The Catholic University of America

Ryan Family Papers

An inventory of The Ryan Family Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives
Creator: The Ryan Family
Title: Ryan Family Papers
Dates: 1803(1827-1951)1995
Extent: 5 linear feet; 4 boxes
Abstract: This is a collection of an Irish American family's correspondence, the bulk of which is from 1843 through the Civil War. Starting with their arrival in Massachusetts, going into business and raising families in Connecticut, later moving on to Illinois and Missouri, the Ryans were involved in business, politics, helping other immigrants, temperance, and the Catholic Church. The second generation was also involved in the Civil War. Later correspondence is from the turn of the twientieth century, the 1920s and the 1940s.
Collection Number: 182
Language: English

Biographical Note

The history of the Ryan family in America began with John, Mathew, Charley and Kyran Ryan who migrated from Kilkenny in 1827 to Massachusetts, where they worked in the textile mills. Others they had known in Kilkenny migrated to Manayunk, Pennsylvania, around 1833. John Ryan married Johanna Boomer of the Manayunk people in 1835 and together they started a family of 11 children, two of whom died in childhood.

In 1836, John, Mathew, Charley and an unrelated friend, Edward E. Ryan purchased a woolen mill in Norfolk, Connecticut. They operated it for nearly 20 years. Kyran, who had not joined the Norfolk venture, passed away in 1842. John and Mathew became instrumental in starting the Catholic community in Norfolk. Intelligent, affable, and respected for his integrity, John, who is the focus of the collection in this generation, was also in demand as a temperance speaker and drawn into politics. John was heavily involved in helping the poor Irish who came to this country in the mid-1840s following the potato famine. Politically, he was a Democrat, believing that party to be more sympathetic to the immigrant. In 1850, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Connecticut Senate.

The woolen mill alternately prospered and struggled, but by 1854 began to get in serious financial trouble. The business was lost to creditors in 1855, although the Ryans remained employed. In 1858, John took his family to Decatur, Illinois, Charley moved his family to Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Edward E. Ryan relocated to eastern Massachusetts. Mathew in time obtained the store that had been part of the woolen mill, and remained in Norfolk.

In Illinois, John tried serving as a lawyer. Using Washington connections, he obtained the postmastership in Decatur, and managed to hold onto the position during the Civil War years despite being associated with the party out of power.

In the 1850s, the focus of the collection begins to shift to the next generation, mainly John's first two children, sons George and Mat. John used his political connections to obtain an appointment for George to West Point. George graduated with the Class of 1857. He was commissioned an officer in the 7th Infantry and participated in the occupation of Utah from 1858 to 1860. In 1860, the 7th Infantry was assigned to New Mexico for duty against the Navajo. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, George was with his regiment at the time of its surrender to the Confederates at San Augustine Springs. Paroled, the 7th Infantry sat out a year at a post on the St. Lawrence River. Following a prisoner exchange in the autumn of 1862, the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac in Virginia, where George, now a captain, served as a division adjutant in the 5th Corps. Following the death of its commander, Patrick O'Rorke, at Gettysburg, the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment requested George's release from the Army to become its new commander. In this capacity, George was with his unit during the winter of 1863-1864. In May 1864, after surviving the Battle of the Wilderness where the 140th suffered great loss, George was killed leading a charge the next day at Laurel Hill, beginning the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

After moving with his family to Illinois, Mat tried getting into business, and obtained an appointment as sutler for a hometown volunteer regiment, the 35th Illinois. Operating with a St. Louis supplier, Mat followed his regiment through Missouri, and thence to the Tennessee theater. Mat, later assisted by a younger brother Frank, did quite well financially, and laid the foundation for a successful business career.

Following the Civil War, Mat married Nancy, a daughter of E. Grove and Jerusha Lawrence, family friends from the Ryan's Norfolk days. They settled in St. Louis, where they were joined by John and Johanna and the younger children. In his later years, John was successful in Missouri politics, serving two terms in the Missouri legislature in 1876 and 1877.

Charley Ryan died in 1864 from the effects of alcoholism. Edward E. Ryan died in 1879. Mathew, in Norfolk, died within five days of his son Charles in 1880. Charles had been successful in his own right in business and Connecticut politics. John died in 1886, closing the book on the young Irish immigrant brothers of 1827.

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Scope and Contents

The total collection contains 1,200 letters and other documents, spanning over a century. At the beginning there is a copy of the Connecticut (Hartford) Courant dated 1803, which includes commentary about the recent Louisiana Purchase, but the relevance of this paper to the Ryans is not clear. After that paper, the documentd span the years 1827 (the year of the brothers' arrival in America) to 1951. The documents are arranged in chronological order, and are accompanied by a 475-page typewritten volume that synopsizes each document. The volume also contains photographs, family genealogies and an index cross-referencing the documents to well-known historical personages of the times. Jerome Goebel organized the collection and prepared the synopsis book.

