Walsh County, North Dakota

Donnelly, Bernard Family

BERNARD FAMILY HISTORY: Submitted by Michael Bernard



For a starting point in the discussion I have picked the surnames of my great-grandparents as follows:

 Donnelly

 Wren

 Stickle

 Phelan

 Hollingshead

 Bruere

 Harsin

 Smith

The ancestry includes no notable celebrities or royalty but the stories are rather more diverse and interesting as a result. The history of the family follows classic American settlement courses:  immigration from the Eastern seaboard through the mid-South and into Iowa, and immigration from Ireland, possibly due to the Irish famine, through Quebec, Canada into North Dakota and then Iowa. The examination inspires existential questions as these people are largely forgotten – they came and went and nothing of particular note is left, regardless of their seemingly voracious ambition and hard work.  When their spouses died, they remarried and carried on. When famines came, they moved to better places. They moved and moved and came West and broke land and built houses and businesses and had families. And now they are gone.

The families were all pioneers and were often on the very frontier of the United States expansion. They were aggressive and smart people – with very few indications of social maladjustment or other issues. This document was prepared to assemble some memory of them in one spot and to provide for recollection for various people who are still alive as to family understanding or folklore that has been passed down verbally. What has been documented is consistent with family lore and so confirms rather that contradicts the verbal traditions. There were notable statistics from the investigation.



The oldest male was Elmer Bruere, who died in 1911 at the age of 109. The oldest female was Estelle Desautel who died at the age of 116 in 1904 (related to the Donelly’s by marriage). The only celebrity, Wyatt Earp, was fortunately only related by marriage, and very distantly. The most common male name was John and the female Mary. Asa and Susan Bruere had the longest marriage at 66 years. George and Sarah Stickle had the most children at 19, although there were a number of pioneer families who had more than 10 children. Historic events have of course affected family history. The family includes a Revolutionary War veteran, a veteran of the War of 1812, five Civil War veterans (two dead), and one who served in World War I.

The Irish Famine time of 1845 to 1849 also encouraged immigration from Ireland into Canada, and the Great Depression dispersed an established family from North Dakota to Iowa. The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up millions of acres of free land to pioneers. Any adult who had never taken up arms against the Federal government of the United States could apply. Women and immigrants who had applied for citizenship were eligible. Many of the ancestors included in this discussion obtained land via this mechanism or purchased cheap land shortly after it had been homesteaded. The Homestead Act merely codified earlier mechanism of squatting and establishing legal ownership thereby and it is certain much of the land settled earlier in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana was obtained via squatting – an economic war against the aristocracy ultimately won by the people.



The oldest couple in this lineage was John and Elizabeth Donnelly, identified as coming from John Donnelly was born in Ireland in 1796, and died in Ontario, Canada in 1872. His occupation on his death certificate was listed as ‘Weaver.’ He was married to an Irish woman named Elizabeth Gorman, born in Ireland in 1790, sometime prior to 1816, when their first child, Rebecca Donnelly, was born. Rebecca died in Canada in 1871 of unknown causes Their second child, Bernard Donnelly, was born on May 7, 1821, and a daughter named Margaret, who was born in 1831 in Ireland. The family immigrated to Canada but the date of immigration of the family or any detail beyond what has been presented.

Bernard Donnelly married an Acadian woman named Matilda Corbiere in Quebec in 1846 and started a family that ultimately included 12 children (two died in childbirth). The Acadians are the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries, many of whom are also descended from the Indigenous peoples of the region. Matilda Corbiere’s family background dates to grandparents born around 1756. Their family was present in the 1851 Canada Census in Quebec, with his occupation listed as farmer. Others listed with him were Marie Donnelly (age 5), J. B Donnelly (presumably John) (age 3), and Margaret Donnelly (age 2), along with Narcisse Corbiere (age 19), presumably Matilda’s brother. Their religious faith was listed as Roman Catholic.

One of the children, John Donnelly, emigrated to North Dakota in 1870 and settled in Pembina County. Pembina County later was partitioned and part of it became Walsh County. Although some family lore indicates several of the brothers came to North Dakota at the same time in the early 1870s this was unlikely, as Stephen Donnelly was born in 1863 and would only have been ten years old. Stephen was also present in the 1871 Canadian Census with the remainder of the family and John was in the North Dakota Census in 1870 (Pembina County). This area was also referred to as the Red River Valley and was a popular spot for early settlement due to fertile soils.

