The Franeys of Shenandoah
Prepared by Jeff Stoffa, 2007. (

"My Family", Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania 1850-1950
"Click on the arrow to see old family photographs relevant to this page."

My family's name is Franey. The origin of the name is French and was originally "Frenei." The family left France in 1066 for England during the Norman Conquest and then settled in Ireland where we lived in Queen’s County until 1848 when we arrived in Schuylkill County.

My great great great grandfather was Martin Franey. He first settled in Heckscherville in Schuylkill County with his wife Elinor Lawlor Franey and then moved to Shenandoah in 1863. Martin "followed" mining and in the winter of 1867-68 formed partnership of M. Franey & Son and opened a livery business in Shenandoah at the corner of S. Main and Oak. In 1871 he added a furniture store and an undertaking business. Martin was chosen as a member of council at the first borough election in 1866 when Shenandoah was incorporated. He and Elinor belonged to the Mahanoy City Catholic Church until organization of Shenandoah’s Church of the Annunciation, the first Catholic Church in town was founded. The Franeys were charter members. They had seven children reach maturity. One of these children was their only son, my great great grandfather, James J. Franey who inherited the family livery, furniture, and funeral parlor business. James’ sister Mary married an O’Hara and had a grandson named John O’Hara who became a famous author and published such works as Appointment in Samarra, Butterfield 8, and A Rage to Live.

James J. Franey, Shenandoah, 1876, age 29

James J. Franey married Bridget Ferguson, from another prominent local Irish family. They first lived at 109 N. Main St. and then built a home in 1905 on the corner of Coal and Jardin that had a billiard room on the second floor, servants quarters, a dining room with a table that sat 24 people, and a small ballroom with a grand piano. The house was filled with heavy golden oak and mahogany high Victorian furniture, popular at the turn of the century, some pieces which we still have today. The ceilings were tin with designs of griffins and lions and decorative columns framed the large archways between rooms. Four generations of my family, from my mother to my great great grandfather lived in this house at 40 W. Coal St. The Franeys enjoyed wealth and prestige in Shenandoah before the Great Depression. According to the Shenandoah Herald, when my great great grandmother, Bridget Ferguson Franey died in 1931, the Columbia Brewing Company shut down for half a day out of respect. The Franeys invested heavily in real estate and owned many lots on Plum, Oak, Pear, Coal, Jardin, Centre, and farmland in Ringtown too. There was a block that was referred to as "Franey Row" because it was completely owned by the Franey family. In addition, James Franey was a director of the Columbia Brewing Company and owned stock in that as well as the First National Bank while never letting go of the undertaking business.

James J. Franey as a mature man, the patriarch of the family.

James J. Franey's wife as a young woman, Bridget Ferguson Franey

Bridget as a mature woman, the matriarch of the family.

This is the Franey Mansion at the corner of Coal and Jardin. The white house to the left was where the Dorseys lived who the Franeys were very friendly with. In the 1950s my great grandmother Ella moved to New York City and she would visit "Ma Dorsey" who lived there too.

This is the Jardin St. side of the Franey mansion with Bridget Franey’s addition to the right. The two homes were connected on the first and third floor.

"This is the only surviving photograph of the interior of the Franey mansion taken on April 5, 1915 on the occasion of my great-grandparents, Ella Marie Franey and Dr.. John C. Gallagher's wedding reception.  You can see the furniture was pushed aside and the potted palms were added for the guests."

The front door of the Franey mansion still has the "JF" on the keystone
for "James Franey", my great great grandfather, the builder of the house.

This is the Patrick J. Ferguson house. Patrick was my great grandmother's Bridget Ferguson Franey’s brother and he was President of the First National Bank of Shenandoah and was involved with railroads and other stocks.

The Patrick J. Ferguson house today

The house next door also belonged to the Ferguson family;
I believe it belonged to one of Patrick’s children.


James and Bridget had eight children: Martin, Martha (Vogan), Fergus, Ella (Gallagher), Irene (Hackett), Jim, and Agnes (Gaughan).

Martin ran a dramatic troupe and also the Black Diamond Theatre. He married Georgiana McWilliams and eventually moved to Philadelphia.

Martha married an attorney named Ulysses Vogan and moved to Pittsburgh. She had a beautiful daughter named Doris who was killed on her prom night in 1936.

Fergus was injured in a football accident in 1903 before the days of football helmets. His injury would cause him to spontaneously go blind while he walked the streets of Shenandoah. He begged his father to let him try experimental brain surgery in 1904; he died on the operating table.

Ella is my great grandmother. She married Dr. John C. Gallagher, a Penn graduate and first superintendent of the Locust Mountain Hospital.

Irene became an educator, married Walter Hackett and moved to Philadelphia.

