Wednesday, March 11, 2015

52 Ancestors No. 10: James Moynahan (1842-1919) Civil War Soldier & Colorado Miner

This is the tenth of 52 blog posts for the 2015 edition of the 52 Ancestors challenge. I have been blogging my family history for the #52Ancestors challenge since it began in 2014.

#52Ancestors asks bloggers to "have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

This blog post is about Hon. James Moynahan, mayor of Alma, Park County, Colorado who was the grandson of Matthew Moynahan of Maidstone, Ontario.

Book Excerpt: Portrait of Denver and Vicinity, Colorado

One of the three sons mentioned in the above excerpt is the Hon. James Moynahan, mayor of Alma, Park County (1842-1919) and the subject of this blog post.

Family Search Ancestral File 3652-KCH

The Maidstone Matthew Moynahan mentioned in the excerpt is the father of Timothy Moynahan

I was excited to locate this biographical excerpt because of the rich information it provides about another one of Matthew's five sons and three daughters (who predeceased that last of the siblings Timothy).


James was born in Michigan June 7, 1842, the son of James and Catherine (Hart) Moynahan, both natives of Ireland.
  • His father James Moynahan (1810-1858) located in Wayne County, Mich., where he carried on a farm and followed the blacksmith's trade.
  • His father James Moynahan was with the Michigan men in the Toledo war. He died at the age of forty-eight. 
  • His mother Catherine (Hart) Moynahan also died in Michigan, her age being sixty-two. 
  • He had two brothers (Matthew and John) and two sisters (Mary and Honora)  
  • His sisters married: Mrs. Parks, of Leadville, and Mrs. Clinton, of Michigan.
  • His brothers died: Matthew having died in Breckenridge and John (1875) in Georgetown, Colo.


When James father died in December, 1858,  he went to the upper peninsula of Michigan, where he worked in copper mines. Later he was in the lower peninsula.

At the first call for troops during the Civil war he volunteered in the Fifth Michigan Infantry, but the quota being filled, the regiment was not called into service at that time

The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865

"United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934,"
index and images, FamilySearch
( : accessed 11 March 2015),
James Moynahan, 1865; citing , NARA microfilm publication T288
(Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 541,096.
27th Michigan Infantry - Page 096

  • In 1862 he entered Company C, Twenty-seventh Michigan Infantry, and enlisted as a private at Copper Harbor, thence going to Kentucky and joining the Ninth Corps under General Burnside, in the Department of the Ohio. 
  • He took part in the siege of Vickshurg and later was at Jackson, going from there back to Kentucky, then to East Tennessee and taking part in the siege of Knoxville
  • In the spring of 1864 the corps was reorganized at Annapolis, Md., and was incorporated with the Army of the Potomac, taking part in all the engagements in the Wilderness. 
  • In May 12, 1864, (at Spottsylvania, while acting as second lieutenant) he was wounded by a minie-ball that lodged in the right breast and remained there for eleven months before it was removed. When he was wounded he was taken to Fredericksburg and for four days lay on a blanket, without medical attention, during which time the wound became so swollen that the surgeon could not probe for the bullet. He was moved to Washington, sent from there to Philadelphia, and finally, though the bullet was still in his breast and the wound still open, he requested to be returned to his regiment, which was done. 
  • In February, 1865, he was commissioned first lieutenant . 
  • In April 2, 1865,while participating in the assault on Fort Mahone at Petersburg  in command of his company, before daybreak he was shot in the left forearm by a minie-ball, which would have entered the left side had it not been for his silver watch and a memorandum book in his overcoat pocket. Previous to this the fort had been taken and with it three pieces of artillery, and his company, which carried the colors, had planted the stars and stripes oh the fort, so that he was permitted to participate in the victory before incapacitated for further service. 
  • On his way from the field he met General Potter, whom he notified of the victory, news that naturally rejoiced the general's heart. 
  • He went to the hospital at City Point, where he had his arm dressed; the old bullet in his breast, which was lodged against the shoulder blade, was operated for and removed at that time
  • In April 12, 1865. He participated in the grand review at Washington and was mustered out as captain of Company G, July 26, 1865, at Washington, and a few days later was honorably discharged at Detroit. 

After his retirement from the army, Captain Moynahan studied in Bryant & Stratton's Commercial College in Detroit. In April, 1866, he graduated from the college.

