In an effort to more fully "know" various of my ancestors and relatives, I hope to write short biographies of their lives. When I have enough information on an individual to write something up, it will be posted in this section.
- Sullivan, Philip J. Philip J. Sullivan c1840 - 1915
Born in 1840 on the eve of the Great Irish Famine, Philip Sullivan, eighth of ten known children, most likely saw inconceivable sorrow, starvation and death during his early years in Ireland's small agricultural townland of Dennbawn. Located in the interior of the island, County Cavan, and in particular the civil parish of Denn where Dennbawn is located, had good arable and pasture land in the late 1830s. However, as the Famine took hold, the ability to feed a family of 12 on a farm of only 14 acres must have been very difficult. This Irish devastation forced many to immigrate including Philip and several of his brothers and sisters.
Philip's migration was preceded by at least five older siblings, two of whom arrive in America as early as 1850. His parents, Patrick and Rose (Corcoran) Soraghan remained in Dennbawn, spending the remainder of their lives on the family farm eventually turning it over to their youngest son, Matthew Soraghan.
Although no passenger list has been located for Philip, he is known to be in Chicago in 1861 and on some records it states he was in the US as early as 1856. During his early years in Chicago, Philip lived with his brother Michael, who owned a grocery store just north of Chicago Avenue and two blocks east of the Chicago River. During these first years in the City, Philip earned his living as a cooper, making and repairing barrels. Prior to marriage, his living arrangements were rather itinerant, wandering back and forth between the homes of his brother Michael and his brother Andrew. The regular move was probably not that difficult as the two brothers lived less than 2 short blocks from each other.
In 1864, he moved to Halsted and Archer, and the following year, on November 2, 1865, he married Ellen Connor of Evanston, Illinois at Old St. Johnís Church. Their first child, Mary, was born in early 1866. By 1869, with a second daughter, Ann, the family moved to the first home he owned at 90 Sholto, today located at 835 Carpenter Avenue, just west of the campus of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and they remained there for nearly 30 years. During this time, eight more children were born to the Sullivans including James, Unnamed Baby, Francis, Peter, Alexander, Michael, Charles and their youngest, Philip, who was born in 1885.
Like his brother Michael, Philip went into the grocery business, opening a store at his residence on Sholto in 1871. In Chicago, just before the Great Fire there were nearly 800 retail grocers, almost all of which were family owned businesses. Although he lived within a few blocks of the O'Leary family of "cow" fame, his home and grocery store were spared destruction in the Great Fire unlike his brother Michael's grocery store which was destroyed. The Sullivan's "store was very popular in the neighborhood owing to the kindness and charity of the family." The neighborhood which Philip and his family lived in during the 1870s was mostly Irish and his grocery store was very likely a shop that served his fellow countrymen. Life as a grocer in all probability provided the Sullivans with a regular income, at least enough to feed and clothe his large family, and definitely a much better life than he could have ever imagined in Ireland at that time. He remained a grocer in the same location until the early part of the 20th century.
At the time Philip moved into his home on Sholto their church, Holy Family, was quite new. This Victorian gothic edifice on Roosevelt Road, founded by the Jesuits in 1857, served mostly Irish immigrants and probably made for a good social experience for him and his family. Philip and Ellen were active in their church baptizing all of the Sullivan children there. Five of their sons were at one time serving as Acolytes, with one of them eventually becoming a Jesuit priest. The Sullivans even rented a pew in Holy Family Church for their family paying $10 per year.
By 1893, Philip's sights were looking north toward Evanston, the hometown of his wife, Ellen. In all probability Philip used the money he had earned from his grocery business, to invest in the construction of a Victorian "double house" which included two side-by-side apartments of 6 rooms each located at 833-835 Madison, Evanston. Philip's brother-in-law, John Connor, was in the construction business and had already built several homes in Evanston. His firm, Connor and McCann, took on the construction of the Madison Street home. The home was built with asphalt composition siding, an asphalt shingle roof and gas lighting at a cost of $4,500. Although the home was completed in 1894, Philip rented it out to several professional families for nearly 15 years before he closed his grocery store and moved to Evanston about 1909.
For the next six years, until his death in 1915, it is likely he and his wife enjoyed living on the quite residential street in this suburb of Chicago. Philip died on May 25, 1915 in his home and was waked there as was the custom of the time. A high Mass was said for him at St. Mary's Church in Evanston and he was buried, with other family members including his brothers Andrew and Michael, in Evanston's Calvary Cemetery.
Though leaving Ireland and his family in the late 1850s must have been enormously difficult, in America, and in particular the Chicagoland area, Philip was able to make a new life. He eventually became a home owner, a business proprietor and raised the next generation of Sullivans, all of whom enjoyed a better life than would have been possible in Ireland.
Text prepared for submission to the Chicago Genealogical Society for Pioneer status, October 29, 2012.