On the first brick street in St. Joseph Cemetery near the turn to go down the hill, is a Celtic cross that towers above the monuments around it. The cross was placed there in February of 1938 by John Galvin in honor of his parents, Thomas and Bridget, natives of County Kerry, Ireland.
According to their obituaries and other records, Thomas came to the United States from the town of Duagh in 1849 and became a citizen in 1875. Bridget came from Ballybunion “as a girl”. They married in this country and settled in Fairfield, Iowa, where John was born and went to school. In 1882, they arrived in Council Bluffs. Thomas is listed in the 1894 city directory as a “grading engineer” and in 1897 as “sexton at St. Joseph Cemetery”. They lived at 1205 McPherson Ave. Bridget died in 1910, Thomas in 1917.
John Galvin was born in Fairfield, Iowa, on Nov. 7, 1858. He was a member of the first graduating class of Parsons College and was one of the commencement speakers, choosing as his subject his impressions of Ireland based on memories his parents had shared with him — leading to a life-long study of that country. According to his obituary, “At the time of his death his library contained probably the largest collection of books on Ireland of any library in this section of the country”.
Following his graduation from Parsons, John studied law under Senator Wilson of Fairfield and was admitted to the bar. He formed a partnership with a classmate and practiced for six years at Fairfield. In 1889, he came to Council Bluffs and practiced in partnership with John Shea. When Shea went to Oklahoma and became a judge, Galvin practiced alone until he became associated with Charles Swanson. He later entered a partnership with William Byers. Around 1922, they were joined by Daniel (Dan) Sullivan and the firm was known as Galvin, Byers and Sullivan.
In the years following John’s arrival in Council Bluffs, John, Thomas and Bridget lived at 720 Sixth Ave. In 1894, John purchased the property at 808 Seventh Ave. and built this two-family Queen Anne house for Thomas, Bridget and himself.
On Nov. 11, 1919, John married Margaret Ione Armstrong, librarian at the Council Bluffs Free Public Library, in Washington D.C. Ione and her mother, Sarah Armstrong, joined the Galvin family at 808 Seventh Ave.
Ione was born in 1868 in Lawrence County, Indiana, where her father raised livestock on a 1,000-acre farm. Felix and Sarah Armstrong, with their four children, later moved to Montana where her father, Felix, raised livestock on a ranch in Cascade County. He served several years as trustee of Perry Township. During his last year as trustee, he erected the Springville school building. The Armstrongs were members of the Christian Church.
John Galvin was a charter member of the local Knights of Columbus and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Francis Church, and the Pottawattamie County, Iowa State and American Bar associations. He died on Feb. 8, 1938, at age 79 and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery. The couple had no children.
After his death, Ione moved to the Oakland Court Apartments at 255 Oakland Avenue where she lived until her death on May 15, 1966. She is buried in Highland Cemetery, Great Falls, Montana.
Dan Sullivan was born in 1895 in Fairfield, Iowa. In 1917, he graduated from St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and came to Council Bluffs where he worked in John Galvin’s law office. Immediately after his graduation from the Creighton University Law School, he began his career with that firm and built a reputation as a prominent estate attorney. He was a member of St. Francis Church, Knights of Columbus, Holy Name Society, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Free Public Library board, Catholic Charities board, Elks and, at one time, the Social Welfare Board and the Southwest Iowa Council, Boy Scouts of America.
According to his obituary, Sullivan, age 58, died on May 7, 1948, after being confined to a hospital for 15 months. Survivors listed were his widow, Irma; son, Timothy, and daughter, Mary Ann (Mrs. John) Krettek. The funeral was held at St. Francis Xavier Church with burial in St. Joseph Cemetery.
Irma Egan was born in 1899 in Terre Haute, Indiana, and grew up in Fairfield. She came to Council Bluffs in 1908 and was a graduate of St. Francis Academy. She married Dan Sullivan on November 23, 1921. Their first home was at 601 S. Seventh St. After Galvin’s death, the Sullivans rented the 808 Seventh Ave. home. In 1948, they purchased the property from Ione Galvin. After Dan’s death in 1948, Irma lived in the Oakland Court Apartments. She worked as a receptionist at the State Bank and Trust and was a member of St. Patrick’s Church. She died in 1968 and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery.
Now apartments, the two-story Queen Anne house at 808 Seventh Ave. has two original entrances — one on the south side, one on the east. Notable features include a hipped roof, a two-story side gable, wraparound porch with what appear to be original porch posts and spindles under the roof, and original porch trim above each or the south and side entrances.
— Thanks for contributing to this article: Council Bluffs Public Library/Nonpareil Archives, the Pottawattamie County Auditor’s Office, Ancestry.com, and Annie Skrodzki.