Michael Mahoney and Josephine Porter Home in Heartwell, Nebraska

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Michael Mahoney (1868-1939) and Josephine Porter (1875-1966)

An Early life In Iowa

Michael James Mahoney was born in Sidney, Iowa, on 6 Jan 1868. He was the son of Dennis Mahoney and Mary O’Connor who immigrated to the United States from Ireland before 1868 because of the potato famines. At the age of 21, Michael moved to Heartwell, Kearney County, Nebraska, with his parents. He would remain in Heartwell for the rest of his life: he was a farmer, and it’s possible that the farm he owned was originally owned by his father.

Marriage to Josephine, a Lifelong Love Affair

Four years after his arrival in Heartwell, Michael married Josephine Amanda Porter on 18 Jan 1893. He was 25; she was just 18. They were destined to have their family and live out their lives in Heartwell. They would live to see a world war, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl.

Josephine, who was usually called Josie, was born in Pierce County, Nebraska, on 6 Jan 1875. She was the daughter of William Cassius Porter and Mary Amanda Turpin.

Josie’s Beginnings

On May 30, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory, divided by the 40th Parallel North. The territorial capital of Nebraska was Omaha. In the 1860s, homesteaders poured into Nebraska to claim free land granted by the federal government. Many of the first farm settlers built their homes out of sod because they found so few trees on the grassy land.

Josephine’s parents had married in Iowa and moved to Nebraska before Josephine’s birth in 1875. They had attempted to farm in Pierce County, after filing on a Timber Claim, but they did not survive after “the grasshoppers came in huge black clouds and ate everything in sight.” Since Josephine’s father was a druggist by trade, they picked up their belongings and moved to Heartwell.

There was an Indian reservation north of Plainview and "at times the Indians would get out of control and go on the war path. The loud whoops and dancing could be heard for miles and it was a very frightening experience. At one time, an old Indian peered down Mary Amanda's steps and motioned for her to give him the little red calico dress she was making for Josie. After a few ugh's and signs, she handed him the dress, thankful to have him leave." [An often-told family story.]

Josie was about nine years old when her parents moved to Heartwell. Her father did well as a druggist, and the family lived in the two back rooms. A scourge of typhoid fever swept the country in 1890 and hundreds of deaths followed, including Josie’s father who died at the age of 44. Josie’s mother was left with eight children to raise, and Josephine, being the oldest girl, took on much of the responsibility. Her mother became a postmistress and a midwife. Josie learned early to be responsible and take care of herself and her siblings.

Seven children, five boys and two girls

Michael and Josie had seven children, all born in Heartwell, Nebraska:

Even when the children were adults, the family often got together. Josephine Hansen Overturf, a granddaughter of Michael and Josephine's and the daughter of Estella, remembers many Sunday afternoon gatherings at her grandparents' house in Heartwell.

In the photograph at the left, the family gathered shortly before Michael’s death.

Back row, from left to right: Jack, Hal, Rex, Val, and Bob.

Front row, left to right: Freda, Josie, Michael, and Stella.

Only Josie is not looking at the camera, but looking at her husband instead.

Michael dies at 71; Josie at 91.

Michael and Josephine were married for almost 50 years. They lived their entire married lives in Heartwell, Nebraska — a very small village in Kearney County which even today has a population of less than 100. They built their home there and raised their children there. The photograph at right of Michael and Josie was taken in the mid-to-late 1930’s, not too long before Michael's death in 1939. Josephine, however, would live twenty-seven years beyond his death.

Michael died in Heartwell, Nebraska, on 18 June 1939; he was 71. On the left is his obituary from the local newspaper. Several of his sons and his two sons-in-law, Fred Sides and Lloyd Hansen, were pallbearers. Family from as far away as Iowa came to his funeral.

Josie Carries On

Josie and Michael Mahoney

Josie lived to the age of 91, passing away on 16 Dec 1966. Her great-granddaughter, Susan, remembers her, often sitting in a rocking chair knitting and talking to whomever came in the room. She made hot pads and mitts and gave many of them to her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Susan says she stored them in her hope chest for years and used them for at least the first twenty years of her marriage.

Below is Michael and Josephine's tombstone in the Heartwell, Nebraska cemetery, known as the Holy Family Cemetery (photograph taken by John Hansen).

[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a great-granddaugher of Michael and Josephine. This page updated January 6, 2016.]

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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  2. For more about Stella's life, click on her name.