Kennaley Farm and Artifacts

Shortly after our visit with the Neola Kenealys (read here for an update), another of my dad’s sisters discovered who now owns the land where our Kennaley ancestors farm had been located by using plat maps of Jones county. With a name received, my dad reached out via phone to see what, if any, information he may have.

What a goldmine! From land sale records, we knew that Hanorah sold the property to Jeremiah Dullea on 10 April 1885. But it was actually this man’s grandfather who purchased the farm from Jeremiah Dullea a few years later. This man’s family had lived in the Jones County, Iowa area since the time our Kennaley ancestors had lived there, and they have farmed in the area ever since. Our two families had actually been acquainted and he knew of David’s murder and of what happened after.

He told my dad that David’s murder was viewed more as an accident rather than intended murder, within the community. The men had all been drinking whisky and what started as a simple argument escalated quickly because of that. While it’s hardly an excuse for murdering someone, he told my father that when the murderer, Penderghast awoke the following morning in jail, he had no recollection of what he had done. Whether he intended physical harm or if he merely meant to threaten David by swinging a scythe, we’ll never know. It is possible that in their drunken stumbling about, David came to close to Pendergast’s violent swings over which he would’ve had little control, due to the alcohol. What is known is that these two families, the Kennaleys and the Penderghasts, were forever linked and damaged by what had been done. Essentially, two men lost their lives that fateful day, and all because of drink.

He also told my father that the buildings that had been located on the Kennaley property had burned to the ground. He sent my dad an aerial view of the property and marked areas with Post-Its where buildings had once stood and to mark the plots of land that had belonged to our family, the Kennaleys and the Murphys. His notes show where the murder took place, near a cluster of cabins beside Lost Creek that belonged to the Murphys. And he also included a note regarding the fire of the Kennaleys property, stating that Hanorah had had to leap from an upper window in order to escape the flames. (Which is inspiring me to write a story…)

He was also able to shed light as to why Hanorah sold the farm and moved her family away from Jones County. Parishioners gathered to follow a priest who was headed west and Hanorah joined the group. I assume her family, the Murphys, left as well.

I do find it curious that the parish that was located in Garryowen (near present day Dubuque, Iowa. Although the parish itself was located in Jackson County Iowa, it served the Irish parishioners of northeast Jones, northwest Jackson, and southern Dubuque counties.) was named St. Patrick’s and the Neola parish is also a St. Patrick’s. Is it possible that the priest who carried Hanorah and family settled and founded St. Patrick’s in Neola?

Because of the fire, nothing remains of the original Kennaley buildings. There were no stone foundations laid. And, after the fire, the Kennaley children scraped through the ashes to retrieve the nails. Nails were an expensive commodity whereas wood was accessible near waterways.

The land where the Kennaley farm once stood has been plowed and planted year after year. However, with each passing year, the plows unearthed the things forgotten and left behind by the Kennaleys. He sent my father a box of collected pottery and glass shards that his family had discovered near the old Kennaley farm site.

I never cease to be amazed by the genealogical research that I and my family have conducted, and the fantastic and open responses we’ve received. That this man’s family felt an urge to pick up the shards of pottery forgotten and buried with time – that they kept them safe in storage all these years, just waiting for a Kennaley descendant to phone, literally leaves me speechless, but leaves my heart full. His family could just as easily have turned the dirt and ignored these fragments of history. But there is so much good in this world. And it’s incredibly touching to me that strangers are so willing to go out of their way to bring joy (and a few joy shed tears over such a beautiful gift) into our lives. It truly costs nothing to be kind, and yet, I believe that those who gift kindness to others receive so much more than wealth in return. (There’s my little nugget of wisdom for your day.)

As a result of our research, and this platform where I can share what I’ve uncovered, my family has received so many wonderful gifts. There is something to be said about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. Even if that trash is broken pieces of pottery dating from before 1885…

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