Nolan Family Stories

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John and Andrew Nolan of Wisconsin

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John Nolan Arrives In America

John Nolan arrived in America aboard the ship Delia Walker on August 10, 1843, which arrived in New York Harbor after sailing from Liverpool, England, the most common point of emigration of the day for the Irish who left their homes for a better life in the United States. Ship records give John’s age as 20, indicating that he was born about 1820-21. He came to America to join his older brother, Andrew Nolan, from the family home in Ballinasloe, County Galway, in west central Ireland. Their parents were Matthew and Honora Nolan.

After spending some time in Paterson, N.J., and then the Meridian township of New Haven County, Conn., John and Andrew Nolan
joined the westward migration in the 1850s. The brothers jointly purchased farmland in the Ridgeville township of Monroe County, Wisconsin, on May 9, 1856, becoming two of the earliest settlers of that farming area near what is now Norwalk, Wisc., less than an hour’s drive from La Crosse.

A little over a year later, John married fellow Irish immigrant Bridget Reynolds, on Oct. 12, 1857, in Milwaukee’s St. John’s Cathedral. Bridget, like many Irish women of the day, was unlettered.

During the closing months of the War Between the States, John Nolan enlisted in the 52nd Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers on March 14, 1865. His enlistment papers, on file in the National Archives, said that he was 44 years old, had blue eyes, brown hair, dark complexion and stood 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall. He had a wife and four children and got a $100 bounty for enlisting.

He returned to his farm after the war ended and fathered two additional children before his death of “chronic gastrites” – which turned into stomach cancer – July 10, 1871. Following a long struggle with the bureaucracy, his widow, Bridget, was finally awarded a pension after the government ruled that John’s death and stomach problems were caused by the rigors of diet and strain of military service. His widow left the Catholic Church after his death and raised the younger children as Protestants; there are Catholic and Protestant branches of the Nolan family today.

John Nolan is buried in Conger Cemetery near Norwalk; the government places an American Flag by his gravestone on Memorial Day to mark
his military service. Buried with him is his wife, Bridget Reynolds Nolan, and their daughter, Mary. The stone says Bridget was born Oct. 12, 1831 and died November, 1895; the stone gives a date of John’s death that is two years’ earlier than that given in his military pension records. The children of John and Bridget were:

  • Mary A. Nolan, born Aug. 3, 1858. She never married and died Oct. 10, 1899.
  • Andrew F. Nolan, born Feb. 13, 1860. Nicknamed Fred, he was married twice and had two daughters, Jessie and Fay, and a son, Harry. He died about 1925 and is buried in Sparta, Wisc.
  • John F. Nolan, born Jan., 31, 1862. His wife was named Susie and they unsuccessfully attempted to homestead farmland in North Dakota before a severe drought returned them to Wisconsin, where they later died and are buried at Sparta. They had two daughters, Marian and Vivian.
  • Christopher U. Nolan, born Sept. 20, 1864. He became a railroad engineer, had a wife named Lena and died in Seattle in the early 1930s.
  • Levi J. (later nicknamed Lee) Nolan, born May 23, 1866. Lee Nolan was a colorful entrepreneur who owned a cartage company in Sparta, Wisc., and had a large family. He married Mamie L. McGary April 12, 1900 and died Sept. 30, 1946. Their children are listed below.
  • Lewis Elmer Nolan, born March 4, 1870 and died April 28, 1939, and whose wife was Bertha Orpha Miller Nolan. They are the subject of another page, L.E. and Bertha Miller Nolan.

Lee Nolan Family

Lee and Maimie McGary Nolan had four children: Leone Nolan, born Jan. 26, 1901 and died Jan. 15, 1988, whose husband was Cleo Maine; Ardis Irene Nolan, born May 28, 1902 and died Dec. 2, 1929; Eugene Nolan, born April 19, 1905, and died Feb. 9, 1990, whose wife was Verna Oswald Nolan; and Donovan Patrick Nolan, born May 10, 1912 and died Sept. 28, 1989, and whose wife was Delta Mae Johnson.

Eugene Nolan and Verna Oswald Nolan, who lived in Sparta, Wisc., had two children, Vernon (born April 9, 1929, married Alice Yunker, three children – Randy Lee, Ardell Ray, Audra Jean) and Amber Jean (born June 9, 1928, married Delmond Johnson, four children – Michael Warren, Karen Jean, John Eugene and Dean Randall).

