Sister Sister: Alice’s Story

John Duffy's Adult Children Circa 1896

John Duffy’s Adult Children Circa 1896

The uncertainty of her identity in the above photograph highlights how little my family knows about our grandmother’s sister Alice.

Daughter Alice was born to John Duffy and Margaret McLaughlin Duffy in 1865.  By 1882, Alice was the oldest of 10.  In 1884, two of her sisters died in a fire.  Pictured above is the surviving family.

What we know is that Alice is 30 or 31 years old in the above picture. My first choice for Alice is back row, second from left (my grandmother Ellen Francis standing on the left).  Second choice — Alice is far right in back row.

This same family had posed for a photograph about 10 years before (see Sister, Sister:  Lizzie and Rose Duffy  ). Even in this earlier picture, of the two older girls on the right,  we don’t know for sure which is Alice.

In the 1885 Iowa census, in the John Duffy household, Alice is listed as a single 19-year-old daughter.  From then until 1897, her life is undocumented.  Since her mother died in 1892, leaving young children, Alice may have been at home raising them.  We don’t know.

Fast forward to March 2, 1897, 10 days before Alice’s thirty-second birthday.  On that day Alice Duffy marries Alfred Fred Foisy, a recent widower with six young children.   Alfred Foisy was of French Canadian extraction and lived in Jefferson, Union, South Dakota.  When, where, and how did Albert and Alice meet?  We don’t know.

Later biographical data notes that Alfred Foisy came to Texas in 1899. In the 1900 federal census, Alice, Alfred, and the six children are living in El Campo Texas.  Alfred lists his occupation as farmer.

Alice’s father John Duffy sold his Iowa farm in 1899 and bought an orange grove in Palacios, Texas.  We don’t know the story behind John Duffy’s move to Texas.  But we do see on the 1900 census that John and unmarried daughter Florence (Alice’s sister) are in the Foisy Texas household.

From 1900 until Florence died in 1907, the two sisters lived close to each other. In 1902, Alice’s sister Florence married Robert Koehl who served as sheriff of Wharton County Texas during the first two decades of the 20th century. Florence bore two daughters and then died in 1907.

Florence’s descendants shared this photo and noted that Florence is on the right.  The woman on the left is unidentified.  I like to think she is Alice.

Right: Florence Duffy Koehl Left: Unidentified.  May be Alice Duffy Foisy

Right: Florence Duffy Koehl Left: Unidentified. May be Alice Duffy Foisy

For 13 years, Alice was Alfred’s wife and stepmother to six children. By the 1910 federal census,  Alfred’s mother and brother have joined their Texas household.  Alice may have been ill, and Alfred’s mother may have come to Texas to help out.  Again, we don’t know.  What we do know is that on July 7, 1910, Alice died.  She was 45 years old.

Alice Duffy Foisy is remembered in a Gold Star Soldier Tribute to the young men from Palacios, Matagorda County, Texas who died in WWI.  One of the young men memorialized was Alice’s stepson Cyrille.

For at least one generation, the Foisy (Alice) and Koehl (Florence) families in Texas stayed in touch.  Alice’s stepson Cyrille died in WWI and was buried in France.  In 1920 Cyrille’s body was brought back to Matagorda County, Texas.  Among those attending the military burial ceremony was Mrs. C.J. Schramm of Fayetteville, Robert Koehl’s sister and the woman raising Florence and Robert Koehl’s two young daughters.

Alfred Foisy did not remarry and is buried next to Alice in Palacios Cemetery.  In the 1935 report of Alfred Foisy’s death, Florence’s daughters Ada Koehl Sladek and Katherine Koehl Marquart are listed as his surviving nieces.


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