THE IRISH IN THE UNITED STATES
By MICHAEL J. O’BRIEN,
Historiographer, American Irish Historical Society.
Students of early American history will find in the Colonial records abundant evidence to justify the statement of Ramsay, the historian of South Carolina, when he wrote in 1789, that:
“The Colonies which now form the United States may be considered as Europe transplanted. Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, and Italy furnished the original stock of the present population, and are generally supposed to have contributed to it in the order named. For the last seventy or eighty years, no nation has contributed so much to the population of America as Ireland.”
It will be astonishing to one who looks into the question to find that, in face of all the evidence that abounds in American annals, showing that our people were here on this soil fighting the battles of the colonists, and in a later day of the infant Republic, thus proving our claim to the gratitude of this nation, America has produced men so ignoble and disingenuous as to say that the Irish who were here in Revolutionary days “were for the most part heartily loyal,” that “the combatants were of the same race and blood”, and that the great uprising became, in fact, “a contest between brothers”!
Although many writers have made inquiries into this subject, nearly all have confined themselves to the period of the Revolution. We are of “the fighting race”, and in our enthusiasm for the fighting man the fact seems to have been overlooked that in other noble fields of endeavor, and in some respects infinitely more important, men of Irish blood have occupied prominent places in American history, for which they have received but scant recognition. The pioneers before whose hands the primeval forests fell prostrate; the builders, by whose magic touch have sprung into existence flourishing towns and cities, where once no sounds were heard save those of nature and her wildest offspring; the orators who roused the colonists into activity and showed them the way to achieve their independence; the schoolmasters who imparted to the American youth their first lessons in intellectuality and patriotism; all have their place in history, and of these we can claim that Ireland furnished her full quota to the American colonies.
It must now be accepted as an indisputable fact that a very large proportion of the earliest settlers in the American colonies were of Irish blood, for the Irish have been coming here since the beginning of the English colonization. It has been estimated by competent authorities that in the middle of the seventeenth century the English-speaking colonists numbered 50,000. Sir William Petty, the English statistician, tells us that during the decade from 1649 to 1659 the annual emigration from Ireland to the western continent was upwards of 6000, thus making, in that space of time, 60,000 souls, or about one-half of what the whole population must have been in 1659. And from 1659 to 1672 there emigrated from Ireland to America the yearly number of 3000 (Dobbs, on Irish Trade, Dublin, 1729). Prendergast, another noted authority, in the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, furnishes ample verification of this by the statistics which he quotes from the English records. Richard Hakluyt, the chronicler of the first Virginia expeditions, in his Voyages, Navigations, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1600), shows that Irishmen came with Raleigh to Virginia in 1587 and, in fact, the ubiquitous Celts were with Sir John Hawkins in his voyage to the Gulf of Mexico twenty years earlier. The famous work of John Camden Hotten, entitled “The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, Emigrants, Religious Exiles, Political Rebels, Serving Men sold for a term of years,” etc., who were brought to the Virginia plantations between 1600 and 1700, as well as his “List of the Livinge and the Dead in Virginia in 1623,” contains numerous Celtic names, and further evidence of these continuous migrations of the Irish is contained in “A Booke of Entrie for Passengers passing beyond the Seas”, in the year 1632. The Virginia records also show that as early as 1621 a colony of Irish people sailed from Cork in the Flying Harte under the patronage of Sir William Newce and located at what is now Newport News, and some few years later Daniel Gookin, a merchant of Cork, transported hither “great multitudes of people and cattle” from England and Ireland.
In the “William and Mary College Quarterly,” in the transcripts of the original records published by the Virginia Historical Society, and in all County histories of Virginia, there are numerous references to the Irish “redemptioners” who were brought to that colony during the seventeenth century. But the redemptioners were not the only class who came, for the colonial records also contain many references to Irishmen of good birth and education who received grants of land in the colony and who, in turn, induced many of their countrymen to emigrate. Planters named McCarty, Lynch, O’Neill, Sullivan, Farrell, McDonnell, O’Brien, and others denoting an ancient Irish lineage appear frequently in the early records. Much that is romantic is found in the lives of these men and their descendants. Some of them served in the Council chamber and the field, their sons and daughters were educated to hold place, with elegance and dignity, with the foremost of the Cavaliers, and when in after years the great conflict with England began, Virginians of Irish blood were among the first and the most eager to answer the call. Those historians who claim that the South was exclusively an “Anglo-Saxon” heritage would be completely disillusioned were they to examine the lists of Colonial and Revolutionary troops of Celtic name who held the Indians and the British at bay, and who helped in those “troublous times” to lay the foundations of a great Republic.
There is no portion of the Atlantic seaboard that did not profit by the Irish immigrations of the seventeenth century. We learn from the “Irish State Papers” of the year 1595 that ships were regularly plying between Ireland and Newfoundland, and so important was the trade between Ireland and the far-distant fishing banks that “all English ships bound out always made provisions that the convoy out should remain 48 hours in Cork.” In some of Lord Baltimore’s accounts of his voyages to Newfoundland he refers to his having “sailed from Ireland” and to his “return to Ireland,” and so it is highly probable that he settled Irishmen on his Avalon plantations. After Baltimore’s departure, Lord Falkland also sent out a number of Irish colonists, and “at a later date they were so largely reinforced by settlers from Ireland that the Celtic part of the population at this day is not far short of equality in numbers with the Saxon portion”–(Hatton and Harvey, History of Newfoundland, page 32). Pedley attributes the large proportion of Irishmen and the influence of the Catholics in Newfoundland to Lord Falkland’s company, and Prowse, in his History (pp. 200-201), refers to “the large number of Irishmen” in that colony who fled from Waterford and Cork “during the troubled times” which preceded the Williamite war (1688). Many of these in after years are known to have settled in New England.
But it was to Maryland and Pennsylvania that the greatest flow of Irish immigration directed its course. In the celebrated “Account of the Voyage to Maryland,” written in the year 1634 by Mutius Vitellestis, the general of the Jesuit Order, it is related that when the Arke and the Dove arrived in the West Indies in that year, they found “the island of Montserrat inhabited by a colony of Irishmen who had been banished from Virginia on account of their professing the Catholic faith.” It is known also that there were many families in Ireland of substance and good social standing who, at their own expense, took venture in the enterprise of Lord Baltimore and afterwards in that of William Penn, and who applied for and received grants of land, which, as the deeds on record show, were afterwards divided into farms bought and settled by O’Briens, McCarthys, O’Connors, and many others of the ancient Gaelic race, the descendants of those heroic men whose passion for liberty, while causing their ruin, inspired and impelled their sons to follow westward “the star of empire.”
