MICHAEL CAROLAN is born at Light Town so named for the candlelight that once emanated from the foot-square windows of the former houses there. His father's house and his uncle's was on the border with Drumbaragh, three miles to the west of KELLS--the town and parish in COUNTY MEATH for which the ancient illuminated manuscript was named. Drumbaragh--meaning "shorn hill" in Gaelic--sits eighteen miles northwest of the HILL OF TARA, the five thousand year-old sacred seat of the High King of Ireland.
Born a century following the death of the last great Irish bard Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), and eight miles to the south of his birthplace, Michael so too the son of a blacksmith comes to New York with his father, mother, two sisters and a cousin in the summer of 1847, a three-year-old, on a square-rigged sailing cargo ship 159 feet long and 35 feet wide called the PATRICK HENRY, commandeered by the uncle of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the height of the GREAT HUNGER that decimated Ireland.
Michael named for his great grandfather Michael the WEAVER OF KELLS (1760-1801) learns the BLACKSMITH trade from his father in the countryside north of PHILADELPHIA in Montgomery County near Willow Grove, marries an Irish immigrant named Annie in the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CATHOLIC CHURCH at Jenkintown in 1869, and fathers 17 children.
Five daughters live into adulthood. One son, Matthew William, brings forward the surname.
Michael briefly owns a small plot of land for his blacksmith shop at DRESHERTOWN before selling it and moving into north Philadelphia in 1882 after the death his fifth child, Martha. He rents a five-room row house on 5th Street and a blacksmith shop in the triangle formed by Rising Sun Avenue, 5th and Butler Streets, in FRANKLINVILLE, a predominantly Irish-American neighborhood named for the Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin. The 72-acre tract there was subdivided in the mid 19th century into 1,000 lots, sold with a minimum 20 foot frontage; the Franklin Land Company, John Turner, president, met at Franklin Hall and was one of the first mutual land firms in the city.
After the move, Michael and Annie join SAINT VERONICA'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, est. 1872 at 6th & Tioga (remains). He shoes horses and forges a wide variety of implements, taking on an apprentice, George Roth, who marries his daughter Emma. After Annie gets her wings in 1901, Michael moves around the corner, in with Emma and George at 515 Butler.
He dies of capillary bronchitis and fatty degeneration of the heart after a two-day illness in 1906. He was 62.
Michael, pictured to the right in a photograph taken around the turn of the century and supplied by his granddaughter Ann Marie Carolan Moerk, is the first-born son of Thomas Carolan (1806-1870) and Elizabeth Smyth (1822-1878). He is baptized at St. Columba's at Kells, sponsored by his maternal grandparents John and Mary Smyth and baptized by the distinguished parish priest of Kells, Father Dr. Nicholas McEvoy (Memorial # 195407086), who advocates for a FREE IRELAND and RELIEF FOR THOSE affected by the Great Hunger. (Birth record, Kells Parish, pictured.)
The year after Michael's birth, Father McEvoy writes, "With starvation at our doors, grimly staring us, vessels laden with our sole hopes of existence, our provisions, are hourly wafted from our every port. From one milling establishment I have last night seen not less than fifty dray loads of meal moving on to Drogheda, thence to go to feed the foreigner, leaving starvation and death the sure and certain fate of the toil and sweat that raised this foodâ€¦ I ask are Irishmen alone unworthy the sympathies of a paternal gentry or a paternal Government? Let Irishmen themselves take heed before the provisions are gone. Let those, too, who have sheep, and oxen, and haggards. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. The right of the starving to try and sustain existence is a right far and away paramount to every right that property confers (The Nation, 25 October 1845)."
Michael's family lives on the thousand-acre estate of Robert Woodward, Esq., whose ancestors raised a military regiment in the year 1650 and fought under Oliver Cromwell who, in turn, gave them vast lands, the seat of which is DRUMBARAGH House, built in 1800 and still standing.
In 1854, Michael's paternal uncle and namesake (born 1804) is the lessee of a "house and garden" on a 16th of an acre, or 10 perches, at Drumbaragh. He appears to be the older brother of Thomas Carolan (1806-1870) and appears to remain after Thomas' family emigrates to Philadelphia though little is known about him. We believe he married Bridget Fitzsimons in Kells Parish on July 23, 1833, with Francis Fitzsimons and Margaret Carolan (Michael's sister) as witnesses.
The precise location of the house and garden at Drumbaragh on the 1854 map is GPS 53.723026,-6.9467192. Today, Jim and Nigel Carolan own the Drumbaragh House and run Drumbaragh Stud, horse breeders and trainers. Their branch comes from County Cavan.
Uncle Michael Carolan leases, to the immediate southwest, more than twenty-six acres: sixteen acres from Robert Woodward, with two sublet cabins, and another eleven acres across the road [53.714899,-6.9527081] in the parish of Burry, the Townland of Balrath Demesne, which borders Drumbaragh Townland and Springville/Dandlestown Townland.
