Barry Riordan's Dunigan History
Bernard (Barney) Dunigan
(Bernard Dunigan also spelled his name as "Dunnigan" very frequently. The spelling with one "n" is used throughout this history. Bernard is also the ancestor of George Dunigan, whose history appears elsewhere on this site. There are a few differences between my history and George's that are attributable mainly to information recently discovered. )
Barney Dunigan was born on October 14, 1828 somewhere in Ireland. (There is some evidence pointing to origination in County Meath. However, a thorough search of church archives in that county failed to uncover any relevant baptismal records.) His parents were Edward and Mary Dunigan. Barney immigrated to the United States and soon thereafter became a resident of Woodbridge, New Jersey. Woodbridge at the time was a small farming community in Middlesex County, about 30 miles south of New York City. On October 1, 1852, Barney married Julia Ryan, another Irish immigrant whose family had settled in Woodbridge a few years earlier.
No immigration records have been found for Barney, but since he does not appear in the 1850 census and is married in 1852, it is likely that he arrived in the United States in late 1850 or 1851. Nor is it clear if he traveled alone or with relatives. A Thomas Dunigan from Ireland also arrived in Woodbridge contemporaneously with Barney. Thomas was six years older than Barney and married around 1857. He settled in Woodbridge and eventually died during the 1870s. It is likely that Barney and Thomas were related, probably brothers, but that cannot be verified. Various other Dunigans located in Middlesex County during the 1800s and two Dunigan brothers, Michael and John, served in the Civil War in a regiment from that area.
(Michael and John Dunigan enlisted in the 28th New Jersey infantry regiment on September 1, 1862. They were both mustered out on July 6, 1863. The 28th New Jersey saw action at Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville, as well as in several lesser battles. There is no evidence, however, that any of these individuals were related to Barney.)
Barney and Julia evidently left Woodbridge soon after their marriage and traveled west. Their first child, Edward, was born in June of 1854 in the state of Illinois. Just as rapidly they returned to New Jersey. On October 1, 1856 (interestingly, his fourth wedding anniversary), Barney Dunigan appeared in the Middlesex County Commissioner?s office and petitioned to become a citizen of the United States. He was accompanied by Robert Coddington, a farmer from Woodbridge and presumably his employer. Nothing else is known about the brief visit to Illinois, although several Dunigan families were living in the state at the time.
Barney and Julia's family continued to expand. After Edward, John M. was born in 1856 in New Jersey, followed by Thomas F. (1858), Ellen M. (1860), Jane (1862), Marcella (1864), Julia A. (1866), Margaret L. (1869), Catherine J. (1872), Bernard J. (1874), and Maurice P. (1876). Of the eleven children born to the couple, nine lived into adulthood; Marcella died in infancy and Julia (Anna) died at seventeen. Except for Edward, all the Dunigan children were born in Woodbridge.
Barney listed his occupation as a laborer in 1860, but by 1870 he had acquired a clay mine in Woodbridge and was now known as "Bernard." Clay was in great demand in the late 1800s to supply the numerous kilns and refractories in Woodbridge, Staten Island and elsewhere that manufactured building brick and other ceramic products for the soaring population of New York City and its suburbs. By 1880, Bernard had also acquired a small farm.
Bernard employed a number of his sons at the clay mine, as well as a number of his in-laws, and some of his sons became associated with a prominent brick manufacturer in Tottenville, Staten Island, just across the Arthur Kill. As an employer, he continued the practice of representing his immigrant employees in their naturalization proceedings. In one such instance, on November 1, 1870, Bernard certified the good character of both Patrick and Thomas Whelan (also known as Thomas Phelan). Interestingly, Thomas Whelan's daughter 37 years later married Bernard's son.
Bernard was active in civic affairs. He was a Democrat and participated in party affairs at the district level. He served as a Woodbridge town committeeman and was a member of the School Board. On October 1, 1902, Bernard and Julia celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home at 325 Perth Amboy Avenue, where they had lived since purchasing it in the 1880s. Bernard died in January, 1904, and is buried in St. James Cemetery.
Bernard Joseph ("Joe") Dunigan was the tenth of eleven children and the fourth son born to Bernard and Julia. He was born on October 26, 1874 in the family residence on King Georges Road in Woodbridge and was baptized at St. James Church on November 15. At age 13 he left school and went to work for his father in the clay mine. Joe was weighmaster for the clay loads which were carted by horses and mules, as well as timekeeper for the business. In 1904, when his father died, Joe took over the business at the age of 29.
Joe married Julia Whelan on June 19, 1907. Together they had four children: Margaret Geraldine (b. 1908), Julia Veronica (b. 1909), Bernard Joseph, Jr. (b. 1917), and Thomas Francis (b. 1918). The family lived at 90 Greene Street in Woodbridge for a few years, but moved back to the Dunigan residence on Amboy Avenue after the death of Joe?s mother in 1912.
