Saturday, April 25, 2015

#10 Timothy Donohue –The Politician (1839-1916)

Growing up, I recall at gatherings of friends and family that to keep the peace at parties and holidays, you should avoid topics of religion or politics.  I did not give it much thought at the time and it seemed to make sense.  As I grew up, married, and had children of my own, I am less inclined to think that is so necessary.  In fact, I rather enjoy a spirited, but respectful, discussion of different viewpoints.  Different is not bad, it is, well…just different.

In my search of family history, I have uncovered a myriad of religious beliefs and practices in my family tree from Lutherans on my Swedish and German side, Catholic on my Irish side, and a mix of varying faiths:  Anglicans, Baptist, Jewish, Presbyterian, Quakers and Mormons.  Nothing earth shattering and I found it interesting to see how families grew and shifted their religions and where they attended church.

However, when I first encountered that I had a politician in my family tree, it stopped me cold.  What?  In my family?  Granted, at family gatherings, it is not uncommon for a healthy debate between the democrats and republicans in the room, or with the more “spirited” discussion, between the liberals and conservatives.  While head shakes are common, everyone leaves without hurt feelings, and we remain a close family.

So what stopped me cold when I uncovered a politician in the family tree was my concern that he was shady or corrupt!  Why that was my first concern is clearly a sad statement and probably reveals a little too much about me.  I have always thought that politicians like the limelight a bit too much and independent of party affiliation, anyone can be negatively influenced by power…and, what started out as a honest and sincere interest in making a difference in our communities can erode over time.  Clearly, not all politicians are corrupt, I just don’t believe all that they have to say. So, what kind of politician did I have in my family tree…? 

The Politician:

Timothy P. Donohue was born in County Kerry, Ireland in July 1839 to Florence Donohue and Mary Archibald.  The family, which included at least one sister (Nora) and brother (Patrick) immigrated to Canada when Timothy was a teenager around 1853.  Timothy made his way down to Boston in the late 1850’s and married another Irish immigrant named Margaret Roche.  They married on November 10, 1860 and their first 3 (of 12) children were born in Boston.  Tim served, with honors, in the Civil War from 8/27/1863 (when he enlisted in Company E, Third Mass Heavy Artillery and served in forts near Washington D.C.) to 7/17/1865 (when he was discharged in Savannah, Georgia).  

Timothy and Margaret (Roche) Donohue, Sheldon Iowa

After the Civil War, Timothy and Margaret moved to Negaunee, Marquette, Michigan, where their remaining 9 children were born. The 1870 census shows Timothy as a blacksmith. Drawn to public life, he also served as constable and deputy sheriff for 12 years. In June of 1878, they moved to a small but growing community in Northwest Iowa -- Sheldon, O’Brien County, Iowa -- where he settled as a farmer. While in Sheldon, he was an active Republican, often a delegate to county and state conventions and served for 19 years as treasurer of a district in Floyd Township (township of Sheldon). 

In 1901, Timothy ran a campaign to serve as representative in the Twenty-ninth General Assembly of Iowa, being a member of the lower house of the Iowa Legislature from O'Brien County.    He was officially sworn in on January 13, 1902 and concluded his service on January 10, 1904. 

One of my all-time favorite finds in researching genealogy was the newspaper article that commented on the campaign between Timothy Donohue and his running mate, George Hakeman.  You will note amongst the seemingly itemized list of candidate attributes was drinking beer, “…Donohue likes to tickle his Adam’s apple with a schooner of foaming beer; so does Hakeman.”  I just had to chuckle…in a modern day campaign, this would have had alarm bells going off…in 1901, apparently not so much.

Timothy died on April 14, 1916 having lost a battle with stomach cancer.  In his obituary, he was described, amongst other descriptors as, “…a true blue republican, was fearless in politics, as in community life or as a private citizen.” 
I am pleased to say no corruption was found, only a dedication to community service, his family, and a fondness for a schooner of ale.  

With that I will leave you with the campaign article dated May 15, 1901 in the Davenport Dailey Republican (reprinted from The Sheldon Sun), titled, “The Two of Them” – I can’t imagine it really helped sway the constituency one way or another, but it put a smirk on my face:

Sheldon Sun:  
George Hakeman is a candidate for representative; so is Tim Donohue.  Donohue is about 64 years of age, so is Hakeman.   Hakeman is tall, slim and imposing, so is Donohue.  Donohue wouldn’t vote for a Democrat under any consideration; neither would Hakeman.  Hakeman is not a pious man; neither is Donohue – he only thinks he is.  Donohue likes to tickle his Adam’s apple with a schooner of foaming beer; so does Hakeman.  Hakeman is well off; so is Donohue.  Donohue is an old settler; so is Hakeman.  Hakeman has raised a large family of excellent children; so has Donohue.  Donohue is genial as a May day sunshine; so is Hakeman.  Hakeman has been on O’Brien county supervisor; Donohue has been doorkeeper in the legislature – therefore Hakeman is well qualified for representative and, by the same token, so is Donohue. Donohue doesn’t want the office for the money there is in it; neither does Hakeman.  Hakeman offered his young life as a sacrifice for his country; so did Donohue.  Donohue will receive the hearty support of his precinct; so Hakeman will his.   Hakeman hardly ever thinks a thing is so and so, but knows it; so does Donohue.  Donohue is in the race to win; so is Hakeman.

LINK to Iowa Legislature History: Representative Timothy Donohue


  1. George Hakeman is my great-great grandfather. This put a smirk on MY face as well, Terri... thank you for sharing it. Roger Hakeman

  2. Roger, how nice to hear from you... I am glad that you enjoyed the article ; to date, it remains one of my favorites! Terri

  3. Hello, Terri - I just found this. Thank you. Could there be two Irish Timothy's that received Civil War medals of honor? Could this gentleman Timothy Donohue be my paternal great-great grandfather? Our family tree documents are scarce but my father said his father Albert's mother was Elenor (which I guess could have been Nora). We are very proud of his service in the Civil War and his Medal of Honor is widely acknowledged at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan and among Civil War historians. Colonel James P Tierney is the historian at the 69th and he believes that Timothy and Patrick (who won the Victoria Cross and many others fighting for England) were brothers. I did not know about the Canada immigration. Would love to know more. - Diane