About PetersPioneersJames and Bridget McNally Family

Lawrence Robinson and Chris Novak contributed to this family history.

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James Born in 1820

Irish flagIreland. James McNally was born in Ireland in 1820, based on his age in the 1860 census.

Bridget Born in 1820

Irish flagIreland. Bridget was born in Ireland in 1820, based on her age in the 1860 census. We do not know Bridget's maiden name.

James and Bridget Marry in 1840, Have 5 Children

Irish flagSometime before 1841, James and Bridget were married. This is based on the birth year of their oldest child Ellen. We do not know whether they were married in Ireland or America.

Albany. Sometime before 1841, James and Bridget immigrated to America and settled in Albany, New York.

In 1841, James and Bridget's first child Ellen was born in New York State. Her great grandson, Larry Robinson remembers hearing that Ellen was born in Albany.

In 1844, James and Bridget's second child Henry was born in New York State.

New York/Vermont, 1844/53-1849/53. Sometime between 1844 and 1853, the McNallys moved to Vermont.

In 1846, James and Bridget's third child Sarah Ella was born. Sarah was born in Vermont based on the 1870 and 1900 censuses. She was born in New York State based on the 1860 and 1880 censuses.

In 1849, James and Bridget's fourth child James was born. He was born in New York State based on the 1870 census and his death certificate but Vermont based on the 1860 census.

Illinois, 1849/53-1853/55. Sometime between 1849 and 1853, the McNally's moved to Illinois.

In 1853, James and Bridget's fifth child Catherine, who was called "Kitty," was born in Illinois.

Washington Township, Winnesheik County, Iowa, 1853/55-1857/58. Sometime between 1853 and 1858, the family may have lived on a farm in Iowa, 275 miles west northwest of Chicago. Tax receipts for 1855, 1856, and 1857 indicate that James McNally owned 160 acres of land in the northeast corner of Iowa - 30 miles south of the Minnesota border and 40 west of the Wisconsin border (Mississippi River). Specifically, it was in Section 31 of Washington Township in Winnesheik County, 5 miles south southwest of Fort Atkinson. We have no other confirmation that the McNallys lived in Iowa. It is possible that they owned land but never lived there.

Mcnally Iowa map

Approximation of McNally 160 acres in Washington Township, Winnesheik County, Iowa. The west side of 280th Avenue would be the eastern half of the northwest corner of section 31. The east side of 280th Avenue would be the western half of the northwest corner of section 31. Source: Google maps, November 2022.

Chicago, Loop, 1857/58-1861. After Iowa, the McNallys moved to Chicago, Illinois. They lived in an area now called the Loop. Beginning in 1858, the Chicago city directory shows James working as a laborer and the McNallys living at 241 Sherman, the rough equivalent of 999 S. Financial Place today. This was a block south of St. Louis Church, a French parish that included many Irish. It was founded in 1850 and destroyed by the Chicago Fire of 1871.

Sherman Chicago map

Excerpt from 1857 map of Chicago showing Sherman Street and Polk Street (one block south of Harrison), where the McNallys lived. This was just west of the tracks used by the Michigan Southern Railroad and the Rock Island Railroad. Source: Blanchard's Map of Chicago, 1857.

In 1857, James and Bridget's daughter Ellen, 16, married John Dempsey, a railroad flagman, born in Ireland. The date is based on the age of their oldest child in census records. We do not know where this marriage occurred. Ellen and John had 12 children.

In 1858, Ellen and John's first child, James, was born.

In 1859, Ellen and John's second child, Joseph, was born.

In May 1860, Abraham Lincoln was nominated President at the Republican National Convention at the Wigwam, a large temporary building erected at Lake Street and near the Chicago River, the equivalent of 191 N. Wacker Drive today. The Wigwam was just a mile north of where the McNallys lived.

Sherman Chicago map

The old Chicago Wigwam - the building in which Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency, May 18th, 1860
Sherman Chicago map

The Republicans in nominating convention in their Wigwam in Chicago, May, 1860. Source: Harper weekly.

James Dies at age 61

Cemetery Record

In 1861, James McNally died in Chicago at age 41, leaving his wife Bridget and four unmarried children. James was buried March 19 in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois, in Section D, Block 9, Lot 11. The plot is unmarked, but located just south of a grave marked “Maloney.” The cemetery lot was purchased at the time of her husband's death by Bridget and her son-in-law John Dempsey. The plot would subsequently include a number of Dempseys and McNallys.

Bridget Widowed in 1861 at Age 41

Chicago, Loop, 1861-1870. Upon the death of her husband James in 1861, Bridget, 41, was left with four unmarried children. Henry was 17. Sarah was 15. James was age 12. Kitty was 8. Ellen was 20 and married with two children.

The McNallys continued to live in the Loop at 241 Sherman.

Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago RailroadIn 1862, Bridget's son Henry married Margaret. Henry worked for the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. He started as a switchman and worked his way up to yardmaster. The "Fort Wayne" started serving Chicago on Christmas Day of 1858. It was a major connection to the East Coast, eventually becoming part of the Pennsylvania Railroad System, then the Penn Central railroad.

In 1862, Ellen and John's third child, John, was born.

In 1863, Henry and Margaret's first child, James H., was born.

In 1864, Ellen and John's fourth child, Mary, was born.

On May 1, 1865, The Lincoln Funeral Train passed a half mile east of the McNally home on the Michigan Central Railroad which ran that day on the Illinois Central tracks on the lakefront trestle. Just north of 12th Street, the body was transferred from the train to a hearse for a procession north on Michigan Avenue, west on Lake Street and south on Clark Street to the Chicago City Hall. On the evening of May 2, the body was taken to Union Station where the President's Car had been placed in a Chicago and Alton train. The train then proceeded south on the Rock Island tracks along Archer Avenue to Lockport, Joliet, and eventually Springfield for burial. The president’s widow, Mary Todd, had stayed in Washington, too distraught to travel with her husband’s remains.

Lincoln Funeral Train Chicago map

Lincoln Funeral Train on the Illinois Central tracks off the shore of Lake Michigan. Source: Pullman History Site.

In 1866, Ellen and John's fifth child, Ellen, was born.

In 1866, Henry and Margaret's second child, Matthew, was born.

In 1868, Ellen and John's sixth child, Sarah, was born.

Chicago, Bridgeport, 1870-1890. In 1870, the McNallys moved to the Bridgeport section of Chicago. They purchased a house at 228 Archer Avenue (2321 S. Archer Avenue after 1880). This is on the south side of Archer Avenue at 23rd Place. The 1870 census indicates that Bridget owned the house and that it was worth $1,400.

Bridgeport was the eastern end of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and had become part of Chicago in 1863. The McNally house was just west of Hanover (Canal) Street and south of the Chicago and Alton Railroad tracks, which ran along the south bank of the Chicago River. In 1870, Archer Avenue was a dirt road used to drive cattle to slaughter.

Archer Avenue was named after Colonel William Beatty Archer, who nominated Abraham Lincoln for vice president in 1856. He was a civil engineer who supervised construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, providing work for many of his Irish immigrant neighbors. Source: WTTW.

Archer Chicago map

Excerpt from 1872 map of Chicago showing Archer Avenue, where the McNallys lived between 22nd and 23rd Streets. Source: Blanchard's Map of Cook and DuPage Counties, 1872.

The section of Bridgeport where the McNallys lived was a mission of St. Bridget parish, which had been founded in 1850 at Archer Avenue and Church Street. Every Sunday a priest would say Mass in a rented store located at 26th and Lowe. In 1875, All Saints parish was carved out of St. Bridget’s parish, and Father Edward Joseph Dunne was made pastor. The new parish extended from the river south to 31st Street and from Wentworth east to Halsted. The first Mass was said on August 15 on the first floor of a two story building. School opened two weeks later on the second floor. In 1893, Pope Leo XIII made Father Dunne the second Bishop of Dallas, Texas. All Saints Church is now St. Anthony-All Saints Church, 518 West 28th Place.

In 1870, Henry and Margaret's third child, Sarah, was born.

In 1870, Ellen and John's seventh child, Daniel, was born.

The Great Chicago Fire burned a large part of Chicago on October 8–10, 1871, but it did not reach Archer Avenue. Nor did it reach Sherman Street, where they had lived a year earlier.

In 1873, Ellen and John's eighth child, Alice, was born.

In 1875, Bridget's daughter Sarah was working for Burley & Tyrell, wholesalers of china, glass, and queensware at 83 State Street. That year Sarah, 29, married Philip Leslie Biggins, 34, who owned a portion of his father's farm in DuPage Township, Will County. They were married at Bridget's home on August 26, 1875. Following their wedding, Philip and Sarah lived on the family farm in DuPage Township.

In 1875, Ellen and John's ninth child, Walter, was born.

In 1877, Ellen and John's tenth child, Thomas, was born.

In January 1877, Sarah and Philip's first child, Leslie, was born.

Sometime between 1870 and 1878, Bridget's son James married Catherine Weber. Catherine was born in Germany. James and Catherine lived at 182 Archer Avenue (2265 after 1880), a block from Bridget. In January 1878, James came down with phthisis pulmonalis. In July 1878, James, 27, and Catherine, 24, had a son James. James was a machinist. (See birth certificate.) On March 16, 1879, their son James died at home of tubercular meningitis after a two week illness. He was buried at Calvary in the same unmarked plot as his grandfather James. On June 30, 1879, James himself died at home of phthisis pulmonalis at age 29. He had been ill for a year and a half. (See death certificate.) He was buried at Calvary in the same unmarked plot as his father James. In a period of less than four months, Catherine Weber McNally lost both her son and her husband.

