Alfred Bellot, in his History of the Rockaways (1917), devotes one line to
"the late Mrs. William J. Kavanagh, a resident of Lawrence for many years,and a well-known Indian scholar and literary woman..."
|Map of Lawrence, 1891|
It was my goal to reconstruct Mrs. Kavanagh's life from readily available Internet sources and subscription databases through the H-WPL database page. Combined, these individual facts will show that she was a wife and mother, an author, educator and, in an era when women rarely had professions outside the home, she was a notary and Postmaster.
William J.Kavanagh and his wife, Mary lived in the Town of Hempstead (then a part of Queens County) in the 1880 U.S. Census and the 1892 New York State Census with their four children:
- William L. born 1866 (died 1892)
- Victor Frank, born 1868 (died 1901)
- Edmund Arthur, born 1873 (died 1935)
- Mary Gabriella, born 1876 (died after 1917)
There are several William Kavanaghs listed as New York Civil War veterans in various databases. One lived to collect a pension; the beneficiary was his wife Mary. This William Kavanagh served with several cavalry units, spent some time as a Quartermaster Sergeant and a Regimental Sergeant Major, and ended the war as a commissioned First Lieutenant. He lived to collect a pension, of which Mary was the beneficiary. This Quartermaster experience may have prepared him for his profession as "leather dealer." (as "our" William is listed in the 1880 U.S. Census).
Articles from local newspapers of the era provided some insight into the lives of the Kavanaghs, who had a home with a beautiful garden in Far Rockaway (South Side Observer, July 7, 1882). During a crime wave in 1882, the home was the site of an attempted burglary (SSO, October 19, 1882). That same year, Mrs. Kavanagh purchased the property of Jacob L. Wood in Lawrence (probably located on West Broadway) in the hope of making it "a handsome and very desirable country home." (SSO, April 27, 1882)