Brenans Lived On Cherry Street At Site Of Future Loveman's

Friday, March 2, 2018 - by John Wilson

Richard Valentine Brenan was a talented shoemaker, and he was an outspoken Chattanooga political and labor leader as well. Though he was born in 1822 in London, England, his parents were Irish and his allegiance was always to the Emerald Isle. The family returned from England to Ireland and the elder Brenan was a publisher. His newspaper was "devoted to the cause of the Irish people.''

Richard V. Brenan shipped aboard a merchantman when he was 12 and followed a seafaring life for five years. But he was "frightened ashore'' by the Great Storm of 1839.

In 1843 he married Ellen Berry, who had been born in Dublin in 1819. Her father was Irish and her mother was of French extraction. While living in Dublin, the Brenans had daughters Mary Elizabeth, Jane, Esther and Sarah. Jane died as an infant.

About 1849 Richard Brenan left the family to go to America with the plan of saving enough money to send for his family. Some of the neighbors told Ellen Brenan she would never hear from her husband again, but in 1852 she and the daughters made a stormy crossing of the Atlantic. Brenan had worked in New York, and he had pushed on to Cincinnati where his family caught up with him. A daughter, Harriet, was born there in 1854. The family later moved to Lexington, Ky., and Brenan established a boot and shoe shop on Lime Street. He was known as an expert craftsman in making boots for men and slippers and shoes for ladies. Brenan was able to acquire a race horse, Besterling, and to save enough money to send to his wife's sister so she could join them. While in Lexington, Richard, Mary Ellen and James Henry were born.

Brenan was opposed to slavery, and he once took a slave in payment and then released him. The slave worked for him, but was paid. Despite his feelings on slavery, he sympathized with the South when the war broke out. He helped General John Hunt Morgan's men steal guns from the armory of the state militia at Lexington. He narrowly escaped arrest and had to flee to Nashville, again leaving his family behind. After setting up another shoe shop, he sent money to Ellen by a messenger. The family was eating breakfast when he arrived, and the children remembered seeing their mother wipe tears from her eyes as she talked to the stranger. They left immediately, taking with them only the things they could wear or carry. Many cherished family items were left behind and never retrieved.
Meanwhile, a grandmother they had eagerly awaited from Ireland reached New York, but was not able to join them in the war-torn South. 

The Brenans were among the last passengers over the railroad between Lexington and Nashville before the tracks were torn up. At his shoe shop in Nashville, Brenan made boots for many officers and soldiers. He kept a book of footprints and measurements so he could fit them again and again. Brenan always insisted on being paid in gold, so the family fared well in the latter days of the war. But the outspoken Brenan almost got into more difficulties when he yelled "Hooray for Jeff Davis!'' as Union troops marched into town. Brenan also had a sense of humor, spreading the tale that a leprechaun had come over with him from Ireland. An "omniverous reader,'' his favorite author was
Charles Dickens.

About 1870 the Brenans moved to Chattanooga, and he set up a shoe shop and cigar manufacturing business. The shop faced Market Street and the Brenans lived in a house to the rear on Cherry. This was where Loveman's was later built.

Richard Brenan Jr. returned to Nashville and ran a shoe shop there. He married Mary McCormack.

The elder Brenan became president of the Greenback Club and he was a leader in the Knights of Labor. He was an effective stump speaker and he engaged in a series of debates with H. Clay Evans. Brenan in 1878 was elected city alderman for the 4th Ward, but the city attorney declared he could not take his seat due to a technicality in the balloting. Brenan remarked that the "clause respecting filling of seats on the board can be so constructed as to suit the ideas of those who desire their ideas carried out.''

Richard Brenan was living with his daughter, Mary Ellen, at East Ninth and Palmetto when he died in 1902 at the age of 80. He was remembered as "a thoroughly honest man in his convictions and in his dealing with his fellow man. He never hesitated to speak his mind in his own particular way, whenever called upon, on any and all questions.'' In his last days he told an interviewer, "Tell the people of Chattanooga for me that I have tried to live like an honest man and cherish the kindest feelings for every man, woman and child in this city and that I am tenderly reminded of many kindnesses done for me for which I am thankful and for which may God bless them all.'' Brenan had gone into a decline upon the death of his wife the previous year. They had been together 58 years.

Mary Elizabeth, his eldest daughter, married James Ryan, and they had 12 children. Esther married Thomas Duffy, and Sarah married Richard Henry Reid. Harriet married Charles Coyne. James Henry, the youngest of the Brenans, took over the cigar manufacturing facility. He married Elizabeth Mandre in 1890. Their daughter, Frances, was unmarried. Mary Ellen, the youngest daughter, married John W. "Jack'' Maycann, who was an expert stonemason and carver. He crafted some of the monuments at Chickamauga Park and worked on the Library of Congress in Washington. A daughter, Mary Helen (Mamie) entered the Dominican Order at St. Cecelia's in Nashville. John Anthony Maycann, son of John and Mary Ellen Maycann, married Berenice Wiggins. Their children included John Jr., William Lawrence, Mary Ellen who married Hynson Edwin Cole and Berenice who married James Martin Lane. Berenice Maycann Lane is a retired teacher and lives in East Brainerd.
Her children are James Jr., Cheryl who married Frederick Wright, Michael and Thomas.

Chester Martin: When The Hercules Came To Tennessee

PLEASE BE ADVISED that I was putting the finishing touches on this story when the recent fatal C-130 accident occurred at Savannah, Ga. That tragic event, however, does not in any way diminish my high opinion of the Hercules, as its reputation has long been established - and is likely to be sustained long into the future. My story, therefore, appears here "as written". Yes, I ... (click for more)

Browns Were Pioneers Of Waldens Ridge, Red Bank Sections

John Brown Sr. was "one of the original 765 white settlers of Hamilton County,'' acquiring large tracts on Walden's Ridge and building his homeplace near Soddy. Another pioneer was James Berry Brown, who occupied a beautiful hilly section north of the present Red Bank. Two of Berry Brown's descendants - G. Russell Brown and J.B. Brown - were educational standouts. George Willis ... (click for more)

State Seeking 1st-Degree Murder Conviction Against Donaldson For Killing Son-In-Law

The state is seeking a first-degree murder conviction against 57-year-old Glen Allen Donaldson for killed his son-in-law. Prosecutor Crystle Carrion told a jury in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole on Tuesday that there was no evidence that self-defense was involved in the slaying of Adam Levi, who was 39. However,attorney Jerry Summers said Donaldson said in a 911 call that ... (click for more)

City Budget Uses $36 Million From Various Reserve Funds

Daisy Madison, the city's chief financial officer, said the upcoming city budget uses $36 million from various reserve funds, including $11 million from the city's rainy day fund. The budget last year pulled $10 million from the rainy day fund. Ms. Madison told City Council members at a budget hearing she did not know exactly how much is remaining in the rainy day fund without ... (click for more)

Liberal Conspiracy Afoot

According to Roy Exum’s Sunday column, there are now upwards of six or seven Democrats in Hamilton County, and all of them have secretly maneuvered their way onto the boards of a couple of dozen local organizations. Unlike Republicans, some of them serve on multiple boards and some of them serve with one another on the same boards. This is outrageous. We all know that boards and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Is This Civil War II?

Jack Minzey, by all accounts, was a beloved professor at Eastern Michigan and, as the head of the university’s School of Education, wrote many books and papers. Some were on the Civil War – he was an avid student of our nation’s worst moment – and his beliefs how to better public education will be quoted for years. Dr. Minzey died at age 89 last month and just last week, the ... (click for more)