Dubuque County IAGenWeb  

What's New


Join Our Team



Family Directory



The Timothy Sullivan Family

Compiled and contributed by Ron Seymour


Timothy Sullivan, 1807-1892

Timothy Sullivan

1807 - 1892




Mary Josephine (O’Connell)

1843-1867 (24)

Johanna (Lagen)






Daniel Desmond


Timothy J.


Timothy was born in 1807 in the Parish of Upper Glanmire, County Cork, Ireland.

Timothy and his eldest brother Dennis began looking for land to purchase west of town. In May of 1840, they purchased the North Half of Section 24 in Iowa Township. The fact that they could purchase such a large tract of land is a good indication of their wealth. They built a log cabin along a creek bank and put in crops. While this land is not great for farming, there were many reasons for selecting this site in 1840. In addition to the need for water and wood the problem of breaking the sod was a formidable one. Also the summers blazed with heat on the open prairie, and as fall approached, the danger of fire was very real. The friendly woodland also offered protection from the fearsome blasts of the winter blizzard. Before long a steam powered saw mill was set up by Levi Sparks about a half mile from the Sullivan’s farm. All that timber would be put to good use.

On Feb. 7, 1842, Bishop Loras united Timothy and Catherine Murray in marriage. She was born in Ireland on May 29, 1819 and emigrated in 1838. Her father was reportedly an overseer at Bantry Estates in West Cork. Bantry House, which still exists, is spectacularly situated and exuberantly furnished by treasures collected by various generations of Earls of Bantry from all parts of the world. The town of Bantry, at the head of the Bay that carries its name, is famous in song and of legendary beauty. It was and still is a fishing village and market place.  Catherine had a younger brother, Thomas and a sister Mary but little else is known of her family.

A year after their marriage their first child, Mary was born. Three more daughters were born throughout the decade of the forties.

In 1849 Timothy purchased forty acres on the prairie about four miles west of his farm, in Section 17. He called this land “the Prairie farm” and he continued to add to his holdings in the next few years eventually reaching 280 acres.

By the early fifties two sons were born to complete the family. In September of 1856 Timothy’s youngest brother, Michael died at the age of forty.

The 1856 Tax Rolls provide some information on the T. D. Sullivan farm. Of the 200 acres, mostly timber, that he owned only 60 acres were tillable. They included 12 acres of meadow yielding 20 tons of Hay, 16 acres Spring Wheat (135 bu), 9 acres Oats (250 bu), 9 acres Corn (300 bu), ½ acre Potatoes (30 bu). In addition there was 50# of wool and 400# of butter produced. He also sold 11 hogs for $109 total and 3 head of cattle for $41 each.

The Sullivan “Prairie” farm was located just north of the small community of Tivoli (Tiv’-ola) It was located on the Old Mission Road, a part of the highway built in 1845, that ran from Dubuque to Fort Atkinson, Iowa and was a main thoroughfare for early pioneers headed for northern Iowa and the West. Fort Atkinson was located on the Turkey River about a dozen miles southwest of Decorah. It was originally built to protect the Winnebago during their removal from Wisconsin to western Iowa. Construction of the fort began in May 1840 and was finished two years later. The fort was abandoned in early 1849.

Tivoli was named for a town in Italy on the outskirts of Rome. Its post office opened in 1847. In 1854, some of the village’s residents had the name changed to Evergreen because of the abundance of evergreens in the area. The post office was renamed Evergreen and Lawrence Duggan was named postmaster. He operated a hotel and a variety store, too. Duggan was married to Ellen O’Connell who became Dan Sullivan’s aunt after his marriage to Bridget.

However, some of the local Italians were not happy with the name change and induced the town officials to return the name to Tivoli in 1855, Since there were only 50 or so Italians in the entire township and 5 times that many Irish, the townspeople must not have cared too much about the name change.

Daniel D. O’Connell, Timothy’s brother-in-law (as well as his son-in-law) operated a store in Tivoli selling dry goods, Yankee notions, groceries, hats, boots, and shoes. Thomas Murray, Timothy Sullivan’s brother-in-law, was a shoemaker and ran a shop in the little village. So the whole area was pretty much a family enterprise.

