A Davenport Connection: The Early Life of ‘Big Nose Kate’ Horony – Part II

On September 5, 1860 the steamship Bremen set sail from Southampton, England heading for New York City.  Originating from the port of Bremen, Germany the ship contained hundreds of individuals headed to the United States.  Among those on board were Dr. Michael Horony, his wife Catherine, and their eight children.  Victor, Emilie, Mary, Julius, Alexander, Wilhelmine, Rosalie, and Ludwig joined their parents (or in Victor and Emilie’s case their father and stepmother) on the journey from their native Hungary to a new home in the United States. 

The Bremen arrived in New York City on September 19, 1860.  The Horony family began the next step of their journey that would lead them to the growing city of Davenport, Iowa.  The sibilings could have no idea the hardships they would face over the next few years or that eleven year Mary Katherine would one day become western legend “Big Nose(d) Kate.”

We are slowly beginning to find pieces of the life the Horony family led in Davenport.  Record keeping of the 1860s (and 1870s as well) was not as developed as we would wish.  Over the past few years our staff has stumbled upon new family information while working on other projects.  Here is a little of the information we have put together on the family’s time in Davenport.  We hope you enjoy these finds!

The 1861-62 and 1863 Davenport City Directories list Michael Horony as a physician with his business and home located on the southwest corner of 2nd Street and Western Avenue.  This location is close to the river and across the street from the old Washington Square Park.  A building containing a florist distribution business now stands at the site of their home.  We do not have city directories for 1864 or 1865, but we know a home in that area and its contents were part of the Michael Horony probate in our collection.

In August 1862 Victor Horony’s name is listed in the newspapers along with other men eligible to be drafted into the Civil War.  That same month Victor enlisted into the Army.  Little else has been found on the family’s life until 1865. In the March 1865 City Sexton Report to City Council Catherine Horony is listed as having been buried on March 12, 1865 at 2:00 p.m. in the Public Grounds of City Cemetery.  Her given age is 34.

On April 29, 1865 the Daily Davenport Democrat carries a small front page article on the sudden passing of Dr. Michael Horony on the previous day.  The April 1865 City Sexton Report to City Council records that Dr. Horony was buried on April 29 at 4:00 p.m. in Lot 245 in City Cemetery.  He is recorded as being 46 years old.  Lot 245 was owned by the Susemihl family.  Emilie Horony had married Gustuv Susemihl in 1863.  We recently found the results for Dr. Horony’s autopsy with the cause of death listed as Apeletic Shock.*

Mary Katherine and her younger siblings Alexander, Wilma, Rosa and Louis (as they were recorded)  were at first under the guardianship of sister Emilie and her husband until Gustuv resigned guardianship around July 17, 1865 as they were leaving the state of Iowa for an undetermined time.  Passport information found on Ancestry.com indicates the couple sailed to Europe later that same month.  Otto Smith was then named guardian. 

In an annual guardian report filed April 11, 1867 in the Scott County Court it notes an R. Henne was paid $1.00 for finding Mary Horony a situation.  On October 10, 1865 Mrs. Marg Wendt was paid $12.50 for boarding Mary.  By September 14, 1867 the whereabouts of 16 year old Mary where unknown according to guardian Otto Smith in court papers filed in the county.  Mr. Smith stated in April 1868 there were no funds left to provide for the remaining children and he requested the sale of the Horony home.  Without Mary’s whereabouts known the sale did not take place. 

It appears Mary was eventually located as on April 12, 1869 papers were filed in the District Court of Scott County concerning the sale of the property.   Mary is listed as Mary May on two separate forms.  No local marriage record has been located for Mary Katherine.  Where had Mary been and how did she come by the last name May is unknown to us.

Mysteries have also existed around two of Mary Katherine’s brothers.  Victor disappeared from our records after a brief mention in local papers in 1870.  The last mention of Julius relates to the Bremen ship manifest as he is missing from the guardianship papers of 1865.   

Going on a clue from the 1870 newspaper articles we looked through cemetery records in western Iowa for Victor.  We located a Victor Horany buried with a Civil War headstone in Graceland Cemetery in Avoca, Pottawattamie County, Iowa with his death date May 11, 1880.  The company and regiment information matches that for Mary Katherine’s brother Victor.  Could this mystery be solved?**

As for Julius, no record for his death has been found locally.  All City Cemetery sexton reports from September 1860 – May 1865 have been found except for September 1862.  Newspapers from that month do not mention his death nor is information found in other local cemeteries.  As mentioned before, record keeping during this time is sketchy at best and obituaries rarely ran in the newspapers.  Could he be buried in Davenport or might Julius have passed away on the Bremen or the journey from New York City to Davenport?  The mystery continues for us unless someone else holds the answer.

Hopefully more information will continue to be uncovered as time goes on.  It seems every time we find something new it creates another mystery in Davenport’s connection to Mary Katherine Horony. Here is to our happy (local history) hunting!

Interested in reading Part I?  Please click here.

*Index to Coroner’s Inquests 1866 – 1927.  Microfilm. 

**By 2019, we have located newspaper advertisements indicating Victor was a barber in Avoca, Iowa in the 1870s. Victor died on March 18, 1879 in Avoca. It is not known why the headstone says May 11, 1880. His wife and son are buried in the same cemetery.

 (posted by Amy D.)

This entry was posted in Local History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *