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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

James M. Orr, Watchmaker, and Jane Stewart, Belfast and Philadelphia

The four daughters of Joseph Stewart and Elizabeth Madine - Emily Jane, Louisa Helen, Mary Elizabeth and Catherine - travelled from Liverpool to Philadelphia aboard the 'Haverford', arriving there in November 1914.
My father always maintained that his four great-aunts were absolutely tiny, and the passenger list confirms this - Emily Jane, aged 52, a dressmaker, was only 4'10".  Her sister, the dressmaker Louisa Helen, 51, was 5'.  The housekeeper, Mary Elizabeth, aged 44, was only 4'8", while the youngest, the dressmaker Catherine, aged 40, was 4'10".
The sisters gave their home address as Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and their next of kin was their brother - our great-grandfather - Robert Stewart.
They were to be met off the boat upon their arrival in the United States by their friend Miss Hilda Purcell of 1615 North 12th Street, Philadelphia.   (Hilda had emigrated from Dublin along with her aunt, Lucy Purcell - both women were dressmakers like the Stewart sisters.)
The Stewarts were travelling to visit their first cousin, Jane Orr who lived at 2824 Sydenham Street, Philadelphia.

Two of the Stewart sisters - Emily Jane and Mary Elizabeth - returned to Ireland aboard the 'Haverford' in February 1915, a dangerous time to sail.  Their sisters, Louisa Helen and Catherine, travelled back on a different ship.

Jane Orr, their first cousin, was Jane Stewart, who had married the Antrim-born watchmaker/jeweller James Malcolm Orr in the Baptist Church, Shankill, Belfast on February 15th 1875.  Jane Stewart, 20 (born 18th December 1854) was working as a machinist in Belfast, and living at 50 New Lodge Road. Her father was named as William Stewart - William's brother was our great-great grandfather, the ironmonger, Joseph Stewart of Crossmacreevy, Co.Down, who married Elizabeth Madine and later moved south to Dublin with his family.

The Parents of Jane Stewart:
Jane Stewart's parents were William A. Stewart (1826 - 1881) and Margaret Burke, who married in Downpatrick Registry Office on 27th December 1851.  William, the son of the Crossnacreevy farmer, Joseph Stewart, was a hosteler living at 29 Prince's Street, Belfast, while Margaret was the daughter of a labourer, John Burke, with an address at the time of her marriage in Downpatrick.  The witnesses were William Lascelles and Agnes Crothers.

William Stewart can be traced through the Belfast street directories.  Up until 1865 he was at 29 Prince's Street - 'William A. Stewart - eating-house and stabling yard.'   In 1870 and 1877 he was noted as a spirit-dealer of 92 Ann Street (Ann St and Prince's St. intersect each other) and, finally, in 1880 he made his last appearance as William A. Stewart at 50 New Lodge Road, which is where his daughter, Jane, was living when she married James M. Orr in 1875;  Ann Street must have been the business address, while New Lodge Road was the family home.  In the 1884 street directory, a publican named Ellen Stewart was listed at 92 Ann Street, so I presume this was one of his daughters or some other member of the same Stewart family;  she disappears after this - she either married and changed her name, emigrated, or died.

The children of William and Margaret were born prior to official registration, but Jane was born circa 1855 in Belfast, and her sister, Margaret was born circa 1859.  There was also a possible sister, Agnes Stewart, who witnessed Jane's wedding to James M. Orr.

William Stewart died under tragic circumstances on 3rd December 1881 at 50 New Lodge Road;  the newspapers recorded that he died from a head wound inflicted with a hammer.  An inquest concluded that he'd committed suicide by fracturing his skull while in a state of unsound mind.
From 'The Belfast Telegraph' of Dec.5th 1881:  'An inquest was held on Saturday on the body of Wm. Stewart, who was found dead with his head broken, in the yard of his house in New Lodge Road that morning.  Evidence was given that, for the past two months, the deceased talked foolishly.  The Coroner described the case as a most extraordinary one.  The jury returned a verdict of suicide, while in an unsound state of mind.'

Jane Stewart's husband, James M. Orr, had been born in Ballymena, Co.Antrim, on November 26th 1853;  his parents were Thomas Orr, watchmaker, and Mary Osborne.  Thomas Orr was the youngest son of farmer Robert and Elizabeth Orr of Ballynamaddy, while Mary Orsborne was the daughter of the farmer John Osborne of Dowgry.  Along with James Malcolm Orr, Thomas and Mary Orr had Lizzie Orr, Maggie Orr, Jane Orr, Martha Orr and Samuel Orr.