Series 1: Chronological Family Correspondence, 1803-1951, is arranged chronologically in Boxes 1-3. The collection starts with Jerome Goebel's Synopsis. Starting on page 469, the Synopsis book lists 263 persons of historical significance who are mentioned or wrote papers included in this collection. These include United States presidents and others prominent in nineteenth-century political and social life. The papers also contain references to 739 businesses, organizations, institutions and military units of the period as well as 645 geographical place names, although these are not listed in an index.

The first letters of the collection include 10 papers from 1827 to 1835, the year John and Johanna were married. There are 15 papers from the period 1836 through 1843. Many of the early papers deal with business, and continue with 626 papers from 1843 through 1858, the year John left Norfolk. The papers reflect a family of Irish immigrants, more prosperous than many, who networked with other Irish mill owners, and made a concerted effort to help their less fortunate countrymen. The Irish immigrant clergy in that area, such as John Brady of Hartford and his nephew John Brady of Middletown, CT, were both good friends of the Ryans. Correspondence shows John and Mathew as the focal point for missionaries visiting Norfolk. The Ryans were friends of the missionary James Fitton. Ten letters are from the bishops serving Connecticut from 1847 through 1856. Two of those letters are from William Tyler, who served until 1850 and seven are from his successor Bernard O'Reilly, who died when the steamer Pacific went down in an ocean crossing in 1856. John's relations with the clergy were at times contentious, although he considered himself a loyal son of the Church. Other papers reflect prejudices the Ryans encountered among their new Congregationalist neighbors, although the brothers, through their industry and integrity and John's outgoing personality, managed to obtain a good degree of respect and friendship in their adopted community. Letters from friends tell of prejudice in other communities, such as a graphic description of the Southwark riots of 1844. Letters from the 1850s comment on the effects of Know-Nothingism.

Besides his family and business, John had two other passions: temperance and politics. The papers reflect his involvement in the temperance movement as a popular speaker. Letters written to John from other Irish immigrants poignantly reflect the damage alcoholism had done among the poorer laborers. John's first involvement in politics appears in 1844. A Democrat, John explained to friends why the Irish were drawn to the Democratic Party. John had influential friends among Connecticut's Democrats, and used his influence to help his family and friends. As Democrats, John and his friends were more pragmatic than idealistic about the slavery question, and worried more about the dissolution of the Union being forced by, in their view, the "radical black republicans."

A powerful backstory in this collection involves a young Irish immigrant named Thomas Grey. Grey, an acquaintance of the younger Father Brady, contacted John Ryan in 1846. Intelligent and articulate, Grey was a sergeant major in the U. S. Army. He desired a commission, but felt held down by anti-Irish prejudice, and asked Ryan's help through his political connections. Ryan was willing to help, and as the Mexican War wound down two years later, Grey obtained his commission. Unfortunately though, the unit in which he was commissioned was soon disbanded, and Grey had to re-enlist in his old unit, once again as sergeant major. For the next seven years, Grey pursued a new commission and his letters - from the Rio Grande during the Mexican War, from Florida while on campaign against the Seminoles, from Minnesota where dealing with the Sioux, from Fort Monroe where he was often stationed, from Washington where he confronted congressmen, the Secretary of War and the President himself - are a highlight of this collection. His passionate observations about the political plight of the Irish back home in Ireland are of additional note.

In 1844, John Ryan became acquainted with Thomas D. McGee, of Young Ireland fame, and the two became friends. Ryan wrote an immigrant advice column for McGee's papers, the New York Nation from 1849 to 1850, and the American Celt, from 1850 to 1857. In all, the collection contains 16 letters in McGee's hand. Ryan also contributed to Patrick Donohoe's Pilot and wrote a serial novel for the Irish News in 1857. Letters also make reference to other Young Ireland patriots John Mitchell, Charles Duffy and Thomas Meagher.

With John Ryan no longer living in Connecticut, a Norfolk friend of his, E. Grove Lawrence, enters as a contributor to the Ryan Papers in 1858. Lawrence, a banker and member of the town's Congregationalist aristocracy, writes of his thoughts about the impending civil war, about a river trip up the Mississippi to Minnesota, and the death of a daughter. There is also a Philadelphia connection in the collection. Johanna's mother, Margaret Boomer, married another Irish mill owner and settled in Manayunk. The Ryan Papers vividly describe Manayunk and the lives of the relatives there. After the death of Margaret's husband in 1859 and the loss of their business, John went to Manayunk himself to obtain justice in a settlement for Margaret.

