Leeds & Grenville GenWeb: The Leacy Family

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The Leacy Family


By Margaret Madden, [email protected]

Martin Leacy was born in Ireland on November 10,1834, where in Ireland is unknown. He immigrated to the United States about 1848 at the age of 14.

Cheap transportation by water to Canada and then across the lake to Oswego is credited as one of the quirks in History that brought many Irish to Oswego County. Although most identify Irish Immigration with the potato famine of the mid-1840s, there were political and religious reasons before the famine, and problems with British Rule and religious freedom were prominent. In the 1820ís, Irish Immigrants provided the bulk of the labor force building the Erie and Barge Canals. Their families tended to settle at major points along these two waterways, and Oswego was fast becoming an important crossroads for shipping. Birth statistics in that mid-century census show that, while most of the adult Irish population was born in Ireland, many of the children were born in Canada. This indicates that many immigrants came to Oswego via Canada.

In 1850, the average pay for a laborer was 50 cents a day with board, 75 cents without. By the 1870ís, many Irish had established themselves as businessmen and property owners. The Irish tended to settle in two areas in Oswego. Natives of County Cork, Ireland moved into the 2nd Ward area on the East Side of the city near Fort Ontario. Others moved to the 5th Ward on the West Side in St. Johnís Parish. This area was termed the "Bloody Fifth" by many in the city at the time. Shortly after they established themselves in Oswego, the Irish were quick to build their churches, followed by their schools. One of the religious leaders long remembered is Father Michael Barry, who was pastor at St. Paulís. The dynamic Irish priest took an active role in political life as it relates to the general welfare of his people and was an early advocate of pure water. Typhoid problems were severe in the late 1800ís, when raw sewage was dumped into the Oswego River by the many mills lining its banks.

The Irish came early and stayed late. Few brought anything with them of material wealth. Anything they have today came from hard work, initiative, desire and ambition.

As Martin was married at St Paulís R.C. Parish on the East Side of Oswego, possibly he originated from County Cork, Ireland. That research is still to be done. Martin was listed on the 1855 census for New York, Town of Volney, Oswego County. "Martin Lacy: age 26 years: born in Ireland, has been in this country 7 years: married to Bridget Waters, age 19.

The City of Fulton was formed in 1902 when the Village of Fulton in the Town of Volney and the Village of Oswego Falls in the Town of Granby merged.

In the 1850ís, Fulton was a great flour milling center. North from the Plaza, which was then a bridge over the canal, both sides of North First street were lined with flour mills. On the left, facing north, were the great Genesee Mills. These mills were so large that their elevator had storage for 10,000 bushels of wheat and 5,000 barrels of flour. Power to drive the mill wheels came from a raceway which drew water from the river and rushed under the mills and also under First Street itself to reach the mills on the canal banks.

Rev. Kelly of Oswego began holding services in Fulton in 1850 for Roman Catholics in the Fulton area in various meeting halls. He gathered together fifteen or twenty followers. The service was held at Mr. Donnellyís, also over a store in First street, and subsequently in Pondís hall. In January of 1854 Fulton was assigned a priest, Rev. James Smith, but the congregation did not have a consecrated church building until 1858. The congregation purchased a white wooden building, located on the Third and Rochester streets, formally occupied by the Fulton female seminary.

The old seminary building was fitted up as a place of worship, and in 1858 it was consecrated. The present church of the Immaculate Conception was built on South 3rd Street. The white wooden church was heated by a wood-burning stove. If any of the big boys were noisy in the catechism class, Father Smith sent them out to the wood pile to work off their energy by chopping wood. The church was lighted with kerosene lamps. These later gave way to gas light and still later to electricity.

In an old diary, written in 1859 by a young Fulton women, she listed the costs of various things. 2 yds. Muslin for pantalettes, 22 cents; 1 doz. Visiting cards, 6 cents, toy, 5 cents; having tooth extracted, 20 cents; hoops for skirt, $1.50; pink parasol, $1.75; lace mitts, 69 cents; pair of new shoes, $1.25; new calash bonnet, $4.00; ticket to the astronomical lecture, 10 cents; 11 yards of Delain to make a new dress, $2.75; excursion to Oswego to see balloon ascension, $1.50.

