Posted tagged ‘Division Street’

Dominic’s Daughter – A South Marquette Story

July 13, 2010

Just last week, I heard about the book Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen after Jim Koski from the Marquette County History Museum led his interesting South Marquette Walking Tour. Barbara Mullen’s book helped me to re-envision South Marquette a century ago. It’s the kind of book that fascinates me because it gives another glimpse into the thousands of stories of Marquette’s people and history, stories I love to tell in my own books.

Dominic's Daughter by Barbara Mullen

Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen is a bit of a difficult book to define. It reads like a novel, but is categorized on the back cover as a memoir. Barbara Mullen wrote the book based on the diaries of her mother, Ruth Hogan Thomas, who left them to her and asked her to make a book out of them when she died.

While Mullen may have done a little novelizing to write the book, she retained her mother’s voice and throughout she used local place names and the names of the real people her mother knew. In a few places there are exceptions, such as references to St. Michael’s, which wasn’t a church that was built yet in the 1880s-1910s when the novel takes place. I wonder whether the author intended to fictionalize St. John the Baptist, or she just confused the name, since the French characters attend St. Michael’s in the novel and St. John the Baptist was Marquette’s French Catholic Church at the time. St. John the Baptist stood in Marquette from 1908-1986 (an earlier church was on the site with the same name) on the corner of Fourth and Washington Streets. The church’s bell tower remains today. Meanwhile, St. Michael’s in North Marquette on Fourth and Kaye was not a parish until 1942.

Despite these small issues, readers who know and love Marquette can easily follow the story and the characters’ movements as they walk down Genesee or Baraga Ave, visit the Delft Theatre, Donckers, Kresge’s or Walgreens, or the Marquette Library (Peter White Public Library).

But most interesting are the people in this book. They are all historical people from what I can tell. At the center is Ruth Hogan, daughter of Dominic Hogan. Dominic and his brother Edward Hogan reputedly were involved in robbing a railroad in Marquette. Edward got away with the money while Dominic served time for it and when he got out of prison, his brother never shared the money with him. Afterward, Dominic became an alcoholic and could not be a very good father to Ruth as a result. Ruth and her mother, Barbara, went to live with her grandparents, William and Bridget Wiseman, Irish immigrants. Many other historical people are mentioned in the book, all people from South Marquette.

After reading the book, I looked in city directories and drove around South Marquette to see if any of the houses remained that the author mentions. The Deasey house, which belonged to Ruth’s homeroom teacher, still stands.

The Deasy House in South Marquette

However, it looks like both the Hogan house which would have been at 233 Fisher Street, and Ruth’s grandmother’s boarding house where she grew up, which would have been at 308 Division Street are no longer standing. In addition, I discovered that Division Street must have been renumbered at some point since my own great-grandparents, John and Lily Molby, lived at 609 Division St., according to old city directories, but today it is 1509 Division St., which made me then look on the 1200 block for the Wiseman family’s boarding house but I could not locate a house that corresponded to the original address.

While Dominic’s Daughter does not really have a plot but is a story of a girl growing up in South Marquette between about 1902-1920, it is a deeply interesting story for those interested in Marquette history, and it has received Honorable Mention in the Pen Prose Awards. It has also been compared to Angela’s Ashes for its depiction of Irish immigrant life in the United States. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Ruth wins second place in an essay contest for writing about what patriotism means and interviewing many of the other immigrants in South Marquette about their travelling to America and what it means to them to live here. I only wish I could have talked to them, and all the historical people in this book, myself. How many stories Marquette has to tell!

 Dominic’s Daughter is available in local bookstores and online.