Who were the Horans?

When I was in my early teens and starting to get interested in family history (thanks, Roots!), my grandfather Bill Prettyman told me what he knew about his ancestors. He told me that his grandfather was Alfred Minus Prettyman and that his grandmother was Mary Ann Horan. With those words, I learned of my great-great-grandparents for the first time.

Since then, I’ve learned much about Alfred Minus/Minos Prettyman and his ancestry, tracing the Prettyman line back to my 18th-great-grandfather John Prettyman, who lived in Bacton, Suffolk County, England in 1361, the location of the Prettyman ancestral home, Bacton Manor (the most recent iteration of the Manor House dates to the late 1500s).

Mary Ann Horan and her ancestry have proven quite a bit more difficult. I could find information about Mary once she had married Alfred Prettyman (for instance, the 1885 census—see image below—that was taken almost 6 months after their December 1, 1884, wedding), but information about her before she was married proved very difficult to come by.


I eventually found a couple of census entries (1875 and 1880) for a Mary A Horan before she was married:



These two census entries listed Mary’s parents as William and Margaret Horan, and showed that Mary was the eldest sibling in a family of at least seven children:

  • Mary (b. ca. 1865)
  • Michael (b. ca. 1867)
  • Bridget (b. ca. 1869, presumably died before 1880)
  • John (b. ca. 1870)
  • Margaret (“Maggie”) (b. ca. 1871)
  • William (“Willie”) (b. ca. 1874)
  • Lisa (b. ca. 1876)

Then, exactly one month ago today, I received a comment on one of my blog posts:

Working on the Arthur Horan (my grandfather) side of the ancestry. Apparently, Mary Ann Horan Prettyman was his sister. Could you scan and send me any pertinent information. I believe their father was William and their Mother Anora. However, if Mary Ann was born in 1861 there would have been a twenty year span in their births. I only know of three other sisters to Arthur. Thank you.lorraine

Interesting—I knew of no brother named Arthur, and I (thought I) knew that Mary Ann’s mother’s name was Margaret, not Anora. Was Lorraine’s grandfather Arthur unrelated, or did I have more to learn about Mary Ann’s family? Given how little I knew about Mary Ann Horan’s past, I hoped that this new clue would shed new light on Mary Ann’s ancestry.

Lorraine wrote again with a couple of additional tidbits:

Grandpa was born march 29, 1881. His mother Anora died in 1891, I believe. His father was William. Per his obit. After his mother’s death, he lived with a sister and brother-in-law. The family stories are a little more colorful. I believe William may have moved to logging areas out west. Do you have anything to add to my lack of information about William or Anora? Lorraine

I asked for a copy of Arthur’s obituary, and she sent me an image of his obituary:

Arthur Horan obit cropped

This caused me to throw my ideas about Mary Ann’s birth family out the window. The person I thought was her father, William W. Horan, died in Minneapolis in 1917. The person I thought was her mother, Margaret Patterson Horan, died in New Richland in 1907. According to Arthur’s obituary, however, both of his parents died in 1891, and he went to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Mary Ann and Alfred Minos Prettyman. Additionally, the three sisters listed as surviving Arthur—Katherine, Frances and Laura—are not among the sisters listed in the 1875 and 1880 censuses I showed above.

As has happened at least one other time in my search for my ancestors, there appears to have been two people who had the same name, who were born around the same time, and who were living in the same area, and I had conflated the two individuals. Sure enough, with a bit of searching, I found the obituary for Mary Horan #2 (not an ancestor), indicating that she had married a Mr. Donahue and had died unexpectedly in 1893.
The wrong Mary A HoranI’ll have to go back and reexamine all of my evidence for Mary Ann Horan to see which pertains to Mary A. Horan #1 (my ancestor) and which pertains to Mary A. Horan #2 (who married Mr. Donahue and died in 1893).

