52 Ancestors: #1 Anthony Maguire (1840-1882)

Tonight I decided to take on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, though I am already behind and have some catching up to do! I’m starting with the ancestor that has consumed the most time in all of my research, and the one you’ll likely hear me talk the most about if you ask me about my family history. The mysterious, great, great grandfather: Anthony Maguire.

Anthony was born around September of 1840 in Ireland to Patrick and Mary Maguire. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time trying to track down exactly where in Ireland he is from, and I am not going to quit until I find the answer. Every piece of information I’ve found on the man has helped contribute to this picture that I’ve painted in my mind of who he was. But really, I have no idea. He could have been a jerk.

He came to the United States in August of 1857 when things were less than awesome in Ireland. He came alone.  He was seventeen years old. SEVENTEEN.  I don’t know the circumstances. What of his family? Had they died and he had to survive, so he left?  Had his family pooled all of what little money they had to send him, the most able of the Maguire children, to America so that he could work, and send money for the rest of his family to follow? These scenarios were quite common, and I like to think that he left for some noble reason such as these, but I’m also prepared to learn that this wasn’t the case.  Did I mention he was seventeen? He had to have been one brave, independent, and grown-up seventeen year old.

He spent a small amount of time in Pennsylvania before making his way to Winsted, Minnesota in 1860, where he promptly married an Irishwoman named Bridget Cafferty, and began the naturalization and homesteading process while at the same time, starting a family. On his land and naturalization papers, he signed his name with an ‘x’ – so I presume he had no education, and could not read or write. Despite that, he seemed to be doing okay. I found a description of the work he had put into his homestead project:

anthony maguire homestead description

Sounds like a decent enough guy, eh? By the time he had completed the homesteading process, he could sign his own name.  And for that small achievement, I am proud of him.

In 1872, shortly after the birth of his 8th child, his wife Bridget passed away at the age of 37. Soon after, he picked up and moved to the tiny but quickly growing Irish settlement of Green Isle, Minnesota. In this town, he found a new wife, Mary Jane O’Meara, with whom he had 7 more children. He was doing pretty well in this town, and in January of 1882, he bought himself a  Saloon, which also happened to be the first building in the Green Isle townsite. Just shy of a  year later on November 27th, 1882, he returned from a funeral and went out to chop some wood at his home.  Not three sticks in, he fell dead from a heart attack at the age of 42.  His was the first death in the town of Green Isle. His in-laws, the O’Mearas, a very prominent, businessy and political family in the new town must have thought (at least a little) well of him, because they buried him in their family plot. Really very nice of you, O’Mearas, but I do kind of which you would’ve provided a little more info…



With every little bit that I pick up in my research, I feel like I’m getting to know him a little better. And I’m thankful that he survived the dangerous voyage to get here, and worked hard to have a decent, but short-lived, life in rural Minnesota. Nothing glamorous or shocking about his story (so far), but I’m okay with that. And like it, even.

Thanks, McG.

McG Stone



One Comment to “52 Ancestors: #1 Anthony Maguire (1840-1882)”

  1. Why did he move to Minnesota?

    “I’m a teenager. I just left my birthplace, my family — my home country — and crossed an ocean. But I need more of a challenge. Hey, I know! I’ll head west into unsettled territory.”

    Was Pennsylvania full? Minnesota had only recently entered the union and was largely unsettled. Lots of opportunity for land owner-wannabes, I suppose.

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