After the first English colonies in Maryland were founded, we find in all the proclamations concerning these settlements by the proprietary government, that they were limited to “persons of British or Irish descent.” The religious liberty established in Maryland was the magnet which attracted Irish Catholics to that Province, and so they came in large numbers in search of peace and comfort and freedom from the turmoil produced by religious animosities in their native land. The major part of this Irish immigration seems to have come in through the ports of Philadelphia and Charleston and a portion through Chesapeake Bay, whence they passed on to Pennsylvania and the southern colonies.
The “Certificates of Land Grants” in Maryland show that it was customary for those Irish colonists to name their lands after places in their native country, and I find that there is hardly a town or city in the old Gaelic strongholds in Ireland that is not represented in the nomenclature of the early Maryland grants. One entire section of the Province, named the “County of New Ireland” by proclamation of Lord Baltimore in the year 1684, was occupied wholly by Irish families. This section is now embraced in Cecil and Harford Counties. New Ireland County was divided into three parts, known as New Connaught, New Munster, and New Leinster. New Connaught was founded by George Talbot from Roscommon, who was surveyor-general of the Province; New Munster, by Edward O’Dwyer from Tipperary; and New Leinster, by Bryan O’Daly from Wicklow, all of whom were in Maryland prior to 1683. Among the prominent men in the Province may be mentioned Charles O’Carroll, who was secretary to the proprietor; John Hart from county Cavan, who was governor of Maryland from 1714 to 1720; Phillip Conner from Kerry, known in history as the “Last Commander of Old Kent”; Daniel Dulany of the O’Delaney family from Queen’s County, one of the most famous lawyers in the American Colonies; Michael Tawney or Taney, ancestor of the celebrated judge, Roger Brooke Taney; the Courseys from Cork, one of the oldest families in the State; the Kings from Dublin; and many others.
The only place in the State bearing a genuine Irish name which has reached any prominence is Baltimore. Not alone has the “Monumental City” received its name from Ireland, but the tract of land on which the city is now situate was originally named (in 1695) “Ely O’Carroll,” after the barony of that name in King’s and Tipperary counties, the ancient home of the Clan O’Carroll. To subdivisions of the tract were given such names as Dublin, Waterford, Tralee, Raphoe, Tramore, Mallow, Kinsale, Lurgan, Coleraine, Tipperary, Antrim, Belfast, Derry, Kildare, Enniskillen, Wexford, Letterkenny, Lifford, Birr, Galway, Limerick, and so on, all indicating the nationality of the patentees, as well as the places from which they came.
From such sources is the evidence available of the coming of the Irish to Maryland in large numbers, and so it is that we are not surprised to find on the rosters of the Maryland Revolutionary regiments 4633 distinctive Irish names, exclusive of the large numbers who joined the navy and the militia, as well as those who were held to guard the frontier from Indian raids, whose names are not on record. However, it is not possible now to determine the proportion of the Revolutionary soldiers who were of Irish birth or descent, for where the nationality is not stated in the rosters all non-Irish names must be left out of the reckoning. The first census of Maryland (1790), published by the United States Government, enumerates the names of all “Heads of Families” and the number of persons in each family. A count of the Irish names shows approximately 21,000 persons. This does not take into account the great number of people who could not be recorded under that head, as it is known there were many thousand Irish “redemptioners” in Maryland prior to the taking of the census, and while no precise data exist to indicate the number of Irish immigrants who settled in Maryland, I estimate that the number of people of Irish descent in the State in 1790 was not far short of 40,000.
* * * * *
The Land Records and Council Journals of Georgia of the last half of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century afford like testimony to the presence of the Irish, who crossed the sea and colonized the waste places of that wild territory, and whose descendants in after years contributed much of the strength of the patriot forces who confronted the armed cohorts of Carleton and Cornwallis. From the Colonial Records of Georgia, published under the auspices of the State Legislature, I have extracted a long list of people of Irish name and blood who received grants of land in that colony. They came with Oglethorpe as early as 1735 and continued to arrive for many years. It was an Irishman named Mitchell who laid out the site of Atlanta, the metropolis of the South; an O’Brien founded the city of Augusta; and a McCormick named the city of Dublin, Georgia.
* * * * *
From the records of the Carolinas we obtain similar data, many of an absorbingly interesting character, and the number of places in that section bearing names of a decidedly Celtic flavor is striking evidence of the presence of Irish people, the line of whose settlements across the whole State of North Carolina may be traced on the high roads leading from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Hawk, one of the historians of North Carolina, refers to the “Irish Romanists” who were resident in that Province as early as 1700, and Williamson says that “the most numerous settlers in the northwestern part of the Province during the first half of the eighteenth century were from Ireland.” The manuscript records in the office of the Secretary of State refer to “a ship load of immigrants” who, in the year 1761, came to the Carolinas from Dublin. The names of the Irish pioneers in the Carolinas are found in every conceivable connection, in the parochial and court records, in the will books, in the minutes of the general Assembly, in the quaint old records of the Land and Registers’ offices, in the patents granted by the colonial Government, and in sundry other official records. In public affairs they seem to have had the same adaptability for politics which, among other things, has in later days brought their countrymen into prominence. Florence O’Sullivan from Kerry was surveyor-general of South Carolina in 1671. James Moore, a native of Ireland and a descendant of the famous Irish chieftain, Rory O’More, was governor of South Carolina in 1700; Matthew Rowan from Carrickfergus was president of the North Carolina Council during the term of office of his townsman, Governor Arthur Dobbs (1754 to 1764); John Connor was attorney-general of the Province in 1730, and was succeeded in turn by David O’Sheall and Thomas McGuire. Cornelius Hartnett, Hugh Waddell, and Terence Sweeny, all Irishmen, were members of the Court, and among the members of the provincial assembly I find such names as Murphy, Leary, Kearney, McLewean, Dunn, Keenan, McManus, Ryan, Bourke, Logan, and others showing an Irish origin. And, in this connection, we must not overlook Thomas Burke, a native of “the City of the Tribes”, distinguished as lawyer, soldier, and statesman, who became governor of North Carolina in 1781, as did his cousin Aedanus Burke, also from Galway, who was judge of the Supreme Court of South Carolina in 1778. John Rutledge, son of Dr. John Rutledge from Ireland, was governor of South Carolina in 1776 and his brother Edward became governor of the State in 1788.
