Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sundays in Irish Grove

Back in the mid 1880's, a bunch of Irish immigrants descended upon this innocent corner of the world and altered it forever. It's hard to imagine what the area was like before they arrived, but they settled in and established a small historical community that is now lovingly referred to as Irish Grove. My ancestors, the Flynn's, were a part of that group. Now the Flynn's have a fairly decent reputation in the immediate vicinity, mostly known as a fun-loving, hard working and hospitable crowd. And while that is by most accounts pretty accurate, we certainly have our faults, not the least of which are our loud, booming (deafening, really) voices, our competitiveness, and our over-sized egos.

Irish Grove can't be found on a map, even though many people call it home. But the community is literally split between two or three local towns, which at second thought seemed strange. So the other day I googled Irish Grove, and found that it is located in Rock Run Township. Aha, Rock Run Township. Wait a second....Rock Run Township? Like my little guy Armando likes to say when he receives an unacceptable answer to a question, "Huh?"

Anyway, unlike Rock Run, Irish Grove does exist, and the proof lies in the puddin', or in this case in the heart of the countryside: St. Patrick's Irish Grove Catholic Church.

I was raised in this church, and, like most diligent Catholic children, hated getting up for Mass on Sunday mornings. My parents would let us sleep just late enough to 1) fool us into thinking we weren’t going that day, and 2) ensure that there was insufficient time to primp and curl and properly prepare for the eye candy, oops, I mean soul food at church. Sorry, Lord.

But attending Mass at Irish Grove had its benefits, too, one of which is mentioned above. The second was the coffee and donuts served in the basement after church. And the third was running around the cemetery after Mass, climbing onto and jumping from one headstone to another, as my parents would laugh and commune with the other parishioners, many of whom are extended family.

Because we Flynn’s like to talk a lot, we were undoubtedly always the last people to leave for home. When the last stragglers finally said their good-byes, and conversation was no longer an option, my dad would walk around the cemetery with us and point out tombstones where an ancestor, “good old so-and-so”, lies. And he would tell us what he remembered about him or her, and how we were related to them. He’d say, “He’s your Grandpa’s first cousin, on his mother’s side,” in a slow, cadenced way that made me think he was practicing for his own benefit, lest he forget his family history (the mother of all sins).

I’m still a member of Irish Grove Catholic Church, and I’m also still pretty lazy about Sunday Mass. But when I do go, I make sure my kids get an opportunity to jump on those headstones as I chat with the parishioners making their way to their cars. I then attempt to relay those familiar old family connections to them (lest I commit that unspeakable atrocity against my kin) and usually fail to remember most of the details. All the while, my husband Marcel is patiently waiting for me to finally stop talking. And with his natural-born Panamanian sense of propriety, he is properly horrified at how wrong it is to let our kids jump and stomp on someone’s final resting place. I give him my best harrumph, and tell him that not only is it right, it’s tradition, for goodness sakes. And I’d just bet those hard-working, fun-loving old Irish men and women lying beneath that sacred ground are all the happier for it.


Laura said...

Tag - You're It! 8 Things About Me meme.

(I know, I know.... )

Anonymous said...

I too have difficulty finding Irish Grove on a map. Upon googling, I chanced upon your blog re: the Irish of Northern Illinois. My people lived in the Township of Rock Run before moving on after the civil war; ancestor Thomas and his brother John were born there in the mid 1840’s and I suspect G-g-grandfather Patrick is buried at Irish Grove/St. Patrick’s cemetery ~ am unsure if this is the same place where you and yours play between the headstones, but I can assure you that my ancestors are indeed, all the happier for it.


Jackie said...

Hi Rex,

I'm thrilled you found me....and that you're not angry I might have climbed upon your ancestor's tombstone a time or two. ;)

I'm sure we're talking about the same place......St. Patrick's Irish Grove, with cemetery, in Rock Run Township.

If you happen to check back here, I'd love to find and take a picture of your ancestor's headstone and email it to you. Let me know if you're interested.


Anonymous said...

