The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 5, 2013

A trip through the Herrity family tree

Gary Herrity
The Clinton Herald

---- — I can just imagine this illiterate Irish fellow coming to America, about 1849, and pronouncing his barely-distinguishable name with a thick brogue, and having a customs agent hand him his new phonetically-spelled grand old Irish name— (H- E- double R- I - T & Y- spells “Herrity”… try singing it to the tune of “Harrigan”…)— only, ‘tiz a new name! My sister, Carol Herrity Coryn, once found a Herrity’s Bar in Dublin, but it was likely an expatriate, i.e. the “Quiet Man”, as old Ireland maps do not show that name. (See O’Hiorrachaigh, O’Haraughty, and Hearrity/ Hararty.)

Young Herrity started west on the railroad, stopping for a time in Chicago. Eventually, he reached the end of the railroad, in Clinton, and that is where he chose to live. The elder of his two sons, John (my grandfather), died young while working on the railroad in Kansas City, in 1901. While most of his brother Thomas “Nibs” Herrity’s descendants, still live in Clinton, most of our branch moved away — except for Molly Ann (Herrity) Judge, Richard and myself. Cousin Johnny Herrity (SMHS ‘38), of Seattle, once sent me a genealogy showing all of America’s Herritys. Noteworthy was the fact that 75 percent were named “Thomas” or “John” — and most lived east of the Mississippi. Apparently, the family wasn’t too creative when it came to boys’ names, and they stopped wandering when things got good.

Upon his arrival in the new town of Clinton, our immigrant forbearer, Thomas, worked for a freight operation for a time and married a widow with young children, Mrs. Catherine (McFadden) Jennings (1832-1907), also from Ireland. Tom would later open a tavern on the corner of 12th Avenue South and Fourth Street, right near the railroad tracks, and they bought a little house just down the road at 434 12th Ave.

The 1860 Census shows eight people living in their tiny house, and the same was true in 1870. The first entry lists several Jennings — related to Catherine; their sons, John and Thomas (‘Nibs’) Herrity, and daughter Lulu are listed later. “Nibs” was the last Thomas in that line, but his brother John (1861- 1901) had two sons — my dad, Thomas Henry Herrity, DDS (1889-1963); and my uncle — the one we call John “The Baker” Herrity (1892-1976) — and one daughter, Irene Herrity (1894-1980). In 1907, the first Thomas and his wife Catherine, died of pneumonia at age 75, just days apart.

By 1920, Tom’s son “Nibs” Herrity was still running the bar, but it soon went out of business, as the new viaduct to “South Clinton” cut off easy access by railroaders. For the rest of his life, however, “Nibs” continued to live down the street in the tiny house his parents built when there were just nine homes in Clinton.

I recently got a 1902 picture of the Herrity Saloon, with “Nibs” and children Lulu, Charles and Oliver next to him. For history’s sake, I wish he’d been in it. It was near that same time that a photograph of the Herrity Bakery was taken about three blocks north and my dad, Uncle John, Grandma Mary (Walsh) Herrity and Vinnie Roeder’s uncle are all pictured. My Grandma Mary started Herrity Bakery (see above) in 1901, shortly after Grandpa John died at age 40. The young widow had three children to raise (pre- Social Security!). Her bakery was on the alley, on the west side, in the 800 block of Fourth Street.

A few years ago, a lady from our McFadden-Jennings ‘tree-branch” came to Clinton on a genealogical hunt from Washington State, wishing to see her ancestral roots. We took her down to the family homestead (torn down in 2010), and videotaped her with Cousin Annabelle, (who still lived there then), documenting that the tiny house was home to four generations of Herritys between 1858 and 2011: Thomas I, his son Thomas, his daughter, Lulu, and her niece, Annabelle (Herrity) Gundlefinger.

The first five generations of Herritys all had “Thomases.” Our first Thomas Herrity married a widow with four children, then they had three together: Sarah, Thomas “Nibs”, and my grandfather, John (1860-1901), who died of “apoplexy” on the railroad. John had three children (Thomas, John ‘Nibs’, and Irene) with his OLA-graduate wife, Mary, who came here from Chicago after The Great Fire of 1871. My father was that Tom, who miraculously became a dentist; Uncle John at one time played football with Duke Slater; and Aunt Irene remained a spinster all her life.

Irene was the one who finally marked Thomas and Catherine’s 1907 gravesites. She did this in 1976, just before getting rid of all her worldly assets “to go to the poor house,” as she called it. My daughter, Rachelle, and I often visited her there at the Clinton County Home. In fact, I unwittingly made that move possible by giving her a fifth of Irish whiskey for Christmas in 1974. Her house (then John and Mary’s old place on 11th Avenue South) was becoming a hovel from age and neglect. She had only a space heater, and it was bitterly cold; so, she drank the whole bottle in one sitting. Her heart then went into palpitations, which necessitated a trip to the hospital! Who knew she’d do that? Because the doctor wouldn’t let her go home, I got credit for saving her life, with a fifth of booze, so she didn’t freeze to death.

And so, you have met my family of Irish immigrants. They all lived relatively simple lives. “Nibs” got his name from a card game, and I think all his offspring still live in Clinton. I have been privileged to meet them too, because they went to public schools, which I’ve worked in. We weren’t so fortunate with our older Chicago relatives. No one knows why we haven’t heard from Kitty and Lol or Lee Raymond for 50 years. Time or distance can soon make family members fade into oblivion.

Therefore, be careful, and keep up with your relatives. Every family has a treasure trove of things to write about. So do it — before they’re forgotten. Future generations will be grateful.

*This early Thomas Herrity is the farthest that I can go back on my father’s side. In the future, I’ll write about my mother’s side, the McClintocks of Almont.

Sources: James Herrity, encyclopedic material, family stories, Annabelle Herrity Gundlefinger, Irene Herrity, Lulu Herrity, Betty Herrity Clausen, John Herrity, Thomas H. Herrity, Richard Herrity. Tom Koester.

Note: The photo shown with Part I was Thomas “Nibs” Herrity (1862-1948), sitting on the steps of the old family homestead. Nibs was my grandfather’s brother.

Gary Herrity is the Clinton Herald’s historical columnist. His column appears on page 5A on Fridays.