Martin and Bridget were married at St Paul's Roman Catholic Parish in Oswego City, Oswego County, New York on 30 March 1855, by Reverend Michael Kelly. The witnesses were James Welsh and Catherine Welsh. They were married in Oswego as the Volney area didn't have a Roman Catholic Parish until 1858.

On the 1860 census for the Town of Volney, Martin was listed as: "Martin Lacy, age 27, born in Ireland, laborer; Bridget, age 26, domestic, born in Ireland; Patrick, age 4; James, age 1; John, age 2 months. Also living in the same home with Martin and Bridget were Hugh Waters age 60; John Waters, age 21; Mary Waters, age 15.

After checking the index census for 1855 for Fulton, I came up with the following Waters family group: Hugh, John, Mary, Mary, and Patrick. Hugh Waters and his wife Mary were Bridget's parents.

Censuses have been done by the federal government every ten years since the 18th century. These are done at the beginning of a decade, 1800, 1810, etc. New York State also conducted its own censuses for many years. These were done every ten years, but on the "five years", 1905, 1915.

In studying the tax rolls for 1855 for Fulton, it would appear that the Waters-Leacy family might have been renting their home from the Gardner or George Briggs families that lived down on Seneca Hill, just across the bridge from Minetto. Briggs owned a considerable amount of property in that area and from where the Waters-Leacy family appears on the 1855 census, it is probable that could be the situation.

Nearby to Fulton, was a Starch Factory. It was built in 1854 at Battle Island which was across the Oswego River from Volney (name later changed to Fulton), and was called the "Oswego River Starch Factory". It burned down on January 6, 1861. Martin Leacy likely worked at this factory as a starch maker. The burning of the factory in 1861 could possibly be the reason for the move of Martin to Edwardsburg (Cardinal), Grenville County, Ontario, Canada in 1861 to work for the Edwardsburg Starch Factory.

Martin and Bridget had three children while living in Fulton, Patrick born 17 March 1856; James born November 15,1858; John born 28 April 1860. James later died in a swimming accident at the locks on the St Lawrence River by Cardinal.

Bridget's parents, Hugh and Mary Waters owned a farm on Stoney Robby Road in the Town of Granby, across the Oswego River from Fulton, in 1865. This farm is just down the road from where the Starch Factory was located. The farm was on lot number 55 and remained in the Waters family until 1915. In 1967, the farm returned to the ownership of the Waters family when it was bought for back taxes by Hugh Bernard Waters, the great grandson of Hugh Waters. He later divided the lot into house parcels and sold them in 1988. The land had laid unoccupied since 1930.

It is assumed that when William T. Benson visited the Oswego Starch Factory in Oswego City, New York, that he met Martin Leacy and invited Martin to become the first Starch Maker at the new Edwardsburg Starch Factory in Cardinal, of which Mr. Benson was the founder. Martin Leacy was one of the few people who knew the "Orlando Jones" patent "Alkali Process" for making starch.

In George Benson's "Historical Record of the Edwardsburg Starch Company" he writes, "The first to join my father was Martin Leacy, an Irishman who had been living in Oswego City, New York. He was in charge of the Wet Starch Department of the Edwardsburg Starch Company for most of his life and was quite an expert in handling of the alkali process then in use. He was associated with the industry from inception of the business until sometime after my fatherís death in 1885. Martin Leacy himself lived, I understand, until 1906. The members of his family were well known Cardinal people, as his eldest son John was Post Master of Cardinal for many years and afterwards Reeve of the village. He died young, however, in 1894, but his brother Patrick (so called because he was born on St Patrickís Day) at the time of writing was still alive in Calgary, Alberta, at the age of 91. Another brother, William has a successful Contracting business and Merchant and is now living in Prescott."

