"Original" Drew family Immigrants from County Westmeath Ireland ~ 1847

The essentials of John's background are recorded and documented in the  HISTORY OF THE DREW FAMILY AND NAME ...which is a separate hypertext page.  John himself was born in 1806, the son of Irish Catholic "renters," Bernard and Catherine Drew.  He was baptized December 28, 1806, probably at Emper, which was about a mile and a half from the family's home in the townland (township) of Lakenstown, which was also a "village" ...later called "College."  The baptism was recorded at St. Matthews church in Milltown, about five miles to the south, where the parish priest lived and kept the parish register.

 CLICK HERE or on the thumbnail at left to see John's baptism record

A study of the parish's baptism records seems to indicate that John had six older sisters, but no brothers... and that he was, therefore, the "baby of the family."  His older sisters were named Mary, Judith, Catherine, Bridget, Margaret, and Rose.   All of these names (except for Bridget) recur frequently in John's descendants.  His grandparents on the Drew side are thought to be James and Judith Drew; but the records at Milltown do not record mothers' maiden names or fathers' middle names, so it is impossible to trace his grandparents with certainty.  Nonetheless, there is enough certainty to render us bold enough to keep Bernard Drew's 1784 birth certificate as an heirloom.

  CLICK HERE or on the thumbnail at left to see Bernard's baptism record.

As a young man, John was probably much involved with "working the land."  It is also likely that the family had farm animals and that John and his contemporaries all had skills at managing horses... which were the primary means of getting heavy work done in those days.  Lakenstown was a very rural environment; and given to agriculture and the harvesting of peat.  It is likely that John had skills and experience in all these areas.  It is also an undocumented tradition and a probable fact that the Drew clan and all the residents of the area were skilled stonemasons.  The Royal Canal with many miles of channel and many bridges and locks within walking distance of Lakenstown, was built between 1750 and the 1820's.  It is likely that John's father and grandfather and other Drew clansmen were involved in the quarrying, horsemanship, and stonemasonry required to build the canal.  John himself may also have been involved.  [Photos of the canal as it survived till September, 2000 are posted at:   ]

Another major community event during the time of John and Rose's youth was the building of a new church at Emper. (Click or scroll to see photo below)  The church was completed in 1829 and dedicated to St. Matthew.  At that time, John was 23 years old; and it is quite likely that he helped with the church's construction.  The following year, John married Rose Reilly; and, most likely the wedding and the subsequent baptisms of their 8 children occurred at the "Emper Chapel" ...which is how this church came to be known.

Rose is, in many ways, the most mysterious character in our family history.  The available records on her are limited to her marriage and the baptisms of seven of her (at least) eight children.  Assuming she was a contemporary of her husband (within a few years) then she was born in the first few years of the 1800's; and it is known that there were several Reilly and O'Reilly families in Milltown parish at that time.   Her baptism record cannot be identified with certainty because there were so many Reilly's... and (remembering "rule one") no record kept by humans is ever perfect.

From our research on Rose Reilly, it is clear that she spent the years 1830 to 1846 as wife and mother to her family.  She bore at least 8 children; and all of them were baptized in Milltown parish.  Tradition is that she was a great believer in education; and there is also a tradition that one our ancestors was librarian and "tutor" to the children of the region's landlords, the Tuite family whose residence, in Sonna, was about 4 miles distant to the northwest.  The subject of this tradition may well have been Rose; and it is possible that during the years prior to 1837 (when the new school opened at Irishtown) she may have been involved with teaching her own children as well as the Tuite Children.  With the opening of the new school at Irishtown, June 5, 1837, Rose's oldest child, Thomas would have turned 6 years old and was probably a member of the inaugural first grade class at the new Irishtown school.



Click on the photo to see it in full size
John Drew and Rose Reilly were married June 24, 1830; and, most certainly the wedding occurred in Emper Chapel, pictured at left.  The church is about a mile and a half north east of Lakenstown, [the "home village" of the Drew clan] where it appears they set up housekeeping.

CLICK HERE to see a their marriage certificate.


The following children were born to John and Rose during the years 1831 - 1846.
Click on the thumbnails at left to see the baptismal records.