At the time of his marriage to Jane Stewart in 1875, James Malcom Orr was working as a watchmaker with an address at 8 High Street, Antrim.
The witnesses to the wedding were Agnes Stewart (possibly a sister of Jane) and a James McClean.
The couple's eldest son, Thomas Edwin Orr, was born 7 months after the wedding in September 1875.

The children of  James M. Orr and Jane Stewart were:
1)Thomas Edwin Orr, born 6th September 1875 at the Stewart family home of 50 New Lodge Road, Belfast.  His maternal grandmother, Margaret Stewart, present at his birth. Thomas Edwin Orr died in NYC in July 1949.

2) William Stewart Orr, born 17th November 1876 at 34 Shannon Street, Belfast; died 14th November 1922 in Belfast.

3)James Alexander Orr, born 3rd December 1877 at 34 Shannon Street;  died August 1960 in Philadelphia.

4)Walter David Orr, born 8th August 1879 at 34 Shannon Street - this child died of croup in October 1883 in Ballymena.

5) Mary Elizabeth Orr, born 20th July 1880 in Ballymoney Street, Ballymena, but died there of convulsions later the same year.

6) Arthur Francis Orr, born 23rd February 1882 in Church Street, Ballymena, but died in November 1883 of bronchitis.

7) George Chesney Orr, born 4th April 1883 in Church Street, Ballymena, died May 1883 of diarrhoea.

8) Walter Francis/Francey Orr, born 30th October 1887, in Philadelphia;  died August 1969.

In 1877, the Belfast Street Directories show up James Orr, Jeweller, at 34 Shannon Street, and also James Orr, watchmaker, at 14 Lower Barrow Street.  This might be the same man, one address being the business premises, the other being his residence.

James Orr worked as a jeweller and watchmaker in Ballymena, but this business went bankrupt in January 1884.
From The Belfast News Letter of Wednesday 1st October 1884:  'Mr. MONROE, Q.C. (instructed by Messrs. Scanlan) appeared for the assignees, and stated the bankrupt had offered a composition which he had not paid, and he then left the country. After he left some household furniture was removed, and there was an examination of witnesses in reference to this alleged removal. A gentleman named Robinson residing in Ballymena was examined, and stated he bought £7 10s worth of the property. When he did so he was not aware James Orr had left the country. A brother of the bankrupt, Samuel Orr, who was employed in the shop, stated some of the goods were removed by the bankrupt's wife, and he believed she was at present residing with her mother in Belfast. No letter had been received from the bankrupt since he left. There was no evidence as to where the books were. A commercial agent named James S. Orr, resident in Belfast, was also examined, and he disposed that some of the goods were taken to Limestone Road, near the Northern Counties Railway, Belfast. The bankrupt was cousin of witness, and he told him before he left that if his securities did not sign on a certain day, he should "skedaddle". That was the phrase he used.
Judge MILLER said the case was in some respects a painful one, occurring in an important town in the North of Ireland like Ballymena - a by no means insignificant town. The evidence proved the house of the bankrupt had been denuded of property which was the property of the assignees.
Mr. James S. Orr said he had not act in the removal of property. He was in the house by an accident, and he had actually assisted in writing letters to the creditors to let them know of the state of affairs.
Judge MILLER refused the expenses of such of the witnesses as were connected with the removal.'

And from The Belfast News Letter, Wed. 8th October 1884:

'Mr. SCANLAN, for the assignees, examined Mrs. Jane Orr, the wife of the bankrupt, in reference to the alleged removal of property. She stated that she was at present residing with her mother at Limestone Road, Belfast, and she believed her husband was in Philadelphia, but she had no letter from him. The property removed was of very small value. After her husband left there was an auction of some property, and she received in respect of it £7 10s.'

 Jane Orr, née Stewart, would join her husband in Philadelphia, and sailed from Larne to New York, arriving in the USA on 29th September 1884, accompanied by her sister, Margaret Stewart, and two of her surviving sons, 9-year-old Thomas Orr and 6-year-old James Alexander Orr.  Son William Stewart Orr stayed in Ireland with his widowed paternal grandmother, Mary Orr, who the family had been living with for the previous four years.

