Saturday, February 4, 2017

Tragedies and Hardships in Northeast Pennsylvania - The Families of Margaret (Loughrey) Flynn Irving Townsley

The Note: The first 2 paragraphs are historical fiction based on the research and finding this family story.

The day day begins like all others, the satisfaction of providing for your growing family even at the risk you take every day entering the mine. Autocratic bosses, owners only concerned with profit, but the camaraderie of your fellow miners, your connection to your fellow Irishmen and knowing your creating a vibrant community for your children drive you to take the risk. You hop in the car of No. 2 slope of the Pennsylvania Coal Company's mine with 6 other men and 2 boys. It's about 6:30 a.m. when the coal car begins to descend 1100 feet down.

The sudden jerk is the briefest sign this day is not like yesterday, suddenly the car gains speed, Megan and Harrison jump out while the rest rush down the incline of the shaft. You know this isn't good as the curve looms ahead, when you see your fellow miners including the boys with the look that this day will not end well. The curve is hit and your thoughts are only for Margaret, your wife and your three little girls, Hannah, Cecelia and Adelia. Oh, how you wanted to see them grow.

"Mine car wedged at foot of slope from runaway cable." (

The stories and times of our ancestors lives as recorded in facts, newspapers and family lore can impact us in many ways, as my taking liberty to propose historical fiction above to Thomas Flynn's last moments. I cannot imagine what went through the minds of the 7 men and 2 boys killed in the accident on October 25, 1860.1 Thomas Flynn, married man and miner died in the accident. The news would likely move fast as families were notified and his wife Margaret would likely rush to the site for news. It is here that prior research left off and the above historical fiction was a reflection of thinking what my 3 great-grandfather and grandmother went through and how did Margaret fare afterwards.

Evidence indicted that Margaret Loughrey married Thomas Flynn and together they had three daughters, Hannah, Cecelia and Delia.2 The daughters married and their families thrived, but it is believed that Thomas Flynn died between 1860 - 1863 when an article appeared regarding the estate of Thomas Flynn.3 The article describes land bounding two neighbors, Patrick Moylan (various spellings) and William Loughrey (various spellings), both neighbors to Thomas and Margaret by the 1860 census. No will records have been located regarding the estate and no further information was found in newspapers.

Research led to the proposal that after being widowed, Margaret Loughrey, re-married to Thomas Irwin/Irving and appears in the 1870 U.S. census. It also appears that near the time of Thomas Flynn's death, they had an additional child born around 1861 named Dominic Flynn, who appears in the 1870 census with Margaret as well. Dominic was not found in subsequent searches of census or death certificates or any other records.

Once again, newspapers offer opportunities to learn about our ancestors and offer clues to to piece their stories together. In times of limited to no protection for child laborers or working class in general, Margaret appears to be struck by tragedy again in 1874. An article indicates a Dominick Flynn, at 15 years of age, had been driving driving the mules, and when trying to get off the car, fell and was run over, suffering a crushed skull that proved fatal.4

The article indicates that as of 1874, his mother presumably Margaret was a widow again, her second husband Thomas Irving/Irwin having died between 1870 and 1874. The potential connection from this article of Margaret to Dominic Flynn from the 1870 census is circumstantial and the interesting point is the reference that Dominic was "commonly known as Irwin". This might be referring to the surname from the 1870 census and that the Flynn children were referred to as Irwin/Irvings. If correct, Margaret married Thomas Irwin or Irving after Thomas Flynn's death and thus shows the connection to the family in the 1870 Census. The evidence is based largely on the fact that no other records could be found for Dominic Flynn and his age at the time of death is close to the census information.

Prior research led to the conclusion that Margaret married a third and final time to a man named Townsley (Townley). Records vary between whether it was a Samuel or Robert Townsley/Townley but the 1880 census provides the best evidence to link Margaret from the 1870 census to a Margaret Townsely in the 1880 census. Furthermore, an entry for a Michael Erwin, listed as step-son to Samuel Townsley appears possibly linking the Irwin/Erwin/Irving family from 1870.5 A city directory entry for a Margaret Townley appears in 1892 indicating Margaret Townley, widow of Samuel, bds at 132 Mill.6 No information has been located to the death of Samuel Townsley.

The primary research into the 1870 and 1880 census records for Irwin/Irving and Townsley was largely derived from the article for Margaret Loughrey's death, in which her pall bearers were all listed as her grandsons.7 All all but a Leonard Irving were accounted for as sons or son-in-laws to her daughters, Hannah and Adelia.

Research then turned to the Irwin/Irving/Erwin connection and any evidence that might connect the families. It led to more tragedy for this family.

A death certificate for a Leonard Irving indicated he died June 15, 1922 from cerebral hemorrhage and spinal compression from a fall from a crane.8 Leonard's parents were listed as a Michael Irving and Mary Edmonds/Edwards. The potential connection is to Michael Irwin/Irving from the 1880 and 1870 census.

Searching for Michael Irwin/Erwin/Irving led to a death certificate in which his parents were listed as Thomas Irving and Margaret Irving,9 potentially linking the 1870 census in which Thomas Irwin and his wife Margaret have a child Michael. The sadness continues in that Michael died 12 October 1911 in a mine cave-in.

Through multiple tragedies, Margaret survived until 1916 passing away at the age of 88. Of her children, Cecelia Jane died in 1921, Hannah died in 1924, only Delia lived to the ripe old age of 94 before passing away in 1948. A celebration of her 84th included her reminiscing of ". . .the hardships and difficulties encountered by early residents . . ."10 likely a reflection on the tragedy that followed her family but the strength of family and friends that allowed the family to persevere.

The research leads to the likely family tree for Margaret Loughrey.

Generated by Parallax View's SVG utility. See Margaret Loughrey (1828–1916) Thomas Flynn (1825–1860) Thomas Irving Samuel Townsley Hannah Flynn (1855–1924) Cecelia Jane Flynn (1857–1921) Adelia Flynn (1858–1948) Michael Irving Dominic Flynn (abt. 1859–1874)

1 Pittston Gazette, (Pittston, Pennsylvania), 01 Nov 1860, Thursday, Page 1
2 Barrett, William. "What Happened to the Parents of Cecelia J. Flynn? Using Parts of FAN Principle to Analyze Margaret Loughrey and Thomas Flynn." The Times of Their Lives. Last modified January 7, 2017. Accessed February 4, 2017.
3 The Luzerne Union, (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), 14 Oct 1863, Wednesday, Page 2
4 Daily Record of the Times, (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), 10 Apr 1874, Friday, Page 3
5 Year: 1880; Census Place: Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1150; Family History Film: 1255150; Page: 365A; Enumeration District: 144; Image: 0738
6 Pittston, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1892
7 The Wilkes-Barre Record, (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), 12 Oct 1916, Thursday, Page 4
8 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Certificate 60083
9 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Certificate 92433.
10 The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 28 Sep 1938, Wednesday, Page 18

© 2017 William C. Barrett


  1. Hi,

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    Have a great weekend!

  2. Hi Jana,
    Thank you so much for reading and sharing in your new discoveries section. It is greatly appreciated.