The Cannon Family of Kilcar, Donegal, Greeley, NE, and Maryville, Missouri

compiled by James W. Dunn

February 7, 1998


The Cannon family and many of their Irish relatives are from Kilcar, a small town in southwestern County Donegal. The Catholic parish boundaries define the limits to Kilcar, and Kilcar is much like a township in the midwestern United States, with the village of Kilcar at its center. The Cannon farm was in the townland of Kille, as were the farms of the Cunninghams, Campbells, and Byrnes, all of whom are related to them. The McNelis farm was in the adjacent townland of Largymore. The school these people attended was in the townland of Shalwy. The building stands vacant in 1991.

These townlands are spread along the road from Killybegs to Kilcar, ordering Kille, Largymore, Shalwy, as you go west toward Kilcar. The parish of Killybegs begins immediately east of Kille, with the townland of Largy.

The walk west into Kilcar for Mass was about four miles of hilly terrain on a road that was mostly mud and rocks. Killybegs was a little farther in the opposite direction. Since Killybegs is somewhat larger than Kilcar, it would likely be the major destination for any commercial activity. It is deceptive to look at Kilcar and Killybegs today and assume that they had the same relative importance in the last century. Killybegs today is Ireland's major fishing port and is much larger than Kilcar. However, at one time the Donegal Bay fishing fleet used to operate out of Towny and Teelin, both part of Kilcar. The modernization of the industry required a larger port and Killybegs grew accordingly.

The Irish (Gaelic) word for church is Cill or Kill. Kilcar means the Church of St. Cartha, Killybegs means the little churches, and Kille, means church, in reference to an old church site high on the hillside from those days when churches needed to be hidden from English eyes.

My Kilcar page has more on Kilcar, especially Kilcar genealogy

Greeley County, Nebraska

Greeley County, Nebraska was settled in part by Irish immigrants under the Irish Colonization Association in a plan by Horace Greeley and several Catholic Bishops to encourage the Irish to move from the eastern cities and back into agriculture. It was their belief that the social and moral fiber of the Irish was not well served by living in the slums of the eastern cities and a return to agrarian life such as they lived in Ireland would preserve the true spirituality of Irish Catholicism. Two of the bishops involved in this plan were Bishop John Spalding of Peoria, IL and Bishop James O'Connor of Omaha. O'Neill, Nebraska was also part of the resettlement plan and John O'Neill, a Civil War veteran and leader of the Fenian movement in America, was another important backer of it. The large number of Irish families in Spalding, O'Connor, Greeley, and O'Neill, and the names of the towns themselves, are evidence of the success of the plan. (The Irish in Dakota, David Kemp, p. 87-99)

Greeley County is on the eastern edge of the Nebraska sand hills and as such is in a transition area between crop agriculture and rangeland more suitable for grazing. The land was never quite productive enough to support farms of 160 acres economically. The climate can be dry and the winters harsh. Pioneers in this land, as our ancestors were, faced an existence that in many ways was as hard as they left in Ireland or the Pennsylvania coal fields.

The Cannon family lived in Kille, Kilcar, just down the road from the McNelis and Meehan families and directly next door to the Byrne family. Thomas Cannon's sister Nellie married Brian Dougan from Shalwy and they moved to Maryville, MO. John Cannon went to Maryville in 1878 and later sent for his brother Dennis. The two of them worked on the farm in Maryville and as peddlers to earn extra money. They later worked in the smelters in Anaconda, Montana and Leadville, Colorado, where they were paid $4 a day. They came to the Greeley area in 1885 and sent for their mother, brother James and his wife Susan and their little daughter Nellie, and their sister Mary. Dennis bought a farm in Freeman Valley township where they farmed all of their lives. The Maryville relatives were intertwined with the Greeley relatives in a variety of ways, including marriage to McNelises. It is not clear how the Maryville McNelis family is related to the Greeley McNelis family, but they are also from Kilcar. They are almost certainly related in some way. (Sources: A History of Greeley Sacred Heart, 1893-1993; Patrick Raughter; Mary Catherine McNellis)

A Few Generations of Descent

1. Ancestor Cannon.

1.1. Thomas Cannon m. Sarah Cunningham, b. ? May 1832, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, (daughter of James Cunningham and Mrs. Sarah Cunningham) d. 20 Mar 1908, Greeley Co, NE. Thomas died 1886.

1.1.1. James Cannon b. 19 Jul 1855, Kille, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: 19 Jul 1855, St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire, m. Susan Kennedy,  James died 27 Jun 1935, Greeley, Neb.  These are the Cannons of Molly Harmoney. Mary Cannon b. ? ___ 1884, Kille, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: 29 Jan 1884, St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire. John Cannon b. ? ___ 1889, Kille, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: 20 Jul 1889, St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire. Ellen Cannon.

