Tuesday, June 18, 2013

63. John and Esther O'Neill (Chapter One)

[The following passage is from my book, "The Hugh O'Neill Family: From County Carlow To Ohio," published in 2005.]

The O’Neill Book
Chapter One: The Story of John and Esther O’Neill

            One family of O’Neills, at least, and there may have been several, settled just outside the city of Dublin. They may have constituted a part of that “wild, barbarian horde” which so offended the finer sensibilities of that proud English lord [Clarendon].
            A decade after the visit of Lord Clarendon to Dublin [1686], a son was born to a family of O’Neills near Dublin. Little is known of this Hugh who was born in 1696. We feel safe in saying that he married and raised a large family; for such was the custom of the Irish of that day, and more especially so of the O’Neills.
            This Hugh had a son born to him in 1729, and he named the child “John.” We would guess he was named for his grandfather. This last statement is somewhat speculative; but to make it seem probable, I wish to notice a peculiarity that ran through the family for several generations: I have called it the “HUGH-JOHN” line of O’Neills. This evidently started with the Earl of Tyrone, whom we think, must have been the original Hugh. For a period of eighty years we have not record, but in 1696 a Hugh was born. In 1729 a son of Hugh was named John; in 1773 a son of this John was named Hugh, and at New Town, Ireland, in 1797, a son was born to this last named Hugh, who was named John. This John, in turn, had a son Hugh, born in Summerfield, Ohio, in 1830, and this Hugh had a son named John Henry, for several years a physician at Morgan City, La. Dr. John H. O’Neill had two sons but no Hugh. It seems almost a pity that he had not named one of them Hugh.
            This Hugh, born in the year 1696, of unknown parentage, died probably in the home of his son John, at the remarkable age of 94 years. He died in 1790.
            This John, son of Hugh O’Neill, was born near Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1729.  Although descended from the “Savage Old Irish,” accounted too lazy to work, or from the “Wild Barbarians” that English history speaks of, yet this John O’Neill was a remarkable man in many respects. He was a fine type of the Irish gentleman of the Old School, an ancestor of whom any member of the family may justly feed proud. He was the original owner of the old Bible that came across the Sea in 1806…From the fact that he owned a Protestant Bible, at all, is sufficient evidence that he was not longer a Catholic.
            …his “Confession of Faith”…reads so much like the tenets of the Methodist Church that he surely must have been a disciple of the celebrated John Wesley. To make our surmises seen the more probable, we wish to notice that Wesley began preaching in Dublin in 1746, at which time John O’Neill was seventeen, a very susceptible age. Many have wondered why this branch of the family are not Catholics, as most other O’Neills are. The reason is simple: John O’Neill renounced Catholicism and joined the Methodist Church under the preaching of the Wesleys.
            Now the third and last inference we wish to make touching the old Bible is this: Its owner was a man of some educational advantages; otherwise he would never have cared to own a Bible. A book of any sort would be worth but little to a man that could not read. From the records and other writings we discern the touch of the hand of a scholar. It is depicted in his diction, and correct orthography, and in his specimens of penmanship that adorn almost every available space on the blank pages of that sacred old book.
            This John was united in marriage with Esther Ashmore on the second day of June, 1754.
I contacted Dr. Raymond Refausse of the Church of Ireland Church Body Library in Dublin and he stated that no parish registers for Old Leighlin exist prior to 1791, so we may never be able to verify this marriage.
To this union ten children were born, as follows—
                        Hugh               1A
                        James              1B
                        Catherine        1C      
                        John                1D
                        John(2nd)         1E
                        Morgan           1F
                        Luke                1G
                        Hugh(2nd)        1H
                        George                        1I
                        William            1J
            [Code letters following names are my additions.]       

            Of the seven living sons of John and Esther, but little is known, except of HUGH, who is in the ancestral line leading to our own branch of the family. This Hugh received an education that might have been considered liberal for Ireland at that time.
            Had we the time and the ability and the data sufficient to trace the genealogy of the other six sons, it would not be prudent, for it would be of but little interest to the descendents of John and Anne O’Neill here in America.
            Esther, wife of this John, died in December, 1803, after a married life of forty-nine years and six months. A few days after the death of Esther, Grandmother Ashmore, Esther’s mother, died, having reached the age of ninety years. In November of the year 1804, John died also, aged seventy-five years.

            The above passage by G. W. O’Neill in 1937 makes many statements about the early Irish O’Neill line, but nowhere can we find the documentation that G.W. used to create this book.
            Hugh and Deborah O’Neill must have left Ireland immediately after the death of his father John, and that event may have precipitated their immigration.

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