My Father - Joseph P. Keegan

by Jack Keegan


Joseph Keegan son of Andrew and Mary Keegan (nee Walsh) was born in Hulme, England on January 14, 1883 after his parents had departed County Wexford, Ireland on their emigration to the United States about 1883 or 1884. Shortly after his birth they all boarded a ship for their journey to America. The voyage took about three weeks arriving in New York City, where they went through Customs and Immigration Services at Castle Garden predecessor of Ellis Island. After being cleared by authorities, they were met by Mary's brother Michael Walsh who had come to the States several years before. He was their sponsor, a requirement at the time to prevent immigrants from becoming wards of the state. They then traveled by ferry boat and trolley car to Newark to live in a house rented by Michael Walsh.

There was much Anti- Catholic bias at the time, many business had prominent signs saying "No Irish Need Apply" Despite this when the Keegan family moved Down Neck Joseph's father was able to obtained employment with the New Jersey Zinc and Iron Company known locally as "The Zinc Works".. Joseph started school but left in the sixth grade, hoping to obtain work and help with family faineance. His first job was delivering lunches to the workers at the Zinc Works where he received a few pennies for his labor. From there he went on to many other occupations, such as a Conductor on Trolley Cars and selling insurance for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. His next job was with Crucible Steel Company in Harrison where he rose to be a foreman. From then on he remained associated with the iron and steel industry.

Joseph married Helen Farley in 1908 at St. Aloysius Church on Fleming Avenue.

Daughters Marie and Helen"Honey" were born respectfully in 1909 an 1910.

About 1912 he was offered a job as superintendent of the foundry of The American Car and Foundry Company in DePew New York, which is east of Buffalo. Packing up the family they all traveled there where he spent a terrible winter working during heavy snow and ice storms and decided that the weather was better in New Jersey. Coming back to Newark, he rented an apartment in a house at 95 Somme Street, and soon went to work at Mass and Walsteins foundry on Doremus Avenue. At that facility that made acid resistant casting for use in the manufacturing of picric acid, he eventually became manger of the foundry.

Son Joseph E. Keegan was born in 1914.

When World War One ended and Mass and Wallsteins reduced operations, he and several partners opened a foundry on Doremus Avenue. That foundry burned down and after a disagreement with those partners, he purchased a house and property on Christie Street. At that location he erected a building for his foundry, it was about Fifty by One Hundred feet in size, with a CNJ RR siding that would be used to bring in Pig Iron and Albany Sand used in making iron castings. The business prospered and he decided that he must increase the company output. The house that was located at 185 Christie Street was moved to a vacant lot that Joseph had purchased. on Brill Street.

Son - John Keegan born in 1920

On the property at 187Christie Street a two story concrete building was erected, it's dimensions being about twenty five by fifty feet. The building contained a new cupola with greater capacity, with a casting grinding area, garage for truck and an office located on the lower level .Part of the upper level was used for loading the cupola with Pig and Scrap Iron, Limestone and Coke in the making of molten iron. The remainder of the second floor was reserved for the storage of patterns used in the in that process. The rest of the property garages were fronted with concrete block. The company now employed about twenty five people, in many cases he paid his employees above union scale, things where going well. In the late 20's and 30's the depression hit, cutting back somewhat he struggled to survive and survive he did. In the late 30's and early 40's defense spending increased and business improved. It was during this time he was elected President of The Ironbound Manufactures Association. Sometime in this period the name of the foundry was changed from the Kastwell Foundry to Joseph Keegan and Son, when he made his son Joseph a partner.

When WW2 ended he was able to take some well earned leisure time, spending part of the winter in Florida. In 1948 he made an motor tour covering 23 states. Leaving Newark he and his wife Helen (Nelly) drove to Florida then westward sightseeing in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. then on to San Diego thence to San Francisco,- motoring eastward through the Sierras and the Rockies to see the great Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. From there eastward to Chicago via Denver,Kansas City and St Louis, now homeward to Newark a very rewarding and pleasant trip.

From poverty, lack of formal education, Anti - Irish Catholic bias and many other obstacles he was able to overcome and succeed.

He had a full and eventful life passing away in January 1952 at the age of 69years.


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