Biography of William A. Horan

Rev. William A. Horan, late pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, at Freeport, Ill., was born in Pierce township, DeKalb Co., Ill., on Feb. 2nd, 1851, and is the son of the late Patrick M. and Mary (Hanaghan) Horan.

Patrick M. Horan was a native of Ireland,, and was born in the year 1800. When a young man he removed to England, where he served in the British army. In 1839 he married Mary, a daughter of Malachy Hanaghan, of county Mayo, Ireland, their union resulting in the birth of twelve children, five of whom are still living. In 1849, in company with their parents and other members of their family, they emigrated to the United States intending to land at New Orleans, but on account of the cholera were not permitted to land but sent up the river and made the first landing at Beardstown, 111. They went directly to DeKalb, Ill., where the father-in-law purchased a tract of 160 acres of fertile farm land in the township of Pierce. Mr. Horan passed away in Aug., 1897, having survived his wife, Mary, twenty-four years.

William (our subject) attended the public schools of his native town and the High school at DeKalb, from which he graduated with honor, at the age of fifteen. During the following two years he remained at home on the farm, but, determining to fit himself for the priesthood, in 1868 he entered that celebrated institution of learning, the University of Niagara, Niagara, N. Y., where he spent six years in the study of Classics, and four in Theology. In 1877 he completed the University course, and on May 26th, of the same year he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Ryan, of Buffalo, N. Y., being then only twenty-five years of age, a fact which shows that Father Horan was possessed not only of unusually fine abilities as a scholar, but of a spirit of determination and of habits of close application; for the training of a Catholic Priest is very exacting, and requires, as a rule, many years of the hardest kind of mental exertion.

Father Horan’s first call was to St. James’ Catholic Church, in Chicago, as assistant pastor, under Father P. W. Reardon, the present Archbishop of San Francisco, Cal., where he remained until 1880. In that year he was made curate of St. Jarlath’s church of which the Cook County Hospital was a charge, where for three years he faithfully acquitted himself of the duties of his position, attended as it was by the lurking dangers which threaten to undermine the strongest constitution, his time being spent mostly amid the foul airs of the hospital, until at last, in 1883; he was compelled, through his thoroughly broken down condition, to resign his office as curate. After a brief rest, Father Horan accepted the pastorate of St. Thomas’ Catholic Church at Hyde Park, now a part of the city of Chicago. The parish also included the town of Auburn. During his pastorate there Father Horan raised funds and erected the St. Lawrence church at Grand Crossing, St. Leo’s church at Auburn, the school and Parochial residence at Hyde Park, and began the new Church of St. Thomas at Hyde Park. He also built a fine convent for the Sisters. At the very height of his success, in 1887, Father Horan was compelled, through his ill health, to relinquish his work and accept of a vacation. For three years he traveled in the United States, visiting first many of the more important cities of the South and West, and later, in the states bordering on the Great Lakes. In December, 1889, although still a sufferer, Father Horan returned to the labors of the church. In 1890 he became the pastor of St. Mary’s at Freeport, Ill., where within a few months his influence was manifested in his securing the sum of forty one thousand dollars, with which he built the new St. Mary’s church and parochial residence, and St. Mary’s school and convent in connection with the church.

Father Horan was beloved, not only by his congregation, but by every one with whom he carne in contact. His personality was such as to compel the respect and admiration of the entire community, and his good deeds extended far beyond the pale of the church. The esteem in which he was held is best evidenced by the following extract from one of the local papers: ” Next Tuesday evening the pupils of St. Mary’s school will observe the anniversary of the birth of their faithful pastor, Rev. Father Horan, by giving an entertainment, and they wish to give the proceeds to Father Horan as a personal gift. This is the first time St. Mary’s people have had a chance to prove their appreciation of their pastor’s value as a father and friend. We are sure they will gladly embrace this opportunity to make some slight return to him for his many self-sacrificing deeds in their behalf, so the children expect a large audience.

“The writer of this has been deeply impressed by Father Horan’s personal indifference to money as a possession, and still more by his generosity with his people, his parishioners and with their children. His contributions toward the payment of parish debts ran into the thousands; his interest in furthering the financial welfare of individual parishioners has always been unfailing; his influence in securing work for the parishioners out of employment has never been refused. Never have the people had a chance to make any personal return to him for his kindness and generosity. Of the hundreds of dollars taken in at the office and door of St. Mary’s hall each year not a dime has been taken for Father Horan’s personal needs. Everything has been for the parishioners and for their children. Nearly all of his salary is given to the church.” Father Horan has three brothers and one sister living: Michael, who fought in the Civil war from 1861 to ’65, and was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg; Kate, Thomas and Stephen. Father Horan died November 5th, 1899, and lies buried beneath the altar of St. Mary’s church, which is regarded as his monument, and an extended account of which finds a worthy place here.


Biography, Photo,

Fudwider, Addison L. History of Stephenson County, Illinois: a record of its settlement, organization, and three-quarters of a century of progress. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1910.

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