Seated at the right of this photograph is my mother, Elizabeth “Bess” Cashen when she was 13. She was valedictorian of the class of 1909 in St. Mary’s School, Wharton, New Jersey. The other students in the photograph are (clockwise from left) Elizabeth Bobo, Leo Sodon, and Anna Harman. Bess was one of 11 children born to John J. Cashen, an iron miner, and his wife, Sarah Reynolds. Cashen was born at sea on the ship Albert Gallatin in 1867, while his parents, Thomas Cashen from County Longford, and Elizabeth “Bessie” Glancy from Leitrim, were en route to America.
Bess had to quit high school after her freshman year to work in a silk mill and help her parent’s growing family. Her fondest work memory was of throwing snowballs at scabs trying to break a labor strike. In 1916, Bess married Edward Gallagher of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, the son of Patrick Gallagher of Carrick, Donegal, and Anne Sheehy, of Thurles, Tipperary. Patrick had emigrated in 1859, and enlisted in the 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry for a year’s service in November 1861. One of his many engagements with the 53rd was the Battle at Antietam. In November 1862 he signed on for two years with the 1st Regiment, U.S. Cavalry. He rode in Sheridan’s raids and participated in the Battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor.
Bess passed away at 93, leaving six children and numerous grand and great grandchildren. Her grandson, my son Patrick, resides in Wharton and is a Celtic artist. ♦