4. Thomas Hugh McKenna (1844-1910)

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Born in County Tyrone -
Thomas was born to Hugh and Mary McKenna on the last day of the year in 1844.  He was born in County Tyrone in the village of Eskra (Townlands of Tamlaght and Tullanafoile, Clogher Parish).  They were farmers, leasing the land from Francis J. Gervais.  They raised potatoes and flax and there was always plenty of work in the fields and to prepare the flax for clothing and market. They were surrounded by relatives - the closest families being James, John, Patrick and Hugh McKenna. McManus' and Doyle's also lived close by.

The first years of Thomas'  life were difficult as the now infamous "potato famine" started in 1845. It would last for 5 years, during which time 1 million of the 8 million people in Ireland would die and 1.5 million would leave the country. Thomas McKenna 's family did neither - they just survived. We don't know if any of Thomas' family died during the famine, but it is very likely they did. During this time, the family adopted a young girl Mary A. whose parents may have both died in the famine.

By the time Thomas was eight years old, his family had moved to Belfast for work and food. He had two older sisters - Ellen and Sarah, an older brother John, a younger brother James and his adopted younger sister Mary A.  His father Hugh had been a farmer in Tyrone but now took work as a a laborer in the linen mills. He was also a fireman.

Even after leaving Eskra for Belfast, the family likely maintained the lease on the farm and planted potatoes to supplement their diet. Thoms' sister Ellen, who was in her teens when they left Eskra, was living in County Tyrone when she married Joseph Glass in 1861.
Addresses in Belfast - 
6 Albert Street Place - When the family first moved to Belfast, they lived at 6 Albert Street Place.  The census record that identified them was done by the Christ Church, Church of Ireland.  At the time there were about 100,000 people in Belfast and the census covered about 3,700 members of the congregation.  The only other McKennas in the Christ Church census were George and Mary A. McKenna living at 1 Killen Street.  George was 36 years old and Mary A. was 25.  George was a carpenter.  George is of interest because he may be Hugh's brother.  
  • Hugh is 40 years old compared to George being 36 years old  
  • Both Hugh and George belong to the Church of Ireland which is unusual for a McKenna, and 
  • George lives at 1 Killen Street which is right next to Galway Street where Hugh moves before 1860.  
11 Galway Street - Galway Street is off Durham Street and is only .4 miles from Albert Street Place.  Hugh lived here in the 1860 Griffith's Valuation, when his adopted daughter Mary A. McKenna died in 1865 and in the 1868 Street Directory.  Thomas likely lived here when he married Sarah in 1864.

12 North Howard Street - Thomas and Sarah lived with Ellen Singleton (Sarah's mother or grandmother) in 1866 when their twins were born and one of the twins died (Thomas).  In the death record, Thomas is listed as a carpenter.  Phillip and Mary Ann Singleton McGrotty lived here in 1864 when their daughter Mary Jane was born.  Ellen Singleton is listed as the tenant in the 1860 Griffiths valuation and was living here in 1877 when she passed away at the age of 80." George Singleton was the informant on the death certificate.  F. McKenna, flaxdresser", is listed as living here with "Mrs. Singleton" in the 1870 Street Directory. According to the street directory, flaxdresser was a job done by men.

32 Fortingale Street - Thomas and Sarah lived at 32 Fortingale in May 1869 when Hugh Herbert was born and in June and July 1869 when they were baptized members of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Fortingale is described in the 1868 street directory as "Off Old Lodge Road - fifteen small houses".

37 Sevastapol Street -  The 1870 Belfast Street Directory listed Thomas McKenna, a flaxdresser, living at 27 Sevastapol Street.  While this may not be the same Thomas, it is the most likely of the five Thomas McKennas listed.  Other McKennas included in the 1870 directory included John McKenna, a painter, is living at 16 Sturgeon Street and Hugh McKenna, a packer, is living at 16 Boyne Court.

24 Elliot's Row - Thomas and Sarah lived here when George was born in April 1871 and when they were re-baptized in June and July of 1871. 
Note: Elliott's Factory stood at the corner of Springfield Road and Springfield Avenue on the country side. Springfield Avenue was called Elliott's Row until about 1901.

Religious History - 
Though the McKenna Clann were staunch Catholics, Hugh McKenna's family participated in the Church of Ireland. As early as 1852, they were included in the Christ Church (COI) census.  Marriages, baptisms and deaths for Hugh McKenna's family were generally conducted in the Church of Ireland. Christ Church and St. Anne's were the most common for such ceremonies.

In the 1901 Census, 99% of the McKennas in County Tyrone (100% of the McKennas in Cecil, Tyrone), and 95% of the McKennas in County Antrim were Catholic.

Spiritual Revival of 1859 - 
When Thomas was 14 years old, a spiritual revival hit Belfast and much of Ulster. Hugh Hanna, known as Roaring Hugh, was an active leader of open air preaching and revivals. On one occasion, over 30,000 people attended a revival at the Belfast Botanical Garden. In 1865, when Thomas married Sarah Singleton, they went to Rev. Hannah's Presbyterian church to be married.  Sarah Singleton was liklely a member of this congregation. Marriages outside the Church of Ireland were not recognized legally until 1844. At that time a law was passed that recognized non-COI marriages as long as either the bride or groom were members of the Church.   Though they were married in the Presbyterian Church, their children were baptized in the Church of Ireland.