But there were Irishmen in the Carolinas long before the advent of these, and indeed Irish names are found occasionally as far back as the records of those colonies reach. They are scattered profusely through the will books and records of deeds as early as 1676 and down to the end of the century, and in a list of immigrants from Barbados in the year 1678, quoted by John Camden Hotten in the work already alluded to, we find about 120 persons of Irish name who settled in the Carolinas in that year. In 1719, 500 persons from Ireland transported themselves to Carolina to take the benefit of an Act passed by the Assembly by which the lands of the Yemmassee Indians were thrown open to settlers, and Ramsay (History of South Carolina, vol. I, page 20) says: “Of all countries none has furnished the Province with so many inhabitants as Ireland.”
* * * * *
In the Pennsylvania records one is also struck with the very frequent mention of Irish names. William Penn had lived in Ireland for several years and was acquainted with the sturdy character of its people, and when he arrived on board The Welcome in 1682 he had with him a number of Irishmen, who are described as “people of property and people of consequence.” In 1699 he brought over a brilliant young Irishman, James Logan from Lurgan, who for nearly half a century occupied a leading position in the Province and for some time was its governor. But the first Irish immigration to Pennsylvania of any numerical importance came in the year 1717. They settled in Lancaster County. “They and their descendants,” says Rupp, an impartial historian, “have always been justly regarded as among the most intelligent people in the County and their progress will be found to be but little behind the boasted efforts of the Colony of Plymouth.” In 1727, as the records show, 1155 Irish people arrived in Philadelphia and in 1728 the number reached the high total of 5600. “It looks as if Ireland is to send all her inhabitants hither,” wrote Secretary Logan to the provincial proprietors in 1729, “for last week not less than six ships arrived. The common fear is that if they continue to come they will make themselves proprietors of the Province” (Rupp’s History of Dauphin County).
The continuous stream of Irish immigration was viewed with so much alarm by the Legislature, that in 1728 a law was passed “against these crowds of Irish papists and convicts who are yearly powr’d upon us”–(the “convicts” being the political refugees who fled from the persecutions of the English Government!). But the operations of this statute were wholly nullified by the captains of the vessels landing their passengers at Newcastle, Del., and Burlington, N, J., and, as one instance of this, I find in the Philadelphia American Weekly Mercury of August 14, 1729, a statement to this effect: “It is reported from Newcastle that there arrived there this last week about 2000 Irish and an abundance more daily expected.” This expectation was realized, for according to “An Account of Passengers and Servants landed in Philadelphia between December 25, 1728, and December 25, 1729”, which I find in the New England Weekly Journal for March 30, 1730, the number of Irish who came in via the Delaware river in that year was 5655, while the total number of all other Europeans who arrived during the same period was only 553. Holmes, in his Annals of America, corroborates this. The Philadelphia newspapers down to the year 1741 also contained many similar references, indicating that the flood of Irish immigration was unceasing and that it was at all times in excess of that from other European countries. Later issues of the Mercury also published accounts of the number of ships from Ireland which arrived in the Delaware, and from these it appears that from 1735 to 1738 “66 vessels entered Philadelphia from Ireland and 50 cleared thereto.” And in the New York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy of the years 1750 to 1752, I find under the caption, “Vessels Registered at the Philadelphia Custom House,” a total of 183 ships destined from or to Ireland, or an average of five sailings per month between Irish ports and the port of Philadelphia alone. A careful search fails to disclose any record of the number of persons who came in these ships, but, from the fact that it is stated that all carried passengers as well as merchandise from Irish ports, we may safely assume that the “human freight” must have been very large.
Spencer, in his History of the United States, says: “In the years 1771 and 1772 the number of emigrants to America from Ireland was 17,350, almost all of whom emigrated at their own expense. A great majority of them consisted of persons employed in the linen manufacture or farmers possessed of some property, which they converted into money and brought with them. Within the first fortnight of August, 1773, there arrived at Philadelphia 3500 immigrants from Ireland. As most of the emigrants, particularly those from Ireland and Scotland, were personally discontent with their treatment in Europe, their accession to the colonial population, it might reasonably be supposed, had no tendency to diminish or counteract the hostile sentiments toward Britain which were daily gathering force in America.” Marmion, in his Ancient and Modern History of the Maritime Ports of Ireland, verifies this. He says that the number of Irish who came during the years 1771, 1772, and 1773 was 25,000. The bulk of these came in by way of Philadelphia and settled in Pennsylvania and the Virginias.
The Irish were arriving in the Province in such great numbers during this period as to be the cause of considerable jealousy on the part of other settlers from continental Europe. They were a vigorous and aggressive element. Eager for that freedom which was denied them at home, large numbers of them went out on the frontier. While the war-whoop of the savage still echoed within the surrounding valleys and his council fires blazed upon the hills, those daring adventurers penetrated the hitherto pathless wilderness and passed through unexampled hardships with heroic endurance. They opened up the roads, bridged the streams, and cut down the forests, turning the wilderness into a place fit for man’s abode. With their sturdy sons, they constituted the skirmish line of civilization, standing as a bulwark against Indian incursions into the more prosperous and populous settlements between them and the coast. From 1740 down to the period of the Revolution, hardly a year passed without a fresh infusion of Irish blood into the existing population, and, as an indication that they distributed themselves all over the Province, I find, in every Town and County history of Pennsylvania and in the land records of every section, Irish names in the greatest profusion. They settled in great numbers chiefly along the Susquehanna and its tributaries; they laid out many prosperous settlements in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, and in these sections Irishmen are seen occupying some of the foremost and most coveted positions, and their sons in after years contributed much to the power and commercial greatness of the Commonwealth. They are mentioned prominently as manufacturers, merchants, and farmers, and in the professions they occupied a place second to none among the natives of the State. In several sections, they were numerous enough to establish their own independent settlements, to which they gave the names of their Irish home places, several of which are preserved to this day. It is not to be wondered at then that General Harry Lee named the Pennsylvania line of the Continental army, “the Line of Ireland”!
Ireland gave many eminent men to the Commonwealth, among whom may be mentioned: John Burns, its first governor after the adoption of the Constitution, who was born in Dublin; George Bryan, also a native of Dublin, who was its governor in 1788; James O’Hara, one of the founders of Pittsburgh; Thomas FitzSimmons, a native of Limerick, member of the first Congress under the Constitution which began the United States Government and father of the policy of protection to American industries; Matthew Carey from Dublin, the famous political economist; and many others who were prominent as nation-builders in the early days of the “Keystone State.”
