Left: Margaret Irwin (Jackson)
Center: Bridget Dooley Irwin
Right: Bridget "Etta" Irwin (Nolan)
Photo believed to be taken at 109 N. Toledo
Leadville, Colorado.  The house is no longer there.

BRIDGET DOOLEY IRWIN
1842-1912

    Bridget DOOLEY was born at Limerick City [Pennywell Road], County Limerick, Ireland on the 24th of January 1842.  She was the daughter of James DOOLEY and Mary MURNANE.  James Dooley and Mary Murnane were neighbors in rural County Limerick and had left the small farmsteads occupied by their families and moved to Limerick City in the early 1840's in hopes of finding work and raising their family.  Both the Dooley and Murnane farms were small farmsteads and were located in neighboring parcels in Knockaney Parish, County Limerick.  The Dooley farm was located in the town land of Rusheen and the Murnane farm in the town land [and parish] of Kilcullane.  Both of these farms were located only three miles from the Irwin farm at Ballycahill.  James Dooley and Mary Murdane married relatively late in life and had only two children:  Bridget and Margaret [See Margaret Merritt Dooley History].

    Bridget Dooley was the paternal grand daughter of John Dooley and Elizabeth Dooley [Dooley married a Dooley].  Her maternal grandparents were John Murdane and Bridget AHERN.  Her paternal great grandfather was Patrick Dooley, who himself was the son of Francis Dooley.  Her maternal great grandparents Patrick Murnane and Margaret Dooley and also Thomas Ahern and his wife Mary [?].  The Dooleys and Murnanes had a history of close ties, and intermarriage was not unknown between the two families.

    Bridget Dooley married John IRWIN in Limerick City in 1867 [See John Irwin History].  After her husband, John, died at the family home at 109 North Toledo in 1902 she continued to live at this address until her death on the 19th of March 1912.  She is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Leadville, Colorado.

    According to oral family history Bridget Dooley Irwin was quite fond of Irish music and Irish dancing and she raised her children accordingly.  Her son William, in addition to being one of Leadville's "favorite son prize fighters", was an Irish vocalist and Irish clog dancer at many of Leadville's early day functions.  Her daughter Bridget, called Etta and also called Ettie] could play the zither, which was a harp like instrument and the piano and mouth harp as well.  According to the late Ida WILIAMS [Ni CONNORS], who was a neighbor to the Irwin family on North Toledo and who spent much time visiting the Irwin house, the Irwin's were a "very musical family".  She remembers "Ettie" Irwin arranging a mouth harp in such a way that she could play both the piano and the mouth harp at the same time.

    When Bridget Dooley Irwin died she was most fond of Leadville and according to her obituary in the Leadville newspaper: "after living in Leadville for more than a third of a century Mrs. Bridget Irwin died yesterday.  She had learned to love the old camp and was content to spend her last moments here".  She was buried next to her husband in the Irwin plot in St. Joseph's Cemetery.  Her pallbearers were Dennis O'NEILL, Charles SLAVIN, Alex McDONALD, Dennis O'LEARY, Michael SULLIVAN and Timothy GORMAN.


 
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MARGARET DOOLEY
1843-1902

Margaret Dooley was born in Limerick City [Pennywell Road], County Limerick, Ireland on 26 November 1843.  She was the daughter of James Dooley and Mary Murdane.  She was the sister of Bridget Dooley Irwin.

She married Patrick Merritt at Limerick City on 10 February 1866.   Patrick Merritt was the son of John Merritt and Bridget Hartigan.  The Irish form of the name is O'Meadra which is usually anglicized O'Mara or Mara or less frequently Merritt in County Limerick.  At the time of their marriage both Patrick and Margaret worked as "tobacco pipe makers."  shortly thereafter Patrick joined the British Army [as was the case with many young Irish men at that time] and served for ten years in such places as Gibraltar and South Africa.  During most of Patrick's service his wife, Margaret, stayed in Limerick City and continued to work at the tobacco shop and it was not until 11 years later after their marriage that their first child, Christopher was born.

Christopher was born in Limerick City, 5 January 1877.  The next child to be born , who lived to adulthood, was Patrick also in Limerick City, 1 March 1883.  The last child was named Mary and she was born 7 October 1889.

Six years later, 1895, Patrick and Margaret and their three children left Ireland for America.  They first lived in New York and at the urging of Margaret's sister Bridget, they came to Leadville that same year.

Upon their arrival in Leadville the Merritt's lived at 409 East 2nd Street which was the same house that the Irwin family had lived in prior to moving to 109 North Toledo.  Patrick worked in the mines as did his two sons Christopher and Patrick when they came of age.  Only seven years after their arriving in Leadville, Margaret Dooley Merritt, during the week of her brother-in-laws funeral [John Irwin died 22 April 1902 at 109 North Toledo] Margaret developed pneumonia and she also died at 109 North Toledo on 1 May 1902 at the age of 58.  She was buried in the Irwin plot at St. Joseph's Cemetery.