The Bureau of Land Management maintains records for early periods and the Donnelly’s were listed as homesteading various tracts of land in the Farmington Township – Barney (1888) 160 acres in the area where the Stephen Donnelly farm was later located, John (1884) 320 acres in several tracts, William (1890) 160 acres, and Henry (1884 and 1890) 160 acres. At this time land was free if ‘proved up’ which essentially meant fenced and maintained. How Stephen gained title to Barney’s land is unknown but perhaps it was given to him in 1894 when he married – records of transactions were not available. The entire family is present in Pembina County in the 1880 North Dakota Census – almost certainly that homestead was the portion of Pembina County that was partitioned into Walsh County in 1881. Examination of historic plat maps indicates between Stephen and John Donnelly by 1920 owned over 1,000 acres of farmland in Farmington Township.

Documents indicate they introduced potato farming to the area and built a potato warehouse at Nash, a small hamlet located about 1.5 miles southwest of the farms at a railroad stop. Grain elevators are now located in this area. It is likely the family worked together in their farming operations although this is conjecture based upon concurrent mention in area trade publications. Bundling the land use would result in considerable economies – better leverage in seed purchasing, more efficient crop rotation, and stock grazing and management for instance.

Both Stephen and John Donnelly were documented as involved in farming associations and regarded as innovators at farming technologies and breeding of shorthorn cattle. Records from the early 1900s indicate Stephen purchased a single shorthorn, likely a bull, for $200. That was an enormous amount for the time. The shorthorn breed of cattle originated in the North East of England in the late 18th century. The breed was developed as dual-purpose, suitable for both dairy and beef production; however, certain bloodlines within the breed always emphasized one quality or the other. A large barn with a grain silo on the Stephen Donnelly farm is documented and attached to this document.

The Stephen Donnelly farmhouse is still standing and is the center of a very large modern farming operation. The farmhouse was located near a large stream and the examination of the former Donnelly land indicates it is under cultivation for a variety of crops and does not include stock farming. Soil surveys indicate deep fertile soil confirmed by visual examination. Groundwater is near-surface which would mitigate the variability of rainfall which is common in this area. Annual average precipitation is 18-inches but the near groundwater would wick up by capillary action and allow relatively reliable yields regardless of low precipitation.

Documents indicate Bernard and Matilda lived in a log cabin on John Donnelly’s land. Matilda died in 1889 and Bernard in 1899 – their graves and headstones are located at St. John’s Cemetery in Grafton.

North Dakota is largely only suitable for cattle grazing but this area of North Dakota has good agricultural crop potential. The area remains a profitable area for cold crops such as red wheat, rye, sugar beets, and potatoes. One may reasonably conclude the family made a very good decision in locating in this area and built a very successful business with land-owning that were substantial for the time and in fact for the modern era.

The Stephen and Julia Donnelly children were as follows: Melvin (1897), John (1898), Perry (1899), Steve (1902), and Frank and Marie born as fraternal twins (1904). Census data reported farm hands and unrelated females living with them (likely household help), further evidence of their wealth. During WW I the Donnelly sons of age were all registered for the draft. The US entry into the war was not well-received, volunteers were insufficient, so the draft was implemented and was not well-received by the general population. Melvin Donnelly likely was drafted although there is no evidence one way or another. The WW I service records were all destroyed in a fire in St. Louis so Melvin’s service record is unavailable but we do have documents providing information about his service. He entered as a private and was honorably discharged as a Sargent. Melvin sailed on a steamer called the SS Leviathan which was a rebranded captured German cruise ship and served in the First Motor Corps at the Allied Expeditionary Force headquarters at Chaumont, France.

The Stephen Donnelly family also owned a house in Grand Forks, east of the University of North Dakota (1117 University Avenue) and there were several mentions of their social activities in the 1920s (Grand Forks Herald newspaper) indicating they were not only prominent but interested in being so. Stephen Donnelly lost his farm by foreclosure in the 1930s. Farmers were considered a fertile market for financial institutions at the time and credit arrangements were secured by land. The loss of the family farm in the 1930’s likely was due to the collapse of commodity prices rather than drought conditions. The farm was sold at Sheriff’s auction in 1930 to the Prudential Insurance Company for around $13,000. Oddly, John Donnelly bought two properties at Sheriff’s auction within a year or so of that time – one for around $6,500 and another for $5,000. Stephen also had eight brothers and sisters in the area.

