The Sweeney Family Crest
Courtesy of Ernest Hatton, Jr.

Settlers I: The Sweeneys of Ringer Hill

It was May and June, 1830, respectively, when Michael and Catherine Sweeney stepped aboard ships bound outward from Sligo to Quebec. As we read the newspapers from that time, it may have been the copper-sheathed Cyclops or the good brig Enterprise that took them on the month's journey over the waves. I speculate that Michael Sweeney was recruited by brokers in Ireland to work on one of the canal projects in the Montreal or Ottawa area. The most likely candidate is the Rideau Canal. Incredibly, after a tiff and outburst by Michael, he left for America without her. Not to be outdone or abandoned, the plucky Catherine caught the very next ship for the same port. However, the ship on which Catherine sailed second got their first!!! She was waiting for him on the dock in Quebec when he landed, and they remained together for the next 47 years until she died. This story was passed down by their granddaughter, Lizzie Sweeney Frawley, to her son Alvin who, in 1977, told the tale to an inlaw who wrote it down. A copy of the story was given to me in 1999. In such ways is family history preserved!

Justto providea simple context for the following story here is a Summary of the descent line from MIchale and Catheirne Sweeney down to Patrick David Sweeney, Bob Sweeney's first cousin. It should help readers anchor the story in time and location.

Now let's meet Bob Sweeney and his family. Bob is the creator and administrator of the Sullivan County PAGENWEB site and the author of the history you are about to read. His wife Lynn is a leading genealogist of families in Western Tennessee, where the Sweeneys live today. Here they are:

Robert E. "Bob" Sweeney, Lynn Franklin and Becca Ariella (Sweeney) Gordon
At the Farm of Joyce Tice
Mainesburg, Bradford County, PA
September 29, 2005
Photo Taken by Joyce Tice
Note: Joyce is the Bradford County PAGENWEB coordinator; Bob and his family were making a courtesy call to her home.

And now let's meet the ancestral Sweeney characters in this family "play".
  • Michael Francis Sweeney, 1802-1894, born Kilglass, County Sligo, Ireland, son of Owen Sweeney and Catherine Hebren, became a farmer in Cherry, PA, buried St. Basil's Church, Dushore, PA. The Hebron(en) name was common in nearby Roscommon County and may have been in Sligo before the Famine.
  • Catherine Sweeney, wife of Michael, 1811-1877, born Kilglass, County Sligo, Ireland, Cherry, PA, buried St. Basil's Church, Dushore, PA. Same family name, but not an immediate relative.
  • Patrick "Sweeny", 1815-1854, born Kilglass, buried St. Basil's, married Catherine Donahoo, the daughter of Martin and Mary (Walsh) Donahoo who farmed land next to the Sweeneys. Patrick was the younger brother of Michael. They lived next to each other in Wyalusing in the 1840 Federal census, where they must have still been working on the North Branch canal. We know from other sources that many of the Irish families that would end up in Sullivan County, such as the Harrison and Rouss lines, first lived in the Wyalusing or Tunkhannock area and worked on the North Branch Canal. You can learn more about these hardy pioneers, how and why they came to the canals of northern Pennsylvania, and their amazing lives both on the canals and subsequently on the remote hilltop farms of Sullivan County. One remarkable source is an interview with Thomas Rouss, published in the Sullivan Review on October 14, 1943. Rouss was over 100 years old at the time; his memories and detailed recollections of the lives of the Irish canal workers and farmers, and their families, is extracted at The Life of Thomas Rouss: From Sligo to Sullivan County. immediate relative.
  • Back to our story..... Patrick Sweeney subsequently had three children by Catherine that we know of: Bridget (who may have died in infancy), Ann (sometimes listed in the census as "Nancy") and Patrick. After his death from causes still not known, Ann and Patrick were adopted by Catherine's father Martin (they were listed as "Adopted" in the 1860 census). There is no further mention of Bridget except for a possible maid-in-waiting at the wedding of Martin Sweeney and Julia Wright in 1861, but that is a sole reference, written in Latin, in the St. Basil's records. For that reason, we surmise that she did not survive long beyond the 1850 census where she first appears. The only one of the children I have been able to trace with any accuracy thereafter is Patrick who lived from 1852 to 1922, married and had three daughters, and died in 1922 as the result of a mine accident where he worked in Bernice, Pennsylvania. His wife Elizabeth (Kinsley), born in the Irish Settlement in Stowell, PA in 1850, lived on until 1929 on German Street in Dushore. Her father James Kinsley was one of three brothers who came to the wilderness of the Stowell area in the early 19th century, as described in John Kinsley and the Irish Settlement: 1830-1986, Settlers Page XXVI on this site. The other daughter, Ann ("Nancy"), shows up as a domestic in the 1870 Federal census, then disappears. A November 2, 1882 death notice in the local Sullivan Review mentions a "Miss Sweeney", formerly of Cherry but now married to a Mr. Hill of Hughesville in Lycoming County, PA. I have not been able to determine anything further at this point, but she is the only Sweeney woman of that age and background that otherwise cannot be accounted for at this time. As for Catherine Donahoo (1831-1897), the widow of Patrick Sweeney, she later married Edward Nolan, a local farmer, and had at least three children by him. She lies buried behind the Sacred Heart Church and Cemetery in Laporte, PA with two of her daughters. She outlived both her husbands.

Three sons of Owen and Catherine (Hebren) Sweeney emigrated from Ireland that we know of: Michael, Martin and Patrick. Michael and Catherine (Sweeney) Sweeney entered Maine, a year after landing in Canada, in 1831, possibly at Oswego, NY, as did many other Irish immigrants who first journeyed to Canada, then a part of the British Empire. The largest Irish community in Maine then was in and near Portland, which was also the site of a major canal-building effort at that time. After intermediate stops in New Jersey, Greene (NY) and the Bradford County (PA) area, where Michael and his younger brother Patrick worked on the North Branch Canal and are listed in the 1840 Federal census for Wyalusing Township, they bought land on Ringer Hill near Dushore, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, in 1842-3.

Their first child Mary was born in 1831. We believe she was married before 1850 and may have settled with her husband in the Wellsville, NY area.. There are two Sweeney families in the history of that area, and the evidence seems to be that they were related in some way to Catherine Sweeney, wife of Michael the emigrant. Extensive research in 2005 revealed that one of these families was descended from a Patrick Sweeney of County Sligo. Over time, he had three wives, and eventually emigrated with his final wife, Anne, along with or after his children to the Wellsville area. Back in Ireland, his family had been fishermen. It is possible that he was the father of our Catherine by one of his wives or at least had some close connection. We know for a fact that one of his sons, Rodger Sweeney, was the first husband of Mary Sweeney, in this case the daughter of Martin and Margaret (Conmey) Sweeney [See more below and in the discussion of the Sweene-Conmey connections in Settlers XXXIV: The Frawley Colletion].

Any way, this last mentioned Mary Sweeney subsequently married Peter Fagan after Rodger died in 1869. Another son of Patrick Sweeney of Sligo may have been the husband of Michael and Catherine's daughter, also Mary Sweeney, mentioned above. That husband's name was Thomas J. Sweeney. We do know that Thomas died in 1879 and his widow, perhaps our Mary, was raising several children in the nearby village of Willing, NY at the time of the 1880 census. It appears that all the Sweeneys who lived in the area of Wellsville and stayed in that county are buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Wellsville, NY. We are still trying to sort out the relationships.

