January 11, 2015 – Introduction to the Diary of Frances M. Keating

Over the last 10 years I have dedicated many hours to transcribing diaries of my grandparents, great grandparents, and grandaunts and gr grandaunts.  Some are very long but I want to share this diary because I believe in has impacted me in so many ways.  It gives you a picture of a young woman who is losing every thing she cares about and how she handles it.  Frances was my Grandmother. She did not meet my Grandfather until her parents and sisters were all dead from TB. They had actually met when he first went to register for Queens University but it was only for her and her friends to give him directions since he had taken a wrong turn. After he settled into University they met again and as they say “the rest is history” They married, had eight children, twenty six grandchildren, and numerous gr and gr gr grandchildren.  We feel so fortunate to have had these two people in our lives.  Frances never would talk to her children about her family, it was too painful. So we know little about her at that time and finding this diary has opened up her world to us. Tomorrow I will start posting section of the diary, this is just the intro.

Prelude Notes to Diary of Frances M. Keating 1899 – 1902

1899 was a significant year in the life of Frances M. Keating. She was born Jan 1877 and at 22 was a young teacher. Her mother had died from TB in 1892 and left her husband with a son and three daughters. Frances was the youngest daughter. In January of 1899 she went to Springtown Ontario to teach. During that semester of teaching her sister Mary (March 24, 1899) and Father Patrick (May 23, 1899) died from TB prompting her to make two trips home to Kingston. They are recorded in this diary. The diary also shows her strong connections to the O’Neill family of Gananoque as Ag O’Neill was her best friend and that friendship continued her entire life.

The following description of Springtown was found on a site documenting deserted towns:

“Springtown which originally went by the name of Bagot was a small town on the Madawaska River. It provided rest for travellers along the river. It began in 1848 when John Holliday opened the first post office. The village grew to include a blacksmith shop run by Frank Dowlan, the Madawaska Hotel operated by Joseph McCrae, a general store and post office operated by P. Kennedy and John McGregor’s sawmill.”

“Springtown was linked to Calabogie in the west and Burnstown in the east by a trail which followed the shore of the river.”

“Like many other towns, Springtown’s demise began with the arrival of the railway. When the Kingston and Pembroke Railway was built through Calabogie and travel along the road began to dwindle.”

“Springtown was hit by Scarlet Fever somewhere around 1915, wiping out many of the residents.”

“The Madawaska River was dammed for hydro electricity generation, which flooded the rapid and part of the original townsite. {This information is disputed by Irene Robillard in her book about Springtown. Her research shows that the town deteriorated due to the railroad coming to Calabogie and reducing traffic through the area}”

In researching the people mentioned in this diary I have contacted two women who have written books about the area. Carol McCuaig provided me with the following information:

“The John Halliday family (Presyterian) usually boarded the teacher at the turn of the century. The Ryans, Morans, McNeeleys, Reddys and Kennedys were old Bagot RC families. The Fosters were French-Canadian, called Facette until they anglicized their name. The McCreas were the founding family of Springtown, and pioneer Edward Sr. was one of the sponsors when St. Gabriel’s was built. The Armands were from Arnprior. Ethel must have been related to Teresa Armand who married Joseph McCrea. Ethel McCrea was their daughter as was Tece that Frances mentions. (Teresa Carlotta McCrea) Ethel McCrea would have been 13 when Frances taught there and Tece 11. Miss French was a Renfrew girl who taught at Springtown prior to Frances. The Eastons were Renfew people.”

“Edward McCrea was married to Bridget Ryan. He was a stonemason from Springtown, County Fermanagh, Ireland, who became a well known lumberman here. He kept a tavern at Springtown which is now Still Point House of Prayer. Several siblings also settled in the district, as did their cousin Gerard McCrea, a Protestant. Edward’s son Edward Jr. married Elizabeth McCrea, daughter of Gerard. They, the couple, were second cousins.”

Carol has written a soon to be published Memory Book about St. Gabriel’s Church where Frances attended Mass. She was very responsive to my request for information and I shared Frances’ diary with her.

In my own research on Ancestry.com I found out that the baby born on May 3 to the Hallidays was James Harold son of James E. Halliday and Robina Mather Halliday. I also found out that he married Mary Cardiff on Oct 12, 1926. And it would appear that he had become an engineer and he and his bride lived in Bath NY in 1926.

As for the Kingston/Gananoque references I know that Ag is Agnes O’Neill and that Ag’s mother was a Shiels/Shields and her father Lawrence O’Neil came from Wexford, Ireland. That is very near to Avoca/Meeting of the Waters where Frances mother came from and they may have been cousins. My mother always referred to Ag as Aunt Ag LaQue. Ag married Wilfred LaQue of Gananoque who was a bookkeeper. They had two children, Mary and …… Wilfred died when the children were young. Ag’s mother Sarah Shields O’Neil died in 1896 from consumption so Agnes and Frances had endured the loss of their mothers together.

Frances sister Jane aka Jen died July 18, 1903 at age 28 from consumption of over two years duration. She was living at home with Frances and their Aunt Jane aka Jen O’Neil. They lived at 148 Rideau St. This may explain the last word at the end of this diary. Her brother was Jim Keating who married Mary Campion in 1901. He had been boarding with Mary’s mother and family in 1901 census and it states he was a time keeper. He also appears in the 1901 census in the family home.

Uncle Martin is Martin Meagher who was married to Frances’ Aunt Kate O’Neil.

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