That House in Altoona

The house pictured above is located at 2111 Fifth Avenue, Altoona, PA. There is a caption on the reverse [see below] which informs that the folks standing in front of the house are

Aunt Mary Moore
Uncle Willie Moore
Bill Moore
Elizabeth Moore
George Kearney
(Grandpa Kearney in Center)

The mother of the family was Mary Kearney (1866-1955), the daughter of George Kearney (1822-1886) and Catherine Moore (1838-1873). She was married to William Moore (1863-1946), also a native of Ireland, whose parents I was unable to identify. Mary and William arrived separately to the USA from County Donegal in the 1880s and married in May 1890. Their children were William Victor Moore (1891-1988), Elizabeth Kearney Moore (1895-1961), and, not pictured, George Harold Moore (1900-1981).

George Kearney is Mary’s nephew, George William Kearney (1895-1966), and Grandpa Kearney is Mary’s brother, William Kearney (1862-1922), who married Mary Margaret “Maggie” Moore (1864-1942) in 1893. George and Maggie’s other children were Thomas C. Kearney (1899-1901) and Allan Moore “Al” Kearney (1902-1979).

The first mention of the house in the newspapers was in May 1899: A quiet wedding was celebrated yesterday evening at the home of Mr. William Moore, 2111 Fifth avenue, who is a brother-in-law of the bride. The wedding united Mary’s sister Elizabeth Anne Kearney (1872-1939) with James Crawford (1870-1919), both also natives of Ireland. In the Census of 1900, Grandpa Kearney’s family was enumerated at 2107 Fifth Avenue, which had not been built when this photograph was taken. We can date the photograph to 1896-1898.

I suspect the person who wrote the caption on the back of the photograph was one of the Crawford children. I’d explain why I think that, but figuring out the Kearneys and Moores of Altoona in the late 19th Century gave me a headache — I want to move on to the next thing.

Both 2111 and 2107 are still there but, because the GoogleEarth camera did not drive down Fifth Avenue, we can only see them from above:

4 thoughts on “That House in Altoona

  1. Interesting that the house was not built with a front porch. I grew up in a house like this.

  2. The house pictured was one purchased by my Great Grandfather, William Moore. He emigrated from County Donegal in Ireland in the late 1800s and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

    William grew up in Cresslough, Ireland with 10 other siblings in a “home” that was used to store hay in its last use (it was not being used for anything when I visited it in 2000). It was a 2-room house that had a fireplace separating the two rooms (you had to go outside to get between the rooms). As you can see, “Uncle Willy” in the photograph is very tall, which is common for the Moores (my grandfather and my dad were both 6′ 4″, and I am 6′ 3″ tall). My dad and I both had to duck to get into the “house”. They leased 7 acres of land and grew mainly potatoes. My father and uncle both remember William having a fondness for potatoes. One story was him in the kitchen sitting eating raw potatoes as the women peeled them to prepare them for dinner. The other story I recall them saying was that William getting a portion of potatoes about the same size as the portion given to the rest of the family to pass around and share.

    My dad and uncle never saw the man read or write anything but his name, so they suspected he was illiterate. However, William was able to put his two boys (William and George Harold) through college with the help of scholarships from the Pennsylvania Railroad. William’s story of living in poverty and being illiterate, yet able to own a home and aid in his children’s upward mobility is a classic success story of immigration and the American dream!

  3. One more story. “Uncle Willy” in the photograph had, according to my father and uncle, 13 William Moore in attendance at his funeral. There was a tendency to name male children William or George in that line. This is probably why my grandfather, George Harold Moore, went by Harold and not his first name.

    1. After this project I do not doubt that this is a true story! The name almost everybody has in my family, except for me, is William.

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