My second great- grandfather on my mother’s side was Robert E. Kearse, born in 1832 in Glanquin, County Clare Ireland. When he was only 18, he came to America with his brother Timothy who settled in Massachusetts and his brother John who made his way to Chicago then to California. Robert came to Richmond, Virginia where another brother, James, older by only two years, had settled with their mother Ann O’Keefe Kearse, their Dad was deceased. Also present in Richmond were other cousins, who made for a great family gathering! Although Robert was only 18 when he arrived in 1850 on the ship Northumberland from Ireland, by 1855 he was married to Margaret Hannan and they had their first child Thomas born in 1855. By April 1861, the Civil War had started and he and his brother James both joined the Confederate forces to defend their adopted city which was the Capital of the Confederacy! While he was fighting, 1861-1865, or standing guard of the city and of Union prisoners, he had three more children. Robert Jr. in 1861, Mary in 1863, and John in 1864. He had already had James Henry in 1857, then had five more after the war, for a total of ten new Kearse family members in America! We notice that besides having a Robert Jr., Robert also named three sons after other brothers, one of whom was named after his father as well. Timothy–there must be a million Timothy, Thadeus, Thady or Tim Kearse persons in this family, the other million are named James! We know that on the ship with Robert were his brothers John and Timothy, and in Richmond was James as well. DNA testing has connected us to all of the families I believe. In fact, one of the newest cousins I have met through our DNA match is Bob of Ireland who now lives in England. He is a very knowledgeable source for Kearse history. He and I are currently trying to catalog all of the Timothys in our extended Kearse family! This ought to be fun!
By the way, Kearse is spelled in many different ways by many different families who are related to each other. We have Kearse, Kierce, Kierse, Kerse, Kears, and Kersey at least! They are all the same family! DNA and history are what counts, so interesting!
As I’ve thought of the Kearse family so much this week, I began to think about the early immigrants to America, who came here in response to the famine in Ireland, which forced so many Irish to seek sustenance elsewhere. I began to think of the lives of those who came to Richmond and elsewhere, and wanted to know more, and share more, of what they did and experienced, where they lived. That motivated me to create this article, blog post, on our Kearse family regarding where they had lived and what they had done with their lives. I hope this map will help me share just a bit of that information. By the way, you might notice if you look in the list of posts for this blog, I believe I have already written like 18 posts about the Kearse family, so if you enjoy this one, you might enjoy reading about more of the personalities. I am so appreciative of my sister and brothers’ help in locating these places on the map and sharing memories. You should be able to click on the map below and make it larger for easier reading.
Two people in blue=731 West Marshall Street, home of Timothy and Anne Donolan Kearse and their children. Mary Jane Kearse, 1858-1875; Isadore Joseph Kearse 1860; James J Kersey 1862; Annie C. Kearse 1867; Hannah J Kearse, 1870; Josephine August Kearse 1873-1917.
Two houses beside each other represent 368 and 369 Louisiana Street where brothers James (1830-1890) and Robert (1832-1895) Kearse lived side by side for many years. They owned a grocery store and adjacent bakery which was located on the same street.
The purple balloon located near the houses above shows the location on Orleans Street of a grocery store also owned by my 2nd great grandfather, Robert Kears. (1832-1895).
This lovely glass of wine marks “Kearse Hall” also on Orleans Street at 506 Orleans in the Rocket’s Landing area of Richmond, Va. This was owned and operated by Timothy Kearse, a cousin of Robert and James. It used to be that some people built “Halls” that other people could rent to hold special occasions like weddings and other celebrations. I do not know but suspect that is what this building was used for.
You might notice that the families stayed close together for home and work, but after the Civil War, they slowly moved westward both north and south of the James River.
The red balloon marks the residence at 2205 East Main Street where Timothy Kearse lived. It appears to be the same Timothy Kearse, Robert and older James’s brother, who married Anne Donolan because he started an…
Irish Pub next door at 2207 East Main Street about 1890. His son Isadore Kearse, only 18, helped manage the bar.
The checkmark marks the address 2223 East Main Street where my grandfather Thomas Philip Kearse, 1883-1939, lived with his father James Henry Kearse,1857-1921, and his mother Mary Catherine Botto when he was young through his teenage years. His mother Mary Botto Kearse and only surviving sister, Marie lived there with them, as they did when they moved to …
their long-lived-in home at 2612 E. Grace Street. My own mother was born in 1918 at this home on E. Grace Street, as were 6 of her 7 siblings. They cared for their aging, widowed grandfather James Henry Kearse until he died in 1921. James actually left the house to his son, but Tom’s wife Kate would not hear of it. She felt it would be easier for them to move on than for Marie with her music school. Strong-willed, Kate at 8 months pregnant, moved with five children already! Amazing! Thomas Philip Jr. called Bucky, died, drowned in 1922 while they were living in this house. Perhaps that was another reason Kate wanted to move. Thank you, cousin Tyler Buck, for giving me the true story.