By 1899 there were still 46 residences in Tivoli but today there is nothing left to indicate there was ever a town there.

A church (with a small cemetery) and school had been built in 1853 at Tivoli which was just ½ mile south of the land Timothy had purchased in 1849. However the church burned down in 1865. In 1860 the Bankston church was built about a mile east of Tivoli and then improved in 1865. The Sullivan and O’Connor families are among those listed as founders of St. Clements Church in Bankston.

By 1864 Timothy owned a total of 334 acres of land and Dennis had 240 acres. Dennis lived with or very near Timothy all his life. On April 1, 1865 their brother John was accidentally shot and killed in Jackson County. Two years later Mary Josephine, the Sullivan’s eldest daughter died at age 24.

On January 31, 1873 Dennis passed away. He left his entire estate to his brother Timothy. This brought his land holdings to almost an entire section of land. (640 acres)

Nov. 14, 1884, Timothy made out his will using John Deery, his nephew as his attorney and a witness.

1st I give and bequeath to my wife Catherine all my personal and mixed property with the exceptions only hereinafter named.
2nd I devise and bequeath to my son Daniel Sullivan all my land in Section 16 and 17 and the SW1/4 of the NW1/4 of Section 24, Twp 89 R1W (Iowa Twp) subject to the payments and charges hereinafter mentioned. (this was approx. 280 acres with a taxable value of $3745)
3rd I devise to my son Timothy Sullivan (TJ) all my land in Section 24 excepting…that devised to my son Daniel and the SE1/4 of the SE1/4 of Section 24 (40 acres) which I devise to my wife in addition to said personal property. The devise to my son Timothy above named is also made subject to the payments and charges hereinafter mentioned viz: (so TJ got a little less than 280 acres with a taxable value of $3360)
That said Timothy shall within five years from the date of my death shall pay my two daughters Margaret and Catherine $1000 with interest $500 to each and that the said Daniel shall within five years from the date of my death pay the said Margaret and Catherine $3000 with interest ($1500 to each)
As I have already advanced money to my daughter Johanna (Mrs. John Lagen) I will give and bequeath her hereby but one Bond of the New Melleray Corp. which I hold calling for $500.
I also give and bequeath to my grandson William Joseph O’Connell one Bond of said New Melleray Corp which I hold calling for $500 or my wife if she chooses may pay the said Johanna Lagen and Wm. Joseph O’Connell $500 to each and retain said bonds…but I desire that each…shall be paid $500 with interest within five years of my death.
I give and bequeath to my wife all the residue of my property and I desire that she shall have the full control of all my property during her life notwithstanding said devised. And I do hereby exempt her from giving bond for the execution of this will and appoint her my Executrix believing that she will do what is for the best interest of all therein.

He later added two codicils:

I…give to my two daughters…in addition to the bequeaths made them the amount of two promissory notes made by my son Daniel to me in 1883, one for $300, the other for $500 bearing interest…the amount of said notes to be equally divided between them, the said Margaret and Catherine.
I also give to them…whatever personal property and stock may be on the Prairie Farm so called now occupied by my son Daniel Sullivan…the proceeds to be divided equally. I mean to say whatever personal property belonging to me at the time of my death is to be given to them.

2nd codicil on August 5, 1885…

I desire that my beloved wife shall be entitled to take without accounting for is any and all cash that may be on hand at the time of my death.
I also desire that Jennie O’Toole who has lived with me many years shall have $100 out of the property bequeathed to my wife and I direct that my wife shall pay (her) immediately on the probate of my will.

Daniel got the 280 acre “Prairie Farm” and his brother, T. J. got the original 277 acre farm. By the time of Timothy’s death, Dan had paid off the $800 he had borrowed from his father.

T. D. Sullivan’s obituary appeared in the ...


Telegraph Herald

February 2, 1892

Death of Timothy D. Sullivan

“One of the few remaining and fast disappearing of the early settlers of Dubuque passed away yesterday morning at 6:30 o’clock at his home at Bankston, an Iowa township.

