The McKanna Family: Pioneers of the Northwest

In 1886 Michael Bernard McCanna loaded his wife and five young children into a wagon bound for adventure.  Alaska beckoned with abundant land and treasures of  gold. The Alaska Pioneers’ Association numbered among its members those who had settled into this virgin and wild world by 1887. A picture hanging on a wall in the Juneau-Douglas City Museum includes Michael’s wife, Katherine Ann Rooney McCanna, and four of their children.  (Michael died in the Yukon goldrush fields in 1899.) Its documentation places their arrival in the newly opened territory as August of 1886.

(Top row, right of center) Katherine Ann, Emmet, Elizabeth, Philip, and Jim

After my mother, Mike Willis, died in 1960 I found a note in her handwriting in the family bible. It listed all of the children of Michael and Katherine, with their birthdates. She named a child who has disappeared, John, born in Miles City, Montana, on June 7, 1882. During a conversation about the family, Mickey McKanna, a son of Philip McKanna and Kathleen Doyle McKanna, related how on the trip from Montana to Alaska one of the children fell out of the wagon and perished. I suspect this accounts for the lost, and seldom if ever mentioned, John. It also underlines the rigors of this pioneering journey.

The McCannas settled on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau.


Douglas, the Gastineau Channel, and Juneau in the distance

`The family lived in Douglas; Michael labored as a hard-rock gold miner in adjacent Treadwell. The family grew by two as Elizabeth gave Michael two more sons: Robert John on May 21, 1889, and Hilary on June 11, 1892. In the course of  day-by-day events on the Island like these,  the surname “McCanna,” so spelled from Ontario to Minnesota to Miles City, morphed into “McKanna,” as written to this day.

Back in the states, in San Francisco Robert John Willis, (I)  had married. His wife, May Lewis, gave him two children:  Howard John on October 6, 1886, who died eight months later;  and Hazel Mae on October 12, 1887. As the fates would have it, on September 25, 1895 he disembarked in Juneau from the Topeka, sailing out of San Francisco, in order to take a position as a salesman in the Treadwell-Alaska Goldmining Company store on Douglas Island. May would birth their last child, Lillian, on June 9th the following year before following him in August with the two girls to Alaska. The family resumed their life in Treadwell, a company town,  next door to Douglas.

From 1892-1898 Elizabeth McKanna, having graduated from St. Ann’s Academy in Juneau, found work on the Island as Douglas’ s postmistress. 

Disaster soon visited both the Willis and McKanna families.  On October 11, 1898 May Willis came down with meningitis and speedily died. Her body was shipped back on the steamer Dirigo to San Francisco for burial. Robert Willis now had two young girls, ages eleven and two, to raise, at the same time as he worked to support the family.  Then Michael McKanna, mining in the Yukon gold fields with his two oldest sons, Jim and Emmet, came down with Brights Disease, a kidney ailment. Making his way back toward Douglas with Jim as his support, Michael died near the shores of Lake Bennett, in the District of Atlin, British Columbia. When news reached Douglas, his daughter Elizabeth took a boat to Skagway and a recently built rail line up the Chilkoot Pass .  She and Jim buried their father’s body in a small miners’ cemetery located at the top of the Pass, one the Forest Service maintains to this day.

Miners’ Cemetery, top of Chilkoot Pass, near Lake Bennett

In 1901 the citizens of Treadwell elected Robert Willis as the town’s first mayor. The next year the federal government appointed him as Treadwell’s postmaster. It is no surprise, given the situation, that on November 7, 1903 he married twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth McKanna. The wedding took place in the McKanna family home in Douglas;  Rev. Peter Bougis, S.J. officiated. Nine months later, on August 18, 1904, Elizabeth gave the couple their first child, Robert John Willis (II), and the girls a baby brother. According to the baptismal register of Our Lady of the Mines Catholic Church in Douglas the same Jesuit priest, Fr. Bougis, did the official welcoming into the Catholic communion. Philip McKanna stood as his godfather.

