A Brief History of the Family of Howard Egan and Anne Meath
of Tullamore, Offaly (formerly Kings), Ireland
compiled by Adele Newman Knudson
Howard Egan was born in 1782(1) in Tullamore, Offaly, Ireland(2) to Bernard and Betty (or Betsey) Egan. In about 1805 he married Anne Meath(3), daughter of John and Elizabeth Meath. Anne was born in 1778 of Meelahans, Offaly, Ireland. Her family may have been canal builders. The Grand Canal was then being built from Dublin with one part going through Tullamore. Many people were employed to work on the canals, probably including some of the Meath family.(4)
Howard Egan was probably a farmer.(5) During the next eighteen years he and Anne had ten children: Elizabeth (Eliza) 1806, Mary 1807, Catherine 1808, Bernard (Barney) 1810, John 1812, Howard 1815, Ann 1817, Richard 1819, and the twins Evelina and Margaret (Gretta) 1823.
On 15 February 1823, two weeks after the twins were born, Anne Meath Egan died(6). Howard was left a widower with ten children ranging in age from infant to seventeen years. His brother William’s family probably lived nearby and could help care for the children for a time. But William and his wife had five young children of their own. Anne’s sister Mary probably also lived nearby and could help out. But changes were coming.
A year earlier, in 1822, the British parliament had voted to finance a large, experimental emigration plan to transport poor Irish families to Upper Canada(7). Economic conditions in Ireland played a part in forming the plan. During the Napoleonic Wars from about 1800 to 1815, the economy in Ireland was strong. But about the time the wars ended and work on the canals was completed, jobs began to be scarce. In the 1820s, Ireland was in the midst of a severe depression. The value of Irish goods was low, potato crops were beginning to fail (though the Potato Famine was still twenty years away), many were out of work, and the country’s population was increasing dramatically.
A young man named Peter Robinson, the son of Loyalists(8), was asked by the British government to manage this emigration scheme in 1822. He promoted the scheme in southern Ireland, which includes the county of Offaly (Kings). Although the advertisement which proclaimed the emigration scheme stated that only a limited number of settlers would be chosen to emigrate to Canada, some 50,000 people applied to start new lives in a strange and distant land—many more than he was able to take.
In 1823 the first wave of Irish settlers (568 people) began the long and dangerous journey to Upper Canada with their final destination in eastern Ontario (the Lanark, Perth, Ramsay township area). Two sailing ships – the Hebe and Stakesby carried settlers in cramped and dank quarters. The ships landed at Quebec City and the passengers first boarded steamships, then barges, and then wagons for the final leg of the journey. Settlers were given free provisions, tools and farm land.
Of the 568 people who emigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1823, it is very possible that some were friends or relatives of Howard Egan. The emigrant ships sailed from Cork, Dublin. This was about 165 km (101 miles) from Tullamore. With a large family to feed, and economic struggles in Ireland, Howard would have seen the opportunity to emigrate to Canada as a way to provide for his family, and possibly join other family and friends there.
The second wave of emigration was launched in 1825. As in 1823, thousands applied for the voyage leaving from Cork. Prospective settlers had to secure letters of recommendation outlining their qualities and usefulness as settlers. Those selected received “embarkation certificates” allowing them to board a particular ship.
This time over 1800 people made the journey, and the final destination was set for Peterborough, in the Newcastle District (now south central Ontario). Nine ships carried the passengers on this trip. Again, the ships arrived at Quebec (June 1825). Settlers were loaded onto steamships for a trip down the St. Lawrence River past Montreal and across Lake Ontario to the north shore at Cobourg (across the lake to the north from Rochester and Niagara Falls, New York.) After a rough land trip to Rice Lake, the settlers made the final leg of their journey to Peterborough by barge up the Otonabee River. At Peterborough, families were given 70 acres of land, a small cabin, and were issued free provisions, tools, and livestock.
In 1825(9) Howard left two-year-old Margaret (Gretta) in the care of an aunt—probably his wife Anne’s sister Mary—and took his nine other children across the ocean to Canada. They arrived at Quebec, and on 7 June 1825 took the steamer Chambly, of the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company, up the river to Montreal. The passenger list for the Chambly included the family of “Thomas Howard Agan & seven others & two children under 12”. Some of the family information was recorded incorrectly, but no other families were listed on the steamer’s passenger lists with nine children and no mother.
Howard and his family did not continue the journey on to Peterborough. They stayed in Montreal, possibly due to sickness in the family. Just three weeks after they arrived, little Evelina died on the 1st of July(10). Then, less than three weeks later, eight-year-old Ann also died(11). And again a week later, fifteen-year-old Barney died(12). Yet with all this heartache, there was still another tragedy to come. Three years after they arrived in Montreal, Howard Egan died on 5 August 1828 at the age of 46 years(13). His daughter Catherine, age 20, had just married John Ransom two weeks earlier(14). Eliza, age 22, would marry Henry Benallack in two years(15), and Mary, age 21, would marry Adam Higgins in five years(16). Richard was 9 years old, Howard was 13, and John was 16 but would only live four more years(17).
After the death of their father, the family stayed together in Montreal. It is possible that Howard, Jr. may have stayed with his sister Catherine and her husband John Ransom for a while, since he gave his first son the middle name of Ransom. The Montreal Presbyterian, Anglican, and Methodist church records include death and burial records for Howard Egan (spelled various ways on different records—Agan, Eagan, Hagan, Legan) and his children Elizabeth, Mary, Bernard, John, Ann, Richard, and Evelina. They also include marriage records for Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Richard, and birth and death records for many of their children.
