John Leahy, son of Michael Leahy, was born about 1844 in Cork County, Ireland. Catherine Murphy, daughter of Michael Murphy, was also born in County Cork, Ireland, on 5 April 1848. When John was 34 years of age, he and Catherine were married on 11 Feb 1866 in Ireland. Catherine gave birth to their first child, Michael J. on 9 January 1867 in the townland of Slievereagh, in County Cork, Ireland. He was baptized in the Roman Catholic parish of Macroom.
John, Catherine and their infant son, Michael, immigrated to America between 1867 and 1870. They found their way to eastern Iowa and settled in the young city of West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa (incorporated in 1868).
When John and his family moved to West Liberty, it was the home of the crossing of two of the greatest Railway systems, the C.R.I. & P and the Burlington, C.R. & Northern. Railroad jobs were abundant as West Liberty’s importance as a major Railway Center grew. The West Liberty Railway crossing was midway between the great cities of Chicago upon the east and Omaha on the west; St. Louis on the south, Minneapolis & St. Paul on the north. Direct connections were available between those cities and all intervening points. Sixteen passenger trains arrived at the passenger depot daily. In addition, Railway employees handled all the baggage, mail, express and freights that also passed through.
West Liberty Railroad Depot
West Liberty Railorad Depot
John, his two sons and all but one of his sons in law, were employed by the Railroad. John worked as a Railroad Secretary. Oldest son Michael was employed as a Switchman for the C.R.I and P.R.R. His youngest son, Willie, was a RR Conductor. Son-in-law Robert Thompson was a RR Conductor who eventually transferred with the Railroad to Washington State. Son-in-law Doug Smith worked as a RR Motorman. Jeff “J D” Burris was a Locomotive Fireman. Conveniently, the Leahy’s resided at 801 Elm Street in West Liberty, IA which was next to the Railroad depot.
One of the men in the above photo is Mike Leahy. He was a Switchman for the Rail Road.
John was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on 23 Sep 1870 in neighboring Louisa County, Iowa. John and his family were reported in the U.S. and Iowa States Censuses beginning in 1880 and up until the year of his death, 1905.
1880 West Liberty, IA Census, District 237, pg. 1
| John Lake, || age 36 || RR Laborer || Ire || Ire || Ire |
| Kate Lake, || age 33 || keeping house || Ire || Ire || Ire |
| Mike Lake, || age 12 || In School || Ire || Ire || Ire |
| Mary Lake, || age 11 || In School || Iowa || Ire || Ire |
| Hannah Lake, || age 9 || In School || Iowa || Ire || Ire |
| Katie Lake, || age 5 || || Iowa || Ire || Ire |
| Ella Lake, || age 3 || || Iowa || Ire || Ire |
1885 West Liberty, Muscatine, Iowa
John Lahey, 46, b: Ireland, Occ: Laborer
Catherine, 40, b: Ireland
Michael, 17, b: Ireland
Mary, 15, b: Louisa County, Iowa
Johanah, 12, b: Louisa County, Iowa
Catherine, 9, b: Muscatine County, Iowa
Ellen, 6, b: Muscatine County, Iowa
Margret, 3, b: Muscatine County, Iowa
1895 West Liberty, IA Census
John Leahy, age 53 b: Ireland, RR Employee, Catholic, unable to read and write
Catherine Leahy, age 46, b: Ireland
Michael Leahy, age 26, b: Ireland RR Clerk
Ella Leahy, age 17, b: Muscatine County, IA, domestic
Maggie Leahy, age 13, Muscatine County, IA, domestic
William Leahy, age 7, Muscatine County, IA, student
1900 West Liberty, Wapsimonac Twp., Muscatine County, IA Census
John Leahy, head, age 68 Jan 1832 b: Ireland; father b: Ireland; mother b: Ireland, Married for 32 years; Immigrated in 1871; In U.S. for 29 yrs. & Naturalized. Occ is illegible.res: 801 Elm Street, W Liberty, IA
Kate Leahy, wife, age 51, b: Jan 1849, b: Ireland; father b: Ireland; mother b: Ireland, Married for 32 years; Immigrated in 1871; In U.S. for 29 yrs.; Does not show Naturalized; Gave birth to 10 children of which 7 are still alive
1905 West Liberty, Wapsie, Muscatine, IA Census
M (name illegible)? Leahy
John and his family resided at 801 Elm Street in West Liberty, Iowa.
The home at that address is shown in the above photo, which was taken about the year 2015. We know that Kathryn Leahy still resided there in 1920, along with her daughter Ella Burris and grandson, Lennie Burris. In March 1930, Lennie Burris purchased and remodeled the home.
The Leahy family was affiliated with St. Joseph's Catholic Church, in West Liberty.
St Joseph Catholic Church
John died at home on 04 Sep 1905 in West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. His cause of death was reported as Paralysis. His obituary stated he had been confined to his bed for 7 – 8 years prior to his death.