Jim Franey ran the Franey Funeral Home and married Mayme Cuff. He was a bootlegger in the 20s and is featured in my grandfather’s books.

Agnes married Billy Townsend who died in 1918 of the Great Flu Epidemic and then married Joseph Gaughan, a prominent local attorney.

The Franeys had a beach house in Atlantic City on Oriental Ave. with seven apartments for all the family. They’d come from all over and Bridget would arrive in a Packard with a chauffeur and always stop at the same place in Pottstown to eat every year. The most fun my grandfather had at the beach was with Doris Vogan (Martha’s daughter who died on prom night) and Augusta and Georgianna Franey (Martin’s two children.). They would have contests swimming around the dock. When Norton entered a contest to swim around the Steel Pier and landed in last place the girls booed and threw things at him as he swam. The Franeys would stay the whole summer. They were "worse than the Kennedys" as my grandfather used to say. The Franeys had been coming to this house in Atlantic City of theirs long before my grandfather was born. This clip is from the Herald when my great grandmother Ella was only 21:

"Misses Ella and Martha Franey, Shenandoah, left today for Atlantic City, where they will spend the Easter holidays." (Shenandoah Evening Herald, 1905)

Atlantic City, 1905

The Church of the Annunciation, first Catholic Church in Shenandoah, 1909

Jim Franey, the well known bootlegger featured in my grandfather's book,
"The Only Western Town in the East" is seated in this photograph. 
He was my great grandmother Ella's little brother and James Franey's youngest son.

The Franey's lives revolved around the Church of the Annunciation. They helped fund the building of it and its three reconstructions. The Franey traveled in a circle of what my great-grandmother called the "1st Tier Families" which were 7 or 8 Irish families in Shenandoah of "consequence." The only names I remember are the Franeys, Fergusons, Gaughans, Malones, and the Bradigans, but there were more. There was a lot of intermarrying and socializing and business deals done between these families and it was very scandalous to not marry another Irish Catholic "of consequence." My great-great grandmother Bridget Ferguson Franey was very devout and gave thousands to the Church. Priests were constantly coming in and out of the Franey mansion visiting her. At night the priests would socialize with Bridget’s daughters and get so drunk that they would pass out and my grandfather, a teenager at the time, would have to drive them back to the rectory. The problem is that they would never pass out at the same time so my grandfather would have to make multiple trips . My grandfather was also an altar boy even when he was getting into his teens and getting quite grown up. The reason was is that they needed strong altar boys because the priests often passed out from their hangovers during Mass. My grandfather remembers throwing the priests over his shoulder and carrying them off the altar after they would pass out. When this Church burned in 1924, all the records of the families and the cemeteries burned with it. There was no longer any proof of my great -grandmother’s age and from that day forward she lied about her age. She was very young looking and very beautiful, even as an older woman. She got away with it and was able to get a job with the Junior League in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria in the 50s when her real age would have disqualified her.


Bridget Ferguson Franey’s addition at 129 N. Jardin

In the 1920s when housing was hard to come by in Shenandoah no matter how much money you had, so Bridget Ferguson Franey, my great-great grandmother turned the old house into apartments for her children that stayed in Shenandoah, and she built this addition at 129 N. Jardin St. which connected to the old house on the third and first floors. The entire family would dine together in Bridget’s new addition in an enormous diningroom attended by servant girls recently arrived from Ireland. The Franeys often have jobs as servants to "homeless" people and people down on their luck. This building would later house the Franey Funeral Home until the 1960s when Jim Franey and his wife Mayme Cuff sold the business to Michael Sullivan. This house is also mentioned in my grandfather’s book, "The Only Western Town in the East Part II" in the Chapter called "Uncle Christopher" which is about Bridget’s brother Christopher who disappeared for years and was fighting the Sioux, became a friend of Sitting Bull, and married a squaw. He returned to Shenandoah afterward and lived in this house with his sister and her family and would be buried with them also.


James Franey’s second daughter was Ella, my great -grandmother. She married Dr. John C. Gallagher, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, prominent local doctor and the original superintendent of Locust Mountain Hospital.

Dr. Gallagher stands next to Governor Pinchot at the dedication of the Locust Mountain Hospital. 
Dr. Gallagher was the Superintendent of the hospital from its inception

In 1964 while working at Elton’s Dept. store, my mother got to know a woman working there who was originally from Shenandoah. In a chance conversation she learned that Barbara’s grandparents’ identities and became very excited. She vividly described the day Ella and Dr. Gallagher were married. She was a little girl and the whole town came to see the wedding. She thought Ella was a princess. Ella Franey and Dr. Gallagher got in their carriage with old shoes and tin cans tied to the back and all the little children of Shenandoah ran after the carriage as it pulled away. In her recounting she stressed several times how beautiful Ella was and what a big event that wedding was.


