The parents of William JOYCE seem to have died in Ireland, probably in County Galway where William JOYCE was born on Jan. 10, 1850, though there were references to County Roscommon and County Sligo, too.
Galway has been called ” JOYCE Country”. It was in County Galway that a goldsmith named JOYCE designed the traditional Claddagh Ring. The clan, it seems, lived in Claddah, an independent fishing village on the opposite bank of the River Corrib to the city of Galway.
Very likely, the father and grandfather of Patrick and William JOYCE were fishermen, though their predecessors may very well have been craftsmen and goldsmiths. In the lifetime of the immediate predecessors of our early Holt County, Nebraska pioneers, Ireland was suffering from English oppression, the plague, and crop failures. Nothing is known of the maternal side of the family.
Even the family name of William JOYCE’s mother has been lost to history. During the potato blight years about a million people perished in Ireland. Many, debilitated by long starvation succumbed finally to typhus or typhoid fever. In this ghastly period around 1845 and on into the 1880’s over a million persons fled stricken Ireland.
It was a kind Providence that led the families that later merged to form the JOYCE and WELSH families, some of the earliest to be a part of the founding of O’Neill, Holt County, Nebraska.
The JOYCE, STANTON, and WELSH families migrated first to Stirling, Scotland.
Stirling is an interesting river Port City and county on the south side of the River Forth, 29 miles northeast of Glasgow. The city occupies a commanding site, Castle Hill. Stirling Castle is of great historical interest. It was of great interest to the JOYCE children later as they listened the stories their grandmother, Nancy Whalen STANTON, told in the little sod cabin on the Nebraska prairie.
Stirling, Scotland was a lifeline, a steppingstone to the Irish Catholic settlement. Jobs were good enough in Scotland for those days and our forbears were able to build a surplus sufficient to make it possible to arrange for passage to their
great dream — American and the opening frontier with its promise of patent rights to land of their own with friends who would be waiting for them in Scranton, Pennsylvania and in Youngstown, Ohio, the bustling industrial town.
We have no way of knowing positively, but it seems that the young JOYCEs: Pat, Mary, James, William, and Steve were orphaned in Ireland during the frugal years there. They seem to have clung to each other, however, and followed close family friends to Stirling, Scotland, where better times, basic education, and religious freedom awaited.
There obviously was a close family bond until the great exodus from Stirling. During several of the Scotland years, William JOYCE was employed by a wealthy Scottish farmer, with whom he worked and learned a great deal about farming and animal care.
Patrick JOYCE and Martin WELSH were the first to venture. They landed in the 1860’s and found employment in the steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio. They followed with keen interest the series of enactment’s of Congress that began with the Homestead Act of May, 1862.
Every entryman was required to expend at least $ 125 per acre in permanent improvements. To this goal Patrick JOYCE and Martin WELSH applied themselves, while urging the families back in Scotland to follow them to America.
Steven JOYCE, however, found passage to Australia and was never heard from again.
Mrs. Nancy Whalen STANTON and her daughters set out with a contingent from Scotland and joined friends briefly in Pittsburgh, PA and then went on to Youngstown where they remained a few years. The STANTON daughters were: Ann (Mrs. William JOYCE), Peggy, (Mrs. Martin WELSH), Honore (Mrs. Patrick JOYCE), and Bridget (Mrs. MULROY). All had married in Youngstown at St. Columbkille’s Church, except Peggy WELSH.
Martin and Peggy WELSH had four children on arriving in America. The children were Myles, Bea, Jack, and Mary Welsh McCann.
Four other children were born in America: Margaret, Steve, Will and Nell Welsh GRAMLICH.
Bridget STANTON MULROY did not come to Nebraska but remained in Ohio. Her daughter, Mary, however, married Barney McGREEVY, one of the Holt County teachers. Mrs. Thomas Naughton was Barney McGREEVY’s sister, Bea.
WILLIAM JOYCE and an equally venturesome friend, Thomas CONNOLLY, followed with keen interest the news of the great agricultural opportunities opening up in the new State of Nebraska. Irish Catholic papers carried news of the homestead possibilities and the efforts of Bishop Spalding of Peoria, Illinois, and Bishop O’Connor of Omaha, Nebraska to establish colonies and to build on those already forming.
So it was that in 1875, William JOYCE and Thomas CONNOLLY gathered needed belongings and tools and bade their young families’ goodbye and set out to homestead in Nebraska. Part of the long trip was by ox team and part by the emerging railways. When they got as far as Wisnor, Nebraska, they looked the land situation over but decided against making claim there because they could acquire adjoining claims. So it was westward movement again to Neligh, NE by ox team. Some inner force seems to have driven them on until they joined the O’Neill colony.
Here they settled in due course on bordering claims, put up temporary “soddies” and homesteaded in preparation to building log houses before bringing their families when the time was ripe.
Sometime early in 1878, Mrs. William JOYCE; her mother, Mrs. Nancy STANTON, two children (Nellie and Mary), Mr. and Mrs. Patrick JOYCE and daughter Mary Ann; Mr. and Mrs. Martin WELSH and their five children, Myles, Bridget, Jack, Mary, and Margaret; and the Tom CONNOLLY family came from Ohio.
By this time there were railroad connections to Neligh, NE. Wagon trains took them and their possessions the reminder of the way. One of the early day tragedies, probably about 1880, was the death of Patrick JOYCE. He was killed by a falling tree on the Niobrara River.
A number of settlers worked together bringing logs and hewn lumber to replace the simpler early dwellings. Patrick JOYCE’s widow, Honore, and two daughters survived him. Several years later, Mrs. Joyce married Patrick MADDEN. She died early at the age of 38 in June, 1889.
Her daughter Mary Ann married William HAYES of Atkinson, a long time Holt County Supervisor.
William JOYCE also suffered a crippling accident on his south claim while rounding up cattle. His horse fell on him, crushing his foot. Dr. McMENAMEE attended him. Mr. JOYCE would not consent to amputation when infection set in but somehow managed to get to Omaha where he spent almost 6 months in St. Joseph Hospital. His foot was saved, though he found it necessary to walk with a cane the rest of his life. He was a tall, distinguished looking gentleman and the cane merely enhanced his dignity. He died on August 14, 1929.
William JOYCE’s eldest daughter, Nellie, a successful teacher in several Holt County schools, married George Francis SHOEMAKER, son of James Franklin SHOEMAKER in O’Neill, NE on Nov 19, 1902. The Mass was offered in the new St.. Mary’s Academy chapel but the wedding ceremony and vows were in St.. Patrick’s where the heating system was temporarily out of order. They had 3 children: Russell Joseph, Leonard George and Mary Lenore (twins).
Besides Mrs. SHOEMAKER, the JOYCE family includes Thomas J. The only son, Mary, Anne, Grace and Agnes (twins) and Margaret. All were involved in the business world in various capacities and in sundry places. Nellie was the only one who married. Four of the girls taught school. Later they were all involved in the business world. They made their residences variously in Minneapolis, Sioux City, Chicago, Long Beach and Omaha. Margaret JOYCE, the youngest member of the family (born June 1, 1884) lived in Omaha at the Logan apartment Hotel.),