An important source of information for our research on the Wellsville Sweeney families is Adele Dolan, great-great granddaughter of Martin and Margaret (Conmey) Sweeney and great-granddaughter of Peter and Mary (Sweeney) Fagan. In 2009, she shared both of the following photos with us:

Mary Sweeney (1839-1908)
Daughter of Martin and Margaret (Conmey) Sweeney
Wife of (1) Rodger Sweeney and (2) Peter Fagan
Photo Courtesy of Adele Dolan of Rochester, NY, her great granddaughter

Sweeneys and Fagans of Wellsville, NY Area
Taken Between 1928 and 1930
L to r: Martin Sweeney, Mary (Fagan) Flanagan, Christopher Flanagan, "Aunt Ellie" Sweeney, John Francis Dolan, Angela Flanagan, Margaret (Fagan) Dolan, "Aunt Elizabeth" Fagan, and "Uncle Dan" Fagan
Photo Courtesy of Adele Dolan of Rochester, NY, granddaughter of John Francis Dolan and Margaret (Fagan) Dolan

You can learn more and see photos related to the Wellsville Sweeney, Dolan, Fagan and other related families at A Photo Visit to Wellsville. We can also show you a set of postcards illustrating institutions in the Wellsville area in the early twentieth century. They are accessible at Wellsville Postcards. These postcards were found among the possessions of Roger Sweeney, son of William Sweeney, who emigrated to Montana in 1898 from Wellsville. He was a son of Rodger and Mary (Sweeney) Sweeney.

In fact, in July 2010, Bob Sweeney and his wife Lynn Franklin visited with descendants of Rodger and Mary (Sweeney) Sweeney in Maple Valley, WA, not far from Seattle. A vast record of these Sweeney relatives who went west in the late 19th century has been saved and recorded by the great granddaughter of Roger and Mary, Kathleen (Sweeney) Leavitt Cragun, and her daughters Christy (Leavitt) Peterson and Sheree (Leavitt) Hansen. These materials are available for examination at The Sweeneys Go West. For example, here is a previously unknown photo of Mary Sweeney with her son William (1867-1943), taken about 1869 or so. Remember that Rodger died in 1869, we are told from pneumonia after rescuing his family from a wagon stuck in a local creekbed, so this photo was likely taken just before that tragedy.

Mary (Sweeney) with Son William
Taken About 1869
Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Leavitt (Sweeney) Cragun

When Michael and Catherine came to "Ringer Hill", they had at least two other children, sons Owen (1835-1921) and Martin (1837-1926). The subsequent children were named Anna (died at 18 months), Michael, Jr. (1843-1925), Patrick (1846-1928), and Ellen (1853-1900?). Patrick became a sawyer and moved to Elk County, then subsequently to McKean County, both in Pennsylvania, and finally to Salamanca, New York, in Cattaraugus County. He married Waleberga Krieg about 1874 and raised a typical large Irish family. The younger Michael became a woodsman, never married, and died broke at the "Poor Farm" at Retreat, PA, in Luzerne County, of gangrene in 1925. Before the advent of Social Security, most Americans faced toughed prospects if they lived into old age. According to an article by Cynthia Crossen in the Wall Street Journal (September 15, 2004), by 1920 more Americans were living in cities. Old people could no longer rely upon the secuirty of living with their grown children on the farm, where they could age and die gracefully. Without work and without a retirement fund, the elderly often ended up in a poorhouse. This appears to have been the case with Michael Sweeney, Jr. Institutions such as the Poor Farm at Retreat were often little more than insane asylums, orphanages or human warehouses. Ed Sweeney (no relative as far as we know) wrote Poorhouse Sweeney: Life in a County Poorhouse (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1927; written with Theodore Dreiser), a memoir of his desperate life in one of these places. In 2006, there was also an online discussion forum on this topic at Poorhouse Story.

We will say more about their sister, Ellen Sweeney, below.

You can see pictures of Patrick Sweeney , Patrick's adult children and his brother, also named Michael, at Faces and Families, Group One..

Michael married Catherine shortly before they emigrated from Ireland to Montreal in 1830. We speculate that they were not literate, from census records, but he at least became a citizen of the US at some point. Patrick, Michael's younger brother, was naturalized in Dushore in 1851. In 1837, son Martin was born at Hemlock Run near Towanda. He is my great-grandfather.

The Sweeneys bought land on Ringer Hill * in Cherry, PA in Sullivan County in 1843. From what we know, the Irish canal workers wee encouraged by the local Catholic priests to buy land as a hedge against the financial collapse of the canal firms, with whom many of them were employed or on whose commerce they depended. We can garner some image of what life among the Irish in northern Pennsylvania was like at this time from the writings of Henry Farley. Henry has been the primary historian for the Bradfrod County Historical Society for many years, and is himself descended from the oriiginal Irish emigrant community. He has written many articles on this topic, for example: the following story of the Great Irish Parade of 1841 and events surrounding it: The Irish in Bradford County.

The land map of 1872 shows the actual locations of the lands and houses of Michael, Martin and Owen Sweeney. I have examined to some extent the land deed records in the Sullivan County Courthouse in LaPorte and found tracts of land owned by Michael's sons Owen, Martin (my great-grandfather ) and Michael, Jr. I suspect that Michael divided up part of his original land among his sons. In 1998, my wife and I discovered the foundation ruins of the original Sweeney house on Ringer Hill. We were guided by Ray McDonald, who remembers the house as a tall, thin two-story structure abandoned in a field.  In the summer of 1999, we took several photographs of the ruins. These pictures show the still remaining cellar and part of the wooden wall remains. One of these pictures is shown below.
* Editor's Note: Here are Driving Directions created for the 2000 Sweeney-McDonald Reunion that locate each of the respective homesteads of Michael, Owen and Martin Sweeney. The starting point is the Fairgrounds in Forksville, PA.

In March 2005, Pat Corgan of Lancaster, PA sent the following information to this web site:

My son directed me to your website. We currently have a house on Ringer Hill on Thall Road. I recognize many of the names in your description of Dushore: Cain (my uncle once owned the Cain property), Rohe (Art Rohe used to plant potatoes in our field), and a Donohoe married one of my great uncles.

The "foundation picture" is on property that my brothers and I own. My dad bought the property when it went up for a tax sale - about 1950 to 1955 I believe. I remember walking through the house as a child and it was scarey because the clothes and furniture and pictures were still there. It was as if the people just left everything. My Dad used to say they were displaced persons from the war. How long did your family - the Sweeneys - own that property? I don't think it was in that name when my dad bought it. We have always referred to it as the "bungalow" property and it was indeed still standing into the 1960s or early 1970s. As I remember it, the siding looked like roofing shingles. When we were kids we used to walk down to the bungalow from our properties farther up the road. You have a great web site.

This is a good example of how the strands of history can be reassembled and understood from the most unpredictable sources. To Pat, we are grateful and appreciative for this story.

Foundation of the Home of Michael Sweeney and Catherine
Sweeney, Ringer Hill, Cherry, PA
Photo by Lynn Franklin, June 1999

Now back to Ringer Hill in the 19th century. Owen and Martin Sweeney farmed next to each other on Ringer Hill. We can infer that they shared the lives, challenges and celebrations of other farm families in the community. For example, an article in the Laporte, PA Grant Standard and Press for October 25, 1873 reads:

On Tuesday last a serious accident occurred at a raising at James Cain's in Cherry township. A bent gave way and Martin Jordan, Owen Sweeney and Michael Cain fell to the ground. Martin Jordan had four ribs broken and one bone of his leg below the knee. The others escaped with a few bruises.