James M. Orr lived, firstly,  at 3 Museum Buildings, Troy, New York State, from 1885 till 1887 when he appears in the Philadelphia Street Directories. In 1889, they show James Orr, Jeweler and Watchmaker, at 2031 Germantown Avenue.
James Orr of 2631 Germantown Avenue made a rare astronomical wall regulator clock in the early 1880s, which hung in the booth of Baldwin House Antiques, Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
He was a member of the Philadelphia Horological Society.  In 1922, their annual report mentioned that James Orr of 1011 Chestnut Street had just returned from vacation trip to Chicago and Detroit.
James applied for a US passport in 1920.  He confirmed that he had been born on November 26th 1853 near Belfast to a Thomas Orr, and that he had sailed via Glasgow to the USA, arriving there on 13th September 1884.  He had been naturalized in Philadelphia on 11th September 1894.
 He needed the passport to travel to (something blurred) in London, and to travel home to settle his mother's estate.
James sailed home aboard the 'Carmania' in July 1925, arriving in Liverpool.  He was aged 70, and his destination address in Belfast was 11, Farnham Street, Cromac.

11 Farnham St, Belfast:
The 1901 and 1911 Irish Census shows up the Orr family living here.
In 1901 the head of the family here was the widowed Mary Orr, who was  James Malcolm Orr's widowed mother. She had been born circa 1835 in Co. Antrim.  She was living here with three of her daughters - Margaret Doran, 39, a married seamstress;  Martha Orr, 36, seamstress, and Jane Orr, 38, seamstress.  Margaret Doran's only daughter, Emily Doran, aged 11, was also present.
Margaret/Maggie Orr, the sister of James and Samuel Orr, and daughter of watchmaker Thomas Orr, married watchmaker William James Doran of Coleraine, son of grocer William Doran, in Ballymena in 1888.  The wedding witnesses were Margaret Orr's sister, Jane Orr, and Samuel Doran.
Their daughter, Emily Rebecca Doran was born in Church Street, Ballymena on 26th October 1889.

William James Doran, husband of Maggie Orr, had been born in Cromac, Belfast, in 1866 to the grocer William Doran and Rebecca Beattie. In the 1870s, William and Rebecca Doran lived at 42, then 43 Cromac Street, where William Doran Senior worked as a grocer. As well as William James, they had Samuel Doran in 1867, Thomas John in 1869,  Sarah Emily in 1871 and Joseph in 1874.  The father of the family, the grocer William Doran, died on 13th February 1874, and his wife married again, this time to James A.Currie, a watchmaker of Cromac Street.

Margaret Orr's husband, William James Doran also went bankrupt and emigrated to Philadelphia at some stage, presumably to join his mother, Rebecca, and her second husband James A. Currie who had left Ireland for the US in 1891 aboard the 'Circassia', along with two of Rebecca's children, Sarah Emily Doran and Samuel Doran. Margaret probably went with him but returned home to her own family following his death.
William James Doran, watchmaker, was recorded aboard the 'Anchoria', sailing home to Ireland, from New York in 1894.  His death, however, was recorded as occurring on 28th May 1905 in Philadelphia, (his parents were noted on this as being William Doran and Rebecca Dorn) where he was working as an advertising agent.  Another passenger list listed his mother, Rebecca Currie, and his sister, Sarah Doran, sailing in 1903 to New York, returning home to Rebecca's husband, James A. Currie, at 467 Marshall Street. Philadelphia.
In 1910 Rebecca and James A. Currie were living in Reading, Pennsylvania, where James was working as an optician in a jewellery store.  By 1920  James A. Currie and Rebecca were at North 55th St., Philadelphia, and 39-year-old Sarah Doran, saleslady, had once again joined them there.
Samuel Doran, who had sailed with his mother, Rebecca, and her second husband to America, was living in 1930 in South 52nd St., Philadelphia and working as a watchmaker, surprise surprise.  His wife was a woman named Jennie, who had been born in Philadelphia.  A niece, Daisy Doran, was there too - she had been born in April 1897 in Philadelphia.  Ten years earlier, a Daisy Doran, aged 3, was listed as a boarder in a house in New Jersey, along with a William G. Doran, who had been born in 1867 in Ireland. Was this actually William James Doran who had married to Margaret Orr in Ballymena in 1888?  If this is so, then William James Doran must have married twice, Daisy being the child of this first marriage.  She disappears after this however...

By 1911 in Belfast, there is no sign of Margaret's mother, the widow of Thomas Orr, Mary Orr. Margaret Doran had been widowed.  Her daughter, Emily Doran, aged 21, was a damask designer. Jane Orr, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Orr, was now a tailor's machinist, while her sister Martha Orr was a confectioner.

In 1900,  James Orr, watch repairer, and his family were living at 2057 Diamond St, Philadelphia.  Thomas Edwin Orr, 24, was a journalist;  William Stewart Orr was something illegible, but he was later a watchmaker like his father;  James A.Orr was a drugs clerk;  the youngest son, Walter Francis Orr was 12 years old and a student.
Also living with them was Jane Stewart's younger unmarried sister, Margaret Stewart, who had been born in Northern Ireland in December 1858.

