Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Sam Steel Way, Las Cruces, New Mexico - The Bushmills Connection

Steel's Corner, Bushmills

James Love of the "My Dear Molly" letters had a younger maternal cousin called Samuel Alexander Steel who was also born in Bushmills. Samuel married Eleanor Taylor Fryer, a native of Stroud, Gloucestershire, in Stroud in 1873. Eleanor contracted TB and the young family emigrated to the USA from Bushmills for the sake of her health. Sadly, she passed away in Coulterville, Illinois, about 60 miles south-east of St Louis, Missouri, in 1880. Samuel remarried and later moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico. This is the tragic story of his and Eleanor's son Samuel [1876-1893] who was born in Bushmills:


by Bill Armstrong

This article appeared in the Summer 1996 issue of New Mexico Resources.
Photography: J. Victor Espinoza

Traffic slows just long enough to observe a stop sign on an Interstate 10 frontage road near the NMSU campus where, in November 1995, a street's name was changed from "Frontage Road" to "Sam Steel Way." Few people have time to look up at the sign that stands at the Union Avenue intersection. The street was renamed for someone even fewer will recognize today, but who was the talk of the town a century ago.

Sam Steel Way was named for a young man who would have been the first graduate of NMSU, then known as New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, had he not been murdered in 1893. Steel was shot and killed on March 9 of that year in what today is known as Mesilla Park. The 17-year-old was the son of a prominent Mesilla Valley family and a nephew of local Judge John McFie, who helped found the college. Steel began attending the college at age 13. 
According to an article in The New Mexico Collegian, a monthly publication of the Columbian Literary Society, Steel was delivering milk at the time of his murder. An excerpt from the article read:
"The hearts of the whole community were stricken with sadness when it was learned that Samuel Steel, the most brilliant student of our College, had been foully and wilfully [sic] murdered on Thursday evening, March 9th. We do not consider it in place to refer to the details of this ghastly deed, which are known to most of our readers; we only feel assured that it was perpetrated in sheer cold-bloodedness, and, knowing the victim as well as we have done, without the slightest provocation."
There were no witnesses to Steel's murder. The only suspect, John Roper, was found guilty of the crime in a Doña Ana County courtroom, but was later released after a higher court appeal in Sierra County.
Two days after the shooting, College President Hiram Hadley delivered Steel's funeral sermon at the local Presbyterian church, where six members of the Columbian Literary Society served as pallbearers. In his sermon, Hadley praised Steel's academic performance and his potential.
"Personally, I loved him with a paternal affection, and had planned for him labor along those lines in which he was sure to distinguish himself," Hadley told mourners. "It is rather more than 40 years since I consecrated my life to the work of education. In that period I have had under my care many brilliant youths, a large number of whom now fill exalted positions in their chosen callings, but taken all in all, I have never known the superior, if the equal, of Samuel Steel."
Steel was well-known because he was active in and out of the classroom on a small campus that shows little resemblance to today's. In his book, That All May Learn, Simon Kropp wrote that most classes in Steel's college days were taught in the two-story McFie Hall, which also housed the library, a reading room, and administrative and faculty offices.
Kropp, a professor emeritus of history at NMSU, noted that surrounding McFie Hall were barns, stables, outhouses, and experimental farms. Roads leading into the campus were so poor that some wagons were shaken apart while rolling along.
As Steel entered his senior year in fall 1892, he was joined by six juniors, seven sophomores, and 23 freshmen. Cultural events included musical and dramatic performances by student members of the Columbian Literary Society; the Fortnightly Club, a literary and musical society; and the Cordeagion Society, a female literary society.
Steel's extracurricular activities included membership in the Columbian Literary Society. Formed in 1891, the society was the first organization on campus for men. Its New Mexico Collegian was billed as the "first and only college paper in the Territory." The society's members were involved in paper presentations, story writing, speeches, and debate competitions.
Sam Steel's youngest half-brother, James, later became a physician and surgeon in Hatch. James was 69 when his son, Gordon, was born. Along with other family members, Gordon's mother-Sam Steel's sister-in-law Ethel Lawson-was on hand to cut the ribbon to Sam Steel Way at the May dedication.
Gordon is an avid tracker of his family tree, and has a keen interest in his late uncle.
"He was a very smart man, and I believe he would have become a prominent citizen at a very young age," he says. "He had staunch character ideals. He didn't subscribe to the vices of the day, and he was very verbal about it. Because of that, I believe he was a good role model for everyone."
Today, Gordon is stationed in England as a U.S. Air Force nurse. Just like his late uncle, Gordon is interested in agriculture. For hobbies, he enjoys growing grapes for wine and raising bees for honey. Before transferring to England, Gordon kept several hives at his lower valley Albuquerque home while stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base. He served as president of the New Mexico Bee Keepers Association for two years before going overseas in summer 1995.
"Even though I grew up in the hospital with my father as a surgeon, I'd like to try something different when I retire from the Air Force," he says. "I love agriculture so much that I envision myself gravitating towards it."
Today's graduates of NMSU's College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences are well aware of Sam Steel. At the end of each semester, the College recognizes its graduates by inducting them into the Sam Steel Society during a special pre-commencement ceremony. Since forming in 1993, more than 400 graduates have been inducted into the society.
John C. Owens, College dean and chief administrative officer, says the society is dedicated to bonding the College's "family" more closely.
With Sam Steel's death, there would be no graduation exercise in 1893. Instead, fellow classmate and future chile pioneer Fabian Garcia would join four others to become the first graduating class in 1894. Today, more than a century later, students and graduates can literally follow in Sam Steel's footsteps toward academic achievement by traveling on the road renamed for him.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Molly Kodner - Bringing it all back home