Here are two pictures of Owen Sweeney. One was taken with with his wife Margaret Jordan Sweeney, late in life, holding one of their grandchildren, known from the original caption only as "Junior McDonald". The other shows Owen in the company of Cecilia Waldron, his private servant and housekeeper (per the 1920 federal census) and also the younger sister of Anna Waldron, the wife of his son Martin Patrick Sweeney. The pictures were among several discovered in July 2000 by Violet Thomas Frawley, a great-grand-daughter of Owen and Margaret, and therefore another third cousin to me. They were among the papers of her father-in-law Alvin Frawley at her home in Elmira, New York. We are most grateful to Violet for their recovery and for these pictures of our cherished ancestors.

Margaret Jordan and Owen Sweeney
With "Junior McDonald"
Unknown Date, Probably at Home, Cherry Mills, PA

Contributed by Violet Thomas Frawley

Owen Sweeney and Cecilia Waldron
About 1920, at Home, Cherry Mills, PA

Contributed by Violet Thomas Frawley

Here is another photo, discovered in December 2010, showing the four sons of Owen and Margaret (Jordan) Sweeney: from left to right--John, Martin P., Stephen and Thomas J. We can date the photo to about 1890 based on the age of the subjects, Thomas, the youngest, having been born in 1885. This photo was among a set of photos showing Frawley and Sweeney family members, as well as others, which was found in a stack at an auction outlet in Farmington, Ontario County, NY called Ontario Antiqes Mall, by Ryan T. Whalen. The mall is made up of hundreds of different dealers. We don't know how the photos got there, but we do know that branches of the Frawley family, to whom the Sweeneys were related by marriage, as you will learn further along, lived in the area for the last 70 or 80 years. Farmington is about 25 miles southeast of Rochester, NY. You can see additional photos from the Whalen discovery further along on this page and at The Frawley Collection.

Sons of Owen and Margaret (Jordan) Sweeney
L to r: John, Martin P. Stephen and Thomas J.
Taken About 1890
Source: Photo Collection Purchased by Ryan T. Whalen
at Ontario Antiques Mall, Farmington, NY in December 2010


As mentioned, Martin Sweeney was Owen's brother and my great-grandfather. Martin's wife Julia (Wright) emigrated from Liverpool, England in 1850 on the ship Fidelia, after leaving her birthplace of Carne, in County Mayo, Ireland with her parents, James and Bridget (Dougherty) Wright in 1845. The family, including three children arrived in New York on January 17, 1850. According to "Aunt Mary" (Sweeney) Godwin, his granddaughter, James was a one-legged shoemaker!. Aunt Mary, oldest daughter of Peter and Agnes (Kelly) Sweeney, wrote the following recollection of her grandparents sometime before Mary died in 1969:

I remember Grandmother Sweeney as she was when she was quite old. She was small, pleasant and bright-eyed--no glasses. She was short and could pick wild straberries better than I could. She canned some and they were extra delicious served about Thanksgiving time. Their home was a two-story home. The front stoop was all concrete and it ran the length of the kitchen so that it was roomy enough to be used as a porch for shucking peas or family small chores. In the cool of the evening, a short time could be spent in rockers looking off to Lake Eaglesmere or watching the very occasional passerby.
In the kitchen was a large wood bin, basin, pitcher and water on a stand, a table, chairs and a wood stove. The floors were bare and the ceilings were low. Off the kitchen was a small separate room in which the cream was separated from the milk and where Grandma made her own butter with an old fashioned churn. After the butter was made, the residual buttermilk with small flecks of real butter left in it was the tastiest thing in the world. Served cold, as it always was, it was fit for Valhalla.
Off the kitchen was Grandma and Grandpa's large cool bedroom. Grandma made all her own rugs for he bedrooms, the parlor and hall. They were very pretty in design and cool for bare feet to walk on. Her antimacassars and doilies were homemade, too.
There was a covered deep well down a little path about fifty feet from the house. Grandma always had her own large fenced in garden.
You can imagine how busy she was washing, ironing, cooking, baking, canning and taking care of a family who had to keep healthy as a doctor was six miles away. In her earlier days as young wife, it took Grandpa three days to go to Dushore and return. Since their first home was log cabin, she would lock the door, board the windows and wait for his return while the wild-cats (catamounts) or bears waited outside. It was and is wild country and, though the dirt roads are somewhat better now, I wouldn't want to winter there.
Grandpa worked at clearing the land, caring for the animals and farming. The chickens were another one of Grandma's chores. In selecting their two fifty-acre plots of land, they followed this axiom: "Where the trees grow the thickest, there the grass will grow the finest".
This didn't prove to be true--three or four times coal drillers worked months trying to find coal on their land. All water had to be carried. Potential coal land has never been proven to be good farming land.

Mary also sketched from memory the layout of the farmhouse on Ringer Hill where Martin and Julia (Wright ) Sweeney lived and raised a family. Here is her sketch:
Martin and Julia Sweeney Homestead.
You can learn more about, and see pictures of, Martin, Julia and the home they lived in at Ghosts of Sullivan County.

Here is an obituary for Julia published in the loal newspaper:

Sullivan Review
Dushore PA
November 26, 1923

Eventful Life Ends at Dushore
Mrs. Martin T. Sweeney Came to This Country Years Ago; Married 62 Years
Mrs. Martin T. Sweeney, nee Julia Wright, died at her home at Dushore, November 23, after 62 years of married life.
She was born in Ireland May 15, 1839, and when but four years old moved to Liverpool, England. At the age of eight years she saidl to America with her mother, two brothers ad aunt in order to be with her father, who had come over two years previous. After seven weeks crossing the ocean they landed in New York and from there they went to Pottsvile, which was as far as the railroad then ran, and they walked from there to Dushore. In 1860, she married Martin Sweeney and settled upon the farm on which she has always resided. She had a kind and lovable dispositon, and was well liked by her neighbors and evryone who made her acquaintance.
She is survived by her aged husband and eight children: Mrs. Annie E. Kelly, Overton; Mrs. Ella Cummings, Sayre; Mrs. Frank Wayman, Sayre; James of Johnson City; M.D. of Laddsburg; John of Dushore; E. L. of MIldred; and P.F. of Towanda, also one brother, Martin Wright of Sayre and 26 grand-children.
The funeral which was largely attended was held Saturday from her late home, with services from St. Basils Church, Dushore. Interment was made in the cemetery at that place, Rev. Father Michael Sweeny officiating at the services.

"I speculate that Michael Sweeney was recruited by brokers in Ireland to work on one of the canal projects in the Montreal or Ottawa area."

Margaret Jordan Sweeney 1839-1929
Wife of Owen Sweeney
Contributed by Hugh and Mary Ann McDonald Montpetit

"Michael married Catherine shortly before they emigrated from Ireland to Montreal in 1830."

Daughters of Owen and Margaret Sweeney circa 1890

"Michael married Catherine shortly before they emigrated from Ireland to Montreal in 1830."

