on the prairie and buried in Boot Hill ...
Claremorris family in Dakota Territory
at the time of Chief Sitting Bull
The story of a Claremorris family who homesteaded in the
Dakota Territory at the time of Sitting Bull, rode the cowboy
trails and branded steers at the famous J Diamond J Ranch,
owned an 1880s Saloon and Dry Goods store and later
moved west and invested in a plywood mill that produced
high grade plywood for PT boats in World War II has surely
all the ingredients for a Louis LAmour classic.
This is a little of the background to some interesting correspondence
which come my way during the week from Darwin Gearey in
Seattle and his sister Patricia Wilson who resides in Winchester,
VA. They are seeking the help of readers of the Western
in trying to trace members of the Garry family of Claremorris.
Darwin is a TV journalist and Television News videographer.
And the family story takes us from Claremorris to the cowboy
trails of Dakota and the heart of the pioneering folklore
of the Old West
My family left Claremorris about 1851, my Great-Great-
Grandfather was Thomas Garry and his wife was Bridget Berry
The Garrys were cowboys in the old west, raised horses,
owned a saloon and a store in the wild Dakota Territory
and the family eventually ended up on the Pacific Northwest
His sister Patricia fills in more of the family background
information Patrick Gary/ Garry (born 1780) married
Bridget Berry ( born 1788) of Castlebar, County Mayo. Patrick
and Bridget had a son named John born in Claremorris in
1813, a daughter named Ann, and probably others.
John married Catherine Kean (born 1818 Ireland) and
we think the marriage took place in 1836. Catherine had
a brother named Patrick J. Kean born around 1830 in Ireland.
John and Catherine sailed to America in 1850. By 1860 his
parents, Patrick and Bridget were in America. Patrick J.
Kean also was living in America.
The family settled in St. Clair county, Michigan.
John died in 1872 and his son, John moved with the elderly
Catherine to the Dakota Territory at the time of Sitting
Bull and the Ghost Dances. Her homestead application was
on file with the National Archives here and in it she states
she remembers coming to America in November of 1850.
Catherine died on the prairie in 1893 and was buried
on Boot Hill. Later, when the cemetery was established,
she was moved there. The Garry family raised horses in the
old west at the J Diamond J Ranch, owned an 1880s
Saloon and Dry Good store and later moved west and invested
in a plywood mill that produced high grade plywood for PT
boats in World War II.
When we were small children in the early 1950s
, my brother, Darwin, and I would look at an old blue velvet
photo album in my grandfathers attic. I eventually
inherited that album and began tracing the family back to
its origins. An old deed led me to St. Clair County, Michigan.
We found at the courthouse the 13 page handwritten will
of my g-g-grandfather John Garry of Claremorris. We also
found his grave. The tombstone was broken and sunken into
Knowing that we had to preserve this precious stone,
and not having much time left in our visit, we stole the
tombstone. We then had to make an urgent trip to Canada
that night, in a thunderstorm.
Luckily the border guards did not look in the trunk
of the car. A muddy 125 year old tombstone would have been
hard to explain. Crossing the border twice with it is quite
a memory. We got the stone home, could not have it repaired,
had a bronze plaque made, returned to Michigan, and set
the some and plaque in cement.
Eventually two American cousins descended from Ann
Garry found the stone and plaque and found us on the internet.
The lazy cemetery caretakers had taken credit for the grave
repair, and our cousins did not known of us until finding
us on the internet.
Catherine Kean, widow of John Garry of Claremorris, was
eligible to homestead 160 acres under the Homestead Act
of 1862 it she improved the land and lived on it for five
Says Patricia; The first thing she did, according
to the National Archive papers I found relating to her;
was to clear the land around the house and plant acres and
acres of potatoes. She would never go hungry again.
We went back to North Dakota a few years ago and found
her grave. I left a nice big potato there in her honour;
It was the first time in over 70 years that any family has
visited her final resting place.
The family homestead was not far from Fort Toten, to this
day a well preserved fort. The Garrys lived at Minnewauken,
Dakota Territory, on the shores of Devils Lake. There
was no dock there and the first settlers had to wade ashores.
The 16 original settlers lived in tents on the lakeshore.
John, the son of Catherine and John of Claremorris, bought
an empty building and dragged it over the frozen lake to
B Street,one of the two buffalo trails leading to the lake.
Buffalo bones were piled high and early settlers, unable
to get their first crops in the ground, gathered them and
sold them to bone traders. Catherines nearest neighbours
arrived in a covered wagon pulled by a team of oxen.
In her application for homestead one of her witnesses was
a young man who farmed her land for her. He stated she baked
him bread every day and he had seen her lantern in the window
that morning My father; Catherines great-grandson,
remembered the ranch and its kerosene lanterns. The Ottertail
Power Company strung lines in the 1920s or 30s and the lights
were switched bringing an era to an end. Catherine never
lived to see the invention of her old St. Clair County neighbour;
Thomas Edison. To me she had lived an amazing life.
The Little Gem Saloon burned down in later years leaving
a low spot in the ground where it once stood on the former
buffalo trail. The only thing left now is Catherines
tombstone marked with her date of death, April 18th, 1893,
aged 75 years and her epitaph:
Kind friends beware as years pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you must be
Prepare, therefor to follow me.
All of us feel we must have cousins living in County
Mayo. Our Irish roots are very dear to us. We can be reached
at email@example.com . Thank you for your time and consideration,
says Patricia Wilson.
This is a lovely story and we hope we will be able to assist
Patricia and Darwin in their search for relatives in the
area. I knew the late Richard (Dick) Garry of Knockgraffy,
Taugheen, Claremorris who was a regular visitors to the
home of my relations, the Trench family in Gowel, Mayo Abbey
over the years. Around 20 years ago or more , Dick gave
me some wonderful road-maps of America so obviously he had
some strong associations with that country.
Anyone who can help out with this query can contact me at
094-81531 and I will arrange to make contact with Patricia
and Darwin in America.
Courtesy of Michael Commins Western People