Obituary, West Liberty Index, Thursday, September 7, 1905
John Leahy died Sunday at his residence on Elm Street after long years of confinement to his bed. The funeral took place Tuesday morning, conducted by F. Kirkpatrick of Wilton from the Catholic Church with internment in the Catholic cemetery. He was 60 years of age.
Katherine lived to the age of 79. She passed away at her home, from a cerebral hemorrhage, on May 28, 1923.
John was buried on 05 Sep 1905. Katherine was buried May 30, 1923. John & Katherine are buried side by side at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Wapsi Township, Muscatine County, West Liberty, Iowa.
John Leahy and Katherine Murphy had the following children:
1. Michael J Leahy was born on 09 Jan 1867 in Slievereagh, Macroom, Cork, Ireland and immigrated as an infant with his parents in 1867. Michael remained single. He worked for the C.R.I. and P.R.R. Railroad, both as a Switchman and a Baggage Man. He lived at home and helped care for his parents and siblings. Michael was struck by cancer which he battled for several years. He traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri to have surgery in March of 1919 but passed away during the surgery. He died on March 26, 1919. His body was brought back to his home town of West Liberty to be buried in the Catholic Cemetery.
2. Mary Agnes Leahy was born on 15 Jul 1871 in Louisa, Iowa, USA. She married Robert Wright Thompson on 29 Aug 1891 in Muscatine, Muscatine County, Iowa, USA. Robert was a conductor for the railroad. After Robert and Mary married, they resided in the Iowa cities of Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Iowa Falls. Three children, Robert, Ruby and Clifford were born to them before they decided to move west. By the year 1900, the Thompson family resided in Whatcom County in Washington State. Washington would become "home" where they raised their children and lived out the rest of their life. Robert passed away in Ferndale, Whatcom County, Washington on 15 October 1933. Mary lived to be 81 years old. She died on 11 Feb 1953 in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington. They are both buried in the Enterprise Cemetery in Ferndale, Whatcom County, Washington.
3. Johanna "Hannah" Leahy was born on 25 Aug 1873 in Morning Sun, Louisa County, Iowa. She married Stephen A Douglas Smith, a Railroad Motorman, on 25 Mar 1894 in Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. The couple made Davenport, Iowa their home where both of their children, Rita and Roy, were born to them.
Their son, Roy, served in the Navy during WWI. By 1930 Roy was married with two children and working as a salesman in the tent and awning business. He would later be promoted to President of the Awning Manufacturing Company in Kansas City.
Hannah’s husband, Stephen, aged 72, committed suicide on June 25, 1933 at his son’s home in Kansas City, Missouri. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. During the 1940 U.S. Census, Hannah, age 67, was living in Kansas City, Missouri with her son, his wife and their four children. She died on 19 Feb 1944, from hypertension, in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri at the age of 71 years.
4. Kathryn Blanche "Katie" Leahy was born on 14 Jan 1875 in West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. Kathryn taught in the country school until she married John Martin Maher on 31 Jul 1894 in West Liberty. She died of heart failure on 27 Dec 1952 in Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa.
5. Ellen "Ella" Leahy was born on 23 Feb 1876 in West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. She married Jeffrey Douglass “J D” Burrus on 30 Apr 1900 in Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. J D was employed as a Locomotive Fireman for the Railroad.
A son, Leonard, was born to Ella & JD on August 2, 1900 in Rock Island, Illinois. JD had a brother named Leonard, so it's likely their son was named after him.
J D Burris passed away on May 30, 1903, in Bowbells, Burke County, North Dakota. He died from both Thyphoid Fever and pneumonia. Ella and his family became estranged following J D’s death when they wanted to take baby Lenny from her and keep him as their own. It must have been such an ugly falling out that Ella & baby Lenny were not even mentioned in J D’s obituary. Apparently Ella feared his family so much that she changed the spelling of her married name of Burrus to Burris; hoping to make it more difficult for them to find her.
Ella suffered from heart problems namely Ventricular Fibrillation. It was the cause of her death when she died on 03 Dec 1963 in West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. She is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Muscatine County, Iowa.
Ella’s son, Leonard “Lennie”, followed the Leahy family tradition and was employed by the railroad. He was a rising star in his career and quickly rose from the job of Telegraph Operator in 1920, at West Liberty, Iowa a position of Agent – Yardmaster in Amarillo, Texas by 1944.
6. Margaret "Maggie" Leahy was born in Sep 1881 in Muscatine, Iowa, USA. During the 1900 US Census, she resided with her sister, Ella and Ella’s husband in Rock Island, Illinois. She married C B Hall on 15 Sep 1908 in Valley, Polk County, Iowa. She died before 1923 – location unknown.
7. Girl Leahy was born between 1882–1883 in West Liberty, Muscatine County, Iowa. She died before 1885.
8. William C "Willie" Leahy was born about 1888 in Iowa. His last known residence was Los Angeles, California in 1923. He died between 1923 – 1953 – location unknown.