Tuesday, 4 August 2009
10: Comerford of Co Wexford and Minooka, Illinois
A Comerford family with origins in Co Wexford has been intimately involved in the founding and later history of Minooka in Illinois, a town 65 miles outside Chicago. Minooka was originally home to the Potowatomie Indians, who first lived in the surrounding area.
Minooka dates back from 1852 when the Chicago, Rock Island and Peoria Railroads came through the area on the recommendation of surveyor, Ransom Gardner. George Comerford, an Irish immigrant from Co Wexford and railroad surveyor helped bring the railroad to Minooka. Gardner and Comerford bought land in the area for the railroad, and George Comerford became the first agent at the Minooka Depot. He also was instrumental in establishing a post office in 1853 and was its postmaster for nine years.
When Minooka was incorporated in 1869, there were three grocery and liquor stores, a post office, a grain elevator and two churches – Saint Mary’s Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church, both built with support from George Comerford.
PIERCE COMERFORD, of Co Wexford is the immediate, direct ancestor of this branch of the Comerford family that emigrated to the United States in the mid 19th century and settled in Minooka, Illinois. He may have been born ca 1769/1770. He married ... and was the father of:
WILLIAM COMERFORD (ca 1799/1800-1866), of Co Wexford and Grundy County, Illinois. He was born in Co Wexford ca 1799/1800. While still living in Co Wexford, he married ca 1824/1825 Honora (Nancy) Nolan (ca 1802-1854). William and Nancy Comerford emigrated to the United States in 1847, first settling in Rochester County, New York. In 1849, they moved with their entire family to Illinois and bought land in the Aux Sable district of Illinois, where William farmed 560 acres in Grundy County.
Nancy (Nolan) Comerford died on 1 November 1854, aged 52. William Comerford died on 9 or 11 October 1866, aged 66.
William and Nancy Comerford were the parents of five sons and two daughters who were born in Co Wexford:
1, George Comerford (1826-1891), born in Co Wexford and of whom next.
2, Pierce Comerford (1828-1868), born in Co Wexford in January 1828. He emigrated to America with his parents. He married …, daughter of Dennis Dempsey of Co Kildare. Pierce died in January 1868. He was the father of two sons and three daughters:
● 1a, William Comerford (1859-1905), born in Minooka, Grundy County, Illinois, on 15 August 1859. He married Katie, daughter of Patrick Kinney. Katie Comerford was born on 26 July 1860. She was burned to death in her home in March 1905. Her husband died from pneumonia a few days later in Chicago in March 1905, and was buried in Dresden Cemetery. They had an only daughter:
●● 1b, Mary E, born ca 1898, aged seven at the time of her parents’ deaths.
● 2a, Honora.
● 3a, Nicholas Comerford.
● 4a, Mary E.
● 5a, Anna.
4, Charles Comerford (1832-1906), of Brule, Chamberlain County, Dakota, of whom later (see below).
5, Nicholas Comerford (ca 1835/1836-1861), who was born in Co Wexford, ca 1835/1836, and died on 26 September 1861, aged 25.
6, William Comerford (ca 1842-1855) who born in Co Wexford ca 1842, and died on 6 January 1855, aged 12.
The eldest son:
GEORGE COMERFORD (1826-1891), was born in Co Wexford on 3 August 1826. He planned to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1847. He lost parts of his feet in a railroad accident in 1853. On 16 September 1855, he married Catherine Smith (1824-1903), of Buffalo, New York, daughter of Thomas Smith (1805-1861) and Mary Ann (Newsham) Smith (1805-1860) from Co Wexford. Catherine was born near Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, in 1824, and moved to Lockport, New York, with her parents in 1852.
George Comerford was a railroad pioneer in Illinois who is credited with bringing the railroad to Minooka, which came into existence in 1852 when the railroad came through the area. George surveyed the Rockford and Rock Island Railroad, and settled in Minooka, Illinois, where he was rail agent, postmaster and merchant. He was instrumental in establishing the Minooka post office in 1853, and served as its postmaster for nine years. The village of Minooka was incorporated on 27 March 1869.
George Comerford was also involved in building the Chicago, Rock Island and Peoria Line and became the first agent at the Minooka Depot. He built the Comerford Block in Minooka, helped build both the Catholic and Methodist churches, farmed 160 acres, and was President of the Board of Education. He was a Democrat in his politics. He returned to visit his native Co Wexford ca 1882.
George Comerford died on 3 December 1891. His widow Catherine died on 1 August 1903.
George and Catherine Comerford were the parents of two sons and a daughter:
1, Thomas S Comerford (1860-1925), of whom next.
2, Nicholas J Comerford (1862-post 1925), of 601 Western Avenue, Minooka, and Joliet, Illinois. He was born in 1862 in Grundy County, Illinois. He was educated at Notre Dame University, and went into his father’s merchandising business. In 1910, he retired from business and moved with his family to Joliet. He was later identified with the Eagle Furniture Company in North Chicago Street, and was food administrator for Will County. He was still living in 1925. He married Anna Frances Kaffer and they had four sons and three daughters:
● 1a, George Comerford, of Joliet, Illinois. He worked with the Joliet National Bank. In 1919, he was a sergeant in the US army in France.
● 2a John Comerford.
● 3a, Dean Comerford (1898-1921). He was born in Minooka, Illinois, in 1898. He was educated at Joliet Township High School (class of 1916), Dubuque College, Iowa, and Notre Dame University. He died on 1 October 1921 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
● 4a, Thomas Comerford.
● 1a, Helen.
