The Boyle's of St. Paul, Minnesota

Margaret Dennison and Charles M. Boyle

Charles M. Boyle (c.1817 - 05/02/1897) was from Kincasslagh, Co. Donegal and married Margaret Dennison (15/08/1834 -  15/11/1919). Margaret was a daughter of George Dennison and Afric McGettigan, and niece of Archbishop McGettigan.

From one source she was said to be from "Cashel, Creeslough" (very close to Drumdutton where the Dennisons lived and even closer to Drumlackagh where the McGettigans lived). It is also possible that she was living with her maternal cousins, the O'Boyles of Magherablade, at the time of her marriage. Among Michael J's personal effects in the MHS collection (see below) is a letter from Brian C. Walsh to his godmother, Margaret Boyle, detailing his activities as a car driver for the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force in Baghdad (June 5, 1918). Brian C. Walsh was the son of Aifric Harkin who was a niece of Margaret's from Massinass near Creeslough.

Charles was the son of Michael "Teague" Boyle from Kincasslagh, Co. Donegal and Madge McFadden. He emigrated to the United States in the 1840s or early 1850s. Margaret emigrated in 1850 (US Census 1900) or 1855-56 (Death Cert.) but Michael's diaries say that his parents emigrated during the potato famine of the 1840s (Wills, 2003). It is not clear where or when they met or married.

They lived initially in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907) where Charles worked in the nearby coal mines while Margaret worked at various domestic occupations. Their son, Michael Joseph, was born in Pittsburgh in April 1856 (the same year that his mother immigrated). A periodic economic depression, the "panic of 1857" made them decide to move north at the end of that year. They took the train to Rock Island, Illinois - which was then the western extremity of what was to become the Northern Pacific Railroad - and the steamboat to St. Paul, Minnesota, the "gateway to the new North West". At that time Minnesota was not yet a state. There Charles found work in the docks. During the Civil War, he worked his way up to a position as a surveyor. In the boom after the war, he opened his own surveying company. He is described as a Civil Engineer in the register of his death and on his gravestone (CE). These titles would have been supplied by his widow. It is not clear if he undertook any formal study in Civil Engineering. His company were employed in the St. Paul area by the City of St. Paul, the Catholic Church and the railroad companies.

For Charles M. Boyle's political career in St. Paul/Ramsey County, Minnesota, see this page.

Business prospered up to 1876 to the extent that he was able to send Michael to study at St. Mary's College, Cleveland, Ohio. However, the effects of the "panic of 1873", leading to the first industrial depression, meant that Charles' speculative property investments caused the collapse of his enterprises. In the meantime Michael had been summoned home. Charles decided to return to Ireland (initially to Dublin) to seek employment. He left the US at the end of September 1876.

Michael spent six months working as a teacher at the rural public school in Credit River Township, Scott County, Minnesota to support the family and begin paying off his father's debts. Even though the position was relatively well paid, he was not happy there and hankered to get back to the city. He then took up employment with Auerbach and Co on 15/05/1877 where he was to spend the best part of the next 50 years. Margaret and the younger children (Mary A. and Charles D.) moved back to Ireland in July 1882 to join Charles - who had not succeeded in finding work or prospects.

Charles died at Ballymore, Creeslough, Co. Donegal on 5th February, 1897 without returning to the US. He is buried in Cashelmor Graveyard nearby (Derry Journal, 12 February 1897). His name apears on the headstone over the Boyle family plot in St. Mary's graveyard in Kincasslagh, The death certificate gives his widow's address as Massinass (where her nieces and nephews, the Harkins, lived). It is possible that her sister, Afric Sheridan, and her family were also living locally around this time.

Margaret, Mary A. and Charles D. returned to the US to re-join Michael - probably not long after that (they all appear in the US Census in 1900). In the census, Margaret is boarding in a house on Dayton Ave. and Michael is a lodger in a house in the next street (Selby Ave).

On her death cert, Margaret is stated as having been 63 years in the U.S. which would put her year of immigration around 1856 (when she would have been 22 - Michael was born in April that year). The 1900 Census gives her year of birth as 1833 and year of immigration as 1850 (aged 16). This information cannot be trusted since it also says she had no children. The Minnesota Territorial and State Census gives her age as 24 (21/09/1857) - therefore born before September 21st, 1833. Her death cert says she was 60 years in Minnesota. Round numbers are always a bit suspicious. The Census was filled in by an enumerator and the details of the death cert were furnished by Michael so the accuracy in both cases is questionable. Some corroboration is necessary. We know that Michael J. was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvannia (Death Cert and Census records) so we may assume she spent some time there also (with Charles - possibly they met and were married there). In the 1910 Census it looks like she had 9 children of whom 3 are still alive. Her age then (77) gives 1833 as her year of birth.