James M. Orr received his American citizenship in Philadelphia on 8th June 1889 - his address at the time being 2057 Germantown Avenue.  His friend, William H. Doebele - another jeweller - vouched for him.

In 1904, the Philadelphia street directory recorded James M.Orr, watches, at 11 South 9th, 1117 Silver, Philadelphia.
In 1917, he was recorded at 1011 Chestnut, Room 629.  These were business addresses.

By 1910 they had moved to 3834 Sydenham Street which is where the four Stewart sisters were heading when they sailed to visit them in 1914.
Margaret Stewart, a dry goods sales lady, was still living with them as were two of the sons - James A. Orr was working as a salesman in 'drugs retail',  while the youngest, Walter Francis Orr, was a fire insurance salesman.

In 1930, James, Jane and the unmarried Margaret Stewart were living together at 724 Lycoming St., Philly.   James was still working as a watchmaker/jeweler while his sister-in-law Margaret was working in a department store as a saleslady.

James M. Orr died in Philadelphia on 15th November 1938.

In 1940 the sisters, Jane Orr and Margaret Stewart were still living together on Lycoming Street.  Jane was 85, her sister 81.

Jane Orr, neé Stewart, of 724 W. Lycoming Street, died on 25th January 1942;  the informant was her son, Walter Orr of 4005 North Darien Street. The death certificate states she had been born in Belfast to William Stewart and Margaret Burke on 18th December 1854.

Jane Orr and her sister Margaret Stewart, Philadelphia. This photo was kindly sent on to me by Roger Orr, a direct descendant of James M. Orr.

The surviving sons of James M. Orr and Jane Stewart:

1) Thomas Edwin Orr was born on 6th September 1875 in Belfast.  He married Lucy Koeberle in Philadelphia in 1901.
Lucie/Louisa Koberle had been born in Philadelphia in May 1879 to a Bavarian-born machinist, John Koberle, and his wife, Sophia who came from Wittenberg.  Early in their marriage, Thomas worked as a superintendant with the railway in Philadelphia. By 1910, the couple had two young children - Arthur Thomas Orr (1903 - 1968) and Allan, born 1907. Ten years later, the family had moved to the Bronx, NYC (address: 2796, Park Avenue) where Thomas E. Orr worked in advertising.  17-year-old Arthur was now working as an office boy in a bookies' office.  The family was still at Park Avenue in 1930;  Allan was gone but Arthur Orr was there, working now in office furniture.  By 1940, they had moved house but were still in the Bronx, now at Parkway North - the father, Thomas Edwin Orr, aged 64, was a publicity man for Sinclair Oil Company, while Arthur T. Orr, his 38-yr-old son, was still in office furniture, although now a proprietor.

2) William Stewart Orr was born to James M. Orr and Jane Stewart on 17th November 1876 at 34 Shannon Street in the centre of Belfast.  Although he lived from time to time with his parents in Philadelphia and was recorded on both the 1900 and 1910 census there, he had originally, as a child in 1884, elected to remain in Ireland with his paternal grandmother, Mary Orr, and, following a brief stay in Philadelphia, he returned home to Belfast.
He must have been coming and going between the two countries - he was recorded returning home aboard the 'Numidian' which arrived in Derry from New York in 1898.  He was a watchmaker like his father. William returned briefly to Philadelphia where he was recorded at home with his family in 1900, before returning at some stage to Belfast where he married Rose Wright in Great Victoria Street Baptist Church on 28th October 1904.  The bride gave her address as 6 Whitehall Gardens, Ballynafeigh, Belfast, while William Stewart Orr stated he was currently living at 11 Farnham Street - this was the address of his widowed paternal grandmother, Mary Orr, and of his three aunts, Margaret Doran,  Martha Orr and Jane Orr.
Rose Wright had been born in Ballymena on 18th August 1879 to James Wright and Ellen Rock.

This family appeared on the Irish 1911 census living on the Ormeau Rd, Belfast. By this time, William Stewart Orr was a master watchmaker, and the couple had two children - Allan Stewart Orr, born at 6 Whitehall Gardens on 27th April 1905, and Evelyn Mary Orr, born at 20 fernwood Street on 21st March 1908.  (William Stewart Orr's brother, Thomas Edwin Orr, also named a son as Allan Orr.)  There were three 'relations' living there with them. Annie Wright, 45, an unmarried waitress, Elizabeth Wilson Wright, 39, and John Wright, a 32-yr-old electrician.

The following year, on 15th January 1912 at 341 Ormeau Road, William and Rose Orr had their third child, James Edwin Orr, who would go on to become an evangelical baptist preacher and advisor to Billy Graham.  He held dual Irish and American citizenship, thanks to his father, William, who had been naturalised in Philadelphia before returning home to Belfast.

