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A Story of the Doran Family Migration to Illinois as told by Willmina Doran Monier

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A Story of the Doran Family Migration to Illinois
as told by
Willmina Doran Monier

I was born at Hartt’s Mills, now called Fredericton Junction, New Brunswick, Canada, July 5, 1841 and lived there until I was about 8 years old.  My recollections of New Brunswick are remote, but I do remember when the first steamboat came up the St. John River.  As there were not radios or telephones and not even daily, weekly, or monthly newspapers in that section, no one knew it was coming, and many people were frightened at the great noise it made.  Being so far north the winter season is very long.  Snow falls in October and lasts until April.

In 1847 my father went to Boston, Massachusetts to see his brothers and mother who had recently arrived in the United States from England.  Liking the USA he decided to move his family down there.  However, I do not remember the trip but know we went via boat on the Atlantic Ocean.

For 18 months we lived in a house at Brookline, a suburb of Boston.  The name of the owner of this place was Howe and later he patented a sewing machine.  Mr. Howe sold this place to the Fishers and in that way, my father became acquainted with Jabez Fisher, who persuaded him that the Illinois farming country would be a good place for us.  As I remember it, we started on a very slow train that brought us as far as Buffalo, where we boarded a boat for Chicago.  I remember very well that as we were about to go aboard a great wind storm came up and father decided not to take his family in such a storm but wait for the next boat.  While we were in a kind of station a man came to take his mother, an old Irish woman, on the boat and she said, “Oh no Pat,  I don’t want to go in this wind storm.”  Then he said, “Ah, divil a puff is there comin’ out of the hivens.”

We came via boat from Buffalo to Chicago and there changed to a canal boat for LaSalle.  The canal boat was drawn by a horse, and my brothers would go ashore and could go as fast as the boat and would drop from a bridge to the boat.  At LaSalle we took a steamboat, The Americus, for Lacon and arrived there October 31, 1850.  The water was very low and they were afraid to travel by night.

At Lacon we moved into a two roomed brick house and you know it was rather crowded with my father and mother, my Aunt Mina, for whom I was named, my grandmother and 10 of us children.  However, work was plentiful then.  Lacon was a busy place and all who were able soon had employment.  My younger sister, my twin brothers and myself were the only ones too young to work.  We were all delighted with the country and especially the climate.  That winter was unusually mild as the river only froze that it kept boats from running for two weeks.  It was a great change from New Brunswick and we thought we were in paradise.

March 1st we moved to Mr. Fisher’s farm, known as “Oak Glade”, where Halsey Monier now lives.  We live there four years, then we moved to a farm 1 ½ miles west where John Hastings lives.  When we moved to “Oak Glade” there were only two homes between ours and Camp Grove.  There were no fences and no roads.  Mr. Frank Drake plowed a furrow from the southwest corner of what is now the John Monier farm following the ridge northwesterly to Camp Grove.  This served as a guide to travelers.  No one had thought of the numbers we now see on the land roads, nor hard roads either.

There was only one house in Sparland and no railroad when we came to Illinois.  It was no uncommon sight to see a herd of deer and I once had a young one for a pet.  Wild geese and ducks and prairie chickens were abundant, and wolves as plentiful as dogs are now.

I married William Monier Christmas Day, 1860.

This life story of Willmina Doran Monier was written by Anna and Alice Monier as told to them by their mother. Alice Monier read it at a family reunion held July 4th and 5th at the Ed and Clara Monier home, Princeton, IL, I would guess in 1925 or 1926. Willmina Monier Hogg has the pencil written copy that this was copied from. The parents of this family were James and Rebecca Maxwell Doran. Both were born in North Ireland, both had moved to the Isle of Man for a short while, and then to New Brunswick where they were married.

Robert W. Monier


Written by Michael S. Doran

February 18, 2011 at 9:35 am

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