Three years later on 28 February 1905 the oldest son in the family, Christopher died.  Christopher at the time was a trammer at the Penn Mine and he fell 143 feet down the #3 shaft on the Penn Mine into a water sump.  He was buried in the Irwin plot at St. Joseph's Cemetery alongside his mother.

Five years later in 1910 Patrick Merritt, Sr. and his daughter Mary [who had met and married in Leadville a Nebraska native named Clarence Simmons, her husband Clarence Simmons relocated to Portland, Oregon.  At this time Patrick, Jr. lost contact with his father, sister and brother-in-law and he "disappeared."

In Portland [actually the oldest son Merritt was born in Leadville] Mary Merritt Simmons and her husband Clarence raised their five children, Merritt, Donald, John, Frederick and William.

In Portland Patrick Merritt, Sr. worked for the railroad and during a railroad accident he lost a leg.  He retired from the railroad and died in Portland 9 July 1925 at the age of 83 and was buried in Portland.  The last of the original Merritt family came to America from Ireland in 1895 was Mary Merritt Simmons who died in Portland 10 October 1967 and she was buried in Portland.

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JOHN IRWIN
1845-1902

John Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland on 19 February 1845. He was the son of James Irwin and Bridget Callaghan. James Irwin and Bridget Callaghan had been neighbors in rural County Limerick and had left the small farmsteads occupied by their families and moved to Limerick city in the early 1840’s in hopes of finding work and raising their family. The Irwin farm consisted of twelve acres and was located at Ballycahill, Knockaney, County Limerick. The Callaghan farm was located at Castlefarm, Knockaney, County Limerick and was less than two acres.

John Irwin was the paternal grandson of Eoin Irwin and Mary Carroll and his maternal grandparents were William Callaghan and Margaret O"Hehir. John was the paternal great grandson of Maurice Irwin, wife unknown, and Patrick O’Hehir and Catherine McCarthy. John’s maternal great great grandparents were Thomas Callaghan and Catherine Fitzgerald.

 
John Irwin

John, being the eldest son, was named, according to the Irish custom of naming their children, was named after his father’s father, Eoin Irwin. "Eoin" is the Irish form of John. At this time the poor Irish people in west Ireland were bilingual and answered to two sets of names, one in Irish and one in English. John’s name in Irish, before being anglicized to John Irwin, was Eoin O’ Ciarmacain, pronounced Owen o’kIRWickIN. In anglicizing the name the ‘o’k" at the beginning of the name was eliminated and the "ick" middle syllable fell silent. Thus, it was by this process of anglicization that the County of Limerick people surnamed O’ Ciarmacain became Irwin.

In Limerick City James and Bridget lived at Lee’s Lane, Carey’s Road, and it was here that their eight children were born, Mary in 1843, John in 1845, Margaret in 1847, William in 1849, James in 1852, Patrick in 1854, David in 1856 and Bridget in 1858.

This was the era of the Potato Famine and its aftermath and poverty was the rule, rather than the exception, in Ireland at this time. To raise his family John’s father, James, worked as an agricultural laborer in the County Limerick area during most of the year. For the months of June, July and August he did what so many poor Irish laborers did traveled by steamer to England and worked there on large farms as a seasonal laborer. Those months were called "Meal Months" by the poor peasantry. This was the time that potatoes from the previous harvest had been eaten and the new ones had not come in. Since the poor Irish existed almost entirely on potatoes there was always the possibility that "meal" would have to be eaten until the new potato crop was harvested. Another reason that they worked abroad during these months was for cash money. Cash was a scarcity in Ireland at this time and cash earned in England or Scotland was joyously brought back home to Ireland to be used to pay for much needed clothing and rent for their humble cottages.

Shortly after the birth of Bridget, the youngest of the eight Irwin children, James died. Whether he died in England during his annual migration to work or from the results of poverty and its companion sicknesses is not known but its untimeliness left his wife, Bridget, to raise the family of eight. She did the best to raise the family until 1866, when, according to her obituary notice in the Limerick City newspaper, "with courage and determination she did her best to raise the family and did so until her death on 11 May 1866. She died at Barrington Hospital, Limerick City. Twelve days earlier, due to exhaustion and physical weakness as a result of her struggle to support her family, she had fallen across the fire on her hearth at home and received burns which was the ultimate cause of her death."

This was the final misfortune. It would start the emigration process of the Irwin family from Ireland to America. John, the oldest son, was now in charge of the family and in 1867, anticipating his own marriage, decided it best to send the younger members of the family to America and to relatives in Pennsylvania where their chances of survival would be much better.

On 23 November 1867 John Irwin married Bridget Dooley at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Limerick City. He worked as a laborer in Limerick City and his wife, Bridget, worked as a domestic servant. They lived at Garvey’s Range, Limerick City. In 1868, their first child Mary was born but she died shortly thereafter. On 4 August 1869 the first and only son, William was born.