This is where a seven-window, central fireplace, two-story farmhouse and two older stone barns still stand (pictured), which has been confirmed to be one held by Michael and his family. Primogeniture held that the eldest son received the father's house and lands.
William and Thomas Carolan (Michael's granduncle and grandfather), held this acreage in 1834 (Tithe Applotment). These eleven acres are leased from John Armytage Nicholson, Esq., of Balrath Bury, the name of the two-storied, nine-bay, 18th century colonial revival villa estate house first established in 1671 and renovated in 1930--with 21 windows, stable yards and gate lodges upon "an extensive and well-wooded demesne, with a park well stocked with deer, and in which are some remains of the old church, with a burial-ground." See photograph to the left of the burial-ground at BALRATH DEMESNE. John A. Nicholson was noted for evicting some 300 tenants in the 1870s after attempts were made upon the lives of family members, including on October 4, 1869 that made the newspapers in England.
I visited the house of the Carolan family in March 2020 and also the Nicholson Estate. The land on which the house stands is today held by the Brady family. After the Great Hunger, Bryan (born 1839), the son of Michael (born 1804) and Bridget Fitzsimons, married Mary Brady (born 1837), of Robinstown, Kilskyre. Like many couples in the years after the Hunger, they had no children. When Michael died in 1893, Mary's younger brother, Thomas Brady, helped on the farm, married Mary Reilly and had eight children. Widow Mary continued living with her brother until her death in 1928 at age 91. Her brother died that same year. Thomas' descendants today raise cattle on the property. (Brady family)
This countryside--near what was in the MIDDLE AGES called "The Pale"--is RICH AND FERTILE pastureland to be sure, that, at the time, was tilled and grazed, perhaps in turn providing money for the younger brother Thomas to find his family passage to America during the Great Hunger. [The Griffith's Valuation, 1854, map is pictured to the right; occupants are pictured on his father Thomas Carolan's Findagrave page.]
Indeed, on June 23, 1847, Thomas, age 40, his wife Elizabeth, 30, their son Michael, nearly 3, and two sisters, Annie, 1, Catherine, 4, and a cousin Bessy, 13, (possibly his uncle Michael's daughter) set sail from Liverpool on the three-masted SHIP PATRICK HENRY, leaving their uncle behind. Kells loses more than a third of its people to death and EMIGRATION.On July 2, 1847, the ship exchanges signals with the Samuel Hicks, for Liverpool; on July 7th, lat 44 03, lon 39 15, passes the Emigrant of Cork bound East; and on the 14th, they pass a ship "steering West with a cross in her foretopsail," according to the New York Herald.
They arrive in New York City under the command of Captain JOSEPH CLEMENT DELANO, AT THE OFFICES OF GRINNELL, MINTURN & CO., South Street Seaport, between Malden Lane and Burling Slip, on July 27, 1847. They are among the listed as "300 in steerage." [The manifest is pictured under his father Thomas' Findagrave page. Its transcript found here: http://immigrantships.net/1800/patrickhenry470727.html]
The family makes their way south, to Willow Grove, PENNSYLVANIA, and in three years, by 1850, are renting a log cabin on the northwest corner of what is today Park Avenue and Easton Road. Michael has new sisters here: Julia Ann, 1, and Caroline, 1 month. Annie and Bessy have likely died of illness. Catherine survives. Michael's brother, Thomas Spencer Carolan, is likely born here (as his death certificate notes) or on the nearby farm of George Spencer, for whom he is named. Their cabin at Willow Grove is the original house in town, built in 1719 by James Dubree. The larger "Manor of Moreland," next door, is described as "20 acres of meadow, a double house, good barn, and a fine young orchard." A map of Willow Grove in 1850 is pictured on his father Thomas' Findagrave page.The family soon moves a few years later to a 90-acre farm to the west, near the intersection of Blair Mill and West Moreland roads. By 1860, Michael, 15, and his sister Martha, 8, are living on that farm, in the home of the noted QUAKER GEORGE SPENCER (1787-1876), age 78. The Spencers (daughter Mary, 39) host siblings Lydia and Anna Elizabeth Carolan through the next decade. "George was an estimable and cultured man, whose home, for more than sixty years, was a center of Friendly hospitality," according to Jenkins' Descendants of Samuel Spencer.