In 1879, Ellen and John's eleventh child, Lauretta, was born.

In 1880, Sarah and Philip's second child, Arthur, was born.

In 1882, Ellen and John's twelfth child, Edward, was born.

In 1885, Sarah and Philip moved from the farm to Naperville with their sons Leslie, 8, and Arthur, 5.

On July 25, 1885, Bridget's son Henry McNally, 42, died on the Near North Side of phthisis pulmonalis. He had been sick for three and a half years. (See death certificate.) This was the same disease that his brother James died of in 1879. So, within a span of 6 years, three McNallys had died of tuberculosis: James at 29, his infant son James, and Henry at 42.

On July 27, 1887, Bridget's daughter Kate married Patrick White. (See marriage certificate.) Patrick was born in Ireland. He was working as a janitor in the 1910 census.

Bridget Dies in 1890 at Age 70

Cemetery Record

We are not sure when Bridget died or where she is buried. The Calvary cemetery plot that Bridget purchased in 1861 with John Dempsey includes a Bridget McNulty buried September 15, 1890, with the note “rem’d from Naperville.” This may be Bridget. She would have been 70 years old in 1890, but may have been buried earlier than when her body was removed from Naperville.

Bridget was survived by her daughters Ellen Dempsey, Sarah Biggins, and Catherine White.

James and Bridget: 5 children, 19 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren

Ellen McNally 1841-1898  m. 1857 John Dempsey 1830-1907  Photo-1892
  • James Dempsey b. 1858
  • Joseph A. Dempsey 1859-1909
  • John B. Dempsey 1862-1901  m. 1898 Ida Hoffman b. 1868
  • Mary Dempsey b. 1864
  • Ellen Dempsey 1866-1915  m. 1896 John B. Quinn 1864-1940  Photo-ca.1935
    • Anna C. Quinn 1887-1949  m. 1909 Richard D. Jones 1882-1958
    • John Quinn b. 1889
    • Nellie Marie Quinn b. 1891  m. Rubovitz
    • Alice Quinn b. 1893  m. 1928 Leo Conlon  Photo-1952
    • Francis Quinn b. 1895
    • Loretta Quinn 1897-1974  m. Stuart J. Mills 1893-1949
    • Margaret Quinn b. 1899
    • Cecille Quinn b. 1902  m. Maroney
    • Mary Quinn 1907-1990  m. Leonard Crunelle 1907-1992
    • James B. Quinn b. 1907  m. Mildred
  • Sarah Dempsey b. 1868
  • Daniel Dempsey b. 1870
  • Alice Vivian Dempsey 1875-1945  m. 1902 Bernard Peter Gorman
    • Isabell Gorman b. 1904
    • Allen B. Gorman b. 1906
    • Alice M. Gorman b. 1907
    • John J. Gorman b. 1908
    • Sheridan Philip Gorman b. 1908
    • Leonard Gorman b. 1909
    • Sadie Eleanor Gorman 1912-1989  m. Edward Elster Robinson 1907-1961
    • Helen Gorman b. 1914
  • Walter Dempsey b. 1875
  • Thomas Dempsey b. 1877
  • Lauretta Dempsey b. 1879
  • Edward L. Dempsey 1882-1935
Henry McNally 1843-1885  m. 1862 Margaret b. 1848
  • James H. McNally 1863-1904  m. 1889 Katherine O'Connell 1867-1952
    • James H. McNally 1890-1944  m. 1915 Clara H. Olsen b. 1893 (children Florence and Lorraine)
    • William H. McNally b. 1892
  • Matthew McNally b. 1866
  • Sarah McNally b. 1870
Sarah Ella McNally 1846-1911  m. 1875 Philip Leslie Biggins 1840-1913
  • Philip Leslie Biggins 1877-1959  m. 1900 Emily Foy 1878-1967
    • Mary Kathleen Biggins 1902-1986  m. 1828 Philip Coverdale 1908-1978
    • Emily Maria Biggins 1905-1918
    • Philip Leslie Biggins 1909-1967  m. Loretta Olive Taylor 1913-2002
    • John Alfred Biggins 1910-1979  m. 1937 Jane Marie Drueke 1914-1998
    • Richard Vincent Biggins 1913-1994  m. 1937 Virginia Margaret "Dolly" Shay 1916-1985
  • Arthur Biggins 1879-1900+
James McNally 1849-1879  m. Catherine Weber b. 1851
  • James McNally 1878-1879
Catherine McNally 1853-1922  m. 1887 Patrick White b. 1852
  • Cecilia White b. 1893

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