Sometime during this period, Robert Willis took over the management of the Alaska-Treadwell store, certainly during 1905-1906. But other opportunities beckoned. His best man, Douglas Ledbetter, purchased with Earl Wallace a general merchandizing store in Goldendale, a small farming community in south-central Washington State. Ledbetter talked his manager/ friend into transferring with him to Goldendale; he would manage the new store’s agricultural department.  Willis accepted the offer. In February 1907 Robert Willis preceeded his family to their new home; they joined him on the Fourth of July. Thus began the transporting of the combined McKanna and Willis family from the Alaska Territory to Washington State.

The two oldest McKanna boys for some years followed their father’s path. Emmet mined around Dawson from 1897-1900, Jim from 1897-1904. When Emmet came back to Douglas, he worked first as a clerk in the P.H. Fox Department Store (Patrick Fox was married to Emmet’s aunt, Madge McCanna, Michael Bernard’s sister).  On July 15, 1909 in Douglas he married Lillian Penglase, the twenty-four-year-old daughter of John and Mary Penglase, residents of Douglas since 1894 when they migrated there from Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

McKanna-Penglase wedding photo, Douglas, looking toward Juneau

(Lillian and Emmet near white pole; Katherine Ann and Jim to Emmet’s left; Philip and Elizabeth at far right/forward;  Bob and Hilary at back/right, Penglase boys on either side of them)

Soon afterwards he and Lillian struck out across the water to Juneau. Emmet bought an interest in a brokerage firm, Epsteyn and Gilmour; by 1914 he acted as a wholesale agent for the company of Geddes and McKanna. In 1917 he,  Lillian, and their three children (Emmet, Mary, and John) followed Bob and Elizabeth Willis to Washington State. They settled in Yakima. There Emmet sold automobiles for three years before he switched to real estate, a business career he practiced with notable success until his death in 1958.

I knew Aunt Lil and Uncle Em during my childhood years (it took ages before I could fix them as my father’s uncle and aunt, not mine!).  On occasion, especially after Sunday mass, we visited them, sometimes for lunch. In their sixties they seemed to me to be a happy and peaceful couple, contented in their lives and family. Through the eyes of my lifetime boyhood friend, Dick Dietzen, the son of Mary McKanna Dietzen and husband Joe, I valued them as “Nana” and “Tutu,” his well-loved grandparents.

As I think about them, two memories stand out. In one I am chasing Uncle Em around his house. He has his hand behind him; he is hiding from me his gold ring fashioned from a raw nugget. I don’t recall him regaling me with stories about Alaska and the Yukon; I know from others that he could do so, and would, at the drop of anything resembling a hat! He especially defended his journey into the Yukon gold fields with his father and brother as occurring in the spring of 1897, a whole year before the stampede begun by a shipload of gold-laden miners disembarking at the Port of Seattle. As a boy, I only vaguely recognized his sourdough past, though I had some sense of the exotic about his life.

On one visit to the McKanna home I met Bishop Gleeson, a gray-haired, gentle, yet imposing missionary pastor of Alaska. He served the Territory as Vicar Apostolic until 1951. At that time Pius XII created the Diocese of Juneau; Bishop Gleeson stayed on as Vicar Apostolic for the rest of the Alaska Territory, with his base in Fairbanks.  Although I hardly understood it, the Bishop belonged also to the Jesuit Order.  He–and the likes of Fr. Hubbard, the Glacier Priest–held a special place in the affection of the Willis-McKanna family. In my life in Yakima this extended to the Jesuits at St. Joseph’s parish and the adjacent Marquette High School. My father, Robert Willis, particularly liked and valued the Jesuit pastor there, Fr. Richard Bradley. Only in recent years have I come to realize the intricate connections between our family, its Alaska origins, and the Jesuits’ role in serving our family in that pioneer land. Raised as we were in this Jesuit milieu, one that seeps into ones psychological fibers, I more easily understand how Jim and I attended, without a moment’s question, Marquette High School, and how we both decided we had a call, be it from God or from our  family tradition, to enlist in the long-robed ranks of the Society of Jesus.

