Rev. Jeremiah F. Trecy/Tracy (1821?-1888) Pioneer Priest



Father Jeremiah F. Trecy.jpg

Father Jeremiah F. Trecy seated at left next to Father Fontaine






Rev. Jeremiah F. Trecy/Tracy (1821?-1888) Pioneer Priest


One of the earliest Catholic settlements of Nebraska was founded in Dakota County in 1855 by a group under the leadership of Reverend J. F. Tracy. It was known as Saint Patrick Settlement, and from his church of Saint John, Father Tracy attended similar colonies in Omaha, and in Nebraska City.


Rev. Jeremiah F. Tracy was born in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, in 1821, came to America with his parents in 1831, and grew to manhood in Lancaster, Pa, where the family settled. After finishing his studies he was principal of the high school there for a few years. During the Know Nothing riots in Philadelphia in 1843-1844, he was honoured by being appointed one of the guards to protect the churches from destruction. In 1849 he entered the Catholic school for young men at Chicago, where after hard study and close application he received minor orders from Bishop Quarters, but was stricken with pneumonia and advised by the doctors to seek a more congenial climate away from the lakes. He went to Dubuque where he was adopted by Bishop Loras and finished his studies at the old St. Bernard’s college, Table Mound, and was ordained on June 24, 1850. At that time the cholera was raging in Dubuque and the young priest remained with his Bishop all that year and part of the next, unselfishly ministering to the spiritual and physical necessities of the sick and dying. In many stricken families Father Tracy’s name was a household word, and many now holding exalted positions and living in fine homes in Dubuque and other parts of Iowa, are children for whom he provided homes when their parents were stricken down with the cholera. Many times did he and the good Bishop Loras go without food for long periods so completely was their time taken up with ministering to the wants of the sick and dying


In the fall of 1851 he was appointed pastor of Garryown, Jackson county, Iowa, a large Irish Catholic settlement, where he built the large, substantial stone church, 50 by 105 feet, which is still used by that large parish. He also established a parochial school, which is still taught by the Sisters of Charity. In June, 1855, Father Tracy and his brother John crossed the state of Iowa and the Missouri River and explored the country and selected the site for his colony, which he brought there the following year. Returning to Dubuque he tried to induce some of the settlers around there to go to Nebraska, but they evidently thought they were far enough west already. He went east to find recruits for his colony, and while pursuing this work he met much opposition, particularly from Archbishop Hughes of New York, who denounced him and his scheme to take his innocent countrymen into the wilds of the west, where they might starve or suffer other untold misfortunes. This shows how great men may be mistaken in their views, as the Archbishop was by preferring to see the Irish immigrants remain in the slums of the great cities, subject to all their contaminating influences, instead of coming west to enjoy the pure air and glorious sunshine of the prairies, to live happy and virtuous lives, while enjoying the greatest degree of material prosperity as the members of this colony certainly did. Father Tracy made a canvass in the New England states, where he secured a number of recruits and the next spring started with them for Nebraska, coming from Dubuque by wagon, fording streams and rivers, and enduring great hardships in crossing the hitherto untrodden prairies. On June 1, 1856, they crossed the Missouri River at Sioux City and on the next day reached the selected site, which he named St. Johns, about a mile and a half north and east of the present site of Jackson. There were eighteen wagons and about sixty people in all, including his single brother John. Others followed the same year and the following years the colony grew to be a large and prosperous one.


For a short time mass was celebrated in a tent, but as soon as possible a log church was erected, which was later replaced by a frame structure. After getting the church and parish well established, Father Tracy looked around for scattered Catholics wherever he could find them. In June 1857 he celebrated the first Mass in Sioux City. In 1858 he founded a church in Council Bluffs, the first one erected there for white settlers. He visited points along the Missouri River as far north as Fort Randall.