Ella Bridget Sweeney (1870-1947)
Daughter of Owen and Margaret Jordan Sweeney
Picture Probably Taken About 1921
Outside Home in Cherry Mills, PA Near John Gross Hotel (Now the Cherry Mills Lodge)

Becca Ariella Sweeney in 2000
Great-Great-Niece of Owen and Margaret
Daughter of Robert E. Sweeney and Lynn Franklin
Photo by Lynn Franklin

Anna and Catherine Sweeney
Daughters of Owen and Margaret
Picture Taken About 1870
Contributed by Hugh and Mary Ann McDonald Montpetit


I found some property tax records for Michael and Patrick Sweeney from the early 1850's in the Sullivan County Courthouse. These more or less continue until the end of the century. There are no organized death records in this location. There are also some partial wills and land records. I have a copy of the will that Michael executed in 1878, the year after his wife died. It reflects what appears to have been an earlier (1869) arrangement to parcel the land up among his sons, with protections for his daughters as well. This earlier document had been given in trust to Valentine Rohe, their next door neighbor, but could not be found when Catherine Sweeney died June 24, 1877. The reason escaped me until I learned that Valentine himself had died on February 10, 1873. The 1869 document could easily have been destroyed or lost after its keeper passed away. For the 1878 will, Michael Sweeney's youngest daughter, Ellen (sometimes referred to as "Ella"), was the executor, presumably because, as a schoolteacher, she could read and write. Ellen, as we mentioned above, eventually married Mr. Thomas Lavelle in May, 1884. In the spring of 1885, however, Ellen, apparently without her husband, but accompanied by her 83-year-old widower father and her brother also named Michael, relocated to the newly annexed Indian territory in Cheyenne County, Kansas, to become homesteaders!!!! the government passed a little known Timber Culture Act in 1874 that more or less granted the same homesteading rights to adventureres who would try to harvest timber on the frontier, as to those who went there to farm. It comes as no great surprise that folks like the Sweeneys, who were expert woodsmen and lumberjacks as a secondary profession, might find this appealing. However, growing timber as a cash crop on the windswept Kansas-Nebraska border exceeded the skills of even the most diligent veteran of Eastern timber stands. The venture in Kansas did not work out for these Sweeneys. A message from a local historian, Marian Holzwarth, in 2001 reported as follows:
Evidently Michael Sweeney never finished the proving to get a land patent. I do have him on my 1890 index of people I believed were here in 1890. He was in the 1889 voter registration list. The CHEYENNE COUNTY RUSTLER for July 1888 identifies him as a juror, and, in the same paper, in May 1889, he was a witness for someone else's proof. The same paper in March 1890, published that there was a letter for him at the post office--that usually means the person had gone.

We really do not know why Ellen left her husband either. He later ended up living in Walla Walla, Washington, before returning to Sullivan County, it would appear, before 1910, where he is listed as a widower in the 1910 census. Thomas died in 1926 in Laporte, PA, from carcinoma of the esophagus *, under the care of his niece, Mrs. Thomas Cavanaugh. As indicated previously, we do not know as of yet exactly what happened to Ellen. The Sullivan Review for June 9, 1885 reports that the homesteading trio were working 320 acres of government land in Wano, Kansas. However, the town of Wano itself was relocated to nearby St. Francis, KS in 1887. There is another record that "Ellen Sweeney", daughter of "Michael", married Elijah Bray there in October 1886. However, the records also show that she left by 1888, after being granted a divorce on grounds of cruelty. We do know that Michael returned at some point to Ringer Hill to his old home, and died there on February 14, 1894, perhaps from pneumonia or lagrippe, both of which besieged the local community that year. There is also an old family rumor, which I heard once from my father, that Michael, "the oldest man in the county", died when he fell off a ladder. This story remained unconfirmed in 2001, but would not be surprising given Michael's previous adventures.

We don't know as yet the whereabouts of Ellen after 1888, when or where she died, or if she returned with her father to Pennsylvania. Stay tuned as several family genealogists continue to research this intriguing story. There is a woman by this name and the correct age and birth location listed as a boarder in the Federal census for 1900 in Philadelphia; we suspect this is Ellen, but cannot say for sure. No word has passed down in the family of her fate, perhaps because she was viewed as some kind of "black sheep".
* Editor's Note: Here is the actual Death Certificate for Thomas Lavelle (1843-1926), son of Michael and Mary (Rouse) Lavelle.

We know as well that her brother Michael returned to Pennsylvania at some point, likely as a laborer and woodsman. He is listed as such in the 1920 census where he is living with his brother Owen at Cherry Mills. He also is known to have spent some time with his brother Patrick at the latter's home in Salamanca, NY around 1920, and that he died in 1925 in Luzerne County, PA, from gangrene.

By the way, Ellen's niece Ella B. Sweeney, daughter of Owen, was also a schoolteacher and was the executor of Owen's will in 1921. In November, 1921, at the age of 51, after all those years of caring for her aged parents, Ella married Chris Murphy and resumed her life as a well-regarded teacher in the local school system. Her mother, Owen's widow, went to live with her eldest child Annie ("Grandma Annie" to her children and grandchildren) (Sweeney) McDonald at the family house in Dushore. She died there in 1929 at the age of 89. The house still stands and is owned by McDonalds to this day.

Ella used to love to send postcards to her family and friends, and to get them as well. We have several examples on the Harrison family page at the start of Faces and Families of Old Sullivan County, Group Two. Here is an example that was posted on eBay in June 2005. The card was signed by Ella and mailed before her marriage in 1921. It reads: "We have some pretty views of Dushore. Thanks for the card--Ella B. Sweeney, Dushore, PA".

On the Loyalsock Creek, Dushore, PA
Postcard from Ella Bridget Sweeney
Mailed Before 1921
Source: eBay Auction July 2005

Margaret Jordan Sweeney 1839-1929
Wife of Owen Sweeney

Another point of overlap is that, about the same time that Ella married Chris, her niece Frances Sweeney (daughter of John Sweeney and mother of Kate Sperduti-remember?) married Edward Murphy in the same area. Ella married Chris in 1921 and Edward married Frances in 1926.

Martin Sweeney, Michael's second son and my great-grandfather, had eight children. He was married in March, 1861 and his older brother Owen was married in October of the same year to Margaret (Walsh) Jordan (1842-1929). The local newspaper, the Republican, carries a story on the death of the father Michael 'at home' in 1894. There are also obituaries in 1921 for Owen and in 1926 for Martin, but these are in the Sullivan Review.

Owen was a prominent local official in the county. Owen was also superintendent of schools for Cherry in 1899. I have obituaries for several of his children-Margaret (Sweeney) Frawley who died in childbirth in 1911; John J. who died of typhoid while working as a blacksmith in Pittsburgh in 1903; and Martin P. who was killed by a coal train in Bernice in 1918. Stephen M. Sweeney died in 1946 at age 79 of diabetes.

One of Martin's children, Michael D. Sweeney, was born in 1863 and died at the hospital in Sayre in 1952. He married Ella Secules, daughter of Phillip and Sarah (Flick) Secules. Michael became a foreman in the now abandoned mining town of Laquin, PA, and then owned and operated a farm in Albany, PA, just on the border of Sullivan and Bradford Counties. You can meet the Secules family just about the time Ella married Michael Sweeney in a picture at the top of this site's Old Reunions page. Michael and Ella had two sons, Martin ["Marty"] E. (1914-1962) and Carl P. ["Doc", due to his service as a hospital ship corpsman in WW II] (1910-1949). Here is a picture of Carl as a youngster about 1920-1925 or so with his schoolmates at the Waltman Hill School in New Albany, PA.

