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Rooney Profiles - Michael Tracy Rooney

Michael Tracy (M.T.) Rooney

Michael was born at Farrellton, Quebec, Canada on 2 August 1845. His family had immigrated from Ireland in the early 1840's and settled in Wakefield, Quebec, Canada where they were engaged in lumbering. They remained in Canada until the close of the Civil War, when they came to St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1875 he married Catherine Sophia D'Arcy in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

When construction of the Northern Pacific railway began across the great plains, he secured employment in one of the construction crews and worked with them for two years until he reached what is now Miles City, Montana and where he decided to locate. In 1879 his family followed him. They moved to Billings in 1880 and erected one of the first residences in the area. The first Catholic Mass in Billings was celebrated in this home. Sophia became sick in 1885 and she was taken back to her old home at Sauk Centre for medical treatment. She passed away on May 15, 1886. To this union, two children were born, Frances John Patrick Rooney and Agatha Rooney.

In 1887 Michael T. returned to Montana and the Judith Basin. Agatha remained in Minnesota with her aunt. Frank attended the St. Peter's Mission near Cascade in his childhood and later joined his father in ranching. Three years later Michael T.'s brothers, John and Patick, joined him. In those early days, Michael T. was a contractor in freighting and ditching as is evidenced by many of the early ditches brought out of the Judith River. Among them are the big Rooney ditch, or Beelzebub, one mile south of Utica which irrigates land on the south bench. They had much machinery and livestock and all the brothers started in business together. He later went into the sheep and cattle business and raised wheat.

Michael T. was among the pioneer settlers in the Judith Basin. His early life was an adventurous one as he hunted the buffalo and fought the Indians at the time when the white settlers began settling the great plains. He was a man of sturdy constitution and he continued to be active in his accustomed pursuits until long past the age at which men ordinarily drop out of the ranks of the workers. In temperament he was mild, conciliatory and candid, and yet remarkable for an uncompromising firmness. He was an indulgent father to his family and a kind neighbor.

The Rooneys at one time were quite well-to-do, having owned a great many acres of land in and around Hobson and Moccasin. Son Frank and Michael T. purchased what is now known as the Robert Brading place. It was traded to Charlie Harris and they purchased the Bill Lewis place, now known as the Gilkey place one mile west of Hobson. This is where Michael T. passed away on January 1, 1923, at the age of 77 years and five months. He is buried at the Philbrook Cemetery near Hobson.

(Information from Michael T.'s obituary as printed in the Judith Basin Star, January 4, 1923 and the Utica History book, article by Eileen Rooney Waite.)