* * * * *
While the historians usually give all the credit to England and to Englishmen for the early colonization of New England, whose results have been attended with such important consequences to America and the civilized world, Ireland and her sons can also claim a large part in the development of this territory, as is evidenced by the town, land, church, and other colonial records, and the names of the pioneers, as well as the names given to several of the early settlements. That the Irish had been coming to New England almost from the beginning of the English colonization is indicated by an “Order” entered in the Massachusetts record under date of September 25, 1634, granting liberty to “the Scottishe and Irishe gentlemen who intend to come hither, to sitt down in any place upp Merimacke river.” This, doubtless, referred to a Scotch and Irish company which, about that time, had announced its intention of founding a settlement on the Merrimac. It comprised in all 140 passengers, who embarked in the Eagle Wing, from Carrickfergus in September, 1636, bringing with them a considerable quantity of equipment and merchandise to meet the exigencies of their settlement in the new country. The vessel, however, never reached its destination and was obliged to return to Ireland on account of the Atlantic storms, and there is no record of a renewal of the attempt. In the Massachusetts records of the year 1640 (vol. I, p. 295) is another entry relating to “the persons come from Ireland,” and in the Town Books of Boston may be seen references to Irishmen who were residents of the town in that year.
From local histories, which in many cases are but verbatim copies of the original entries in the Town Books, we get occasional glimpses of the Irish who were in the colony of Massachusetts Bay between this period and the end of the century. For example, between 1640 and 1660, such names as O’Neill, Sexton, Gibbons, Lynch, Keeney, Kelly, and Hogan appear on the Town records of Hartford, and one of the first schoolmasters who taught the children of the Puritans in New Haven was an Irishman named William Collins, who, in the year 1640, came there with a number of Irish refugees from Barbados Island. An Irishman named Joseph Collins with his wife and family came to Lynn, Mass., in 1635. Richard Duffy and Matthias Curran were at Ipswich in 1633. John Kelly came to Newbury in 1635 with the first English settlers of the town. David O’Killia (or O’Kelly) was a resident of Old Yarmouth in 1657, and I find on various records of that section a great number of people named Kelley, who probably were descended from David O’Killia. Peter O’Kelly and his family are mentioned as of Dorchester in 1696. At Springfield in 1656 there were families named Riley and O’Dea; and Richard Burke, said to be of the Mayo family of that name, is mentioned prominently in Middlesex County as early as 1670. The first legal instrument of record in Hampden County was a deed of conveyance in the year 1683 to one Patrick Riley of lands in Chicopee. With a number of his countrymen, Riley located in this vicinity and gave the name of “Ireland Parish” to their settlement. John Molooney and Daniel MacGuinnes were at Woburn in 1676, and Michael Bacon, “an Irishman”, of Woburn, fought in King Philip’s war in 1675. John Joyce was at Lynn in 1637, and I find the names of Willyam Heally, William Reyle, William Barrett, and Roger Burke signed to a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts on August 17, 1664. Such names as Maccarty, Gleason, Coggan, Lawler, Kelly, Hurley, MackQuade, and McCleary also appear on the Cambridge Church records down to 1690. These are but desultory instances of the first comers among the Irish to Massachusetts, selected from a great mass of similar data.
In the early history of every town in Massachusetts, without exception, I find mention of Irish people, and while the majority came originally as “poor redemptioners”, yet, in course of time and despite Puritanical prejudices, not a few of them rose to positions of worth and independence. Perhaps the most noted of these was Matthew Lyon of Vermont, known as “the Hampden of Congress,” who, on his arrival in New York in 1765, was sold as a “redemptioner” to pay his passage-money. This distinguished American was a native of county Wicklow. Other notable examples of Irish redemptioners who attained eminence in America were George Taylor, a native of Dublin, one of Pennsylvania’s signers of the Declaration of Independence; Charles Thompson, a native of county Tyrone, “the perennial Secretary of the Continental Congress”, and William Killen, who became chief justice and chancellor of Delaware. Some of the descendants of the Irish redemptioners in Massachusetts are found among the prominent New Englanders of the past hundred years. The Puritans of Massachusetts extended no welcoming hand to the Irish who had the temerity to come among them, yet, as an historical writer has truly said, “by one of those strange transformations which time occasionally works, it has come to pass that Massachusetts today contains more people of Irish blood in proportion to the total population than any other State in the Union.”
So great and so continuous was Irish immigration to Massachusetts during the early part of the eighteenth century that on Saint Patrick’s Day in the year 1737 a number of merchants, who described themselves as “of the Irish Nation residing in Boston,” formed the Charitable Irish Society, an organization which exists even to the present day. It was provided that the officers should be “natives of Ireland or of Irish extraction,” and they announced that the Society was organized “in an affectionate and Compassionate concern for their countrymen in these Parts who may be reduced by Sickness, Shipwrack, Old Age, and other Infirmities and unforeseen Accidents.” I have copied from the Town Books, as reproduced by the City of Boston, 1600 Irish names of persons who were married or had declared their intentions of marriage in Boston between the years 1710 and 1790, exclusive of 956 other Irish names which appear on the minutes between 1720 and 1775.
In 1718, one of the largest single colonies of Irish arrived in Boston. It consisted of one hundred families, who settled at different places in Massachusetts. One contingent, headed by Edward Fitzgerald, located at Worcester and another at Palmer under the leadership of Robert Farrell, while a number went to the already established settlement at Londonderry, N.H. About the same time a colony of fishermen from the west coast of Ireland settled on the Cape Cod peninsula, and I find a number of them recorded on the marriage registers of the towns in this vicinity between 1719 and 1743. In 1720, a number of families from county Tyrone came to Shrewsbury, and eight years later another large contingent came to Leicester County from the same neighborhood, who gave the name of Dublin to the section where they located. The annals of Leicester County are rich in Irish names. On the Town Books of various places in this vicinity and on the rosters of the troops enrolled for the Indian war, Irishmen are recorded, and we learn from the records that not a few of them were important and useful men, active in the development of the settlements, and often chosen as selectmen or representatives. On the minutes of the meetings of the selectmen of Pelham, Spencer, Sutton, Charlestown, Canton, Scituate, Stoughton, Salem, Amesbury, Stoneham, and other Massachusetts towns, Irish names are recorded many years before the Revolution. In local histories these people are usually called “Scotch-Irish,” a racial misnomer that has been very much overworked by a certain class of historical writers who seem to be unable to understand that a non-Catholic native of Ireland can be an Irishman. In an exhaustive study of American history, I cannot find any other race where such a distinction is drawn as in the case of the non-Catholic, or so-called “Scotch,” Irish. In many instances, this hybrid racial designation obviously springs from prejudice and a desire to withhold from Ireland any credit that may belong to her, although, in some cases, the writers are genuinely mistaken in their belief that the Scotch as a race are the antithesis of the Irish and that whatever commendable qualities the non-Catholic Irish are possessed of naturally spring from the Scotch.