Adversity - 
In 1866, Sarah gave birth to twins, Sarah and Thomas. At the time, they were living with Ellen Singleton at 12 North Howard Street, in the heart of the linen industry. Sarah the girl twin was healthy at birth, but Thomas was not and died 10 days later. They could not afford to seek medical care for Thomas and no physician verified the death.  Unfortunately, Thomas was not baptized before his death and according to church doctrine would spend eternity in limbo. Sarah was baptized several weeks after Thomas' passing.

The doctrine of infants being consigned to limbo must have been troubling to the parents. The happiness that comes with having a first child, turns to sorrow when he dies and to despair when you learn he will be eternally punished.

At the time of little Thomas' death, the family lived very close to the Robert Scott family. Robert was a foreman in the linen mills and may have known the McKenna's or Singletons. Robert had joined The Church of Jesus Christ, which has a more merciful doctrine regarding infants who die prior to the age of eight. According to Mormon doctrine, infants who die are immediately received into the loving arms of Jesus Christ.  Robert and Jane had lost a child of their own at the age of 4 and could relate to the sorrow the young parents must have felt.

Thomas and Sarah  likely started his working career in the linen mill, but by the time their twins were born in 1866, Thomas was a carpenter. Carpentry was in high demand as Belfast grew from 100,000 people in 1850 to 400,000 people in 1900.  Housing units were being built quickly and cheaply.

Following the death of the twin, the family moved into their own place on Fortingale Street. Thomas may have worked for Robert Allen, a carpenter who had a contract to build 400 housing units. Robert and Jane lived very close to the Mckennas on Court Street. Their 20year-old son Thomas Lonadale Allen worked with his father and may have been a friend to Thomas McKenna.

Robert Allen and his family were members of the Church of Jesus Christ having joined the Church in 1852 when Jane's nephew returned to Ireland as a missionary. They reached out to Thomas and Sarah and invited them into the small circle of Latter-day Saints. A circle that was anything but popular in this country where religion was a lightning rod. Robert Allen confirmed Thomas a member of the Church in June 1869. For reasons we do not know, Thomas and Sarah were "cut off" from the Church in ____ 1870. Then in ____ 1871, just one month before Robert and Jane emigrated to the United States, they reached out to Thomas and Sarah and invites them back into this select circle.

Most of what we know about the Allen family and their involvement in the Church is from Thomas Lonsdale Allen's personal history recorded in 1928, shortly before he died. It is rich with personal experiences serving as a "Home Missionary". He introduces some of the members of the Belfast Branch and helps us understand how courageous they were in living their faith.  Though he never mentions Thomas and Sarah McKenna by name, he likely worked with Thomas and was there when they first joined the Church.

The connection between the Mckenna's and the Allen's is confirmed not by the circumstances of living close together,  working in the same profession or joining the same church. The connection is confirmed by the fact that both families emigrated to Coalville, Utah. Only seven families from Ireland lives in Coalville and all of them had ties to the Belfast Branch.

Thomas and Sarah emigrated to the US with a small group of Saints in late 1872. The ship register shows the cost of their trip was 41 pounds and 13 shiillings.  Of this total, 13 pounds 13 shillings was for Sea Passage, 3 pounds 10 shilings was for "Provisions" and 24 pounds 10 shillings was for railroad passage.  Their immigration was at least partially funded by the Church's Perpetual Emmigration Fund (PEF).  On 31 December 1872, shortly after their arrival, a PEF loan for $235.32 was registered in the PEF Register.  

They left Liverpool on November ...  

While in New York City Thomas may have visited his sister Ellen who lived in Newark, NJ just across the river from New York City. Ellen had been in Newark since 1866 and must have been anxious to see her close family members.

Thomas and Sarah traveled by rail from New York City to Echo junction in Utah. The Union Pacific railroad had joined with ____ Pacific railroad in 1869 to form the first transcontinental railroad in the country. They then travelled by wagon the six miles to Coalville arriving in December 1872.

In  January 1873, the railroad tracks began to be laid between Echo junction and the Coal mines in Coalville. Thomas' career would be closely linked to the development of the rail lines that tied into the




Topics to explore further:
Thomas Hugh McKenna was born in County Tyrone, Ireland in 1844.
Potato Famine
Moved to Belfast
Christ Church Census 1852
Religious revivals – Hugh Hanna
Berry Street Presbyterian Church – Ewart School for Girls
Marriage – at least one had to be a member
Death of Thomas (Twin)
Proximity to Robert Scott – Mill foreman
Ellen mill worker - Thomas was a carpenter
Baptism – proximity to Allen family
Robert and Thomas Allen – carpenters
Thomas Allen – accounts of persecution & departure by ship
Re-baptism
PEF funding
Reunited with Allens in Coalville
1880 Census – Carpenter
Lived next to Robert Salmon – Bishop
Divorce of Robert and Jane Allen
Move to Rock Springs, Wyoming
Racial tension
Mormon community
Coal replaced Coalville
Sarah/Laura

Logan - Sarah dies, temple dedicated, Hendricks railroad connection

Railroad carpenter - skilled labor - bridges, snow sheds, stations, etc.

Nutria, WY -

Rock Springs, WY

Lima MT

Thomas' baptism with 4 children in 1904
Dies in 1910.