by Jane A. Leavell


1. MICHAEL ROONEY was born Abt. 1794 in Sligo, Ireland, and died September 06, 1876 in Remington, Indiana. He married MARY DELLING.

MICHAEL ROONEY was apparently born in Sligo, Ireland, about 1794. He may have had a sister or mother named Bridget O'Conner. According to his son's death certificate, his wife was named MARY DELLING. Family legend is that he and his wife used to attend the forbidden Catholic Masses at Sligo's "Mass Rock" with their son William a mere babe in arms, and there was much fear that his crying would attract Protestant or military attention. (A priest disguised as a working man held Mass in a cave but feared that Will would cry and give them away.)

Late in life, Michael emigrated, complaining that there were too many women around bullying him and pushing him aside--his sons and daughters-in-law were not good to him. Reading his letters, Will paid for his passage over, and he arrived in Jasper, Remington, Indiana, with nothing but a shilling in his pocket. (That shilling was passed on to Tess's daughter Anna Ward, who gave it to her son Lawrence; then it went to her son Mick Williams.) Mike was a tall, well-built, strong man, quite vigorous. He cut all the wood, and Bridget couldn't have raised the twins without him--he'd put one under each arm and sing to them. He'd tell stories while Bridget worked. When Elias was baptized, Mike put a shilling in the baby's hand. The family always called him "Grandfather," never "Mike" or "Michael."

Michael is listed in the 1870 census as 76 years old and unable to vote; no doubt he remained an Irish citizen until his death.

Michael never got along with his granddaughter Mary Grace, known as "Minnie." When he chopped wood and bits of kindling to start the fire, Minnie burned all the kindling instead of switching to wood once the fire caught, and that made him angry. One night, after cutting a full load of wood and kindling, he was lying on a courch in the house in Remington city. It was a moonlit night, but a shadow fell over him, and he died. Bridget sent Minnie to Mrs. Tupperton's for help. The whole time that Minnie ran down that dark road, she was terrified that he was right on her heels! On 6 September 1876, Michael died, presumably about 82 years old, and we assume he was buried in Remington.

Rooney cousins Pat McCann and John O'Connor came to America to make their fortunes. John never made it, but Pat became a taxi driver in New York and made some money, went home to Ireland and had a family. They visited the Rooneys in Indiana, and Pat made eyes at Minnie, then a widow. She was in her forties, but much taken with him, but the family discouraged it. Anna Ward used to write to Pat in Ballygall, Sligo, Ireland. This link might help us find our roots there.

2.....i.....WILLIAM ROONEY, b. March 10, 1830, Sligo, Ireland; d. November 18, 1904.

Generation No. 2

2. WILLIAM ROONEY (MICHAEL) was born March 10, 1830 in Sligo, Ireland, and died November 18, 1904. He married BRIDGET GINTY May 03, 1858 in Pennsylvania.

Will was honest, industrious, very moral, with a strong faith--but also short-fused, and after he drank a bit he was quite hot-tempered. He was a member of the Fenians, who tried to get up a company and go over to fight for Ireland.

Well-versed in Irish matters, William left Ireland when he was 21 to work on the Pennsylvania Railroad. He earned $1.25 a day as foreman or section boss. Family legend says he worked near a creek called Ratling run, about 20 miles from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A "Piney Grove" is also mentioned. (In Schuylkill Co. PA there's a creek called Ratling Run and a town, Pine Grove, in the mountains where the railroad merged for the mines. ) While there, he met and married a young widow, Bridget Ginty or Guinty.

William told many ghost stories, claiming he saw and talked to them. One bright, moonlit Pennsylvania night, he was sitting on the steps when he saw a man on horseback who said, "It's a fine night." Will replied, "Aye, it 'tis." Hearing voices, Bridget came out and saw no one at all--the man and horse had been ghosts. (Margaret Ward believed the rider was headless. Years later, hearing the story, young Mick Williams would lisp, "It's a sign night." They were almost his first words.)

Bridget also talked of the time a carnival came to town with a gas balloon. Some children sneaked inside, pulled some strings, and sailed off into the air. Apparently they were never found.