The Stephen Donnelly family followed in the steps of Bernard Donnelly’s family but this time went to the Knoxville Iowa area. Verbal family information indicates Julia had a sister who lived in the area which was the reason for the location. Canadian Census records, however, show all the Phelan siblings except for John died in Canada, so this remains a mystery. Melvin came home for a time (documented in Grand Forks Herald, 1922) but relocated to Santa Monica, California by 1925 and became a prosperous businessman. He married a woman named Mary Nollman who was born in 1897 and also from the Grafton area and was presumably a high school sweetheart. They had three daughters. The family was also mentioned in newspaper articles about social events during the 1960s. Melvin’s daughter, Doris Mae, was a sorority girl at UCLA, according to newspaper accounts, further evidence of a tony lifestyle. He died in 1979 at the age of 83 but no record of his internment or cause of death was located.

John (Jack) Donnelly married Marguerite Stickle and had two children. Margaret Stickle was indicated as living in the house with the family in the US Census of 1940. Jack attended St. Mary’s College in Minnesota for post-secondary education. Family verbal information indicated he worked at Maytag in Newton for a very short time and also worked for the Federal Works Projects Administration (WPA). He maintained a farm west of Knoxville South of the original Wren farms until he died of lung cancer at a hospital in Oskaloosa, Iowa due to smoking in 1961 at the age of 63, and is buried in Knoxville, Iowa. According to verbal information as part of his treatment, he had one lung removed and had radiotherapy sessions at the University Hospital in Iowa City, and stayed at a house on Brown Street while there. Verbal accounts many years ago from a Knoxville man who worked for him at a coal mine on his property were very complimentary about his work ethic and character.

Perry Donnelly was listed as an orderly in a US Census at a psychiatric hospital near Los Angeles, California in 1930. He was a legendary vagabond, alcoholic, and grifter based on verbal testimony from living family members who knew him. He married a woman named Helen DeVries in 1932, by a Catholic Priest according to his marriage license, and had three children. Perry was listed as divorced in the 1940 US Census. More clues as to Perry’s life will likely be obtained when prison records are digitized but unfortunately, they are difficult to locate in mid-2020. Perry married a second time in 1967 to a woman named Ruth Miller at the age of 67. He died in 1980 at the age of 81, remarkable attainment given his lifestyle issues, and is buried in San Luis Obispo, California.

Steve Donnelly married a woman named Olga Streveler and had two children – Betty and Steve. He worked at the Veteran’s Administration in Knoxville and also sold insurance and automobiles. He died of heart problems in 1978 at the age of 76 and is buried in Knoxville, Iowa.

Frank Donnelly married a woman named Phyllis Datin, stayed in Knoxville, and worked at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Verbal family accounts indicate he was a man of notoriously bad temper, especially when drinking. He died of unknown causes (verbally remembered as emphysema) in 1971 at the age of 67 and is buried in Knoxville, Iowa. It is remarkable his heavy drinking did not kill him first. Phyllis was the Marion County auditor for a time (reference 1950 Pella Chronicle).

Marie Donnelly, Frank’s fraternal twin sister, was present in a boarding house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the 1930 US Census. After that, there is no documented record in any US Census although family verbal information indicates she married a man named Carson who was originally from Nebraska and lived in Arkansas for a time. Her death date and internment are unknown. Vague family rumors indicate Marie might have had emotional problems and her disappearance from formal records supports that conclusion.



            Given the time of the Wren immigration (and also the Donnelly immigration about the same time), they were likely driven by the famine caused by potato blight in Ireland. The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1849. The most severely affected areas in the west and south of Ireland, where the Irish language was dominant at the time. During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by about 25%. Ireland remained a net food exporting country during this time, mostly by stock export, a tribute of the tyranny of British rule. Much of the written background on the family comes from an entry in a Marion County history about Michael Wren (James Wren’s son). Three siblings originally had immigrated to the United States (documented in a US Census as 1852 and through Quebec based on family verbal information).

