Judith Ann Moriarty
The Saga of Bridget & John

An Irish tale

By - Mar 17th, 2011 10:06 am
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My great-grandmother, Bridget Sheehan Moran Sullivan Moriarty

Each year around the time when everyone but the Irish celebrate St. Pat’s Day, my thoughts turn to the whereabouts of me great grandmudder, one Bridget Sheehan Moran Sullivan Moriarty, a rippin’ wench from Inch Bridge, if ever there was one, it was she who washed up on these shores in 1849.

In tow, or so it’s said, was John Moriarty, a simple laborer fifteen years her junior, and so it’s said, they were wed in Massachusetts, though the name on the church records is bleary, which explains her other names: Sheehan, Moran, and Sullivan.

In the year 2011, I be still seeking her gravesite. To no avail, though I’ve traveled to Aberdeen, South Dakota to comb the cemetery where she’s said to rest, and I’ve likewise combed the stones where she and John settled near the Cedar River in Muscatine, Iowa. And likewise the Muscatine County Court House, where I unearthed her land deeds and John’s petition for divorce, signed with an X. Wastrel that he was, he left her high and dry and wandered off to plow greener sod.

Some would say she got her dues for lifting her skirts to a neighboring farmer, Henry Stoneburner, on at least two chill nights when warm was better than cold. Bridget was no fool as fools go. John asked for alimony. He was ahead of his time. The trail ends with his asking, though a few in the area near Muscatine recall he was called “Wandering John.” I swear on a stack of potato pancakes, that is truth told.

About the dead, in particular the Irish dead, I would never fib.

That said, I can surely lay claim to the wearin O’ the green, having once upon a time, had not one but two kin straight from the Emerald Isle. But where lay they, I ask? The two left not a trace, nary a hank of hair nor a piece of bone. Or at least not so you’d notice. They are out there somewhere, but only god and St. Patrick know where, and what they were has long gone to dust and ashes. Bridget’s namesake was a saint, but the one I’m seeking was far from that, and the deeper I dig the deeper I dig, but lord knows I’ve tried. Who among us really wants to wander the land of the dead, especially when the dead tell no tales?

Woe is me. And a pox on you, Bridget and John, wherever ye be.

0 thoughts on “The Saga of Bridget & John: An Irish tale”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello. I am the great, great granddaughter of Mary Moriarty, the daughter of Bridget and John Moriarty as far as I can deduce from records. Mary Moriarty married Charles Henderson and they lived around Moscow and Wilton Iowa. They had 8 children, one was my grandmother, Nellie Henderson who married Earl Whitmer and had my mother, Mary Ella Whitmer in 1927. I have been curious about my Irish roots and just started searching. Sounds like Bridget and John were and interesting couple!! Divorce was pretty rare back then. I remember my grand mother praising her own mother, Mary Moriarty, for putting up with her husband who apparently was no stranger to the bottle. Mary had been raised Catholic but my grandmother, Nellie, said that there was no Catholic church in her town so she was raised Methodist.

    My mother, Mary (Whitmer)Tomfeld married my dad in 1952 and they have me and my sister. I live in Northfield, MN. If you are ever planning a trip to Iowa to search for Bridget’s or John’s gravesites, let me know. I would be interested in this. Do you know where in Ireland the Sullivan’s and Moriarty’s are from? I hope someday to get there to explore this side of my family. Deb Twito

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