One day the Rooneys saw an ad in the BOSTON PILOT, a Catholic newspaper; a bishop wanted settlers for Jasper County, Indiana. They arrived in the fall of 1868 to find they'd been misled; there was no Catholic church yet, and they had a cold house with no fire in the middle of a cold, swampy farm. They settled there, with a house in the city as well. Jane, Joe, and Tess were born there (and possibly Johnny). It was a cold, prairie-like place. In the night their shoes would freeze, and they had to put hot coals in and shake them up before putting the shoes on. (The Remington Catholic Church, Sacred Heart, was built in 1873.) In 1874 to 1878, the foreman of the Remington branch of the RR was Thomas Rooney, who "was an Irishman who did excellent service for the railway." He got $40/month, laborers got $1.25 a day. After him were Tuberty, Donahue, Sparks, Lawrence, Lisk, Gwinn, Martin Ryan, William Rooney....

Will used to walk the tracks, checking them over.

On 3 March 1881 they took up residence in Elwood. William was the section boss there, with a little shack at South B and 16th streets called "the section house." He was in the track and construction departments first, then became a flagman as he grew old. He spent fifty-six years as a railroad man. The Rooney home was on a little street near where Hook's Drugs was later built, on the same side of the street as Leeson's store. Later they moved to Anderson Street.

The first Catholic masses in Elwood were held at their home, using a chest of drawers for an altar, and the Rooneys helped construct St. Joseph's Church; in 1881, when Bishop Dwenger of Fort Wayne came to dedicate it, the Rooneys were one of the twenty families making up the parish.

William was always an eloquent storyteller; while Bridget was busy with work, he'd be talking and playing with the children. Will could be a crotchety old Irishman, too. He would hook his cane across Ed Ward's shoulders and snap, "Straighten up, me lad!" and make him march around.

Will was a member of The Fenians and Third Order of St. Francis and the Altar & Rosary Society.

When he was laid out at the house on B and 16th St., Ed Ward didn't like the way he looked--too artificial. He pulled the corpse's hair and messed it. Minnie was hysterical during the laying-out period.

Obituary from the Elwood Daily Record
Elwood, Madison Co., IN
18 Nov 1904, page 1
…..William Rooney, one of Elwood's oldest and best known residents, died this morning at an early hour at his home at 1530 South B street. The natural infirmities of old age, for he was in seventy-sixth year, brought on his demise.
…..For more than twenty-five years Mr. Rooney had been a resident of Elwood, and all that time and for more than thirty years previous to his coming, he was in the employe of the Pennsylvania railway company. No man ever took greater pride in his work than Mr. Rooney. For many years he was employed in the track and construction departments of the road, but when old age began creeping over him, he became a flag-man, and for years gaurded the cross-ing of the railroad at the principal streets here.
….Still sprightly and erect as a soldier his years resting apparently light upon him, he was retired from the service when the age limit and pension act became effective on the road a few years ago. His heart, however, remained with his work, and during fair weather, much of his leisure time was spent about places where he had labored so long. …..Mr. Rooney was a native of Ireland, but had been in America since he was a young man, as his record of fifty-six years service with the one railway company shows. He leaves a wife and several adult children.
…..The funeral will be held at St. Joseph's church on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 and interment will be in the Catholic cemetery.

ANDERSON DAILY BULLETIN (Wednesday, Jan 16, 1924, page 2):
Many friends attended the funeral services held at the St. Joseph church this morning at 8 o'clock for Mrs. Bridget Rooney, who died Monday morning.

.....i.....MARY GRACE ROONEY, b. October 06, 1860, Pennsylvania; d. January 24, 1941; m. TOM FLANIGAN; b. May 07, 1857; d. October 16, 1904.

Minnie was always singing, especially, "Come back, my lover, come back," about a sailor over the sea.

Tom and Will Sr. had a friendly rivalry going on, as Tom worked for the railroad.

Minnie's boyfriend, an Irish Catholic named Jim Muloney (spelling?), died, so of course she couldn't marry him. Tom Flannigan was from Ireland, a section boss on the Windfall railroad. She couldn't decide whether to marry him or not. At the last minute, when it was all arranged, she told old Father Crowley of Anderson that she didn't think she could go through with it. He know how to handle Minnie. "Don't marry him," he told her. So she decided to go ahead! However, she kept Jim's picture on the bedroom wall. (Rita Ward Leavell used to laugh, "No wonder they had no children!")