The Spencers also help slaves on the Underground Railroad: living in their home with Michael and Martha in 1860 is Elizabeth C. Moore, 19, a "MULATTO," and next door is Isaiah Moore, 30, and John, 13, "BLACK." On August 22, 1869, Michael marries Anna "Annie" Lawrence (born December 1854 in Ireland, also spelled Larner), at the recently founded Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church B.V.M. in Jenkintown, Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The sponsors were Lawrence McCormick (brother of Charles) and Michael's sister, Julia. Annie gives birth to 17 children, six live into adulthood: Matthew William, Elizabeth (McDonald), Emma Mary (Roth, Merritt), Helen Ann (Heidenfelder), Anna Marie, Caroline Veronica (McGrath). The year after his marriage, 1870, Michael lives with his wife, brother, and 48-year-old mother near the Garrett Kendrick farm near FITZWATERTOWN where St. John of the Cross school now stands on Woodland Road. His father Thomas dies in February of consumption.
Michael works as a blacksmith with his younger brother Thomas Spencer as his apprentice. He joins the UPPER DUBLIN ASSOCIATION OF THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY SOCIETY FOR THE RECOVERY OF STOLEN HORSES, DETENTION OF HORSE THIEVES AND OBTAINING OTHER STOLEN PROPERTY. With forge, anvil, hammer and tongs, the brothers work up agricultural tools for farmers and â€˜tires' for the wheelwright, fashion horseshoes for farmer and pike traveler alike and repair iron objects used around the home and farm.In 1878, Michael purchases a third of an acre on a triangle-shaped intersection in Dreshertown, to the west of Fitzwatertown, along the busy toll road, the Limekiln Pike, five miles north of his brother's shop at Washington Lane. A Starbucks stands today near the site. He builds a blacksmith shop there (pictured) but sells the tract six months later. It appears that his apprentice, Charles McCormick, of the MCCORMICK BROS. WHEELWRIGHT AND BLACKSMITH, took it over. [A photograph of the shop appears in the book by Arcadia Publishing, Fort Washington and Upper Dublin, 2004].
In 1882, Michael is living in Rowlandville, a section in Philadelphia named for the Benjamin Rowland shovel factory on Tacony Creek. He rents a shop then in the triangle-shaped busy intersection of Fifth Street and Rising Sun Avenue (pictured) in the Franklinville neighborhood. He rents a home at 3817 North 5th Street (pictured) where he lives with his children. His wife Anna dies in 1901, and in the final year of his life, he moves around the block to 515 Butler Street (pictured) with his daughter Emma and her husband, the blacksmith George Roth, who had worked as his young apprentice. [George dies in 1910 and Emma marries another blacksmith, George Merritt.] J. Allen Harrison, MD, attends Michael's death, and also the birth of his grandchildren. (Death certificate pictured.) His funeral is held at St. Veronica's Catholic Church October 23, 1906. He is buried in a family plot in the NEW CATHEDRAL CEMETERY that he purchased on the death of his infant son, Michael, in 1880, of whooping cough. (Cemetery ledger and headstone pictured.)
His only surviving son, Matthew William Carolan (1871-1942), marries Wilhelmina Koenig (1879-1963), the first-born daughter of the German immigrant Jakob Friedrich Koenig II, a streetcar conductor from Dobel, in the Black Forest. They purchase in 1903 the row house at 443 East Wyoming Avenue in Feltonville for $2,500.
They have three children: Ann Marie (1902-1997), Matthew George (1904-1994), and WALTER CHARLES CAROLAN (1908-1969). In 1941, Walter moves his wife VERNA MAE ROSE (1910-1956) and three boys, Walter Jr., Robert John, and my father WILLIAM GEORGE, to KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, where Michael Charles Carolan was born in 1966.
Brother: Thomas Spencer Carolan, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia. The blacksmith at Limekiln Pike and Washington Lane. Memorial#139660847
Sisters:Catherine Carolan Bennett, burial: St. James Methodist Episcopal Church Grounds, Olney, Philadelphia.
Julia Ann Carolan Haughey, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia. #90285922
Martha W. Carolan Guppy, St. James Methodist Episcopal Church Grounds, Olney. #139664429
Anna Elizabeth Carolan, St. James Methodist Episcopal Church Grounds, Olney. #139664258
Mary Emma Carolan Winder, Hatboro Cemetery, Hatboro. #22617873. Her husband, David Winder, was a blacksmith. His shop is pictured in the Arcadia Publishing book, Abington, Jenkintown and Rockledge.
CAROLAN--On October 19, 1906, MICHAEL CAROLAN, in his 63d year. Relatives and friends, also National Horseshoers' Association of Philadelphia, are invited to attend the funeral, on Tuesday, at 8:30 am, from his late residence, 515 West Butler st. Solemn requiem mass at St. Veronica's Church, at 10 am. Interment at New Cathedral Cemetery. Montgomery County papers please copy (Obituary published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, 21 October 1906, p.15). ***
Copyright Michael C. Carolan 2021
Anna May Lawrence Carolan
Matthew William Carolan
Elizabeth C Carolan McDonald
Helen Carolan Heidenfelder
Mary Emma Carolan Merritt
Thomas L. Carolan
Caroline Veronica Carolan McGrath