JAMES DREW, 1833 - 1890
CATHERINE DREW, 1835 -1913
BERNARD [BRYAN] DREW, 1840 - 1862
JOHN DREW, 1845 - 1905


As has been discussed, John Drew and Rose Reilly Drew put great emphasis on learning and eduction.  It has even been said that this was a Drew "clan trait" and practice.  There is a tradition (through our distant cousin, Anna Mary Drew, in Lakenstown when we visited her in 1971 and again in 2,000) that formal meetings of an educational nature for both young and old, were frequently held in the village at Lakenstown in those days; and that these were of sufficient freqency and quality as to result in the village being renamed "College" it is seen identified on later maps of the county.

In the early 1830's, things began to "warm up" politically between Ireland and the English government under Queen Victoria.  About this time, government funds became available, administered by a National Board, to support the building of schools throughout Ireland.  On June 5, 1837, a new school was opened at Irishtown, about one mile south of Lakenstown.  This had previously been the site of a primitive "mud hut" school.... probably one of the so-called "Hedge Schools" which were all that was available to Irish children pre- 1830.  In fact, however, education was not available to the overwhelming majority of Irish children before 1830.
The September 2000 photo at left shows the Irishtown School in the background.  It was dedicated in 1837; and had been abandoned for many years and used for livestock by the time of this photo.

In the foreground are (l.) John Michael Drew (b. 1967) and (r.) John Nally, believed to be a distant cousin or co-descendant via Catherine Nally and Bernard Drew, parents of our ancestor, John Drew.

Click on the photo to see it in full size

By good fortune, when the new school at Irishtown opened in 1837, John and Rose Drew's children were just coming of age for grammar school.  Most likely all of them attended the school in Irishtown between 1837 and their emigration to the U.S. 10 years later.  And, most likely, under their parents' guidance they did well.  Entries in two family bibles following their arrival in the U.S. certainly indicates that they could read and write... though their penmanship and spelling indicated they "lagged" behind today's standards.  Catherine's entries in the McGee bible over the years is also proof that she continued to improve in both areas.

Although there would have been scant economic opportunity for that first generation of Drew's in America to pursue higher education; it is a real tribute to John Drew and Rose Reilly Drew that at least three of their grandchildren achieved college degrees, (George B. Drew, James H. Drew, and Catherine McGee) ...and all three became teachers.  James H. Drew also went on to further studies and became a lawyer.


We have neither tradition nor documentation about why this family decided to emigrate to the U.S.... nor exactly how they carried out and financed the plan.  Catherine McGee, an impeccable historian, (daughter of 12 year old Catherine who emigrated) related many of the details of the trip to my father and me during the 1950's and we can therefore be very certain of the following:  The family most definitely made the trip all together.  My father believed he recalled that they came "without a mother."

They definitely embarked at New Orleans; but I do not recall hearing the exact date or the name of the ship or port of debarkation.

As to WHEN the family emigrated, Catherine Drew McGee's obituary ["The Sedalia Democrat" 1/13/1913 ~ Pettis County, MO] says that she came to America at age 11.  Since Catherine was born in May of 1835; that would define the time of the family's emigration as between May of 1846 and May of 1847.

The scant information and documentation we have discovered regarding Rose Reilly's origins has been a disappointment.  Perhaps we shall learn more as our searching and researching continues.  An even bigger disappointment has been a complete absence of any documents or references to her among the hundreds of documents we have collected in the U.S. ...even though many documents have surfaced regarding her husband, John.   Keeping in mind that the family's emigration to America occurred during the worst period of "the famine" in Ireland, it is our current hypothesis that Rose may have died in Ireland prior to the family's emigration.  And the sequence and timing of her "disappearance" from the record would suggest that she could have died in connection with the birth of her last child, William... or of an illness brought on by the famine... or even at sea during the voyage to the U.S.

That she was loved and respected by her children is attested by the fact that every one of her children (and several grandchildren) named a daughter Rose.



