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The Kenny Family History 1800-1812


Kenny is the actual surname for this family whose origin was in Ireland. When the family came to the USA one of the son's of the immigrating father thought that the name sounded better as McKenny. Thus it was changed sometime before 1863 when John filed for his Intentions for Naturalization.

The given name first known Kenny in this line is debated. One family calls him, Patrick. Another family calls him, Andrew. Given names are passed down very regularly in this family. The more frequently found given names are Thomas Andrew, Kieran Francis, and John Francis. John, the son only child of this first Kenny named one of his sons, Thomas Andrew and other son was Kieran.. It is also believed that John had a son who died in Ireland, perhaps his name was Patrick.

We believe, Andrew Patrick Kenny and Catherine A. COFFEY were blessed with only one child, a son they named John. He was born not far from Athlone in around 1813-1816 in a "dwelling overlooking the Shannon River". This is believed to be in King's County (Offaly), Ireland. However, other sources place his birth in other counties. Offaly is the county of the Slieve Mountains and the Shannon River and fairly flat bog land which is most suitable for harvesting peat and grazing cattle and sheep.
John took up farming when he moved to the USA.

We don't know anything about Andrew Patrick and Catherine A.(COFFEY) McKenny and their son's life until John was about 19 years old. At 19 years, John married Catherine A. GUINAN. Catherine was probably one year younger than John. Since John was the only son, he probably would have worked the family farm. It is believed that the dwelling was on a 5 mile stretch of road between Shannonbridge and Clonmacnoise Abbey, (one of the oldest abbeys in Ireland founded by a monk, St. Ciaran in 550). It is believed that John and Catherine stayed on that land or near by, because we know at least their three youngest children were baptized near there. Family stories also say the son, Thomas, waded in the Shannon River.

All of John and Catherine's children were born in Ireland. We have not located the baptismal records for the first two or three, Bridget, Mary Ellen, and possibly a son who died in Ireland. However, the written baptismal records for Thomas A., Kieran, and Katherine were found at Cloghen, Banagher Catholic Parish, Co. Offaly, Ireland. The type written records were found at the town of Banagher. The sponsors of these children were SMOLLIN and CUSACK. We do not know if these were friends or relatives.

We don't know how the family fared at that time, but we do know that Ireland was in great turmoil in the 1840's and 1850's. Ireland was heavily over populated. It was under the rule of England, who did not like the Irish, particularly the Catholics. England had just lifted rules that kept the Irish Catholics from using their own language, practicing their religion, going to school, or having control of their lives and possessions. Furthermore, the country had just gone through the great potato famine. There was disease rampant in the country. From our own family account, it is said that " … English landlords burned the farms" and that there was still great famine.

We don't know if that is why the Kenny's decided to go to the United States of America. All we do know is that when they decided to go, the mother, Catherine A. (GUINAN) Kenny became ill and died (possibly of tuberculosis) when they were about to leave. It is said that her youngest was 5 years old at the time of her death, so we believe this was in 1849.

Catherine's sister, Mrs. Charles CARROLL, helped John by taking care of four of the children while he and Thomas left for the USA. There are some discrepancies in the date, the most specific says they left March 1853. Thomas' descendants tell the story that Thomas was a stow away in the hold of the ship. This may be true, but it is just as likely that his fare paid for his passage in the hold. The ships at that time were called "Coffin Ships" because they were severely over crowded, the conditions and provisions were very poor and disease spread quickly on the journey. Many lost their lives on the trip, thus "Coffin Ships".

John and Thomas fared well as they arrived safely in New York. They were much luckier than most of the other Irish who landed in the USA. Many of the Irish were greeted by swindlers trying to take the last of their money. They also found living conditions were little or no better than in Ireland. Nativism in the USA at that time echoed the feeling of the English toward the Irish Catholic.

