John Dorsey (Darcy) (1828-1904)

My Favorite Irish-Born Ancestor

Joseph Dorsey, USA

According to his tombstone, my great grandfather, John Darcy, was born in County Clare, Ireland, in the year 1828. Nothing is known about his younger life in Ireland other than what is etched in stone at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Refugio, Texas.

He came to North America circa 1850 and on April 4, 1853, he was married to Mary Moran of County Kildare at Notre Dame in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The only light which we have been able to shed on his past, other than that on his tombstone was that, according to the Notre Dame Parish records, he was the son of Patrick Darcy and Ellen McGuane who were no longer living on the day of his marriage. Nothing else is known about his parents and any siblings, if there were any.

Co Clare MapComing from obviously poor and humble beginnings, John was not able to read nor write. When the French priest in Montreal recorded his name they spelled it with the English spelling of Dorsey instead of the Irish spelling of Darcy. He carried that spelling with him the rest of his life.

John stayed in Montreal until around 1854 then moved his wife and new baby daughter to Boston, Massachusetts, where they lived at two or three different addresses and had four sons. We cannot help but get the feeling that John was still not at peace with his way of life and was looking for more.

Towards the end of the year 1859 John moved his family to Texas to start a new way of life. He was going to this wild area of South Texas and the town of Refugio which just thirty years earlier saw the arrival of the first Irish immigrants. Mexico had invited Irish Catholic colonists to settle in Refugio to provide a buffer against the influx of largely Protestant Anglo American colonists making their way to Texas. Irish Impresario, James Power of County Wexford, had brought many Irish people to this area. It was just like being back in Ireland.

John arrived in Texas a broke and penniless man. On April 30, 1860, according to the Minutes of the Refugio Country Commissioner’s Court, he was on the Refugio County List of Insolvents for the year of 1859. That was the same year in which John and his family were listed in the 1860 U.S. Census as Dawsey. In the following Census of the year 1870 they were listed as Dorcy, the forth different spelling of his surname which life had given him. He could have as easily become as obscure as his parents.

He obviously was not going to be held back by bad times. He was a feisty, hardworking Irishman who loved people and he loved life in Texas. He was always involved in some type of work to support his family. He quickly became a teamster, waggoneer and rancher. If something needed to be done he was there to do it. In the early 1860’s he distributed corn and grain to families of the soldiers who were off to war. He later became the owner of the old Mission Hotel on the main street of the town, Alamo Street, and he had purchased a ranch out northwest of town in Blanconia, Texas. He loved keeping busy as well as change and progress. His Mission Hotel was listed as one of the first 12 telephones to be installed in Refugio County in 1901.

After being there about five years he got into trouble with the Union Army over his carrying supplies for the Confederate Army. As far as he was concerned he had not taken sides in in the American Civil War and was willing to work carrying supplies for anyone that needed it. He saw nothing wrong with looking after the families of the Confederate soldiers. On the 11th day of August 1865 he found himself in the office of Federal Marshall George van de Sande at Corpus Christi, Texas, where he swore his Amnesty Oath to the Union of the United States of America and received his Parole of Honor, promising never to help the so-called Confederate government again.

It would appear that John never got around to becoming a citizen. He was just too busy. He again took the Declaration of Intent on the 26 day of August, 1867, along with Thomas McGuill of Ireland. No records have ever been found where he ever became a naturalized citizen. It was about this time that the one room church they built in Blanconia was dedicated as Our Lady of the Rosary and the McGuill and Dorsey families, along with eight other Irish families had their own church and no longer had to go all of the way to Refugio to Mass.

In 1875 Father Antoine hired John and his son, Patrick, to travel to Indianola, Texas, and bring three nuns, who belonged to the Order of the Sisters of Mercy, to his new school and convent at Our Lady of Refuge in Refugio. A few days later, after returning to his ranch on September 16th, a storm came through wiping out the nearby town of St. Mary’s and badly damaging Indianola. The nuns knew he was correct, they would never return there.

In 1904 John died at the age of 76 from complications of tuberculous at the home of his daughter, Margaret, in Beeville, Texas. He was buried alongside of hundreds of other people from Ireland. He came from Ireland with no family and no money but ended up a successful businessman, friend to all of his neighbors, the father of ten children and many grandchildren. He has been an inspiration for all of us.

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