Jackie ~

I appreciate your offer. If you ever did happen across a stone resembling:

CUFF, b. ABT 1795 Ireland, d. 1847 Irish Grove, Il.

~ I would be keen to have a photo. But you really shouldn’t spend the time or effort; -if- there were a marker, the past 160 years must have surely taken its toll.


Ps. Are you possibly related to 1836 Irish Grove/Silver Creek resident Thomas FLYNN ?

Anonymous said...

Some cousins and I are searching for good pictures of the headstones in this graveyard. At least we think it is this one--all we have is "Irish Grove, Durand, Ill." Could this be the place where the Fox family is buried?
In particular looking for the graves of Sarah and Thomas Fox--died probably 1890 and 1891. Would you have ever seen their stones there?
Don't want to put you out, but we are no-where near there so need some help. If this is not the right place maybe you have heard of another Irish Grove?

Jackie said...

Hi Fox family.

Check out my most recent post for your answer:

Hope that helps! And thanks for stopping by Irish Grove, if only in cyberspace.

Anonymous said...

How very nice of you to take those pictures. We do appreciate it. Yes, we too wonder about that inscription--and wish also we knew the story. Do you know if perhaps the church might retain some records of that family? I don't know how long they might have gone to that church or who might have been christened there. Is there someone to write to about that? We are especially interested in who Sarah was before she married Thomas--again some interesting stories there if we can find her!

Crossdrew said...

Jackie: I too found your blog by googling "Irish Grove cemetery". My gggrandparents are buried there. My gggrandfather & wife immigrated from Ireland to Vermont in 1830 and then to Stephenson County in 1837, along with another Irishman named Flynn. I don't know if that Flynn was your ancestor or not.

What I am trying to find out is where I could find the burial records of St. Patricks church? Since you attend that church, could you ask them where the records are & how someone could get information about them?

My gggrandfather was Patrick Giblin and he died in 1880 and his wife, Margaret O'Brien Giblin died in 1892. So, I am interested in records from that time period. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and I enjoyed the pictures of the headstones & the image of small children running around the cemetery. However, I have no idea of how my ancestors would feel about it! :)

Jackie said...

I love how this silly blog has drawn some interest from a few Irish Grove ancestors!

I wonder about the Flynn immigrating with your ancestor, Crossdrew. 1837 corresponds with Rex's comment above regarding Thomas Flynn in Silvercreek. Thomas Flynn is the first Flynn in my lineage to arrive in America, and we believe he arrived in Irish Grove around that time, altho my family's records are incomplete and estimate he came in the early 1840's. I think it very well could be the same person.

I have a few people in the local historical society checking on Irish Grove information for me. Perhaps I'll be able to find some answers for both the Fox's and Crossdrew.

I'll let you know what I find out. An email address may help communication a bit, or else I'll continue to comment here and hope you check back.

Somehow the geneology bug is starting to inch its way under my skin. I think you all might have something to do with that. ;)

Thanks, Jackie

Candace said...

Jackie: I misspoke when I said my Patrick came w/a Flynn, I went & looked it up and he arrived w/a man named Corcoran. Thomas flynn, According to the county history, arrived in either 1837 or 1837. I will get a copy of the page it is on in the Stephenson County History & post it here. My name is Candace and my email address is One of the problems w/Irish Grove Cemetary is that there is no listing of graves online, unlike many graveyards. So people google "Irish Grove Cemetery" and the pick up your blog! I believe there is a book that lists the graves so I will look for that. In the meantime, I am enjoying your blog about farming & family. Cheers - Candace

Candace said...

  History of Stephenson County, Illinois : a record of its settlement, organization, and three-quarters of a century of progress, pg. 72: "The year of 1836 was a big year in the settlement of this county. . . . Among the settlers this year were the following, many of whom brought their families: Thomas J. Turner, Pells Manny,Alford and Sanford Giddings, Washington Perkey, "widow" Swanson and family, Thomas Flynn, E. Mullarky . . . . " Mullarky married one of my Giblins and I know that he & his brothers came directly from Ireland. I am sure this book is available at your local history society. I'll see what else I can find. - Candace