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Kearney Family History

By: Matthew Bivins Rogers

 

Introduction

If you want an example of good living you couldn't find better than the life of Michael Finton and Catherine (Curran) Kearney's youngest son. John Michael Kearney's courage, integrity, child rearing and philanthropy, leaves us a life any mother would be proud to have her son emulate.

John was born in Attica, New York June 17, 1827. He migrated to Ann Arbor, Michigan around 1850 where he married the widow Margaret (Gilson) Gilshenen. By 1860 John was a Master Blacksmith operating his own shop with a journeymen, one apprentice and a Wagon Maker. While John held many other occupations throughout his life, Blacksmith is the one listed on the three census enumerations we found for him: 1860 through 1880. John was also a Justice of the Peace, Town Marshall and Deputy Sheriff. 

John and Margaret raised six children together. Margaret was a daughter from Margaret's first marriage to the late John Gilshenen. The other children were Catherine Serina, Robert Emmett, Mary Ellen, Gertrude B. and Edward Thomas.

John enlisted as a corporal in the 26th Michigan Infantry, Co. "B", August 7, 1862 for three years of service. In July 1863 his unit was called to New York to help put down riots that broke out in response to the Federal Conscription Act. John was a member of the his Company's Color Guard, one of the most valued and vulnerable targets on the field of battle and he bore the scars to prove it. He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, March 7, 1864. Company "B" was at  the Battle of Cold Harbor June 1 -12, 1864 and participated in  the siege on Petersburg from June 16 until the City's fall, April12, 1865. This was the last stand of Lee's Army. John was present and promoted to Sergeant at Appomattox Court House, while paroling the Army of Northern Virginia. He participated in the Grand Review in Washington D.C. May 23, 1865 and was mustered out of Service June 4, 1865.

After the war John returned home to his wife and 6 children and resumed Blacksmithing. Among other interests he was a member of the Catholic Total Abstinence Society and the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR: Union Veteran's Fraternal Organization)  

On September 3, 1891, John Michael Kearney was leaving Ann Arbor, Michigan, after visiting there while "canvassing for the life of John Boyle Reilly". Mr. Kearney was attempting to board a departing train when he slipped, fell beneath a rail car and was killed. The tragic accident was described in full graphic detail in the Pinckney Dispatch September 23, 1891. 

"Canvassing for the life of John Boyle O'Reilly" as quoted from John Michael's obituary could refer to the book "The Life of John Boyle O'Reilly" by: James Jeffrey Roche, which was published the same year John Michael died in 1891.

John Michael's wife, Margaret continued to live in Livingston County after the death of her husband. Eventually she moved in with her oldest daughter, Margaret (Gilshenan) Melvin, in South Dakota. John Michael and Margaret (Gilson) Kearney were reunited for eternity in 1915, when Margaret was laid down to rest beside her husband in Livingston County, Michigan.

 

John Michael and Margaret (Gilson) Kearney's children...

Just because John was soliciting favor for the life of John Boyle Reilly at the time of his death, doesn't mean he was a member of the Clan na Gael. But this fact along with the knowledge his oldest son was named after Robert Emmet, the leader of the Irish Rebellion, does show an Independent Ireland was a cause John believed in deeply. It also makes us wonder what caused John's father to depart Ireland and leave his wife and daughter behind and what relationship if any, there might have been between John's mother Catherine (Curran) and Robert Emmet's great love, Sarah Curran.

John's wife, Margaret continued to live in Livingston County after the death of her husband. Eventually she moved in with her oldest daughter, Margaret (Gilshenan) Melvin, in South Dakota. John Michael and Margaret (Gilson) Kearney were reunited for eternity in 1915, when Margaret was laid down to rest beside her husband in Livingston County, Michigan.

Much of the information from this history comes from Uncle Will Hastie's interview of Hester Ann (Eastman) Stearns/Murdock transcribed in the Charles Hastie Letter and internment certificates from the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati Ohio. Also notes from Margaret Battcher and Hester (Battcher) Coyne and correspondence from other Kearney Descendents.

Like most Genealogy studies the history leaves more questions then it answers and so it evolves as research continues.

Further research should be done to discover why Edward Kearney left Ireland years before his wife and daughter. 

As we have stated the research continues and you are encouraged to add your facts, speculations or questions. Sources available upon request.

 e-mail coleman@colemancoyne.com 

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