Moynahan Surnames

Saturday, December 19, 2015

52 Ancestors No.46: The Morkin House: A Tale of Two Taverns .

This is a follow-up to the Morkin genealogy blogpost that I posted December 11, 2015, about my grand aunt Mabel (Moynahan) Morkin (1902-1945).

The beauty of blogging about your family history is that social media connects you with folks you have never known who then generously share information about the family you are researching.

This was the case yesterday with the Morkin family. Thanks to another genealogist on, I learned that the Morkins were hotel keepers in London, Ontario and that the London Morkins had a connection to the infamous Donnellys of the day!

This post is a continuation of the Morkin family history back to Tipperary, Ireland, the two London, Ontario hotels owned by brothers Ed and Thomas, and that connection to the infamous Donnellys

The First Clue

A 2011 newspaper article was sent to me, "London history mystery: Quaffing at Morkin’s" with an amazing photograph of the Morkin Hotel and James Reaney wrote, " identified by a family member as Edward Morkin and Edward Morkin Jr."

I knew that Mabel's husband Martin Patrick Morkin was born May 5, 1895, the son of hotel keeper Thomas Morkin and Catherine Toohey (source: Births Ontario 1869-1910; Family Search) so I wondered, how was Martin Patrick related to these two men in the photo?

The Second Clue

The second Morkin clue came from the internet archive copy of "History of the County of Middlesex, Canada: Thomas Morkin" that detailed the life of a Thomas Morkin (born 1837) and now I was REALLY confused.

Sorting It All Out

The naming traditions among the Irish meant that there were several Edwards, Martins and Thomases and I needed to get out a pen and paper and, using the three sources below, draw out a family tree.

It helped me to understand that the two Morkin hotels were owned by brothers. One was at 89-91 King St (the Morkin House) and the other was at  587 Richmond Road.

My handwritten notes on the Morkin Family tree
With this chart, I was now able to start writing a narrative for my distant cousins about their Morkin ancestors. The third invaluable source for the following narrative comes from " The Ontario Numismatist: "The Morkin House 1892-1921" by Len Buth (pp 107-111; 2008)

The Morkins: 
From Tipperary, Ireland to London, Ontario

The Morkin family immigrated from Barnagrotty, Toomevara, Tipperary, Ireland settling in London, Ontario in 1851. There were thirteen children and two sons, Edward and Thomas, would become hotel keepers in London, Ontario.

The subject of this narrative, Thomas ("Old Tom"), was fourteen (and his brother Edward was thirteen) when they immigrated to Canada.

Thomas ("Old Tom") married Mary Cooney (who was born in 1832 Tipperary, Ireland as well) and they had six sons:
  • John: born 1859
  • Tom ("Thomas J."): born 1860; married Catherine Toohey (9 Mar 1886)
  • Ned: born 1863
  • Martin: born 1865
  • Will: born 1872
  • Joe: born 1873
Thomas ("Old Tom") "worked at different occupations until he decided upon the tannery business, which he followed for thirteen years" before entering the hotel business.


 Thomas ("Old Tom") operated a "groceries and liquor store on the west side of Richmond St., between streets now known as Albert St. and Central Ave."


By 1871, Thomas ("Old Tom") "is operating a hotel at this site, with a street address of 587 Richmond St."


"In 1875, the name of the hotel is shown as the Palace Hotel,.."


In 1881, the Palace Hotel "becomes the Morkin Hotel"

Source:  "The Morkin House 1892-1921" by Len Buth
1890 Directory

1890-95: Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library, PG B-25, Cairncross, ca. 1890-1894

In 1893, there were forty hotels in London, Ontario including the Morkin House at 89 King and Thomas Morkin's hotel at 587 Richmond.

1893 Directory

1895 Directory


Thomas ("Old Tom") had worked in the hotel business for twenty-three years when he retired in 1896. He then became a cab owner, operating from the rear of 587 Richmond St.
“Old Tom”, as he became known, drove cab and was known for his ability to swear.’ If I remember, Mrs. Worrall said that Tom and a number of other Liberals were captured and held in a barn in London Township by the Conservatives so until after one the federals. I believe it was in the 1890s. I also seem to recall she mentioning that Tom was one of the survivors of the City Hall disaster (Jan. 3, 1898). He managed to grab onto a window sill and hung on as the floor collapsed under him
1898 Directory


"Old Thomas" aged 65 years is on the 1901 census employed as a hackman. Note that on the census it shows that he immigrated to Canada in 1856 (not 1851 as stated above) and that his wife Mary (Cooney) Morkin immigrated in 1850. Sons Joe and William are still living at home. Both are employed as "stablemen".

Source: .Year: 1901; Census Place: London (City/Cité) Ward/Quartier No 2,
London (city/cité), Ontario; Page: 20; Family No: 199


"Old Thomas'" died in 1908

Source: Ontario, Canada Deaths, 1869-1934,
Archives of Ontario; Series: MS935; Reel: 137

Thomas J. Morkin

Thomas J. was born on the 9th of December 1860 son of  "Old Thomas" and Mary (Cooney) Morkin. Thomas J. married Catherine Toohey on the 9th of March 1886 in London, Ontario at 25 years of age,

Source: Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1857-1924
Archives of Ontario; Series: MS932; Reel: 54

On the 1891 census, Thomas J. Morkin is a hotel keeper living with his wife Catherine and daughters Stella, Kathleen and Josephine.

