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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Widow O'Rourke

99 Years Young

This is my Great-Great-Grandmother,
Bridget O'Connor O'Rourke.

Our family is lucky to have our very
own genealogist Lynne Taylor Klemens.
This post would not have been possible
 without her and I'll turn this over to her
words and her research.

From the Donegan -O'Rourke Family History:

" Bridget O'Connor O'Rourke was born
in County Tipperary in 1817.  She and
her brother were the only children of
Edward O'Connor and Mary McDonald.
She married the handsome but sometimes
wild John O'Rourke and they had 3 children.
By the 1850's only two of the children
survived:  Ellen born in 1846 and William
born in 1849.  Father, John, was also gone
by then having been killed by a stone
thrower.  Both of Bridget's parents had
died as well by the early 1850's so this
fiesty widow left Ireland with her two
young children and headed to America.
She and her children arrived in New Brunswick,
New Jersey.  She later gained employment
as a servant to two noted New Brunswick
families.  These families were very kind
and helpful to her.  They helped her to
invest her money.  Daughter, Ellen was
able to go to work in the Hosiery factory
and son, William,  later worked on the
railroad as a fireman.  Bridget was able
to purchase her own home by 1870
at 22 Stone Street, not far from Rutgers
College and a very Irish neighborhood.
She remained in her home until her death
in 1916 at the age of 99 years.

From the New Bruswick Times
of February 2, 1916:

Mrs. John O'Rourke celebrated
yesterday her 99th birthday at
her home 22 Stone Street.  She was
showered with post cards and
gifts of all description.  Although
within a year of the century mark,
Mrs. O'Rourke retains her faculties,
has a remarkable memory and takes
a keen interest in the doings of New
Brunswick.  A few years ago Mrs.
O'Rourke fell and dislocated her hip
and since that time has been
compelled to lay on a cot.

Mrs. O'Rourke has two children,
William O'Rourke, Sr. and a daughter
Ellen O'Rourke.  Mrs. O'Rourke was
born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1817 and
came to this country with her children
when a young widow.  She was a faithful
servant in the household of Jacob Carpender
and also in the home of the parents of
Doowe D. Williamson.  These families
have looked after her comfort for years
and their decendants yesterday extended
their greetings and showered suitable
gifts upon the honored one.

In talking about her trip from Ireland,
Mrs. O'Rourke says,
" I had to leave Ireland because times
were so hard.  The young girls at
that time were paid only a sixpence
a day for their labor, which was hardly
enough to live on.  The landlords were
hard on the people and often put them
out of their homes.  When I came over
the young people were leaving Ireland
by the boatload."

"My father - his name was Edward O'Connor
- was a surveyor.  He did the engineering
work for the first railroad built in Ireland. 
He was the first one to put a spade in the soil
in the building of this railroad.  My mother's
name is Mary Mc Donald.  Before I left Ireland
both of my parents died."

"All my people lived to be old.  I had an aunt
in Ireland who lived until she was 104 and I
had a brother who lived to be eighty years
old.  My parents lived to a good old age. 
And twas 1817 I was born."

"When I came to this country I wasn't
going to stop at New Brunswick,  I was
going to Newburgh, NY.  But didn't have
much money so I had to stay here with
my daughter.  The steamer John Nelson
which went between New York and New
Brunswick brought me to this city.  I had
a friend with me but she did not remain
here, continuing to Newburgh."

"When I got here I was without friends
and had to take lodging in the hotel, which
was at the corner of Albany and Neilson
streets.  This hotel was at one time
Washington's headquarters.  Among the
other hotels in the city at that time was
one at the corner of Washington and George
streets.  Benjamon Still was the proprietor.
When I came to this city the people did
not burn kerosene oil and have gas and
electric lights but used candles.  My, but
the city and times have grown since."

"I am one of the oldest, if not the
oldest member of St. Peter's Catholic
Church.  I saw them lay the cornerstone
of the present church and attended the
first Catholic Church erected in the city.
This was built at the corner of George
and Bayard Streets.  At the time it was
called St. Patrick's Church.  Later the name
was changed to St. Peter and Paul and
then to St. Peter's Church.  I cannot
remember the name of the priest in
charge when I first went to the church,
but I do remember that Father Rogers
came after him and worked hard in
raising money for the present church. 
The old church was enlarged in the
year 1865 when the construction of
the present church was commenced."

Mrs. O'Rourke remembers when the
Sixth Ward in which she now lives
was a wilderness.  She is happy and
cheerful and likes to talk of the days
of her childhood and to tell of her

I'm very proud of my spunky
Great-Great-Grandmother whose
life must have been so hard. 
I hope she looks down on
her descendants fondly.

Thanks, Lynne!

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