Research Thoughts

A Modicum of Truth

There is a modicum of truth in every family story. I am not saying that family stories are meant to mislead, but just like the telephone game we played as children, time has a way of losing some of the fine points of the tale. 

Conner Healy, August 1906

Included in the “Cook Book”[i] is the story of Conner Healy’s emigration from Ireland to the United States. According to the story, Conner and a friend, who were about 12 years of age, took an orange flower to the priest, and the result was that they were threatened with excommunication. Fearing for his life, Conner’s parents made arrangements for him to leave the country with distant relatives who were about to depart for America. The story goes on to state that it is believed that the relatives name was Robinson. 

Conner, born in Kells, County Meath, Ireland,[ii] (Kells is about 40 miles north of Dublin) was married in Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by an Episcopal priest[iii], and buried by a Methodist minister[iv]. If he had given an orange flower to a priest, while it would not have been a good gesture, I am not sure how he could have been threatened with excommunication. But I will leave that for another story. I do know that in 1848 the country was still reeling from the effects of the potato famine, and that the Young Ireland movement unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the British rule in July of that year. 

Whatever the reason for his leaving, Conner boarded Caleb Grimshaw[v] in the company of Henry Power, age 40, George Power, age 42, and Maria Power, age 38. He is listed on the passenger list as: Conner Heloe, age 13. The ship landed in New York Harbor on 11 Sep 1848, and it is assumed that the Powers, along with Conner, immediately departed for Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. 

By the 1850 Federal Census[vi], Conner was living with the three Power (sometimes spelled Powers) siblings on a farm in the Town of Friendship, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. George is listed as the Head of Household, with a Value of Real Estate Owned of $800. Conner is enumerated as Conard W. Haley, age 30. Put on your best thick Irish brogue and say Conner Healy, age 13, and you can almost hear what the enumerator wrote in the entry. (Did Conner pronounce his last name as hay-lee, not he-lee as we now think of it?) In this 1850 census, the Powers were living on the farm next door to Andrew Cook, so this would have been his first introduction to the Cook Family, as Andrew is the younger brother of my ancestor William Palmer Cook. 

Five years later, on 14 Dec 1858, Conner and Mary Catherine (Kate) Cook, daughter of William Palmer and Jane McGarvy Cook, were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral (Episcopal) in city of Fond du Lac by the Rev. George B. Eastman, Rector of the church.[vii]

The 1860 Federal Census[viii] enumerates the couple, now with a son, Henry, living in the city of Fond du Lac in the 5th Ward.[ix] They were enumerated two dwellings after Ebenezer Austin, his wife Anne, and their family. Anne is the sister of William Palmer Cook. Residing with Conner and Kate was Maria Power, now listing her age as 75. Unfortunately, her brothers have not yet been located in this census, but Henry is found enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census residing in the city of Fond du lac with J. C. Robertson, Female, age 70. Henry is listed as being a farmer, with a Real Estate value of $5,500.00.

The story comes together upon the death of Henry Power in 1873, when his last will and testament was presented to the probate court 23 May 1873. 

On 24 Jun 1871, Henry Power made his last will and testament which was witnessed and signed in the city of Fond du Lac.[x] In this document he states: “I give to my Sister, Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, my house and lot on Division Street Fond du Lac, where she now resides…” “I give to my Brother George Power my house and lot on third street, Fond du Lac…” “I give to my adopted son Conner Healy now residing in Fond du Lac, twenty acres of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being adjoined to the land now owned by him…” “The remaining ninety [acres] or there abouts of the land which I own in the Town of Friendship, being the south part of the [sadly a piece of tape covers this word] I give jointly to my Brother George Power and my sister Cherry or Charity Jane Robinson, both of Fond du Lac, and to my Nephew William H. H. Robinson, now residing in Oshkosh; wish [sic] whenever dividing [blocked by tape] they will make an equitable decision…” He named George and Conner as joint executors. Maria was not named in the will, as she had passed away in 1864[xi] at the age of 52.

The story is now starting to come together. Conner Healy emigrated with the Power siblings, and sometime after their arrival, Henry “adopted” Conner, whether formally, or informally. If I were to guess? I would guess informally, as Henry was naturalized 15 May 1855,[xii] and Conner appeared before the circuit court to petition for naturalization 5 Nov 1860[xiii]. If he had been formally adopted shortly after arrival, wouldn’t he, at age 19, gone with Henry when he petitioned for naturalization in 1855?