George Ryan's contribution to the collection begins with 79 letters describing life at West Point between 1853 and 1857. He describes his fellow cadets, superintendents Robert E. Lee and Richard Delafield, and West Point visitors such as Winfield Scott, Jerome Bonaparte II and Jefferson Davis, among others. After graduation, George vividly describes his trek west to Utah, life at Camp Floyd, the Mormons and the occupation politicians and judges. During his years of pre-Civil War service, George served as a commissary and quartermaster officer. He describes subsequent duty against the Navajo, his treatment by the Confederates after the surrender at San Augustine Springs, and his adventures as commanding officer at Madison Barracks on the St. Lawrence. On the staff of the 5th Corps, there are no extant letters from George through battles at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. His letters reappear after Gettysburg. After taking command of the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry, George's letters track his unit from Culpeper Court House back to Centreville and Bristoe Station, then forward again to Rappahannock Station and winter camp near Warrenton Junction. His last letter home, to a younger brother, describes his exhaustion after surviving at the Wilderness. Correspondence that follows his death reveals the anguish of his family and friends.

George's brother, Mat contributes to the collection papers centered on his work as a sutler during the Civil War. The war took him to St. Louis, through Missouri, where he was nearly captured at Pea Ridge, and to Tennessee. There, he and Frank had to stay behind as their regiment headed into Georgia with Sherman. One time, they visited the Vicksburg environs during the siege there. They next went into the supply business in Nashville. Between Mat and his brother John, who once visited him, we are provided with descriptions of Civil War-era Nashville. Correspondence among the senior John, Mat and friends at the front describe hometown effects of battles at Pea Ridge, Shiloh, Murfreesboro and Chickamauga.

After a lull in the immediate post-Civil War years, there is a resurgence of Mat Ryan correspondence during the 1870s, mostly in connection with a lumber mill business interest in southern Illinois. Other correspondence deals with John Ryan's service in the Missouri legislature. Thereafter, most of the collection shifts to letters received by Nancy Lawrence Ryan from her family back in Connecticut and from siblings in Illinois and Ohio. A number of these letters come from 1920s Norfolk, written by a sister, Augusta Lawrence, in her final years.

The final letters are from Mat and Nancy's daughter, Augusta Ryan Goebel, in response to her writing an historical pamphlet in 1951 about the Lawrence family. The Ryan Family papers were preserved in the St. Louis home of Mat Ryan, which in time passed to another daughter, Susan Ryan. Susan died in 1981, leaving the papers to Jerome Goebel, a grandson of Augusta Ryan Goebel.

Series 2: Oversize Family Documents, 1853-1903 can be located in Box 4. This series includes several larger items such as various certificates of appointments for military and political appointments, a map, and an academic diploma.

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Arrangement

The Ryan Family Papers consists of two series:



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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

None

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

This collection was given to the CUA Archives in 2002 by Jerome M. Goebel after finishing a collection synopsis in 1995.

Processing Information

Processing and EAD markup in 2013 by Raymond Moore. Revised and expanded in 2014-2015 by William John Shepherd and Shane T. MacDonald with advice and assistance from Jerome M. Goebel.

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Related Material

Fenian Brotherhood and O'Donovan Rossa Papers

John W. Hayes Papers

Richard Robert Madden Papers

Terence Vincent Powderly Papers

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms. For a more in depth index see Mr. Goebel's 1995 Synopsis book.


Persons:
Franklin Pierce
George McClellan
Lyman Trumbull
Samuel Tilden
Winfield Scott

Organizations:
Democratic Party
New York Central Railroad
United States Army

Places:
Decatur, Illinois
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Manayunk, Pennsylvania
New Haven, Connecticut
Norfolk, Connecticut
Pana, Illinois
St. Louis, Missouri

Subjects:
American Civil War
Irish Americans
Nineteenth Century American Politics


