Nolan Family Stories

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1880s : William Nolan : Calgary, AB

[159] William Nolan (1828-1905) – from Gortcurreen, Listowel, Co. Kerry, IE
[160] Mary Kett (1828-1905) – from Ireland
Children: Margaret Mary “Polly”(1865-1953), Denis William (1866-1871), Mary (1867-1871), Patrick James (1869), Michael William (1871), Martin William (1872-1910), James William (1874-1906) and Bridget Mary (1875-1876)

William was born in the area of Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland, the son of William Nolan and Johanna Buckley.

William married Mary Kett at Six-Mile-Bridge, Co. Clare, in 1864, and moved to 3 and 4 Cornmarket Row in Limerick where, by 1865, when his first child was born, he had established a successful pawnbroking business. Seven more children would follow but two died at a young age in 1871 and the last child born before Mary’s death in 1876 would also die within the year.

Stricken with grief after the loss of his wife after less than 12 years of marriage, William was unable to care for his 5 remaining children. Polly, the oldest, aged about 11 at the time, went to live with her maternal grandmother and the boys, ranging in age between 2 and 7 were “farmed out”. For the next 15 years William’s whereabouts are unknown but, eventually, he did settle in Alberta, Canada, where two nephews, sons of his sister Kit, had settled with their families in the early 1880s.

In the 1891 census, we find William listed as a farmer living in Pine Creek, Alberta. By the time of his death in 1905 William had moved to Calgary and was working as a porter at Calgary’s Holy Cross Hospital. To staff and patrons of the hospital he was affectionately known as “Dad”.

Of William’s children, Patrick James (1869), Michael William (1872) and Martin William (1872) went to the United States. Polly (1865), the oldest, and James William (1874), the youngest, remained in Ireland. The latter married Anne Nolan but they did not have any children.

1889 : Patrick James Nolan : Calgary, AB

[140] Patrick James Nolan (1862-1913) – from Limerick, IE
[141] Mary Elizabeth Lee (???? – ????) – from Ontario, Canada
Children: Henry Gratton (1895)

Patrick James was born March 3, 1862, in Limerick, Ireland, the son of James Nolan, a flour and feed merchant, and Mary O’Rourke.

Patrick or “Paddy” as he was known attended Sacred Heart College in Limerick, London University, Royal University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin and finally Trinity College in Dublin where he distinguished himself as a gold-medal orator. Called to the Irish bar in 1885, he practised in Dublin where he sympathized with Daniel O’Connell’s efforts to gain Irish self-government. However, when O’Connell’s efforts were quashed in 1886 with the defeat of the Home Rule Bill, Patrick became disheartened and disillusioned.

In 1889 Patrick immigrated to Canada, chosing Calgary as his end-destination. At the time, Calgary was fully one-quarter Irish and two Costello cousins, sons of his aunt Catherine, “Kit”, had already established themselves there. Within 4 weeks of arrival, Patrick was called to the bar of the North-West Territories and became the junior partner of Thomas Brown Lafferty whose brother, James D., was the then mayor of Calgary.

On April 19, 1892, Patrick married Mary Elizabeth “Minnie” Lee in Calgary. She was one of the most beautiful young women in the city and, like Patrick, was very active in the city’s social and cultural life. Patrick and Minnie had one son, Henry Gratton, who was born in 1895.

As a lawyer, Patrick was best known for his criminal defence cases which were usually on behalf of the poor and the notorious. Judges loved his humour and he had a reputation as a great orator, not only in court but also at public speaking events.

Not making much money as a criminal defense lawyer and reputed to have had a drinking problem, he gradually became estranged from his wife and son. He died unexpectedly of a cerebral haemorrhage on February 10, 1913, and was buried in Banff, Alberta.


  • “Henry G. Nolan, born in 1895 at Calgary, Alta., was educated at the University of Alberta and Oxford University. During World War I, he served in the 49th Battalion and was awarded the Military Cross. He was called both to the Bar of England and to the Bar of Alberta in 1922 and practised law in R.B. Bennett’s law firm. He enlisted in the Canadian Active Service Force in 1940 and was appointed Vice Judge Advocate General, with the rank of Brigadier, 1944. In 1946, he was appointed Prosecutor for Canada before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. He was a Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, 1956-1957.”

1890 : Thomas Patrick Nolan : Lethbridge, AB

[161] Thomas Patrick Nolan (1863-1951) – from Kansas,
[162] Thirza Jane Little (1867-1948) – from England
Children: Charles (c1885), Thomas (1892), Gladys (1895), Leslie (1898), Joseph (1900), Bessie (c1903) and Willie (c1905)

Thomas Patrick, the son of Irish emigrants, was born in Kansas, IL, in 1863. His parents, Patrick Nolan (????-c1882), a shoemaker, and Catherine Ryan, are believed to have married in Ireland in the late 1850s and then emigated to the US. Sometime thereafter they settled in the state of Kansas and raised a family of 7 children: John, Mary, Martin, Thomas, Jim, Dick and Johny.

