My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Sunday, August 26, 2012

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - John Martin O'Donnell (1865-1937)

John Martin O'Donnell
John Martin O'Donnell was born in Jericho, Henry County, Kentucky, on November 7, 1865. He was the sixth of seven children born to Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911) and Bridget Kennedy (1838-1883), both immigrants from Ireland. He was also their only son. Johnny, as he was called, is my great-grandfather.
After graduating from Eminence College (see "September 27, 2011" post) in 1885, he was hired by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad as a civil engineer. His father and uncles, after arriving in the United States around 1847, had all worked for the railroad, as laborers, building the actual track as it connected Louisville to Nashville. His father later opened a general store in Jericho.

At some point early in the early 1900's John was transferred with the railroad to the growing city of Birmingham, Alabama, first living in Calera, Shelby County, south of Birmingham. Here, as family lore tells it, he met his future wife, Mary Bertha Huber (1873-1913) while both were living in the same boarding house. She was a school teacher and, too, was a native of Kentucky - born and raised in Bowling Green. They were married on February 11, 1904 and they had four children: my grandfather John Huber (1905-1964), called Huber; Charles Patrick (1906-1987); Edward Joseph Kennedy (1908-1989); and Barbara Lena (1909-1996). Their family's happiness was short-lived. In late 1912, Mayme, as my great-grandmother was called, came down with Tuberculosis.

John took his wife to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city known for its dry air and its rapidly growing health care facilities dedicated to serving TB patients. Mayme's younger sister Philomena Barbara (1876-1937), called Minnie, was a nurse; she travelled out from Kentucky to New Mexico to help care for her. Mayme did not recover. She returned to Birmingham, where she died at home on March 30, 1913. She left behind her four small children - Huber, 7 1/2; Charles, 6 1/2; Ed, 5; and Barbara, 3 1/2. She was buried at the old Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church Cemetery.
Prayer Card
[click to enlarge]

Picture on Prayer Card
Two days after he buried his wife, my great-grandfather placed his three boys in the nearby Athenaeum Orphanage, run by Catholic nuns. Little Barbara went to live with her aunt Minnie in Albuquerque. The boys stayed in the orphanage during the week while their father worked for the railroad, and on weekends he would bring them home. He wanted to keep all of his children together, but no relatives volunteered to take all four - some would keep one, but he didn't want to separate them. The orphanage seemed the best situation. Here they could grow up together, cared for and loved, and he would get to have them every weekend. The boys stayed in the orphanage until September 1920. At this point the boys were 15, 14 and 12, and would be able to care for themselves after school until their father came home after work. 

"Pop" with grandson Huber, Jr.
taken in front of home ca. 1922
Barbara, too, came back to Birmingham to live with her father and brothers. The story goes that Aunt Minnie brought young Barbara to the city to visit with her father and brothers. Huber and Charles begged their father to let their sister remain in the city with them, but their father said 'no' because he didn't want to hurt Minnie. So the boys went to the hotel where their aunt and sister were staying and together talked Barbara into telling her aunt she wanted to stay. When it was time for the two to leave, Barbara told her aunt that she wouldn't go. Aunt Minnie returned to Albuquerque alone.

John's children all married and began their families. Soon after his oldest son Huber married my grandmother Susan Elizabeth Flemming (1909-1999), they moved in with him at his home in Norwood, a suburb north of the city. [NOTE: The home is still standing @ Also living with him at this time was his sister Frances "Fannie" Delaney (1862-1939).

from The Birmingham News, p.10
December 7, 1937
On December 3, 1937, John's brother-in-law, Benjamin Ruffner Smith (1857-1937), the husband of his older sister Alice (1860-1934), died at his home in Louisville, Kentucky. John took the train to Louisville for the funeral. On December 6, the morning after the funeral, as family lore tells, John was at the Smith's home in Louisville eating breakfast. He had a massive heart attack and died, falling forward at the breakfast table.

from The Birmingham News, p. 23
December 8, 1937

 His body was brought back to Birmingham, where he was buried next to his wife. He was survived by his four children, and eight grandchildren.

When the Church and Cemetery were relocated, most of the graves were re-interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. Many of the graves were not able to be identified and were re-buried together in mass graves behind Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, near Elmwood.

One of four Headstone at Old Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery

1 comment:

  1. This is very excited for everyone to get information about their ancestral background. I have read all your post and like it. It’s really hard to research on obituary records.