Wellsville Daily Reporter Friday, March 16, 1984
Transcribed by Crist Middaugh
History of Ireland lives in Scio’s Catholic cemetery
By Mary C. Scheeder
Special to the Reporter
Scio - Carr, Cleary, Collins, and Cronin. McGovern, McGuines, McGuire, McGill.
There are more Irish surnames in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Scio than there are place names on many maps of Ireland. At least ten of the twenty-six counties in the Irish Republic are represented by families buried in he oldest Catholic cemetery in Allegany County. Northern Ireland is also represented - by Bridget and Owen Conlon from County Tyrone and Rose McKinley Coyle from County Anterim.
St. Joseph’s Cemetery, has sprawled across a shoulder of a hill in west Scio village since 1838 when it was established by Irish immigrants, eight years before they built St. Joseph’s Church, the oldest Catholic Church in Allegany County. The chosen site was strategic; the road passing the church and cemetery led to the only bridge in Scio crossing the Genesee at the time and bore all traffic between the west side and the business community on the east side of the river. That bridge was abandoned in the 1940’s and the road has since been a dead end. (No pun intended.)
Some of the Irish settled in Scio when they found employment on the Erie railroad for which Scio was the western terminus from 1849 until 1851. Ireland suffered a general wave of emigration from 1845 unit 1850 during The Great Famine. The general exodus of Irish at the time swelled the work force in this country and, apparently, in this county. Martin Handley from County Galway was a railroad worker who has been in the cemetery since 1871. Michael Higgins of County Sligo worked on the railroad as well. Jeremiah Anglin from County Clare, John Colligan, Timothy Culbert, Michael Dailey, William Eagan and Thomas Hogan also belong to the Irish-born brotherhood of railroad workers in St. Joseph’s.
Although the short-lived Genesee Valley Canal under construction in Allegany County in the early 1850’s also provided employment for the Irish, but none of them seems to have found his way into St. Joseph’s.
Most the immigrants were famers, like Thomas Coyle, the first recorded Irish Catholic in Scio who arrived in 1836, when the village was thirteen years old. He later was joined by his parents, his only sister, and his many brothers. St. Joseph’s is well-peopled by generation of coyles, including the original Thomas’ sister, Elizabeth Coyle Reddy, who emigrated with five children and had five more in this country. Also at the cemetery are at least seven of his seventeen brothers; his father Hugh, born about 1768; and his mother Margaret, born about 1771. Thomas’ brother Peter and his third wife, Bridget Flanagan Coyle, born in Ireland, died within a week of each otters in 1905. Their double funeral was held from the Scio Seventh Day Baptist Church which was made available for services after the second St. Joseph’s burned in 1904.
Anna Anglin, buried in 1838, may have been the first occupant of St. Joseph’s. Anastasia Clancy is there. She was born in Ireland in 1799 and died at the age of 83. Bridget Howe came from County Galway and Mary Brady from County Wexford. Mary Foley Sinon was born in County Limerick. Julia and Thomas Egan came from County Tipperary.
Like the Coyles and James Reynolds, who was born in 1795, Thomas Donegan came from County West Meath. Born in 1818, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in Ohio and lived for a time in California. He sometimes scolded his seven grandchildren in Gaelic when they tormented him: “Cut stop leis, a mhacaoimh, noimeat!” (“Give it a rest kiddo, for a moment!”) Blind for the last twenty years of his life, he smoke a clay pipe kept lit for him by his grandsons. He died at the age of 99 and shares a plot with a grandson, who died a quarter of a century before him at the are of three months.
A son of John and Mary Keenan from County Louth remains St. Joseph’s most celebrate denizen. One of several brothers, Peter Keenan, born in Livingston County in 1834, he became a national figure before his he was laid to rest beside his mother. He joined the Union Army in 1861 while living in Pennsylvania. He rose to the rank of major and died on May 2, 1863 as he led the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry against Stonewall Jackson’s troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The 28-year-old Keenan and most of his men were killed by the Rebels who, according to some accounts, outnumbered them as much as fifty to one. The poll “Keenan’s Charge” by George Parsons Lathrop commemorating Major Keenan’s heroism appeared in many anthologies of the day. In 1913, on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Wellsville, where he attended school, erected a fine granite monument to his memory. Inscriptions on both sides of Keenan’s marked in St. Joseph’s have been weathered to the point where they are illegible.
Walter and Mary Madden were Irish immigrants who outlived their Scio-born son John, who died in El Paso, Texas in 1901. John had been a member of he New York State Assembly and was a Deputy Commissioner of highways for the Borough of Queens when he died. Dignitaries from Albany arrived In Scio for the funeral via the Erie to find carriages awaiting them for the short ride to St. Joseph’s. Five six foot high crosses of laurel leaves and violets adorned the little church where four Clery officiated at the funeral.
Madden’s parents and five brothers and sisters eventually joined him in St. Joseph’s.
Patrick Cline came to America from County Longford in 1825. He lived at what became known as “The Settlement,” a colony of Irish northeast of the village of Belmont. His seven-year old daughter died in 1858 before Belmont had a Catholic Church or cemetery, so, like other early Catholics from all over the county, she was buried in St. Joseph’s. Others of her Belmont family followed her over the years. Other Settlement families in St. Joseph’s include the Crosbys, the Doonars, and the Quinns. John Crosby, who died in 1859, had been an overseer.