Mrs Kathleen Leacy-Freeman, Martinís granddaughter, remembers hearing her grandfather came from Oswego with two men. One was called Heenan (on the census for Volney, 1860, W. Hinman, Jewish, born in Ireland). There were three more Hinmans in Volney, and all appear related. A resident of Cardinal, Bill McIleveen, told Kathleen Leacy-Freeman that his grandfather came to Cardinal to run the boilers at the Starch Factory for Martin Leacy. The Factory used wood in the boilers at this time. He also said that his aunt, Miss Heenan, travelled with Bridget Waters-Leacy from Oswego as Bridget was expecting another child. Mr McIleveen said his aunt also wanted to visit her family in Cardinal.

Mrs Leacy-Freeman said her grandfather was unaware as to what the conditions would be like in Cardinal. Bridget travelled by train from Oswego to Ogdensburg, New York where she took the ferry across the St Lawrence River to Johnstown, Ontario, Canada. She then travelled by horse and wagon to Cardinal.

The village of Cardinal was well established in 1858, located on a point of land between the St Lawrence River and the Galops Canal, about 8 miles northeast of the town of Prescott. The area was settled in the late 1700ís by United Empire Loyalists. There was a great deal of water traffic on the St Lawrence, and a canal was cut through the land on the outer edge of the point starting at the Galops Rapids. Completed in 1846, the Galops Canal with its locks located at the western end was one of a system of three canals beginning several miles above Cornwall and known as the Williamsburg Canals. Between 1897 and 1901 a new canal was dug to accommodate some of the larger and faster vessels which by then plied the river. For the time the new canal made the community of Cardinal virtually an island, being accessible only by a swing bridge. The canal was completely filled in and the swing bridge dismantled in January 1967.

Cardinal was incorporated as a village in 1879. Prior to this the village had been known as Edwardsburg and before that as Port Elgin, Munroís Point and Point Cardinal. At the time of incorporation it officially became known as Cardinal, probably in honour of Cardinal Richelieu, although local tradition has it that Cardinal was the name of an early settler.

In 1861 there was a population of 150 inhabitants in Cardinal and contained several stores, an Inn, James McLatchie Foundry, and a sawmill. By 1864 the village had grown to 300 residents due to the prosperity of the Starch Factory as well the completion of the Grand Trunk Railroad from Montreal to Brockville.

On the 1861 Personal Census of the Township of Edwardsburg, Martin Leacy, age 35, Bridget, age 30, were living in a 1 1/2 story log house. They had three children: Patrick age 5; James age 3; and John who they called Jack, 1 year old. They had 1 cow and 1 pig valued at 25 pounds. Their quantity of land attached to the tenement was 1/8 acre. Martin was listed as a laborer. They practiced the Roman Catholic faith. It appears on the 1861 census that Patrick Waters age 18 years, born in Ireland, Roman Catholic, was living with Martin Leacy. He was classified as a family member which proves he was Bridget's younger brother who lived with them in Volney. Patrick returned to New York to fight in the American Civil War.

In 1861, Martin Leacy's place of employment, The Edwardsburg Starch Factory, consisted of only one building and had a grinding capacity of about 200 bushels of corn a day. The corn was elevated into a tower in the same building by means of horse and wagon. The original factory was erected on the banks of the Old Gallops Canal, just below the old Cardinal lock number 26. The boiler house was located behind the factory at the North East corner and to the North West was a grist mill.

The Head Race brought water from above Lock number 26 which ran immediately in front of the gristmill and behind the Starch Factory and there were water wheels installed in both buildings, also located on the bank of the Canal.

The factory operated on the Alkali Process and the residents of Cardinal lived with the objectionable odors coming from the swill and byproducts. The swill was supplied to local farmers for feeding their pigs. The farmer would come to the factory with a somewhat water-tight box wagon with large barrels. With large dippers, they filled their barrels. The swill leaking from the wagons could be followed for miles into the country. The cattle of the area were fed "Gluten Feed" chiefly corn bean as most of the Gluten from the factory tables ran into large vats.

The original factory produced "Benson's Prepared Corn, Silver Gloss Starch" and a crystal laundry starch known as "#1 white".

The factory had a General Store handling supplies for the employees located on the south-east corner of factory land.

