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Excerpts from Books and Newspapers Regarding Rooney Family - Compiled by N.Jean Harris

Six centuries of British conquest had beaten the Irish in to poverty and subjugation. Roman Catholicism, the mainstay of Irish nationalism, was the focal point of discrimination. Catholics were stripped of property, civil and religious rights. For years a bounty was set on the heads of priests, and religious services had to be held secretly. Overpopulation, grinding poverty, high rents, excessive land subdivision, unemployment, agrarian violence, periodic crop failures, typhus epidemics and political and religious disputes made Ireland a country of little opportunity and great despair.

Between 1841 and 1854 in Ireland, there was a great famine caused by the potato blight. People were starving and many were leaving the country if they could afford to do so. Nine members of the Rooney family decided to try for a better life in the New World, as they had read and heard of the opportunities in America. When they first arrived, they settled in Wakefield, Canada, about 30 miles from Ottawa near the Gatineau River where they engaged in lumbering. Some of the family members had married while in Ireland, others married in Canada. They had lived in Canada for 15 or 20 years when the Homestead Act was passed in the United States. Eight of the nine families came to Minnesota in 1865, spent one year in Minneapolis; then being outdoor people, they decided to take advantage of the Homestead Act and came to the territory that is now Padua. The Padua settlement was originally known as Rooney Station, because of nine families of Rooneys that moved there in 1866.

They were Michael Rooney, his father Thomas Rooney, Patrick Rooney, Ann Rooney Tracy, (Mike), Katherine Rooney Killeen, John Rooney, Bridget Rooney Kilroe, and Mary Rooney Colohan. These were the ancestors of Helen Rooney (Mrs. Ed Felling), who supplied much of this early history. Helen’s father, Michael Rooney, homesteaded 160 acres just north of the present location of the Padua church in 1873, when he was about 21 years old. To homestead, you had to build a house and live there for five years to get title to the land. The family still has the land grant signed by Ulysses S. Grant.

Times were tough, work was hard, and fieldwork and travel were done with oxen. These troubles were compounded in 1876 and 1877 by the grasshopper plague, which all but destroyed Michael’s entire crop. Some of the Rooneys left during this plague. Those who stayed were Michael Rooney, John Rooney, Mike Tracy, Patrick Killeen and John Egan.

Rooney Family by Edwin & Helen (Rooney) Felling.

Helen Rooney, b. 1904 a daughter of Michael and Margaret (Murphy) Rooney, was born in Raymond Township near Padua. Her father, Michael Rooney at the age of 3 boarded a ship in Ireland with his widowed father, Tom Rooney, and his 2-year-old brother, John. John died before reaching Canada. The Rooney family settled in Lowe, Canada, in a wooded area near the Gatineau River, north of Ottawa. In 1862, at age 18, Michael Rooney, his father and several other relatives followed the Great Lakes to Minneapolis and then homesteaded farms around Sauk Centre.

Jack & Ethel (Redmond) Rooney were married in 1929 at St. Donatus Catholic Church in Brooten. Jack is a direct descendant of some of the early pioneers of Pope County. His grandparents, Mary McCool and John Rooney, Bridget Brown, and Thomas Rooney, were born in Ireland and came to Quebec about 1835. They farmed in the Gatineau, Quebec area for several years before coming to Pope County in the 1860’s. Jack’s parents, Winifred Rooney and Hugh Rooney, were both born in Quebec and were brought to this country as children.

“The Rooney History” - By Eileen Rooney Waite

The Rooney brothers, Michael Tracy (M.T. or Black Mike), Patrick, John and John D’Arcy, a brother in law of M.T., and a cousin Gray Mike Rooney came to Montana in 1870. They hunted buffalo where Miles City is now located. M.T. and John D’Arcy moved up the Yellowstone River and built the first log cabin where the present site of Billings is today.

Having teams and wagons they did a lot of ditching and dirt moving. They also did some freighting from Billings to what is now Lewistown (Reeds Fort and Fort McGinnis). M.T. had Pat and John come up the Yellowstone and join him, telling them what a beautiful country the Judith Basin areas was.

Once when making a freight trip late in the fall of 1889, they were caught having to provide hay and feed for their horses, they spent the winter on a ranch nearby getting out logs and timber for buildings and fences. In the spring they took jobs making irrigating ditches with their teams for ranchers.

I do not know when or how they heard of Middle Fork but I think it was on an elk trip they met some people that had built a cabin and were running some cattle up there by the name of Tintinger. There was plenty of room so the Rooney brothers built a cabin about a mile below the other one. It was a big one-room cabin with a dirt floor and they took up Squatter Rights. The other brothers, John and M.T., relinquished their Squatter Rights to a man named Fritz, but Tom Rooney and Patrick proved up on their homesteads and sold them to Fritz and the Middle Fork Cattle Company.