My interest in this wonderful story began here:

Molly has kindly given me permission to publish her blog

Following in James’s and Molly’s Footsteps, Ireland Style

23, November 2015
scenic photo of a river and pasture in Bushmills, IrelandScenic River Bush in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photo by Ira Kodner, 2015.
From June 2011 to February 2015, the Missouri History Museum posted the letters of Civil War soldier James E. Love to his fiancée, Molly, on this site. As part of that project, I visited the three battlefields where James fought, and wrote about my experiences following in the footsteps of his war service. Earlier this year, the Museum published James’s letters as a book titled My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love. And this fall I decided to follow James’s footsteps home to his native Northern Ireland, including the towns of Derry-Londonderry, Bushmills, Ballymena, and Islandmagee. My parents came with me, and in October we spent five fabulous days in Northern Ireland, where I discovered a beautiful country and retraced James’s—and Molly’s—footsteps.
In his reminiscences, James recalled:
The coasts of Antrim and Derry are wild and rocky, full of lovely bays and strands, with numberless caves in picturesque cliffs. I explored it fully and the Glens of Antrim over and over again before I was 18 years old, on horseback, on foot or jaunting car but best of all by boat and the sound of the seas and waves are still booming in my ears. I know every foot of it from Larne to Coleraine, including antiquities, castles and caves.
During our visit, we saw everything that James remembered. We stayed in Belfast and took day trips to the four towns associated with James and Molly. This plan was only possible thanks to David Lyttle, owner of Chauffeur Car Services and our outstanding driver and guide. He drove us through the countryside and along the beautiful Giants Coast Highway from Larne to Bushmills, and played audio recordings of Irish music and legends along the way. At my request, he even agreed to read one of James’s letters, so I could hear it with the Irish brogue.
Photo of Derry-Londonderry pastureJames’s ancestors, four Love brothers, first settled in this area south of Derry-Londonderry in 1630. Photo by Ira Kodner, 2015.
One stop on the journey was Derry-Londonderry, where James’s ancestors, four Love brothers, first settled in 1630. In his reminiscences, James mentions the old Love homestead located seven miles south of Londonderry. As we approached the town, we stopped to take pictures of the scenery in the area, which James surely saw when he was growing up. We toured the old walled city, including St. Columb’s Cathedral. While in the cathedral, by chance, our tour guide started talking to cathedral historian, Ian Bartlett. She explained the reason for our visit, and he offered to check the cathedral records, dating back to the 1600s, for the Love surname. Several men with that last name were listed, but, unfortunately, I did not know the first names of the original Love brothers.
photo of the blogger and her guide in Bushmills, IrelandMolly Kodner, Nevin Taggart and his dog, Cory, at the Old Bushmills Distillery. Photo by Ira Kodner, 2015.
The visit to Derry-Londonderry was a great thrill, but Bushmills was my main objective. We drove from Belfast to Bushmills along the Giants Coast Highway, and saw the coasts of Antrim, the picturesque cliffs, and the Glens of Antrim that James described. Upon our arrival in Bushmills, I met Nevin Taggart, a native of the town. When the Museum first started posting the letters in 2011, I discovered that Nevin had mentioned the project on his North Antrim Local Interest List blog. I emailed Nevin then, and we have been in touch ever since. He checked resources in Northern Ireland that I could not access, and provided invaluable information about James’s family. When I told him that I was coming to Northern Ireland, he made arrangements for me to meet with several people in both Bushmills and Ballymena. After many discussions via email and Facebook, I finally met Nevin! He guided us on a walking tour of Bushmills, pointing out buildings that existed when James was there. He took us to the Presbyterian church where James’s parents, William Love and Esther Steel, were married in 1829. Unfortunately, the original church building is no longer standing, but I was able to see the handwritten record book that included a listing for William and Esther’s marriage. I also met Charles Macnaghten. For generations, his family lived in Dundarave House in Bushmills, which was built by a company operated by James’s grandfather, father, and uncles. Mr. Macnaghten kindly showed me original documents regarding the company’s involvement with the construction. John Watt, a local photographer and columnist, took a picture of Nevin and me, and wrote an article for the Ballymoney Chronicle and Ballycastle Chronicle newspapers. My trip to Bushmills far exceeded my expectations.