Family tradition tells us that when Howard, Jr. was old enough—probably about fifteen years old–he took a job as a “sea faring man”. It is likely he worked on boats on the waterways of Canada. At some point he left that work and took a job in Salem, Massachusetts in the employ of a Mr. Chisholm, a rope maker, and learned the trade. While living in Salem, he met and married Tamson Parshley in 1838(18). [END]
(1) Gabriel Drouin, compiler, Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967; available at Ancestry.com. Howard Egan’s death record gives death date 5 August 1828, age 46 yrs old.
(2) James D. Martin, compiler, The Story of Major Howard Egan, Rugged Pioneer and Tireless Trail Blazer, 2000. Gave Howard Egan’s birth date as 1782 in Tullamore, Kings County, Ireland.
(3) Parish Records of Killeigh, Diocese of Kildare, King’s County (Offaly), Ireland, Baptisms 1808-1823, Marriages 1808-1932, Deaths 1808-1835. FHL film 990092. Her death record gives, “Anne Eagan, female, birth 1778 of Meelahans, County Offaly, Ireland, spouse Howard Eagan, death 15 Feb 1823 at Killeigh, County Offaly, Ireland”
(4) Correspondence of Karen Stoddard and a g-g granddaughter of Ann Meath’s brother who lives in Michigan 2008, indicated the Meaths were canal builders.
(5) The Peter Robinson settlers were required to be under the age of 45, and good farmers.
(6) Irish Records Extraction Database–The Parish Registers of Killeigh, Diocese of Kildare, King’s County (Offaly): Baptisms 1808-1823; Marriages 1808-1832; Deaths 1808-1835. 27 pages
Record gives, “Anne Eagan, female, birth 1778 of Meelahans, County Offaly, Ireland, spouse Howard Eagan, death 15 Feb 1823 at Killeigh, County Offaly, Ireland.”
(7) “The Peter Robinson Settlement of 1825″; Bill LaBranche, available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. (US/Can 971.36 W2l)
(8) Americans who were Loyal to Britain during the Revolutionary War and moved to Canada to escape persecution.
(9) Pioneering the West gives 1823 as the year he left Ireland, but he is listed on the passenger list for the St. Lawrence River steamship, Chambly, traveling from Quebec to Montreal 7 June 1825.
(10) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. Record gives “Evelina, daughter of Howard Hagan, a labourer, and of Ann Maid his wife, died on the 30th of June 1825, aged two years and a half and was buried on the 1st of July following” (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes)
(11) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin.
Her birth year was given in Pioneering the West as ‘about 1817’. However, her Quebec death record shows her as ‘aged 18 years’ when she died on 20 July 1825, meaning she would have been born in 1807. Ann’s sister Mary died in 1857 and her death record gave her age as 50 years. She was born in 1807. If the birth year of 1817 given in Pioneering the West is correct, the death record for Ann, which shows her age 18 in 1825, was in error and should have read age 8. It reads, “Ann, daughter of Howard Hagan a labourer, and of Ann Maid his wife died in the General Hospital, on the 20th day of July 1825, aged 18 years, and was buried on the 21st following.” (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes)
(12) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. It reads, “Barnard, son of Howard Hagan, a labourer and Ann Maid his wife, died on the 27th day of July 1825, aged 15 years and was buried on the 28th following (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes)
(13) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. Available at Ancestry.com. Handwritten by Minister of the Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes: “Howard Hagan of Montreal, Labourer, died on the fifth day of August, 1828, aged forty six years, and was buried on the seventh following.” John Ransom, witness [husband of his daughter Catherine].
(14) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. It reads, “John Ranson, bachelor and Catherine Egans Spinsler both of the Parish of Montreal were married by the publications of banns, on the twenty second day of June, one thousand, eight hundred and twenty eight.” (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes). Her name is Catherine Egan, a spinster, but was indexed in error with ‘spinsler’ as part of her name.
(15) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. It reads, “Henry Benallack of Montreal, Blacksmith, and Eliza Egan of the same place, spinster, were married by the publication of banns, on the twenty-ninth day of April one thousand eight hundred and thirty” Witnesses were John Ransom and John McWalters. (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes)
(16) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. It reads, “Adam Higgins of Montreal Bachelor and Mary Egan of same place spinster were married by me publication of banns on the third day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three. This marriage was solemnized between us [signatures of Adam Higgins and Mary Egan] in Presence of Henry Benallack and John Ransom who have hereunder signed their names.” (Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes of Montreal.)
(17) Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, compiled by Gabriel Drouin. It reads, “John Egan of Montreal, rope maker, died on the twenty second day of April, one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, aged nineteen years, and was buried on the twenty fourth following.” (Montreal Anglican Christ Church Cathedral,Actes)
(18) Vital Records of Salem, Massachusetts to the end of the year 1849, Vol. III, Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1916-1925. Available online at Ancestry.com. This is a 6-volume book of recorded births, marriages, and deaths taken from all entries to be found in the books of record kept by the town clerks, the church records, in cemetery inscriptions, and private records found in family Bibles, etc. in Salem, Mass. The entry listing their intention to marry is recorded in Volume 3, page 328. It reads, “EGEAN (see also Egan), Howard, and Tamson Parshley, int. Nov. 24, 1839.”
NOTE: There is some question about the marriage date. Although family tradition gives it as 1 Dec 1838, I have not been able to find a firm source for this date. The posting of intention to marry is done prior to the marriage. If this indexed date from the Vital Records of Salem is correct, their marriage date would have been in 1839, not 1838. Also, on page 9 of the book, Pioneering the West, it gives 1838 as their marriage year and lists Tamson (born 27 Jul 1824) as fourteen years of age. Then on page 289 it gives 1836 as the marriage date and Tamson’s birth as 1825.