top of page
  • Guy James

Bridget O’Brien McGloin (1839 - 1930)

Bridget O’Brien was born in 1839 to Edward O’Brien and Nancy Crossan O’Brien. Her exact date of birth is unknown but she was baptized on April 1, 1839 at St. Brigid’s Church in Knockbride Parish, county Cavan, Ireland. Her parents had married in the same church on November 17, 1836. Bridget’s only known sibling was a brother Edward, who was also baptized at St. Brigid’s on July 10, 1842.


Bridget and Edward emigrated to America, apparently as orphans, arriving unaccompanied in New Orleans from Liverpool aboard the Blanche on March 28, 1851 at the ages of 12 and 9, respectively. Assuming they were still living in Cavan at the time of their departure, they likely made their way to Dublin and then across the Irish Sea to Liverpool. The Blanche was one of dozens of ships in that era known as “Coffin Ships” that were used to export cotton from New Orleans to England. During the Irish famine, these ships had a ready supply of backhaul cargo in the form of destitute and starving Irish fleeing their homeland.


The official manifest listed a total of 499 passengers that boarded in Liverpool; an overcrowded voyage such as this would have offered cheap fares in comparison to those for slightly less horrendous accommodations on other vessels. The horrors of this particular voyage of the Blanche were editorialized in The Daily Orleanian on March 29, 1851: “The passengers, of whom, it is stated there were five hundred on board leaving Liverpool, were huddled together like hogs …..absolutely crowded atop of each other; filthy, foul, and feverish. The hold, where these poor beings were crammed, it is impossible to approach……imbedded in filth, and reeked of typhoid fever, an odor of the most intolerable arose, and contaminated the atmosphere all around. A procession of empty coffins moved up the gangway, passing the full ones coming down. The Orleanian counted two hundred ghostly survivors disembarking from this ship…..the Captain and the entire crew, ill from the contagion, were taken off to local hospitals. Those passengers in a dying state…have been permitted to remain on the vessel until death’s film seals their eyes forever.”


How Bridget and Edward managed to survive that voyage and their early years in New Orleans is not known. Bridget’s next appearance in the public record in New Orleans was her marriage in 1856. She and Matthew McGloin were married by Father Cornelius Moynihan at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church on February 23, 1856 when Matthew was 27 and Bridget was 16.


In Orleans parish in that era, marriage bonds were an integral part of the marriage license. Pre-printed marriage record books contained sections for parental consent if the bride was under the age of 21, affidavit of age, the marriage bond, and the actual marriage license. Being an orphan, Bridget’s parental consent section of their license was left blank. William Morris was the witness named in the affidavit of age, stating that Bridget and Matthew were both of legal age. Second Justice of the Peace C.M. Bradford, Parish of Orleans, issued their license on the word of William Morris and apparently relying upon the standard marriage bond language of that era, which stated that Matthew McGloin, principal and William Morris, surety were indebted to the state of Louisiana in the amount of $500 should it be determined within the next two years that at the time the license was issued there existed any legal impediment to the marriage. Their marriage was witnessed by William Morris, William Conray, and Catharine McGloin (her relation to Matthew is unknown).


Very little is known about Matthew, other than he was born in Ireland in 1828. During the early years of their marriage they apparently traveled up and down the Mississippi between New Orleans and St. Louis. According to census and other records, daughter Sarah “Molly” was born on July 7, 1859 in St. Louis, daughter Agnes was born on October 18, 1861 in New Orleans, and son Edward (born blind) arrived on January 29th, 1864 in St. Louis. On the 1900 census, Bridget revealed that she had given birth to a total of six children, but only these three survived.


The birth of Agnes in New Orleans in October of 1861 occurred just a few months before that city fell to Union forces during the Civil War; they apparently fled back up river to St. Louis sometime between her birth and the birth of Edward in 1864.


For unknown reasons, they moved from St. Louis to Texas shortly after the Civil War ended. It is not known if they traveled alone or with other families. Live Oak county court records make reference to them arriving in Texas in early 1866. According to these same records, Matthew abandoned his family in July of 1866 and went to New Orleans for work, not returning to Gussettville until early 1875.


