The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Creating Fiction from History: 8/17/2022


August 17, 2022

Grumpy Old Man... One could just imagine the comments like these that were very likely voiced, quietly of course, after his fellow tourists passed by. You almost couldn't blame them because the sour look Life had plastered on old Jonathan Kemp's face could almost have curdled milk.

Jonathan made his mark in this world in the late Spring of 1823. This may be his photograph, taken in the early summer of 1920; therefore, he had just passed the 97th year marker of his sojourn in this cold, cruel world.

Jonny was born to poor Irish immigrants in the small village of Clifden, County Galway, in the Connacht Province. Jonny was a very young man when the Great Famine hit those shores in 1845, though as the eldest son, he was still taking care of the family farm, as well as his aging parents, Jonathan and Sara.

When the famine hit their farm, which was in one of the areas hardest hit, the elder Jonathan and his ailing wife had foreseen the coming cataclysm and, unbeknownst to their eldest son, had scrimped and saved to provide for his passage to the Brave New World, the fairly newly formed United States of America.

Through much hardship, and the shedding of many a tear, the younger Jonathan was persuaded to leave both the farm and his parents, who were done fighting, to the Fates. He was 22, then, in the Spring of 1845, March 21st, to be exact, when Jonny embarked on the coffin ship Henry Clay for greener shores.

After a long and trying ocean voyage, the Grumpy Old Man

finally set foot on these greener shores which, he found, were not that much greener, after all.

For those who know the history of the Irish in America in the 19th & 20th centuries, garner your own image of what Jonathan's life was like. Maybe then, one might understand why this Grumpy Old Man was blessed with such a sour face. If anyone had cared to talk to old Jonathan Kemp, instead of judging a book by its cover, they might have found that he was really not such a grumpy old man after all.

If you would like to create fiction from history with one of the museum's photos, please contact the Ledger at (406) 287-5301 or email


Reader Comments(0)


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2023

Rendered 06/03/2023 00:12