“The Church Would Look Foolish Without Them”: Ann McCormick Toole, Cleveland, Ohio

As far back as 1832 the Toole family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. They were natives of County Wicklow, Ireland, where they had a farm near the town of Baltinglass, with Dublin as their market place. The elder Toole having died, his widow with her nine children emigrated to the United States. Her name was Elizabeth, and the names of her children were: Charles, John, Thomas, Lawrence, Bridget, Ann, Julia, Mary, and Margaret.

Mr. Charles Toole, the oldest of these, who was born April 13, 1808, and who died in Cleveland, July 19, 1867, was married in that city, in 1844, to Miss Ann McCormick. She was born, in 1819, at Abbeyshrule, County of Longford, Ireland. Father McLaughlin, who was one of the early missionary priests in Cleveland, performed the ceremony and honored the young couple by attending the wedding festivities. They had four children: Eliza, Ann, Margaret, and John. The last two mentioned, Mrs. Margaret Carroll and Mr. john Toole, survive and are residents of Cleveland. Mrs. Ann Toole is in her eighty-third year. She is remarkable for more things than her great age. She is a typical Irish mother, whose simple life and manner and charming character endear her to a large circle of friends and neighbors. She is as keenly bright and just as practical as at any period of her long life, her intellect if anything being as strong as it was twenty-five years ago. She had faithfully kept the temperance pledge which she took from Father Mathew when he visited Cleveland in 1851, and she is about as beautiful a picture of old motherhood as might be woven from the warp and wood threads of an active life of eighty-three years.

Mr. Charles Toole also in his day performed well his part as a pioneer Catholic of Cleveland. The first church in that city, old St. Mary’s on the “Flats” had his support. He helped later to build St. John’s Cathedral, and for years was one of the councilmen of the congregation. He was one of the committee that carried the bag of gold with which the first payment was made on the lots upon which St. John’s Cathedral now stands. He remained active in parish work until his death, and was a charter member of the first St. Vincent de Paul Society organized in the Cathedral parish. He was a plain, sturdy, man of good character, who always tried to do his duty. All the early missionary priests, such as Fathers Dillon and McLaughlin, were known to him. Those also who succeeded them in the work of building up Catholicity in Cleveland down to as late as 1867 were all friends and admirers of plain, practical Charles Toole.

Conjointly Mr. and Mrs. Toole presented a beautiful example of Christian constancy, mutual love, and parental affection. Having been properly reared their first duty was ever toward God, after whom they preferred their children and neighbors before themselves. It was charity and self-denial with them. Today Mrs. Toole more than ever exemplifies these virtues in her life. The memory of her husband is an incentive to her in these respects, and while she is impelled by higher motives, yet it comes most natural to her to do what was her custom when her husband was with her in the doing of those works which make for good in the world. Habit of body and habit of mind evidence both early training and subsequent practice. All the moral virtues must be taught to be practiced, and even the natural virtues gain strength by example and use. When, therefore, Mrs. Toole, in her old age, regardless of the weather, sets the excellent example of punctual attendance at early Mass; when she is known to speak only in kindness of her neighbors; and when it is her delight to recall by her own practice, her husband’s faithfulness, a picture of their married life may be easily drawn by the reader. That picture, as above said, is one of Christian constancy, mutual love, and parental affection.

George Francis Houck and Michael W. Carr, A History of Catholicity in Northern Ohio and the Diocese of Cleveland from 1749 to December 31, 1900 (Two Volumes) (Cleveland: Press of J.B. Savage, 1903), 416-417.

NOTE: The pledge taken by Mrs. Toole was one to abstain from alcohol. It was given by the Irish Capuchin priest Theobald Mathew, the “Apostle of Temperance,” who gave the pledge to thousands of Irish and Irish-Americans.

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