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Michael Dolan of Gussettville, a South Texas Pioneer

Michael Dolan was born on May 8, 1830 in County Leitrim, Ireland, the oldest child of James Dolan (1802-1854) and Mary Ellen (Nellie) Fox Dolan. On February 27, 1854, he emigrated to the United States aboard the ship, Guiding Star, accompanied by his parents and siblings. His father James died in New Orleans en route to Texas, leaving Michael to care for his mother and younger siblings. They made their way to the San Patricio area of South Texas. Many of his Fox relatives had previously arrived as early as 1846 in response to the news that Patrick McGloin, a brother to his grandmother Mary McGloin Fox, had died and bequeathed a large tract of land to Mary. Michael Dolan’s uncles, Michael and Darby Fox, prompted by ongoing problems associated with the settlement of Patrick McGloin's estate, had purchased 600 acres from the estate in 1850 to finally realize their dream of owning land in Texas. After the untimely death of Darby Fox in April of 1854, Michael Dolan and his cousin, Michael Fox, were bequeathed a 200-acre tract of land under the terms of Darby’s will. On this particular tract was the scene of the first burial in the Old Gussettville Cemetery, John Fox in early 1854. (Details about John Fox's death date and about Darby Fox, can be found in a previous post, The Old Gussettville Cemetery).

Michael married Cecilia Ellen O’Hara (1850 -1925) on November 29,1867 in Gussettville. Cecilia, appointed postmistress in Gussettville in 1866, was the daughter of Michael O’Hara and Elizabeth Timon O’Hara and a great-niece of the empressario James McGloin. They settled on a tract of land about one-half mile north of the cemetery tract. No better description can be written of the life and accomplishments of Michael Dolan than that of his obituary. The ruins of the dipping vat that led to his accidental death were still visible a few years ago. A picture of his obituary is included and it is transcribed, as it is written, below.


Passing of a South Texas Pioneer

Michael Dolan of Gussettville (From the Beeville Bee, April 8.)

Resident of This Section for 61 Years, Whose Death Occurred Last Week

Michael Dolan, venerable patriarch of Southwest Texas, one of its earliest settlers, died at his home in historic Gussettville Monday morning. At the time of his death deceased was in his eighty-fifth year, sixty-one of which he resided in the immediate neighborhood where he spend his life-time.

Hale and hearty, never ill a day in his life, Michael Dolan, only for the accident that produced his death, would have lived for many more years. On last Saturday morning while inspecting a dipping vat in course of construction near his ranch home he lost his footing and fell a distance of 6 feet to the concrete bottom of the excavation. Bruises were sustained that rendered him unconscious. On Monday morning, his bed surrounded by his faithful wife, his loving children and the parish priest, who administered the Sacraments of the Church, an eventful and useful life terminated.

If deceased had lived until the eight day of next month he would have celebrated the eighty-fifth-anniversary of that day when, in County Leitrim, Ireland, he first saw the light of day. In the year 1854, when a young man, he emigrated with his parents to Texas, settling at old San Patricio, that historic spot where Southwest Texas' pioneers first set foot on Texas soil. Within a few days after arriving in San Patricio, Michael's father died. Being the eldest of the family he found many responsibilities on his youthful shoulders. True to the characteristics of his ancestors he set out with a steady step and a brave heart to care for his widowed mother, brothers and sisters. He followed various occupations, eventually taking service with the government, driving teams, which service he left to join the Texas rangers. In this cause he proved his worth. In those days this section of Texas was yet unsettled, roamed by Indians and numerous lawless characters. The rangers had a fearless and noble task to perform and Michael Dolan was ever true to his duty. At the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the Confederacy and served through the struggle.

On November 29, 1866, at Gussettville, Mr. Dolan was married to Cecilia O'Hara, one of the original McGloin colonists at San Patricio. From the day of that happy union until las Monday, when death parted them, they lived continuously at Gussettville.

Of this union eleven children were born, eight of whom survive: Thomas P., of George West, Mrs. Cecilia Martin of San Patricio, John E. of Sinton, Dave of Mikeska, Willie F. of San Patricio, Mrs. Nellie McKinney of Mikeska, Hubert L. of Lapara, and Ed M. of Mikeska. Two sons, James A. of Beeville, and Michael O., late of Lapara, also one daughter, Elizabeth, preceded him in death.

After surrender of Lee, the subject of this sketch returned to his home and engaged in the cattle business, representing many large cattle interests up to the year 1877. Since that time he had lived quietly at his home farming and stock raising.

Michael Dolan was a true scion of that brave, fearless and conquering band that emigrated to this country from the Emerald Island in those days before the plow had stirred the fertile soil of this section and years before the iron horse had begun to transform the wilderness into a land of plenty. When they set foot on Texas soil at that historic place known as San Patricio -- historic because there lived the settlers of this country who blazed the way for the generations that have followed -- this country was unsettled and uncivilized. Indians operated at will, burning the settlers' homes and making away with stock and property, as well as committing other outrages. Michael Dolan was one of a brave band, known as the Texas rangers, who preserved peace and lives. Hardly had the country issued forth from this disorder than Mr. Dolan was called upon to shoulder a musket and fight for the cause of the Confederacy. No sooner did the war end than he marched home to his young wife and remained there till his death.

He was a strong admirer of home. The sacred precincts of his home were ever open to his friends. His hospitality was of that type now fading into oblivion. A native of that land so dear to his hard, Ireland, he was possessed of the noble characteristics of that grand race. These characteristics he prized high, not in a superior spirit, but out of sheer love for the land of his nativity. Never did he go back on the ideals and aspirations of his forefathers; he remained true to them throughout his trying experiences.

His ups and downs as a pioneer of this raw and unsettled country only had a tendency to affirm his virtues of bravery and steadfast friendship towards his fellow man. Michael Dolan, with others of his nationality and age, experienced hardships that cannot be presented in language. There are not sufficient impressive words in the English language to portray to this generation the burdens manfully borne by that band of men of which he was long a member.

In the days before railroads many were the weary and hungry travelers who found at Mike Dolan's way-side home a bed and something to eat.

In the passing of this venerable citizen of Southwest Texas many may well pause and drop a tear at his bier. He built no railroad, true, nor did he build a town as his monument at the expense of the common people, but he braved hardships that this section might blossom, grow and prosper. He has earned his reward.

At the funeral, held on Monday afternoon, all sections of the country were represented. The remains were laid to rest in the family burial ground, at Gussettville, in the church yard. He lies beside his two sons and one daughter who preceded him in death, and in the midst of the last resting place of comrades who stood by him in their life time. May his soul rest in peace.

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