Jim McKanna stayed in Alaska. He too married, lived and worked in Juneau, on the wharfs and in a sawmill. On a trip to Oregon in 1918 he contracted the deadly influenza virus and died at the early age of forty-two. He left behind his wife, Frances Morrisette McKanna, and three young children: Edmund (6), Jim (5), and Christine (4). He also left an imposing home, one he built  with Yukon gold-money and $10,000 from his wife’s father, on the hill above Juneau. This structure at 236 Gold Street later became the residence of the Alaska Territory’s delegate to the United States Congress. The governor lived in the  mansion next door. Both stately places still exist, overlooking Juneau, the Gastineau Channel, and the buildings of Douglas dotting the horizon.

The younger McKanna boys–Philip, Robert, and Hilary–all married. They worked in various occupations. Philip became a prospector in Douglas, a farmer in Montana, a mill worker in Aberdeen, Washington, and even a fur farmer in Juneau. The youngest, Hilary, farmed in Alaska and Washington, worked on a dairy farm as a milker in Juneau, and ended his laboring days as a railroad employee in Spokane, Washington.

Robert, “Uncle Bob” as my father called him, had a special place in Dad’s life.  When he decided to go to the University of Washington in 1923 with the intention of becoming a lawyer, he had to support that decision financially. Uncle Bob had recently married a young stewardess of the Alaska Steamship Company, Theodocia Louise Wheeler, or “Theo” as people knew her. Bob and Theo were settling into Seward where Bob managed the docks and supervised loading and unloading activities. Young Bob, both as an undergraduate and graduate student, spent one semester plus summer every year between 1923-1930 boarding with Bob and Theo, unloading ships on Bob’s docks, saving his money for school, and enjoying immensely a rural Alaska life with the young and vivacious couple. He hunted, fished, camped out, fought mosquitoes as big as fighter planes, and lulled around campfires as stories spun their magical webs. In his photo album he has an abundance of remembrances of those halcyon days.

Theo, Bob and Theo, Bob Willis

Those pictures make me smile! I recall one encounter with “Uncle Bob.” Throughout my high school years, I worked, except during football season, as a stock-boy at Montgomery Wards. On occasion–an upsurge of customers or an absence of salesmen–I would put off my coveralls, clean my face and hands, don a shirt and tie, and sub as a salesman. Most usually this would be in three departments: sports, paint, and mens’ clothing.

One toasty summer day, I emerged from the stifling warehouse to exercise my salesmanship abilities in the latter department.  An older gentleman approached, in build short and stocky, with a bit of a stubble for a beard. “May I help you, sir?” I said in my most helpful voice. “Perhaps,” he replied in a low growl. “I need a Pendleton. Got any?” Now, I had no idea in God’s wide earth what a “Pendleton” might be. That, however, would not stop me. With professional quickness I scurried around the department, surveying shelf after shelf, hoping to discover where they kept those body-less things. “Well, sir, I don’t see any on display at the moment. I’m sure, however, that we have many in stock. Excuse me for a moment.”  I hurriedly sought out first one, then two of the adult and certainly more experienced salesmen. To my earnest inquiries they looked puzzled. They both shook their heads: no Pendletons. As I deflatedly turned back toward the impatiently pacing customer, I happened to glance up. There, standing at the railing of the overlooking balcony, stood by father. He was laughing, alternately putting his hand over his mouth, then bending over with hand to chest or pounding his knee. Suddenly, I got it: I was being had! This guy, whoever he might be, didn’t want any darn Pendleton; he just wanted to see me dance!

It had been many years since I had seen “Uncle Bob.” My, how those two jokers had fun. Shades, I would guess of those good-old Seward days!

Except for occasional excusions like this trip to Yakima, Bob and Theo McKanna never left Alaska. He died of a heart attack in Fairbanks on November 24, 1858, in his sixty-ninth year.  His lively companion, Theo, followed him just over two years later, on January 8, 1961.  They are buried next to each other in Pioneer Section Two of the Birch Hill Cemetery in Fairbanks. How do I know? A Jesuit missionary, after visiting their burial site,  sent me the information. How appropriate.





