Ellen “Auntie” Dunne Price

Revised 29 Sept 2019

1890. Ellen Dunne is born on 12 July (or 12 Apr) [1] in Ballaghduff [2], the first child of Catherine Martin and Michael Dunne, married 16 June 1889.

1901. We first see the 11-year old Ellen with her kid sister Bridget, staying at their grandparents’ house over in Rushestown at the time of the 1901 Census.

1901 Census Ireland
1901 census in Rushestown, Galway

Did she attend school? Her name doesn’t appear in the registry of the Curraghmore school, where her younger siblings went [3]. On the 1930 U.S. Census, she answers “no” to the Attended School question.

1907. In April, at the age of 17, she leaves her home and family for America. Was she the independent first-born child eager to see the world? Or was she urged out of the nest by parents who saw an opportunity for her as the family home grew crowded with children?

RMS Carmania

With $25 in her pocket, Ellen sails for a week on the RMS Carmania to the Port of New York. She is accompanied by her Uncle Mike Martin and nine other residents of Kilkerrin [2]. From NY, she and Martin takes the train west to St. Louis, where they are welcomed by her mother’s sister Delia (Martin) and Delia’s husband Thomas Dunne. Both are natives of Rushestown.

Ellen Dunne’s passage on the RMS Carmania

1908. Soon after settling in St. Louis, she begins anglicizing her name as Helen. [4]

She probably gets work as a domestic. That is the standard path for Irish girls, most of whom arrive as singles in this era. I can’t locate her in the 1910 U.S. Census.

1909. In February, according to a postcard sent to her and kept in her uncle Mike’s collection, she is living at 322 N. Newstead [4]. From browsing newspaper ads of the day, I can see it was an 11-room rental, so my best guess is that she is working as a domestic with the family renting the property. But by 1910, she is not there.

1911. She marries Ernest Price (1889-1944) in about 1911. Ern was the third son of English immigrants and Episcopalians WJ and Sarah Price and a member of the Price family carpentry business. As part of her assimilation, she calls herself Helen. You have to wonder what was going through “Helen’s” mind as she marries into an English family while her people back home are struggling so vigorously against England, the colonial power responsible for so much of their poverty and powerlessness. And what did her Irish family have to say about it? From all accounts, it was not a Romeo and Juliet scenario. Everyone seemed to get along just fine or at least kept their mouths shut.

Funny–I found an instance of her signing Ellen, then overwriting Helen, even after she is married.

Postcard from Ellen/Helen to her aunt and uncle

1912. Her only child William Ernest (aka Sonny, aka Bill) is born on July 8.

1914. She sponsors her sister Bridget’s immigration. Auntie and Ern were living then at 1431 North Kingshighway (now torn down).

Helen Dunne Price
Auntie on her porch, N. Kingshighway, about 1914
Photo of William aka “Bill” aka “Sonny” at Kingshighway home

1917. On June 5, like all men of his generation, Ern registers for the draft in the run-up to America’s involvement in the Great War happening in Europe. While three of his brothers are called to service in World War I, Ern is exempt because he is married, with a child.

Ernest Price, WWI selective service registration

1920. Census data shows the family still on Kingshighway in their rental. Ern earns his wages as a carpenter.

1923. They are able to buy a house at 5143 Cote Brilliante (now torn down).

PRICE Ern, Helen propertyPRICE Ern, Helen property Sun, Jun 10, 1923 – Page 75 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

1930. The family continues on Cote Brilliante, in their home valued at $5000. They own a radio. Ern supports the family as a carpenter, “working on his own account.” The Great Depression has begun.

1940. The Great Depression is still crushing the economy and the family carpentry business. At age 51 Ernest is not working; during 1939 he hadn’t worked at all. Auntie is working as a waitress in “private homes”; during 1939, she worked 30 weeks and earned $600. Their son Bill (age 28) works as a clerk in a grocery store; in 1939 he worked 28 weeks and earned $455.

Helen’s brother Patrick Dunne lives with them. He is a laborer with Laclede Gas. During 1939, he was able to contribute over $1200 to the family income.

1941. Her son Bill enters the military at age 28. Up to this point, he’s been working for Kroger, a grocery store chain.

1942. The Great Depression destroyed the family carpentry business, but as the War is beginning to get people back into the workforce, Auntie’s husband still isn’t working. On his updated Selective Service card (April 26), Ern reports that he is “extremely nervous”–his explanation for not working. We have to wonder if his health is beginning to fail and if Auntie is now responsible for their income.

Ernest Price, World War II Selective Service Registration

1943. The worst happens: at the age of 54, Auntie’s husband Ern dies of throat cancer.

Obituary for  PriceObituary for Price Sun, Oct 31, 1943 – Page 26 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

After the War, Auntie’s son Bill marries Florence Mogen, a girl from the neighborhood, and he joins the St. Louis police force. Auntie goes to work for Wagner Electric Company and makes a career for herself there.

1947. Birth of Helen’s only grandchild, Mary Frances (1947-2003). Fun fact: later on, Mary Frances and Ireland-based cousin Carmel Dunne (Ghee) are penpals.

1959. Auntie returns to Ireland with her younger brother Pat Dunne and his wife Mary.

DunneKatiePatHelenMary-c.jpg
Siblings: Patrick, Katie, Michael, Ellen, Mary
JPW-49.jpg
Ellen in Ireland, 1959

1962 Ellen’s son dies of mouth and neck cancer.

PRICE Wm Sonny obitPRICE Wm Sonny obit Fri, Jul 27, 1962 – Page 29 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

1967. On Feb 19, at age 76, Auntie dies of long-standing heart disease, complicated by chronic bronchitis at St. Ann’s Home. Her last recorded address is 5069 Pernod–with her sister Bridget.

Notes

[1] July date from her Social Security record, the April date from the memorial card at her death.

[2] To spare confusion, it’s helpful to know that Ballaghduff townland residents also belonged to these communities:

  • Parish: Kilkerrin
  • Census DED: Shankill
  • Civil District: Glennamaddy (where births, marriages, deaths were registered
  • Barony: Tiaquin or Tyaquin
  • County: Galway

[3] As published in the comprehensive 2010 reunion book.

[4] Before phones were common in homes, Ellen regularly sent notes by postcard to her Uncle Mike Martin and his wife. Many of these were kept by the Martin family

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