I’ll spare you the details and will jump straight to my conclusions:

Fact Mary A. Horan #1 Mary A. Horan #2
name Mary Ann Horan Mary Agnes Horan
born 1866 1864
birthplace Minnesota New York
father William Horan
(b. 1844, Ireland)
William Horan
(b. 1842, Ireland)
mother Anna or Annie (or Anora)
(b. 1847/49, Indiana)
Margaret Patterson
(b. 1842, Ireland)
siblings Catherine (b. 1870)
John Bernard (b. 1873)
Martin (b. 1876)
Peter F. (b. 1879)
Arthur Wallace (b. 1881)
Frances (b. ____)
Laura (b. ____)
Michael (b. 1867)
Bridget (b. 1869)
John (b. 1870)
Margaret (b. 1871)
William (b. 1873)
Elizabeth (b. 1876)
sibling order first-born child first-born child
1870 US census ? ?
1875 MN census Belle River
Douglas Co., MN
Waseca Co., MN
1880 US census Belle River
Douglas Co., MN
**father was absent**
Waseca Co., MN
1885 MN census Spruce Hill
Douglas Co., MN
**siblings living with Frank
and Anora Lee Prettyman**
1895 MN census Woodside
Otter Tail Co., MN
**siblings living with Mary
Ann and Alfred Prettyman**
husband Alfred Minos Prettyman Cornelius Donahue
married Dec 1, 1884 ?
children Roy Alfred (b. 1885)
George Irvin (b. 1887)
Charles Austin (b. 1889)
Gracie (b. 1891)
Clarence Marion (b. 1894)
4, including
Mary Agnes Horan (b. 1893)

So it appears that Mary Ann Horan was born in Belle River township, Douglas County, Minnesota, to William and Anna (“Annie”) Horan. They stayed in Belle River until at least 1880. In 1880, her father was not living at home at the time of the census, and her mother (“Annie Horn”) was listed as the married, non-widowed head of household. Perhaps this was when her father William Horan went west to logging areas in California, Oregon, or Washington, as Lorraine hinted at in her email to me?


By the time of the 1885 U.S. census, Mary Ann Horan has been married to Alfred Minos Prettyman for seven months, and she’s seven months pregnant with her first-born child, Roy A. Prettyman (quite the effective honeymoon!). Her siblings are all living next door to her and Alfred, with the family of Alfred’s older brother Francis (“Frank”) Prettyman and his wife Anora Lee Prettyman (see below; perhaps this is why Lorraine called Anora Arthur’s mother—Arthur had moved in with Anora and Frank by the time he was four years old).


Where were her parents? Had Annie Horan joined her husband on the west coast? I only found one William Horan in 1885 on the west coast—a dairyman who was living in Seaside, Santa Cruz County, California (at the time a big redwood logging area). He was listed as the head of household (see image below) and had three nieces and a nephew staying with him (Annie Horan, 15; Katie Horan, 13; Mary Jane Horan, 11; and Charles Horan, 9). I have no reason to think this is Mary Ann’s father, but I also can’t rule him out.


It seems unusual that both of Mary Ann’s parents would have died in 1891 (if Arthur’s obituary is correct on this point), and I’d expect there’d be an interesting story behind that event as well. I haven’t yet been able to learn anything about the deaths of Mary Ann’s parents.

One thing I did notice, however, was that Anora Lee Prettyman died in 1892, and that she shares a headstone (see photo below) with her father-in-law, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, who also died in 1892, and one of the Horan children who was living with her—Martin Horen (1876–1890). I think it’s possible that the history got a little garbled over time, and that it was the woman serving as the mother of the Horan children who died in 1892, right after the male head of the same family died in 1892, and that these two deaths got misremembered as the deaths of the Horan children’s parents.

The death of Anora Lee Prettyman, would have left Frank Prettyman alone with a handful of Horan children, and so it makes sense that the children would have left Frank and Anora Prettyman’s home (what Arthur would have considered his parents’ home) at that time and moved in with my great-great-grandparents (and their eldest sister), Alfred Minos Prettyman and Mary Ann Horan. And sure enough, at least some of the Horan children are still shown as living with Alfred and Mary Ann at the time of the 1895 Minnesota state census:


So I think I’ve straightened out the two previously conflated Mary A. Horans, and I’ve learned a bit about who her siblings were and where they went when their birth parents were no longer in the picture. But what happened to her birth parents? The circumstances of their deaths and/or departures still need to be determined.

4 thoughts on “Who were the Horans?

