Hosted by Michael Tormey, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA


The Pennsylvania Tormeys

by James Tormey Clare, July, 2001

(The following article was originally submitted for publication in "Greene Hills of Home", the official historical journal of Greene Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania)

he year was 1845.  Unrecognized by the world were the ominous portends of disaster that hung over Western Europe like a dark cloud.  Already, reports were circulating of a blight on the potato crops of Holland, Belgium, France and Western England.  But these reports were ignored, for little did anyone realize that this was the beginning of an inexorable march of that blight westward, until a year later when it would descend with fury upon the tiny island of Ireland.

In 1841, the official census of Great Britain established the population of Ireland at eight million people.  But by 1851, 2.5 million of the populace had died of starvation because of the successive failure of the basic staple... the potato crop..., or had emigrated from their native land to escape the pangs of hunger and almost certain death.

One of these latter intrepid souls was James Tormey, whose odyssey took him from the green fields of Ireland to Greene Township in northeastern Pennsylvania.  And what follows is his story as told by his descendants and official reports.  It is not a rags-to-riches tale, but rather the simple account of a young immigrant who lived the majority of a long life in relative prosperity in Pike County, Pennsylvania.

James Tormey was born in 1814, the son of James and Letitia, in the tiny townland of Athleague, County Roscommon, an agricultural area in the west of Ireland that was one of the most devastated by what became known as the "Great Famine of 1846.

Nothing is known of James' early years except that he supported himself as a tanner and from laboring.  In 1837 he took a wife, Mary Boland, and by 1840 was the father of one son, Dennis.  Again, and until 1845, history is silent about the family, until the blight arrived.  It was in that year that James booked passage for his wife and child on one of the immigrant ships leaving the British Isles for New York.  He, himself, remained in Ireland until 1847, when he, too, crossed the Atlantic and was reunited with his family in New York City.

During his sojourn in New York, James made ends meet by working at laboring jobs until sometime in the mid-1850's, when the family migrated again, this time to Sullivan County, New York.  There James found work in a tannery owned by a wealthy Quaker named Burton Morss, a man who owned a sawmill, tannery and some ten thousand acres in Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania, the sawmill and tannery being located in Ledgedale, not far from the present-day Ledgedale bridge.

Cropped portion of Rail Road Map of Pennsylvania, published by the Department
of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania in 1895. Ledgedale is marked by a red star
(added for this website -- not on the original map). The nearby, smaller Greene
Township, though not named on the map, is over the county line in Pike.

(Wall, J. Sutton, Harrisburg, PA, 1895. Library of Congress, Geography and Map
Division. Original print 87 x 141 cm.  Digital ID g3821p rr002970.


The presence of the Tormey family in the Ledgedale area is first officially recorded in the Seated Assessment records of Pike county for the year 1861 (although he is known to have worked in the Ledgedale tannery prior to that year), which showed him to be in possession of one hundred and one acres of unimproved land.  This land was located along what is now Kuhn Hill Road in Greene Township, and extended to the Wallenpaupack Creek.  It encompassed part of what is now Lake Wallenpaupack Estates and Al's Acres and it abutted two similar-sized tracts along that road which were occupied by his fellow countrymen, Patrick Reidy and Thomas Madden.

For the next eighteen years, James continued his labors in the tannery while at the same time gradually clearing the land for farming purposes.  Thus, by 1879, when he had ceased working, he had cleared sixteen acres, erected a house, barn, out-buildings, and owned cattle, oxen and horses.

According to his grandson and namesake, James, he had increased his activities to the breeding of Morgan horses which he sold to the tannery and sawmill for use in bringing hemlock trees from the woods to the tanning and logging operations at Ledgedale.

Despite all of the years that he and his family occupied the land, it was not until January 1879 that, for the sum of $607, James became the owner in the fee of the 101 acres by virtue of a deed from the owner of the tannery, Burton Morss.  In that deed, Morss reserved the right to all hemlock trees (and bark there from) standing on the land for use in his sawmill and tannery.  This was apparently a customary provision at the time in the conveyances from Morss.

On September 24, 1881, at the age of 71, Mary Boland Tormey passed away and was buried in the graveyard at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Ledgedale in an unmarked grave.  James now was a widower, in advancing years and no longer able to function as he once did.  As a consequence, and given the fact that his younger son James had died many years before, it was now the sole responsibility of his elder son, Dennis and the latter's wife to assume responsibility for the care of his father and the working of the farm.