  1. Bonnie said,

    Hello: I am the niece of Vivian McKanna, wife of Hilary McKanna and I have been writing about what I know about the McKanna’s on my blog, The Man Who Lived Airplanes. You certainly know more than I do. I also know Mickey he was part of my family and my childhood. I visited him a few years back. Bonnie

  2. originalbirchy said,

    There are some inconsistancies with your presentation at:

    1) “Madge” Fox, who you call “Bridgett McCanna Johnson” is said in one place to have gone to Alaska first with new husband Patrick Fox, ex Miles City baker in 1885, but then you them marrying in 1890. Hoopes says that Charley Johnson (her first husband) still operates a saloon in Miles City in 1882, but also says he has a grocery and clothing store in Etchetah (near present day Hysham, MT, about 90 miles up the Yellowstone River. Did he die soon after? Where did “Madge” come from? Hoopes also lists Patrick Fox’s wife as ” Kathleen (or Catherine) Johnston”

    2) you have the mother Bridgett staying in Williston and not being in MIles City, when, in fact, the local paper has many references to her boarding houses, the two fires that destroyed them, as well as some ads for her business. Also, the Ursuline nuns that came to Miles City in 1884 left records of how deplorable they found their accommodations the first night in her boarding house.

    All, in all, a remarkable family with a rich history, unfortunately, one with lots of heartbreak. Thanks for sharing most of it with us and I hope you can help me untangle the details in #1 above. Best wishes,

    • originalbirchy said,

      Some followup on the the two above points:
      1) I see in another posting here that you mention 2 sisters, Bridgette and Catherine “Madge”. You say B married a gambler in Ft Buford and Madge married Johnson, that they separated. Yet Hoopes has it as Bridgette (but he spells her last name as “McCann”). What happened to the sister that married the gambler?
      2) In all the newspaper articles about the boarding house(s) in Miles City, they always call her “Mrs. McCanna”, but in the death report, the specifically refer to her dying at her dauthter’s in Williston and that she owned boarding houses in Miles City.

      3) What happened to the family of James, who froze to death? I’ve seen nothing about them after (except possibly mention of the children in school activities). Did they leave Miles City? Did the widow remarry? Any more info about how/why James froze to death?

    • rjjwillis said,

      James, Much of the confusion comes from identical names: mother is Bridget McDevit McCanna; one daughter is Katherine Bridgette “Madge” McCanna; another daughter is Bridget McCanna Mathews. Also, the name McKanna changed over the years: in Normandy Township, Ontario, it is McCanna; in Grove Lake, Minnesota, it is McCanna; in Miles City, Montana Territory, it is McCanna; in Douglas, Alaska Territory, it becomes McKanna; it has remained McKanna till today, except for the family of James McCanna which kept the McCanna spelling.

      I will try to answer each of your questions. I have abundant documentation for all of this. I will not include it, for lack of time.

      1)Katherine Brigette “Madge” McCanna married Charles Johnson in Miles City, Montana Territory in 1878. She divorced him between 1880-1883. She remarried, this time to Patrick Henry Fox, a Irishman and a soldier at nearby Ft. Keogh, in 1883. The gambler was Charles Johnson; the soldier, baker, and store owner was Patrick Henry Fox. The Foxes moved to Milford, Kansas in June 1884. They moved on to Douglas, Alaska Territory, in September 1885. They lived there at least to 1915. He owned and operated P.H.Fox general store in Douglas. By 1920 they are living in Aberdeen, Washington, where he owned a clothing store. Madge died in Aberdeen on 2/7/1930; she is buried, on 2/10/1930, in Fern Hill Cemetery.

      2) Margaret Jane “Bridget” McCanna married Robert Cobb Mathews in Bismarck, Dakota Territory, on 6/13/1880. He had been working as a salesman for Jordan and Leighton store in Ft. Buford. By 1881 they are living at Stony Creek Ranch outside of Williston, Dakota Territory. By 1920 they lived in Seattle, Washington. Robert Mathews died on 11/26/1927, in Wenatchee, Washington. By 1930 his widow is back living in Williston where she ran a boarding house. She died in Williston on 2/26/1940; she was buried in Wenatchee, Washington, on 2/28/1940.