The direct family lineage shows Thomas Wren was born in 1827 in Astee, County Kerry, Ireland – documented by parish birth records. Astee is a very small village located near the sea. His father was also named Thomas and his mother was named Mary Mahoney. Thomas, his brother Michael, and his sister Ellen immigrated to some unknown spot in Indiana, where James married and had a son named Michael in 1854, later formally referred to as M.M. Wren.  US Census records put Thomas Wren’s marriage date to Margaret Conway as 1855 although this is somewhat contradicted by the Iowa Census of 1856 which shows Thomas Wren and Margaret Conway living together in Iowa with her name listed as Conway. That Iowa Census designates Thomas Wren as a laborer. Margaret Conway, who was born in Ireland in 1833, and then immigrated in 1853 according to US Census records, which also referred to her as Maggie at times. The marriage record for the couple indicates they were married in Parke County, Indiana dated May 16, 1856. Parke County is still a rural area located just North of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Their first son, Thomas, was born in Iowa in 1858 and they proceeded to have 11 children in all. Her 11th child, Rose Wren, was born in 1876 when she was 40 years old. US Census records show much of the family living with them well into adulthood. The three Wren all ultimately came to Iowa and settled in the same area – Union Township, Knoxville, Iowa – with Ellen marrying John J. Murphy in St. Louis in 1857. This location puts some mystery in the documents that imply they all immigrated together as Michael and Thomas were indicated to have been in Indiana for a time before arriving directly in Iowa. Perhaps Ellen traveled independently to St. Louis with John J. Murphy or met him there and were married and started a family, ultimately arriving in Iowa because of the family connection The Murphy’s moved to Marion County Iowa around 1858 when their youngest son was born. They had three sons: John J. Jr born 1858, Michael Thomas born in 1861, and Francis Joseph born in 1863.

The Knoxville area was originally ceded by treaty from the Sac and Fox Indians in 1842 and then homesteaded. Records from the Bureau of Land Management provide a land patent to James Clark for the Thomas Wren tract dated 1852. One may surmise Thomas Wren purchased this land from him at a date later than this – somewhere between 1855 and 1858 – which is consistent with the other records, although there is no firm documentation available.

Ellen and John Murphy, who was also from County Kerry, farmed for many years in the same vicinity. She died in 1916 at the age of 96 after a fall, according to her death certificate, and she is buried in Wren Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. By 1875 the Wrens were likely well-established farmers in the area judging by the purchase of railroad stock and land tax valuations published in the Knoxville Journal. The Pella Weekly Visitor also noted in 1881 one of his mares had crossed into an unnamed neighbor’s pasture and was shot as a result.

Thomas Wren died in 1904 of unknown causes at age of 79, and Margaret Wren also died in 1904 of unknown causes at the age of 71. They are buried together in Wren Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. In the 1880 US Census Thomas Wren Jr. was listed as a farmhand living on the family farm. There was no US Census in 1890. In the 1900 US Census Thomas Wren Jr. was identified as being in the Iowa Hospital for Insane in Mt. Pleasant – family testimony indicates he had epilepsy. Warehousing in dreadful conditions was common in that era. Iowa led the country in eugenics practices even into the 1960s and involuntary sterilization was also common. One can only imagine the life that man had. He died there in 1908 at age 50 and was interred in Wren Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa.

The union of the Wren and Stickle families came with the marriage of John Stickle and Margaret Wren in 1902. The couple was married in 1902 in Knoxville, Iowa. Margaret Wren was born the eighth of Thomas Wren Sr.’s and Margaret Wren’s 11 children and she was born in 1874.



The Stickle background is historically deep but thin in detail and dates to Peter Stickle who was born in 1735 in Palatinate, Germany. His date of immigration is unknown but he was married in New Jersey in 1763. Palatinate is a forested region in Southern Germany. The Stickle name might have originally been spelled Steigal, although the documentation on that is vague and Stickle is a German surname. Maiden names of women in the lineage show dominantly German heritage but substantial British also.