Though his regiment has not been located, John served six years in the British Army, 1870-1876. This would make his emigration to America about 1876-77. He could have preceded his wife and son to America and later sent for them but it seems more likely that upon being discharged from the army he came home to Ireland and left for America with his wife and son, William.

He was reunited with his brothers and sisters who had all left Ireland and were living in America. His journey to America would have started by walking a handful of blocks to the Limerick train station and then by train some 60 miles south to Queenstown, County Cork, the post from which most of the Irish emigrants from the southwest of Ireland embarked for America. However, the night before he left Limerick by train his "American Wake" would have been observed. The "American Wake" was the same as the traditional Irish wake for the dead. There was drinking, merriment and sobbing, music and joke telling for just as the dead corpse was never to return to Ireland so to the Irish emigrant who would almost certainly never return to Ireland also. At Queenstown, if he had not pre-purchased the steamship tickets at Limerick, he would have paid the going rate at the time for a steerage ticket, $35.00. After a voyage of about 11 days by steamer he would disembark at the Immigrant Receiving Station at Castle Garden in New York Harbor, Castle Garden being the predecessor of Ellis Island, and after processing permitted to continue on to his final destination.

Arriving in America their first residency was in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area where John went to work in the coal mines. On 24 September 1878 John Irwin, together with his brother James, became an U.S. citizen at the Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

By the 1870’s many of the big mining companies, located in eastern United States, were looking west in anticipation of its untapped mineral wealth. Many of the Irish miners of eastern Pennsylvania, in the aftermath of the Molly Maguire Trials and hangings and the consequent breakup of the various Irish secret societies, were moving west. They hoped for better wages and to escape the violent labor unrest and anti-Irish bigotry prevalent in the eastern Pennsylvania coalfields. For mutual safety the Irish always traveled in-groups at this time and as a result they were not bothered or if bothered they were sure to "give out" as much, usually more, than "they got." No doubt John was with such a group when he ventured west. As far as family members were concerned he came to Colorado with two of his bachelor brothers, James and David, and his brother-in-law, Patrick McMahon. John left his wife and son behind as did Patrick McMahan, leave his wife Bridget Irwin McMahan and their daughter, Mary, behind.

The first place where the Irwin brothers and Patrick McMahan cam to in Colorado was Golden where they worked in the mines. Several months later they proceeded to Leadville by stage and sent for their families as soon as they ha a relatively sure economic footing. The end of 1879 had completed the western move. The arrival of the John Irwin and Patrick McMahan families, by stagecoach since the railroad did not come to Leadville before 1880. There was no looking back; beloved Leadville would be their home for the rest of their lives and the lives of the children to come.

Shortly after arriving in Leadville, the second child who would live to adulthood was born to John and Bridget. Her name was Bridget, Etta or Ettie, and she was born in Leadville 19 December 1879. She would marry Michael Nolan, 15 October 1902 and move to Chateaugay, New York where she would raise her family. She died there 13 June 1937. Another daughter, Margaret was born to John and Bridget on 25 July 1882. She married Alexander F. Jackson who preceded her in death 27 December 1914. She married again however, to Gilbert Patterson in Leadville and shortly there after moved to Portola, California where Mr. Patterson worked for the railroad. She raised her family there and died there 26 March 1947.

From 1879 until 1894 John Irwin worked in the mines of Leadville. From 1895 to 1898 he owned a saloon at 105 East 4th Street and his brother, James, worked there as a bartender. From 1898 until his death in 1902 John and James owned and operated the "Irwin Brothers Saloon" at 3201/2 Harrison Avenue.

During his years in Leadville John and family lived at the "head of East Chestnut" in 1881. From 1882 until 1891 they lived at 409 East 2nd Street. From 1891 until his death in 1902 they lived at 109 North Toledo.

On 22 April 1902, John Irwin died at the age of 57. According to the old voter’s records in Leadville, he was 5’10" tall and had blue eyes. According to oral family knowledge he had reddish hair and a reddish mustache. His obituary notice in the Leadville newspaper read, "Yesterday afternoon John Irwin left his saloon on Harrison Avenue and went home after finishing his days work. He laid down to rest for several hours and when he got up sat down in a chair in his room feeling a little tired. At about 9:00 P.M. however Mr. Irwin felt a choking sensation in his throat and breast and in a few minutes he was dead." He was buried from the Church of the Annunciation and interred in the family plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Leadville.

At the time of his death his wife, son and two daughters survived him. It is known that he was survived by his brother James of Leadville, who died in Salida in 1904, his brother David of Leadville, who died in Leadville in 1917, his sister Bridget McMahan, who died in Salida in 1933 and an unmarried sister, Margaret Irwin of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. The dates and places of his other sister, Mary, and his two other brothers, William and Patrick, are not known. Most likely they died in the Pennsylvania area. His aunt, Catherine [Kate] Irwin, also survived him. She was a spinster and she died in Knockaney Village, County Limerick, Ireland at the age of 71 in 1902. His uncle, Patrick Irwin also survived him. He inherited the Irwin farmstead at Ballycahill, Knockaney, County Limerick, Ireland. Patrick died at Ballycahill in 1905 at the age of 90.