Carl P. Sweeney and Schoolmates
Waltman Hill School
New Albany, PA
About 1920-1925
The photo has handwritten identifications of some parties:
Mark McKernan, Mary Byron (Teacher), Bill Barry [third from right in the front row]
and Carl Sweeney [second row where the arrow points]
Photo Contributed by Jodi (Barry) Bok
Great-niece of Bill Barry in the photo

Here is the obituary for Carl Sweeney from the local newspaper in 1949:

Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
September 1, 1949

Carl Sweeney of Albany Valley, passed away at the Robert Packer hospital, Sayre, Sunday morning, following a long illness, at the age of 39 years.
Mr. Sweeney was born at Laquin, a son of Michael and Ella Sweeney of Albany township. He was a graduate of the New Albany High School and served with the Army Medical Corps for two years and nine months during World War 2. He is survived by his parents and one brother, Martin Sweeney, at home.
Funeral services were held Wednesday mroning from the Tubach Funeral Parlor, with High Mass of Requiem at St. Basil's church. Interment in the adjoining cemetery.
Services at the grave were in the charge of the American Legion, Loyalsock Post No. 996.

Here are the funeral cards produced for the funerals of Michael D. Sweeney and his son, Martin Earl Sweeney. Marty Sweeney, the son, was a victim of Down's syndrome or some similar disability that handicapped his social skills and therefore he spent his entire life on the Sweeney farm or in the company of one or both of his parents.

Michael D. Sweeney (1863-1952) and Martin E. Sweeney (1914-1962)
Father and Son
Funeral Cards
Tubach Funeral Home
Dushore, PA
Photo Contributed by Jodi (Barry) Bok

Another son, John W. Sweeney, born in 1870, grew up to marry and raise his family on the farm which Martin had started. John died in 1947, and his wife before him in 1945. There is a picture of this Sweeney family below. The mother, Mary McGee, was a descendant of another Irish family with a unique history of its own in Sullivan County. You can learn more about them at The McGee Family.


Daughters of Owen and Margaret Sweeney circa 1890, Margaret 1868-1911, Elizabeth 1874-1960, Abigail 1875-1964, Margaret married Michael Frawley, Elizabeth married Thomas Frawley, brother of Michael

Daughters of Owen and Margaret Sweeney circa 1950
Elizabeth 1874-1960, Annie 1862-1950, and Abigail 1875-1964
Picture Probably Taken in Cherry Mills. PA
Contributed by Hugh and Mary Ann McDonald Montpetit

Four Daughters of Owen and Margaret Sweeney circa 1900
Front: Anna and Margaret
Back: Catherine and Ella
Picture Probably Taken in Cherry Mills. PA
Contributed by Hugh and Mary Ann McDonald Montpetit

Anna and Catherine Sweeney as Children
Picture Taken About 1870
Contributed by Hugh and Mary Ann McDonald Montpetit

Annie Sweeney
Wife of Michael McDonald (1862-1910)
Granddaughter of Michael and Catherine Sweeney
Photo Contributed by Kevin Moriarty
Her grandson

Ella Bridget Sweeney (1870-1947)
Daughter of Owen and Margaret Jordan Sweeney
School Teacher and Companion to Lillian Russell
Wife of Chris Murphy
Picture Probably Taken in Cherry Mills. PA
Contributed by Violet Thomas Frawley
Note: Earlier Pictures of Ella
Can be Seen in the Picture Bin of the Image Gallery on this Web Page

John W. Sweeney and Family About 1947
Boys: Leonard, Joseph, Paul
Girls: Agnes, Frances, Julia *
Mother: Mary McGee Sweeney
Picture Taken at Home in Dushore, PA
* Editor's Note: Her Birth Certificate reads Margaret Julia, but she always went by "Julia".
Contributed by William and Sharon Sweeney

Agnes Sweeney (1903-1978), pictured above, became a school teacher in the local Sullivan County schools. She was very close to Rose Marie Sweeney, her first cousin, the youngest daughter of Peter Francis and Agnes (Kelly) Sweeney. Here is a letter she wrote to the local newspaper in 1928 that reflects her interest in education:

Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
February 15, 1928

Dushore, PA
February 11, 1928

The Sullivan Review,
Dushore, Penn'a.
Dear Editor:--
I agree with you in that the question of combining the Sullivan and Bradford County Institutes is a matter of the widest debate and publicity.
The chief argument against the movement seems to be that our own county in merging with Bradford would lose its individuality. In other words it seems to be a question of preserving the individuality of Sullivan county rather than the improvement of the Sullivan County Teachers' Institute.
While it is true that we would lose some of our prestige in the event of a combination, it is well to remember that some sacrifice is always necessary in the interest of progress. The advantages to be derived by teachers from the proposed consolidation are: access to a wider range of instruction and to more and better entertainment, and the inspiration to be acquired through contact with new people and a new environment. All this cannot but result in greater inspiration, an enlarged viewpoint, and a broader vision for the teachers of Sullivan county.

Sincerely yours,
M. Agnes Sweeney

Editor's Note: Leonard Sweeney, son of John and Mary (McGee) Sweeney, married Geraldine Kinsley. Here is her obituary:

The Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
January 1999

Geraldine Mae Sweeney, 83, of Dushore, died Jan. 28, 1999, at her home. She was born Dec. 17, 1915, in Cherry Township, a daughter of Arthur and Millie Yonkin Kinsley She was the widow of Leonard Sweeney who died in 1973. Prior to retirement, she was employed at Charnitski's Market in Dushore, and later at the Rev & White Market in Laporte. A lifetime resident of Sullivan County, she was a member of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Zion Chapel, in Dushore; the Loyalsock Post 996, American Legion Auxiliary; and the Dushore Fire and Ambulance Association. She was active in Legion Auxiliary events. Surviving are three sons, John J. and William L., both of Dushore; Daniel P. of Mehoopany; a daughter Joan M. Stavisky of Montoursville; sister, Genevieve Schaefer of Colley; a sister-in-law, Doris Kinsley of Dushore; and eight grandchildren. Funeral services were held Jan. 31 at the Russell P. McHenry Funeral Home, Dushore, with Rev. Eddie Nielsen presiding. Burial was in Fairview Cemetery, Dushore.

Three First Cousins Who Were Great-Great-Grandchildren of Michael and Catherine Sweeney
Robert E. "Bob" Sweeney, son of Robert Gerard Sweeney; Edward Godwin, son of Mary Bernice Sweeney Godwin; and Patrick "Pat" Sweeney, son of David Bonaventure Sweeney
Metropolitan Loews Hotel, New York City, January 24, 2001
Picture taken by Lynn Ann Franklin, wife of Bob Sweeney

The oldest son was James Sweeney, named for his mother's father James Wright. James (1862-1931) married Bertha Kuhnle (1860-1935), daughter of Charles Kuhnle and Louise Keck. The Kuhnle family was part of the German community in Sullivan County. James was known as "Big Jim" and we know he was employed in the lumber industry. His obituary describes him as a lumber scaler, a job that involved measuring the lengths of pieces of cut timber. Big Jim and his wife lived in the lumber town of Jamison City down along the border of Columbia County. Bertha was known for her home made ice cream, as reported in Catherine Casey Chapin's 1976 memoir entitled Jamison City As I Remember It:

Mrs. James Sweeney had an ice cream parlor; it was home made ice cream. People came from everywhere for her ice cream. In the future, we will add pictures and information about the lumber industry that the second-and third-generation Sweeneys worked in. That may be Big Jim on the left with his brother John in the picture half way down the page at Frank Farrell: A Death in the Forest. James and Bertha also had a son named Arthur Sweeney. The family history is silent about this child; we know little about him except his name, that he died at four months of age in 1891 (see death notice below), and that his lonesome gravestone sits beside that of his parents in St. John's Lutheran Cemetery of Wilmot, PA. Many of the German families are buried in this graveyard which is just over the line into Bradford county. You can see the tombstones of James, Bertha and Arthur Sweeney either by personally visiting the hillside cemetery or by going to the index of the Churches and Cemeteries section of this page. We do not know if James became a Lutheran or was just buried there because his wife's family had a plot there and he died before she did. James died of a stroke in November 1931. Here is a picture of his wife, Bertha, date and location unknown, as well as the obituary for their infant son, Arthur.

