Mary Ann Keane

Mary Ann Keane, benefactress of the Missionaries of La Salette in Enfield, New Hampshire and donor of the Mary Keane Chapel, was born December 19, 1867 in Trenton, New Jersey, the daughter of Thomas Joseph and Margaret (Mulcahy) Keane.

Mary’s father was born in 1825 in Clashmore, County Waterford, Ireland and immigrated to the Unites States prior to the October 1850 U.S. Census, when he was listed as a laborer living in Hartford, Connecticut. Her mother was born in New York State. At the time of the June 1860 U.S. Census, Mary’s parents were both living in Hartford, Connecticut, where Thomas was a teamster and Margaret a tailoress. They were married on September 12, 1865 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (now St. Patrick’s Church) in Hartford and moved shortly afterward to Trenton, New Jersey, where Thomas was then living. In the July 1870 U.S. Census, the family consisted of Thomas, working as a clerk in a liquor store, Margaret, keeping house, and two children, Mary A. and Thomas E., who was 10/12 months old. The family had real estate valued at $2,500 and personal estate valued at $500.

Unfortunately, Mary’s father died four years later at the age of 49. The “Hartford Daily Courant” reported on May 12, 1874, “DEATHS. KEANE–In Trenton, N. J., May 10, Thomas J. Keane, formerly of this city. His remains will be brought to this city on the noon train to-day, and the funeral will take place at St. Patrick’s cathedral at 1 o’clock.” After his funeral, the “Courant” reported, “Mr. Thomas Keane, who died at Trenton, N. J. on the 10th, was buried from St. Patrick’s church Tuesday. There was a large concourse of the friends of the deceased.”

The June 1880 U.S. Census locates both Mary and Thomas living in the Warren Street Children’s Home in Trenton, a Protestant charitable institution for neglected and destitute children. Margaret Keane was living and working as a domestic for a family in nearby Chambersburg, New Jersey. Thomas appears to have been institutionalized for the remainder of his life.

Mary Keane was graduated from the Advanced Course at the State Normal School in Trenton, New Jersey in June 1887. Normal Schools were established to train “teachers for the common schools in the science of education and the art of instructing youth.” Tuition was free in New Jersey, but students were required to teach in “common schools” for at least two years after graduation. Mary began her teaching career as an instructor in “Elocution and English Branches” at the Farnum Preparatory School in Beverly, New Jersey in 1887. The Farnum School prepared its students to enter the Normal School.

Mary’s mother died in 1889 at the age of about 57. Her death was reported in the “Hartford Courant” on September 6, 1889, “Deaths. KEANE–In Trenton, N. J., Sept. 4, Mrs. Margaret Keane, sister of E.J. Mulcahy, of this city.” The Letters of Administration for her mother’s estate, signed “Mary A. Keane”, were filed in the Mercer County Probate Court on September 12, 1889. Mary was 21 years old at the time and quite alone.

Mary continued to teach English literature and grammar at the Farnum Preparatory School, and to live in Beverly, New Jersey. School teachers were not allowed to marry in the State of New Jersey (until 1921) and Mary remained a single woman. In 1916, she moved to Hartford, Connecticut to live in the home of her unmarried uncle Edward J. Mulcahy, a well-known and very prosperous retired clothing merchant in the city. His business was known as “Mulcahy’s Boston One-Price Clothing and Hat House”, which he had established in 1876 and operated until his retirement in 1902.

Edward J. Mulcahy died in 1924 in Hartford, Connecticut, leaving an estate of just under $294,000 (about $5.2 million in 2023 dollars). After bequests of about $15,000, Mary Keane as residual legatee received the balance of her uncle’s estate (about $5 million in 2023 dollars). Mary toured Europe in the summer of 1925, likely the first and only time she traveled overseas. Mary was now 57 years old and again quite alone.

About 1926, while living in Hartford, Mary Keane became acquainted with the Rev. Arthur P. Deneault (1897-1979), who was then a teacher at the La Salette Missionary College. Through him, she learned that the Missionaries of La Salette had located a place in Enfield, New Hampshire for a new seminary, a former Shaker community. She visited Enfield and agreed to purchase the property. The closing took place on December 1, 1927.

By the time of the April 1930 U.S. Census, she was living with the Missionaries of La Salette at their recently-established seminary in Enfield, New Hampshire. While in Enfield, Mary Keane donated the funds for the construction of the chapel later named in her memory, as well as an elegant Victorian-style home for her own use. After her death, her home became the residence of the Sisters of Martha (Les Soeurs Ste-Marthe), the nuns who served the La Salette community as cooks and housekeepers.

Mary Ann Keane died from bronchial pneumonia on July 15, 1932 at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. She was 64 years old. Her funeral took place in the newly-erected chapel that she had donated to the Missionaries of La Salette as a memorial to her uncle, Edward J. Mulcahy. She is buried in the La Salette Cemetery in Enfield, New Hampshire, the only woman to be given that privilege. Her name is also engraved on the Mulcahy family monument in the Old North Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut (Section A, Lot 1275).