Tom had a house built at 811 South Anderson Street. Minnie hated Windfall, so she used to ride the handcar to Elwood every other day or so.

Rita Ward Leavell still has the fern stand that Minnie and Tom set up housekeeping with. They had no children. Minnie loved to travel, as did her sister Jane, so Tom took Jane everywhere.

Tom died on a cold, frosty morning while using a handcart to go fix track. One of the men pumping it slipped and fell. Tom changed places with him, fell off, and his lungs and ribs were crushed. Joe had to tell Minnie her husband was dead.

After Tom's death, Minnie, Jane, and Joe lived on the corner of H and Anderson Streets, and owned some property on Duck Crick, where they raised cows, sold the milk, and owned a horse named Nonnie. Rita and Mary Jane Ward used to hitch rides on their buggy but hated the fresh warm cow's milk that Joe dropped off for them--they complained that they wanted bottled milk, not cow's milk! The Duck Crick property was sold to Art Bell.

Minnie had a cerebral hemorrhage.

.....ii.....WILLIAM PATRICK ROONEY, b. March 02, 1863, Pennsylvania; d. May 25, 1898.
He was the best educated and read a lot, owning poetry and history books. He liked Percy Bysshe Shelley.

He didn't get along with Jane and Minnie, but liked Tess. He also didn't get along with his father, and when he was 14 he ran away. His father disowned him. He took part in the California gold rush and Oklahoma land rush, where he owned the ground on which the Oklahoma City Post Office was later built--he sold it for a lot of money, but the lost the money gambling on his way home. He was in Oklahoma when it became a state. His mother couldn't sleep for worrying about him, but he wrote every year on his birthday, March 23rd.

He believed in spiritualism. The Psychics headquarters was in Anderson. Chesterfield?

When he was 18, he and another young man were in a California saloon. The other man drew first, then Will shot and killed him. Pleading self defense, he drew two years in prison. While there, he read every book he could get his hands on from the prison library, and he learned harness-making. It was a big secret until someone in Elwood got a tabloid with an article on the killing (from San Francisco, maybe?), so the whole town found out. Someone in town didn't like him. Once he had a lovely lady's side saddle ready for delivery, already paid for, when someone slashed it up. He made the first set of harness for the Elwood Fire Department.

Once he won a wad of money gambling in Anderson, but it was so much he figured they wouldn't let him out alive, so he put in his boot and threw it out the window, going out later to retrieve it.

Will died of tuberculosis several months before Edward, who died in 1898. Will hired a rig and took his mother to the public cemetery, reined up, and begged her, "Don't bury me here. Do it in the Catholic cemetery." But when he died at home, he still refused the sacraments, so he was refused burial in the Catholic cemetery. He was buried in the Elwood City Cemetery, with a small white marker near the road.

ELWOOD DAILY RECORD (Vol. 6, #136, wed. 25 May 1898 10 cents weekly, p. 1)


William Rooney, who has been a sufferer with consumption for many weeks, died last night at the home of his parents on South H. street. The funeral will occur tomorrow afternoon at two o'clock.
.....iii.....ELIAS ROONEY, b. December 10, 1865, Pennsylvania; d. December 19, 1899. William Senior called him "my beloved son," and he was a quiet hard worker who helped on the railroad and Remington farm and drive a brewery wagon. His First Communion was 10 August 1879. He died of tuberculosis on 19 December 1899 (except his tombstone says 1898).

.....iv.....MARGARET ANNA ROONEY, b. July 02, 1868; d. July 04, 1868. She was born on a Monday, very weak, and was taken to Harrisburg to be baptized. She died two days after birth. William wrapped her up, and he and Minnie went to Harrisburg on his year-round railroad pass to bury her in consecrated ground. Every year they made Easter duty in Harrisburg, where Margaret Anna was buried.

.....v.....MICHAEL EDWARD ROONEY, b. August 07, 1869; d. September 1898, Elwood, Madison County, Indiana.