      3) James S. McCanna died of a liver ailment in Miles City, Montana Territory on 2/8/1883. He was buried out of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, at Old Calvary Cemetery (“Boot Hill”), outside of Miles City. His wife, Sarah Anne Duffy McCanna, soon moved her family to Seattle, Washington. She married a man named “Schmidt” in 1895. I can trace her in Seattle till 1920. Three of her children lived there also: Scott James (d. 12/13/1946 in Bremerton, Washington); Charles Michael (bridge carpenter, in Seattle at least till 1942); Mary Cordelia (chocolate dipper, in Seattle, at least till 1942).

      4) I know nothing about Charles Johnson after 1880.

      I hope this sufficiently clears up any discrepancies.

  3. originalbirchy said,

    They really liked the name Bridgett, huh? 🙂

    You have so much great info, about all I can add is what I’ve found in Miles City’s early newspaper The Yellowstone Journal and from Lorman Hoopes’ book “This Last West” (most of which came from the YJ, plus some diaries.

    You can search many period newspapers here:

    If you limit your search to Montana and use “McCanna” as the search term, you should find almost everything I’ve added.

    18 Jan 1884 The Ursuline nuns stayed at her boarding house when they first arrived in Miles City and described the filth quite graphically in their letters home to the motherhouse in Toledo. (They also complained of the noise. McCanna’s boarding house was probably more like a flop house, with one big room upstairs, curtained off into “rooms”. Most of her “guests” were likely cowboys, contractors etc who weren’t too picky about cleanliness themselves and it would be a waste of time to try to keep the “rooms” clean. Main Street wasn’t paved until about 1910, so a lot of Main street probably ended up on floor upstairs.)

    23 Apr 1884 Ad in YJ: Furnished rooms to rent at my house corner of Fourth and Main streets. Mrs. McCanna.

    2 Jun 1884 1 am Monday morning, a fire broke out in the home of Mrs. Sarah McCanna at Third and Main. Discovered by a soldier and Gus Malden, who raised the alarm. The upper floor rooms had light cloth lining the walls instead of plaster and the house went up quickly. The night watchman and deputy sheriffs Conley and Zahl had been at the RR depot waiting to arrest someone on the incoming train, but on hearing the yelling, ran to the fire, firing off the 2 shots that indicated a fire. The wind was blowing across Main (northward) so only the back of the adjoining house received extra damage, about $100 worth. Using only pumps and buckets, the citizenry turned out and saved as much furniture as they could and the house being unable to save the house, worked to save the remaining structures to the west, towards the river. Mrs. McCanna only discovered the fire by seeing its reflection. The fire started in an upstairs room and came down the chimney. Soon she was overcome with smoke and was only able to escape with the help of neighbors. The house was seven years old and one of the oldest ones in town, having been dismantled from its original site in old Milestown and moved here in 1877. It was old fashioned but comfortable and estimated to be worth about $1000, and was mostly covered by insurance. The adjacent building was owned by Chinese laundryman Gee Lee. They emptied their building and doused it with water. The damaged laundry was “bad” but “as Sunday was past the stock of washing on hand was light”. A keg of powder was placed in the laundry building to blow it up if needed, but the wind changed and they didn’t have to use it. B. McCanna, who lived in the second house from his mother’s burning building, was carrying valuables from his house, including an incubator and a packaged mixture of dynamite and giant powder which he stacked near the barn. A spark ignited the package, blowing the end out of the incubator, scattering chickens and eggs all over and causing the crowd to fall back.

    17 Mar 1885 A fire broke out in the 2 story building on Main near Fourth Street, the front of which was Toy Siug’s laundry. A multitude of alarm shots brought a large crowd who rescued belongings and tried to put the fire out. Apparently, between the flames and the ignited keg of gunpowder, the buildings on each side were also destroyed, a small house to the west and Mrs. McCanna’s house on the corner of Main and Fourth. Her house was valued at $600 and was insured. Total damage estimated at $1200 – $1500.