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Bibliography

The Ryan Family Papers Synopsis, Jerome M. Goebel, 1995

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Chronological Family Correspondence, 1803-1951, 1995 (3 Boxes)
Contains correspondence, mostly incoming to family members, beginning with the arrival of the Ryan brothers in America, and continuing with their familial, business, and political affairs. The focus of the collection then shifts to the next generation, including John's son George's career in the Army, and son Mat's experience as a sutler during the Civil War. Post-Civil War, the focus is on Mat's family through to the 1920s. Also included is a printed volume by Jerome Goebel, synopsizing each of the 1200 documents against a background of American history. The collection also includes a typed transcription along with the original of every letter and document.
Box Folder
1 1 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers (1), 1995
        A 475 page work written by Jerome Goebel, describing, by year, each document, against a background of American history relevant to the documents.
  2 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers (2), 1995
  3 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers (3), 1995
  4 Documents 1-42, 1803-1844
        In 1827, John, Mathew, Charles and Kyran Ryan arrive in America, taking mill work in Massachusetts. Initial correspondence is between John and newfound bachelor friends and family back in Ireland. John marries Johanna Boomer of Manayunk, Pennsylvania, a fellow immigrant whom he knew in the old country, who had immigrated with her family. Their first child, George is born. John, Mathew, Charles and non-related Edward E. Ryan buy a woolen mill in Norfolk, Connecticut. The Ryans become acquainted with a Catholic priest, John Brady, of Hartford, and his nephew, also a Catholic priest, John D. Brady. They carry on correspondence with both, as well as with locally assigned clergy. John gets involved in local politics and corresponds with his congressman, Samuel Simons. John also gets involved with the temperance movement and encounters anti-Catholic bigotry. There is correspondence with a mill owner in Philadelphia. Kyran dies in Lowell, Massachusetts. Other children are born to John and Johanna: Mat, John A. and Frank. Mathew and Charles also marry and begin families.
  5 Documents 43-84, 1844-1846
        A Philadelphia agent tells John about the Southwark anti-Irish riots. John and a Whig friend, N. O. Kellogg, compare views about why the Irish favor the Democratic party. Thomas D. McGee first makes contact with John. There is more contact with the elder Fr. Brady, who loans the Ryans funds. A local Democrat describes election bribery. John uses influence with Simons to get the Norfolk postmastership for a friend. Samuel Scoville first appears as a wool broker. Commission houses report on their sales for the Ryans. John hires fellow Irish immigrants and assists them, sometimes in conjunction with Fr. Brady. John shares with the younger Fr. Brady opinions about the difference between Catholic and Protestant preaching. Edward E. serves the mill as a traveling agent. John and Johanna add a son, Tom, to the family.
  6 Documents 85-147, 1846-1848
        Thomas Grey introduces himself, telling of his quest for an Army commission. He was referred to Ryan by the younger Fr. Brady, now with a parish in Middletown. Brady tells of difficulties with other clergy, including his uncle. He and John Ryan discuss concerns for Irish immigrants. Grey finds a home for his young daughter and sister and sets sail for Fort Brown in the Rio Grande Valley. A series of Grey letters provide an account of that location in the early days of the war with Mexico. John enlists help from his new congressman, Gideon Wells, and other local politicos on Grey's behalf. John's father-in-law, Thomas Reed, in Manayunk, buys a woolen mill with a partner, Blount. Much correspondence at this time deals with mill business, including the job needs of Irish immigrants. Johanna gives John two more sons, Tom and Charles. First mention of a niece, Mary Purcell, whom John and Johanna are raising.
  7 Documents 148-204, 1848-1849
        Thomas Grey is commissioned in a temporary regiment that will be disbanded after the war. He asks for John's influence to get an appointment with a permanent regiment. After returning to the northeast, Grey obtains recommendations from Connecticut politicians, including Governor Thomas Seymour, and goes to Washington, where he visits Attorney General Isaac Toucy, Secretary of War William Marcy and President Polk. The Democrats' loss in the 1848 election makes Grey, now at Fort Monroe, VA, anxious. John gets on Bishop William Tyler's wrong side in a dispute involving Revs. Charles O'Reilly and Michael O'Neill and both John Bradys, but Tyler approves John's looking into building a Catholic church in Norfolk. John tries to help Irish workers, but begins getting into financial trouble, unable to repay notes from the purchase of the mill and investors. Thomas Grey and the younger John Brady comment on political affairs in Ireland. John and Johanna lose Tom and Charles within a few days in early 1849. Condolences flow in from Thomas D. McGee, the younger John Brady, Thomas Grey and the Manayunk family. McGee requests a loan for his paper, "Nation." John refers him to the elder John Brady. Samuel Scoville buys wool and helps find financing.
  8 Documents 205-245, 1849-1850