One direct ancestor of note is James Stickle, born in New Jersey in 1821. He was drafted into the Union Army in 1863 and served in the 33rd New Jersey Volunteers, fighting in some of the heaviest engagements in the war, including fighting near Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Battle of Atlanta, and Sherman’s march to the sea. An article about the 33rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry is attached to this document and James Stickle’s service record is also appended. James Stickle died in 1910 and is buried in New Jersey.

Horace Stickle (James Stickle’s son) moved to Peoria, Illinois where he married a woman named Agnes Stanley in 1876 and started a family. Agnes Stanley’s parents were both born in Ireland at an unknown location. The family then moved to the Anthony, Kansas area where he was listed on the 1880 Census as a farmer. Anthony was a village Southwest of Wichita, Kansas. A patent obtained from the Bureau of Land Management indicated he purchased 160 acres of land in 1882. He was identified in the 1870 Census in New Jersey but the date of his migration to Illinois and then Kansas is not known beyond the marriage and land dates. Sometime thereafter he moved to Iowa – this date is unknown as he was not present in any US Census until 1900 when he was present in Knoxville, Iowa.

Horace Stickle died in 1936 at the age of 86 and is buried in Wren Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. According to family verbal accounts, Horace did not have an excess of good personality. Horace Stickle had five children, one of whom, Marcus Stickle, was the Chairman of the Marion County Draft Board during WW II which was a prominent position (Pella Chronicle, 1946). Verbal accounts indicate he was accosted by Elton Loynachan, a man of poor character and fortunately a very tangential relative, who claimed he sheltered Catholics from the draft. Elton coincidentally was married to Helen Harsin – a perfect match as to mentality and temperament – and they both died later after extended periods of senility.

The direct ancestor was John Stickle, Horace and Agnes’s son, born in Illinois in 1876. John Stickle married Margaret Wren in 1902 and had two children. The first, Marguerite, was born in 1902. A second child, John, born in 1903, died in infancy. The 1930 US Census showed a Laura Maloney living with them who likely was a servant – evidence of prosperity. Marguerite Stickle contracted polio (known as infant paralysis) in 1910 at age eight according to newspaper accounts – polio by later nomenclature. John Stickle died in 1931 at the age of 54 from complications from gall bladder removal at a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. He lingered several weeks following surgery (death certificate Information) before dying. He was buried in Wren Cemetery in Knoxville, Iowa.

Margaret Stickle died in 1945 of unknown causes at the age of  72 and is also buried next to her husband in Wren Cemetery in Knoxville, Iowa. Pertinent information included his occupation which was stock buyer, and one might surmise that meant livestock. Although a thorough investigation was performed as part of this study, very little was uncovered as to their background.



The oldest record for the Phelan line is Pierce Phelan from Upper Church, in Tipperary, Ireland who was born in 1798 and was married to a woman named Mary Dwyer. One of their sons, Jermiah (Gerald) Phelan, who was born in 1828, immigrated to Quebec, Canada. He married a woman named Bridget Davis in 1854 in Quebec, so clearly he immigrated before that date, likely due to the Irish Famine. No immigration records were located to confirm this, however.

Bridget and Gerald proceeded to have eight children. The fifth child, Julia Anne, was born in 1864 in Quebec. John Phelan, born in Quebec in 1855, immigrated to the Dakota Territories and farmed near Minto, North Dakota. The remainder of the Phelan clan stayed in Canada and records show they died there. This is important information because family verbal accounts were that Julia had a sister in Iowa and that was the reason the family relocated to Iowa during the economic holocaust of the Great Depression.

An account in a county history indicated Julia Anne Phelan was visiting her brother John in Minto and met Stephen Donnelly. Family verbal recollections say they met at a dance. They were married in 1884, which unites the Donnelly and Phelan lines. Family verbal accounts indicated Julia was a redhead, very religious, notoriously bad-tempered, and spoke with an Irish brogue. After her husband Stephen’s death she spend a great deal of time in California with her son Melvin and his family. She died in California in 1952 of unknown causes at the age of 88 and is buried next to her husband in Graceland Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa.