Bertha (Kuhnle) Sweeney [on left]
With Unidentified Friend
About 1930-1935
Contributed in November 2005 by Ray and Linda (Karge) McDonald
from the Collected Photos of Linda's Maternal Aunt
Alta Maude (Crawford) Pekurney

The Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
October 1, 1891

The four months old infant of Mr. and Mrs. James Sweeney, of Lopez, was buried in St. John's Lutheran Cemetery at Wilmot Sunday.

Another son of Martin and Julia, named Edward L. Sweeney, born in 1873, stayed single but grew up to become a prominent local lawyer. He graduated from the University of Valparaiso (Indiana) Law School in 1914 and was still practicing in 1949 when he died of a heart attack at his brother Michael's home in Albany, Pennsylvania. He walked with a cane as a result of polio.

One daughter of Martin and Julia was also named Annie and she married William M. Kelly. Kelly in turn was first cousin to Agnes E. Kelly, the wife of Annie's brother Peter Francis Sweeney, another son of Martin and Julia and my grandfather. Aunt Rose Marie remembers Annie as a fussy older woman dressed in black who was treated as royalty when she visited Rose Marie's home, the household of Peter and Agnes (Kelly) Sweeney in Towanda. Here is her obituary:

Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
August 1, 1946

Mrs. Anna E. Kelly, a highly respected citizen of Forks township, died at her home Friday night July 26th., after a short illness at the age of 81 years.
She is survived by five sons and one daughter, Mrs. Henry Bustin of Johnson City, Robert, James and Sullivan of Binghamton, Raymond of Johnson City, and Charles at home; also, eight grandchildren and two sisters, Mrs. Nell Cummings and Blanche Wayman. Three brothers, M. D. Sweeney of Albany township, John and E. L. Sweeney of Dushore.
Funeral services were held Monday morning with Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church, Overton. The Rev. T. J. McCormick celebrated the Mass. Interment was in the family plot in the adjoining cemetery.

Two other daughters of Martin and Julia were Ellen (always called "Nell") and Blanche. Nell married into the Cummings family from Towanda, but was widowed early. Her husband Stephen was killed while working on the Rainbow Bridge, the first bridge from the US to Canada at Niagara Falls. In 1900, she was living at the farm of Martin and Julia near Dushore with her two children -- five-year old Rachel Marie and three-year-old Eugene. Eventually, she ended up living on Pleasant Street in Sayre two houses away from the home of her sister Blanche and Blanche's husband Frank Wayman. The Waymans also had two children, Alma and Eugene (who became disabled by polio).

One other astonishing factor is that Kate Sperduti's husband Fred had a brother John. John was actually working in the same room at the Sayre shops (see photo below) where my grandfather Peter Francis Sweeney was killed by a falling boxcar end on March 7, 1934. Here is an Article on the accident from the Sayre Evening Times for the following day.

Engine Repair Facility
Sayre Shops, Lehigh Valley Railroad
Sayre, PA
December 3, 1906
Photo Contributed by Jim Ford
Source: An old Postcard Auctioned on eBay in July 2015

Peter and Agnes were married at St. Francis Xavier Church in Overton on January 7, 2004, Father Enright presiding. Agnes eventually gave birth to twelve children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. The couple at first lived in Sayre, then moved to Towanda where they first lived on Watt Avenue. In 1906, the family bought a home at 27 Pratt Avenue, one of five "new" houses at the time on the north edge of town. This house would remain in the family for over fifty years until after Agnes died in 1960. The oldest child, Ivan Joseph Sweeney, was born on January 26, 1908, but died in childhood. His Death Certificate, dated November 2, 1909, attributes the cause to dysentery. According to what my Aunt Mary told my Aunt Rose Marie before Mary died in 1989, Mary could remember Ivan crawling through a fence on Watt Avenue where he was supposed to be penned in. Some time after Agnes died in 1960, a new hospital was built on the property, including the house lot where Peter and Agnes raised their family. However, the house was not demolished. It was moved across the street, painted brown instead of its original green, located a few house lots further north, and reversed so that the back porch now opens on Pratt Avenue. Here is a picture taken of the house by Angela Wallace, a granddaughter of Peter and Agnes via their daughter Gertrude (Sweeney) Osmond, at the time of the Kelly Family Reunion in 2006.

Home of Peter Francis and Agnes Elizabeth (Kelly) Sweeney
Originally Located at 27 Pratt Avenue, Towanda, PA
Now located across the street
July 2006
Photo Courtesy of Angela Wallace

And, here is what the house originally looked like. This photo was taken in 1982. Bob Sweeney and his father, Robert Gerard Sweeney, are on the right. The shirtless man is unidentified. Bob's father was born in this house.

Home of Peter Francis and Agnes Elizabeth (Kelly) Sweeney
27 Pratt Avenue, Towanda, PA
Fall 1982
July 2006
Photo Courtesy of Lynn Franklin

The next child was my Aunt Mary Bernice Sweeney, who married Patrick Francis Godwin of Scranton, PA. You can look at the family chart for the Godwins at The Godwin-Sweeney Lineage, produced courtesy of my first cousin, Edward Benedict Godwin. Also, in July 2010, Ed Godwin contributed the attached Maternal Ancestry DNA Report. This Report indicates that his mother, my aunt Mary Sweeney, is a descendants of the Travelers, known as the Pavee among the Irish; this nomadic ancestral group is related to the Gypsies and Tinkers. Who would have guessed that the Sweeneys were descended from "Gypsies"?

The oldest survivng boy, Robert Gerard Sweeney, my father, was born October 15, 1918. He would grow up in Towanda, lose his father to an accidental death in 1934, and join the Marines in World War Two. Dad was a veteran of the First Marine Division and Guadalcanal and Pelelieu, and was decorated for bravery more than once. Here is a photo uncovered about the year 2018 of his Thompson Submachine Gun instructional manual left inadvertently at my mother's home in New Zealand before he shipped out for combat. After the war, he married Teresa Alva Hughes from Wellington, New Zealand, whom he met on duty there. She was born on January 11, 1924, the daughter of Bernard and Ellen (Hansby) Hughes. You can learn more about Teresa's adventures and the Hughes and Hansby family of New Zealand at A War Bride Comes to Pennsylvania. Incidentally, if you have a broader interest in this topic, there is also a page entitled The American War Bride Experience.

He became a teacher in small towns in Pennsylvania and she raised a family of nine children, all still living in 2010. In 1954, they moved to Binghamton, New York. Dad became a teacher and coach for baseball and basketball. Binghamton, in those days, was probably the typical American town, with summer baseball, hot sticky summer days, ice cream trucks, and Easter Egg Hunts in the spring. See the 1956 egghunt in Recreation Park in the picture below, with the marking by my mother showing me in full flight. The Sweeney family lived at several addresses on the west side of town after 1976, and attended St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The kids went to the parochial school there.

