Monday, April 21, 2008

Remembering Catherine (Kate) Munroe Collins

Catherine (Kate) Munroe Collins
(3/15/1882 - 1969)

Kate Collins was the sixth of eight children born to Martin Munroe and Bridget McCabe who were married in 1864 in Galway Ireland. She grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and married John F. Collins. She appears in a 1904 city directory as Catherine, the wife of John Collins a morocco worker of 603 W. 3rd Street. [Munroe's of Galway and Delaware, by John A. Munroe p.20] In Tales of My Father (also by John A. Munroe) John Collins is referred to as "A steady railroad worker."

Michael John Munroe was only a little more than two years older than his sister Kate and here are his recollections as recorded in Munroe's of Galway and Delaware: "The girls were not permitted to have callers, and there were seldom guests in the house. Dancing and singing in the home was unknown (quite different from the situation in my mother’s home when she was a girl). My father’s sisters were required to be in early, usually at 8 but sometimes they were allowed out until 9. When Kate once stayed out at a dance her father locked her out.

Kate, however, was a match for her father and his temper. When he once began to beat her, she ran into the backyard screaming bloody murder so loud that neighbors came from their houses to see what was the matter. Martin was ashamed and cowed by the attention. To the end of his life he remained a little afraid of Kate. He never struck her again.

Sheila Cummings Swierczewski sent me the picture above and with it recalled her Grandmother Kate Collins fondly: "Grandmom was quiet, spoke softly, and seemed very peaceful and very competent in everything she did. I never saw her lose her temper or get rattled; I used to stay with her for several days, maybe as long as a week, every summer. I have nice memories of that, but I must have been annoying to have around...I hope I wasn't. I didn't help her with work or anything, I just hung around like a bump on a log.

I remember walking to the corner store with her and going to a store on fourth Street to buy ice cream and subs too, (I think); but I went by myself then, if memory serves. There was an alley connecting the back of their house to Fourth was paved in brick I think, as was their sidewalk. I wonder if their old house is still there and if the alley still connects through to Fourth. Their house was at 1212 West Fifth Street, and their back gate opened on to the alley...very exotic to me! Here's how I remember her. She is beautiful to me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Maggie Munroe Cordone 4/22/1877 - 5/4/1911*

Thanks to a lot of hard web research and interviews conducted by Sheila Swierczewski nee Cummings, we believe we now know the following about the mysterious Maggie Munroe who is buried in Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington.

1. Maggie (Margaret Munroe) was the fourth child of Martin and Bridget Munroe of Wilmington, Delaware
2. Maggie was married to Joseph Cordone.
3. Joseph and Maggie lived at 916 Wood Street in Philadelphia as of April 16, 1910 and were 32 and
31** years of age at the time of the Census report.
4. Maggie and Joseph had no children living at that time.
5. Maggie died of pulmonary tuberculosis April 29, 1911

6. Maggie's funeral was at the Church of the Assumption in Philadelphia and she was buried in Cathedral Cemetery, Wilmington.
7. Maggie is interred in the same plot as her mother, father and two brothers.

8. The best we can conclude is that the reason she was never mentioned is that she married an Italian man.

This is not an entirely satisfactory explanation, but we are unlikely to find anything more about her estrangement from her siblings.

J. A. Munroe writes in [Munroes of Galway and Delaware page 17] "My father [Michael John Munroe] did not remember Mary living at home. The first time he recalled seeing her in the house was at a children’s party. It was one of the few festive occasions in the house that my father remembered. He was only a young boy, and the party was mainly composed of his sister Maggie (two years older than he was) and her friends. His memory of his first visit to the Brandywine Park was also connected with Maggie, since she took him there, to Tatnall’s woods. Otherwise he had very little to say about this sister. The first home my father remembered was on Tatnall Street between First and Second, and he believed that this was where he was born on September 27, 1879. By my time this was a rough area, either part of or next to a run-down neighborhood called Bloodfield. It was undoubtedly the home of poor folk, but not as bad when my father lived there as it became later. According to a block directory for 1886 the next door neighbors were named Lawless and Knotts, which agrees with my father’s recollection of Johnny Knotts as one of his earliest friends."

[Munroe's of Galway and Delaware page 21] "Maggie’s fate is mysterious. My mother suspected a scandal since she was never spoken of. After the death of my parents, my cousin Sarah Brown told me Maggie had married a Jew and had now been dead for a long time, probably at least fifty years. According to Sarah my father went to the funeral, which was in New Jersey, and told Aunt Mary about it when he came home. It is strange that my mother seemed to know nothing about Maggie’s fate. She could keep secrets, but my father could not. I suspect it was someone else who attended Maggie’s funeral and told Aunt Mary about it. Since my father did not mention Maggie’s fate to me, I share my mother’s suspicions. Marriage to a Jew, in my opinion, would not, in itself, have been enough to account for this silence. My mother’s older sister married a Jew, and through this shocked her German immigrant mother, her siblings rallied to her defense. Since there was much talk of this marriage in the family, it is strange if such an alliance by his sister was sufficient to seal my father’s mouth."

Below is a small portion from the written census record for 916 Wood Street, Philadelphia.

This is the recorded** information for that census entry.

The listing from Cathedral Cemetery for the five Munroes buried together.

