My Grandfather Andrew Keegan

by Jack Keegan


Andrew Keegan was born in a farmhouse in 1856 near Taghmun County Wexford, Ireland. His Father Patrick a cottier rented a farm from an absentee landlord. The family had suffered through the Penal Laws - those draconian statutes enacted by the English Parliament in its efforts to exterminate the Irish Catholic residents of Ireland. Catholics were not permitted to practice their religion, own land, have a horse worth more than five pounds, attend school, hold any Public Office, plus many other ordinances- intended to reduce them to abject poverty. Many of them suffered death while others were transported to Australia for breaking those laws.

The small farm was unable to support the family, one brother left hopefully to find work in England. Andrew had married Mary Walsh in 1882 and about two years later with their son Joseph they sailed for America in hopes of finding a better way of life. The voyage would take about three weeks before arriving in New York City. There they were processed by Customs and Immigration Services at Castle Garden, the predecessor of Ellis Island. After being cleared by the authorities. they were met by Mary"s brother Michael Walsh who had emigrated to this country several years before. He was their sponsor, a requirement at that time to prevent immigrants from becoming wards of the state. Boarding a Hudson River Ferry to Jersey City then a trolley car they traveled to Newark, New Jersey where Michael rented a house.

Settling in, Andrew began a search for work. Having little formal education it was difficult to obtain more than a rudimentary job .However, he persisted and was able to support his family. Then tragedy struck, his wife Mary died in childbirth on june 5,1885, cause inflammation of lungs and Puerperal Fact and one month later their newborn daughter Mary died on June 3, 1885 age 1Month and7 days. They are buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery East Orange, NJ Grave (Walsh) K-455-5.

Several years later Andrew married Margaret Halpin and they had several more sons. At that time many employers displayed signs that read:"No Irish Need Apply".none of us ever saw those signs and many never heard of them. Finally settling in Down Neck he was able to obtain employment at the New Jersey Zinc and Iron Company, known locally at "The Zinc Works". It was located on many acres of land. bounded by Brill and Chapel Streets, the Passaic River and the Morris Canal. About four hundred workers toiled there producing Zinc metal from ore, that arrived via Morris Canal by barge. It functioned around the clock six days a week perhaps unhealthy by today's standards, it certainly gave needed jobs to many residents of Down Neck, Andrew Keegan among them. From poverty in Ireland to a new beginning in the United States, hampered by lack of formal education he was able to overcome Irish-Catholic bias obtain work and support a family.

Andrew's sons - After Mary Walsh died in 1885 Andrew Keegan married Margaret Halpin in 1886 and had several more sons.
Son James T. Keegan was born on September 29, 1887 in Newark,NJ He worked as an Iron Molder. Later he joined the Newark Salvage Corps an adjunct of the Newark Fire Department, owned and operated by Fire Insurance Companys.He rose through the ranks becoming Superintendent of the Corps. James married Martha Helmsteader and they had two sons, Herbert who married a girl named Casey. The other son Joseph, worked for the Newark Fire Department in the Communication section.

James died on October 18,1950 of Carcinomatossis of the Urinary Tract & and an Aneurysm of the Abdominal Tract at age 63 years and was buried on Oct 21, 1950 in St. Mary's Cemetery in East Orange,NJ.

Son Andrew Sylvester Keegan was born on March 17, 1890. He worked as a core maker in Iron Foundrys. Married Marcela Cunnane, had one daughter and several sons. Daughter Marcela died in a tragic accident in Atlantic Highlands, NJ in the 20's, run over by an Ice Cream Truck. Andrew died Feb. 1930 cause Pneumonia age 40 years.

Son John was born on January 29, 1893 and was baptized the same day. Have no further word on him as I think that he died the same day.

Grandfather Andrew Keegan died March 3, 1929 cause Myocardial Insufficiency-Aged 73 years


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