Easter Egg Hunt at Recreation Park
April 09, 1956
Robert Emmett Sweeney, Age 9, Indicated in the Picture
Source: Binghamton Sunday Press, April 10, 1956

Eventually, Dad was promoted to Principal and toward the end of his career became a member of the School Board and Superintendent of Schools in that community. He died of a massive heart attack on October 4, 1996 just after watching his grandson Michael Ford play a high school football game. Ironically, both his mother Agnes Kelly Sweeney and her father Daniel Kelly all died of heart attacks in their mid-70s as well, while the Sweeney paternal side of the family tends to live to the mid- or late-eighties or even longer, if they don't die in accidents. Dad is buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Johnson City, NY. My mother, Teresa, survived him, until the evening of July 21, 2015. She passed away peacefully in her sleep in Vestal, NY, near Binghamton, at the age of 91. Here are five pictures of my parents: single shots of each about 1945, their wedding picture from November 5, 1945 at St. Peter and Paul's Church in Towanda, a picture [embedded in a news story] of my dad taken in 1990, and a shot of them together about 1995 in Binghamton. I also include a picture of me and my daughter Becca taken in late August 2000 in Memphis, TN; then, a picture of my brother Kevin Bernard Sweeney and his two sons. Their names are Kris and Kevin, Jr. The pictures were taken in 1999 and 1997, respectively. My brother Kevin, born October 21, 1956, lived in the Memphis area as well in 2002 and worked at that time for my partner in business, David Beard. He later moved back to Binghamton in 2005. These two boys, Kris and Kevin, Jr. are my daughter Becca's first cousins.

Robert Gerard Sweeney
Taken About 1945 in Towanda, PA

Teresa Alva Hughes Sweeney
Taken About 1945 in Towanda, PA

Robert G. and Teresa A. Sweeney
Wedding Picture
November 5, 1945
Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Towanda, PA

Robert G. Sweeney
Article and Picture
Upon Retirement from the Binghamton City School Board
Published About April 5, 1990

Original source: Binghamton Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY

Robert G. and Teresa A. Sweeney
At Home in Binghamton, NY
About 1995

Robert Emmett Sweeney and Becca Ariella Sweeney
Gr-gr-grandson and gr-gr-gr-granddaughter of Michael and Catherine Sweeney
Memphis, TN
Late August 2000

Kevin Bernard Sweeney (1956-)
Brother of Robert E. Sweeney
Son of Robert G. and Teresa Alva (Hughes) Sweeney
Gr-gr-grandson of Michael and Catherine Sweeney
At work on the David Beard Property
Fisherville, TN
November 1999

Kris and Kevin Sweeney
Sons of Kevin Bernard Sweeney
Gr-gr-gr-grandsons of Michael and Catherine Sweeney

My sister Colleen has lived in the Binghamton, NY area all her life. She became a high school history teacher and married Jim Ford, a musician of great talent who also builds and repairs harpsichords and pianos. In June 2006, their son Michael Ford married Alicia Kipikas at St. Patrick's Church in Binghamton. Many of Mike's uncles, aunts, cousins and other relatives made the trek to Binghamton for this event. You can meet the Fords and other members of my family at The Ford Wedding 2006 by request to Bob Sweeney. That marriage ended in divorce. Mike remarried on December 21, 2020 to Andrea DeMarco at the Riverdale Banquet Hall in Endicott, NY. There are photos available at their Website..

Ashley Morgan Luttrell
Daughter of Terry Lou Sweeney
Gr-gr-gr-granddaughter of Michael and Catherine Sweeney
High School Graudation Picture
June 2008
Johnson City High School
Johnson City, NY

Ashley is the daughter of my sister Terry Lou and, in June 2008, lived with her mom and grandmother, Teresa, on Beethoven Street in Binghamton, NY. There are more pictures of Ashley, her cousins and other members of my family at The Ford Wedding 2006.

Robert E. "Bob" Sweeney
Son of Robert Gerard and Teresa Alva (Hughes) Sweeney
Sullivan County Historian and Administrator of the Sullivan County Web Page
Summer 2004

Just as an aside, I personally have had a somewhat unusual life. First, I have lived in at least 15 different residences in my adult life, from San Francisco to near Tel Aviv, Israel. In 2006, I had been living in Memphis, Tennessee for the previous twenty years. My wife and I had been married for 37 years at that time, and our daughter Becca Ariella Sweeney was nearly age 27. When I was a child, we were also an itinerant family, but the moves were within about 50 miles of an area centered on Bradford County, PA. I was born at the Robert Packer hospital in Sayre, while my family lived in Towanda. We spent a brief stint in East Orange, NJ, where my dad enrolled at Panzer College after World War II. In a year or so, we returned to Towanda, and dad transfered to Mansfiled State Teachers College, about 25 miles west of Towanda. When he graduated, we began our moves that paralleled his career as a teacher, coach and later school administrator. We lived in Alice Hollow and Leraysville, in rural Bradford County, PA. Then, in 1954, we moved to Binghamton, NY. I would live there from age 8 until age 25, with the exception of a stint in the Marine Corps in the late 1960s and two years at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. By the way, that was the last year that Don Shula coached there before going to the pros! As a kid, I attended three different Cahtolic grade schools in Binghamton, and later went to Binghamton Central High School, where I was the valedictorian in 1964. Here are a few pictures of St. Thomas Aquinas church and school, where I was a student from 1956-1960. This is the actual original school building, but the church is a replacement for the old stone structure that used to stand across the street from, just east of, the school.

At first, I thought I wanted to be an academic; in the course of that pursuit, I earned six univesity degrees--including four masters degrees and a doctorate in American history. However, my career has been in business. I never made a dime directly from being a scholar, but the things I learned about writing, speaking and organizing information in those programs are what made it possible in many ways for me to advance in commerce. Also, when you spend a lot of time in learning environments, one becomes aware of how little one really knows and one also develops a tolerance for other faiths, ethnicities and points of view. The most important thing my wife and I did was to raise a child without even the slightest iota of prejudice in her heart for people of other colors, beliefs or orientations. Any way, here is a letter I got back from the famous biologist Steven Jay Gould after I complained to him about his treatment of the French philosopher and scientist Antoine Lavoisier in one of his articles.

On my birthday, August 4, 2006, I was saddened and shocked to learn of the death of a nephew, Seth Michael Sweeney, age 32, of Binghamton. Seth was the son of my brother Phillip Peter Sweeney and therefore another first cousin of my daughter, Becca. He died of what was reported to be a heart attack in his apartment; he was separated from his young wife, Kimberly (Gates) Sweeney and their three children: Conner, Maeve and Mairen. Here are his obituary and a picture. He was a good kid and his loss was tragic.

Binghamton Sun Press
Binghamton, NY
August 7, 2006

Seth Michael Sweeney, of Binghamton

Seth Michael Sweeney, 32, of Binghamton, died unexpectedly on August 4, 2006. He is survived by his children, Conner, Maeve, and Mairen; and his former wife, Kimberly Sweeney, all of Endicott. Seth is also survived by his parents, David and Teri Tanenhaus, Binghamton, and Phillip Sweeney, Harpursville; his brothers, Adam (Heather) Sweeney, Princeton, Massachusetts, and Gabriel Tanenhaus, NYC. Also surviving are his grandparents and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Seth was a graduate of Binghamton High School and attended Herkimer College and Broome Community College. He lived in Arizona for several years. He worked recently in construction, and was a gifted musician. A gentle man, Seth loved fishing, hiking, sports and all animals. Seth was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.
A private burial will be held at Vestal Hills Memorial Park at the convenience of the family. Arrangements are by Ernest H. Parsons Funeral Home.