*The date given in the title for her death is actually the burial date. Her date of death is given in point 5.
**Her age at the time of the sensus was recorded in the written record as 31 however, it was transcribed incorrectly as 37. The Miracode 1910 census has it corrected. We have copies of the documents exerpted here. (the burial record was simplified to make it fit the page better)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sarah "Sadie" Munroe

This very nice studio portrait taken by Palace Studios on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City of Sarah Munroe was miss-identified by me for some time as being of Sarah's older sister Mary Elizabeth. Sarah, known by her relatives as Sadie or Aunt Sadie, was the seventh child of Martin and Bridgett Munroe and the fourth child born in America. Sarah was born on July 15th 1884 in Wilmington, Delaware. Married Charles Geffken* and moved to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She died around 1970.

Sheila Sweirczeski [nee Cummings] writes, "You can see Sadie as an older woman in the photos I sent a few days ago...with her husband, dogs, and again as a much older lady, but still with a dog beside her."

Kathy Hayes [nee Cummings] writes, "I also loved the picture of the group with Aunt Sadie. I never met her, but I remember her last name was Gefken or something close to that. I believe she, Aunt Sadie lived with my grandparents, Catherine (Kate) and John Collins when they were first married. I guess your granddad had married and Sadie had nowhere else to go."

John A. Munroe writes in "Tales of My Father", "The youngest child, Marty, apparently died before his mother, which means that only three Munroes were left at home with their father. Michael (my father) and his sisters Kate and Sadie. Kate soon married John Collins, a steady railroad worker, and moved to her own home on the west side of Wilmington. Sadie remained as the housekeeper, and my father increasingly the man of the house, as his father’s physical condition and age forced him to a minor role as a watchman at Lobdell’s."

John A. Munroe continues in "Tales of My Father" "My grandfather, Martin Munroe, died in 1910, possibly of a heart attack, in my father’s arms. My father took consolation in having been there, for he obviously loved his father. (The bill for Martin’s funeral in Cathedral Cemetery was dated 1910; the undertaker was J. Fox.). . . "

". . .Martin died in his home in South Wilmington, but that home now was abandoned. His two children remaining there, my father and Sadie, his youngest sister, moved in with Katie, her husband John Collins, and their two young children, John and Catherine. Before leaving the old house, my father’s zeal led him to an action that distressed me whenever I heard about it. Dad gathered and burned all of his father’s papers, including his passport, his naturalization papers, and letters from Ireland. . ."

". . .Living with the Collins family, Dad [Michael J. Munroe] was able to wash indoors for the first time in his life. So he told me. . ."

John A. Munroe writes in "Munroes of Galway and Delaware", "Only my father and his youngest sister, Sarah, were now left with their father in the house on Heald Street, where he lived until his death in November 1910. From at least 1906, however, the oldest of Martin’s children, Mary, was living only two doors from her father, at 200 South Heald Street. She and her husband Reuben Brown had previously lived in Newark, where most of their children were born. . ."

I remember my father and others often referring to Grandfather's
sister Sadie. She was the last to marry and the last woman to leave her parents home. It must have been sad for my grandfather when she moved so far away. But they stayed in touch. Granddad regularly wrote to his sister. I remember him writing at the dining room table. My grandfather was always read the newspaper and a magazine like, "Modern Maturity." however, writing was an uncommon task. I remember him using a lined paper guide beneath the paper on which he was writing. They also did travel as can be seen in this last photo taken~ 1950wen traveling to the home of Emma and Willis Munroe in Akron, Ohio. [in group photo Sadie is at the lower left]

*I think that Sarah Munroe's married name was spelled Geffken but it might be Goffken. I don't know either the date of her marriage or the exact date of her death. I also know nothing of her husband Charles. They had no children so it will take some careful research to complete her story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My father, John A. Munroe, wrote an essay, "Arden as I Knew It." The essay begins,

"Perhaps it is my earliest memory. I was a very small boy in a stroller and my mother was pushing me up Harvey Road toward Arden. She might have been coming from the B&O Railroad stop on Harvey Road, but I think on this occasion she had much farther to walk--from the trolley car line across the Philadelphia Pike."

When I was twenty years old, I volunteered at Candlelight Theater in Arden. For part of the year I left my job at W.L. Gore in Newark and drove to Arden in time to eat at the theater (after the paying customers) and work back stage. This was a happy time. When I was much younger my father took me to visit my Aunt Katie (Katharine Sophia Tessmann) who lived in Arden. I loved her yard and she was always nice to me.

Wikipedia says of Arden, "Arden was founded in 1900 by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price, followers of Henry George's Single tax, William Morris’s Arts and crafts principles, and many of Peter Kropotkin's principles of communal living."

My cousin Jim P. Collins Jr. (3rd generation under Martin and Bridgett Munroe) and his wife Elaine lived from 1970 to 1976 in the same house that my Aunt Katie (1890-1970 - sister of Mary Frieda Detling 1887 - 1965 - wife of Michael John Munroe 1879 - 1969) once owned* in Arden. This is also certainly the source of the middle name of their oldest child Mary Arden.

The picture above is a mystery photo given to me by John A. Davis. My great aunt Katie was not the first of my relatives to live in Arden. Her mother, Wilhelmina Maier Dettling, moved to Arden first. My father writes in his essay,

"What brought Grandmother to Arden had nothing to do with the political philosophy, the Single Tax, that had led to Arden’s foundation in 1900. Grandmother had a weak heart and it seemed wise for her to be in a one-story bungalow instead of the two-story house she and her four unmarried children--Mena, Katie, Andy, and Pauline--had on 22nd Street in Wilmington."

Here is another mystery photo also taken in Arden. I wonder if we will ever learn who any of these actors might have been. It looks like a true "Arden party" to me. If anyone reading this blog lived in Arden in the first half of the 20th century I would love to hear from you and on what street you lived.
*owned - actually no one owns land in Arden. You own your house but lease the land for 99 years.