James Irwin, John’s brother who died in 1904 in Salida is believed to have joined the army with John and they could have possibly served in the same regiment. William Irwin, John’s brother, whose whereabouts were unknown at the time of John’s death, could also have served in the British Army for the standard enlistment of that time of six years. Patrick Irwin, John’s other unaccounted for brother served in the British Army, 1870-1876. His service was for a short time in Ireland and then some service in England but most of his service, over 3 years, was in India. He was stationed in Northwest India in the Punjab near the Kyber Pass that separates India from Afghanistan. He was a Private in the 58th Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion, Northhamptonshire Regiment. Upon returning from India he was never well again. He died at the age of 24 on 23 February 1878. The cause of death was tuberculous, which he contracted in India. The place of death was the British Veterans Hospital in London. He is buried in the Veterans Cemetery, in London, England.


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BRIDGET IRWIN

1858-1933

Bridget Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland on 21 June 1858. She was the sister of John Irwin.

In 1877 she married Patrick McMahan in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania district where she had been living since her arrival in America as a young girl in 1867. Her husband, Patrick, came to America in 1875. Patrick was the son of John McMahan and Mary Doyle and he too was born in Limerick City on 16 October 1851. He was the brother, those that lived to adulthood, of Bridget born 1847, Mary born 1857, James born 1859, John born 1861 and Martin born 1865. Upon arriving in America Patrick worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.

In May of 1878, the first child was born to Patrick and Bridget. Mary was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.

In 1879, the family moved to Leadville. Not long after coming to Leadville their second child, Sarah was born on 22 March 1880. Then followed Anne, who was baptized at the Church of the Annunciation on 23 April 1882, she died 9 April 1887. John born 8 April 1883 followed her and then Margaret born 21 February 1886, she died 30 March 1887. The next child born was James, on 29 July 1888. Their last child born was Elizabeth born on 17 February 1890 and her life ended on 22 January 1899.

Initially, upon arriving in Leadville in 1879, Patrick McMahan worked in the mines but in the early 1880’s he owned and operated a saloon at 1301 North Popular until he died 21 October 1903 at the hospital in Salida where he had gone to have an operation. Thereafter, his wife Bridget, and sons operated the saloon until Bridget left Leadville in 1919 to live with her daughter, Mary McMahan Reardon, in Salida. Bridget died in Salida 17 November 1933 at the age of 75. She was buried from the Church of the Annunciation and interred in the McMahan family plot in St. Joseph’s Cemetery near Leadville.

The family, as it passed thru the generations, still continued to run saloons. Donnie McMahan owned and operated the Silver Dollar Saloon on Harrison Avenue until his death.

Of the seven children born to Patrick and Bridget only four lived to adulthood. Mary married William Reardon, who worked for the railroad in Salida, on 23 April 1901 in Leadville and raised her family in Leadville and Salida. She died in Salida on 19 September 1944. Sarah, or Sadie as she was called, never married and worked under her brother, John, in the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. She died in Leadville on 14 November 1918. John married May Adolphson in Leadville in April 1908 and raised his family in Leadville. He was the Leadville City Clerk and Recorder from 1907-1908. From 1908 to 1926 he was the County Clerk and Recorder. From 1926 to 1928, he was the Deputy Clerk and Recorder. From 1926 to 1935 he was the Leadville Postmaster. He died in Leadville 11 August 1939. The youngest member of the family, James, lived many years in Denver and worked as a policeman. He retired from the Denver Police Department and he died in Denver on 15 April 1961. He was married but they had no children.

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DAVID IRWIN

1856-1917

David Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland on 23 February 1856. He was the brother of John Irwin. He lived in Leadville from 1879 until 1917. During this time he worked in the mines as a laborer and also worked as a bartender. He died in Leadvillle on October 1917.

Nothing else is known on David.

 

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BRIDGET IRWIN

1858-1933

Bridget Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland on 21 June 1858. She was the sister of John Irwin.

In 1877 she married Patrick McMahan in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania district where she had been living since her arrival in America as a young girl in 1867. Her husband, Patrick, came to America in 1875. Patrick was the son of John McMahan and Mary Doyle and he too was born in Limerick City on 16 October 1851. He was the brother, those that lived to adulthood, of Bridget born 1847, Mary born 1857, James born 1859, John born 1861 and Martin born 1865. Upon arriving in America Patrick worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.

In May of 1878, the first child was born to Patrick and Bridget. Mary was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.

