Michael Hickey was one of my great-great-great grandfathers. He was born October 8, 1840 just outside Shawneetown in Gallatin County in southeast Illinois, on the banks of the Ohio River. Michael was the son of Michael and Mary Keane Hickey. He had one sister, Hanora, and family lore says that he had a brother, John (although no record of any brother has been located to date). Michael lost his mother sometime before his 10th birthday and his father died shortly thereafter in September 1856, before Michael turned 16. Michael’s father (Michael Sr.) had come to America from Ireland in 1839 and had settled in the small Catholic community of Pond Settlement in Gallatin County, Illinois, having received a Federal land grant of 120 acres.
Orphaned at age 16, Michael inherited his father’s farmland, but went to live with his uncle and neighbor, Patrick Keane. Hanora’s fate after 1856 is unknown. Patrick Keane operated a small one-room schoolhouse on his property, and likely provided his nephew with a proper Catholic education. Michael spent the next five years after his father died working a plow and possibly working in the salt mines of southern Gallatin County.