        The mill's financial woes continue. Both of the John Bradys press John Ryan for loan repayments so they can build parish churches. Thomas Grey and others make passionate comments about the political situation in Ireland. John Ryan contributes an immigrant advice column for Thomas D. McGee's "Nation," then to McGee's new paper, "The Celt." Grey meets with an old Army friend, now Virginia politician William Talliaferro, to plan lobbying effort for Grey's commission with the new Whig administration. John Ryan runs for state senator, but meets anti-Irish attitudes and is defeated. Mention is made of a cholera epidemic. John and Johanna have another son, Jim.
  9 Documents 246-295, 1850-1852
        The Ryans expand mill capacity, but have difficulty financing additional raw materials. John receives requests from Irish for work and letters from families asking about relatives working for John. John receives two political appointments. John hears regularly from the new bishop, Bernard O'Reilly, and several priests appointed consecutively to the Norfolk area. One, Christopher Moore, loses his assignment due to malicious charges. Thomas D. McGee's "Celt" prospers at a time of heavy Irish immigration. Thomas Grey is frustrated by what he sees as anti-Irish bias, but busies himself obtaining recommendations from Franklin Pierce, Jeremiah Clemens, Lewis Cass and his commander, BG James Bankhead.
  10 Documents 296-338, 1852-1853
        The elder John Brady retires. The Ryans donate property for a Catholic church. John and Johanna have another son, Benny. The Ryans' mill gets into serious financial difficulty and has to borrow from Scoville. John travels to visit the mill's city outlets. John corresponds with Governor Thomas Seymour and later unsuccessfully supports friend William Holabird for governor. Thomas Grey, unsuccessful with the Whig administration, unburdens his frustration to John. Subsequently he is encouraged by the election of Franklin Pearce, and armed with letters of recommendation, heads to Washington to see the new Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. Thomas D. McGee moves to Buffalo. John uses his influence with congressman Origen S. Seymour, to obtain West Point appointment for son George. Thomas Reed's mill in Manayunk burns.
  11 Documents 339-367, 1853
        Johanna travels to Manayunk to visit family. Thomas Reed's mill sets to rebuild and arranges to buy new machinery with John's help. Thomas Grey is very discouraged after a trip to Washington, where Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was helpful until he learned Grey was Irish. George visits Manayunk on his way to summer camp at West Point. Bishop O'Reilly gets impatient at the slowness of getting a parish church started and asks that title to the property be transferred to him. John agrees, but complains about being falsely accused of being hostile to clergy assigned to their area.
  12 Documents 368-412, 1853-1854
        In long letters, George writes home frequently and colorfully about his plebe year at West Point. John closely monitors his progress. At John's urging, Governor Seymour and all of Connecticut's Democrat congressmen lobby President Pierce on Thomas Grey's behalf. Meanwhile, the mill struggles to meet its bond payments. John has been writing his immigrant advice column for the Boston.
  13 Documents 413-455, 1854-1855
        With aggressive help from Connecticut senator Isaac Toucey and congressman Colin Ingersoll, Thomas Grey sees President Pierce twice. Gray's unit is assigned to Florida in the fall of 1854, and in mid-1855, Grey gets the news that he has been commissioned in his regiment, the 2nd Artillery. George's pace of writing home slows during his second year. In the following summer he gets a furlough to return home. He visits Manayunk before starting his third year. John keeps his hand in state politics. Know-Nothingism becomes an issue. The mill continues to struggle financially. Mortgage foreclosure is in the air. The mill has a damaging fire. John and Johanna have another son, Ally.
  14 Documents 456-498, 1855-1856
        Unable to pay debts to the bank, bondholders and Scoville, the Ryans surrender the mill to the temporarily formed Scoville, Walton and Company. A meeting is called with all supplier and outlet creditors. The result is a stock company, the Norfolk Woolen Company, to operate the mill. John will manage the mill for the present. George perseveres in his studies, now in his third year. John's son John A. visits the Manayunk family and Mat works in the mill's store. Thomas Grey's unit goes to Lake Okeechobee to confront the warring Seminoles. Grey comments about happenings with the Fathers Brady and events going on in Ireland. Thomas D. McGee, along with John Mitchell, is back in New York, publishing the "American Celt."
  15 Documents 499-549, 1856-1857
        Correspondence in this folder is dominated by George's letters from West Point. George completes his third year and goes into his final year. His letters comment heavily on current affairs and describe visits to the Point from Winfield Scott and Jefferson Davis. Democrats do poorly in state elections in the spring 1856, but all are relieved by Buchanan's election in the fall. The younger John returns from Manayunk, and he and Mat work at the mill. The president of Norfolk Woolen Co., A. A. Lane of New York, works hard at making the mill succeed, but the market sours in the fall of 1856. Thomas Grey becomes ill in Florida and returns to Fort Monroe on a leave of absence. His letters tell of operations against the Seminole and are full of opinion about politics and church affairs. Bishop O'Reilly, returning from a trip to Ireland, goes down with the "Pacific." John and Johanna have their first daughter, Maggie.
  16 Documents 550-589, 1857