Thomas Patrick and Thirza Jane, the daughter of English emigrants, George Little, a railroad carriage builder, and Martha Gibbs, met in Atchison, KS, where where Thirza’s father working for the Pulman company had been transfered. Thomas and Thirza were married in 1884 and their first son, Charles Albert was born in 1885. Over the years 11 more children would follow but, due to the lack of medical facilities 5 of the family’s 12 children died at an early age.

Thanks to his father-in-law’s railroad connections, Thomas P. initially got a job with the railroad working on the road. However, due to a labour strike around 1889-1890, Thomas P. lost his job. The family, however, was very supportive and, this time, an uncle of his wife, Tom McNabb, who was the then master mechanic at the railroad yards in Lethbride, AB, offered him a job. So it was that Thomas P. made his way to Lethbridge in 1890. He worked initially as a wiper, then a fireman, and within a year had attained the prestigious position of railroad engineer. In 1891, Thirza and the three surviving children at that point, Charles, Albert and Kitty, joined Thomas P. in Lethbridge. The remaining children were all born in Alberta.

In 1902, the family moved to a ranch they had purchased on the Oldman (then Belly) river, about 1.5 miles from where the Nolan Bridge now stands. The Nolan ranch was initially a cattle operation but, recognizing the commercial viability of raising horses for homesteaders, Thomas P. switched to raising horses, a practice which he continued with his sons until the farm was sold in 1942. Thomas P. and Thirza spent their remaining years in Coaldale, AB. The family is also known to have been Methodist.


  • Charles Albert (1885-1905), plagued with ill health, he died shortly after the family had moved to the ranch in 1902.
  • Albert Martin (1887-1898) died young, of rheumatic fever.
  • Katherine Mary “Kitty” (1889-1891) died in Lethbridge shortly after the family’s arrival.
  • Thomas Henry(1892-1971)
    m1. Lillian Etta Kane (1891-1939) in 1916; they lived in Alberta and had 4 children: Bernard George (1917), Beatrice Evelyn (1919), Thomas Erwin ((1930) and Ellen (1933);
    m2. Lucille Alexander (1909); they had 2 children: Ronald and Rita.
  • a twin sister of Thomas Henry (1892) who died at birth.
  • Gladys (1895- ) m. Damon NOBLE (????-1967) in 1914; they lived in Alberta and had 4 children: Cyril (1915), Red (1917), Velva (1918) and Althea Ruth (1920) who died within two months of birth.
  • Leslie George “Les” (1898-1979) m. Jessie Faye Ralston in 1942; they had 5 children: Joanne, Pat, Betty, Jesssie and Marion.
  • a twin sister of Leslie George, Lestie Seaman (1898-1900) died in her second year.
  • Joseph John “Joe” (1900-1977) never married but worked on the family farm and at various jobs after the farm was sold in 1942.
  • Bessie Ella (c1903) m. Donald Reginald Baldwin in 1938
  • Willie (c1905)

1891 : John August Nolan : Calgary, AB


[165] John August Nolan (1854 – 1924) – from Gothenburg, Sweden
[166] Wilhelmina Gordon Scott (1864 – 1931) – from Richmond, ON
Children: Lilian (1892), Kathleen (1900) and unknown (????)

John August Nolan of Gothenburg Sweden was born on January 13, 1854. “After receiving his public and high school education in Sweden, John August Nolan immigrated to the United States where he became head sawyer and engine maintenance man for a plant near the city of Detroit. In 1884, he joined the Great Transcontinental Railway where he worked boarding railway labourers. With experience in his favour, he left Detroit and chose Calgary as his destination in 1888. Following his arrival, he opened a butcher shop. While this venture progressed, he continued to run his boarding car business. However, he gave up the latter when he joined the firm of Ferguson, which later became Ferguson and Nolan. Upon buying out his partner, he added a grocery concern to the butcher’s end of the business. His assets also consisted of a good deal of land in the city and substantial holdings of ranchlands.”

Mr. Nolan married Wilhemina Scott of Richmond, Ottawa, on June 19, 1889. His post as Alderman [in Calgary] in 1894, was brief and he chose not to run for re-election at the end of his term. He lived a life largely devoted to the interests of business alone, with the exception of being nominated as the Consul for Sweden and Norway. After the creation of the two countries, he remained Consul for the Swedish nation. Mr. Nolan was also associated for many years with the Independent Order of Foresters and served as a past-Chief Ranger.”

John and Wilhelmina were both Presbyterians. .

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