The Irish in Bradford County The Irish roots of Helen Welch Shaw
It was a sad day on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 when Helen Marie Welch Shaw passed to her Eternal Rest. Helen who had been an icon in the Irish community in the area was loved by all for her genuine and caring attitude and her giving spirit.
I am writing about Helen this year for my St. Patrick's Day article due to the fact that her Irish roots in Bradford and Sullivan County are some of the deepest and because of the longevity of her family in the area she touches most of the Irish settlements that sprang up around the county after the building of the North Branch Canal. Helen grew up Irish as she was raised in Towanda's Irish Patch known as "Kingdom Hill" this is the area up on the hill in Towanda where the Roman Catholic Church Ss. Peter and Paul's stands as well as Saint Agnes School and Ss. Peter and Paul's Rectory. Just about every family on the hill was of Irish descent so most of the customs of the folks living there were those passed to them by their Irish ancestors.
When Helen married in 1953 she moved to Sayre and spent the rest of her life there but her eyes always had a twinkle when she encountered someone from Towanda or she got news of the home town she loved so well. Helen as well as her husband David "Dusty" Shaw were staunch Catholics and instilled the value of attending and participating in Mass in their children.
Helen attended Saint Agnes School graduating in 1950 she and her class mates were life long friends and Saint Agnes held a place in Helen's heart for the rest of her life. In the hallway of her home at the foot of the stairs was a framed photograph of Saint Agnes School and Helen kept and cherished her Letter Jacket that she received for participating as a cheerleader for the school in her high school years.
She had an extremely likable personality and had friends everywhere. Her husband Dave and his brother Joe Shaw were in the promotional business and brought many Irish bands to the area in the days when the Ancient Order of Hibernians were active in the Valley and of course Helen got to know all of the bands and their families and became a part of their lives as she did with almost everyone she encountered.
I had the privilege of traveling to Ireland with Helen in 1992 it was the first trip for both of us and there could not have been a better travel partner than Helen. I will never forget the morning we arrived at Shannon Airport it was dawn the plane was circling getting ready to land, Helen was looking out the window of the plane and I heard her say "There really are forty shades of green." That trip is one I will always remember as we toured Ireland on our own and really got to meet and know the people in all of the areas that our ancestors came from.
Helen was a great gift giver I (and so many others) have St. Patrick's Day ornaments and Christmas ornaments with an Irish theme that Helen gave me over the years I know they will make me smile each year when I get them out for the holiday the represent.
Helen had sayings that she carried with her from Kingdom Hill one being "Glory be to God" that seemed to be interjected into many of her conversations with the emphasis on the Glory be to God being on the tone of the conversation. Another saying interjected into many conversations was "well now."
This year on Saint Patrick's Day I will think of Helen and the many many wonderful times that we all had with her celebrating being Irish over the years.
The following is a genealogy of Helen's Irish roots that is far from complete but gives one an idea of the significance of her ancestors and their contributions over the years.
The Welch family arrived in America from Ireland in the group of Irish immigrants that came to dig the North Branch Canal. Patrick Welch who first shows on the Census of Wysox in 1840 was listed as a laborer. He was married to Mary McCabe and eventually they moved to Towanda where they raised their family which consisted of Mary, Margaret, William, Alice and Francis (Frank).
William Welch, son of Patrick and Mary McCabe Welch, was born in Wysox in 1844 in 1870 he married Anna McAndrew born Nov. 27, 1850 in Falls, Wyoming County. Anna McAndrew was the daughter of John McAndrew and Ellen Corry natives of County Sligo, Ireland. William was a contractor in Towanda and was very much interested in oil and gas in which he was well read. Their children were: John, Frank, Bernard, Mary and Sister Agnes Mary, R.S.M. William Welch died Nov. 10, 1931. His wife Anna McAndrew Welch died Feb. 21, 1925 they are buried in Ss. Peter and Paul's Cemetery in North Towanda, Township.
John Welch, born June 19, 1871 in Towanda the son of William and Anna Welch, he married Agatha Kerwin on Tuesday, May 28, 1895 at SS. Peter and Paul's in Towanda. Agatha was born July 24, 1870 and when baptized in August of that year she was christened Johanna Agatha she was the daughter of James and Bridget Butler Kerwin. John as a young man was known as a fine singer. He worked at the J.O. Frost and Sons Furniture factory and also operated a floor refinishing business his work being of high quality. John and Agatha Welch also operated a neighborhood grocery store in their home on the corner of Third and Lombard Street. John and Agatha Welch had seven children: Gertrude, Pauline, Agnes, Genevieve, William, Eugene and Andrew. Pauline and Genevieve entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy and became Sister Mary Rosamond and Sister Mary Anne. John Welch died Friday, July 25, 1958 Agatha Kerwin Welch died Friday, March 6, 1964 in Scranton, They are buried at Ss. Peter and Paul's Cemetery.
Eugene Welch, born Aug. 9, 1908 in Towanda the son of John and Agatha Welch married Alice Helen Dunn Nov. 30, 1928. Alice was a native of Sullivan County. The daughter of Edward P. and Ellen Dempsey Dunn, she was born Nov. 25, 1910. Eugene worked as a meat cutter and Alice went to work at Sylvania Electric when they took over Patterson Screen in Towanda. Eugene and Alice had six children, James, Robert, John, Eugene, Gerald and Helen. Eugene and Alice Welch raised their family at 214 Lombard St. in Towanda. Eugene died May 1, 1961 in Wysox, Alice Dunn Welch died Sept. 21, 2002 in Towanda they are buried in SS. Peter and Paul's Cemetery.