THOMAS DREW (b. 1831)We have no record of Thomas and assume he may have died in childhood.
JAMES DREW (1833 - 1890)  This is my great grandfather.  Click to jump to his information and picture.
CATHERINE DREW (1835 - 1913) This is the ancestor of the McGee > Sullivan > James line.  Click to jump to her information.
JUDITH DREW (1837)  There is no documentation she made the trip.  She would have been 10 at the time of the emigration.
                                              She may have died in early childhood.
BERNARD [BRYAN] DREW (1840 - 1862) This is the Bryan that was killed in the Civil War  Click to jump to his information
EDWARD DREW (1842)  Aside from a baptismal record, there is no record or tradition of what happened to this child.
                                            The absence of any records or "traces" of him in our research makes it probable he died before age 5.
JOHN DREW, JR. (1844 - 1909)Three years old when the family emigrated.  Click to jump to his information.
WILLIAM DREW (1846? - ????)  An infant aboard the ship at the time the family emigrated.  Click to jump to his information.


JAMES  DREW  (1833 - 1890)


James Drew  1833 - 1890

Theresa Cusick Drew  1843 - 1892
Above are two rare photos depicting our great grandparents, James Drew and his wife, Theresa Cusick.  Her name is often written "Cusack" also.  James was born in Lakenstown, [near Mullingar] County Westmeath, Ireland, son of Irish peasants, John Drew and Rose Reilly Drew.  His father, and probably his uncles and forebearers were known as very good stonemasons.  No middle name appears on any of the documents that we have collected; but his grand-daughter, Camilla Gallagher, reported that his middle initial was "C" and was not aware of what the "C" stood for. Theresa was born in New York, the daughter of Irish immigrants as the 1880 U.S. Census [Barr Township, Daviess County, Indiana] attests.  Tradition is that her family later moved to Philadelphia and then to Kentucky or Indiana where she met and married James in December of 1861.

Upon their arrival in the U.S.A. in 1847, James and his family spent about 10 or 11 years in Kentucky.  Records are scarce but seem to confirm the tradition that they settled in the Lexington area... and there is also a tradition and some evidence that they may have lived for a time in Louisville.  Research is ongoing on this matter.

Probably about 1858 or thereafter, James moved to Daviess county, Indiana.  He was definitely there in 1860 and in May of that year, shortly after the death of their father, John Drew, Sr., James filed for and received legal guardianship of his younger brother John Jr. aged 17 at that time.

James and Theresa had a total of at least eight children... only 4 of whom survived. 
The youngest of the surviving children was our grandfather, James H. Drew

Click here to see the James Drew~Theresa Cusick Family web page.

CATHERINE DREW McGEE (1835 - 1913)
Catherine, born 1835,  was holding & "responsible" for "the baby" when the family landed in New Orleans in 1847.  She would have been 12 years old then.  Based on later documents, we assume that "the baby" was William.  This tradition that Catherine was "in charge of the baby" provides a further argument that the mother, Rose Reilly, had died in Ireland and did not make the trip to America.

Catherine married William McGee Oct. 9, 1854. 

In either 1858 or 1859, the entire McGee and Drew (conjoined) families moved to Pettis County, MIssouri, probably in 1858.   The folowing year (September 8, 1959) Catherine's father John Drew died in Pettis County.

William and Catherine McGee had many children, five of whom survived.  It is recalled that three of their children (John William, Brian, and Julia) were handicapped by reason of epilepsy.  The most remembered of their children were Catherine McGee (Aunt Kate) who had an illustrious career as a school teacher in Pettis County, Missouri, and Rose Ann McGee Sullivan whose decendants (the James family) are located in Phoenix as of the year 2000.

Click on the photo to see it in full size
Click here to see the Catherine Drew McGee web page.


BRYAN DREW (1839 - 1862)

Some documents spell the name Brian.  He was baptized "Bernard" ...but competent sources indicate that, in Ireland, the names Bernard, Brian, and Barney, are all synonymous.  He would have been about 7 years old when the family made the voyage from Ireland to the U.S.  Although this Drew brother has been all but forgotten through the generations, tradition has it that Bryan was the "shining star" of this family.   In 1860, at age 20, he served as "God father" to Catherine Drew McGee's son John William, in Missouri.  Soon after, the Civil War broke out and Bryan returned to Kentucky and enlisted in the famous "Louisville Legion" [5th KY Volunteer Infantry]   By this time, he had suffered the premature deaths of both his parents and the "split up" of his family which occurred by reason of their homesteading choices.  [James to Indiana and Catherine to Missouri.]  He was killed December 31, 1862 at the battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro.)  In a 1970 letter, Brian's great grand neice, Gertrude James, wrote about how Bryan was admired in the family, and what terrible blow his death was to the family.  Some 60 years after the Battle of Stones River, Bryan had become the namesake of Gertrude's brother, Lieutenant Brian Eugene James, who was also killed [in 1944] in action over Germany as a B-17 bombardier.  Gertrude remembered her mother's tales about the death of her grandmother's brother and lamenting that the name "Brian" might have brought bad luck.
Click here to see the Bryan Drew web page.