Hollingshead is an uncommon English name from County Durham, England, still a rural county located north towards the Scottish border. The first known Hollingshead in this lineage was Daniel Hollingshead who was born in 1774 in New Jersey. His wife was named Mary Templeton, born in Pennsylvania in 1788. One might surmise Daniel moved to Pennsylvania, because their first son, Anthony, was born there in 1815 according to information on their daughter Jennie Funk’s death certificate. Anthony was one of the defining people in this lineage. Anthony married Sarah Ann Baker in Marshall, Virginia, later partitioned into West Virginia during the Civil War. Marshall is at the Northern tip of West Virginia virtually in Pennsylvania. They came to Iowa in 1853 and settled in Van Buren County (just west of Keokuk) then moved to the Knoxville, Iowa area. Sarah Ann died in 1862 of unknown causes.

Anthony’s brother Venus Hollingshead was a private in the US Civil War. West Virginia was partitioned during the Civil War from greater Virginia and Venus served with the 12th West Virginia Infantry- a unit that fought in some of the toughest battles of the war in the Shenandoah Valley. He was hospitalized for a time in a military hospital in Washington D.C. according to his service record for treatment of an unknown disease. He was honorably discharged at the end of the war but at that point, he disappeared from formal records, an incident that was anomalous. Despite being married with three children he vanished from the record. One might speculate this disappearance might have been due to post-trauma psychological issues – common in Civil War veterans.

Anthony Hollingshead Jr. married his second wife, Elizabeth Campbell, in 1866 in Van Buren County, Iowa. Elizabeth was born in Ireland. They had three children – Charles, Gaines, and Sarah Elizabeth. They came to Clay Township in Marion County in 1873. Anthony and Elizabeth finally moved to a home in Durham during retirement. Durham is a location located due West of Harvey, Iowa, and is hardly a spot on the map and it doesn’t appear it was ever much more than that. Anthony Hollingshead died in 1896, at the age of 81 of unknown causes and is buried in Breckenridge Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa.

One of their daughters, Sarah Elizabeth Hollingshead, who later lived with George until her death, was born on February 2, 1874, and died in 1928 at age 54 from gangrene due to a two-decade-long arthritis condition in her feet (documented in her death certificate). She is buried in Breckinridge Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa.

The direct lineage runs through George S. Hollingshead who was born in Marshall, West Virginia in 1845 and died of heart disease in 1923 at the age of 78 and is buried in Breckenridge Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. George volunteered for the Civil War at the age of 17 in 1863 (there is some evidence he might have cheated his age a touch so he could enlist) and served in the 3rd Iowa Calvary before being honorably discharged. According to the formal regimental history, during the time of his service, his unit was mainly concerned with the occupation in Tennessee and Georgia following Sherman’s March to the Sea, and it is unlikely he saw any heavy action. He was a member of the GAR, a society of Civil War veterans, collected a military pension, and his tombstone is adorned with the crossed swords of the Cavalry.

When George returned home, he cleared a tract of 53-acres and then proceeded to add to it over time. He married a woman named Mary Templeton, who was of mixed English-Irish ancestry, in 1871, and had one child, George (Earl) Hollingshead, in 1884. Not much is known of George aside from an account by his daughter-in-law, Edith, who indicated his family cut up his Civil War uniform and used it to make a quilt. Earl married Edith Bruere uniting the Hollingshead and Bruere lines.



The Bruere name was originally spelled Bruyere and the family’s oldest known member was Pierre Bruyere from the Palatinate area of Germany, similar to the Stickles. National boundaries in this area of Europe were fluid and the area was a mix of cultures. Pierre came to America in 1709 with his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. Jacques and Louise died presumably aboard ship as the children are listed on the Census and Orphans list of 1710 – 1712. Pierre, Eleanor, and James lived on the Hooper Farm on Doctor’s Creek, Monmouth County, New Jersey near Allentown. Peter was naturalized by an Act of Provincial Council in 1748.

In 1714 Pierre was listed as a settler of Woodbridge and Piscataway, New Jersey. In 1722 he was witness to a will of Jacob Large of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The family name was Anglicized and became Bruere, occasionally found Brewer in records, and Pierre was known as Peter. Their son, James Bruere, born in 1751, served in the US Revolutionary War as a captain. James appears as Bruere, James-Ensign on a list of officers from Upper Freehold, Monmouth Co. Militia, dated 29 August 1775. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, 21 February 1777; Captain, Colonel Samuel Forman’s Second Regiment, Monmouth County New Jersey Militia, 14 February 1778; Commissioned 17 February 1778; served as Captain, Major James H. Imlay’s Battalion, Colonel Elisha Lawrence’s Regiment, Three Month’s Men, called to guard the coast of Monmouth County, between 1778 and 1780; appointed President of Regimental Court-Martial (Second Regiment, Monmouth County Militia), 19 August 1780, served at Toms River, January 1782.

