The Loonan Family in America

by MaeBell (Loonan) McManus

The first knowledge my (your) Great Grandparents had of Iowa was when sometime in 1840 (1851). (Your) Great-Grandmother (Catherine Glenny) at the age of 11 years, left her home in Ireland coming in a sailing vessel by way of New Orleans. Thence up the Mississippi to near Dubuque where she went to live with the family who sent for her.

She lived with them for five years when an uncle from Rock ford, Ill. came for her and took her home with him where she lived until she married my (your) Great-Grandfather (Thomas Loonan), who also came from Ireland In 1840. He was a husky youth of 18 years and immediately found farm work in the Rock ford community.

Here in 1858 my (your) Great-Grandparents were married, still working for more prosperous farmers. The last two years they were tenant farmers before coming to Iowa.

In the autumn of 1862 four husky young men came to Black Hank County to buy land and establish homes for themselves. Three of them married and one a bachelor They were Thomas Loonan (my (your) Great-Grandfather), James Hearst, Charles Dane and James McDowell. They all came with one wagon and one team of horses, leaving the remainder of the horses for the women to care for.

They bought-their farms, built little houses and did their fall plowing with borrowed horses. Then all went back to their homes and spent the winter. In the spring they planted their crops, red for them early and then left for their new homes in Black Hawk County, In August 1863 (1864), with horses and covered wagons as their means of transportation.

In the wagon was my Great-Grandfather Loonan, wife, and three boys. (James, Frank and Hubert. In another, James Hearst, wife and two girls. Another, Charles Dane, wife, had three children, and James McDowell by himself as he was the bachelor of the outfit. Each had a team of horses, an extra horse, two cows and some young cattle.

The way was long and tedious and hard, but all stayed well, not even losing their appetites. Tho the children were very small, they frequently drove the cattle, as much for exercise as for the good they did the animals.

During the day they drove one following the other, but at night each family cooked and ate by themselves, then a jolly time would be had around a common campfire. Then each family going to their own wagons for the night. The men often slept under the wagons for protection; as well as for room.

About two, weeks were taken getting as far as Dubuque where all were brought over the Mississippi on the ferry, one wagon at a time, the stock constituting the last load.

Now, even the women forgot the leaving behind of relatives and friends and looked joyfully to the West, where they all knew extremely modest homes & hardships were awaiting them.

Each day was much like the day before, some of them good and some stormy. Often the mud was so deep they could scarcely get through and other times it was hot and dusty, but still they plodded on, spurred by the hope of homes and freedom in the Golden West.

After about six weeks of the ups and downs of travel by wagon, the entire caravan reached Waterloo where they were joined by a family from Wisconsin. They were now nearing the location of their farms. The last night as one camp, they had a particulary joyous time. The place of their camping was where Campbell Avenue joins East (West) 4th Street. Joy reigned in every heart. Even the children seemed to take on the joyousness that their long, tiresome journey was nearly over.

In the morning each man loaded his wagon to go in various directions to their own homes. The Charles Dane home was south of Waterloo somewhere near where the town of Washburn now stands. The Hearst farm was about 3 miles west of Cedar Falls, and has always been known as the Hearst Farm. The Loonans, McDowell and the family from Wisconsin were to go south to their pieces of land. The Loonan's farm has always been called The Loonan Homestead and was eight miles from Waterloo, straight across the prairie. The McDowell farm was one mile nearer to Waterloo (and is now owned by Reuben Rath). The Wisconsin family was one mile farther south.

Now they all started on the last stretch of the journey, making a track on the unbroken prairie as they went. Each family reached their new homes by early evening and fixed places for the night for both man and beast.

The practice of visiting each other frequently was continued for years until other duties took their time and attention.

The remainder of the fall of 1863 (1864) was taken up with various activities that came to them. They dug their wells deeper, built better barns for their horses and cattle. But perhaps, the biggest job of all was cutting the wood for the winter fuel and making the houses as comfortable as possible for the winter.

The bachelor did not stay a bachelor many years, but married and raised a splendid family. Children were born into the other families who grew to manhood and womanhood, an honor to their pioneer parents.

Of the children so small when they moved here, three are still living. One man in Hudson (James Loonan), one in Sioux Fa11s, S D (Hubert Loonan), and a woman in Cedar, Falls (Hearst, who never married). All of the remainder of the caravan lived full and useful lives in a new community and have gone to their Eternal Reward.

( I think Aunt Mae was writing this for her step-grandson, Dean McManus, She surely means to say your great grandparents instead of my great-grandparents, for it was her parents she is speaking of. Some of the dates do not aggree with other documents. 1900 Census records indicate both Thomas Loonan and Catherine Glenny immigrated to U S in 1851, coming to Black Hawk Co in 1864. Thomas was born April 1832 and Catherine Feb 1839. I think they camped the last night of their journey at Campbell Ave and West 4th Street. This was probably written in the 1930's.)
Jean Taylor