a correct likeness.” – The Daily Cleveland Herald (October 2, 1855)

Helen was born on September 10, 1829, in Rochester, Monroe County, New York. She was the second child of Sluman W. Harris (b. 1800 in Otsego County, NY – d. 1874 in Cleveland, OH) and Mary W. “Polly” Histed (b. 1804 in Cayuga County, NY – d. 1860 in Rochester, NY).

Sluman Harris moved from Otsego County to the western New York frontier with his father, Daniel Harris, in 1816. The Harris family was among a handful of pioneer settlers in what was originally known as Rochesterville. His wife, Polly, was the daughter of Capt. John A. Histed, a veteran of the War of 1812. The Harris family inhabited a log cabin and farmed in the area that is now the Mount Hope Cemetery. (Read here an interesting article about Nancy Harris Quackenbush, Sluman’s sister.)

Sluman and Polly had a small family: just one son and two daughters. Helen was the middle child, 3 years younger than her brother, Wilna, and 2 years older than her sister, Marion (“Mary”). The family lived in a large brick home located at #2 Broadway, near Union Street, and not far from the Canal. Four years before Helen was born, the Erie Canal, which would figure large in her family, had opened up. The population and economy of Rochester were greatly impacted with the opening of the canal. About the time Helen was born there were over 9,000 citizens. But, by the time Helen was a young lady the population swelled to about 34,000.

Erie Canal in Rochester - view of the first aqueduct from the west, 1835.

Erie Canal in Rochester – view of the first aqueduct from the west, 1835.

Sluman capitalized on the opening of the Erie Canal, becoming a boat contractor and agent. He prospered in his profession and took a role in community affairs. When the city of Rochester was incorporated in 1834, Sluman and 4 others were named the first constables of the growing town. In those days, constables weren’t policemen; they were hired to collect taxes from homeowners within the city ward assigned them. The taxes collected were used to pay the cost of keeping streets lit at night to prevent crime.

1835 – Rochester Old Center Market and Police Headquarters

While in Rochester, Sluman provided a comfortable living for his family. When his only son, WIlna, reached the age of 12, Sluman commissioned an oil portrait be done of him. The children were often carried to school via horse-drawn carriage. Presumably, this same affluence financed a musical education for Helen, for she was to become a noted songstress in her time.

In the spring of 1846, Sluman moved his family to Buffalo, New York. Helen was age 17 at the time and we don’t know whether she went with the family to Buffalo. The next recorded event in Helen’s life is her marriage on October 25, 1849. As yet, I have not found how Helen came to meet her husband, Lafayette Lancaster Deming (aka L. L. Deming) or where they married. At the time of their marriage, Helen was 20 years old and Lafayette (“L. L.”) was 22. The groom had been born and raised in Great Barrington, MA, the son of Elizur & Electa Deming.

The early marriage of L. L. and Helen Deming is somewhat puzzling. Apparently they resided in Boston, but in the fall of 1850/51, Helen relocated to Hudson, NY, which is but 27 miles from Great Barrington. It isn’t clear whether L. L. was with her.

The Hudson Daily Star,  September 12, 1851

The Hudson Daily Star, September 12, 1851

The Badgley Hotel was a rather posh establishment, described in this snippet from a publication from the same period.

From The Rural Repository Volumes 26-27, June 1850.

From The Rural Repository Volumes 26-27, June 1850.

A few years later, she moved from the hotel to what appears a boarding house.

The Hudson Daily Star, November 4, 1853

The Hudson Daily Star, November 4, 1853

It is curious that she appears to be living alone and supporting herself. The whereabouts of her husband is unknown. It may be that during this period, Helen was still undergoing music and voice instruction, for in the spring of 1854 she made her stage debut at the Niblo’s Garden, then one of New York City’s popular theaters. The Spanish Concert was headlined by prima donna, Madame Catterina de Ferrari, with Helen and others offering supporting performances. A review of the concert states of Helen’s performance that she “agreeably seconded Mad. Ferrari and reaped a harvest of bouquets and applause.”

The following year, L. L. and Helen relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. L. L. Deming’s parents and siblings had moved from Great Barrington to Cleveland by 1850. (The Deming family identified living in Cleveland, 1850 U. S. Census.) Cleveland became Helen’s home for the remainder of her life.