* * * * *
The first recorded Irish settlement in Maine was made by families named Kelly and Haley from Galway, who located on the Isles of Shoals about the year 1653. In 1692, Roger Kelly was a representative from the Isles to the General Court of Massachusetts, and is described in local annals as “King of the Isles.” The large number of islands, bays, and promontories on the Maine coast bearing distinctive Celtic names attests the presence and influence of Irish people in this section in colonial times. In 1720, Robert Temple from Cork brought to Maine five shiploads of people, mostly from the province of Munster. They landed at the junction of the Kennebec and Eastern rivers, where they established the town of Cork, which, however, after a precarious existence of only six years, was entirely destroyed by the Indians. For nearly a century the place was familiarly known to the residents of the locality as “Ireland.” The records of York, Lincoln, and Cumberland counties contain references to large numbers of Irish people who settled in those localities during the early years of the eighteenth century. The Town Books of Georgetown, Kirtery, and Kennebunkport, of the period 1740 to 1775, are especially rich in Irish names, and in the Saco Valley numerous settlements were made by Irish immigrants, not a few of whom are referred to by local historians as “men of wealth and social standing.” In the marriage and other records of Limerick, Me., as published by the Maine Historical and Genealogical Recorder, in the marriage registers of the First Congregational Church of Scarborough, and in other similarly unquestionable records, I find a surprisingly large number of Irish names at various periods during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In fact, there is not one town in the Province that did not have its quota of Irish people, who came either direct from Ireland or migrated from other sections of New England.
* * * * *
The records of New Hampshire and Rhode Island are also a fruitful source of information on this subject, and the Provincial papers indicate an almost unbroken tide of Irish immigration to this section, beginning as early as the year 1640. One of the most noted of Exeter’s pioneer settlers was an Irishman named Darby Field, who came to that place in 1631 and who has been credited by Governor Winthrop as “the first European who witnessed the White Mountains.” He is also recorded as “an Irish soldier for discovery,” and I find his name in the annals of Exeter as one of the grantees of an Indian deed dated April 3, 1638, as well as several other Irish names down to the year 1664. In examining the town registers, gazeteers, and genealogies, as well as the local histories of New Hampshire, in which are embodied copies of the original entries made by the Town Clerks, I find numerous references to the Irish pioneers, and in many instances they are written down, among others, as “the first settlers.” Some are mentioned as selectmen, town clerks, representatives, or colonial soldiers, and it is indeed remarkable that there is not one of these authorities that I have examined, out of more than two hundred, that does not contain Irish names. From these Irish pioneers sprang many men who attained prominence in New Hampshire, in the legislature, the professions, the military, the arts and crafts, and in all departments of civil life, down to the present time. In the marriage registers of Portsmouth, Boscawen, New Boston, Antrim, Londonderry, and other New Hampshire towns, are recorded, in some cases as early as 1716, names of Irish persons, with the places of their nativity, indicating that they came from all parts of Ireland. At Hampton, I find Humphrey Sullivan teaching school in 1714, while the name of John Sullivan from Limerick, schoolmaster at Dover and at Berwick, Me., for upwards of fifty years, is one of the most honored in early New Hampshire history.
This John Sullivan was surely one of the grandest characters in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, and the record of his descendants serves as an all-sufficient reply to the anti-Irish prejudices of some American historians. He was the father of a governor of New Hampshire and of a governor of Massachusetts; of an attorney-general of New Hampshire and of an attorney-general of Massachusetts; of New Hampshire’s only major-general in the Continental army; of the first judge appointed by Washington in New Hampshire; and of four sons who were officers in the Continental army. He was grandfather of an attorney-general of New Hampshire, of a governor of Maine, and of a United States Senator from New Hampshire. He was great-grandfather of an attorney-general of New Hampshire, and great-great-grandfather of an officer in the Thirteenth New Hampshire regiment in the Civil War.
* * * * *
In Rhode Island, Irish people are on record as far back as 1640, and for many years after that date they continued to come. Edward Larkin was an esteemed citizen of Newport in 1655. Charles McCarthy was one of the founders of the town of East Greenwich in 1677, while in this vicinity as early as 1680 are found such names as Casey, Higgins, Magennis, Kelley, Murphy, Reylie, Maloney, Healy, Delaney, Walsh, and others of Irish origin. On the rosters of the Colonial militia who fought in King Philip’s war (1675) are found the names of 110 soldiers of Irish birth or descent, some of whom, for their services at the battle of Narragansett, received grants of land in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register for 1848 contains some remarkable testimony of the sympathy of the people of Ireland for the sufferers in this cruel war, and the “Irish Donation,” sent out from Dublin in the year 1676, will always stand in history to Ireland’s credit and as an instance of her intimate familiarity with American affairs, one hundred years prior to that Revolution which emancipated the people of this land from the same tyranny under which she herself has groaned. And yet, what a cruel travesty on history it reads like now, when we scan the official records of the New England colonies and find that the Irish were often called “convicts”, and it was thought that measures should be taken to prevent their landing on the soil where they and their sons afterwards shed their blood in the cause of their fellow colonists! In the minutes of the provincial Assemblies and in the reports rendered to the General Court, as well as in other official documents of the period, are found expressions of the sentiment which prevailed against the natives of the “Island of Sorrows.” Only twenty years before the outbreak of King Philip’s war, the government of England was asked to provide a law “to prevent the importation of Irish Papists and convicts that are yearly pow’rd upon us and to make provision against the growth of this pernicious evil.” And the colonial Courts themselves, on account of what they called “the cruel and malignant spirit that has from time to time been manifest in the Irish nation against the English nation,” prohibited “the bringing over of any Irish men, women, or children into this jurisdiction on the penalty of fifty pounds sterling to each inhabitant who shall buy of any merchant, shipmaster, or other agent any such person or persons so transported by them.” This order was promulgated by the General Court of Massachusetts in October, 1654, and is given in full in the American Historical Review for October, 1896.
With the “convicts” and the “redemptioners” came the Irish schoolmaster, the man then most needed in America. And the fighting man, he too was to the fore, for when the colonies in after years called for volunteers to resist the tyranny of the British, the descendants of the Irish “convicts” were among the first and the most eager to answer the call.