1.1.2. John Cannon b. 15-Apr-1859, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, m. 9-Oct-1899, in Greeley, Neb, Mary Merriman, (daughter of James Merriman and Ellen Harkins) d. 17-Jun-1954. John died 21-Sep-1950. Mary Cannon b. 2-Nov-1900, Greeley, Neb, d. 5-Nov-1981. Anna Cannon b. 5-Nov-1902, Greeley, Neb. Francis Cannon b. 13-Nov-1905, Greeley, Neb, d. 30-Jun-1984. James Cannon b. 12-Apr-1908, Greeley, Neb. Catherine Cannon b. 15-Jan-1911, Greeley, Neb. John Cannon b. 4-Mar-1913, Greeley, Neb, Residence: Monticello, IL. Joseph Cannon b. 16-Mar-1916, Greeley, Neb.

1.1.3. Dennis Cannon b. 2 APR 1861, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire, occupation Farmer, m. 12-Nov-1899, in Greeley, Neb, Margaret McNelis, b. 7 FEB 1881, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: 7-Feb-1881, St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire, (daughter of James McNelis and Margaret (Madge) Byrne) d. 4 MAY 1962, Greeley, Neb. Dennis died 2 JUN 1948, Greeley, Neb. The Cannons farmed near Greeley. Dennis Cannon was a neighbor of his wife's family in Ireland before coming to Nebraska. He also had at least two brothers and one sister in Greeley. He was a close friend of his father-in- law, James McNelis, and the two of them used to sit drinking tea and talking in Irish Gaelic in Nebraska. Dennis came to America after his brother John sent him the fare. John had been working on his uncle's farm in Marysville, MO. He and John worked on the farm and as peddlers to earn extra money. The McNelis family is discussed in greater detail at McNelis Marie Catherine Cannon b. 26-Sep-1900, Greeley, Neb, m. 7-Sep-1920, in Sacred Heart, Greeley, Neb, Francis Henry Harris, b. 29-Jul-1897, Greeley, Neb, (son of John C. Harris and Catherine Riley) occupation farmer, d. 9-Oct-1953, Greeley, Neb. Marie died 17-Oct-1992, Greeley, Neb. Marie attended Freeman Valley grade school and the O'Connor High School for one year. She graduated from Greeley High in 1919 and taught country school in the area. After her husband's death she worked at various jobs. She loved people and was a keeper of the family's oral history. Thomas Francis Cannon b. 1-Jul-1902, Greeley, Neb, m. 5-Jun-1933, in Greeley, Neb, Anna Lavelle, b. 12-Mar-1906, Greeley, Neb, (daughter of Albert Lavelle and Esther Rease) d. 25-Oct-1987, Washington, Iowa. Thomas died 12-Jan-1974, Washington, Iowa. Tom farmed east of Greeley before he and Anna moved to Washington, IA where Tom was district manager for Archer Oil and Anna did secretarial work. James Alphansus Cannon b. 6-Sep-1904, Greeley, Neb, m. 27-Feb-1933, in Sacred Heart, Greeley, Neb, Margaret Bridget Moran, b. 8-Feb-1907, Greeley, Neb, (daughter of William Edward Moran and Margaret Elizabeth Kelly). James died 12-Jun-1957, Greeley, Neb. James and Margaret farmed east of Greeley until his death. She moved into Greeley in 1960. John Joseph Cannon b. 6-Dec-1906, Greeley, Neb, d. 28-Oct-1991, St. Paul, NE. Johnny farmed the family farm near Greeley all of his life. Helen Margaret Cannon b. 28-Jan-1909, Greeley, Neb, m. 26-Dec-1942, in Greeley, Neb, Thomas B. Ryan, b. 9-Jan-1905, Brayton, NE, (son of Thomas Ryan and Mary Ann Callahan) d. 12-Jan-1974. Helen died 23-Apr-1977, St. Paul, NE. Helen graduated from the first class at Greeley Sacred Heart School. She attended Hastings College and taught country school and at Greeley Public School for several years. After she married Tom the family moved to Hastings where Tom was a farmer and cattle speculator. Gerald Anthony Cannon m. Anastasia Catherine Cook Robert Dennis Cannon b. 30-Jul-1921, Greeley, Neb, m. 10-Sep-1947, in Spalding, Neb, Elaine M. Glaser, b. 12-Apr-1923, Spalding, Neb, (daughter of Albert Abden Glaser and Mary Elizabeth Langer) Residence: Lincoln, NE. Robert died 7-Apr-1970, Seward, NE. Bob was killed in a car wreck. He and Elaine lived in Columbus, Neb.

