A RED RIVER PIONEER.
Who Was a Boyhood Friend of Major Forbes and Commodore Kittson.
Special to the Globe. GRAND FORKS, Sept. 21. – A familiar figure upon our streets is that of John Connolly, one of the oldest men in the county and a pioneer in the Red River valley, having come to Dakota in 1874, when Grand Forks was a mere trading post. He filed on a quarter section of land two miles south of town, where he now resides. This venerable citizen is a native Belfast, Ireland. His father came to the United States in 1811, and after becoming an American citizen returned to Ireland for a time. The subject of this sketch removed with his parents to Montreal, Canada, when five years of age, which was his home for twenty years. He learned the mechanical engineers’ trade under L. D. Ward, who was famous on account of the celebrated wrought iron gun, “Peacemaker” that he manufactured. Mr. Connolly was afterwards acting chief engineer in the English navy. When the civil war broke out in the United States he was engineering on the lakes and gave up a lucrative situation and tendered his services to the United States – Union cause – and enlisted at St. Paul, Minnesota. He was assigned to duty in the Mississippi squadron and held that position as acting first assistant engineer under trying ordeals until he received severe injuries from which he never fully recovered, although he followed engineering for a number of years after. He was one of the first in the federal navy that undertook to drill the negroes, in which he was very successfully, and was highly commended for the same by then United States Senator Ramsey and other statesmen. After retiring from N. S. N. being worn out by extra services he did not follow engineering for several years until Commodore N. W. Kittson employed him on the Red River of the North, where he was a promising engineer for a number of years. Mr. Connolly is now trying to sustain himself and wife on his farm near here. He is now seventy-four years of age, and owing to his crippled condition has an up-hill task, but still prays for the preservation of the glorious institutions of the N. S. of America and would fight for the same if need be. He came to St. Paul in the year 1856 and brought his family from New York where he was employed at the Novelty works. He made St. Paul his permanent home, having been a personal friend of late Major Forbes and Hon. N. W. Kittson, having known them from boyhood. Mr. Connolly says that the old noble stock of Commodore Kittson and Major Forbes was unblemished, and the United States, as well as the poor of St. Paul and other places, lost princely gentlemen in their deaths. He was acquainted and had correspondence with Commodore Kittson and Major Forbes as early as 1831, and it was at their instance that he came to St. Paul to live. He is also a nephew of Col. Archibald Corry and Richard Corry, who were near friends of Patrick Henry, of Revolutionary fame, and the old gentleman is proud of his distinguished ancestors. (The Saint Paul Daily Globe, Saturday Morning, September 22, 1888, Volume X, Number 266, Page 11)
John Connolly, farmer and stock-raiser, Section 21, P. O. Grand Forks. This venerable citizen is a native of Belfast, Ireland. His father came to the United States in 1811, and after becoming an American citizen, returned to Ireland for a time. The subject of the sketch removed with his parents to Montreal, Canada, when five years of age, which was his home for twenty years. He learned the mechanical engineer’s trade under J. D. Ward who was then famous on account of the celebrated gun, Peacemaker, that he manufactured. For several years, Mr. Connolly was acting chief engineer in the English Navy, but was only employed by the day. When the civil war broke out in the United States, he was engineering on the lakes. He gave up a lucrative situation and tendered his services to the Union cause and enlisted at St. Paul, Minn. He was assigned to duty in the Mississippi Squadron, and held that position as overseer under trying ordeals, until severely injured by a fall, from which he has never fully recovered, although he followed engineering for a number of years after. He was the first man in the Federal Navy that undertook to drill the negroes, in which he was very successful, and was highly commended for the same by Senator Ramsey and others. After retiring from the service, he was an engineer on the Mississippi, and subsequently one of the pioneer engineers on Kittson’s line of steamers on Red River, where he was prominently identified for a number of years. Mr. Connolly has two valuable tracts of land close to Grand Forks, and is making a success as a farmer. He is seventy years of age, and would still fight and pray for our glorious United States Institutions. (Andreas Historical Atlas of Dakota, A. T. Andreas, Chicago, The Lakeside Press, 1884, Page 254)
Death of John Connolly
After a long illness, John Connolly answered the summons of the angel of death Thursday night (March 28, 1895) at the advanced age of 80 years. He had been very feeble for the past year or more, and for several months past had been confined to his bed. The end was peaceful and happy. His aged helpmate and his daughter, Mrs. Marclay, of Boston, ministered to him devotedly all through his long illness, and the Odd Fellow fraternity, of which he was the oldest member in the state, provided nurses and other attentions as needed. The funeral will take place from the house on Broadway Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock. By request of Father Connolly, Dr. S. P. Johnson will conduct the services. The deceased was born Feb. 12, 1814, in County Fermanagh Ireland. He was an engineer, and served in this capacity in the English navy. Later he came to the United States and volunteered as an engineer in the navy. While serving as first assistant engineer on a gun boat of the Mississippi squadron was seriously injured by falling down an open hatchway and was discharged for disability. During the early seventies, Mr. Connolly was an engineer on the first steamboats plying the Red river. A few years ago he purchased a little farm adjoining the city and has spent his declining days there. Some time ago, through the persistent efforts of Senator Davis, of Minnesota, a special act of congress was passed granting him a pension, which provided ample funds for his few wants. Father Connolly always had a cheery word for every one and many will mourn his departure. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Saturday Morning, March 30, 1895, Volume 14, Number 129, Page 4)
Obsequies of John Connolly
The last sad rites over the mortal remains of Uncle John Connolly took place from the residence on Broadway, Sunday afternoon, under the auspices of Banner lodge, I. O. O. F., of which the deceased was a member. At the request of Father Connolly, Dr. Johnson, to whom the old veteran was much attached, conducted the services very impressively. Resting on the casket was a beautiful and touching floral tribute from the Odd Fellows, in the form of three links, the emblem of the order. The pallbearers were Geo. W. Aker and Frank Hazelbarth, representing the Odd Fellows; Judge W. H. Brown and W. B. McClellan, representing the G. A. R., and Mayor Anderson and Orange Wright the Masonic fraternity. Co. F., under the command of Capt. Gordon, formed an escort for the sad cortege, and a delegation from Acacia lodge, A. F. and A. M. came next after the Odd Fellows in the procession, and a long line of carriages followed in the rear. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Morning, April 2, 1895, Volume 14, Number 131, Page 4)