        George completes his final year at West Point. This file includes membership certificate in the Dialectic Society and his USMA diploma. After graduation, George visits home with his roommate George Kensel. Then he reports to his first assignment at Newport Barracks, Kentucky. Brother Frank, meanwhile, applies to congressman William Bishop for appointment to the Naval Academy. The mill is doing better. The spring of 1857 brings a busy political season. Thomas Grey is assigned to Fort Hamilton, New York, to await his unit's return from Florida. The file also includes Army commissary records from the 7th Infantry Regiment, prepared by George's predecessor in the jobs of Assistant Commissary Officer and Assistant Quartermaster.
  17 Documents 590-591, 1857
        Commissary records from George Ryan's predecessor with the 7th Infantry.
Box Folder
2 1 Documents 592-594, 1857
        Commissary records from George Ryan's predecessor with the 7th Infantry.
  2 Documents 595-597, 1857-1858
        Commissary and Quartermaster records from George Ryan's predecessor with the 7th Infantry.
  3 Documents 598-599, 1858
        Quartermaster Records and Army Muster Rolls from George Ryan's predecessor with the 7th Infantry.
  4 Document 600 (part), 1858
        Serial Newspaper Novel: Written by John Ryan, under a pseudonym, for the Irish News in 13 installments.
  5 Documents 600-622, 1858
        Conclusion of John Ryan's novel. Mill closes for a while. John, looking for ways to support his family, starts studying law. Willing to relocate, John visits Pana, Illinois, where Norfolk friend George Pease has relocated to practice law. John settles on Decatur and obtains Illinois law license. Brother Charley relocates to Great Barrington, Massachusetts with his family. Mathew stays in Norfolk, running the store. George is commissioned a second lieutenant in the 7th Infantry. He joins his regiment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and sets out with them as part of the Mormon Expedition to Utah. Family still hopes for Naval Academy appointment for Frank.
  6 Documents 623-660, 1858-1859
        John works on starting a law practice and bringing his family to Illinois. Family makes the move to Decatur in October 1858. Mat starts a grocery, Frank works at a bank and John A. works at a newspaper office. John corresponds with new Illinois friends in other places. Back in Norfolk, the mill struggles on and creditors sue. Mathew resigns as company secretary, but he and Charles lease the store and their company-owned home. Charley and family return to Norfolk. Charles Sibley and Grove Lawrence join the exodus to Illinois, settling in Pana. George, now at Camp Floyd in Utah, writes vividly of his experiences and the local scene. Thomas Reed dies in Manayunk. John goes there to help Margaret settle their affairs. He finds Reed's mill in trouble similar to that his own mill had in Norfolk. He manages the mill while making a deal to sell it to a major creditor, but has difficulty in getting fair compensation for Margaret. He and the Decatur family seriously consider a move to live near Margaret. John and Johanna have a son they name Tom.
  7 Documents 661-696, 1859-1860
        John obtains fair settlement for Margaret Reed and returns home to Decatur. He sets up a law practice, and with help from Isaac Toucey and William Bishop, ex-congressman now in charge of the Government Patent Office, obtains temporary Decatur postmaster appointment. Mat closes his grocery. Frank and John A. work at the post office. Mary Purcell moves to the Philadelphia area to take care of the orphaned children of friends there. George is assigned to Provo as a guard for government judicial proceedings. After this, he returns to Camp Floyd. He is involved in a skirmish against Indians. In Norfolk, Samuel Scoville becomes president of the Norfolk Woolen Company, and the mill struggles on. Charley returns to Great Barrington, where he and the healthier of his children find mill work. Edward E. Ryan lives and works in Worcester, Massachusetts. E. Grove Lawrence and his wife Jerusha visit their family in Pana and the Ryans. The Ryans and their friends support the presidential candidacy of Stephen Douglas.
  8 Documents 697-720, 1860
        There is much political discussion about the Connecticut spring elections and the national presidential nominations. Mathew tells John about Norfolk events, including Scoville, Walton and Company taking back the struggling mill. Mathew hopes to buy the store and his company-owned home. George's 7th Infantry departs Utah enroute to New Mexico. John obtains a 4-year permanent appointment as Decatur postmaster. Thomas Grey writes from the Sioux Agency in Minnesota.
  9 Documents 721-732, 1860
        Most papers in this file are George's official quartermaster and commissary officer papers. Charles Sibley, from Pana, a big Lincoln supporter, sends Augusta Lawrence, in Norfolk, a Lincoln artifact. In Norfolk, Scoville asks Ryans to quitclaim their property so he can sell it to satisfy debts.
  10 Documents 733-744, 1860
        George's 7th Infantry is in New Mexico. John advises against the Ryan Company signing the quitclaim.
  11 Documents 745-763, 1860-1861
        In the months following Lincoln's election John, Mathew, E. Grove Lawrence and other friends soberly discuss the impending war. Norfolk is in depression and the mill struggles on part time. Charley is failing mentally. In New Mexico and Arizona, George's regiment searches for Navajos. Southern comrades resign from the Army.
  12 Documents 768-805, 1861