This is a transcript of the front page article describing their wedding in the Evening Herald:
"Gallagher-Franey Nuptials Solemnized." April 5, 1915.

Ella Franey Gallagher on the occasion of her wedding, April 5, 1915.

Ella shortly before being married 


Ella Franey Gallagher with her three boys: John, Jimmy, and Francis Norton. My grandfather is the boy on the right, Francis Norton. He would eventually write two books about Shenandoah called "The Only Western Town in the East" and "The Only Western Town in the East Part II." Unfortunately, my great-grandfather Dr. Gallagher would die an early death in 1928, a year before the Crash, when these boys were all under 12.

Ella Franey Gallagher obit

Agnes Franey Gaughan was one of my great-grandmother’s Ella’s younger sisters. In the 1910s, she was considered one of the most beautiful women in Shenandoah. She was chosen to join the Ziegfeld Follies in New York but her parents forbade such a scandalous career. In consolation, they bought her a Stutz Bearcat which she used to drive down to Philadelphia a few years later and join the Navy in 1918.

1914 Stutz Bearcat

Agnes Franey Gaughan, 1920s

In his autobiography, "The Doctor’s Son," John O’Hara mentions Agnes Franey: "Agnes Franey, a little older than I, was quite a beauty and a wild one, who was the only girl I knew whose slipper was actually used to drink champagne out of – at a Snow Dance in the early 1920s. Agnes didn’t like me much either. She called me a Pottsville snob. Actually, the Franeys did not approve of the O’Haras generally, as far back as 1864 whenever the first Mike married the first Franey." (John O’Hara’s autobiography, The Doctor’s Son)

Agnes Franey married prominent local lawyer Joseph Gaughan in 1928. Tragically, he would die in 1931 and she two years later, leaving three boys.

Agnes Franey Gaughan obit

 Youtube video created by Agnes's son Jim Gaughan reflecting on his life growing up in Shenandoah.

My grandmother Hermia Lawson Gallagher with my mother, Barbara

My grandfather Francis Norton Gallagher married Hermia Lawson. Hermia’s father grew up in Shenandoah as Chester Czyzewski and went to St. George’s Roman Catholic Church. The family was Lithuanian and had a saloon and a furniture store. Chester’s father was a graduated of the University of Warsaw and spoke eight languages so part of his saloon’s popularity was that he was able to communicate with all the new immigrants that came in. Chester Czyzewski changed his name to Chester Lawson, received an engineering degree from Lehigh and moved to Pottsville where he became a V.P of the PP&L. Hermia, my grandmother, was his second of seven children. She is with my mother above. This picture is taken by my grandfather’s best friend, another Shenandoah native, John "Ace" Rogers.

My grandmother, Hermia Lawson Gallagher in 1939

My grandmother said the Czyzewski hardware store was in either the third or the fourth building above. She could never remember which.


My grandmother lived here at Weston Place in Shenandoah Heights. The house had a tennis court in the back. She used to run through the cemeteries when late to J.W. Cooper High and would always run right past the Franey graves, not realizing that she would marry into that family and one day be buried there.

My grandparents, Norton and Hermia met in the prinicipal’s office of J. W. Cooper High. Here we returned to the spot 60 years later! My grandfather was involved in tennis where he was ranked 8th in the state and drama. My grandmother was a cheerleader, a basketball player, and diver. Once when my grandfather sang Pennies from Heaven on stage at J.W. Cooper, my grandmother and her friend Peg Haughney threw pennies at him on the stage as a prank, infuriating him!

  "Shenandoah Cheerleading Squad , early 1930s.  
My grandmother Hermia Lawson is first row, fifth from the left."

My grandparents at Deer Lake before the War when they were newlyweds.

Lakeside Ballroom in Barnesville, a popular dance hall near Shenandoah that my grandparents and their crowd frequented. They loved to dance. My grandparents saw Sinatra, Artie Shaw, the Dorseys, Paul Whiteman band, and Dinah Shore as a singer for one of the bands as well as Harry James, Stan Kenton, and Dizzy Gillespie too.


This picture of my grandparents was taken in 1944 immediately after my grandfather received his draft notice.

My grandmother Hermia Lawson Gallagher and my mother Barbara
spent the war with my great- grandmother Ella Franey Gallagher on
the second floor of the old Franey mansion in Shenandoah.
This picture was taken outside the home in 1944.


Another shot of Hermia and Barbara Gallagher on the corner of Coal and Jardin at the old "Franey mansion." The room on the corner of the first floor where my grandmother is standing was rented out as the Tierney Tax office for many years. My grandmother is wearing my grandfather’s ID bracelet around her ankle which she gave to me before she died.

