William Horan is my 3rd-great-grandfather, and like his wife Anora (Lee) Horan, whom I wrote about yesterday (see the post here), the details of his life have proven elusive.
William Horan was born in Ireland, but we don’t know when he immigrated to the United States. His parents reportedly ran a hotel called the “Horne Hotel” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I have yet to find evidence of the hotel’s existence. At some point around 1863 or 1864, William Horan met and pursued Anora Lee, a young woman working in the Hotel. The two married on July 24, 1864.
Yesterday I received additional details about William and Anora from my cousin Lorna:
William wasn’t a very reliable father and husband. He came and went from the household. Anorah worked at the Moffet Castle in St. Paul to earn money for the family. William stole a team of oxen and was sent to State Prison for two years in 1882. (His children were told their father died.) While he was in prison Anorah divorced him and married Francis Marion Prettyman.
So William may not have actually died in 1882/1883, as previously suspected (based on stories recorded by his children), since the children from whom we received this information were told he had died when in fact he was just serving time in prison.
I haven’t yet found details of William’s death, and I’ve got to wait until the Minnesota Historical Society’s COVID closure is over to submit my request for William’s prison records. What I was able to locate, however, were some newspaper mentions of William Horan which support Lorna’s account of him being unreliable and missing from the household at times.
Here’s what I’ve found so far (after culling through all mentions of “William Horan” in Minnesota newspapers from 1860 to 1885).
From page 4 of the Saturday, March 30, 1878, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
From page 3 of the Saturday, May 10, 1879, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
From page 3 of the Thursday, May 15, 1879, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
From page 5 of the Saturday, June 28, 1879, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
From page 3 of the Thursday, August 25, 1881, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
From page 7 of the Thursday, April 12, 1883, edition of The St. Paul Daily Globe:
While I can’t yet definitively say these references to William Horan are absolutely referring to our William Horan, that appears most plausible. Usually I’d demonstrate that there was only one person by this name in the state or region at the time of the references, but I haven’t been able to find any William Horans on the 1880 U.S. census for the entire state of Minnesota. We have good evidence that William and Anora Horan were living in Douglas County, Minnesota in the later 1870s, but they just seem to have somehow been missed by the census enumerators in 1880.
From the 1875 Minnesota state census, there do seem to be two William Horans in Minnesota at the time: one in Waseca County in the southern part of the state, and one in Douglas County in the central part of the state. The Douglas County William is our William. Unhelpfully, ours was born in ca. 1844, and the other William was born in ca. 1843. Also unhelpfully, they were also both born in Ireland. Thankfully, the Waseca County William has a wife and six children, five of whom were born in New York state. From his childrens’ birth places we can see that this William Horan came from New York to Minnesota sometime between 1872 and 1873. As I mentioned earlier, no William Horans were on the 1880 U.S. census for Minnesota. This William was apparently also missed in 1880, as we find them again on the 1875 Minnesota state census in Waseca County.
If the reports I shared today are indeed about our William Horan (and that seems likely, as he and his wife appear to have had connections to St. Paul and Minneapolis), then these reports are consistent with the description of William Horan as an unreliable husband and father. And an oxen thief. And a drunk. And a fighter. And an unruly person in general. And maybe a coat thief. He certainly wasn’t trying hard to dispel stereotypes of Irish immigrants. Despite all this, he is my third great-grandfather, and I’m grateful to get to know him.