In 1866 in Greenfield, Mich., he married fellow Irish-American Mary Monaghan. The couple immediately left for the wilderness of Colorado and settled in Buckskin Joe.
  •  Mary Monagan was born in Ireland, a daughter of Peter Monaghan, who came to America and settled in the upper peninsula of Michigan, there engaged in mining. 
  • The four children born of the union were: Alice, Ambrose Edwin, James W. and Clarissa.

Shortly afterward the couple arrived in Colorado, James superintended a mine in Park County for two years; owned the Orphan Boy mine, two and a-half miles from Alma.


In the 1870s, Moynahan expanded his business interests to include a general merchandizing business and livery stable. In 1880, he opened a general store in Alma with branches in Fairplay and Leadville. The family also acquired ranch property in Park County, where they raised horses and cattle. 
Moynahan became one of Alma's most prominent and politically active citizens. A driving force behind the town's incorporation in 1873, he served on its first board of trustees. In 1876, he sat on the Alma School Board and was postmaster. Before moving to Alma, he had served as a Park County commissioner from 1870 to 1873. 

In 1876, he was elected to the state Senate and re-elected in 1882, representing Park and Fremont counties for four years and serving as president pro tempore of the Senate for two years. At the Republican conventions in 1886 and 1888, Moynahan's name was put forward for governor, but he did not win the nomination. Alma residents elected Moynahan mayor for three consecutive years beginning in 1896.   

1885 Colorado State Census
James Moynahan: ranchman

Spring House: 

Photos are from a walking tour of Alma Colorado
 The Moynahan family 1940s
After 1884, the Moynahans split their time between their homes in Denver and Alma. The couple raised five children at Spring House: Mary, Alice, Ambrose Edwin, James W., and Clarissa. 

"This large two-story residence, which the Moynahan family called ”Spring House,” is believed to have begun as a log cabin in the early mining town of Buckskin Joe, which was located about a mile and a half west of present-day Alma. Local mine supervisor James A. Moynahan apparently moved the cabin to Alma in 1873 and opened the Spring House Hotel. By 1886, he had built additions to the south and rear of the cabin and had clad the log walls with wood siding. A third log addition was built on the rear sometime before 1896."

Spring House has remained in the Moynahan family for the past 145 years.

Token for a loaf of bread

In 1919, James Moynahan died in Denver, ten years after the sudden death of his wife, Mary, from appendicitis. 

Mt. Olivet cemetery, Jeffereson County, Colorado
  • has more than 40,000 digital genealogy books that are fully searchable and downloadable for free! 
  • Town of Alma

Composite of studio portraits of twenty-nine members of the Colorado Senate of 1885. Identification: 13. Governor B.H. Eaton; 12. Liet.-Gov. Peter W. Breene, President of Senate; R. 18. Jas. Moynahan, President Pro Tem; 7. Geo. T. Clark; R. 1 Jas M. Freeman, Weld; R. 2 A.W. Waters, Arapahoe; D. 3 Henry Lee, Jefferson; R. 4 H.H. Eddy, Summit; R. 5 John T. Elkins, Lake; R. 6 Gilbert M. Woodworth, Bent; R. 8 Leonard W. Wells, Douglas; D. 9 Chas. L. Hall, Lake; R. 10 M.B. Carpenter, Arapahoe; D. 11 Frank Tilford, Arapahoe; D. 14 Chas. C. Parsons, Lake; R. 15 H.E. Tedmon, Larimer; R. 16 Thos. Cornish, Clear Creek; R. 17 O.F.A. Greene, Boulder; R. 19 M.W. Howard, Arapahoe; R. 20 A.M. Stevenson, Gunnison; R. 21 Geo. M. Chilcott, Pueblo; R. 22 J.H. Stead, Chaffee; R. 23 Irving Howbert, El Paso; D. 24 J.W. Bostwick, Gilpin; R. 25 Jas P. Galloway, Montrose; R. 26 Antonio D. Archuleta, Conejos; R. 27 Antonio A. Salazar, Costilla; D. 28 Casimiro Barela, Las Animas; D. 29 A.J. Rising, Custer.

18. Jas. Moynahan: 1885 Colorado Senate
President Pro Tem
Death notice: Mary (Monaghan) Moynahan
Source: The Intermountain Catholic (1909)
Library of Congress

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