* * * * *
Although it does not appear that Irish immigrants settled in the Province of New York in such large numbers as in other sections, yet, as far back as the third quarter of the seventeenth century, Irish names are found on the records of the Colony. O’Callaghan, the eminent archivist and historian, refers to “Dr. William Hayes, formerly of Barry’s Court, Ireland,” as one of New York’s physicians in the year 1647, and from the same authority we learn that there were “settlers and Indian fighters in New Netherland” named Barrett, Fitzgerald, Dowdall, Collins, and Quinn in 1657. In records relating to the war with the Esopus Indians (1663), and in fact as early as 1658, frequent references are made to “Thomas the Irishman”, whose name was Thomas Lewis, a refugee from Ireland to Holland after the Cromwellian war. Lewis is on record in 1683 as one of the wealthiest merchants of New York and a large owner of real estate in the present downtown portion of the city. Such names as Patrick Hayes, John Daly, John Quigly, and Dennis McKarty appear among its business men between 1666 and 1672, and in a “Census of the City of New York of the year 1703” we find people named Flynn, Walsh, Dooley, Gillen, Carroll, Kenne, Gurney, Hart, Mooney, Moran, Lynch, Kearney, and others, all “Freemen of the City of New York.” In the “Poll List” of the city from 1741 to 1761, more than one hundred such names appear, while among the advertisers in the New York newspapers all through the eighteenth century I find a large number of characteristic Irish names.
One would scarcely expect to find an Irishman in the old Dutch settlement of Beverwyck as early as 1645. Yet such is the case, for “Jan Andriessen, de Iersman van Dublingh”–(John Anderson, the Irishman from Dublin)–is mentioned as the owner of considerable landed property in the neighborhood of Albany and Catskill, and in every mention of this ancient pioneer he is referred to as “the Irishman.” At Albany, between 1666 and 1690, we find people named Connell, Daly, Larkin, Shaw, Hogan, and Finn, all Irishmen, and in Jonathan Pearson’s “Genealogies of the First Settlers of the Ancient County of Albany” and in his “Genealogies of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady”, I find 135 distinctive Irish names. These were mostly merchants, farmers, artisans, millers, and backwoodsmen, the pioneers, who, with their Dutch neighbors, blazed the trail of civilization through that section, rolled back the savage redman, and marked along the banks of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers the sites of future towns and cities. In the rate lists of Long Island between 1638 and 1675, I find Kelly, Dalton, Whelan, Condon, Barry, Powers, Quin, Kane, Sweeney, Murphy, Reilly, as well as Norman-Irish and Anglo-Irish names that are common to Irish nomenclature. Hugh O’Neale was a prominent resident of Newtown, L.I., in 1655. In a “Report to the Lord President,” dated September 6, 1687, Governor Dongan recommended “that natives of Ireland be sent to colonize here where they may live and be very happy.” Numbers of them evidently accepted the invitation, for many Irishmen are mentioned in the public documents of the Province during the succeeding twenty years.
That the Irish continued to settle in the Province all through the eighteenth century may be seen from the announcements in the New York newspapers of the time and other authentic records. The most important of these, in point of numbers and character of the immigrants, were those made in Orange County in 1729 under the leadership of James Clinton from Longford, and at Cherry Valley, in Otsego County, twelve years later. On the Orange County assessment and Revolutionary rolls, and down to the year 1800, there is a very large number of Irish names, and in some sections they constituted nearly the entire population. In the northwestern part of New York, Irishmen are also found about the time of the Franco-English war. They were not only among those settlers who followed the peaceful pursuits of tilling and building, but they were “the men behind the guns” who held the marauding Indians in check and repelled the advances of the French through that territory. In this war, Irish soldiers fought on both sides, and in the “Journals of the Marquis of Montcalm” may be seen references to the English garrison at Oswego, which, in August, 1756, surrendered to that same Irish Brigade by which they had been defeated eleven years before on the battlefield of Fontenoy. In the “Manuscripts of Sir William Johnson”, are also found some interesting items indicating that Irishmen were active participants in the frontier fighting about that time, and in one report to him, dated May 28, 1756, from the commandant of an English regiment, reference is made to “the great numbers of Irish Papists among the Delaware and Susquehanna Indians who have done a world of prejudice to English interests.”
The early records, with hardly an exception, contain Irish names, showing that the “Exiles from Erin” came to the Province of New York in considerable numbers during the eighteenth century. The baptismal and marriage records of the Dutch Reformed and Protestant churches of New York City; of the Dutch churches at Kingston, Albany, Schenectady, and other towns; the muster rolls of the troops enrolled for the French, Indian, and Revolutionary wars; the Land Grants and other provincial records at Albany; the newspapers; the Town, County, and family histories, and other early chronicles, supplemented by authoritative publications such as those of the New York Historical and Genealogical and Biographical Societies–these are the depositories of the evidence that thousands of Irish people settled in the Province of New York and constituted no inconsiderable proportion of the total population.
The majority of the Irish residents of New York whose marriages are recorded in the Dutch Reformed church were, doubtless, of the Catholic faith, but, as it was necessary to comply with the established law, and also so that their offspring might be legitimate, they could be bound in wedlock only by a recognized Minister of the Gospel. As there was no Catholic church in New York prior to 1786, the ceremony had to be performed in the Dutch Reformed or Protestant church. Many of these Catholics were refugees from Ireland on account of the religious persecutions. Like the people of Ireland in all ages, they were devoted to their religion, and while, no doubt, they eschewed for a while association with the established churches, yet, as time went on, they and their children were gradually drawn into religious intercourse with the other sects, until eventually they became regular communicants of those churches. The variations which from time to time were wrought in their names brought them further and further away from what they had been; in their new surroundings, both social and religious, they themselves changed, so that their children, who in many cases married into the neighboring Dutch and French families, became as wholly un-Irish in manner and sentiment as if they had sprung from an entirely different race. That fact, however, does not admit of their being now included in the category “Anglo-Saxon.”
In a work entitled “Names of Persons for whom Marriage Licenses were issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, previous to 1784,” compiled by Gideon J. Tucker (when Secretary of State), and taken from the early records of the office of the Secretary of State at Albany, we find ample corroboration of the church records. Page after page of this book looks more like some record of the Province of Munster than of the Province of New York. It is a quarto volume printed in small type in double columns, and there are eleven pages wholly devoted to persons whose names commence with “Mac” and three to the “O’s.” Nearly every name common to Ireland is here represented.