  1. This is a great find, for me. Hi, my name is Michael John Horan (Lorraine’s younger brother) and son of Harry Horan, grandson of Arthur Wallace Horan.
    Here is my recollection of what took place. Great Grandpa William and Great Grandma Anora (Annie) were married and had several children. Great Grandpa William decided to head out west to seek his fortune, find himself or whatever, and left Great Grandma Anora behind with the children. At some time after, I remember discussions of how Grandpa Art and his siblings had been basically told to “hit the road” and while I do not know much about everything that took place following that, I remember there being discussions about how Grandpa Art, somehow, ended up in the logging camps in northern Minnesota. That he was able to survive, until taken into the camps, by befriending cattle so he could squirt milk into his mouth and he would take eggs out from under chickens and eat them raw. There may have been some embellishment involved with all of that. But Grandpa Art was a small, hard working man who took no garbage from anyone. Yet, he was as warm and caring as anyone could be. I remember Dad saying more than one time when he would say, “the bigger they are, the harder they will hit the ground!” I firmly believe he learned a lot of that from living in the logging camps as perhaps a teenager or young man. While I do not remember it, I remember my parents talking about it as well as both of my sisters talking about how Grandpa Art was able to do acrobats when he was in his late 60s and early 70s. Things like cartwheels etc.
    Dad had a very close relationship with the Prettyman boys and he always referred to them as his cousins (Roy cut my hair many times when I was a child, and G I and Austin would either stop by the farm or Dad would stop by the Real Estate office in Wadena every once in a while). I believe, as Lorraine does, that we have no record of Great Grandpa William’s death or where his body is. But we are convinced that the gravesite in Parker Prairie, MN is, indeed that of Great Grandma Anora. It is our belief that she is buried in that multiple grave location with who is one of her sons (Martin) as well as her fetus as she died as the result of hemorrhaging. I am not certain as to who some of the other individuals might be that are identified on the two sided of that headstone. Roy’s grave is very close by showing his DOB as 26 Aug. 1885 and death as 9 Nov. 1971. There is also a gravesite for Alfred M. Prettyman, 1862 – 1935 with the title of Father above his name. Seeing the comment above, “who was Margretha Wolf Gores?” all I can share is that the real estate business that Austin and G I Prettyman ran was known as, “The Gores Real Estate Company, which makes me think that there was some connection to the Prettyman family.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the information! Lots of good stuff here I’m looking to go over carefully as soon as I have a chance.

      I don’t have much time right now, but let me clear up the Prettyman/Gores relationship. Your dad (Harry John William Horan, 1910–1985, if I’ve got that right) actually was the first cousin of the Prettyman boys. Your grandfather Arthur Wallace Horan (1881–1956) was the brother of the Prettyman boys’ mother, Mary Ann Horan (1866–1906).

      G.I. Prettyman’s immediate younger brother was Charles Austin Prettyman (1889–1970). Charles married Rosa (“Rose”) Cecilia Gores (1892–1945). Charles and Rose were my great grandparents. Rose’s father was none other than Franz (“Frank” or “F.E.”) Eugene Gores, the founder of the Gores Real Estate Company.

      Also, the Mary A. and A.M. Prettyman on the other side of Anora’s gravestone are Mary Ann (Horan) Prettyman—Anora’s eldest child—and Alfred Minus/Minos Prettyman. Mary Ann and Alfred were the parents of the Prettyman boys.

      As soon as I have a free moment, I’ll send you an email so we can talk some more.

      All the best,

  2. Thank you for that response. I never knew the Gores connection. I had probably been told, but I was quite young at the time and it probably did not mean much to me then. As one gets older, things like that become important.
    Thank you, again, for your response. I look forward to more communications.

  3. Rereading this material caused me to remember about the Prettyman men. I find it interesting that George Irwin or G. I. often went by Irwin instead of George. The same was true of Charles Austin. I remember my parents always referring to him as “Austin” and never as Charles. Roy, was always Roy.
    I cannot remember which of those Prettyman men it was, but I seem to remember his having what was referred to, at the time, as a large mansion close to the Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul. I remember that while my parents were very poor, they always spoke highly of GI and Austin and as I remember, the “Prettyman boys” as they were often called in our home, always spoke highly of my parents as well as my grandparents. I do not ever remember any comment(s) or anything else that makes me feel that they felt they were “better.” They were some of the nicest men I ever remember being around when I was little.
    I just wish I could find where my Great Grandpa William is buried, and who my great, great Horan and Lee (Lea) grandparents were, where they were born, etc. Perhaps one day, I, or someone else will make that discovery. Until then, it will continue to be a challenge.
    Thank you for all you have done!

    Michael John Horan

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