Joe was very active in politics and public affairs. Like his father, he was a life-long Democrat. He ran for his first elective office in 1912 and was elected township assessor. He served 3 three-year terms in that office and in 1926 was elected township clerk. He was re-elected in 1929 and thereafter the position was converted from elected to appointed and he served as clerk for 35 years until his resignation in 1962. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
It is not clear what happened to the clay mine property and business, the farm, and other holdings of Bernard Dunigan. There was a spate of lawsuits among the Dunigan heirs in the mid-1920s for reasons unknown and with results unknown, and these could have lead to the demise of the business. It is also likely the clay business was in decline at the time, but for whatever reason, by 1930, Joe was no longer in the mining business. He did continue to live at the Amboy Avenue property until his death on December 15, 1964 at the age of 90, when he fell asleep while smoking a cigar in his favorite easy chair. His wife, Julia, predeceased him by three years, dying on September 1, 1961. Both Joe and Julia are buried in St. James Cemetery. After Joe's death, the family home at 325 Amboy Avenue was sold to the First Savings and Loan Association of Perth Amboy and was demolished to make room for a bank.
Joe and Julia's eldest child, Margaret, graduated from Georgian Court College in Lakehurst, New Jersey. She married Andrew Habarak of Perth Amboy and died in childbirth in 1938. Her daughter, Margaret Veronica (Margo) married Frank Wojciekowski and resides in Woodbridge. Bernard Joseph Dunigan, Jr. ("Barney") graduated from St. Mary?s High School in Perth Amboy and attended Seton Hall University before enlisting in the army on June 24, 1941. He was assigned to Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 36th Field Artillery, which arrived in North Africa in December 1942, landed in Sicily in August 1943 and supported Patton as he moved to Palermo and then to Messina. The 36th took part in the Salerno landing and fought its way north along the Italian peninsula. On January 22, 1944, the 36th Field Artillery was part of the assault at Anzio, in support of the 3d Infantry Division under Gen. Lucian Truscott. On February 22, 1944, Pvt. Barney Dunigan, age 27, was killed as the 3d Infantry attempted to capture the village of Cisterna. He was initially interred at a U.S. military cemetery near Anzio, and later his remains were shipped back to New Jersey, where he was buried permanently at St. James Cemetery.
Thomas Francis Dunigan also graduated from St. Mary?s High School. He later graduated from Seton Hall University in 1939 and worked briefly for Perth Amboy Gas and Electric before entering active service with the Army Air Corps on August 23, 1943. He served for most of the war as an aircraft inspector at Drew Field in Florida. He separated with the rank of corporal on October 18, 1945. Tom never married. After leaving military service, he joined the Elizabethtown Gas Co. and was an accounting supervisor with that company for the rest of his life. He died February 10, 1979 at the age of 61 from colon cancer. Tom is buried at St. James Cemetery.
Joe and Julia?s second child, Julia Veronica (?Verna?) Dunigan graduated from Woodbridge High School and then from Georgian Court College in 1929. She obtained a teaching certificate and began teaching second grade for the Woodbridge Township school system in 1930. On September 15, 1935, she married Charles E. Riordan at St. James Church. Their only child, Barry Joseph, was born on April 1, 1940. After living in a number of places in Massachusetts, Verna returned to Woodbridge in 1967 following the death of her husband. She lived with her brother, Tom, until his death in 1979, and by herself until 1999, when she was forced by age to move to Virginia to be near her son and his family. She died in Fairfax, VA on January 18, 2000 at the age of 91. Verna is buried in St. James cemetery in Woodbridge.
John Ryan was born in Ireland in 1801, the son of Martin and Julia Ryan. He married Julia Doyle (b. 1808) circa 1828-29. John and Julia had at least four children: Martin (b. 1830), Margaret (b. 1832), Julia (b. 1835), and Timothy (b. 1841). Sometime prior to 1852 the entire family migrated to Woodbridge, NJ, where John worked as a laborer.
Julia married Bernard Dunigan in 1852 and Martin married a woman named Catherine. In 1860 Martin and Catherine lived next door to John and Julia and the other two Ryan children. By 1870 John and Julia were living with their son, Timothy, and his wife, Elizabeth, and their two year old son. At that time, John was working in the clay banks, likely for his son-in-law, Barney Dunigan.
John Ryan died in May of 1876 at the age of 75. By 1880, Timothy and his family had moved to Brooklyn, NY. His mother, Julia, moved with them, but was placed in a home for the aged run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Brooklyn. Julia died of pneumonia in April, 1889. She is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.