    18 Mar 1885 A fire left Mrs. M. McCanna homeless and Towner Savage, Major Borchart and Sam O’Connell took up a subscription for her, raising $150.

    Two days later the YJ published a different version: Smoke was pouring into Mrs. McCanna’s house pretty lively when Dave Roche and Jim Whelan and other burst the door open and wakened Mr. and Mrs. Judd who also lived on the corner. Their furniture was all removed but Mrs. McCanna, lived in the next house, where the fire started, lost everything. Kid Roche and Jim Whelan had their hair and hands burned in the efforts to save property. A keg of powder was placed in one of the buildings, but Jim Whelan saw it and removed it. George Silverberg heard McCanna’s hens cackling and transferred them from the coop to a place of safety. He also saved her cat. Probable cause was thought to be a lamp explosion. Judge Conger organized the bucket brigade.

    16 Apr 1885 The Whitesides have taken the contract to rebuild another house for Mrs. McCanna on the site of the burned structure. 1 Jul 1885 the new house has a roof and will soon be completed.

    During 1885, Mrs. B. McCanna spent $2000 on 2 buildings and Mrs. M. McCanna spent $800 on a residence (according to a list of construction for the year).

    Apr 1886 ad: Leave your clothes at the Miles City dying works back of McCanna’s.

    Dec 1886: Abe LeRoy receives a letter from Jimmy McCanna who is with his father in Alaska. He tells his “old pard” that he doesn’t like Alaska as there ain’t enough winter there.

    Sep 1887 Bridgetta McCanna owed $1 as a witness in probate court by the board of county commissioners.

    2 Mar 1890 Mrs. Bridgetta McCanna, an old resident of Miles City, died on Sunday at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Maggie Mathews, at Williston, ND. She was quite elderly and feeble when she left MC to live with Maggie. She had quite a bit of real estate which yielded her considerable income at one time, but as the town shifted focus to the east, became less profitable.

    If you have any more insights into how Michael, James and their mother arrived at Miles City, please share. Obviously, one or more of them built a boarding house in Oldtown at least as early as the summer, because by the end of the year, Gen Miles let them move to the east bank of the Tongue River and it’s doubtful any new construction happened in Oldtown after that. It may have taken about a year to move the boarding house, but since they moved it to the lots closest to the river, I’m guessing that they were the first to claim lots at all in the new location (unless most people were too afraid of flooding to be *that* close, a valid concern, proven in spades in 1881).

    There has been a mention that Michael was involved in railroad extension? Since they had emigrated en masse to Bismarck, and both brothers seem to have been involved in civil construction (and teamsters) in Miles City, did they maybe work for contractors involved in the railroad expansion? I guess not, as that didn’t start until 1879, so if they were, it would have been after they settled in Miles City.

    My main focus is the early days of Miles City.

  4. originalbirchy said,

    Could you sort out the confusion with these birth dates/names?
    Bridgette (1854), Katherine Bridgette “Madge” (1856), and Margaret Jane “Bridget” (3/1858).

    • rjjwillis said,

      James, There are three problems with birth dates of Irish folk born in Ireland and then emigrated to North America: 1) The McCanna family came from the west of Ireland, probably Leitrim. Due to the Penal Laws the “mere Irish” were forbidden to be educated; 2) The uneducated Irish did not focus on the individual, but rather on the family/tribe; 3) Records in the United States, especially census records, depend on the nationality and the literacy of the census taker.