In 1879, the family moved to Leadville. Not long after coming to Leadville their second child, Sarah was born on 22 March 1880. Then followed Anne, who was baptized at the Church of the Annunciation on 23 April 1882, she died 9 April 1887. John born 8 April 1883 followed her and then Margaret born 21 February 1886, she died 30 March 1887. The next child born was James, on 29 July 1888. Their last child born was Elizabeth born on 17 February 1890 and her life ended on 22 January 1899.

Initially, upon arriving in Leadville in 1879, Patrick McMahan worked in the mines but in the early 1880’s he owned and operated a saloon at 1301 North Popular until he died 21 October 1903 at the hospital in Salida where he had gone to have an operation. Thereafter, his wife Bridget, and sons operated the saloon until Bridget left Leadville in 1919 to live with her daughter, Mary McMahan Reardon, in Salida. Bridget died in Salida 17 November 1933 at the age of 75. She was buried from the Church of the Annunciation and interred in the McMahan family plot in St. Joseph’s Cemetery near Leadville.

The family, as it passed thru the generations, still continued to run saloons. Donnie McMahan owned and operated the Silver Dollar Saloon on Harrison Avenue until his death and now his wife continues to run it in 2001.

Of the seven children born to Patrick and Bridget only four lived to adulthood. Mary married William Reardon, who worked for the railroad in Salida, on23 April 1901 in Leadville and raised her family in Leadville and Salida. She died in Salida on 19 September 1944. Sarah, or Sadie as she was called, never married and worked under her brother, John, in the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. She died in Leadville on 14 November 1918. John married May Adolphson in Leadville in April 1908 and raised his family in Leadville. He was the Leadville City Clerk and Recorder from 1907-1908. From 1908 to 1926 he was the County Clerk and Recorder. From 1926 to 1928, he was the Deputy Clerk and Recorder. From 1926 to 1935 he was the Leadville Postmaster. He died in Leadville 11 August 1939. The youngest member of the family, James, lived many years in Denver and worked as a policeman. He retired from the Denver Police Department and he died in Denver on 15 April 1961. He was married but they had no children.

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JAMES IRWIN

1852-1904


James Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland on 10 January 1852. He was also a brother of John Irwin. He lived in Leadville from 1879 until 1903 and during those years worked in the mines, was a bartender and part owner of the Irwin Brothers Saloon. In 1903 he moved to Salida for health reasons and died at the D. & R. G. Hospital on 17 February 1904. According to the Salida newspaper he died "after a lingering illness." The cause of death and the cause of this "lingering illness" was miners consumption. He started work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania when he was 15 years old and the next twelve years of coal mining followed by years in the mines in Leadville brought on his early death at the age of 52. He is buried in the Irwin family plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery near Leadville.

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James Irwin

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WILLIAM JOSEPH IRWIN

1869-1910

William Joseph Irwin was born in Limerick City, County Limerick, Ireland, Garvey’s Range, on 4 August 1869. He immigrated to America at the age of eight. He was the son of John and Bridget Dooley Irwin.

He came to Leadville in 1879 and spent most of his life there until his death in 1910. He attended public schools in Leadville until 1882 when St. Mary’s Parochial School opened. He attended St. Mary’s for a few more years and in the mid 1880’s went to work in the mines until 1893 when Leadville plunged into a recession die to the drastic drop in silver prices.


Billy Irwin

From 1895 until 1900 William left Leadville, returning sporadically, worked in the mines in Aspen, and for short period of time in Butte, Montana where he worked in the copper mines. His main activity and livelihood during this period was as a prizefighter.

He was 5’6" tall and his weight varied from 120 lbs. to 125 lbs and he fought as a featherweight. He fought most of his fights in Aspen, Leadville, and in Glenwood Springs. Some of the notable prize fighters that he fought were: Dago Mike, Griffo Taylor, George Hackett of California, Reddy Coogan, Jerry Haley, Foxy Tennis, Dave Reese, the Montana Kid, Kid Brooks, Kid Ryan, George Carney of San Francisco, Tommie Glen, Young Spitz and Young Corbett. He fought under the name of "Billy Irwin" or "Kid Irwin." These fights were well organized events, the fighters had their managers, their seconds, "Articles of Agreement" were agreed upon between the fighters compensation, "purse" and provided varying from $100.00 to $500.00, winner and loser split as per articles of agreement. Plus, "gate receipts" plus "side bets" between the fighters themselves and their "backers" who sometimes bet large sums. People came by train from all over the state to attend these fights and many of these fights were twenty rounders with the pre-agreement, referee, that "if both fighters were still standing and able to fight at the end of the 20th round the fight will be considered a draw." Before leaving the ring for more "conventional employment" Billy "Kid" Irwin was the featherweight champion of the State of Colorado and in the late 1890’s he fought Young Corbett, Young Corbett would several years later be featherweight champion of the world, at Aspen, 12 round fight, but was knocked out in the 4th round. According to the Aspen newspaper the next day: "Irwin suffered defeat last night on account of the superior strength of his antagonist. However, he put up a gamey fight and not for one moment did he show the white feather. From a pugilist point of view he suffered defeat but not dishonor."

