Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The McElhone Clan

(A history written by John M. McElhone of Goshen and Torrington, CT, some time before 1943. Copyright ©1998 by Jack Sheedy. You may use this document for your personal use but not for distribution, publication or sale without permission.)
Our family's name is not a common one, and yet quite a number bearing this name, scattered over many states, have from time to time come to my notice.
About the family of this name, to which we belong, no clear record is known to me beyond my Grandfather, John McElhone.
What I know of him came down to me largely from my father and Aunt Catherine McAllister, but more particularly from the latter.
In 1897 she visited us in Goshen, and again in 1903 in Torrington. On these occasions I never failed to draw from her all the information I could concerning our ancestors in Northern Ireland.
She was outstanding in appearance, above medium height, stoutly built, with sandy hair,a large head, a broad, high forehead, a strong -- not handsome -- face.
She was a good conversationalist, spoke with authority, and left with me the impression of a very dominant character.
Other sources of information are Mr. James Lattimer, Mr. Bernard Malahan, and a Mr. MacDonald, a Real Estate man of New York City whom I met in 1910.
Grandfather John McElhone was, according to my Father and Aunt Catherine, a native of County Antrim, Ireland, born there in 1792, died in County Derry, Ireland, in 1875 in his 83rd year. He was schooled in Belfast, and for a time, when a young man, was employed there. He had one brother, Thomas, the only other child born to his parents, of whom I know nothing further.
Grandfather McElhone, when quite a young man was married to Kate or Catherine MacNamee; they settled in County Derry in the neighborhood of Draperstown, where 12 children were born to them; Mary, Ellen, James, William, Robert, Catherine, Patrick, Eliza, Alexander, John, Joseph, and Thomas, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood with the exception of Joseph, who died when an infant, or very young.
Ten of this family emigrated either to the U.S.A. or to Canada. Mary, the oldest girl, remained at home. To whom she was married I do not know. She had one child.
How did Grandfather McElhone support his family?
Aunt Catherine said they had a house and considerable land on which they raised food to eat, and flax for the linen industry. The growing children under the tutelage of their mother, did the work of caring for the crops, and the harvesting and preparing the flax for the market.
When asked, Why didn't your Father help? Was he not able to work? The reply was, yes he did not have a weak joint in his body, but that he was a Surveyor for the Crown and away from home much of the time, and that anyhow, he preferred not to do menial work, but to keep his "boots shining" and live as a gentleman.
James Lattimer, who was born and lived a few miles south of the McElhone place, told us, after making a visit to Northern Ireland a year or two before he died, that he knew or knew of Grandfather well. He said, "You know, your Grandfather was Judge Torrey's Deputy, and the King's Surveyor."
Bernard Malahan said of him that he was a much smarter man than any son he ever reared, and one to whom the neighboring people went for advice. (This related to me personally.)
In 1910 I was introduced to a Mr. MacDonald who had a real estate office in New York. He appeared to be about sixty years old, and a very intelligent man.
When he heard my name, he asked where in Ulster my folks came from. After I told him, he began to tell me a great deal about the History of the Clans and their part in the Government of Northern Ireland. He said, "Your name McElhone and its bearers are from the Clan of Coyle." I remember his saying that General Shield's mother was Elizabeth McElhone.
Now about the Coyles. My Grandfather named one of his sons Alexander, and my Father named one of his sons Alexander, and always called him by the full name, never using any abbreviation. We boys used to call him Al or Alex. When about fourteen years old I asked my Father why he picked such an odd name as Alexander. He replied that it was a family name, and that he named him after his Uncle Alexander, after (Alexander Carson Coyle.)
What connection this has with what Mr. MacDonald told me, I don't know, but it seems like a clue that might be useful in tracing the origin and early history of the family.
