He has my brother’s eyes. Those fine brows over those clear penetrating eyes. He’s our Great Great Grandfather John Spellacy (Spellissey) who left Ireland sometime after April 1846 and was in Vermont by 1849. You can see in this old daguerreotype turned Photograph those fine eyes looking out over a ruined face with the long hard jaw, firmly set to take on all life could throw at he and his. But if you can , imagine those eyes crinkling up with laughter and that closed mouth breaking into a slow smile at the wry comments and observations his children would make. Then I think you will have truly glimpsed the man who was our Great Great Grandfather, John Spellacy.
He was a man who could and would for their safety move his entire family across an Ocean and then across a Continent to keep his children safe and alive.
John had been born in Ballykett, County Clare, Ireland in 1803. He grew up in a period that Charles Dickens revealed in “Oliver Twist”. But among far more poverty than Little Oliver’s “More, Sir” at the Orphanage suggested. He grew up in the West of Ireland. He did not fear poverty or famine and death as they were in the West of Ireland a daily occurrence among the Catholics and promoted by the Queens Government. If they were lucky enough to survive childhood starvation and poverty they would be likely as not to be pressed in service as cannon fodder by Her Majesty Government, the same ones that tried to kill them off as youngsters. but this man chose something better for he and his. He chose emigration. And with it came the cost the lives of 2 of 3 of his children. Never again, I’m sure he said once they reached this promised land in a famine ship.
Nora ( Honora) née Hartney was the daughter of Denis Hartney and Bridget Doyle and became the wife of John Spellissey .
They were married after a good scare, they married about one month after the “Night of the Big Wind” ( January 6th, 1839) John and Nora Spellissey were married in Cabinteely Parish, on February 12, 1839. Also our John Spellacy who was married to Honora Hartney and came from Ballykett had a last name that was spelled in church records as “Spellissey” in Ireland. It was when the family came to North America that the name was changed to “Spellacy” You must remember neither John or Nora could read or write. We still haven’t documented where they entered North America. Was it at Canada’s Grosse Isle? Or did they enter the States in New York? We do know from family records their first baptism in the U.S. was in Burlington, Vermont but their first few children were born in Ireland and show baptismal dates of :
Matthew Spellissey 6/20/1841
*Mary Spellissey 5/1/1844
*Anne Spellissey 4/22/1846
( *there is no record of the girls ever in the U.S. census. The girls were either were lost to the Famine or on a Fever Ship)
All born and baptised in Ireland. They left Ireland sometime after the last recorded baptismal, Anne’s, 4/22/1846 and the next baptismal recorded was in Burlington, Vermont in 1849 a Honora Spellacy and their emigration time was between the last baptismal in Ireland in 1846 and the first baptismal in Vermont of 1849. After coming to this country we have five more children were born to this Railroad working family in these various places along the Railroad as it was being built ;
Honora Spellacy baptised in Burlington, Vermont 1849
Michael Spellacy baptised in Schaghicoke, New York 1851 (born November 26,1851)
James Henry Spellacy August 6th, 1854 Whitehall, New York
Sarah and Anne Spellacy (twins) Where? When?
Martin Spellacy Where? When?
Kate Spellacy Where? When?
So altogether they had 10 children 7 of whom lived to adulthood and only 2 of whom Married, Michael and Kate.
Some of the family stories of this generation are as follows…
John Spellacy’s work here was 1st with horses and Railroad construction, and then later Farming. When he had been in Ireland, his branch of the Spellacy family had worked handling the horses at the “Vandeluer Estate” in Clare, Ireland. So when John came here he found this ability with horses transferred into working the horses to level the ground for construction of the rail bed as it moved across the Nation . So he was one of the lucky few that while he couldn’t read or write he could gain employment immediately because he abilities with horses. Years later so did his son Matthew Spellacy, see another article on Matthew Spellacy in thekatebook.
But in this Generation about 14 years after their arrival in the United States John and Nora moved the entire family to Portsmouth , Ohio along the Ohio River . Because family lore has it that the oldest of their children, Matthew had been drafted for the Union Army and John and Nora wanted the Family to be physically close enough to the South that if Matthew could get away he could get back to them in Southern Ohio as opposed to New York State where they would look for him and he would have a harder time getting back. They wanted him home and safe. Period. After losing Mary, Anne and later James Henry (all we have is the baptismal certificate) they weren’t about to let another Government use their oldest boy as cannon fodder.
I personally can remember my Dad telling me that not all people liked Abraham Lincoln and that we had had a Great Great Aunt in Columbus ( either Sarah or Annie Spellacy) who had paraded around the house when she heard that Lincoln had been assassinated. You have to remember that this was the same Lincoln that had taken away her Big Brother and almost gotten him killed and caused the move of their entire family to Southern Ohio from New York State . There are two sides to every issue. Read up on the Irish Draft Riots of New York for further details. Anyway Matthew soon returned to his family in Portsmouth (southern), Ohio and also according to family lore ran horses to the Confederacy. Family stories talk of a chest full of useless Confederate money in the attic. But now you have to remember John and Nora came over to this country possibly on a fever ship and lost 2 of their 3 children just getting here trying to escape The Queen’s Government that would just as soon starve them in Famine as press them into military service should they survive their childhood. And as soon as they got here Tammany Hall made sure they were registered to vote, letting the Government know just where to find them when that 1st draft came up.
So that’s the reason that a large part of the family ended up buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Portsmouth Ohio, it’s the only place where they were safe and could forever remain a family.
After their Fathers death ( see obituary here in thekatebook) they split up, Matthew going back into the Railroad business and Michael also doing railroad work and meeting Mary Dugan in a Dunkirk rooming house that her parents had for railroad workers. And Sarah and Annie and Martin Spellacy ending up in two farmhouses out in Alton, Ohio outside Columbus, Ohio where it looks like Martin had a horse farm. Matthew did the same thing with his property in Coshocton until Oil was found on it and then it looks like he went into Enamelware Manufacturing and ended up living with his sisters the twins Sarah and Annie across the road from Martin Spellacy’s place. I assume from what I’ve been told that Martin didn’t take kindly to his big brother’s coming back home and then trying to tell him how to run his business. So he had Matt live across the street in a house he had bought for his sisters. And as far as baby Honora, the 1st born in America I have no idea where she disappeared off to. And the youngest Kate I don’t know about either but if I hear I’ll update this.