Although Dennis had accompanied James and Mary to Ledgedale, and had worked with him in the Tannery, he left his parents' house in 1863 to marry a young woman from New York City named Catherine Brannon.  Upon their marriage, Dennis and Catherine established their own home along what is now S.R. 30013, Ledgedale, Salem Township, Wayne County, where Catherine, between 1864 and 1878 gave birth to eight children:  Anne, Mary, Catherine, Barney, Margaret, James, Patrick and Peter.

Dennis and Catherine arrived at the Greene Township property shortly before Mary Boland's death.  There Catherine gave birth to four more children:  Edward, Elizabeth, John and Richard.  Although James had divided his holdings with his son, Dennis, and the families prospered, tragedy struck again.  Catherine did not survive the birth of her youngest son, Richard, and died shortly thereafter.  Richard, in turn, passed on four months later in February of 1885.  They, too, were interred at St. Mary's, also in unmarked graves.

James and Dennis were now both widowers, the latter assuming the sole responsibility not only of the land, but of an aged father and several children.  In 1889, recognizing the realities of their lives, James transferred all of the property to Dennis for the sum of two hundred dollars.

By this time, James fell prey to the ills of old age, took to his bed and, finally, on October 22, 1903, at the age of 89, he joined his wife, Mary, his daughter-in-law, Catherine, and his grandson, Richard in St. Mary's graveyard.  In a front page obituary in the Milford, Pennsylvania Dispatch of November 5, 1903, his death was reported:

James Tormey, the oldest resident of Pike County, died at the home of his son, Dennis, on the hill in Palmyra Township where he had lived for twenty-three years, on October 22.  Although he had almost reached the century mark, he retained his senses of sight and hearing until the end.  The survivors are (sic) one son Dennis...   His wife... preceded him to the grave, (his) youngest son James having died during the Civil War.

Now Dennis was alone, facing old age.  Of his eleven children, only three, including Peter, Barney and Elizabeth, remained with him, all the rest having left the farm to seek out their own lives in various distant places.  For the next ten years they survived, Peter and Barney tending to the land and Elizabeth tending to the house and her father's wants, until October 12, 1913, when Dennis, age 75, succumbed to cancer in the home of his daughter, Catherine, in Hawley.  He, too, was laid to rest in St. Mary's, joining his father and mother, his wife and son.  

Before his death, Dennis, as did his father, conveyed all of his worldly possessions to his son, Edward, who, having a greater taste for the city life over the pastoral, systematically sold all of his grandfather's property... some to private buyers and much to James Butler, a land agent for the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company.  Thus, by 1921, James Tormey's stake in life was in the hands of strangers and the Tormey family of Greene Township passed into history... or so it would seem.

Of all James' and Dennis' progeny, only three remained in the area.  Catherine, his second eldest, married a Wayne County farmer, Patrick Keary (anglicized Carey) and lived until his death in 1946 on their farm outside of Hawley on present Route 590.  Their farm house and two out-buildings still stand.

Peter, Dennis' fourth son, went to live with Catherine after the death of her husband and worked her farm for many years.  Peter, then totally blind as the result of a farm accident, passed away in 1959 at Sacred Heart Old Age Home in Scranton.  He was 81 years of age at his death, and he, too, was interred at St. Mary's.

Margaret, Dennis' fourth oldest daughter, married Henry Reidy, Patrick Reidy's grandson, and remained in the Lake Ariel region until her death in 1963 at age 93.  She, like her ancestors, is buried in St. Mary's beside her husband, Henry, and three of her children:  Henry, David and Cyril.

James Tormey still has three lineal descendants living in the Wayne/Pike area.  James Roos, a great-great-grandson, lives near Hawley;  James Tormey Clare, another great-great-grandson, lives in Greene Township with his son, Kevin, in a house erected in a field once owned by James.

Life, it seems, is not only ironic; it comes "full circle."

Related Links of Interest...




In Memory of James Tormey Clare


A memorial tribute to James Tormey Clare, a Fellow Researcher who made valuable contributions to our knowledge of Tormey history...

» Read more











Tormey Family History Website
Copyright © 1998-2009, Michael Tormey. All rights reserved