      Given the above, I can sort out the McCanna family as follows:
      1) Myles McCanna, born in Ireland, probably in 1810-1811: 1870 census for Pope County, Minnesota has him 60 (so 1810); his death record on 10/19/1879 has him 67 (so 1811-1812);
      2) Bridget McDevit McCanna, born in Ireland, probably in 1820: 1851 census for Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario has her 30 (so 1820-1821); 1870 census for Pope County, Minnesota has her 50 (so 1820); 6/15/1880 census for Miles City, Montana Territory has her 59 (so 1819-1820);
      3) Elizabeth, born in Ireland, probably in 1837: Surrogate Court Index in 1892, Grey County, Ontario has her born on 12/29/1837; 1851 census for Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario, has her 14 (so 1837);
      4) James, born in Ireland, probably in 1842-1843: 1851 census for Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario has him 12(so 1842-1843); 1870 census for Grove Lake, Pope County, Minnesota has him 28 (so 1842);
      5) Mary Ann Lavinia, born in Ireland, probably in 1844-1845: 1851 census for Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario has her 10 (so 1841-1842); obituary in the Gopher Press, 4/11/1912 has her birth date as 8/1/1844; 1900 census for Glenwood, Pope County, Minnesota has her born in 5/1845;
      6) Michael Bernard, born in Ireland, probably in 1845-1846: 1851 census for Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario has him 7 (so 1844-1845); 1870 census for Grove Lake, Pope County, Minnesota has him 24 (so 1845-1846); his death certificate in British Columbia, information supplied by his son James, says that he died on 6/13/1899, was 50 years old (so 1849)
      7) Katherine Bridgette “Madge”, born in Peterborough, Peterborough County, Ontario in 1850: 1851 census for Peterborough says she is one; death record on 2/7/1930 has her born on 2/1862, which is impossible; 1920 census has it to be in 1860, which is impossible. As to her name, here are the ones attributed over the years:1861–Bridgette; 1870–Bridget; 1880–Bridget; 1900–Katherine Bridget; 1907–Madge; 1910–Delia; 1920–Delia; 1930–Delia;
      8) Catherine, born in Paris, Brant County, Ontario, in 1854-1855: 3/18/1861 census for Normanby Township, Grey County, Ontario has her 7 (so 1854-1855); 1880 census for Westport, Pope County, Minnesota has her 25 (so 1854-1855);
      9) Margaret Jane “Bridget”, born in Paris, Brant County, Ontario probably in 1858: obituary on 2/26/1940 gives her birth date as being 3/25/1858; 1861 census in Normanby Township, Grey County, Ontario has her as 7 (so 1854); 1870 census for Grove Lake, Pope County, Minnesota has her as being 11 (so 1858-1859);
      10) Nancy, born in Normanby Towship, Grey County, Ontario, probably in 1859: 3/15/1861 census for Normanby Township has her as being three (so 1858-1859).

      As you can see, I cannot come up with any absolutes relative to birth years, and the names of Katherine Bridgette “Madge” and Margaret Jane “Bridget” change. This is the best I can do. I hope it helps.

  5. hippiechick5 said,

    This is so interesting to read! My great uncle is Dick Dietzen of Yakima, his sister Ann Gamon is my grandmother. Thanks for keeping the history alive for future generations!

    • rjjwillis said,

      Hi! I take it that one of your parents is either Trina, Bruce, David, or Mark? Right?

      I grew up next door to the Dietzen family. Their grandparents, on Mary McKanna Dietzen’s side of the family, also lived in Yakima. I knew them well: Aunt Lil (Lillian Penglase McKanna) and Uncle Em (Emmett Joseph McKanna). My father, Judge Robert J. Willis, had as his mother, Elizabeth Elinor McKanna, Uncle Em’s older sister.

      When my father died in 1989, I realized that with his death would vanish much of our family’s history. My Dad was a storyteller, not a writer nor a researcher. Since then I have researched the family history that would touch your side of the family: McKanna, Rooney, and Willis. I am pleased that my work may mean something to you and your family.

      Best regards, Bob Willis (a.k.a. Robert John Willis, III)

      • hippiechick5 said,

        I am Trina’s oldest daughter. I am so glad you decided to research and share what you have found. I will be happy to share this with my children when they are older!

  6. Margaret McCanna Seif said,

    How does one purchase all this information ? Is it in book form? I am a McCanna related to this group of McCanna’s that did all this wonderful pioneering for all of us !

    My thanks. marge

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