Celebrating Kellen Gallagher’s 2nd birthday, Sept. 15, 1944- Pottsville, PA

From the top of the stairs: Jane Tobin Gallagher with daughter Kellen, Ella Franey Gallagher with Barbara Gallagher, Hermia Lawson Gallagher, Jimmy Gaughan, and Jimmy Gallagher in front. The babies’ fathers John and Norton Gallagher were overseas. Jimmy Gallagher, my grandfather’s youngest brother, was a healthy athletic young man when he went to enlist in 1942 and found out that he had a rare kidney disease and had two years to live. He died in 1946 at age 26.
My grandmother named her son after him. That is her with her hand on his shoulder. The young boy behind him is James Gaughan, the youngest son of Agnes Franey Gaughan.


My grandfather Francis Norton Gallagher survived the war and was awarded the Distinguished Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the lives of his crewmen when his plane was shot down in the Adriatic.

"The gang" celebrating the end of the War at Cinco’s on Lloyd St. in Shenandoah.1945 (L to R): "Murf" Rabada, Norton Gallagher, Hermia Gallagher, Dr. Emmett Hobbs, (front): James P. "Sling" Haughney, Cecilia (Sis) Hoffamn, Frank Tamulonis, Jane Tobin Gallagher, Flo Monahan, Peg Bradigan


This is the family when my mother was pregnant with me in 1969.

(L-R) Top: My uncle Jim, named after Jimmy Gallagher that died of Bright’s Disease is hugging his first wife Linda, my aunt Jane, my father John Stoffa (with a portrait of my mother behind them)

(L-R) Bottom: A cousin from my grandmother’s side of the family, my grandmother and grandfather, John "Ace" Rogers who was my grandfather’s best friend and mentioned in his book in the chapter "The Waking of the Ace", my mother and Marie Rogers, the Ace’s wife.

At the time of the Depression, most of the Franey money was invested in real estate and few in Shenandoah could pay their rent. The Franeys refused to evict even one person from their home though they paid a terrible financial price and lost their fortune for their generosity. The Franey Mansion was sold in a sheriff’s sale at the end of World War II, but by that time, most of the Franeys had moved away to start new lives in other towns and cities.

In 1961, my great –grandmother Ella was 77 though no one knew it but her since she still invented her age and still looked much younger than her real years. Seeing the end of her life, she fulfilled a dream and moved to Atlantic City where she had spent so many happy years vacationing at the Franey summer home as young woman. Shortly after arriving she died in her sleep during an afternoon nap with the back of her hand over her eyes, as she had napped every day of her life.

Today our family lives all over in places as far from Shenandoah as Miami, Hawaii, Tucson, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Philly and San Francisco, and there’s not one Franey left in Shenandoah. All that’s there is the old house and the graves at Annunciation and a lot of stories passed down through the years.

As the years pass and the older people pass away, I notice that less and less people in Shenandoah remember my family when I go to see the house and the graves. Shenandoah may have forgotten us but we haven’t forgotten Shenandoah. So thanks Bill, for letting me make this page. My family was there at the incorporation of the town and for decades, Shenandoah was our home. We laughed there, loved there, cried there, died there, married there, created families there, made fortunes, lost fortunes, and generally had a damn good time with a lot of great people if all the thousands of stories I’ve heard are true. No matter where we move, we’ll always have a piece of Shenandoah with us. – Jeff Stoffa, Miami, Florida

The Franey plot at Annunciation BVM Cemetery, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania where everyone mentioned on this page is buried, including now my grandparents, Hermia and Francis Norton Gallagher.

Descendants of Ella Franey Gallagher today, celebrating Thanksgiving in Wayne, PA.

Ella Franey Gallagher’s grandchildren today:
(Above): Geri Gallagher of Hawaii, Jane Gallagher of Philadelphia
(Below): Barbara Gallagher Stoffa of Northampton, PA, Molly Gallagher of San Francisco, and Jim Gallagher of Philadelphia.

F. Norton Gallagher, my grandfather, near the end of his life, Bethlehem, PA.

Obit Francis Norton Gallagher

Hermia Lawson Gallagher, my grandmother, towards the end of her life, surrounded by daughters, niece and daughter-in-law during a prank gift exchange at Christmas, Bethlehem, PA.



My great-great grandfather James J. Franey 1847 – 1913 born Queen’s County Ireland

My great- grandmother, Ella Franey Gallagher 1884-1961, born Shenandoah, PA.

My grandfather Francis Norton Gallagher 1916-1998, born Shenandoah, PA


My mother, Barbara Gallagher Stoffa, born 1942 Pottsville, PA,


Me, Jeff Stoffa, born 1970 Allentown, PA

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