New York, as a Province and as a State, is much indebted to Irish genius. Ireland gave the Province its most noted governor in the person of Thomas Dongan from Co. Kildare, and in later years Sir William Johnson from Co. Meath, governor of the Indians from New York to the Mississippi. It gave the State its first governor, George Clinton, son of an immigrant from Co. Longford, and to the city its first mayor after the Revolution, James Duane, son of Anthony Duane from Co. Galway. Fulton, an Irishman’s son, gave America priority in the “conquest of the seas.” Christopher Colles, a native of Cork, was the originator of the grand scheme which united the waters of the Atlantic and the Lakes–one of the greatest works of internal improvement ever effected in the United States–while the gigantic project was carried to a successful end through the influence and direction of Governor DeWitt Clinton, the grandson of an Irishman.
* * * * *
Many of the pioneer settlers of New Jersey were Irish. As early as 1683 “a colony from Tipperary in Ireland” located at Cohansey in Salem County, and in the same year a number of settlers, also described as “from Tipperary, Ireland,” located in Monmouth County. In the County records of New Jersey, Irish names are met with frequently between the years 1676 and 1698. Several of the local historians testify to the presence and influence of Irishmen in the early days of the colony, and in the voluminous “New Jersey Archives” may be found references to the large numbers of Irish “redemptioners,” some of whom, after their terms of service had expired, received grants of land and in time became prosperous farmers and merchants. Perhaps the most noted Irishman in New Jersey in colonial days was Michael Kearney, a native of Cork and ancestor of General Philip Kearney of Civil War fame, who was secretary and treasurer of the Province in 1723.
* * * * *
All through the west and southwest, Irishmen are found in the earliest days of authentic history. Along the Ohio, Kentucky, Wabash, and Tennessee rivers they were with the pioneers who first trod the wilderness of that vast territory. As early as 1690, an Irish trader named Doherty crossed the mountains into what is now Kentucky, and we are told by Filson, the noted French historian and explorer of Kentucky, that “the first white man who discovered this region” (1754) was one James McBride, who, in all probability, was an Irishman. The first white child born in Cincinnati was a son of an Irish settler named John Cummins; the first house built on its site was erected by Captain Hugh McGarry, while “the McGarrys, Dentons, and Hogans formed the first domestic circle in Kentucky.” Prior to the Revolution, Indian traders from Western Pennsylvania had penetrated into this region, and we learn from authentic sources that no small percentage of those itinerant merchants of the west were Irishmen. Among the leading and earliest colonists of the “Blue Grass State” who accompanied Daniel Boone, the ubiquitous Irish were represented by men bearing such names as Mooney, McManus, Sullivan, Drennon, Logan, Casey, Fitzpatrick, Dunlevy, Cassidy, Doran, Dougherty, Lynch, Ryan, McNeill, McGee, Reilly, Flinn, and the noted McAfee brothers, all natives of Ireland or sons of Irish immigrants.
Irishmen and their sons figured prominently in the field of early western politics. In the Kentucky legislature, I find such names as Connor, Cassidy, Cleary, Conway, Casey, Cavan, Dulin, Dougherty, Geohegan, Maher, Morrison, Moran, McMahon, McFall, McClanahan, O’Bannon, Powers, and a number of others evidently of Irish origin. On the bench we find O’Hara, Boyle, and Barry. Among the many distinguished men who reflected honor upon the west, Judge William T. Barry of Lexington ranks high for great ability and lofty virtues. Simon Kenton, famed in song and story, who “battled with the Indians in a hundred encounters and wrested Kentucky from the savage,” was an Irishman’s son, while among its famous Indian fighters were Colonels Andrew Hynes, William Casey, and John O’Bannon; Majors Bulger, McMullin, McGarry, McBride, Butler, and Cassidy; and Captains McMahon, Malarkie, Doyle, Phelon, and Brady. Allen, Butler, Campbell, Montgomery, and Rowan counties, Ky., are named after natives of Ireland, and Boyle, Breckinridge, Carroll, Casey, Daviess, Magoffin, Kenton, McCracken, Meade, Menifee, Clinton, and Fulton counties were named in honor of descendants of Irish settlers.
* * * * *
In the councils of the first territorial legislature of Missouri were Sullivan, Cassidy, Murphy, McDermid, McGrady, Flaugherty, McGuire, Dunn, and Hogan, and among the merchants, lawyers, and bankers in the pioneer days of St. Louis there were a number of Irishmen, the most noted of whom were Mullanphy, Gilhuly, O’Fallon, Connor, O’Hara, Dillon, Ranken, Magennis, and Walsh. In all early histories of Missouri towns and counties, Irish names are mentioned, and in many instances they are on record as “the first settlers.”
* * * * *
And so it was all through the west. In Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois, across the rolling prairies and the mountains, beyond the Mississippi and the Missouri, in the earliest days of colonization of that vast territory, we can follow the Irish “trek” in quest of new homes and fortunes. They were part of that irresistible human current that swept beyond the ranges of Colorado and Kansas and across the Sierra Nevada until it reached the Pacific, and in the forefront of those pathfinders and pioneers we find Martin Murphy, the first to open a wagon trail to California from the East. The names of Don Timoteo Murphy, of Jasper O’Farrell, of Dolans, Burkes, Breens, and Hallorins are linked with the annals of the coast while that territory was still under Spanish rule, and when Fremont crossed the plains and planted the “Bear flag” beyond the Sierras, we find Irishmen among his trusted lieutenants. An Irishman, Captain Patrick Connor, first penetrated the wilderness of Utah; a descendant of an Irishman, Hall J. Kelly, was the explorer of Oregon; Philip Nolan and Thomas O’Connor were foremost among those brave spirits “whose daring and persistency finally added the Lone Star State to the American Union”; and the famous Arctic explorer, scientist, and scholar, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, was a descendant of John O’Kane who came from Ireland to the Province of New York in 1752.
