William Sullivan was baptized at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located in Caher, Tipperary, Ireland, in December 1860. A son of William Sullivan and Catherine Costello, he learned the carpenter’s trade from his father, who had learned it from his father. They lived in a thick-walled, thatch-roofed house adjacent to the Searagh Wood, where the British occupiers of Ireland liked to hunt. The Irish were not allowed to hunt there. Young William resisted. When British hunters asked him which way the fox or deer went, he would point them in the wrong direction.

The family lived on property number 3 in the townland of Lissava. William’s uncle, John J. Costello, lived nearby, at 15 Mountain Road. About 1868, his uncle emigrated to America, to St. Louis. William followed him in May 1882 to be his apprentice in carpentry. Uncle John specialized in building staircases.

It is apparent from church records that William Sullivan was in demand as a godfather at Catholic baptisms in North St. Louis. He lived in various rooming and boarding houses. At century’s end, he lived in Anna Schlottman’s boarding house at 3828 N. 25th Street, where he befriended a fellow boarder, Michael Devanny, an Irishman from County Roscommon. In October 1900, Michael’s sister, Kate Ann Devany, arrived in St. Louis and in October 1902 William and Kate Ann were married at Sacred Heart Church. (Note: Each sibling spelled the surname differently, which was not uncommon.) William and Kate had four children but only two survived childhood: William Junior, born in 1905, and Margaret Mary, a year later.

In 1904, William Sullivan worked on the Irish exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. In 1907, he purchased a house at 2327 Maiden Lane for $1500.

About 1911, Kate Ann’s health broke down and she was admitted to an asylum, where she remained for most of the rest of her life. Her three children were placed in orphan asylums, where son John died in 1913, not yet four years old. In 1919, William Junior moved to Father Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home, 3010 Washington Avenue, so he could attend high school at St. Louis Academy, 209 North Grand Avenue, and Margaret Mary moved in with Shea relatives after the death of their daughter.

Kate Devaney and William Sullivan
Kate Devaney and William Sullivan
Photo in the collection of John Sullivan
Used with permission

William Sullivan had his own carpentry shop, according to the 1920 census. A fire insurance map from 1897 shows one in the alley behind Anna Schlottman’s boarding house. (City Block 1245) A history of Sacred Heart parish praised him for “exceptionally fine workmanship” and novel design in a vestment case he made. In his old age, he worked for that parish as a janitor and handyman. When his children took jobs, they moved in with him and contributed to his support.

William Sullivan died on 3 February 1933 and was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery. His wife Kate Ann survived him until 1971 and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery.

(Sources include church records, a passenger list, death and cemetery records, real estate records, city directories, fire insurance maps, Irish valuation maps, census records, and family traditions.)

Written by John Sullivan
October 2017

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Last Modified: 10-Mar-2020 12:18