        John and Johanna have a son, who dies within a month. John, assisted by John A., runs the post office and also starts a farm. Mat applies for a War Department warrant to be a sutler for a volunteer regiment, the 35th Illinois. John corresponds with Gustavus A. Smith, a Decatur friend who commands the regiment. After training outside St. Louis, the regiment, with Mat sutlering, heads for southwestern Missouri. Brother Frank also joins him. E. Grove Lawrence and his wife Jerusha lose a daughter, Tootie in a riding accident just before leaving on a trip to Illinois. George is promoted to first lieutenant and is about to be assigned to a new regiment when his 7th Infantry regiment surrenders to Confederates at San Augustine Springs, New Mexico. George is paroled and returns across the Plains with his regiment. Arriving at Jefferson Barracks, he tries to connect with Mat. In Norfolk, the mill burns shortly before Scoville brings foreclosure proceedings against the Ryan Company, including Mathew's company-owned house. It is discovered that Scoville hired an arsonist to set the fire, but there is no prosecution. His foreclosure is granted. Charley loses his job in Great Barrington. Thomas Grey serves in Maryland and Arlington.
  13 Documents 806-834, 1861-1862
        Mat travels back and forth between his unit and St. Louis. He prospers as the 35th Illinois moves through southwestern Missouri into northwest Arkansas. Mat is with them at the time of the Battle of Pea Ridge. Back home, John helps in arranging financing for Mat's inventory. Mat buys a pony and sends it home for his younger brothers. George's company is assigned to serve its parole at Madison Barracks on the St. Lawrence River in New York. George quarrels with the commander of a volunteer regiment also stationed there. In Norfolk, Mathew worries about losing his home. Edward E. Ryan leaves Worcester to take up farming near Boston.
  14 Documents 835-836, 1862
        Commissary and Quartermaster Records from George Ryan At Madison Barracks.
  15 Documents 837-867, 1862
        Decatur boys are involved in the Battle of Shiloh. The 35th Illinois is transferred to Corinth, Mississippi. Mat and Frank follow. Frank focuses on the sutlering and Mat gets into buying cotton. Mat sells cotton in Cincinnati, then visits home in Decatur where he buys a 180-acre farm. Frank follows the regiment to its new base in Nashville. Mat visits Mepham's in St. Louis. In attempting to return to Nashville, Mat is blocked at Cincinnati by Bragg's invasion of Kentucky and instead goes to Louisville. George visits home, goes to Washington to request exchange and returns to his company, now at Fort Niagara. In September, the opposing forces effect a general prisoner exchange. In Norfolk, Charley has a drinking problem that gets worse. John and Mathew discuss a plan to buy a small home for Charley's family.
  16 Documents 868-881, 1862
        Mat goes to St. Louis on a buying trip, then returns to Louisville. Frank joins him there as the 35th Illinois pulls back to help fight off Bragg's invasion. After Bragg retreats, Mat and Frank return to Nashville. Lack of employees impedes Mat's business. Mat thinks seriously of returning to Illinois and getting into business there. John attempts to see Illinois governor Yates about getting George an appointment to command an Illinois regiment. Many Decatur boys join a new regiment, the 116th Illinois. George joins the Army of the Potomac at McClellan's headquarters in Pleasant Valley, Virginia.
  17 Documents 882-902, 1862-1863
        John corresponds with Mat and Frank. John's letters give insight into the home front. Mat leaves to resupply, then becomes stranded in Louisville. The 35th Illinois fights at Murfreesboro. Gustavus A. Smith becomes a general. The 116th Illinois goes to Vicksburg. John acquires more farmland. George is division adjutant for George Sykes at Chancellorsville.
Box Folder
3 1 Documents 903-939, 1863
        Mat and Frank give up sutlering and return home. Mat buys town property. Going to St. Louis, Mat makes a business deal with Mepham that will take him to New Orleans, but breaks a leg just before departing. Frank begins school in St. Louis. John encourages a young soldier in the 116th Illinois at Vicksburg. The 35th Illinois is devastated at Chickamauga. George is at Gettysburg. Following, the 140th New York Infantry, out of Rochester, which lost its commander Patrick O'Rorke at Little Round Top, requests George take command. He takes leave from the regular Army. George's new regiment is involved at Bristoe Station, the Rapidan River and Mine Run. Ill, he requests leave to visit home. Thomas Grey is at Fort McHenry, where he is visited by the younger John Brady.
  2 Documents 940-966, 1863-1864
        George visits home in December. He returns to his regiment at Warrenton Junction. Mat and Frank are involved in a train wreck returning to St. Louis from Christmas at home. Mat returns to Nashville, and looks into buying a wholesale business. Frank quits school. Both return to Decatur, where Mat leases his farm, then leave together for Nashville. He writes to his little sister Maggie, describing Nashville. George Pease marries. Mathew tells that things are looking up in Norfolk, but sadly reports than his daughter Ellen died. After increasing dementia, Charley dies, but his family is now comfortable. Edward E. Ryan marries. In the spring, as Grant begins his drive on Richmond, the 140th New York is pummeled at the Wilderness. George, unhurt at the Wilderness, is killed the next morning leading a charge at Spotsylvania Court House. Frank is sent to Washington to investigate, and writes describing how George died.
  3 Documents 967-1018, 1864-1866
