Leary Family Ancestoral Legend
Following Scott's prompt for the week I wanted to share some family lore:
Lillian (Thomas) Leary (born 21 October 1900) began this family legend. I heard the story repeatedly, at her knee, over peanut butter crackers, and surrounded by her many rescued cats. Lillian was married to Daniel Torbert Leary (born 5 January 1900), together they brought forth seven children and countless descendents. What's so cool about this legend? What makes it worthy of sharing? Why did I research it with such pride?
Grandmom (Lillian) told me that it was our Great-Uncle's wife that lived in Chicago and burned down the town when her cow kicked the lantern over. I was four when I first heard the story and was singing the nursery rhyme of "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" when Grandmom gave me a corrective glance and let me know that this song was inappropriate.
Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern and a fire began in the barn, eventually doing millions of dollars of damage to the city of Chicago. Grandmom insisted it wasn't really the cow, but some neighborhood boys sneaking a cigarette in the barn. She felt it "crazy" that the school would teach us such a nursery rhyme. Grandmom told me that the family was forced to drop the "O" from O'Leary and run from masses of angry individuals. They settled in Burner Mountain, West Virginia for a few years. Finally ending up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
At the tender age of 25 I moved to West Michigan, where I learned the rural community was founded on logging businesses. The future of Chicago was built by many logs from Oceana County, Michigan.
When I attended college, at age 29, I wanted to write an essay on my family history, how interesting would it be to write about the peril of the city and my family would have some sort of far reaching good qualities?
I researched internet, insurance claims, family documents and books on the subject only to learn that dear old Grandmom was a bit of a story spinner. The Leary's always were Leary's, even before the Great Chicago Fire. The family originated in Canada, then to Crawford County, Pennsylvania, then Burner Mountain, West Virginia and finally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Grandmom passed away ten years before I did the research or wrote the paper, but it was an eye opener. She may have "lied" but she sure did get me interested in history, even long after her death.