After about four years of this strenuous life, his health failed and he left St Johns in 1860, and after remaining in Sioux City for a few months went south to the diocese of Mobile and was appointed pastor at Huntsville, Ala. During the Civil War he served as chaplin in General Rosecran’s army, but did not confine his ministrations to the Federal ranks alone, crossing and recrossing the lines, wherever he found sick and dying soldiers. After the war he returned to Mobile diocese, working until 1879 when he was striken with paralysis. He was taken to the Alexian Brother's Hospital in St. Louis where he passed away years later, March 1888.


The old town site for which Father Tracy had great expectations is now a farm and the only indication that it had existed is the cemetery on the hill overlooking it which is still used as "the city of the dead."



Nebraska ancestree, Volumes 21, No.3

Potter, George W. (1960) To the golden door; the story of the Irish in Ireland and America. Little, Brown and Co., Boston.









Con Tracy/Tresay & Bridget/Bidy Mulgrew/McGrew

Jas Tracy b. 23 Oct 1827 of Galcassagh [Galcussagh Desertcreat Tyrone] Sp. Brid? Hughes? & Elen M'Donnell? Desertcreight Parish (LDS)

Margret Treasy b. 12 Oct 1830 of Galcussa Sp. Brid? Martin & Elisabeth Pendis Desertcreight Parish


1850 Census - Dubuque county, Dubuque, Iowa, United States

...Jeremiah Trecy, 27, b. 1823 Missouri, student of RC Bishops...


1850 Census - 197/199 Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa, United States

Thomas Coyle, 26, b. 1824 Ireland, farmer

Cornelius Trecy, 59, b. 1791 Ireland, Do [farmer]

Bridget Trecy, 59, b. 1791 Ireland

Jerimiah T Trecy, 28, b. 1822 Ireland

John Trecy, 24, b. 1826 Ireland

James Trecy, 21, b. 1829 Ireland

Michael Trecy, 17, b. 1833 Ireland

Ellen McGrew, 15, b. 1835 Pennsylvania


1850 Census - 198/200 Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa, United States

Edward Coyle, 32, b. 1818 Ireland, farmer

Mary Coyle, 25, b. 1825 Ireland

James Coyle, 2, b. 1848 Iowa

Jeremiah Coyle, 11 months, b. 1849 Iowa

Daniel Coyle, 60, b. 1790 Ireland


1860 Federal Census of the Nebraska Territory; Saint Johns City, Dakota County

428 268           Tracy, Cornelius              70  m       No Trade                              300 Tyrone Ireland                

                        Tracy, Bridget                60  f                                                 Tyrone Ireland                

429 269           Tracy, John J.                28  m       Farmer                        1000    500 Tyrone Ireland                

430 270           Tracy, James A.               27  m       Miller                                300 Tyrone Ireland                


1870 Census - Huntsville, Madison, Alabama, United States

...Bridget Trecy, 75, b. 1795 Ireland

...Jeremiah F Trecy, 45, b. 1825 Ireland, Clergyman

Harrett, 50, Black, cook, b. 1820 Alabama

Jane, 12, Black, b. 1858 Alabama

Minnie, 11, Black, b. 1859 Alabama



Judge M M Trcy.jpg

Michael M. Tracy married Mary E. Hefferman 4 Sep 1865 Davidson, Tennessee, United States


Michael M Trecy married Maggie Collins 21 Jan 1886 Davidson, Tennessee, United States


M. M. Trecy, 63, b. 1838 Ireland, father & mother born Ireland, lives 501 N Summer St Nashville Tenn, died 28 May 1901, married, occupation insurance, buried Mt. Calvary


28 May 1901 Nashville Banner (Nashville, Tennessee)

Sudden Death

Judge M. M. Trecy passes away at his home in this city

Taken sick with pneumonia Saturday night, but condition not considered serious.

Judge M. M. Trecy died very unexpectedly at his home on the corner of Capitol avenue and Summer streets at 5:40 o’clock this morning. He was taken sick Saturday night with pneumonia, but his physician did not regard his condition at all serious. In fact, late last night Judge Trecy was resting well when the physician called, but at 5 o’clock this morning he began to sink and died before medical aid could be summoned.