According to his marriage record he resided in Eureka, South Dakota for a time. On 26 May 1897 he married in Denver, a Denver girl, named Nellie F. Gilman. The marriage was officiated by a "minister of the gospel", not a Catholic Priest. Needless to say, his parents were furious! As a result William became estranged from his parents for several years. In 1901, at the Leadville Courthouse William Irwin filed for divorce. He was the plaintiff and he filed on grounds of desertion. He was ultimately granted a divorce on 6 February 1901. No children were born to the marriage.

Returning to Leadville in 1900 William worked in the mines and as a bartender until 1903. In 1903, he became a Leadville Fireman and served as a plugman until 1907. From 1907 to 1909 he was the Leadville Fire Chief. From 1909 until his untimely death in 19190 he was Deputy County Clerk and Recorder, working under his cousin, County Clerk and Recorder, John W. McMahon.

In 1903, William tried to marry Mary Loftus at the Church of the Annunciation in Leadville. However, as a divorced man the Catholic priest would not permit it and that is why William and Mary Frances Loftus went to Buena Vista in order to be married. They made their home at 124 West 3rd Street with Mrs. Kate Loftus, his wife’s mother. To this marriage were born James, 1904-1926, William, 1906-1906, Francis, 1907-1977, Thomas Emmett, 1909-1966 and Kathryn, 1911-1976.

William or "Billy" Irwin, as he was known in Leadville was one of Leadville’s beloved citizens at the time of his death.

In 1908 he was president of the Eagles Lodge and he also was very active in the Democratic Party politics. At numerous social functions in Leadville he was an Irish vocalist, "Irwin and Gibbons", and Irish clog dancer with Jimmy Joyce, "The Irish Aristocrats."

In late October 1910, he developed pneumonia and for 1½ weeks he battled the sickness but finally on 5 November 1910 he died at 124 West 3rd Street at the age of 41. According to his obituary in the Leadville newspaper, in part, "There were few men who have won such great popularity among all classes of people in this county than has "Billy Irwin". His friends are numbered by the hosts and are composed of men, women and children in all walks of life. He was honest and upright and kind and generous to a fault." His full obituary will follow at the close of this document.

His wife, three sons, and an unborn child, his mother and two sisters, several nieces and nephews and cousins all in the Leadville area survive him. He was buried in the Irwin plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery near Leadville and his pallbearers were: M.J. Kilkenny, Abe Flak, Maurice Miller, Charles Byrne, Charles Slavin and Alex McDonald.

PERSONAL MENTION: The condition of William J. Irwin, deputy county clerk and recorder, who is dangerously ill at his home at 124 West Third Street, was last night reported to be serious and the patient is showing no signs of improvement. He has been delirious for the past forty-eight hours. [Personal Mention section of "The Herald Democrat" dated 4 November 1910]



"BILLY" IRWIN

PASSES INTO REST

Popular – Young Official – Succumbs

To his Fourth Attack of

Pneumonia

 

After having successfully withstood three previous attacks of pneumonia, William J. Irwin yesterday afternoon succumbed to the fourth attack of the dread disease after an illness of a week and a half. Several hours previous to his death, which occurred at 1:15 P.M., he lapsed into a state of unconsciousness from which he did not revive.

Mr. Irwin was taken ill a week ago last Wednesday while engaged in his work in the county clerk’s office, where he had been acting as deputy for the past two years under County Clerk and Recorder John W. McMahon and was immediately removed to his home at 124 West Third Street. At the time it was not thought that he was dangerously ill, but his condition grew gradually worse from day to day. For the past three days, Mr. Irwin has been in an unconscious and delirious condition most of the time. About 8 o’clock yesterday morning he regained unconsciousness for a few minutes and talked with those who were at his bedside. He then fell into unconsciousness again and was in that state when he breathed his last.

Shortly after his death, Mrs. Michael Nolan, a sister of the deceased, who had watched at the bedside of her brother and nursed him during his illness, was removed to her home at 109 North Toledo Avenue, where it was reported that she was suffering from an attack of pneumonia. A local physician last night, however, stated that the report was untrue and that Mrs. Nolan was not suffering from the disease but was merely broken up over the death of her brother. Her condition is not serious, he said.

"Billy" Irwin, as he was affectionately called by his friends, was born at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 35 years ago [sic: born in Ireland, 41 years ago]

He came to Leadville in 1879 and has remained here the greater part of the time since then with exception of short residences at Aspen and butte, Mont.

He attended St. Mary’s school in this city for many years and was always a hard working and proficient scholar.

The greater part of his life has been devoted to mining, and he has been interested in several leases in this district.

In 1907-9 he served as chief oo the local fire department having been elevated to this position after four years of the most efficient service as a fireman.