During the years leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War, Helen gave many concerts in the east and the midwest, mostly in Ohio and New York State. Below is a typical concert review:

Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, December 27, 1856

Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, December 27, 1856

During this same time, Helen was writing and publishing both music and poetry. Some of her music is preserved at The Library of Congress and in various university music collections. Her poetry was published widely in newspapers, but apparently never collected in a single volume. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Cleveland Plain Dealer Mazourka, 1857

Cleveland Plain Dealer Mazourka, 1857

"Sonnet to ___ " Published in the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register,  July 8, 1858

“Sonnet to ___ ” Published in the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, July 8, 1858

The War Between the States broke out in April of 1861. In February and March, Helen was on concert tour in Wisconsin (Madison and Kenosha) and Illinois (Chicago and surrounds). In September, L. L. Deming was in Jackson County, Michigan, as the 10th Regiment Michigan Infantry Volunteers was forming and got himself commissioned captain of Company G. The regiment organized in Flint, MI, in February 1862 and left the state in April. A leaving ceremony was held with many of the citizens of Flint in attendance. Col. Charles M. Lum was presented with a flag, the soldiers drilled on parade, speeches were made, national and patriotic songs were song. For the event, Helen composed and sung the following poignant song for those gathered:

The Farewell Song

The Farewell Song. History of the formation, movements, camps, scouts and battles of the Tenth Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Internet Archive.

The regiment was ordered to Corinth, and was first in action at Farmington. Helen followed her husband on the campaign, offering her services as a “daughter of the regiment.” A brilliant tribute to her war time service to the troops was published in a St. Louis newspaper and picked up by other papers far and wide, including the New York newspapers.

St Louis Democrat, September 12, 1862

St Louis Democrat, September 12, 1862

After the evacuation of Corinth, Capt. Deming resigned his commission. He was given an honorable discharge on Sep. 3, 1862. Sources differ as to why; one source states he departed due to failing health, while another source claims he left due to illness in his family. It is true that Helen had a broken arm on the occasion of performing a Cleveland concert on early October, 1862.

After his discharge, Capt. Deming sent off a letter to President Lincoln requesting a position as assistant quartermaster. Failing to gain that post, he assumed the role of war correspondent. His reports got him into some trouble, though, for criticizing the war effort.

The Louisville Daily Journal, Jan. 29, 1863

The Louisville Daily Journal, Jan. 29, 1863

Throughout the war, Helen continued to give concerts, mostly with a patriotic theme. The following photo of Helen, published in a family history, appears from the style of dress to date during the war years.

Helen A. Deming, circa 1863

Helen A. Deming, circa 1863

After the war, L. L. returned to his wife in Cleveland. He seems to have struggled to settle on a career, for Cleveland city directories list his occupation from 1865 through 1869 as clerk, agent and salesman. Meanwhile, Helen appeared less on stage and focused on her poetry.

In 1867, Helen performed with other artists at a concert in support of the Irish Cause.

The Daily Cleveland Herald,  Mar. 30, 1867

The Daily Cleveland Herald, Mar. 30, 1867

In late January, 1871, Helen was invited by the St. Andrews Society in New Orleans to participate in a Robert Burns birthday celebration. Of her performance is was said: “A highly appreciated feature of the entertainment were some of Burns’ sweet songs, sweetly sung by Mrs. L. L. Deming.” (The Times Picayune, New Orleans, 26 January, 1871).

A short time later, Helen’s health began to fail. Following a two-year illness, she died on Aug. 12, 1874,  at the home of her in-laws, Lieut. Albert Gray Jones and his wife Mary Elizabeth Deming Jones. She was only 44 years old. She was laid to rest at the East Cleveland Cemetery.

Headstone for Helen Amanda Deming (1829-1874), East Cleveland Cemetery

Headstone for Helen Amanda Deming (1829-1874), East Cleveland Cemetery

An obituary for Helen provides a beautiful tribute to this amazing woman:

Helen was among the most companionable of her sex. Her suffering was protracted, amidst which her solicitude was unceasing for those who watched with her for the end of earthly sorrow and the beginning of immortal joy. (The Daily Independence, Aug. 20, 1874)

There is so much more of Helen’s life, and the rather sketchy life of her husband, yet to be shared. I have gathered many of her published poems and will publish them on this blog in the future.

In tribute, may the angels above sing back to Helen the song she composed for a friend in 1854, Mary in Heaven:

There lived on the banks of a smooth flowing river,
A maiden whose soul was a fountain of love.
As gushing and pure as ever sprang from its giver,
To mirror on Earth His own brightness above.

As sweet as the gleaming of starlight that’s streaming,
From orbs all unclouded in Heaven’s deep blue,
Was the light of her eye in its innocence beaming,
When friends were around her whose fondness she knew.

Twas thus in an hour of joy that I met her,
And fondly I hoped it was never to part.
For well did I know I could never forget her,
And deeply her name was engraved on my heart.

As a young vine that clingeth, a sweet bird that singeth,
Were the trust and the gladness her fondness betrayed.
Oh, the love from a bosom so guileless that springeth,
Is dear unto hearts where an anguish has preyed.

We parted, I deemed not parted forever.
Ah! no, to that cherished one would I return.
But ties that are strongest on earth may dissever,
And hearts that are fondest be soonest to mourn.

Again by the water all hoping I sought her,
Alas, it was only to weep o’er her grave.
To the dust had returned earth’s most beautiful daughter,
And her spirit was gone to the Spirit that gave.

Mary in Heaven