        George's remains are retrieved from behind Confederate lines and taken to Rochester for a funeral. His belongings are sent home. Family and friends send condolences. Frank returns to Mat in Nashville. Business is slow when Sherman suspends shipments into Nashville, and eliminates sutlers during his "March to the Sea." In time, business resumes. Mat sells the wholesale business and he and Frank get into buying and selling cotton. Brother John A. visits Nashville. Letters home from Mat and John A. to Maggie give vivid descriptions of Nashville at the time. On visits home, Mat buys more property and opens a store. The Lawrences visit Pana and Decatur from Norfolk, bringing daughter Nancy. One of their sons is killed in Montana. Jim goes to school in St. Louis. John is reappointed postmaster in the Johnson administration.
  4 Documents 1019-1043, 1866-1874
        Correspondence tails off after the war. Mat marries Nancy Lawrence and they live in St. Louis. They have their first child, Augusta. John puts Decatur property up for sale and moves to St. Louis with his family. Mathew updates on Norfolk happenings after the war, including the death of his son Willy. The mill is gone, but Mathew and family still run the store. The Connecticut and Western Railroad is being built through Norfolk. Mat owns a lumber mill and farm operation in Alexander County, Illinois. He employs brother John A., John M., a son of Mathew's, and Nat Lawrence, son a E. Grove Lawrence. Nat Lawrence later buys his own lumber mill in Higginsville, Missouri.
  5 Documents 1045-1069, 1875-1877
        John and Johanna and their family are now in St. Louis. John is active in civic life and politics. After losing a race for the Missouri House of Representatives in 1874, he is appointed to fill a vacancy in 1876 and is elected later that year. To his annoyance, he is besieged by persons requesting government jobs. He hopes to obtain the St. Louis postmastership for himself if Democrats win contested 1876 election. Frank has a job as Land Commissioner. Mat's Empire lumber mill thrives to where the company operates its own river barge. Mat and Nancy add George, Boomer and Alice to their family. In Norfolk, Mathew's health declines. His son Charles M. is active in Connecticut politics, being elected to the legislature twice.
  6 Documents 1070-1092, 1877-1879
        Mat declines to get into the lead smelting business. The lumber mill declines in production, sales and work quality. Mat and Nancy have a son, Matt. In Norfolk, Mathew and son Charles M. both have serious health problems, but then get better. They still operate the store. Edward E. Ryan dies in Massachusetts.
  7 Documents 1093-1123, 1880-1898
        Mathew's wife Anna passes in 1880. Later that year, Mathew and son Charles M. die within 8 days of each other. John's son John A. dies in 1881. John himself dies in 1886. Son Tom follows in 1887. Another son, Hiram, finds himself settling Charles M.'s and the Lawrence families' estates. The mill business is no longer mentioned, but Mat speculates in western silver mining in the late 1890s. His daughter Augusta marries. Correspondence during this period is mostly saved by Nancy Lawrence Ryan. Much of it comes from Hiram, and contains family and Norfolk news.
  8 Documents 1125-1177, 1898-1925
        Hiram Lawrence continues in his efforts to settle the Lawrence estates. The task is difficult and results in family unhappiness. Johanna Ryan dies in 1907. In 1911 and 1912, a law firm hired by the government locates George Ryan's family in order to provide them with a war benefit. In 1914 and 1918, articles from a Rochester newspaper describe how a unit of George's veterans traveled to Decatur to take George's body back to Rochester where it is now buried. Mat Ryan dies in 1916. Ben dies in 1918. Ally dies in 1920. After 1922, Nancy receives frequent letters from her sister, Augusta Lawrence, telling of family and friends in Connecticut. Jim Ryan dies in 1925.
  9 Documents 1178-1199, 1926-1946
        Frank Ryan and Nat Lawrence die in 1926. Augusta Lawrence passes in 1927. Nancy Lawrence Ryan follows in 1928. Miscellaneous correspondence during this period tells of family happenings. Two letters in the 1940s are written by George Cable, a grandson of Mat and Nancy, who is in the Army. Maggie Ryan, John and Johanna's last remaining child, dies in 1946 at the age of 90.
  10 Document 1200, 1951
        Contains "The Lawrence Family," a booklet written by August Ryan Goebel, the eldest child of Mat and Nancy Lawrence Ryan. Also included in this file are letters received from 10 living members of the Lawrence family.
  11 St. Louis Republican Newspapers, 1881
        Newspaper articles written about the Ryan family in St. Louis
                       
Series 2: Oversize Family Documents, 1853-1903 (1 Box)
Contains oversize family documents, as well as forms and old prints saved through the years.
Box Folder
4 1 Document 1124, 1903
        Diploma from St. Louis Central High School for Hal Lawrence Ryan
  2 Document 320, 1853
        Map of Norfolk, Connecticut
  3 Document 785, 1861
        Photostat of Certificate of Appointment, signed by Abraham Lincoln, of George Ryan as first lieutenant in the 7th Infantry Regiment.
  4 Document 914, 1863
        Certificate of Appointment, signed by New York governor Horatio Seymour, of George Ryan as colonel of 140th New York Infantry Regiment.
  5 Document 1005, 1865
        Certificate of Reappointment of John Ryan as Postmaster of Decatur, Illinois, signed by Andrew Johnson.
  6 Document 1031, 1870
        Resolution letter from veterans of the 140th New York Infantry Regiment requesting George Ryan's remains be removed to Rochester, New York.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Chronological Family Correspondence, 1803-1951, 1995

Series 2: Oversize Family Documents, 1853-1903

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