Timothy D. Sullivan was one of the earliest of the early pioneers who braved the dangers and privations of frontier life to make a home and fortune and independence for his family. He came with his widowed mother and brothers and sisters from Ireland, where he was born in the year 1807, and settled first at Troy, N.Y. In the year 1836, the family removed to the then mining village of Dubuque, in the new territory beyond the Mississippi. Here his mother died, and in years later, followed the death of his brothers John D., Dennis and Michael J. Sullivan, well known citizens of the city and county. Timothy Sullivan was well known too and highly respected by the people of the county, who saw his sterling virtues tried through the vicissitudes of life in a new country. His indomitable perseverance, untiring industry and frugality enabled him during the long years through which he labored to acquire and bring to the highest degree of cultivation the splendid farm-the home where he has in later hears enjoyed the fruits of his toil. During his long and painful illness, borne with resignation and patience, his house was besieged by the anxious inquiries of scores of neighbors, who knew and appreciated his many excellent qualities of head and heart. He leaves a bereaved widow, who was the partner of his joys and sorrows for nearly half a century. Surrounded by his children, who survive and who ministered faithfully to his comfort and peace, he passed quietly to eternal test. His life had been prolonged beyond the usual years of men, but it was filled to the full with usefulness and good deeds.”


Twelve years after Timothy died, his wife passed away. Her obituary was written in the ...

Telegraph Herald

March 26, 1904

Page 7

Death of Early Settler

Mrs. Catherine Sullivan Passes Away at Home in Bankston on Friday.

“Mrs. Catherine Sullivan, widow of the late Timothy D. Sullivan, died Friday morning at 8:30 o’clock at her residence in Iowa township this county. Mrs. Sullivan was one of the few surviving early settlers of Dubuque county, who came here when Iowa was but a name for uninhabital prairies. She was born in Ireland May 29, 1819 and came to America in 1838. In the same year in which Iowa Territory was organized she came to the frontier settlement at Dubuque, and was married to Mr. Sullivan in 1842. They immediately began life on the farm where she died, and together for more than Fifty years endured the hardships and enjoyed the fruits of thrifty and industrious pioneer life in the great west. In 1892, her husband died and with her children she has since continued to occupy the old homestead.

Mrs. Sullivan was a woman of unusual mental gifts, and while living a life of practical retirement from contact with the world was devoted to the interests of her home and family. She always maintained a deep and discriminating interest in books and in the great public questions of the day. She was a woman of broad charity or undaunted hope and of unfaltering faith in everything which underlies Christian fortitude. She died in the fullness of years surrounded by her children and strengthened and consoled by the ministrations of the church in which and according to the teachings of which she had lived for more than four score years. She is survived by her children, Mrs. John Lagen, Daniel J., Margaret, Catherine and T. J. Sullivan.

The funeral will take place Sunday morning at 9 o’clock.”


Children of Timothy & Catherine Sullivan:

1) Mary Josephine b. 1843, d. Sept. 8, 1867 (24yrs. 9 mos.)

married Daniel D. O’Connell b. 1841, d. at age 46 on Dec. 5, 1887 He was the younger brother of Patrick O’Connor’s wife, Anna and so was Bridget Sullivan’s uncle. OK bear with me here: Mary Josephine was not only Bridget’s aunt (by marriage) she was also Bridget’s sister-in-law since Mary was Daniel’s sister. Got that??

1) Margaret Josephine died July 17, 1878 at 11 years 4mos. 15 days;

2) William Joseph b. June 18, 1865; d. Dec. 13, 1937.

William was of “unsound mind” and after his father died, his uncle, Daniel Sullivan was appointed his guardian. He lived with the Sullivans for years but then disappeared and reportedly could not be found when Daniel Sullivan’s will was probated. He showed up in 1928 and the following was filed in court: “…William Joseph O’Connell who had been absent from these parts for twenty years or thereabouts, had suddenly returned to Dubuque but on account of his nomadic habits was likely again to take the road, and that if he departed as expected, it would eventually require the issuance of letters of administration against the said legatee as an absentee, and add costs. That fearing he would depart, a check was issued unto him…” They paid him $500 that Daniel had held for him since Timothy’s death 36 years earlier. O’Connell agreed not to charge interest.


