Sunday, April 29, 2012

Becoming Less Invisible

Details regarding what seemed to be the near-invisible Mrs. R. C. Flannigan have surfaced—thanks to a family researcher—painting her as a more interesting individual, quite knowledgeable in a number of pursuits for which she had become noted.

Long before her well-known husband had passed away, an academic paper published by the University of Michigan had expressed thanks for the Flannigans’ role in furthering the author’s study in “The Mollusca of Dickinson County, Michigan.” The paper explained that, “The party made their headquarters the hunting camp of Mr. R. C. Flannigan, on the south shore of Brown Lake, about 11 miles north of Waucedah, Dickinson County, Michigan.” On page two of his preface to this paper, author H. Burrington Baker further explained that he wished to “express his obligations to Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Flannigan, especially the latter, for acting as guides on several occasions, and for trips to points around Norway, and for their kind hospitality.”

Another mention in The Wilson Bulletin provided a possible clue as to what kind of “guide” Mrs. Flannigan might have been.
To Mrs. Flannigan goes the honor of placing the first band on a Hummingbird, also Bohemian Waxwing, and she is in the lead in banding Chipping Sparrows, Phoebe’s and Chimney Swifts, 65 bands placed.
Two other journal entries cataloged Mrs. Flannigan’s participation in similar bird banding exercises.

It seems that Mrs. Flannigan had earned respect for her own interests in various zoological fields while her husband pursued excellence in his own career.

Having lost her husband, the Honorable Richard C. Flannigan, in 1928, it appears that Mrs. R. C. Flannigan had chosen to join her son, Clement, in the city that had become his newfound home—Colorado Springs. However, Clement’s passing in 1932 had left Mrs. Flannigan in the awkward position of being far from her former home in Michigan, yet having no apparent family to tie her to her new location—unless she had maintained connections with Richard’s brother John, who long before had moved to Colorado himself. John’s location in Leadville was quite a distance from Clement’s home in Colorado Springs. I have no indication of any continuing family connection, but it is a possibility worth considering—something that may become more evident once we explore John’s branch of the family.

Then again, the enigmatic Mrs. Flannigan may have developed more of such connections in Colorado as we’ve just discovered of her university associations while in Michigan. There is so much more that needs to be uncovered about this family’s history.

However, there were not too many months, subsequent to Clement’s passing, in which to consider details of her personal activities and social choices, for once again a newspaper—back home in Michigan, rather than in any Colorado Springs publications—reports of another Flannigan family member returning home.

From the Ironwood Daily Globe, Tuesday, August 15, 1933, page 7:
            Iron Mountain—Word of the death of Mrs. Richard C. Flannigan, aged 75, of Colorado Springs, Colo., widow of the late Justice Flannigan, of Norway, was received in Norway Saturday by her sister-in-law, Miss Agatha Flannigan. Mrs. Flannigan died at 9:15 o’clock Saturday morning at her home following a lingering illness. The body, accompanied by Mrs. Flannigan’s niece, Mrs. William Crago, of Colorado Springs, was to arrive in Marquette this morning, where funeral services have been tentatively set for 9 o’clock.
Agonizingly enough, once again we fall victim to newspaper error, although in this iteration of reporting error, an entire column line is misplaced and substituted by an aggravating non sequitur just at the point which would have explained why or when Anna left Michigan for Colorado.
            Mrs. Flannigan left Norway five years ago following the death of her husband. She went to Color- [in the following line of the article is inserted, “Lake Superior and Cartigan on,” followed by the appropriate continuation of the article] Clement, who died in October of 1932.
Which robs us, once again, of a fuller picture of just who Anna Mary Haessly Flannigan really was.


  1. Isn't it amazing how a few lines in The Wilson Bulletin add depth to the portrait you are sketching? I immediately think of my birders I have known and begin to attribute characteristics to Anna Flannigan. Observant. Curious. Patient. And perhaps a bit absent-minded when it comes to the day to day details of life.

    They may be entirely wrong, but I now have a sense of a unique woman with her own interests and passions.

    1. Love how you characterized Anna from that little wisp of detail, Susan! That is quite possible.

      Though I'll be moving on from Anna to other Flannigan sketches, I'd love to discover more on her, and will revisit if I uncover any additional hints. I'd love to observe a fuller portrait of her, too.

  2. That obituary typo would drive me crazy! So she died of a lingering illness not long after her son Clement - but in Colorado. Did she not return to Michigan with the son's body for the burial? Or did she and thus make the long trip back to Colorado only to die? People flew back then (1932-33), but not very many. Perhaps she was an early airplane passenger.

    Anna seems to have been quite the bird bander. I envision her running around with a butterfly net and capturing them.

    1. I am presuming the more likely mode of transportation for both Anna and Clement might be rail...especially at the return of the body. Although you have a good point about the Flannigans being early adapters.

  3. Thanks! I feel like I know my ggg Aunt Anna much better now!
    She reminds me of a Victorian Nature Journalist. Maybe she actually was one!
    Is tuburculosis a lingering illness? Is that why Clement moved there? HMM???

    1. Connie, the more I dig into this part of the family, the more I wish I had a trip to the Springs scheduled in my near future! To think of all the times I've been there, never dreaming I'd be researching this.

      The "lingering" note in the newspaper article may possibly have referred to tuberculosis, especially considering the links you've found. If I could find any death record for either of them, that would resolve the issue, but I'm not gaining traction on online searches so far.


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