Helen Marie Welch, born Sept. 13, 1931 in Towanda, the daughter of Eugene and Alice Dunn Welch, Helen married David Shaw, Jr., in Sayre, Pa in 1953. David was born Jan. 1, 1929. Helen and David Shaw were the proud parents of ten children: Mary, David, Joseph, Michael, Maureen, James, John, Kevin, Timothy and Margaret. All of the children but John lived to maturity and are raising families of their own, David Shaw died Aug. 14, 2005, Helen Welch Shaw died on October 25, 2012 they are buried in Tioga Point Cemetery in Athens.
The McAndrew Family, John McAndrew and Ellen Corry daughter of Charles and Ann Corry came to the United States sometime between 1838 and 1850 as their third child Anna was born in Falls, Wyoming County in 1850. John was a canal worker. John and his family moved to Overton Township, Bradford County in 1855 where he farmed. John a native of County Sligo Ireland died Aug. 12, 1859 and is buried in the McGovern Cemetery in Overton Township which is also where St. Patrick's Church stood, after John's death Ellen Corry McAndrew and her family moved up the mountain to Barclay where it looks from the census of 1870 that Ellen ran a boarding house as there are several others living in her residence besides the McAndrew family. There are two Welch's listed and perhaps this is how Anna McAndrew and William Welch met. There were eight McAndrew children: Mary, Timothy, Anna, John, William, Sarah, Bernard and Charles. Besides Anna, Mary who married Michael Touhey and Sarah who married Edmund Barrett stayed in Bradford County and raised families. The Touheys were miners on Barclay Mountain and eventually moved to the Sayre-Athens area where there are descendants today. Sarah and Edmund Barrett lived in Towanda and raised six children descendants of that family would be the families of Ann Kerr, Tom Barrett and Ed Barrett. Ellen Corry McAndrew died Jan. 17, 1894 in Towanda and is buried in Overton most probably in the McGovern Cemetery.
The Kerwin Family, John and Julia Blake Kerwin natives of Tipperary, Ireland came to the United Stated in 1847 where they engaged in farming on Plank Road moving to Towanda in 1859. John and Julia Blake Kerwin had five children: Ellen, James, William, Kate and Mary. John Kerwin married a second time after the death of Julia Blake. His second spouse was Bridget Butler by whom he had six children: John, Daniel, Joseph, Thomas, Bridget and Agatha (who married John Welch). The Kerwin family was famous in Towanda for their livery business which later became a hack and taxi business.
The Butler Family, Patrick and Catherine Barrett Butler natives of Ireland lived in Ridgebury where they raised their children on a farm, the children were Francis, Morris, Margaret, Bridget (who married John Kerwin) and Jane.
The Dunn Family, James Dunn and his wife Dorothy Gilmore came to the United States from County Kildare, Ireland in 1832 settling first in New Jersey and from there to Cherry Township in Sullivan County in 1833 where they took up farming and raised their family of seven children: Peter, Margaret, Mary, John, William, Francis and James. John Dunn was killed in the battle of Fort Harrison in the Civil War. After the death of his first wife Dorothy Gilmore James Dunn married a Mrs. Harrington and fathered two more children Morris and Ella. James Dunn was a staunch Democrat in politics and for over fifty years never missed an election. He ran the entire gamut of County Offices in Sullivan County and at one time was County Commissioner. James Dunn died March 31, 1891 at the age of 85. Peter Dunn married Catherine Farrell they were the parents of seven children One son James moved from Overton to Overshot in Bradford County and married Mary Lynch they were the parents of six children who grew up in Overshot an later Towanda most old timers in Towanda will remember Dunn Brothers Construction run by Ambrose and James J. "Nip" Dunn and their sister Helen Fleming Kremer who taught school in the area for many years. The other brother who stayed in the area was Edward who married Ellen Dempsey they were the parents of seven children besides Alice who married Eugene Welch another of the seven Catherine migrated to Towanda and married Charles Fox.
Edward Dunn died tragically on Feb. 2, 1945 he was walking over a train trestle not far from New Albany High School and was hit by a train. The train was running backwards from Dushore going no farther than that place due to a snow drift on the tracks. His wife Ellen died in 1923. The Dunns are buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Overton.
The Dempsey Family, Anthony Dempsey and his brother John came to Olyphant, Lackawanna County in the 1860's. While in Olyphant he married Ellen Carden who was born there of Irish parents James and Catherine Carden. Anthony with his wife, along with his in-laws and family moved to Cherry Mills, Sullivan County in 1877. The Dempsey's had 10 children five girls and five boys. Anthony Dunn was born in Ireland on March 19, 1838 he died in Cherry Township, Sullivan County on July 16, 1922. His wife Ellen was born Jan. 14, 1854 in Carbondale and died July 31, 1912 in Cherry Township. Their daughter Ellen married Edward Dunn they were the parents of Alice Helen Dunn the mother of Helen Marie Welch Shaw. Helen baby sat for my parents when I was a small child so I knew her all of my life I also knew her parents her grandparents and her relatives that lived on Kingdom Hill where I too spent my youth.
Special thanks to Michael McAndew of Ranch Cucamonga, Calif. who helped me with the McAndrew Family history.