It was not C. J. Robertson who was living with Henry in the 1870 census, but his sister, Charity Jane Robinson. Charity Jane lived to be 101 years old, and because of this we get a glimpse into the history of the Power family. 

On the occasion of her 100th birthday, the story of her life was printed in the newspaper.[xiv] She was born at Kells, County Meath, Ireland, and the article states that her birth was recorded in the “little Episcopal church.” She was very well educated as she “could write and speak fluently seven different languages, and besides was an accomplished short hand writer.” The story goes on to say that her grandfather was Richard Power, a captain in the British Navy, and that he had died at age 56 on 2 Sep 1770 at Kells. Her father was a captain of a British war vessel and had sailed to all parts of the world, three times being shipwrecked. Charity Jane was married to Alexander P. Robinson, and together they had five sons, and one daughter, all who emigrated to Fond du Lac County. In 1865, the Robinsons set out to follow their children to the United States. It is reported that shortly before they were to land, Alexander passed away, and was buried at sea, leaving Charity Jane to continue on to Wisconsin, where “for a time resided with her brother, who had a handsome little cottage here.” By 1885, four of her children had passed away, only her son William Henry Harvey was still living. William H. H. was a well-known photographer living and working in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin between 1870-1893.[xv] He passed away 11 Mar 1893 in Oshkosh.

Following her son’s death, Charity Jane, known as Grandma Robinson, resided at the Home for the Friendless, aka The Home, on Arndt Street in the city of Fond du Lac. She passed away 6 Nov 1900 in Fond du lac, at the age of 101. 

We may never know why Conner was placed in the care of the Power siblings and sent to America, but it is evident that they were committed to caring for each other. The Powers, especially Henry, while Conner was still a young boy, and later Conner taking in, and caring for Maria at the end of her life.

The George, Henry and Maria Power, Charity Jane Robinson, Conner Healy. Distant relatives? Maybe. But most certainly family in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, USA/


[i] Frederick Douglas Hamilton Cook and Kathryn Ellen May (Somerville) Cook, Echoes from Andrew and Anna: A Historical/Genealogical Story of Andrew & Anna Christina (Palmer) Cook – The Gentle Cook Embrace, 2 volumes (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada: The Andrew Cook Genealogical Society, 1992), II: 990. 

[ii] “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909, p. http://www.wiclarkcountyhistory.org/1data/23/23084.htm. Cit. Date: 16 Oct 2018.  

[iii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881.  Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003.  Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.  

[iv] “Connor Healy,” (Colby) Colby Phonograph, 9 Sep 1909.  

[v] Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), entry for Connor Heloe; citing: Year: 1848; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 075; Line: 1; List Number: 1027; Page Number: 9.  

[vi] 1850 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Friendship, Dist. No 9, p. 556, 557 [penned], 278-279 [stamped], dwelling 544, family 560, George Powers household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2003); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 997. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2016.  

[vii] Civil War: NARA – Civil War Pension Records, Civil War Pension Records (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC), Pension Application for Conner Healy, dated 2 May 1881.  Cit. Date: 29 Dec 2003.  Cit. ID: Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.               

[viii]1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.

[ix] 1860 U.S. census, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Fond du Lac, 5th Ward, Post Office: Fond du Lac, p. 140 (penned) p. 634 (handwritten), dwelling 1071, family 1020, Conner Healy household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1408.  

[x] Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Wisconsin County, District and Probate Courts, Probate Case Files, No 3189-3218, O´Brien, Patrick, Cont – Reed Warren, 1848-1900. Henry Power; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Feb 2020).

[xi] Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com, Find A Grave (<findagrave.com> contributed gravestone photos, cemetery and biographical information), Marie T. Powers Memorial, created by Steve Seim, 7 Jul 2011, Memorial no: 72987052.  Cit. Date: 12 Feb 2020.  

[xii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Feb 2020), Henry Power, 1855; citing: Naturalization Records. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center. http://polk.uwosh.edu/archives/courtrecords: accessed 28 December 2015.

[xiii] University of Oshkosh Archives and Area Research Center, “Naturalization Records,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Oct 2018), Conner Healy; citing: Healy – Naturalizations – Declaration, item ID: 83343, Call no: Fond du Lac Series 36, volume 6, p. 219, no: 3464.

[xiv]“Lived in Oshkosh,” The Daily Northwestern, 22 Mar 1898, Tuesday, p. 6, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 13 Feb 2020). 

[xv] https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/pdfs/WHI-Wisconsin-Photographers-Index-1840-1976.pdf

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