John and Thomas more than likely were greeted by relatives. As much as 2 years before John and Thomas came over, Catherine's sister's three children came to the USA. It was found that in June 1851, the ship Monapia from Wexford to NYC carried two passengers listed together that appear to be about the age of John's neice and her husband, Patrick Larkin, 20 year old male laborer, and Mary Carroll, 18 year old spinster. The daughter, Mary (CARROLL) LARKIN and her husband John or Patrick were already running a hotel or boarding house in New York. It is believed that John and Thomas stayed with Mary and her husband for a few days to up to a year when they arrived. The two CARROLL brothers, Patrick and Michael were also believed to be in the USA at that time.

Once John and Thomas arrived, they were said to have taken one of two different courses of action. One account states they stayed in New York for as much as a year and worked as stevedores (dock workers). The strongest family account says, they left New York after a few days by railroad on their way to Ohio. At that time, the Irish population was second in numbers only to the German population in Ohio. I found Coffey and Carroll name on the Clark Co.Census, so there could be relatives living there, however, family history states that the Carrolls were the only relatives of our line to come the the USA and it appears that Michael or Patrick was not in Ohio at the time John and Thomas got there.

When John and Thomas arrived in Ohio, they found work with the railroads being built at that time. They settled in, South Charleston, Clark County, Ohio. Near there the Columbus Xenia Railroad was being built. We do not know if John and Thomas worked for this railroad. We do know that John was first a teamster with a railroad grading crew, but was quickly promoted to foreman when the present foreman became ill. John and Thomas lived and ate at boarding houses.

Sometime that year, before school started in the fall, John invested in an improved farm of 70 acres a mile from South Charleston. At that time, South Charleston was twelve miles southeast of Springfield and was surrounded by rich level country. In an 1887 letter to his son, John talks about selling land to a Catholic Congergation. Using that date, we believe the church to be the St. Charles Borromeo Parish which was on the northeast side of South Charleston. This church is also in Madison Township of Clark Co., Ohio where we located John on the census.This is where John would raise his children.

It is said that the children came over before school started in the fall, Bridget who was seventeen kept house, but also attended school with the other children. It is also said that Kieran and Katherine came on the ship alone two years after his father came. The descendents of Kieran McKenny tells the story that Kieran sold brooms in order to make enough money for ship's fare for he and his younger sister, Catherine. It is also told that Kieran came over when he was 12 years old. That would have been in 1854. They didn't come with friends or relatives, but the other passengers looked after them because they were young and alone.

John was a literate man as documented by U.S. census and a letter he wrote to his son Kieran. The children received their education in the common or public schools in Ohio. Thomas and Kieran also learned farming and stock raising from their father. When their school days were over, Thomas and Kieran would work for nearby farmers when not helping their father.

By 1859, Bridget and James O'Rourke were married and had already had one child in Ohio. In 1860, Mary Ellen had married Christopher Cummins. In August of 1862, both Thomas and Kieran joined the Union Army to fight the Civil War, when Fort Sumter was fired upon. Kieran enlisted at South Charleston, Ohio, in Company C, with Captain Smith, the 110th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Thomas served in the U.S. Army Cavalry.

During the Civil War, both Thomas and Kieran were wounded, but they both lived to be discharded and their injuries didn't seem to effect the rest of their lives. Kieran accompanied his regiment to the Grand Review at Washington, D.C. and was "mustered out" at Columbus, Ohio in June of 1865. He was discharged as a corporal of his company. Thomas also left the Army in 1865.

Thomas returned home for a short while after the war. There he met Father Purcell, the parish priest of South Charleston, Ohio. Fr. Purcell told Thomas of his visit with Father Hennessey of St. Joseph, Mo. Fr. Hennessey praised Missouri as a land of opportunity, especially for a young man who wished to farm. Acting on Father Purcell's advice, Thomas went to St. Joseph, Mo., in August 1865. He carried with him a letter of introduction from the priest in Ohio. Father Hennessey welcomed Thomas warmly and learning that he was interested in buying a farm, so he sent Thomas to a friend who was real estate agent.

