Frank Halloran - Mystery Man

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  • The Halloran Black Sheep: Frank Halloran (1867 - 1936)

    Frank Halloran’s life is shrouded in mystery. Which may be why he is such a fascinating ancestor, despite his horrible reputation.

    Frank Halloran’s place and date of birth is unknown. His death certificate says he was born on May 6, 1870 in Louisville, KY. This information came from hospital records (not an “informant” like a family member). Undoubtedly, the year is incorrect, because Frank appears on the 1870 U.S. Federal Census as a 2-year-old. His older brother, Thomas, was born in St. Louis. It seems unlikely that Frank’s mother Catherine (Tracey) Halloran would have traveled to Louisville between 1865 (the year Thomas was born) and 1868 (the year Frank was probably born). The one piece of evidence that seems to corroborate the story that Frank was born in Kentucky, is the fact that no baptismal record can be found for him in St. Louis. Most of the Halloran children were baptized at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s. In fact, most of all of the family’s baptisms, marriages and funerals were held at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s. Clearly, the Hallorans were faithful and observant Catholics. It seems unaccountable that they would leave one child unbaptized. Frank’s marriage to Catherine O'Connell was also held at St. Lawrence’s. Certainly, the priest would not have married Frank if he had not been baptized. In addition, Frank listed Kentucky as the place of his birth on both the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census.

    Little is known of Frank’s youth. Apparently, he did not get much schooling, because the story that he was unable to write seems to be correct. He signed his marriage certificate with “his mark”. However, his bride, Catherine O’Connell clearly signed her name.

    Frank and Catherine O’Connell married on May 17, 1889 at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s Catholic Church. The witnesses were Michael and Anne Connell. Perhaps this couple was Catherine’s aunt and uncle. Their surname is listed as “Connell”, but the priest might easily have omitted the “O”, because he also made the mistake of listing Catherine’s surname as “O’Connor”. (Her name is correct on the marriage certificate issued by the City of St. Louis.) Tragically for us genealogists, the priest also omitted the names of the parents of the bride and groom.

    Their first son, William Francis Halloran, was born on July 7, 1889, which indicates that Catherine was about 7 months pregnant when she married Frank.

    In the St. Louis City Directories, Frank is generally listed as a shoeworker or simply as a laborer. He is completely absent from the city directories between 1890 and 1893. This absence coincides with the fact that Frank and Catherine’s second child, Margaret, was born on April 30, 1892, approximately 3 years after William. At a time when there was no birth control and children were frequently born in 1-2 year intervals, this seems somewhat unusual. Perhaps Frank went to another city for work.

    The Halloran family appeared to move frequently between the years of 1889 and 1900. In 1902, they appear in the city directory as living at 1517 N. 15th Street. They lived at this address for approximately the next 10 years. In 1900, it looks like Catherine’s mother, Margaret (Moriarty) O’Connell, came to live with the family. She is listed in the city directory as a widow at the Halloran family address. She appears again in the 1906 city directory. (She died in 1917, but it is doubtful that she stayed with the family until her death).

    Frank and Catherine Halloran had at least 11 children:

    William F., born July 7, 1889

    Margaret Mary, born April 30, 1892

    John Clifford, born July 17, 1896

    Leo Thomas, born May 31, 1897

    Mary Myrtle Loretta, born August 14, 1898

    Francis Aloyisus, born October 9, 1900

    Marie Catherine, born January 11, 1903

    Rose Halloran, born August 3, 1905

    Celestine Gertrude Irene, born February 16, 1908

    James Joseph, born June 26, 1910

    Virginia Jean (Jeannie), born January 12, 1914

    (All dates of birth were extracted from baptismal records.)

    Frank’s wife Catherine died on July 25, 1914. The cause of death listed on her death certificate is Tuberculous Meningitis. Family tradition states that Frank abandoned the family after Catherine’s death. In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Leo Halloran is listed as the head of the family. Loretta was next oldest sibling living with the family. Margaret married John Hamilton MacKay in about 1913.

    The 1920 census lists the siblings’ address as 2616 Howard. Apparently, Frank went to live with his brother. In 1916, he appears in the city directory with his brothers John T. and Thomas. (This is the same year Frank's mother, Catherine, died. She too was living with John at the time.) In 1919, he again appears living with his brother John.

    On the 1920 Federal Census, Frank is found living in the Father Dempsey's Old Man's Home. Father Dempsey's was a hostel for working men.  For 10 cents a day, a laborer could find a bed, bath, and locker. Unfortunately, the page is folded where Frank's occupation is listed, making it illegible. Frank was about 53 years old, but on the census his age is listed as 48.

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate Frank in the 1930 census.

    Frank Halloran died at the City Hospital on November 8, 1936. The cause of death listed on his death certificate was heart disease. His place of residence was “Swan House” at 6th & Delmar. I have not been able to determine what “Swan House” was, perhaps a shelter or convalescent home of some kind.

    Frank’s funeral mass was held at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. He is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery. Bob Niemeyer recounted for me the story that his paternal grandfather, Louis Niemeyer, Sr., had just bought a family plot at Memorial Park and he offered the gravesite to Loretta (his daughter-in-law). Thus Frank Halloran is buried with Bob’s grandfather and father, Louis Niemeyer, Jr. who died in 1935.

    My grandmother, Marie Halloran Murphy, despised Frank. Even though I was a young child, I remember asking her about him and grandma always got a look of revulsion on her face and said that he was a drinker. Her mother, Catherine, on the other hand, was a saint in my grandmother’s memory. If the story that Frank abandoned them when Catherine died is true, then my grandmother was only 11 when she lost both her parents.

    Other cousins have passed on similar stories of what a jerk Frank Halloran was. One story recounted that while Catherine (O'Connell) Halloran was on her death bed, Frank felt under the mattress and took what money his wife had managed to save and then abandoned the family. 

    Bob Neimeyer told me that when Frank died, Margaret didn't plan to attend the funeral. Her husband, Hamilton Mckay, insisted. When one or two of the sisters were found crying, Margaret (or maybe Marie) asked them why they were crying. The older siblings definitely had little sympathy left for Frank.

    I believe that the story of Frank abandoning the family is true, as there are so many stories that have been handed down that seem to confirm the account. My grandma told my parents that without their parents, the children set-up a system where the oldest looked after the next child in line. My grandmother, Marie, was responsible for Rose, as she was next in age. Rose was supposed to look after Celeste, but my grandma aways complained that Rose didn't take her "job" seriously (Marie always implied that Rose was a party girl). 

    Another cousin told me a story that after Catherine died, some adults (never specifically identified) wanted to give up Virginia (Jeanie) for adoption (Jeanie was just 6 months old when her  mother died). Apparently, the siblings were against this and some how fought the suggestion. Catherine's mother, Margaret (Moriarty) O'Connell died in 1917 and Catherine's father had died by 1900, so there was little support from the maternal side of the family. If Frank was living with his brother (and mother) between 1915 and 1920, then it's doubtful that the paternal grandparents were of much help. I am not sure who raised Jeanie, maybe Margaret? Margaret was already married and had her first child by 1915, so maybe she took in her baby sister.

    I would love to add additional anecdotes to this history. If you are a Halloran cousin and have a story you'd like me to add to this webpage, please get in touch!