Sunday, September 20, 2009
A Non-Related Ancestor
George MacConnachie will never have a descendant to memorialize him, but no history of our Joyce clan would be complete without his inclusion. Stories at the last Joyce family reunion often included his name - sometimes a jovial story of drinking whiskey on the front porch with the Joyce men, other more somber times when he was present in a more official capacity.
Father George MacConnachie came to the plains of eastern South Dakota on Oct. 1, 1900, assigned to St. Bernard's Catholic Church at Redfield. He was just 25 years old. He had been ordained in Spain the year prior, and with his parents in Scotland both being deceased, he put his life and soul into the pioneers on the prairie.
The Michael Joyce family came to South Dakota in 1884, having slowly made their way inland after immigrating from Ireland some 40 years prior. Mike Joyce died in 1914; while his obituary does not mention who officiated at the service, I have no doubt it was Father MacConnachie. When Mrs. Joyce died in 1924, it was Father MacConnachie who presided over her last service, and comforted her family. As the grandchildren married, it was Father MacConnachie who joined them in holy matrimony. As they died, it was Father who preached the last sad sermon for them. He baptized their children, and comforted them in times of illnesses and death.
He also enjoyed a relationship of friendship with the Joyces. Father MacConnachie loved to fish and hunt; and like the Joyces, he had a sense of humor and a gift as a storyteller that made him a most enjoyable conversationalist. He made many visits to the various Joyce homesteads in Spink and northern Hand counties.
But Father George MacConnachie's firm dedication to his life's work and the God he served was always his foremost priority. In his years at St. Bernard's, he erected the parish house, and every rock in the church was blasted by him. In his first 15 years at the church, he never missed a service.
He celebrated his Diamond Jubilee at St. Bernard's in 1959, and died four years later in Pierre, South Dakota, at the age of 87. He was buried in the cemetery at Redfield, among the families he served for so many years. He will forever be a part of our family memories and stories, and judging by the stories I've heard, I suspect he is an important part of many other families' legacies as well.