James McLatchieís implement foundry, machine and edge tool shop and gunsmithing-blacksmithing shop occupied a large lot near the starch works from Lewis to Henry Street. His original home, erected in 1859, stands on the North East corner of Lewis and James Street. The General store was owned by Duncan Clark. Ship hauling was done by Henry Lewis. A Timber business was owned by Lawrence Byre whose home and business on the corner of Lewis and John Street still stands today. A livery stable was owned by Harry Hunter. In 1851, Martin Casselman was Post Master. He had purchased the property of Hugh Monroe, the original founder of Edwardsburg, and his large stone house was bought by the Benson family. The Stage house was on Dundas Street by Lewis Street.

The first Station agent on Shanley Road at Cardinal was Silas Shavor, in 1858. Silas was an United Empire Loyalist and his descendants still live in Cardinal area today. The first trains were wood burners and Mick McDonald was manager of the woodyard from which the Grand Trunk Railroad bought their wood. It was Mick who built the Railroad Hotel and Tavern in 1870. This is now the residence of Mr Bill McIleveen, mentioned earlier.

All trains were met by a horse drawn bus which travelled from the Hotel to the Station, a distance of 8 miles. The upholstered seats on the bus were located along the sides and the twelve or so passengers sat facing each other.

Martin Leacy built a home in 1871, on the North West Corner of Victoria and John Street, lots number 140 to 150 where it still stands today. Their vegetable garden reached almost to Dundas Street. There was a white fence which ran along between the neighbours. A little brook ran through the property. A veranda was attached across the front of the house. The fence had a gate where the front door is now.

Mrs Leacy-Freeman remembers her grandmother, Bridget Waters-Leacy, sitting on the veranda each afternoon at 5 P.M. watching as the cows of Cardinal residents were brought back from the pastures, back of the village.

Where the middle window facing John street is now, there used to be a door which opened onto the veranda. There was a summer kitchen on the back of the house. A cherry tree grew by the back summer kitchen and Mrs Leacy-Freeman recalls picking cherries from a platform on the summer kitchen.

Two children were born to Martin and Bridget in this house, Ellinor in 1872 and Harriet in 1874. There wasnít a hospital nearby and women had their children at home with the assistance of neighborhood women and friends and relatives. One of the first doctors in Cardinal was A. E. McMillan, in 1875, who was born in Edwardsburg Township in 1852. He was a graduate of McGill College in Montreal, Quebec. In 1877 Dr. J. D. R. Williams arrived in Cardinal. He was born in 1833 and was a graduate of Victoria College, Toronto, Ontario in 1854.

The Leacy's were of the Roman Catholic faith. As Cardinal didn't have a church until 1878, the Leacy family worshiped in the old school house under Father McDonnell, Parish Priest at Prescott, Ontario. Marriages were performed at St Marks of the Evangelist Roman Catholic Parish in Prescott.

In 1875 the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish was built. The church land was donated by W.T. Benson who also contributed liberally to the building fund. The structure is of red brick and ornamented by a tower and spire. The architecture is Gothic, done by James Dowsley of Cardinal and Thomas Russel of Morrisburg. The church officers in 1878 were R.P. McMillan, Lawrence Byrne, C. J. Farley and William Dillon.

Up until the present, 13 members of the Leacy family have been married in the Sacred Heart Church of Cardinal.

The Sacred Heart Cemetery land along Highway 2 by the St Lawrence River and 2 miles east of the village of Cardinal, was donated by Mr Frasor. There are 5 generations of Leacy descendants buried here.

Martin Leacy was described as a tall thin man with a goatee. Evidentially he had a "good singing voice". Mrs Leacy-Freeman remembers him sitting in a round back captainís chair, in the back living room, near the window, singing to the grandchildren. It seemed to her that he sang stories. Martin Leacy was community minded as George Benson wrote in his personal diary on Monday January 1, 1883, "I then went to McGannons Hall and voted for J. D. Ried, M. Leacy, Jas. McLatchie and John Grey as Councillors for the village of Cardinal." This characteristic has been passed on to the present generation.

Bridget Waters-Leacy was a small petite woman, whom Mrs Leacy-Freeman her granddaughter describes as a very lovely and nice person whom everyone was crazy about. She was great to have the family over for Sunday dinner. The grandchildren would eat in the winter kitchen and the grown-ups ate in the dining-room.


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Last updated: 2005/12/04