The governing class of Northern Ireland for three centuries or more have been the descendants of Scotch Presbyterians, and to some extent, Protestant English, planted there by Great Britain for political and religious purposes. Grandfather McElhone was a Protestant, Presbyterian by faith, and remained one all his life, and was buried in the Black Cross when he died. (This from Aunt Catherine.)
Grandmother MacNamee McElhone was a Catholic and remained one all her life. As the children were born she somehow had them baptized. When growing up, they were sometimes given instructions by a Priest at a Hedge or Wall. This was related to me by Aunt Catherine.
She also said that at times the Priest would visit the home and on such occasions, if Grandfather was there, he would always greet him pleasantly, and that they would often chat together in a friendly manner.
Grandfather McElhone liked to select the names for his children, and in this connection, my Father was born on the 16th of March. When the time came for giving him a name, his mother mentioned something about St. Patrick and his Father said, "Yes, you want him named Patrick, and if that is your wish, he shall be named Patrick."
..............................J. M. McElhone1869 - 1943
"Aunt Catherine McAllister": My mother Marion sent an annotated copy of this history to her nephew, my cousin Malachi Tracy Conway, writing in the margin: "Your great grandfather's sister, I believe she lived in Philadelphia." The woman is a mystery. The only McAllister (or MacAllister) I know of was Sarah Ann McAllister McElhone (1824-1879), wife of Robert McElhone (1822-1899). Robert did have a sister Catherine McElhone, but my notes are sketchy on her: she was born in Ireland, probably in 1834, and died in the U.S. or Canada. I have no death date. She is most likely the Aunt Catherine referred to. (Please hit the Back button to return to the main text.)
Bernard Malahan was a Goshen resident, according to my mother's notes. (Please hit the Back button to return to the main text.)
"Black Cross": My mother put a question mark next to this and wrote, "Can't find out what that is." I have since learned that when a person dies while not in the Catholic Church's good graces, he is not permitted full burial privileges in a Catholic cemetery (in Ireland as well as other places), but his grave is marked with a simple black cross. Since John McElhone (1792-1875) was a Protestant, married to a Catholic, the Church apparently allowed him to be buried in the same cemetery as his wife, but with the black cross to signify he was not part of the mystical body of Christ. (Please hit the Back button to return to the main text.)
More notes to John M. McElhone's history, by his grand-nephew Jack Sheedy, who is a son of Marion Spencer McElhone Sheedy, who was a daughter of Alexander McElhone, who was a brother to the author John M. McElhone: This little history has been distributed, exactly as it appears above, typewritten, to several generations of McElhones, by my mother Marion. Some typed copies do not have the name and birth and death dates at the bottom, others do; at any rate, I know of only two drafts of this history, and they are identical in every respect except for the name and dates at the bottom. To make things a bit clearer, let me append these facts:
His last anecdote about his father's being born near St. Patrick's Day may be essentially true, but the birthdate he gave (March 16) does not agree with a five-generation chart given me by my Aunt Louise McElhone Grimshaw of Staten Island. That chart listed Patrick McElhone's birthday as March 3, 1832, and this is corroborated by other records. According to a History of Goshen, page 352, Patrick was a Civil War veteran, enlisting in the 4th Connecticut Regiment Volunteers on May 15, 1861. He was discharged May 23, 1864. He died April 19, 1886 in Goshen, Connecticut. Some of these facts are available on a Web page of McElhone Civil War Veterans.
Patrick married Margaret Cleary McElhone on November 25, 1866 in Winsted, Connecticut. She was born in County Clare, Ireland on May 11, 1841 and died January 6, 1932 at her Torrington home, according to her obituary in The Torrington Register. Her death certificate listed her occupation as housekeeper. My mother told me that after Patrick's death Margaret rented living quarters from and kept house for Asaph Hall, an astronomer who lived in Goshen and who is credited with discovering the moons of Mars.
The family line has still not been traced further back than Patrick's father, John McElhone (1792-1875), to my knowledge. The mysterious Alexander Carson Coyle, mentioned in the history above, remains an elusive ancestor.

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