For my visits to Ballymena and Islandmagee, I had no expectations. To be honest, I had focused so much on Bushmills that I forgot that James probably spent more time in Ballymena. Islandmagee was Molly’s hometown. Through my research, I knew that Molly’s ancestors first settled in the area in the 1600s, and that she was a direct descendant of fairly prominent people in the area. Her maternal grandfather, Reverend John Murphy, was minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Islandmagee for 50 years. His wife’s maternal name was Jane Brown, and Islandmagee had a town named Brownsbay. Even with this information, I still did not expect to find any connection to Molly during my visit.
a group of people at a reception for Molly Kodner and her bookReception in Ballymena. From left to right: Councillor Stephen Nicholl, Ira Kodner, Molly Kodner, Nevin Taggart, Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Councillor Timothy Gaston, and Barbara Kodner.
In the end, my time in Ballymena and Islandmagee was a highlight of my trip, thanks again to Nevin. He contacted several people who made special arrangements and treated me like an honored guest. When we arrived in Ballymena, our first stop was a reception with Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Councillor Timothy Gaston and Councillor Stephen Nicholl. Then, Denis McNeill and Brian Reynolds kindly interviewed me on the Q Radio network, so I had the opportunity to share James and Molly’s story with their listeners. The greatest part of the visit was when local historian Debroy Barr led us to the Old Churchyard, where James’s mother, grandfather, and two sisters are buried. James had stood in the graveyard for the burials of these four people. Their deaths, and the death of his father, led him to immigrate to the United States, settle in St. Louis, meet Molly, and fight in the Civil War.
Old schoolhouse in Islandmagee, IrelandMolly Love most likely saw this schoolhouse attached to the First Presbyterian Church in Islandmagee. Photo by Ira Kodner, 2015.
I had followed in James’s footsteps as far as possible, but I still needed to visit Islandmagee. My first stop was to meet Reverend Peter Bovill, current minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Islandmagee. The original church building no longer exists, but a small schoolhouse attached to the church was there when Molly still lived in Islandmagee. As I took pictures of the schoolhouse, I realized that it was the first time I had been able to follow in Molly’s footsteps, and stand in a place where she would have stood over 160 years ago. It was a huge moment for me because her letters to James did not survive and the houses where Molly lived in St. Louis were torn down long ago, so this was my first link to Molly, but not the last. Next, we visited the old Ballypriormore graveyard, which is located down a wooded path behind the Islandmagee Riding Stables, just over a mile from the church. It was quite an adventure to reach the graveyard, but worth it. Molly’s father, grandfather, and uncle were all buried there, so Molly came to the graveyard many times. Unfortunately, the cemetery was too overgrown to find the location of the exact tombstones, but it was still moving to stand where Molly once stood.
headstones on Ballypriormore graveyard in IrelandMolly Love's father, grandfather, and uncle are buried in the old Ballypriormore graveyard, shown here. Photo by Ira Kodner, 2015.
I will never forget my journey to Northern Ireland. I had the opportunity to see James and Molly’s homeland, and to meet several kind gentlemen whom I now consider friends. After my radio interview with Brian Reynolds, he asked me what Missouri and St. Louis are like, and I struggled to compare my home to Northern Ireland because they are so different. The question made me think about James coming from the vast, hilly countryside along the coast of Northern Ireland to the city of St. Louis in 1850. I wish I knew what he thought of the differences, and how he decided to settle in St. Louis for the rest of his life. I’m so thankful that he did. Otherwise, I never would have known him or Molly, or been able to follow them home.    
—Molly Kodner, Archivist

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Ballycastle - Defibrillator Fund-raiser - Friday November 13

Friday November 13
From 10 am to 2 pm
Boyle's deli on the Promenade

We at Boyles SPAR care passionately about our local community and we want to play our part in keeping it safe. Therefore we are fundraising to buy a defibrillator which can help someone when they most need it! So come along to our cake sale in-store in Friday morning to partake in the goodies to help us help Ballycastle! Dessies Delights, Cassies Cakes, James Jammie Joeys, Maíríns Muffins & Ciaras Cupcakes all available! You would be mad to miss it.