Donovan Patrick Nolan and Delta Mae Johnson Nolan, who lived in LaCrosse, Wisc., had five children: Donna Mae, born Oct. 10, 1934, married Harley Thomas Rooker and lives in Moline, Ill.; Thomas Donavon, born Aug. 19, 1943, married Jeannie Golholike and lives in
LaCrosse; Terry Patrick, born July 19, 1952, married Candace Gilbert and lives in LaCrosse; and twins Michael Timothy (born Sept. 15, 1954 and lives in LaCrosse) and Molly Sue (born Sept. 15, 1954, married Greg Gillmeister and lives in LaCrosse).

Harley and Donna Mae have four children, Lora Lee, Timothy Dovavan, Kevin Christopher and Brian Thomas; Thomas and Jeannie have two children, Bridget Kerry and Katie Marie; and Terry and Candace have two children, Amber Mae and Connor Patrick. .

Andrew Nolan’s Civil War Service

Unlike his younger brother, John Nolan, who served the Union Cause only briefly, Andrew Nolan was in the federal army for more than three years. He was born in Ireland Sept. 6, 1819, and he died in Ridgeville, Wisc., Nov. 20, 1895. He is buried in St. John’s Catholic Church Cemetery near his farm.

Andrew Nolan enlisted in the 19th Regiment of the Wisconsin Infantry on March 4, 1862, and was mustered out of the unit in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 9, 1865. His regiment fought at major battles at Suffolk, Daury’s Bluff, Port Walthall, Petersburg and Fair Oaks, all in Virginia.

Like that of brother John’s, Andrew’s health was evidently ruined by his Civil War service and he suffered from chills and fever, rheumatism and back trouble ever afterward.

His first wife was Ann, or Anna Burke, whom he married in New Haven, Conn., Oct. 27, 1851. She died in February, 1875. They had eight children:

  • William H. Nolan, born in Meridian, Conn. Aug. 31, 1852. He married Huldah Jennie Magee in Wisconsin in 1877. They had a son, Melville Nolan, and a daughter, Anna Evangeline Nolan and moved to Lincoln, Neb., where William died in an epidemic in September, 1880.
  • Mary Ann Nolan, born in Connecticut Dec. 1, 1853. She married Irish immigrant Patrick Dorsey Burke, a railroad man like many of Andrew and John’s sons, and they had five children, including Edward R. Burke, who became a U.S. Congressman and later a U.S. Senator from Nebraska. Mary Ann died in 1900.
  • Matthew Nolan, born in Connecticut in 1856, likely named for his grandfather. He married a Canadian named Margaret and had at least four children..
  • Christopher T. Nolan, born in Wisconsin in 1858 or 1859. He married a woman named Margaret and they had nine children, worked on the railroad, later bought a farm in Valier, Mont., and died in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
  • Julia T. Nolan, born in Wisconsin July 4, 1862. She married George Albert Hoffman, a butcher, and died June 6, 1940 after spending her life around Sparta and La Crosse. They had five children.
  • Alice L. Nolan, born in Wisconsin May 16, 1865. She homesteaded an entire section of land in Beach. N.D., and died Oct. 19, 1930.
  • Steven Andrew Nolan, born in Wisconsin in 1868. He worked on the railroad and died in 1916.
  • Edgar Benjamin Nolan, born in Wisconsin in 1871.

Andrew’s second wife was Maria A. “Mary” Haas, born in Prussia Aug. 3, 1845, making her 27 years his junior. By her Andrew had two additional children:

  • Peter B. Nolan, born Nov. 19, 1877, and died in Cuba during the Spanish American War and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery with his father near the family farm.
  • Nellie G. Nolan, born Dec. 10, 1879 and died in 1977 in an Iowa nursing home. She married Homer A. Landt and they had six children.

Additional Sources of Information

Many descendants of John and Andrew Nolan remain in LaCrosse and other southwest Wisconsin communities today. A good source of genealogical information is the Monroe County Local History Room at 200 West Main in Sparta, WI, P. O. Box 419, zip 54656.

Another source is the monthly newsletter of the Monroe, Juneau, Jackson Counties Genealogical Workshop, RR 3 Box 253, Black River Falls, WI 54615. Much information about the Nolan brothers, and their dozens of descendants now spread across the U.S., is in the book, “Nolan-Miller Family History.”


Internet Webpage
(last updated by Lewis Nolan on February 24, 2001)

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