Back Row (L to R): Joseph, Thomas, Edward, Matthias, Peter, Hugh, Owen. Front Row (L to R): Frank, James, Bridget, Patrick, John, Michael
In 1857 Patrick and Alice Duffy, along with their 15 children, were swept up in the human tsunami fleeing famine-ravaged Ireland. They landed on the rich farmland of northeast Iowa. Father and sons homesteaded adjoinng 160 acre farms in Black Hawk County, about 20 miles north of Waterloo. Locals referred to the brothers as “the twelve apostles”.
By century’s end, they had scattered. Patrick and Alice and two of their three daughters were dead. Bridget had raised a family in Williams, a small farming community in western Iowa. Mathias worked in a steel mill in Chicago. My great-grandfather John had retired to grow oranges in Palacios, Texas. The remaining ten brothers lived in northeast Iowa but had dispersed to several different counties.
In 1914 they had a reunion. It had been 25 years since their father Patrick’s death and perhaps that long since the twelve brothers and their sister Bridget had been together. My great-grandfather, fourth oldest, was 75 years old. Perhaps they realized that time was running short.
The reunion was newsworthy.
Largest Family Yet On Record. An interesting compilation of figures, estimating the number of Duffy relatives was made at the large Duffy reunion held at the old homestead five miles north of Fairbank, Sunday, and the list probably exceeds that of any other family in this part of the country. The father of the family was Patrick Duffy, who died 25 years ago, leaving twelve sons and one daughter. Since that time there have been no deaths in the family’s ranks and the aggregate number of offspring reported by the thirteen is 168. The grandchildren are about 200, hence there were over 300 in attendance at the gathering last Sunday. (Waterloo Evening Courier and Reporter, Thursday, August 20, 1914)