Rosalie Hart Priour

"Adventures of a Family of Emigrants" with notes and commentary by historian Frank Wagner (indicated in green).


Chapter 1

As an introduction to my history, I will begin by giving an account of events that occurred some years prior to our coming to Texas.

My grandfather's family on my father's side were natives of the county Kent in England, who came to Ireland some years before the rebellion of 1798 and started a tan-yard in Watlin Street, Dublin. They were raised in the Church of England and were very much attached to it. Consequently, when my grandfather became a convert to the Catholic religion, his father looked upon it as a disgrace to the family, and disinherited him.

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Ireland was a comparatively peaceful land during most of the 18th century following the Williamite suppression up to the time of the American Revolution. Thousands of Scots and English, both Presbyterian and Anglican, migrated into Ireland. Dublin became the second most populous city of the British Isles. Viceroy Townshend and others simplified the restrictive acts, relaxed the penal code and repealed the Gavelling Act. Tom Hart's father seems to have been one of the English immigrants

The Constitution of Ireland and the Renunciation Act were instituted in 1782 and 1783 so that Irish passed their own laws. But Protestant Dissenters and Catholics were largely excluded. An oath acceptable to Catholics was introduced. Governmental ministers were still appointed by the British Parliament in London. It was these appointive ministers who compel led the Irish Parliament, then under the baleful and corrupt management of Lord Clare (John Fitzgibbon, Lord Chancellor) and Archbishop Beresford of Armagh, to allow Catholics in Ireland to vote. Lord Clare, a native Irishman was especially virulent in his opposition to any change. Wolfe Tone, an Anglican, organized "The Society of United Irishmen" made up chiefly of Catholics, and many of the Dissenters. i.e. Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists, joined into "The Orange Society," which severely polarized the people. Wolfe Tone openly collaborated with the French invasion at Bantry Bay in 1797.

There was a Presbyterian insurrection in County Antrim and County Down in June, 1798, put down by General Gerard Lake (afterwards Viscount Lake). He issued a proclamation in Ulster demanding surrender of all arms, and enforced it vigorously. He then marched south where he encountered rebels at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy County Wexford. The rebels' defeat was decisive. Lord Cornwallis then ordered Lake to Killala Bay to counter the invasion, but no French came. British forces mopped up the rebellion smoothly and bloodily. Wolf Tone was taken and he died shortly afterward in prison. A convenient history is Thomas Pakenham's Year of Liberty, Panther books, Grenada Publishing, St. Albans, 1971.

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Soon afterwards, he married a young lady, a native of Howth, an act that widened the breach between him and his family still more, as she was beneath him in station, although acknowledged by everyone to be one of the best loved women that ever lived, and a true Christian. They lived very happily until the rebellion broke out, and as he was already marked out as a victim of religious fanaticism, he was the first man put to death for being a Catholic in the streets of Dublin in the rebellion of 1798. He was arrested and whipped in the streets of Dublin for three days in succession. The executioner, after laying on so many strokes, would stop and ask, "Will you renounce the Romish church and tell where the priests are hidden? If you will, you will be reinstated in your inheritance and receive a reward from the government of England."

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The question put by the public executioner clearly echoed the Tudor wars and Cromwell's suppression. The 1798 rebellions were largely secular, even though organized by clashing religious minorities.

John Claudius Beresford, son of the statesman and landlord John Beresford, owned a riding school in Dublin which was the scene of many floggings during the rebellion. Though Beresford was a member of parliament, the beatings had no color of law about them. The fanaticism was driven underground by the Act of Union. Rosalie's grandfather may have been a victim of John Claudius Beresford's henchmen. Strange to say, John Claudius Beresford opposed the Act of union. The Catholic hierarchy and many prominent laymen supported the Act of Union. Pitt, the younger, promised them to do his best to remove the remaining Catholic disabilities, if they would support him on the Act. King George III, however, was adamantly against it and Pitt was forced to resign.

Robert Emmet started another rebellion in 1803. Even such patriots as Henry Grattan and Daniel O'Connell spoke out against it. O'Connell, "The Liberator," actually armed himself to help in putting down Emmet's rebellion. Emmet's rebellion confirmed O'Connell's lifelong belief in nonviolent, legal means of achieving emancipation.

Daniel O'Connell was a brilliant orator who led in presenting Irish grievances to the British parliament. He saw the Act of Union as the main problem, and resolved in 1823 to find ways to repeal it. Some of his followers continued to agitate insurrection, and in one instance Parliament retaliated with a bill for an Act of coercion to govern Ireland. Debates on this bill were the high point of O'Connell's career, but Parliament passed the Act in 1833. When James Power came to Wexford to solicit emigrants for Texas, he was greeted heartily and was surprised by the eager response.

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His answer was invariably, "No! I joined the Catholic Church because I thought it the true religion, and I will not dishonor myself, or sell my soul for any worldly advantages that this world can confer." My dear grandmother remained by his side during the whole of that trying scene with my father, then an infant six months old in her arms, and my aunt Brigitte--three years of age by the hand, and at every blow the flesh of my dear grandfather would fall over them, but the executioner seemed heartless, and resisted all her entreaties until the third day, when he gave her possession of my grandfather with permission to take him home, and save him if she could.

But it was too late. With all the care that could be lavished on him, he died another martyr for the Catholic religion.

After he was buried, his brothers wished to take his children and raise them up in the Church of England. To this proposition, their mother could never consent. In this dilemma, she had recourse to Lord and Lady Howth, feeling assured that the love and respect they had for her would cause them to protect her; but to keep the children from falling into the hands of their uncles, it became necessary for Lord Howth to adopt them, and the alternative which he did not hesitate to comply with as it was the only means by which the children could be raised in the religion for which their father had suffered and died. Very nobly did Lord and Lady Howth perform the task which they had imposed on themselves

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There was no need for the Kentish family to disinherit Rosalie's grandfather: under laws in force at the time, but not widely or rigorously enforced, no heir could inherit after converting to Catholicism. A similar circumstance existed for the historian, Edward Gibbon, during the same time.

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Teachers were employed for young Lord St. Lawrence and my father, when they were old enough to go to school. But as Lord Howth's son and my father were both of a very wild and reckless disposition, they improved very little under private teachers. My aunt, on the contrary, learned very fast, and for some years every moment she could spare from her own studies was devoted to the instruction of poor children on Lord Howth's estate. Such was her occupation until she was thirteen years old, at which time death came and claimed her for his own.

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Sir Edward St. Lawrence and his wife, Alice, were Lord and Lady Howth in 1798. Lord Howth, adoptive father of Tom Hart, was a wealthy, Anglican landlord. His eldest son, Edward, is the Lord St. Lawrence who was companion and later patron of Tom Hart. A younger brother, not mentioned by Rosalie, was Honorable Thomas St. Lawrence, afterwards Archbishop of Cork. The wealth of Lord Howth was immense: he personally financed construction of Howth Harbor from 1802 until 1832.

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My grandmother was inconsolable for her loss and so great an impression did grief make on her mind, that one evening when she went out to bring in some clothes that were on the line, she imagined my aunt came to her and, holding up her arms requested her mother to look and see all the holes the tears she had shed had made through her body.

"Dear mother," she said, "do not mourn for me, the tears you shed are the only thing that keeps me from being perfectly happy." The vision of whatever it might be had a salutary effect on her, and in place of giving way to grief, she devoted her time to making others happy and her life was spent in the service of God that she might be worthy of joining her children in a better world.

Chapter 2

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