On March 27, 1867 Bridget purchased 200 acres of land at Gussettville from Michael Fox, a son of Francis Fox and a grandson of John Fox by his first marriage to Nellie McGloin Fox. Court records reveal that Bridget and her children had been living in a house on this tract since their arrival in 1866. This 200 acre tract, on which the Old Gussettville Cemetery was already located, was the first of several purchased by Bridget over the next few decades, with all of the deeds in her name individually. During a severe drought in the 1870s she supposedly paid for one of her land purchases with money she made from skinning dead cattle and selling their hides.


The 1870 census lists Bridget as living at Gussettville with her three children, but Matthew was not there. According to court records he returned to Live Oak county in early 1875, and by 1876 he was attending meetings of the Gussettville Chapter of the Irish American Society. The 1880 census lists him as living with his oldest daughter Sarah and her husband, J.J. Fox (son of Patrick and Ann Gallagher Fox), who had married in Gussettville on July 26, 1875. Did the impending marriage of his oldest daughter prompt his return, or did he have other motives?


On June 3, 1876 Matthew filed for divorce in Live Oak county. In his petition he claimed to have “discharged all the duties of a kind and affectionate husband to said defendant.” He sounded shocked that she had “commenced a studied course of vexatious, cruel, and outrageous conduct” towards him after he had abandoned her with three children under the age of 7, one of them blind, and stayed away for almost 9 years. This case was scheduled to be heard in September of 1876, but he apparently withdrew his petition as there is no record of its disposition.


On June 8, 1885 Bridget filed suit against Matthew for divorce and also asserting sole ownership of the land and cattle that she had accumulated since her arrival in Live Oak county. Her petition, and Matthew’s appeal of the verdict a year later, record a sad chapter in family history but they also provide insight into early Gussettville life that we might otherwise never have known. The witness summons and depositions included an extensive list of early Gussettville settlers, some living as far away as Presidio at the time they were deposed.


We learn from these records, for example, that Thomas Shannon got his start as a merchant working as a clerk for Norwick Gussett, that Cecilia O’Hara (a niece of the empresario James McGloin; later Mrs. Michael Dolan) was the first postmistress of Gussettville and the post office was located in Gussett’s store. Margaret McMurray Brister (oldest daughter of William and Bridget McMurray) stated that she knew Matthew and Bridget prior to January 1, 1866 when they, and she, lived in St. Louis, providing a clue to the mystery of how Matthew and Bridget found their way from St. Louis to Live Oak county in 1866. The McMurray family had been in San Patricio county since 1848. Why Margaret and her sister Mary Ellen (who married Tim O’Brien in St. Louis in 1866; possible relation to Bridget unknown) were in St. Louis in the 1860s is unknown, although St. Louis was home to a convent and a Catholic school at that time so they could have been enrolled at one of these institutions. We also learn that Bridget’s brother Edward was living and working in New Orleans during this period, as he occasionally sent coffee and other provisions that were delivered to her at Gussett’s store.


Bridget’s petition cited abandonment for over three years, assault, battery, and abusive language. The final straw for Bridget was an incident on March 25th, 1885 when Matthew “forcibly entered her house and sought to take (illegible) and he did beat, strike, and bruise your petitioner in the presence of her children, inflicting on her several wounds and bruises.” It is unclear whether she was referring to their now adult daughters, Sarah and Agnes, or her four grandchildren at the time.


Edward “Eddie” McGloin, their only son, was not at home during this incident. Blind since birth, Bridget’s 1885 divorce petition states that Eddie was a resident of the “Blind Asylum” in Austin. Census records list him enrolled there as early as 1880, and a December 1883 newspaper article in the Austin American Statesman mentions Eddie as one of three students that would participate in the musical portion of a special New Year’s Eve program at “the blind asylum.” This school eventually became what is known today as the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


Bridget also states in her petition that she gave one-third of her cattle to daughter Sarah and her husband J.J. Fox when they married in 1875, and another one-third to daughter Agnes and her husband Willie James after their marriage in 1881. She stated that she was dependent upon the remaining portion of her herd to support herself and to pay Eddie’s tuition in Austin.