Here is another photo of Seth Sweeney, taken with his father Phil and his daughter Maeve about 1999 in Binghamton, NY.

As technology advances, it has become possible to link audiovisual materials to web pages. Therefore, let me give you access to two videos shot at the time of the Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary of my parents, Robert G. and Teresa Alva (Hughes) Sweeney, in November 1995. Click on the arrow below the image on each video to play.

Wedding Anniversary: Part One
Wedding Anniversary: Part Two


Finally, let me share with you the Eulogy which I delivered on behalf of my father on October 8, 1996 at St. Patrick's Church in Binghamton, NY: It is followed by the Eulogy for my mother, which was presented by my brother, Phillip Peter Sweeney, on July 25, 2015 at the same church. There are some photos of Phil and other family members as well at the end of this eulogy.


The things I have to say about my Father are meant mostly for the young people, the children and grandchildren. You knew him as a grandfather, but I knew him as a father of nine children and a leader in this community. A teacher, a coach, a principal. And also as a man who moonlighted parking cars at a drugstore and driving a bus for the Police Athletic League to help feed his children. All things we could and should be proud of, but not what I want to talk to you about today.
There were many issues where I disagreed with my Father. We had different ideas about politics, religion--all the things that sons and fathers are likely to argue about. But we came to respect each other's opinions and to accept that disagreement does not mean disregard. For me, it would be impossible to disregard the feelings and opinions of a man who put his life on the line so that we all might cherish our precious differences.
I am now 50 years old, which can seem like an eternity to a child. But 50 years, or the 77 years my Father lived, are really just a blink in the corridors of time. So, let me tell you a story about my that took place not so long ago as you may think. Let us go back those fifty years. Fifty years ago when real monsters walked the earth. Not the kind you see in movies about aliens or Friday the Thirteenth. These were real monsters-- monstrous people. Men filled with hate who burned and bombed cities. Men who sent thousands, millions to suffer or die in concentration camps and gas chambers because they were Jews or Gypsies or Koreans. Men who thought nothing of starving or killing children, the old, the disabled, the mentally ill, and anybody else who looked or thought different than they did. They called themselves Supermen and the Master Race and said they would rule the earth for a thousand years. I'm not making this up--it really happened, and they nearly got away with their evil plans. But my Father, and others like him said NO. We aren't going to let the monsters have their way.
Wounded on the shell-shocked island of Pelelieu, stricken with malaria, his hair turned prematurely white from the horrors of war, my Father returned to build a family and a life in a free country...a country whose freedom he helped insure with his bravery and his blood. He never bragged or talked a lot about the war or what he did there. He often told me that all the real heroes were dead. But I knew better. It would be easy to forget or misunderstand what was at stake, and what he did for us all. But you and I must never forget. When skeptics try to deny that the slave labor, the Bataan march, the burned cities, the death camps and the gas chambers ever really happened, tell them you know better. And when you grandchildren have grandchildren of their own, be sure to say to them: "I knew a real hero--my grandfather, Bob Sweeney. He answered the call for us all."
I sincerely believe that all of us share a common bond of life, a common origin, and a common destiny of shared awareness once we live out our time on earth. We may not see my father in the flesh, but he is here among us. And as long as we do not forget him, he will always live in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.

Here is a link to the Robert Gerard Sweeney Memorial Facebook Page, created by Robert E. Sweeney, his son, in 2014.


There are a few key members of our family who weren't able to be here today, due to responsibilities or circumstances beyond their control, and I reassured them not to worry: We are family, and we are together in spirit regardless of the miles that sometimes lie between us. So, Bob and Richie and anyone else that could not be present, you are very much here with us today as we remember Teresa Alva Hughes Sweeney, our mother.
There is a short prayer of St Francis, that many of you may know, that goes like this:

Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I might not seek so much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive, pardoning that we are pardoned
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saint Francis and Saint Clare are my favorite saints, because they not only talked the talk of Christian living, but they, also, walked the walk, embracing a Primitive Rule that required living the Gospel just as it was preached by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My mom walked the same path of true Christian motherhood and compassion, soothing our wounds as only a mother's love can do. Always there when we needed her and always willing to see the threads of gold in our efforts, she cooked for the nine of us, sewed our clothes on the old Singer, and regularly nursed the ups and downs of our many unique careers and personalities. She loved us, even when it seemed nobody else did, and celebrated, with a healthy Welsh Irish vigor, whenever we could all get together for a family picnic, the holidays or some other important event or milestone in our lives. She understood us and supported our dreams and ambitions. Maybe there were times when she didn't get all of the time, love and attention she deserved, but she always had the time and the love for each of us, as well as her many grandchildren and great grandchildren. She gave everything of herself and expected very little in return. She forgave our abuses and imperfections, and displayed the sensitivity, kindness and concern for all people, that is so rare to find in our modern world. The next time we hear the Prayer of St Francis, we should think of our mother and follow her example.
Teresa, our mother, has sailed on home to Jesus, to be at our proud father's side, for whom she was always a faithful wife and companion, and who together shaped all of our lives. She will be waiting there for us at journey's end, and she will be with us even now, in our prayers and reflections and the substance of our daily lives, because we are a family, and in Spirit we move together through this time and space. To the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of charity and love, we say as one: Rest in peace, Mom. We all love you so much.

Phil Sweeney, FMJC

Teresa and Phil Sweeney
Mother and Son

Sweeney Family Members and Associates
Attendees a the Wake and Funeral
For Teresa Alva Hughes Sweeney
July 24 and 25, 2015

The group pictured includes Sheila (McKendrie) Sweeney (daughter), Phillip Peter Sweeney (son) and Michael Ford (grandson) on the top row. Then comes Zachary "Zak" Kutalek (Kelly Gurn's son and Phil's grandson) below Mike, then Nadya Ribarsky (Zak's sister) next to him. Next in line is Vincent Odock (son-in-law) with his daughter Maria, Tina McKendrie (Sheila's daughter) up top between Vince and Maria, Kelly Gurns (daughter of Alexix Cacyuk) next to Tina, Vincent "Vinnie" Odock, Jr. up top, Alexis Cacyuk next to Maria, and finally Ashley Luttrell (granddaughter).


On October 3, 2016, my Aunt Rose Marie Sweeney (1928-2016), last surviving chld of Peter and Agnes Kelly Sweeney, passed away at Absolut Care-Three Rivers in Painted Post, NY, a few mile sfrom her home on Dwight Avenue in Corning. She had been in rehabilitation there for more than a year for the consequences of a servies of strokes. In her final years, Rose Marie was blessed with the company of Joe Liptak, a special friend and wonderful human being. I met Joe and spent time with him on many occasions, and loved to hear his stories of a career as an international representative for the Corning Glass Works. I am including here an extended obituary for Rose Mary, as well as an assortment of comments from my brothers and sisters, as well as her twice-related cousin Ken Beirne. Aunt Rose Mary was liad to rest on November 5, 2016 next to the grave of her mother, Agnes Kelly Sweeney, at Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery, North Towanda, Bradford County, PA. THe cemetery is just a few miles from where she grew up on Pratt Avenue in Towanda.

Note: There is a Sweeney Reunion held every two years or so in Ireland.. You can learn more about these reunions and about the Sweeney history at The Sweeney Clan Web Site.

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