Margaret died in St. Paul, Minnesota on 15/11/1919. The causes of death were given as "Senility, Chronic Nephritis and Myocarditis". Her Death Certificate gives her date of birth as 15/08/1834 and that she had been 63 years in the US.

Their Children

According to the 1910 US Census, Margaret was the mother of nine children. At that time only three were still alive.

  • Michael J. (19/04/1856 - 05/02/1941) worked his way up to become a Department Manager in a Wholesale Store and spent some of his career paying off his father's debts which he eventually succeeded in doing in 1884. His year of birth from the 1860 census is 1856 (he was 4), from 1920 Census it is 1852; from the 1930 Census it is 1857 when he is described as a Commercial Traveller in Dry Goods. He never married. His death cert gives 19/04/1856. Calvary cemetery records his burial date as February 8, 1941.
  • Mary A. (1858 - 8/1944) held various jobs and eventually became a nurse. She was still single in 1900 (aged 48) and 1920 (aged 61) and 1930 (aged 72) so it is unlikely she married or had any children. She was still alive in 1941 when Michael died. Two sources gives her death year as 1949, one of these gives 06/10/1949 - but these have not been verified. Calvary cemetery records her burial date as September 2, 1944.
  • Agnes M. (1861 - 2/1870) - Died from "Spotted Fever" aged 9. Calvary cemetery records her burial date as February 27, 1870.
  • Ellen M. (1863 - 2/1873) (Nellie) appears on the 1870 Census aged 7 but is not on the 1880 Census. Calvary cemetery records her burial date as February 22, 1873.
  • Anne ( - 7/1873) (Annie) appears on headstone between Ellen and Charles D. Calvary cemetery records her burial date as July 17, 1873
  • Charles D. (1866 - 6/1920) was a Salesman in Retail Dry Goods in 1910. In 1920 he was an inmate of Glenn Lake Sanatorium, which was then one of the top treatment centres for TB in the US. Interestingly, this census record states that both his mother and his father's mother-tongue was Gaelic. Calvary cemetery records his burial date as June 15, 1920.
  • George D. (1868 - 1/1870) - Died a month before his sister Agnes, also from "Spotted Fever" - aged 2. Calvary cemetery records his burial date as January 22, 1870.
  • George W. ( - 10/1872) - this George appears on the headstone in Calvary. The cemetery records his burial date as October 14, 1872.
  • Louise ( -  2/1892) - Calvary cemetery records her burial with the rest of the Boyles on February 17, 1892. No other details known. Her name does not appear on the headstone.

Charles' parents:

  • Michael "Teague" Boyle (1784 - 3/1873)
  • Madge McFadden (1782 - 1880)

Michael J. Boyle

We know quite a lot about the family because Michael kept a fairly detailed diary between 1876 and 1890. These diaries were used as source material for a paper by Jocelyn Wills published in the Journal of Social History, Winter, 2003. The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) have the diaries and some additional material on Michael's life from 1990 up to his death.

Michael J. Boyle died on Wednesday 5th February, 1941. His obituary appeared the following Friday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on page 20. It reads:

BOYLE - Michael J., of 315 So. Exchange
  St., Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph's
  hospital. Son of the late Charles
  and Margaret Boyle. Survived by his sister.
  Funeral from the chapel of O'Halloran
  & Murphy, 215 W. 6th. at Main Ave.,
  at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Services at the
  Cathedral at 9 o'clock. Internment Calvary

So far as we know, Charles and Margaret had no grand-children.

U.S. Census Records

Death Certs

Newspaper Death Notices


Other Sources

  • Angela Kirk - who first revealed the existence of this Margaret Dennison and her family - Thanks Angela!
  • Wills, Jocelyn, 2003. Respectable mediocrity: the everyday life of an ordinary American striver, 1876-1890, Journal of Social History, Winter, 2003. Available online here
  • - Ward-Gamache family tree Available online here
  • Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) collection of Michael J. Boyle's effects Available online here
Last Updated, 21/08/2018 12:07 UTC+1