Michael and Tess were fraternal twins. The family story has him dying of the flu in his teens. Another has him becoming paralyzed from drinking--he had a pint of whiskey before rising every morning. He was taken to Martindale on a stretcher by train for the mineral baths.

He was a handsome man, and a brewing company set him up with a tavern in downtown Elwood during the "blue" days.

ELWOOD CALL LEADER (Saturday, 3 September 1898):


Rodney Rooney, a well known young man about town, died this morning at 7:30 at the house of his parents on South H street, after an illness of several days with stomach trouble. Rodney was about 35 years of age and had a host of friends who will regret to hear of his demise. His brother William died a short time ago. The funeral will occur tomorrow afternoon, interment in the Catholic cemetery.

More About MICHAEL EDWARD ROONEY: Burial: Catholic cemetery in Elwood, Madison, Indiana TERESA ROONEY, b. August 07, 1869; d. January 29, 1951; m. MICHAEL WARD, July 09, 1895, Elwood, Madison County, Indiana.
Tess was very handsome and aristocratic in bearing. She was fond of jewelry; had long, lovely hands; and used to lie about her age, even though her twin's tombstone indicated a date some years earlier! She raised her orphaned grand-daughters, Rita and Mary Jane Ward, but was harsh and often threw Rita out for weeks at a time. She told both little girls that she had more respect for her son Ed's little finger than for their entire bodies. She wanted them for the room and board, although their aunts and uncles begged for the chance to adopt them. Rita would move in with one when she was evicted; one of her cousins told me she was a teenager before she realized Rita wasn't just another one of her siblings!

ELWOOD DAILY PRESS (Vol. 3, No. 893, Tuesday July 9 1898, p. 8, two cents):

At the St. Joseph's Church, Michael Ward and Miss Theresa Rooney were united in marriage at 8 o'clock this forenoon, Rev. Father Biegle officiating. The contracting parties are both very well known to this city and have perfected arrangements to reside here. Mr. Ward is one of the leading employees at Macbeth's.
.....vii.....JOHN BERNARD ROONEY, b. April 28, 1872; d. February 20, 1879, Remington, Jasper County, Indiana. He died before his First Communion, contracting meningitis when he fell from the railroad ties onto his spine. He may be buried in Rennselaer or Remington.

.....viii.....MARTHA JANE ROONEY, b. August 28, 1875, Remington, Jasper County, Indiana; d. May 1953.

Jane was a real character. From her teens on, she lived with her sister Minnie and Tom Flanigan. She and Minnie pretty much raised their niece Margaret Ward (see the family genealogy on his website). When Joe Williams and Anna Ward were courting, she used to peek through the transom.

When asked if she ever had a hero, Rita Ward wrote, “My great aunt Jane Rooney. She was Grandma Ward’s sister but they were as different as night and day. Aunt Jane was always on my side which is one of the reasons my first child is a Jane. When my Grandmother Ward was dying Aunt Jane said to me “Do do forgive her don’t you?” I guess I did.”

Rita Ward Leavell, on a trip to New Orleans in March 1953, knew that Jane, hospitalized with stomach trouble, craved watermelon. She paid $3.50 for one in the French Quarter and brought it back. After a few bites, Jane was thrilled.

Jane died in May while Rita, who was having a difficult first pregnancy, was in the same hospital. Rita was to be on the first floor, but all the relatives in and out to see Jane would visit her as well, so she was switched to Maternity. Because it would upset her, Rita wasn't told of Jane's death. Since the trees blocked the Catholic church from her window, Rita didn't even see Burl, her husband, serving as pall-bearer at the funeral. Her first child was named Jane.

.....ix.....JOSEPH ROONEY, b. May 13, 1878, Remington, Jasper County, Indiana; d. November 03, 1956, Madison County, Indiana. Very shy and quiet; Joe would be seen walking with his head down and shoulders hunched. When he was young, he worked in Elwood, Madison County, Indiana, in the Macbeth-Evans glass factory. He never talked much, though he was very cute. You'd see him "going trading"--taking produce to the basement of Leeson's Department Store and getting trading stamps for it. Burial: Catholic cemetery in Elwood, Madison, Indiana

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