In the meantime, John took up a preemption claim, which they called the Spring ranch and later was known as the Fitzwater place. M.T. took up a desert claim in the same section. During these times they built what was known as the Beelzebub or Rooney ditch which started from the Judith River one mile south of Utica and went down through what is now the French place and out toward the Fitzwater place.

“The Rooney Family" as told by Aunt Cynthia (Mrs. A.C. Stoutenberg) who wrote a weekly column in the Judith Basin Star paper.

Friends-Looking out of my one window of the “cabin in the coulee” forty-five years ago (1886). I saw two riders coming up the flat. As they approached I saw it was the unusual sight of two boys-Thomas and Frank Rooney, cousins, who we found lived with their parents and uncles on what is known now as the Walter Fitzwater ranch, John Rooney’s homestead.

From this call of many years ago, we found friends and neighbors. Mamie Rooney, later Mrs. Walter O’Brien, mutual assistance, breaking for me the intense monotony and for them reading and talking of the world outside.

This family comprised three brothers, Patrick, M.T. and John Rooney, who came to Minnesota with their parents from Canada in 1865. They were pioneers of that state and later followed the railroad west after selling their farms in Minnesota. At the end of the steel (railroad), they came still further west by the covered wagon trains, first settling in Miles City. M.T. Rooney then moved to Billings with his family and erected one of the first houses in that city. In those early days, M.T. was a contractor in freighting and ditching as is evidenced by many of the early ditches brought out of the Judith river, among them being the big Rooney ditch above Utica irrigating land on the south bench. His brothers had brought with them much machinery and livestock and they all started in business in the Judith Basin together. They secured many land holdings.

In 1894, John Rooney died of pneumonia, leaving his widow and a large family of small children. Mrs. Sara Rooney was a real pioneer woman and bravely endured the hardships and privations that naturally fell to the pioneer women. She made a home for the family, saw that they received schooling and instructed their religious training in the home. Her son, John, six years old, followed his father soon after with throat trouble. Later a second son, Mosie, was dragged and killed by a horse while riding at the Middle Fort ranch, then owned by Pat and Michael. No priest being at hand, this sad mother with her two brothers knelt in the snow and with the Catholic ritual committed all that was mortal of their dear one to the God who loaned him for awhile. Folks, our eyes are misty when we vision that scene in that little graveyard at Utica. Also the watchful loving care of “Uncle Pat” and “Uncle Mike” to this family of small children is worthy of mention; when they had trouble, it was always one of the big uncles who wiped the tears and made the sun to shine.

For long years, Mrs. Rooney and her family resided on the M.T. Rooney ranch east of Hobson. She died in 1912. Thomas was killed in a railroad accident a few years later, and Edmund, the youngest son, died last summer. Four daughter still survive--Mamie, Ella, Kate and Frances. Pat passed to the Great Beyond in 1909 and M.T. in 1922. The three brothers are gone but several of the children and grandchildren are still living in the Judith Basin (as reported in 1931).

Judith Basin Star, Hobson, Fergus County, Montana, Thursday, May 18, 1916.
“Thomas Rooney Instantly Killed at Crossing West of Town”

At about 6:50 o’clock this evening at the railroad crossing west of this city occurred an accident which resulted in the instant death of Thomas Rooney while Frank Rooney was seriously injured. The two men had been doing some fencing on some land north of this city. The were returning to the Rooney ranch, when the wagon in which they were riding was struck by Great Northern engine No. 1412 which was running light and which was in charge of engineer Lewney and fireman Fritter.

W.B. McFerrin and Fred Lochnet, who were returning to the former’s grading camp near the river, were eye witnesses to the accident and stated that neither one of the men noticed the engine until a moment before the collision, when they were both seen to stand up in the wagon. Thomas who was driving slapped the horses with the reins, but the engine which was running about 20 to 25 miles per hour struck the wagon about in the center and the men were thrown for several feet into the air and about 75 feet from where the accident occurred. They ran to where the two men laid and found Thomas to be dead, while Frank was alive but badly injured, having his right arm broken and crushed and a big gash cut in his head as well as injuries to his back and body. Thomas Rooney’s back was broken, his right leg broken a horrible gash in his head and several other bruises about the body.

The body of Thomas Rooney was brought to the city and taken to the Shea building, while Frank Rooney was taken to the office of Dr. Lewers, where he was given medical attention. And then taken to the hospital at Lewistown, and late reports from there state that he is doing fine and that his recovery is almost fully assured.

While having his injuries dressed at the doctor’s office Frank made the statement that neither of them saw the engine until it was right on them, that he saw it first and warned Tom but it was too late as a moment later the engine crashed into the wagon.

Both victims of the accident are well known throughout the west side, having practically spent their entire lives here.

Coroner Creel was notified and held an inquest in the Murray hall this evening. The following jury being impaneled: John Shea, C. L. Anderson, C. Swanz, Sr., J.A. Raitt, J.S. Matteer and F. Montgomery, who after hearing the testimony offered by the various witnesses returned a verdict that Thomas Rooney came to his death by being struck by Great Northern engine, No. 1412 at crossing west of Hobson on May 18th, at about the hour of 6:50 p.m., and that his death was accidental.