William Stewart Orr and Rose Wright had five children altogether - the eldest, Allan Stewart Orr, died young aged 25.  Following William Stewart Orr's death in 1922, and the death of the youngest daughter the same year (Margaret Louise Orr aged 3), the Orr family experienced financial difficulties, and James Edwin Orr became the primary breadwinner.  His mother, Rose Wright Orr, died in 1942.

James Edwin Orr travelled the world as a baptist preacher, along with his wife, Ivy Muriel Carol Carlson, who he'd met while on a mission to South Africa.  They had married in Durban on 15th January 1937, and the Belfast Newsletter named Ivy as the daughter of Ivor Carlson of Aalesun, Norway.
The couple eventually had four children: Eileen Muriel, who lived three months and died in 1938; Carolyn Astrid born in Toronto in 1939 (later Mrs. Larry D. Booth); Alan Bertran born in Chicago in 1942; and David Arundel born in Oxford in 1946.
James enlisted with the US Air Force in 1942 and saw extensive service during the war, serving with the 13th Air Force in Bismark Archipelago, New Guinea, and being involved in campaigns in Borneo, the south Philippines, Luzon, and China. He earned seven battle stars and finished with the rank of major.  James Edwin Orr died of a heart attack on 22nd April 1987 in North Carolina.

(William Stewart Orr, watchmaker, was recorded in the Belfast street directories at 327 Ormeau Rd., Belfast, Co. Down in 1910 and 1918;  earlier, in 1906, 1907 and 1908, a Samuel Orr, watchmaker, was recorded at the same address - Samuel Orr was the brother of James Malcolm Orr.  He had been born in Co. Antrim in about 1867;  in 1901, he lived at Ava St, Ormeau, with his wife, Mary Orr, née Armstrong, who he'd married in Broughshane, Ballymena  on 26th February 1895.   Samuel was a watchmaker, and the son of the farmer, Thomas Orr;  at the time of his marriage to Mary Jane Armstrong, he was living in Ballymena.  Mary Jane was a farmer of Coreen, Broughshane, and the daughter of the farmer, James Armstrong.  The witnesses were John Armstrong and Annie Johnston McCully.
They had two children - Samuel, aged 1, and James Armstrong Orr, aged 5.   By 1911 this family had moved back to Ballymena - Samuel was still a watchmaker and they had a further three children...William Thomas, Edith Armstrong Orr and Annie Mary.)

3)  James Alexander Orr was born to James M. Orr and Jane Stewart in Belfast in December 1878.  He was living with the family in Philadelphia in 1900, where he worked as a drugs clerk,  He never married.

4) Walter Francis Orr was born 30th October 1887 to James M. Orr and Jane Stewart in Philadelphia.
In 1912, Walter Francis married Nettie Pauline Hartranft who had been born in September 1885 in Pennsylvania to Gottlieb Hartranft and his wife Kate.  Nettie's parents had both been born in Germany - her father was a machinist by profession. The Hartranft family lived next door to the Orr family in Philadelphia on Sydenham Street in 1910.

Walter and Nettie Orr lived on Darien St, Philadelphia; Walter worked as an office clerk.  By 1920 they had two sons - Donald born 1919 and David born 1914.
Walter Orr joined the army for both the first and second World Wars.
By 1940,  Walter's son Donald was still at home with his parents in Darien Street, but David has gone - in 1940 a David Orr was living in Luzerne, Pennsylvania with his wife, Jane, and a newborn son named Donald.

Following the death of James Malcolm Orr and his wife, Jane Orr, Jane's sister, Margaret Stewart, went to live with the famikly of Walter Francis Orr.

More to follow on the Stewart/Orr combination.
Many thanks to Roger Orr and Astrid Booth for their help with the Orr/Stewarts, and for passing on the family photos.


  1. Yes the photos you are using came from me, David L Orr born 1942, the son of David H Orr ,the son for Walter Francis Orr. David H , during the second world war was first in the Navy and then reinlisted in the Marines. He fought in the Pacific campaign. He then went on to work for the government as a Safety Engineer till he retired. Donald Orr was also in WWII in the Army Air force and fought in the euro campaign as a tail gunner . He went on to be a Tool and Die maker till he passed.

  2. Hi David! Your family photos are wonderful and have really helped to bring the family history alive. It's been a real treat to uncover relations of my father's Stewart line, which was torn apart by emigration like so many Irish families. Thankyou for sharing your family story with me! I hope to uncover further 'cousins' as my research continues. Kind regards, Alison.