My Irish Roots in My Hometown

Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin was my great great grandmother. I estimated this photo was taken in the 1880s. This photo has been edited.

I’ve been thinking about my Irish roots this week, because yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day.  One of my classmates put a post on Facebook saying, “I’m actually part Irish from my dad’s mom!”  So I responded to her by saying, “I’m actually part Irish from my mom’s dad!!”  – which is true.  My mom was Betty Lou Bucklin, and her dad was Fred Bucklin.  Fred’s father was Louis Charles Bucklin and his mother was Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin.  When I looked back at my previous posts, I realized that I’ve been negligent of my Irish roots.  It’s been three years since I wrote anything about it.  I’ve been hoping to find the exact year of when they immigrated.  I was thinking that I would find that important morsel of information and write a nice post about it.  It hasn’t happened, but I shouldn’t let that keep me from writing about my Irish peeps.

When I responded to my classmate, I also realized that I usually overlook Mary Ann and talk about being a great great great grandson of Maria Ettadosia Mooney McGrath.  I just love saying that name.  But I want to talk a little about Mary Ann and what she did.  I’ve mentioned her in two other posts, but only in relation to her son Joe who had such a tragic life.  In those posts, her death is just one of the tragedies in his life.  I’m sharing a photo of her that I’ve shared before.  Even when I posted that photo of her before, it was in relation to finding out who Maria Ettadosia was.  So let’s explore Mary Ann’s life.

Mary Ann was born in 1834 in Roscommon, Ireland.  She was the fourth of seven children of Edward and Maria Ettadosia McGrath.  The youngest sibling was born in 1838 in Ireland.  In Ireland at the time, potatoes were a large staple in the diet of the Irish people.  They would have some version of it for almost every meal.  So it’s hard to imagine the massive impact that a potato blight had on the population.  The Irish Potato Famine was in full force in 1845, when Mary Ann was not yet a teenager.  I talk about the tragedies that her son Joe had to endure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Ann endured even more.  From 1845 to 1855 about a million Irish people died from starvation.  And just because the family survived, doesn’t mean that it was an easy time.  I wish I knew more about what they experienced. 

Besides the deaths from lack of food, almost two million people left Ireland in hopes of finding a better situation.  The McGrath family was included in this group.  They left Ireland and settled in Palmer, Massachusetts.  Like I said at the beginning, I haven’t been able to find out when they arrived in the US.  I know they were here by 1854, because that was the year that Mary Ann married James Bucklin in Springfield, Massachusetts.  It was the second marriage for James.  He was married to a woman named Rhoda Maria Gove and they had two children together – James and Mary.  Sadly, Rhoda died at the age of 26 in 1849.

So Mary Ann was 20 years old when she married 33-year-old single father of two James Bucklin on Sept. 21, 1854.  A year later they had a daughter named Jennie.  In 1861 Joseph was born.  At some point in the next few years the family moved from Massachusetts to Iowa.  They were there at least by 1864, because Edd Bucklin was born in Sand Springs, Iowa, that year.  Sand Springs is in Delaware County and the family stayed in this area for another 10 years.  My great grandfather Louis Charles Bucklin was born April 11, 1873, in Masonville, which is in Delaware County.

When the family moved south to Louisiana in 1884, Mary Ann was a 50-year-old mother of four and step-mother of two.  And she was a grandmother!  Jennie gave birth to a son named Clarence Kenyon in 1879.  She was married to another man named Ben Taylor by 1884, and they came down to Louisiana with the family.  Jennie had a daughter named Vera shortly after arriving in the south.  So Mary Ann had two grandchildren in 1884, but there were more to come through the years.

But now that I’ve got her down to Louisiana, I wanted to tell about her influence in my hometown of Jennings, Louisiana.  When we were kids, we used to go to the big library on Cary Avenue.  It is a public library and it is named the Jennings Carnegie Public Library.  I always liked that old, cool library when I was young.  It had such a soothing smell of old paper.  I wasn’t aware of its connection to my ancestor until I was older.  So when I went to my 40 year High School Reunion in 2019, I decided to look into the connection that I had heard about.  I arrived in Jennings a little earlier so I could go to that old library and see if there was any family history information available.

Newspaper article about the Jennings Carnegie Public Library mentions my great great grandmother Mary A. Bucklin.

Sure enough, there was.  I found a letter that was written to my great grandfather Louis Bucklin.  But more importantly, I found a newspaper article that talked about the founding of the library I had always been fond of.  It spoke about the Organization of the library, “The library society grew out of a society for mutual aid, social and intellectual improvement formed by the following ladies…” and the second person listed is none other than Mary A. Bucklin, my great great grandmother.

It looks like she was present at the first meeting which was held on January 24, 1885.  This is less than a year after the family moved down to Louisiana.  This must have been something important to her, because they didn’t live in Jennings proper.  They were homesteading north of Jennings around the Hathaway area.  She would have been taking a wagon into town and meeting with those other ladies to discuss ways to improve the area. 

I don’t know much more about her involvement, but I like the fact that she is linked to the beginnings of that old library I know so well.  She was also involved in the lives of her children and grandchildren who lived in the area.  Her son Joe lived in Jennings with his wife and two daughters.  But then his wife died in 1899 after giving birth to a son.  At the end of that year his 6-year-old daughter died as well.  Joe must have been having a hard time taking care of his infant son and other daughter, because Mary Ann went to live with them to help him out.  (James had died in 1890.)  

She was only able to help out for a few months, then she came down with the flu.  She ended up dying from that on April 10, 1900, in Jennings at the age of 66.  She is buried in an unmarked grave at the Jennings Greenwood cemetery.  That is another fact I  was unaware of when growing up in Jennings.  I’m glad to know about her connections to Jennings and I’m proud to be the great great grandson of Mary Ann McGrath Bucklin.  Erin go bragh.


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