Bridget’s petition was tried in Oakville in September of 1885 with T. H. O’Callaghan as attorney for plaintiff. The jury found in favor of Bridget on the allegation of abandonment for more than three years and ruled that Matthew had no community property interest in Bridget’s property, asserting that “all property claimed by plaintiff is her own separate property.”

The events of this first trial, more fully described in Matthew’s appeal of the case in 1886, reveal the respect that Bridget commanded among the men of Live Oak county. Matthew’s appeal complained that immediately after Bridget’s attorney presented her case to the jury during the 1885 trial, and before he could offer any testimony, Sheriff Alex Coker entered the courtroom and arrested Matthew under an indictment that “was afterward shown to be false, malicious, and unfounded.” He was “taken from the courtroom and kept away from the same by said sheriff, so that on his return the trial had closed and the jury had retired from the courtroom.” Matthew stated that in his contrived absence, his attorney had failed to cross examine any plaintiff witnesses nor called any of his own witnesses that had been subpoenaed. It appears that regardless of community property laws, the men of Live Oak county were not about to let Matthew take half of what Bridget had accumulated over the previous 20 years.

Matthew’s 1886 appeal complained that he had not received a fair trial and stated that he had immediately asked his attorney to file a motion for a new trial but the attorney refused. He then “applied to other attorneys of the court at the said September term 1885, all of whom refused, he has not been able, using every effort in his power, to bring the matter before the court until this present term.”


Matthew admitted that he had in fact left Live Oak county and Texas in 1866 but it was not “for the purpose of abandoning his family, but for the purpose to secure a home for the same, better suited to their condition and circumstances to which he intended to remove them so soon as the same was secured and obtained.” Apparently he had little to show for his nine year absence, as he complained in the same appeal that the ruling of a year prior left “this plaintiff now in declining years, poor and penniless, with no other means of support but by daily labor.”


He claimed that prior to his departure in 1866, he had “bargained and contracted for two hundred acres of land as a homestead for his said family until a better and more suitable one could be otherwise bought and established.” He left “in the possession and care of and for the use and support of his said family some 80 or more head of young she cattle, branded MM, which he had labored for and secured by his own means.”

Matthew’s claim of a community property interest in Bridget’s possessions rested on his insistence that everything she had acquired during his absence resulted from “the increase of said stock of cattle and the proceeds of sales of the beeves thereof.” He also claimed to have periodically sent “means, money, clothing and provisions to his said family all of which were received and appropriated to their use and benefit.” He suggested that Bridget had paid for her first land purchase with money that he had left her, and that she had persuaded Michael Fox to issue the deed to her in his absence.


Unfortunately for Matthew, one of his witnesses stated in her deposition that he only owned two cows when they arrived in Live Oak county, and that Bridget had increased her herd in part by washing clothes for the Michael Dolan family and accepting her pay in cattle. All of the depositions concluded with statements such as she “was a right good lady who worked very hard for a living.”


The 1886 jury upheld the 1885 verdict, again ruling that Matthew had no community property interest in Bridget’s possessions. Matthew’s 1886 attorney, J.C. Cade appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Texas in 1887 in a very articulate and well argued petition. The supreme court declined to hear the case, citing the statute of limitations having expired. Thus ended what was likely a major topic of conversation in 1880s Gussettville.


In 1899 J.J. and Sarah Fox and their 9 children, along with J.J. 's widowed mother Ann Fox and Sarah’s father Matthew McGloin, moved to Runnels county near Ballinger. They joined J.J.’s sister Dora Fox Mapes and her husband Alonzo, who had moved there in 1888. Sarah died in 1936 and J.J. in 1937. They are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Ballinger.


Agnes McGloin and William Pugh James were married on October 4, 1881 at Gussettville by Father Ed Smythe. They had two children, Laura James and John Guy James before divorcing; when and where their divorce occurred remains a mystery. Agnes remarried Ed Pace in 1902 and they lived in San Antonio for many years. As early as 1900, Agnes’s children Laura and Guy James were living with Bridget at Gussettville; the whereabouts of Agnes at that time is unknown. This is consistent with common family knowledge that Laura and Guy were raised by their grandmother. Agnes died in Nix Hospital in San Antonio on January 6, 1938 and is buried there in Mission Burial Park.