Mr. Irwin became engaged in local politics a few years ago and when the Democratic Party was successful in the county election of two years ago he received the appointment as deputy county clerk and recorder under John W. McMahon as a recognition of the services which he had rendered to that party. He was chosen as secretary of the Democratic Party central committee by Chairman Thomas M. Rainy for the present campaign.

Although he had never been engaged in the line of clerical work before, Mr. Irwin by diligent effort and much study on his part succeeded in making good in his position as deputy clerk and he ranks among the very best men that have ever held this office in Lake County.

Always courteous and obliging to everybody it was a pleasure to transact business with him in the clerk’s office.

"Billy" Irwin was an all-around athlete and encouraged and promoted good, clean sport of all kinds. For several years he has taken an active interest in the Eagles drum corps. Of this city and to his efforts is due much of the credit for the formation and maintenance of that organization.

There are few men who have won such great such popularity among all classes of people in this county than has "Billy" Irwin. His friends are numbered by the hosts and are composed of men, women, and children in all walks of life.

Mr. Irwin was honest and upright in all of his dealings, true to his convictions and his friends, kind and generous to a fault, and a man held in the highest regard and esteem by all who knew him. He was a man who always had the good of this community at heart and was among the very first to boost along anything that would prove of benefit to Leadville.

His loss is indeed a sad blow to Leadville and her citizens and his place in the community will be a hard one to fill.

He is survived by a wife, and three children, James, aged 6; Francis, aged 3; and Emmett, aged 1; mother and two sisters, Mrs. Michael Nolan and Mrs. Freeman Jackson, all of this city.

His death is made doubly sad for his wife on account of the recent death of her mother which occurred about two months and a half ago.

Mr. Irwin was a prominent member of the local lodge of Eagles, Olive Homestead No. 586, B.A.Y., the Homesteaders and the Moose.

Arrangements for the funeral have not yet been announced.

[The Herald Democrat dated 6 November 1910]

 

AROUND THE CITY

"Billy" IRWIN LAID TO REST –The remains of the late William J. Irwin were laid in their final resting place in St. Joseph’s cemetery yesterday morning. The funeral cortege was one of the longest ever seen in Leadville and was a true testimonial of the popularity of the deceased among his many friends.

The remains were conveyed from the home at 124 West Third Street to the Church of the annunciation, where Rev. J. J. Gibbons conducted the services. He sang a requiem high mass and preached an eloquent sermon. The choir sang "Face to Face" and "Nearer My God to Thee."

The church was crowded with friends and relatives of the deceased, and a mass of beautiful floral offerings was banked high around the coffin at the altar. The casket was one of the most expensive that cold be procured in the city, and when opened up appeared as a beautiful couch.

The members of the Eagle’s Drum corps, of which Mr. Irwin was a member and to whose untiring efforts much of the success of the organization and maintenance of that body was due, attended the funeral in a body. The boys dressed I their uniforms and with muffled drums beating marched in the funeral procession.

Members of the Eagles, the Moose, the Homesteaders and the Yeomen also attended the funeral and about 100 men from these lodges marched to the cemetery.

As a mark of respect to the man who had served for several years on the fire department, and was at one time its chief, the local department followed the funeral cortege to the edge of the city.

The following acted as pallbearers: M. J. Kilkenny, Abe Flaks, Maurice Miller, Charles Byrne, Charles Slavin and Alexander McDonald.

[The Herald Democrat "Around The City" Column 8 November 1910]

An added note on Billy Irwin, he was baptized in St. John's Catholic Church in Limerick, the highest church steeple in Ireland and he was laid to rest from Annunciation Catholic Church, the highest church steeple in the United States.

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JOHN LOFTUS

1838-1888

John Loftus was born in 1838 at Fallmore, Kilmore Erris, County Mayo, Ireland. Fallmore is a small village located at the southern tip of the Belmullet peninsula on the northwest coast of County Mayo. The Loftus family was very poor. The land they farmed was sandy, boggy, and only marginally fertile; enough to grow crops and eke out a living. John was the son of Michael Loftus and Bridget Barrett. His paternal grandparents were Timothy Loftus and Mary McKeon. His maternal grandparents were Anthony Barrett and Catherine Connor. The name John Loftus was the anglicized form of his Irish name Eoin O’Lactna, pronounced Owen O’Laghna. John came from a large family and the names and approximate dates of birth of his brothers and sisters are as follows: Timothy born in 1826; Anthony born in 1828; Michael born in 1830; Mary born in 1832; Catherine born in 1834; Bridget born in 1836; John born in 1838, Daniel born in 1842 and Margaret born in 1845. Every year, during the summer months, in order to supplement their meager incomes and pay for the rent of their farmsteads and other basic necessities, large numbers of laborers from the Fallmore area when by steamer to Scotland to work as agricultural laborers returning thereafter to Ireland in September. This was an annual event for the Loftus family. Michael Loftus, his wife Bridget and the children old enough to work in the fields made this annual migration to Scotland. During the Potato Famine, 1845-1847, Fallmore and its surrounding area of marginal farmland was hit especially hard and there were large-scale starvation and fever epidemics. This was followed by a breakup of the old tribal-family community of Fallmore, as it had been known to exist for centuries. Entire families and communities scattered with the wind in order to survive. This was the fate of the Loftus family in that the ones that survived either stayed behind in Ireland or went to America or Scotland. Michael Loftus and his wife and at least five of the younger children, Mary, Catherine, John, Daniel and Margaret, ended up in Scotland to work as domestic servants and agricultural laborers. The Loftus family made their home at Midlem Village, Roxburghshire, Scotland for a number of years.