1.1.4. Mary Cannon b. ? ___ 1868, Kille, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, Bapt: 11 May 1868, St. Cartha's, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ire.

1.1.5. Thomas Cannon.

1.2. Ellen "Nellie" Cannon b. ? ___ 1806, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, m. Bernard "Brian" Dougan, b. 1810, d. 26 Mar 1866, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Ellen died ? ___ 1889, Nodaway Co., MO. This branch is the family of Jim

1.2.1. James Dougan b. ? ___ 1840, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, m. 1879, Mary McQuire. James died 7 Mar 1920, Clyde, Nodaway, MO. Helen Dougan. Clara Dougan. James P. Dougan. Mammie Dougan.

1.2.2. John Dougan b. ? ___ 1844, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, m. 14 Jun 1877, in Maryville, MO, Mary Liston, b. 4 Jul 1858, Memphis, TN, d. 18 Dec 1897, Maryville, MO. John died 4 Feb 1917, Maryville, MO. This is the family of Jim Moore, 1924 Fairmount St., Wausau, WI 54403 Mary Dougan b. ? Apr 1878, Maryville, MO, m. John Gallagher. Bernard F. Dougan b. ? Jul 1880, Maryville, MO, d. 1935. Michael J. Dougan b. 8 Aug 1883, Maryville, MO, m. 20 Feb 1906, in Maryville, MO, Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, b. 2 Feb 1880, Maryville, MO, d. 28 Sep 1924, Maryville, MO. Michael died 7 Feb 1955, Maryville, MO. Helen Dougan b. 4 Apr 1885, Maryville, MO. John Dougan b. ? Sep 1887, Maryville, MO. Anna Dougan b. 18 Jan 1890, Maryville, MO, m. Martin McQuinn. Anna died 1992. Thomas P. Dougan b. 8 Jul 1892, Maryville, MO, d. 8 May 1909. Irene Dougan b. ? Nov 1895, Maryville, MO.

1.2.3. Ann Dougan b. ? ___ 1845, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, d. 16 Aug 1926, Maryville, MO.

1.2.4. Patrick Dougan b. 12 Nov 1847, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, d. 22 Jan 1937, Maryville, MO.

1.2.5. Bernard Doogan b. 28 May 1848, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland.

1.2.6. Mary Dougan b. 3 Nov 1850, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, m. 21 Apr 1874, in Maryville, MO, Patrick McNellis, b. 25 Sep 1845, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland, (son of Patrick McNelis and Sally McFadden) occupation implement dealer, d. 6 Feb 1920, Maryville, MO. Mary died 21 Jan 1930, Maryville, MO. James McNellis b. 4 Feb 1875, Maryville, MO, d. 8 Nov 1920, Maryville, MO. Mary Sarah Ellen "Daisy" McNellis b. 23 Feb 1876, Maryville, MO, d. 30 Sep 1949. Bernard McNellis b. 18 Feb 1878, Maryville, MO, d. 18 Jul 1879, Maryville, MO. Sarah McNellis b. 23 Nov 1879, Maryville, MO, d. 8 Nov 1918. Anna McNellis b. 21 Oct 1881, Maryville, MO, d. 7 Jul 1941. Patrick Henry McNellis b. 24 Dec 1883, Maryville, MO, d. 13 Jun 1893. Helen McNellis b. 12 May 1884, Maryville, MO, d. 10 Jun 1959, Maryville, MO. Catherine "Kate" McNellis b. 23 Sep 1887, Maryville, MO, m. 29 Mar 1910, in Chillicothe, MO, James Olan Whan, b. 1 Dec 1886, d. 7 Aug 1977. Catherine died 20 Jan 1974.

1.2.7. Bridget Dougan b. 28 Feb 1853, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, d. 7 Jul 1926, Maryville, MO.

1.2.8. Thomas Dougan b. 15 Sep 1856, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, d. 27 Apr 1896.

1.2.9. Ellen Dougan b. 19 Sep 1858, Shalwy, Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Ireland, m. Cornelius Brady, b. 1845, d. 1917. Ellen died 12 Jan 1930.

1.3. Patrick Cannon b. 1818, Kilcar, County Donegal, Ireland.

This information represents the best knowledge at my disposal. Of you have additions, corrections, or comments, I would love to hear them at James Dunn, 212 E. Irvin Ave., State College, PA 16801 or by email at