Source: 1891; Census Place: London, Middlesex East, Ontario; Roll: T-6352; Family No: 29

The 1901 census shows that two sons have been added to the family. Thomas J is shown as a "teacher"?
  • Head: Thomas J. (born: 9 Dec 1860 )
  • Wife: Catherine (born: 3 Nov 1860 )
  • Daughter: Bella M. (born: 19 Sep 1887 )
  • Daughter: Cathleen E (born: 7 Feb 1889 )
  • Daughter: Josephine (born: 24 Aug 1890)
  • Son: Thomas W. (born: 2 Feb 1895) (census error?)
  • Son: Martin P (born: 9 May 1895)

Source Citation Year: 1901; Census Place: London (City/Cité) Ward/Quartier No 2, London (city/cité), Ontario;
Page: 20; Family No: 155
1910 postcard: Richmond St. North, London, Ont
1911 Census

In 1911, the family is living at 66 Palace, London, Ontario:
  • Thomas J. (b: Dec 1860) is employed as an insurance agent
  • Catherine (b: Nov 1860) No occupation
  • Stella (b: Sep 1888) working in a print shop
  • Edna (b: Feb 1890) working as a teller
  • Josephine (b: Aug 1890) working as a saleslady
  • William (b: Feb 1893) working as a shipping clerk
  • Martin (b: May 1895) working as a messenger

Source: Year: 1911; Census Place: 35, London City, Ontario; Page: 22; Family No: 253

1919 Border Crossing

In 1919, Martin P. Morkin was looking for permanent residence in Detroit. He listed his mother Catherine Morkin at 66 Palace, London, Ontario as his nearest relative. He had entered the U.S. on three previous occasions: 5 months in 1914; 5 months in 1915 and 5 months in 1916.

He was 5 feet 8 inches tall and had brown hair and brown eyes and at 23 years of age, he was working as a bookkeeper. He was headed to 86 Spruce St. Detroit, Michigan.

Source: "Vermont, St. Albans Canadian Border Crossings, 1895-1954," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 December 2015), Martin Morkin, 1895-1924; citing M1461, Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895-1924, 279, NARA microfilm publications M1461, M1463, M1464, and M1465 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, publication year); FHL microfilm 1,473,079.

1921 Census

In 1921, the family is living at 66 Palace, London, Ontario: All of the children are shown at home except William
  • Thomas J. (60 years old) is working as a collector
  • Catherine: (60 years old) No occupation
  • Stella: working in a print shop (33 years old)
  • Edna: working as a teller (32 years old)
  • Josephine: working as a saleslady (31  years old)
  • Martin: working as a bookkeeper (26 years old)
Source: Year: Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 71; Census Place: Ward 4, London, Ontario; Page Number: 4

1929 Marriage

In 1929, Martin P. Morkin married Mabel Moynahan and they had three sons. There are pictures and details of this family to be found on my previous blog post "My Grand Aunt Mabel (Moynahan) Morkin - 1902 -1945"

Hotel Business During Prohibition

It appears that by 1921, this branch of the Morkin family disengaged from the hotel business and for good reason.

London in 1870 had some 80 licenced hotels or taverns; 40 in 1893 (see above) and only 35 in 1900. Add to that the temperance movements and the Ontario Temperance Act of 1916, it's no wonder the family decided to find other ways to make a living. It appears they moved to insurance, banking and bookkeeping activities

The Morkin Link To The Black Donnellys

The Black Donnellys were a family of Irish settlers in Ontario. Five were murdered by an armed mob in February 1880 and their farm was burned to the ground.

The feud had its origins in Ireland. Biddulph township was the grounds upon which the ancient feud between Whiteboys, Blackfeet and Orangemen would be rekindled.

In the book "The Donnellys Album" by Ray Fazakas, there is mention that when Robert Donnelly was arrested in 1877, he needed a $200 bond and Edward Morkin provided the money.

"The Donnellys Album" by Ray Fazakas,
But was it Edward or Thomas who gave the money? James Reaney wrote: "indeed it is London taverner Thomas Morkin who puts up $200 bail for a Donnelly. Dad writes these Morkins will hear no ill of the Donnellys to this day. Wow."

Dan Brock  wrote: I believe the Biddulph Morkins were descended from brothers or cousins of Edward Morkin the father of Edward and Tom. One of Tom’s brothers was married to a sister of Nora (Kennedy) Donnelly

The Donnellys frequented the Morkin House and their stagecoach stopped there.


This story is far from complete. Through I have connected with unrelated distant cousins to the Morkins who promise to send more information in the New Year. I will keep you posted!

The Morkin House hotel in London, Ontario (c 1915)


1 comment:

  1. I am getting back into my ancestry page as we are going to Ireland to find a few headstones this summer in Tipparary. Thank you for all this info. My mother, as you know, is about to be 94 ( 1923-)
    She is the daughter of Dominic Morkin ( 1897-1974)..son of James Morkin ( 1873-1904).. son of Edward Morkin (1837-1921). Son of Edward Morkin ( 1800-1863). My mother and grandfather Dominic always said there was no connection with the Donnellys...but here is proof!