John, hoping to improve his life, left Scotland for America about 1870 having lived in Scotland for approximately 20 years. His first stop was the coal mining area around Scranton, Pennsylvania where many of his County Mayo neighbors and relatives had migrated. At this time, the coal mining region of Pennsylvania was experiencing a great deal of anti-Irish bigotry and labor unrest and so John in company with a group of fellow Irishmen moved westward to St. Louis, Missouri, which, at the time was more hospitable to newly arrived Irish Immigrants. In St. Louis, John worked as a laborer and on 4 May 1873 he married Catherine "Kate" Cunningham at St. Malachy’s Church in St. Louis. On 9 October 1875 their first child was born, Mary Frances. Their second child, James, was born 1 August 1878 and died 24 November 1879. On 12 October 1878 at the St Louis Criminal Court John Loftus became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In early 1880, he and his family moved to Leadville. From 1880 until his death in 1888, John worked in the mines in Leadville. According to the Leadville City Directory the Loftus family lived at 13th between Ash and Fryer Streets in 1880. From 1881 until 1887 they lived at 727 East 13th Street. And, from 1887 until his death on 23 May 1888 the family lived at 600 East 10th Street.

John died at the age of 50 from typhoid fever, reoccurrence, which he had originally contracted in Ireland as a young boy during the Potato Famine. His father Michael, who died at Kirkwnd, Selkirk, Scotland at the age of 82 on 3 July 1879, preceded him in death. His mother, Bridget died at Selkirk, Scotland on 12 May 1869 at the age of 62. His brother Daniel, died 1 April 1884 in Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland and he was married to Catherine Reilly. Another brother Anthony, died in Mullaghroe, Kilmore Erris, County Mayo, Ireland on 29 February 1868 and he was married to Honor Broderick. His known survivors were his sisters Catherine, who died at Selkirk, Scotland 16 September 1917 and she was married to Anthony Muldoon and Margaret who died at Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland 31 March 1916 and she was married to John Brannan. Loftus nieces and nephews in Scotland, ie. Muldoon, Brannan and Loftus also survived him. It is not known when or where his other siblings, Timothy, Michael, Mary or Bridget died but if they survived the Potato Famine they most likely would have died somewhere in Ireland, Scotland, Pennsylvania or the St. Louis, Missouri area. In Leadville his wife and daughter survived him.

In 1889 Kate and Mary Frances moved from 600 E. 10th Street to 211 N. Spruce and lived there until 1896 when they moved to 124 West 3rd Street where Kate ran a boarding house.

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MARY FRANCES LOFTUS

1875-1938

Mary Frances Loftus was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 9 October 1875 the daughter of John Loftus and Catherine Cunningham Loftus. She was baptized the following day at St. Patrick’s church in St. Louis. Her birth residence was at 1301 North 2nd Street which was in the heart of St. Louis’s Irish immigration ghetto knows as the "Kerry Patch."

In 1880 she arrived by stagecoach in Leadville with her parents and half sister, Catherine. They traveled over Weston Pass.

When the Ice Palace was built, Mary ice skated there and won some ribbons for her performance on the ice.

She married William J. Irwin in Buena Vista, Colorado in 1903. They made their home at 124 W. 3rd Street with her mother, Mrs. Kate Loftus. To this union was born James, 1904-1926; William, 1906-1906; Francis, 1907-1977; Thomas Emmett, 1909-1966; and Kathryn, 1911-1976.

In August of 1910, Mary’s mother, Kate, died and 2 ½ months later her husband, William, died and she was six months pregnant, at the age of 35 left alone to raise three small son’s and an unborn child. With money taken in from boarders at the house at 124 West 3rd Street and little bookkeeping work she did she was able to raise her family. She died in the home of her son’s at 113 West 9th Street, she had moved from 124 West 3rd Street several years earlier, at the age of 62 on 12 January 1938. She is buried in the Loftus plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery near Leadville.

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Mary Frances Loftus Irwin and Kathryn Irwin
From the files of James Noriega Great Great Grandson of Mary and Great Grandson of Kathryn

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Credits on all Irwin related information go to:
Terrance Irwin
Daly City, CA

© Gail Meyer Kilgore/Michael P. Irwin