2) Johanna b. 1844, d. April 2, 1934; m. John Lagen (b. April 2, 1842; d. Dec. 25, 1913)

They moved to Dubuque where she lived for 70 years.

1) Walter (1870-1929)

2) John (b. Apr 1872; d. Jun 4, 1874)

3) Daniel ( b. July 12, 1874; d. Feb 21, 1939),

4) Cyril ( b. 1879; d. Apr. 10, 1955)

5) George (1881- ??)

6) Marc ( b. July 11, 1881; d. Mar. 28, 1946)

7) Joseph (b. Aug. 5, 1884; d. Apr. 29, 1938)

8) Louis “Pat” (b. Jan. 26, 1891; d. Apr. 1966)

Johanna was 8 months pregnant when she left her two-year-old son, John, with the hired girl while she went shopping. John fell down the stairs and died. Johanna never got over it. “That’s why she was so careful.”

The following article appeared in the paper:


LAGEN—On Thursday morning, the 4th inst. (June 1874) John, infant son of John and Joanna Lagen, aged 2 years and 2 months. Funeral this (Friday) morning at 8 ½ o’clock from the family residence on 4th street, above bluff. Friends of the family are invited to attend. The remains will be conveyed to Tivoli, in Bankston settlement, for internment.


3) Margaret b. April 19, 1847 d. Oct. 19, 1937

Died at her nephew, Cyril Lagen’s house. She was a school teacher in Dubuque and never married. She filed a simple will leaving everything to Cyril.

4) Katherine b. 1848 d. Sept. 17, 1918

She lived and worked with her sister as an assistant teacher and after retirement moved back to the farm with her brother, TJ, and her obituary provides pretty much all that is known about her life:


“Miss Catherine Sullivan daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Sullivan of Bankston, in this county died at her home on Thursday evening, after a long illness which she endured with that characteristic patience and unchanging sweetness manifested to all those with whom she was associated in life.

Miss Sullivan was born and reared in Dubuque county. She had many acquaintances in the city and county who appreciated her sterling qualities of mind and heart, but it was reserved for her family circle, her intimate friends who knew her in every relation of life, to appreciated her true womanly worth, her unselfish devotion to her parents, her brothers and sisters, and that unfailing faithfulness to her neighbor, which characterized her every day, and which impressed and edified those who knew her best. She will be long remembered in the community which her life adorned and sadly mourned by her family and friends.

Her brother, T. J. Sullivan, and her sisters, Margaret Sullivan, of Bankston, and Mrs. John Lagen, of Dubuque, are the only surviving members of her family.

The funeral services will be held at the Bankston church on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock.”


5) Daniel b. 1851 d. Oct. 18, 1917

married Bridget O’Connor who was the niece of his brother-in-law, D. D. O’Connell. (See Biography of Daniel Sullivan)
It is curious that none of Daniel’s children are mentioned.

6) T. J. b. 1853 d. June 1, 1931

Never married and farmed at Bankston all his life. He was a member of the school board. He reportedly was a very sensitive person. He also may have been hard of hearing. (possibly even deaf) His obituary reveals very little about his life:


“T. J. Sullivan, pioneer of Dubuque county, was called by death at the Mercy hospital, Wednesday after-noon at 3 o’clock. He had been ill for the past year.

The funeral will be held Saturday morning from the home near Bankston, to St. Clement’s church in that town at 9 o’clock. Internment will be made in the cemetery adjoining the church. Mr. Sullivan was born near Bankston seventy-seven years ago and had always resided on a farm in that locality. He is survived by two sisters, Miss Margaret Sullivan, Bankston, and Mrs. Johanna Lagen Dubuque; two nephews, Cyril and Louis J. Lagen, both of Dubuque.

Although a non-resident of Dubuque Mr. Sullivan was well known here as he visited this city frequently. He possessed sterling qualities, which endeared him to countless friends who extend their sympathy to the bereaved relatives. Mr. Sullivan did much charity work for the needy or his community.”


7) John died in infancy



back to Dubuque home