JOHN DREW, Jr.  (1844 - 1909)

John made the trip to America with his family as a 3 year old.

Tradition has it that John was impetuous and had some problems growing up.  He suffered the loss of his mother as an infant, and the trauma of emigration at a young age.  After spending his formative years (motherless and probably poor) with his family in Kentucky, he was again uprooted at age 14 and accompanied his ailing father and sister, Catherine, to Missouri in 1858.

The following year, his father, John Drew, Sr., died and shortly thereafter, John Jr. was sent to Indiana where his elder brother, James had obtained legal guardianship over him.

Although he is officially listed as a Civil War veteran, his military history is not stellar.  In fact if we are reading the records correctly, John's impetuous 1861 enlistment ended with his desertion of his unit.

Following the Civil War, John married Mariah (sometimes written Maria) Melton and had several children, only two of whom survived.  [James T. and Mary Catherine.]  John spent his entire life as a farmer in Barr Township, Daviess county, Indiana. 

It was John's grave marker, shown at right, that led us to the correct county in Ireland to begin our search for our ancestors.  The grave is at St. Mary's church near Montgomery, Indiana.  The family apparently wanted the stone to read: "Born in County Westmeath, Ireland."

Click on the photo to see it in full size
Click here to see the John Drew Jr. web page
WILLIAM DREW (1846 -   )
William would have been the infant that Catherine was holding and caring for when the family arrived at the port of New Orleans.  Later I'll tell the story of what happened with Catherine and William when Catherine saw her first black person on that day.
Meanwhile, our knowledge of William and his life is almost a blank.  We believe he also accompanied his father and the McGee's to Missouri but later went to Indiana under the guardianship of his elder brother, James... as did both John Jr. (documented) and Brian (assumed.)  The only thing we can document is that James was summoned to (the Daviess County Indiana) Court in 1867 "on behalf of William Drew."  The date of the proceedings was August 10, 1867.  The header on court docket reads as follows: "State of Indiana vs James Drew Indicted in the Name of Wm Drew."   The docket record we have does not indicate the charge against him; but states that he was found NOT guilty.

At the time of these proceedings, William would have been 21 years old... or very near 21.  It is possible that James could have been called to court in his behalf because William was still a minor... or because he had been a minor at the time of the "offense" whatever it was.  I suppose it is also possible that William had died without answering whatever these charges were... and James wished to resolve the matter to clear his little brother's name.  We need to do some more checking on this... if possible!

The question of possible military service by William is thought be be answered by discovery of the following U.S. Government record found on the HDS website:
Soldier History
William Drew

Residence Indianapolis IN; 
Enlisted on 7/10/63 as a Private.

On 7/10/63 he mustered into "H" Co. IN 113th Infantry 
He was Mustered Out on 7/17/63 at Indianapolis, IN


 - Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana
Procured via paid membership and adapted by Daniel C. Drew from
Historical Data Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 196
Kingston, MA 02364

The above record VERY probably is "our" William Drew.  He would have been only about 17 years old at the time of this enlistment; and the dates indicate that he was a soldier for a total of only 7 days, being mustered out 7/17 after enlisting on 7/10.  Furthermore, the unit he joined [113th IN Infantry] was one of Indiana's ten (in)famous "ONE HUNDRED DAY" REGIMENTS.  None of them were ever assigned any combat duty or took any casualties.  These were NOT "crack fighting units" ...and further information about their history is being sought.

The question arises about why William might have been discharged after only 7 days.  One speculation would be that his age was discovered.  Even though there were many enlistments under the age of 18 during the civil war, this particular unit might have been unwilling to accept a 17 year old... or might have "caught him lying" about his age.  We will probably never have an answer to this.

Except for the records above, we have lost all traces of William.

CLICK HERE to return to the DREW Index Page