Judith Basin Star, Hobson, Fergus County, Montana, Monday, May 22, 1916.
“Thomas Rooney”.

At two o’clock last Sunday afternoon at the M.T. Rooney residence west of this city, was held the funeral services of Thomas Rooney, who on last Thursday evening was instantly killed by being struck by a Great Northern engine on the crossing west of this city. The funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Father Molyeaux, of Lewistown. The large concourse of sorrowing friends who gathered to pay their last respects showed the esteem in which he was held in this community. Following the services at the home the body was taken to the cemetery at Moore and laid at rest beside those of his parents [mother] who had preceded him to the Great Beyond.

Thomas Rooney was born at Sauk Center, Minnesota, on October 16, 1879, being at the time of his death 37 years of age. He came with his parents to Miles City, Montana, in 1880 where they resided until 1889. They moved to the Judith Basin and located west of this city, where the deceased resided until 1895 when he moved to his mother’s homestead on the Judith river about six miles east of this city, and which he still made his home at the time of his untimely death. The deceased was a man of excellent habits and sturdy constitution and was very active in his accustomed pursuits. He was quiet and unassuming, upright in his dealings with his fellow men and his convictions, whether right or wrong, were honest and sincere and he commanded the respect of all sects and classes of people.

“Card of Thanks”

We wish to return our heartfelt thanks to the many generous friends who stood by us with such kindness during the death of our brother. We also wish to thank the many friends who furnished the beautiful flowers. Signed by Mrs. L. C. Martin [Katherine Rooney Martin], Ms. Fannie Rooney, Mrs. J. W. O’Brien [Mary Ann Rooney], Mrs. Fred Boyer [Elizabeth Elenor Rooney]

John Rooney History

John and Sarah Rooney with their children and John’s brother, pat came into the Judith Basin from Miles City in 1889. The Rooney brothers with their brother M.T. (Black Mike) Rooney entered business in livestock, contracting, freighting and ditching as is evidenced by many of the early ditches brought out of the Judith River. Among them being what was known as the Big Rooney Ditch about Utica irrigating land on the South Bench.

There is one story told of a ditch that they had trouble carrying water in, so they had a man ride down the ditch on horse back and drag a bottle full of water on the end of a rope. They were then able to have witnesses swear that they saw water move down the ditch and prove up a desert claim.

John Rooney homesteaded the land where the Jules Henke ranch is. Also with his brother, Pat took Squatters Rights on the Middle Fork Ranch in 1890.

The children of John and Sarah were Mary Ann (Mamie), Thomas, Frances, Ella, Katherine (Kate), Mosie, John and Edmund.

John Rooney [1847-1894] died of pneumonia in 1894, his son Johnny [1888-1894 ] died the same year of throat trouble or diphtheria. Mosie [1883-1896 ] was dragged and killed by a horse while riding at the Middle Fork Ranch.

Sarah [1857-1911] lived with her children for many years on the (Gray Mike) Rooney ranch east of Hobson where the Bradley Millers live today. She passed away in 1911.

Brothers, Pat [1838-1909] passed to the Great Beyond in 1909.

Michael Tracy Rooney received his final summons in 1923 [1845-1923].

Maime [1877-1933] married John Walter O’Brien and raised nine children in Hobson and Utica in Fergus County, MT.

Thomas [1879-1916] single, was killed in a railroad crossing accident west of Hobson in 1916.

Elizabeth Elenor Rooney (Ella) [Abt. 1885-1960] married Fred Boyer and with their three children moved to Oregon where she died.

Frances [1888-1963] and Edmund [1893-1931] remained single and both have passed away.

Katherine (Kate) [1886-1944] married Roland Clyde (Clyde) Martin, raised five children and lived in Hobson and vicinity until her death in 1944.

Page 119, Hobson, The Gateway to the Golden Grain Fields, written by a committee of Lena Gardner, Viola Barrett, Myrtle Swanz, Frances Settler, Pearle Phillips, Rose Knight in 1965, Hobson, Montana
death recorded in Montana, Fergus County Argus - 26 July 1894
death recorded in Montana, Fergus Co. Argus 2/27/1896
death recorded in Montana, Fergus Co. Argus 9/14/1911
Page 100, Hobson, The Gateway to the Golden Grain Fields, written by a committee of Lena Gardner, Viola Barrett, Myrtle Swanz, Frances Settler, Pearle Phillips, Rose Knight in 1965, Hobson, Montana
Page 79, Hobson, The Gateway to the Golden Grain Fields, written by a committee of Lena Gardner, Viola Barrett, Myrtle Swanz, Frances Settler, Pearle Phillips, Rose Knight in 1965, Hobson, Montana