As far out as several miles from St. Joseph land was selling as high as twenty five dollars to forty dollars an acre. The real estate agent had farms in Gentry County that could be bought for much less. There were no railroads at that time, so Thomas and the real estate agent left the next morning on the stage coach that ran from St. Joseph, Mo. to Albany, Mo., the County Seat of Gentry County.

At that time, there were no fences on the Gentry County prairie where the cattle grazed. The stage happened to go diagonally across one of the farms for sale. Leaving the stage, they looked over the farms. Thomas and the real estate agent soon came to an agreement concerning the selling price of the farm. The farm with its new log-house should perhaps have brought more, but Thomas was willing to pay cash, so he purchased the one hundred and sixty acres for five dollars an acre.

After Thomas bought the land, he returned to Ohio.Thomas stayed in Ohio only a short while. Thomas needed more money than he had to improve his farm. So Kieran and he went to Leavenworth where their cousins Patrick and Michael CARROLL had been since at least 1859. The CARROLL's were employed as teamsters on the Santa Fe Trail. After working around the government barns that fall and winter, he was also put on a wagon as one of the drivers. He drove to Santa Fe, 820 miles from Leavenworth at twenty miles a day. Kieran worked either for the government or as a contrator to the government on the Oregon trails.

Thomas finally settled on his land in 1866 and married Jane Martha SETZER. They reared their children in Gentry County. Missouri and Buchanan County, Missouri. Jane and Thomas lived in St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri the rest of their lives.

Kieran was a driver or "bullwhacker" on the Oregon Trail when Denver, Fort Collins, Fort Laramie, and Cheyenne were in their infancy. He may have worked for Forde Company at Leavenworth, Kansas or for the government. He bought land in Gentry County while on furlough and then settled in Gentry County in 1871. He married Mary Elizabeth (FLOOD) in 1874 and they reared their family in Gentry County and lived out their lives there.

Bridget and James O'ROURKE were married and all of their nine children were born in Ohio. They moved their family to Gentry County, Missouri in 1866 and helped keep house for Thomas. Later they bought land near there and farmed. Bridget and James and three daughters are buried at St. Patrick's Cemetery near Ford City, Gentry Co., Missouri

Mary Ellen McKenny and Christopher CUMMINS were married in Xenia, Ohio. They moved thier family to Gentry County, Missouri near the other McKenny siblings in 1867. They farmed there for nearly 50 years and then moved to Stanberry, Missouri. They finally moved to Maryville, Missouri where they spent the rest of their lives.

Catherine is said to have married a distant cousin, Thomas GUINAN. They were supposed to have married during the Civil War. We have no information about them except that Catherine died in Wyoming, perhaps in Laramie.

John, the father, remained in Ohio his entire life and remarried about 1858 to a .Mary ROGERSON. Mary was also born in Ireland, but had spent some time in Connecticut where her children by her first husband were born. John and Mary supposedly married after Catherine married. By the 1870 census, both of Mary Rogerson's children, Therissa, age 25, and Joseph, age 24, lived with them in Madison Township, Clark County Ohio with a post office of Vienna x Roads.

John raised cattle and hogs on the farm near South Charleston, Ohio. His land was near land of James Murray of old Vance plow He wrote that it was near where an old tollgate stood and that a creek ran between his farm and town. It is believed that his farm was about one mile from South Charleston in Madison Township, Clark County, Ohio.

John McKenny died late January or early February, 1892. He was brought to Gentry County, Missouri by his sons and buried int Saint Patrick's Catholic Cemetery near Ford City, Gentry County, Missouri.

After John's death, Mary Rogerson McKenny lived out her life in the home of Thomas A. and Jane (SETZER) McKenny in St. Joseph, Buchanan County Missouri. She is also buried at the Saint Patrick's Catholic Cemetery near Ford City, Gentry County, Missouri.

Compiled by Sharmin Fairbanks McKenny December 2001