The Second Regiment participated in the Battle of Monmouth, the last major encounter in the north between British and American forces during the Revolutionary War. The sword used by Captain James Bruere was donated to the Museum of the Historical Association of Monmouth County in Freehold, New Jersey. He was discharged in 1781.

A tragic area of this family history is Jacob Houser and Charlotte Hubanks’s marriage and life together which occurred in 1854, when they were both twenty years old, in Shelby County, Ohio, still a rural area located Northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The 1860 US Census shows them in Scott Township, Mahaska County, with a farm. US Bureau of Land records does not record any Jacob Houser proving up land in Marion County although they do show several land securities in Polk and Boone County. It is possible this is the same person and he used these funds to procure the later referenced farm although this is conjecture. Jacob Houser volunteered in the Civil War and was a Third Sargent in the 33rd Iowa Infantry. The 33rd was engaged early in the Trans-Mississippi conflict, embarking from Keokuk and then living off the land in Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas with little heavy action until the Battle of Helena, Arkansas on July 3rd, 1863. Jacob was shot in the head when his unit was overwhelmed by the Confederates documented in his regimental history. His body was buried in the US National Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

Charlotte and Jacob had four children – two of whom died in infancy and the third living only twelve years. Their last daughter, Sarah Katherine, was born on July 26, 1863, about three weeks after the death of her father. Charlotte married a farmer named George Carr on April 28, 1867 – it is unknown but certainly plausible that Carr took title to her land when he married her. A widow with young children would certainly have been interested in finding a husband at this time in history and it is likely a transactional arrangement, although this is conjecture. The couple went on to have two children – George and Nancy Carr. Charlotte Carr died in 1885 at the age of 50 of unknown causes and is buried at Bellfontaine Cemetery in Tracy, Iowa. Their son, George Carr Jr. was known as an itinerant man although he did homestead in the Badlands in South Dakota before returning to Iowa.

Sarah, known as Sadie, married Asa Bruere in 1882 and their first daughter, Mary (Edith) Bruere was born the same year. Edith married Earl Hollingshead uniting the Bruere and Hollingshead lines with the birth of Merwin in 1914. Edith lived until one month short of 100 years of age and is buried next to her husband in Breckinridge Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. She was a lean woman of strong and practical character and had a good mind until well into her late-nineties.



Harsin is an English name that meant guardian of cattle or sheep. The Harsin background in this study is deep – the earliest ancestry is Garret Harsin who was born in New York City in 1753 and married Elizabeth Doughty in 1783. He died in 1826 at the age of 73 of unknown causes and is buried in Sugar Creek, Indiana, which is a rural area Southeast of Indianapolis.

Following the ancestral line, one of their sons, Garrett Gilbert Harsin, was born in Paris, Kentucky, in 1790, a very small town just outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Garrett Gilbert Harsin married Mary Lowry in 1814 in Greenup, Kentucky, and they had twelve children. Greenup, Kentucky was a small town on the Ohio River Northwest of Ashland. Based on US Census and death records the clan appeared to have migrated en masse and settled in Marion County, Iowa, and thereby bred at an incredible rate, and for a time the group was prominent in numbers if nothing else.

The next person in the lineage was a man named Jacob Harsin, born in 1856 in Marion County, Iowa. When he as 26, Jacob married a woman named Jannette Loynachan in Marion County, Iowa, in 1881, hence the earlier reference to an Elton Loynachan, fortunately, a very distant relative. The couple had four children.

