Reading #4
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The life of the Immigrant Irish in rural Southwestern Iowa

In order to understand how the Mullin Family came to merge with the Reagan Family, we must return to another story of an Irish matchmaker. Oral history states that there used to be advertisements in the Davenport newspaper touting "prosperous Irish farmers," living in Southwest Iowa . Somehow James Tomas Reagan, Sarah Catherine Reagan's older brother, wound up in Maloy , Iowa , married to a woman named Ida. Evidently Sarah Catherine journeyed to Maloy to visit her brother and met Dennis Edward Mullin (b. 1887 in Decatur County , Iowa ).

Dennis Edward Mullin married Sarah Catherine Reagan at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Davenport , Iowa ,  in 1915. Oral history states that Dennis married "Kate" after having met her only three times, as the journey from Maloy to Davenport was several hundred miles and took three days. Dennis and Kate returned to Maloy to farm, having four children.

Farmers throughout the Midwest experienced a depression which lasted from the end of the First World War until the beginning of the Second World War (Schwieder, 1996, p. 149). There were many causes, but encouragement of debt by the government to increase food production for the war effort and subsequent calling in of debt by the government have been identified as primary factors (Class Notes, Fall 2001). As a precursor to the upcoming Great Depression, Dennis and Kate lost their farm in 1925.

Thomas Mullin (b. 1916 in Ringgold County , Iowa ) spoke of his father, Dennis Edward, having speculated in the stock market. Also, Dennis raised herds of cattle which failed to bring prices worthy of the effort. Cost of production was a primary grievance of farm reformers before the New Deal (Class Notes, Fall 2001). Failing to achieve the cost of production plus an adequate living wage doomed Dennis and Kate Mullin to becoming just another statistic of the farm depression.

Why did they lose their farm? Tom Mullin spoke of his father, Dennis Edward, having speculated in the stock market. Whether or not this was the primary factor, it was not uncommon for families to have a bad crop and for banks to foreclose. Tom's brother, John Mullin, credits one of the Shay cousins, a banker in Taylor County , with having saved many family farms both before and during the Depression by extending credit where no one else was willing to take the risk. Whatever the cause, John Mullin states that Kate told Dennis she was moving to Davenport and he was welcome to come with her and the children if he wanted to (Mullin, J., 2001).