● 2a, Lucile.
● 3a, Mary Agnes (fifth child), born 13 September 1899, died unmarried 21 August 19..
3, Mary, born ca 1870/1871, died on 11 April 1883, aged 12, while a pupil at Saint Mary’s Academy, Notre Dame.
The eldest son of George and Catherine Comerford was:
THOMAS S COMERFORD (1860-1925), farmer and postmaster, of Minooka, Illinois, and 113 D’Arcy Avenue, Joliet, Illinois. He was born on 7 March 1860 in Minooka. He was postmaster at Minooka, and lived there until 1920, when he moved to Joliet. He was educated at Notre Dame University. In 1885, he married Margaret Ellen Coulehan, daughter of Lawrence Coulehan (1820-1882) and Margaret (née Welch), who originally came from Co Offaly, and moved to Grundy County, Illinois. Margaret (Coulehan) Comerford died on 31 December 1910 aged 48; Thomas Comerford died on 20 August 1925, aged 65, and was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Minooka. They had eight children, three sons and five daughters:
1, Mary (Mayme) (1887-1970). Born in 1887, she married Frank Feehan, and they had two children, a son and a daughter: Mary Louise Davis and Tom (Budd) Feehan. Mayme Feehan died in 1970.
2, George A Comerford (1889-1970), born 19 December 1889, died 15 June 1970. He married Katherine J Sweeney (1895-1972). They are buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Minooka. They had two children, a son and a daughter:
● 1a, Edward Comerford, died in Japan in 1947.
● 2a, Mary (Yost).
3, Frances (Fran) (1892-1974), died unmarried.
4, Margaret (1894-1983), married John J (Jack) Henneberry (1882-1968), rancher and businessman, and they were the parents of one daughter, Jane (Vidmar).
5, Lawrence Comerford, born 1897, died at the age of eight months.
6, Florence (1898-1984), married Tom Feeley.
7, Clare (1900-2002). She was born 25 January 1900 in Minooka, Illinois. She married John Francis Baskerville (1899-1983) of Joliet, Will Illinois. She died 10 February 2002. They had three children: Bobby Baskerville, John Lee Baskerville and Mary Margaret (Yahn).
8, Joseph T Comerford (1901-1979), of whom next.
The third son and youngest child of Thomas S Comerford was:
JOSEPH T COMERFORD (1901-1979) He was born in 1901 and died in 1979. In 1941, he married Elizabeth Donahue (1904-1968). They are buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Minooka. They were the parents of two sons:
1, Joseph Thomas Comerford (1943- ). He was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1943. In 1969, he married Sandra Clark, and they were the parents of two sons. In 1983, he married Joyce McAuley, and they were the parents of three children.
2, (Revd) John Jay Comerford, OCarm (1948- ). He was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1948. He is a Carmelite friar and was ordained priest at Whitefriars Hall, Washington DC, in 1977.
The third son and fourth child of William and Nancy Comerford (above) was:
CHARLES COMERFORD (1832-1902). He was born in 1832. He married Bridget Neville (1838-1918), who was born in Ireland. They are buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Morris, Grundy County, Illinois, United States. They were the parents of eight children, six daughters and two sons:
1, Mary H Comerford (1859-1923), married on 30 November 1882 Boetious H Sullivan (1859-1910), of Plankinton, South Dakota. He was the son of Eugene and Mary O’Sullivan, immigrants from Kenmare, Co Kerry, who settled in Illinois. He was a prominent attorney and was Surveyor General of South Dakota. A powerful figure in the Republican Party, he was a delegate to many national Republican conventions and was one of the famous “Forty Thieves” who secured General Harrison’s nomination at Minneapolis in 1888. They had a daughter Clare. He died while visiting Chicago. She died in Los Angeles in February 1923, and was buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Chicago.
2, Elizabeth (Lizzie) (ca 1860-1935). She married Fred Dennett. She died on 12 October 1935 at Big Stone Gap, Wise County, Virginia.
3, Anna (1863-1863), lived for one day.
4, Agnes Vincent (1864-1874).
5, Frances C (1866-1883).
6, George William Comerford (1869-1945) of Los Angeles, born 5 November 1866, died 3 November 1945.
7, Fred Comerford (1872-1880) of Los Angeles, born 5 November 1866, died 3 November 1945.
8, Agnes (1876-1880).
© Patrick Comerford 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010,2013, 2019.
Footnotes and references:
 The sources for this chapter are:
Comerford family gravestones, Dresden Cemetery, Aux Sable, Illinois: http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilkendal/Cemeteries/Grundy/Dresden/Dresden.htm (29.8.2006);
Grundy County ILGen Web Project, http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilgrundy/locales/cemdres.html (29.8.2006);
Minooka History: http://www.minooka.com/History/history.htm (10.12.2006);
History of Grundy County, Illinois (Chicago: Munsell Publishing, 1914);
Morris Daily Herald, 31 March 1905;
Phoenix Advertiser, ‘Minooka News,’ 6 August 1903, 30 March 1905;
a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings collected by Nicholas J. Comerford, of Minooka and Joliet, including obituaries and newspaper articles – these have been photocopied and transcribed by Michele Roberts, historian at Three Rivers Public Library, Minooka (http://grundycountyil.org/articles/other/nj01.php, 24.5.2008);
correspondence with John L Baskerville, 16 March 2019, 19 March 2019, 1 April 2019.
Last updated: 25 May 2008, 16 August 2009, 19 November 2010; 14 February 2013; 1 April 2019, 2 April 2019.
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