The ancestral line in the next generation was Gilbert Harsin, born in Marion County, Iowa in 1889. Gil Harsin married Irena Arvilla Smith, a woman who also had been born in 1889, in Attica, Iowa. The marriage of Irena (later Anglicized to Irene) and Gil united the family line with the birth of Amy Jeanne in 1916. The couple maintained the family farm and proceeded to have six children – Pauline (1910), Helen (1912), Don (1913), Amy Jeanne (1916), Jay D (1921), and Willis (1924). The lineage is noteworthy in one critical respect; except Don, who died of kidney failure at a relatively young age, and Willis who died of self-induced lung cancer from smoking, all of the rest of the children died from complications of dementia. Gil Harsin also died of dementia after living in a nursing home for ten years in a nonresponsive state after an undistinguished life in which he was mainly known for lack of generosity and an otherwise flinty disposition. Information about the heritability of dementias at the time of writing of this document indicates Alzheimer’s disease is uncertain but vascular dementias have been demonstrated to be genetic. One can infer from the occurrences of dementia in this family it camebthrough Gil Harsin lineage.



The oldest identified ancestor in this line is John Smith, born in 1800. Perhaps due to the commonness of this name finding history is incredibly difficult. We have no further information about this man other than he married a woman named Sarah Bolgiman, who was also born in 1800, before the birth of their son Samuel Smith in 1837. She is also a mystery which seems odd given the rarity of her surname.

Their son, Samuel B. Smith, was born in 1837 in Perry, Pennsylvania, and he married a woman named Mary Ann Shearer. They had a residence in Wilmington, Delaware in 1880. By 1890 they were located in Richland Township, Odebolt, Iowa – almost exactly between Sioux City and Fort Dodge, Iowa. They had five children, with John D. Smith, born in 1858, being the direct lineage. John Priaulx, also in the direct lineage, was born in the Isle of Guernsey in 1808. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel near the French coast and is now a self-governing British Crown dependency. John Priaulx married a woman named Elizabeth who was born in 1818 (her maiden name and other information is unknown). They were living in Ohio by 1840 and then were living in Farmers Creek Township, Jackson County, Iowa, by 1857, judging from the birth locations of her nine children. Jackson County, Iowa is in the Northeast portion of the state and contains the town of Makoqueta, Iowa. The 1860 US Census indicated they were farmers.

Their son, Peter Priaulx, was born in Jackson County, Iowa, in 1848, and was the next in the direct line of ancestry. Peter Priaulx died in 1885 in Ottawa, Kansas at the age of 37 of unknown causes. He married a woman named Jamner Smith of which very little is known. They had a daughter named Arvilla Priaulx who was born in 1865. John D. Smith married Arvilla Priaulx in 1885 uniting the Smith and Priaulx lines. Arvilla Smith died in 1938 of unknown causes at the age of 73 and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. John D. Smith died of unknown causes in 1935 at the age of 77 of unknown causes and was buried next to his wife.

They had four children, with the one in direct lineage being Irena Arvilla Smith, known as Irene Smith. She married Gil Harsin in 1909, uniting the Harsin-Smith lineage, and making perhaps not the best choice a woman ever made. Irene Harsin is buried next to her husband Gil in Breckinridge Cemetery, Knoxville, Iowa. Family verbal information indicates she was a woman of a mild disposition.



Except where called out all the information in this document is documented fact and not conjecture or oral history. While this information is limited it will undoubtedly become augmented as records are being digitized and more information will become available. This effort represents the best research available in mid-2020. The family tree includes over 1,400 identified individuals dating back as early as 1661, and in some lines goes back 10 generations. Care has been taken to look at females in this examination – most genealogies are simply patrilineal – but the systems of documentation tend to obscure information about women and that is the primary reason the narrative is male-dominated. There were limited occurrences of genetic-related health issues (alcoholism and vascular dementias) that should not overly concern living members of this lineage. In general, the peoples were long-lived, and absent environmental causes, died of old age. The family origin list is dominantly Irish-English with a very small amount of French/German.



The research used included the following sources:

 The Mormon Church genealogical site www.familysearch.org including census records, death records, military records, and birth records.

 Collaboration with genealogical researchers at www.myheritage.org

 Text searches of books digitized on Google Books at www.books.google.com

 Searches of historic plat maps available online through various resources.

 Records provided by the Walsh County, North Dakota Recorder’s office.

 Gravestone photos at www.findagrave.com.

 Personal visits to graveyards.

 National Archives requests and documents.

 Civil War Regimental Histories.

 Digital collections including maps at the US National Archives.

 USDA Soil Surveys.

 US Bureau of Land Management records.

 Library of Congress Historic Newspaper Archives.

 State of Iowa Census Records.


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