Judge Trecy was about 64 years of age, and was one of the best known men in the city, having for years been engaged in the wholesale clothing and dry goods business on the Public Square under the firm of Trecy & Lovell, and Trecy, Franklin & Co.

Four years ago he retired from the mercantile business and entered the fire insurance business with J. O. Treanor & Co., of which firm he was a member at the time of his death.

He was of a retiring disposition, but those who were closely associated with him socially and in business knew him to be a man of many sterling traits of character. He was a man of fine executive ability and great business integrity, and in the commercial world was regarded as one of Nashville’s most upright business men. His death will bring sadness to many friends.

He was born in Ireland, but came to America when yet a small boy. Before the civil war he lived in San Antonio, Tex., where he practised law. On the outbreak of the war he was appointed Judge Advocate by Gen. Rosecrans and came to Nashville with this General. He, however, resigned this position before the end of the war and entered the mercantile business here.

He married Miss Heffernan, a daughter of the late Wm. E. Heffernan and sister of Messres. Thomas and Edward Heffernan.

After the death of his first wife he married Miss Maggie Collins, sister of John Collins and she survives him. He was also the uncle of Dr. J. M. Coyle.

The funeral of Judge Trecy will take place at 9:30 o’clock Thursday with services at the Cathedral, followed by the burial at Mt. Calvary.




Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, USA

Rev. Jerimiah F. Trecy (1826 - 1872 (aged 45–46)) [ERROR] died 1888 St. Louis, Missouri*


Bridget Trecy (1791 County Tyrone - 28 Jul 1875 (aged 83–84))


James Trecy (1829 - 24 Feb 1900 (aged 70–71))


Mary Trecy Coyle McCarthy (? - 16 Jan 1901)


* https://louis.uah.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1351&context=huntsville-historical-review


Calvary Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA

Michael M. Trecy (1830 - Mar 1902 (aged 71–72))

Margaret Collins Trecy (27 Apr 1853 Tennessee, USA - 29 Sep 1937 (aged 84) Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA)



Cornelius Trecy (1791–1870) married Bridget Trecy (1791–1875) 1821 Ireland

Fr. Jerimiah F Trecy (1822–1888)

Mary Trecy (1825–1901) married James McCarthy (1835–1860) 1856

John J Trecy (1827–1904) married Elizebeth McLaughlin (1835–1889) 28 December 1862 Jones, Iowa, United States


Minnie A Tracy (1864–1950) married Randall Frazier (1853–Deceased) 27 September 1883 Castle Grove, Jones, Iowa, United States

August James Tracy (1865–1930)

Francis Sterling Tracy (1866–1944) married Orpha Grace Jones (1870–1960) 27 April 1922 Wayne, Nebraska, United States

Raymond J. Tracy (1870–1927) married Olive E. Brown (1877–1923) 5 May 1896 Hartington, Cedar, Nebraska, United States

Anne Tracy (1874–1945) married Phillip Henry Kohl (1868–1949) 12 October 1892 Wayne, Nebraska, United States

James Trecy (1829–1900)         

[Judge] Michael Martin Trecy (1833–1901) married Mary E Heffernan (1848–1881) 4 September 1865 Davidson, Tennessee, United States





8 Jul 1906 Morning World Herald Sun (Lyons Nebraska)


Three Tracy Brothers.jpg

Father Tracy on the right, John J. Tracy on the left and James Tracy standing



Mrs Mary Tracy Coyle.jpg

Mrs. Mary Tracy Coyle



Mrs J J Tracy.jpg

Mrs. J. J. Tracy




28 May 1901 Nashville Banner (Nashville, Tennessee)

8 Jul 1906 Morning World Herald Sun (Lyons Nebraska)

19 Jul 1906 Lyons Mirror (Lyons Nebraska)


Last update: 31 December 2023