You might notice that the home on E. Grace Street is very close to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on 25th Street, marked by the lovely cross. That was my Mother’s family’s home church for years and she went to the affiliated school as well as did her siblings.
1923: When my Grandfather Thomas, his wife Kate Steptoe Houchins (whose mother was of the prominent Langhorne family) and their five, soon six daughters left E. Grace Street, they moved for a few years into a house they built themselves planning to rent it out one day. They built it as a duplex, yet lived in the whole structure, and it was lovely inside and out. The smiley face marks the address at 3431 Floyd Avenue. Kate was a nurse, and Thomas was a police officer, after starting out as a driver for the Richmond Police Department where his father James was a popular Sergeant.
By 1930 Tom and Kate and their six daughters were living at 4024 Forest Hill Avenue, south of the James River for the first time. Moving to the south side of Richmond, made that area home turf for me and my siblings as we were born nearby. Early on it seemed that my grandparents were living the idyllic life. The house was a large, three-story white frame house with a huge veranda out front. It faced a beautiful city park where we played on many a day! They employed a cook, housekeepers, and other household helpers. They owned a yacht and spent many sunny days on the James River or beyond having many adventures. We assume the money for their lifestyle came from the Langhorne and the Revaro family legacies. Then tragedy struck again! In 1930, eight years after their only son drowned, their mother Kate was shot in the head and severely brain damaged, but not killed. She was shot by a patient in a coma who she was caring for, in their private home. The patient wakened suddenly, thought Kate was an enemy from the war, and grabbed a rifle hanging on his wall that no one knew was loaded and shot my grandmother–then he collapsed and died! Grandmother Kate lived but was never able to care for her family like she had been able to before. She had six daughters–ages 7 to 17. So much confusion and turmoil followed, it colored all of the girls’ perceptions and as a unit, they all left the Catholic church as teens. All of the sisters were intelligent and talented, however, and four of the six went on to college, surprising in the late 1930s, especially in the South. All the girls pursued professions as well, teachers, real estate brokers, social workers, writers, and so forth. All were involved in their protestant churches of choice, and all married- four have children. Two of the sisters eventually moved to California– one to North Carolina and one to Gloucester Point in Eastern Virginia. Julia and my mother Margaret, stayed in Richmond, as did Catherine for a few years. In the picture below, l to r, are Katherine, Julia, Evie, Janey Bell, Nancy, and Margaret. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of their house as it was replaced by apartments. But I can give you a look at their beautiful view of Forest Hill Park, just across the street from their house. We loved to hike down to the lake as shown, but one of our favorite things to do, was to go sledding down the lovely hills of the park—which put us directly in front of the elegant old house where my Mom and her sisters had lived.
Margaret my mother married Cecil H. Youngblood and after the war, WWII, they moved into a lovely stone house at 7524 Rockfalls Drive which was located about twenty minutes from our mother’s home on Forest Hill Avenue, but was not part of the city until it was annexed about 1968, I believe. It was very rural when I was a child, and very close to the James River. The seven of us, Mom, Dad, his mother our grandmother, and Anne, Cecil, Fulton and I lived and went to school and church on the south side of the river. But mother worked every day north of the river. Our Aunt Julia who we called Jucky lived in the West End of Richmond, also “across” the river with her husband and three children, Claudia, Johnnie, and Edward Lee. For a while, Mom’s sister Katherine also lived in the west end on Arlie Street with her husband Roger, and children Roger IV and Tyler. Driving across bridges was part of our busy lives in the city of Richmond, Virginia.
About a mile down the street from our stone house, my sister Anne and her husband Joe made their home at 7009 Riverside Drive. Even though it is hard to see, they had a lovely, gorgeous porch that ran across the front of their villa- like house.
The green pin marks the church we attended pretty much every Sunday all of my life from birth until I left Richmond for North Carolina at the age of 30. Westover Hills United Methodist Chruch was our home church where Max and I were married, where Dad ushered, and where Mom taught Sunday School to other women for such a long time, that when she died in 1980, they installed a stained- glass window in her Sunday School class in her honor! My siblings and I led choirs, lead youth groups even as youths themselves. We all loved that church and the people there had a huge impact on our lives.
Max and I were married in 1971, and we soon lived in an old Victorian house where our first child was born in 1974. The house was located as this red pin indicates in the Woodland Heights neighborhood, very close to where my mother had lived on Forest Hill Avenue! Even though there were many homes involved, you can see from the map that the extended Kearse family generally stayed fairly close together.
Even in death, many of the original Kearse family members are buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, restful place of peace.