Shuffle down to the seafront on Friday

Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle - Public v Private Tussle


Fairhead is an iconic feature of our natural landscape and Carrickmore Road, formerly known as Old Colliery Road, is traveled by walkers and drivers on a very regular basis to take in the view. At present, those who are unable to walk to the end of the road for a view uninterrupted by a town-house can do so by vehicle. 

If TransportNI succumb to pressure to abandon part of this public road such an opportunity may no longer be possible. I've seen an elderly driver parked there for a short time but it's most unlikely this privilege and right is being abused. 

Abandonment automatically removes a right of way and any other arrangement would be dependent on the goodwill of a local council and a private owner.

TransportNI in Coleraine recently wrote to those who had submitted written objections:

Direct Line: (028) 7034 1334

Your letter of objection dated xx April 2015 in respect of the above abandonment refers.

Please be advised that in an attempt to resolve the objections received in respect of The Carrickmore Road Abandonment Order, TransportNl is convening a meeting which it is hoped you can attend on the 24 November 2015 in the Mayor's Parlour, former Moyle District Council Offices, Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6QH commencing at 7pm.

As well as TransportNl, the Objectors and the Applicant and/or his representative will also be in attendance.

If the date set for the meeting does not suit you, can you please arrange for someone else to air your views on your behalf."

Councillors whom I've contacted were not impressed that this TransportNI meeting coincided with a full meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. After all, councillors - as guardians of the public interest - can't be in two places at the same time. TransportNI has been asked to change the date but has declined.

If you signed the petition and want to ensure that your voice is heard you might wish to go along on Tuesday, 24 November. I'm told that those who signed the petition are considered to be objectors and will be welcome at this meeting. Even though they will not have received individual invitations, it is understood that the invitation extends to them.

The initial request for abandonment was for 300m of Carrickmore Road all the way to the North Star Dyke but this was later reduced to 70m. Here are some interesting snippets from official correspondence:

"I would see the process of abandonment as a waste of Roads Services valuable resources, particularly for your section, given the anticipated local objection. Considerable consultation with sister agencies would be required, including NIEA, Planning Service, Tourist Board, Moyle District Council, and much more I suspect. Much publicity would also follow given the depth of feeling about the loss of amenity, etc.

The road is not causing us in Section any maintenance grief and I have no issue with it being retained as a public road." .. John McKinley, DRDNI, 16 December 2009

"A copy of your request i.e. to abandon a stretch of Carrickmore Road leading to Marconi's cottage was referred to our senior management team recently for their consideration. Roads Service sees no public advantage in progressing this request as initial inquiries show local opposition to such a proposal including objection from Moyle District Council.

In the mid '90s a similar but much smaller scale proposal failed for the same reasons as noted above.

Unless the 'applicant' can demonstrate the acceptability of abandonment to Council/adjacent owners/local public, etc., we do not intend to progress this request any further." .. Mary Craig, DRDNI, 25 January 2010.

Moyle District Council subsequently and by a small margin decided not to oppose abandonment but the 1100+ petitioners and other objectors wish that no portion of Carrickmore Road be abandoned.

Added 19 November 2015


I refer to previous correspondence in relation to the above matter ending with our invitation letter dated 3rd November 2015.

Please be advised TransportNl has been made aware that our proposed meeting on Tuesday 24th November coincides with a Causeway Coast and Glens Council meeting on the same evening in Coleraine.

As previously outlined the aim of the meeting is to discuss concerns expressed by you and your fellow objectors regarding the proposed abandonment. Some objectors have requested councillors to speak on their behalf and in order for the Department to remain fair and impartial with all parties, this request has to be recognised.

Consequently the meeting on Tuesday 24th November has been cancelled and will now be held on Wednesday 13th January 2016 in the Council Boardroom in Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle commencing as before at 7.00pm.

I apologise for the late cancellation notice and any subsequent inconvenience this may cause.

As before, if you are unable to attend the meeting you may nominate a replacement to voice your objection.

Yours sincerely,

There's no mention of the complaints made by councillors from several parties that the meeting should be rescheduled so that they could attend as elected representatives; such complaints were initially rebuffed. Presumably petitioners will also be welcomed.