Laura James married James Irvin Goynes in 1902 and she died in childbirth with their first child on December 11, 1904. Shortly after the burial of her granddaughter, near what would have been the northern boundary of the cemetery at that time, Bridget deeded two acres of land to Bishop Peter Verdaguer of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, doubling the size of the cemetery. Bridget had purchased 598 acres around the church and cemetery in 1897. She later donated a second parcel of land in September of 1929, shortly before her death, extending the northern boundary of the cemetery to the right of way of what was then known as State Highway 9.


Matthew McGloin died in 1908 and is buried in Runnels county in what was then known as the Mapes Cemetery, near the grave of Ann Fox, on land once owned by Alonzo Mapes. This land is now part of the Spreen Ranch; the cemetery is in a remote location and not easily accessible.


Bridget’s grandson, Guy James married Angie Goodwin (daughter of James F. Goodwin and Mary “Molly” Lewis Goodwin) on October 14, 1914. Descendants of their four children, Freeman Edgar James, James F. James, Willie Oliver James Kellner, and John Guy James, Jr (Sonny) are the only descendants of Bridget McGloin still living in Live Oak county.


Eddie McGloin became an accomplished musician and later earned a living as a traveling instructor, living in various homes while teaching music to children in the area. The 1910 census recorded him on April 19th of that year living with the Dan Shipp family at Dinero. This same census revealed that Bridget’s brother Edward, who lived in Ohio, happened to be visiting her in Gussettville. A few months later, on August 17, 1910, Eddie became suddenly ill and tragically died at the age of 46 while staying with the Abner Stokes family in Floresville. He is buried near his mother at Gussettville. Bridget’s great-grandchildren remembered, in her later years, her daily walks from her home to the cemetery to pray the rosary and tend to Eddie’s grave.


A newspaper article in the Daily Advocate (Victoria, TX) in October of 1915 mentions that Mrs. Bridget McGloin was seriously injured in an automobile accident near George West. The article stated that “Mrs. McGloin’s injuries may prove fatal. She has been only semi-conscious since the accident. She is nearly 80 years old and one of the early settlers of Gussettville.” She survived these injuries and lived another 15 years.


On June 17, 1917 Bridget’s brother Edward died in Columbiana, OH at the age of 75. He is buried in St. Mary Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA. His death certificate lists his parents as Edward O’Brien and Nancy Crossan, the same names found on his and Bridget’s baptismal records in Ireland.


Tragedy struck again on October 6, 1917 when Bridget’s ex-son-in-law, William James, was shot and killed at Mikeska at the age of 57 while serving as a deputy sheriff. He is buried at Gussettville near the grave of his daughter Laura Goynes.


Bridget McGloin died at Gussettville on July 13, 1930 at the age of 91. She consistently listed her age on census records over a 60 year period as if she were born in 1839, not 1834 which is erroneously listed on her headstone. Ironically, had she been born in 1834 she would have been 21 in February of 1856 when her marriage license was issued. It is unlikely that this footnote led to her year of birth being listed incorrectly as 1834 on her headstone, as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren apparently knew very little about her life prior to her arrival in Texas. Guy James, her grandson who she raised, was the informant on her death certificate. Sadly, he stated that the names of her father and mother were “unknown.”


Having survived the Irish famine, an unimaginable voyage to America as an orphan, marriage to an abusive husband 11 years her elder, scratching out a living as a single mother in frontier Texas, enduring great personal tragedy, and acquiring over 2500 acres of land in what was then a male dominated society, she likely did not readily share many stories of her childhood.


Her simple, unassuming headstone belies the exceptional life experiences and accomplishments of this remarkable lady.

Sources:

Tessie James

Lamar James

Texas Roots


Pictures include:

1 - Headstone of Bridget McGloin

2 - Bridget McGloin from the Cora McMurray Burke collection, courtesy of John Felipe Farley

3 - Lamar James during a 2019 trip, near Bridget's childhood home of Drumamuck, county Cavan, Ireland with modern day St. Brigid's Church in the background



259 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page