Brown Baby

Teddy Bear made by Cousin Margaret
Teddy Bear made by Cousin Margaret

My great grandfather, James Coyle, was born in 1885 in Fál Carrach, a small town in County Donegal, Ireland. He was one of thirteen children. Given the poverty of Ireland and the size of his family, at age twelve he moved to England to work as a coal miner. In 1906, when he was twenty-one, he came into the United States through Ellis Island. Not much is known about his early life in the states except that he moved to Butte, Montana to continue coal mining and married Josephine Fleming, the daughter of his boarding house owner. By the time Josephine gave birth to my grandfather in 1919, they were living in Seattle. This teddy bear, named Brown Baby, never passed through their hands, but it was made for me by James's niece, Margaret Coyle, when I was a toddler. I grew up in Southern California. I went to school in Michigan and Illinois. I now live in New York, 2800 miles away from the rest of my family. Compared to many travelers, that's not a competitive distance, but the geographical gap still feels plenty wide. Brown Baby is the one object that has followed me through every move. He grounds me to my earliest memories as well as the hands of Margaret, who touched the hands of her father Edward, who touched the hands of his brother James. Great Grandpa James died in 1941 en route to Seattle from Alaska where he was working a gold mine. He'd covered a lot of distance in his life. I hope some of that distance stayed with him as well.

Place(s): Seattle,California,Michigan,Illinois,Ireland,England
Year: 1906

– Matthew Stephen Smith

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more