* * * * *
To form any reliable estimate of the numerical strength of the Irish and their descendants in the United States would, I believe, be a hopeless task, and while several have attempted to do so, I am of the opinion that all such estimates should be discarded as mere conjecture. Indeed, there is no standard, or fixed rule or principle, by which a correct judgment of the racial composition of the early inhabitants of the United States can now be formed, and the available statistics on the subject are incomplete and confusing. The greatest obstacle in determining this question is found in the names of the immigrants themselves. With names such as Smith, Mason, Carpenter, and Taylor; White, Brown, Black, and Gray; Forrest, Wood, Mountain, and Vail, and other names that are similarly derived, the first thought is that they are of English origin. Yet we know that for centuries past such names have been numerous in Ireland, and there are many Irish families so named who are of as pure Celtic blood as any bearing the old Gaelic patronymics. By a law passed in the second year of the reign of Edward IV., natives of Ireland were forced to adopt English surnames. This Act was, substantially, as follows: “An Act that Irishmen dwelling in the Counties of, etc…. shall go appareled like Englishmen and wear their beards in English manner, swear allegiance and take English sirnames, which sirnames shall be of one towne, as Sutton, Chester, Trim, Skryne, Cork, Kinsale; or colours, as white, black, brown; or arts, or sciences, as smith or carpenter; or office, as cook, butler, etc., and it is enacted that he and his issue shall use his name under pain of forfeyting of his goods yearly”, etc.
This Act could be enforced only upon those Irish families who dwelt within the reach of English law, and as emigrants from those districts, deprived of their pure Celtic names, came to America in an English guise and in English vessels, they were officially recorded as “English.” Moreover, numbers of Irish frequently crossed the channel and began their voyage from English ports, where they had to take on new names, sometimes arbitrarily, and sometimes voluntarily for purposes of concealment, either by transforming their original names into English or adopting names similar to those above referred to. These names were generally retained on this side of the Atlantic so as not to arouse the prejudice of their English neighbors. In complying with the statute above quoted, some Irish families accepted the rather doubtful privilege of translating their names into their English equivalents. We have examples of this in such names as Somers, anglicised from McGauran (presumably derived from the Gaelic word signifying “summer”); Smith from McGowan (meaning “the son of the smith”); Jackson and Johnson, a literal translation from MacShane (meaning “the son of John”); and Whitcomb from Kiernan (meaning, literally, “a white comb”).
In addition to this, in the case of some of those Irish immigrants whose family names were not changed in Ireland, their descendants appear in a much disguised form in the colonial records. Through the mistakes of clergymen, court clerks, registrars, and others who had difficulty in pronouncing Gaelic names, letters became inserted or dropped and the names were written down phonetically. In the mutations of time, even these names became still further changed, and we find that the descendants of the Irish themselves, after the lapse of a generation or two, deliberately changed their names, usually by suppressing the Milesian prefixes, “Mac” and “O”. Thus we have the Laflin and Claflin families, who are descended from a McLaughlin, an Irish settler in Massachusetts in the seventeenth century; the Bryans from William O’Brian, a captain in Sarsfield’s army, who, after the fall of Limerick in 1691, settled in Pasquetank County, N.C., and one of whose descendants is William Jennings Bryan, now Secretary of State; the Dunnels of Maine, from an O’Donnell who located in the Saco Valley; and at the Land Office at Annapolis I have found the descendants of Roger O’Dewe, who came to Maryland about 1665, recorded under the surnames of “Roger”, “Dew”, and “Dewey”. I find Dennis O’Deeve or O’Deere written down on the Talbot County (Md.) records of the year 1667 with his name reversed, and today his descendants are known as “Dennis”. Many such instances appear in the early records, and when we find a New England family rejoicing in the name of “Navillus” we know that the limit has been reached, and while we cannot admire the attempt to disguise an ancient and honorable name, we are amused at the obvious transposition of “Sullivan”.
Thus we see, that, numerous though the old Irish names are on American records, they do not by any means indicate the extent of the Celtic element which established itself in the colonies, so that there is really no means of determining exactly what Ireland has contributed to the American Commonwealth. We only know that a steady stream of Irish immigrants has crossed the seas to the American continent, beginning with the middle of the seventeenth century, and that many of those “Exiles from Erin”, or their sons, became prominent as leaders in every station in life in the new country.
Nor is the “First Census of the United States” any criterion in this regard, for the obvious reason that the enumerators made no returns of unmarried persons. This fact is important when we consider that the Irish exodus of the eighteenth century was largely comprised of the youth of the country. Although the First Census was made in 1790, the first regular record of immigration was not begun until thirty years later, and it is only from the records kept after that time that we can depend upon actual official figures. During the decade following 1820, Ireland contributed more than forty per cent, of the entire immigration to America from all European countries, and the Irish Emigration Statistics show that between 1830 and 1907 the number of people who left Ireland was 6,049,432, the majority of whom came to America. The Westminster Review (vol. 133, p. 293), in an article on “The Irish-Americans”, puts a series of questions as follows: “Is the American Republic in any way indebted to those Irish citizens? Have they with their large numbers, high social standing, great places of trust, contributed aught to her glory or added aught to her commercial greatness, refined her social taste or assisted in laying the foundations of the real happiness of her people, the real security of her laws, the influence of her civic virtues, which more than anything else give power and permanency to a naissant and mighty nation? The answer is unquestionably affirmative. We have only to look back on the past, and to scan the present state of American affairs, to feel certain of this.” If it be further asked: “Does this statement stand the test of strict investigation?” the answer must also be in the affirmative, for in almost every line of progress the Irish in America have contributed their share of leaders and pioneers, thus proving that there are characteristics among even the poor Irish driven to emigration for an existence that are as capable of development as those possessed by any other race. When we scan the intellectual horizon, we see many men of great force of character: preachers and teachers; statesmen and scholars; philanthropists and founders of institutions; scientists and engineers; historians and journalists; artists and authors; lawyers and doctors, of Celtic race and blood, while, in the industrial field, as builders of steamships and railroads and promoters of public works, as merchants, manufacturers, and bankers, and in all other fields of endeavor, we find the American Irish controlling factors in the upbuilding of the Republic.
Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thornton, Taylor, and Smith were natives of Ireland; McKean, Read, and Rutledge were of Irish parentage; Lynch and Carroll were grandsons of Irishmen; Whipple and Hancock were of Irish descent on the maternal side; and O’Hart (Irish Pedigrees) declares that Robert Treat Paine was a great-grandson of Henry O’Neill, hereditary prince of Ulster, who “changed his name to that of one of his maternal ancestors so as to save his estates”. It was an Irishman who first read the immortal Document to the public; an Irishman first printed it; and an Irishman published it for the first time with facsimiles of the signatures.
At least six American Presidents had more or less of the Celtic strain. President Jackson, whose parents came from Co. Down, more than once expressed his pride in his Irish ancestry. Arthur’s parents were from Antrim, Buchanan’s from Donegal, and McKinley’s grandparents came from the same vicinity. Theodore Roosevelt boasts among his ancestors two direct lines from Ireland, and the first American ancestor of President Polk was a Pollock from Donegal. The present occupant of the White House, Woodrow Wilson, is also of Irish descent. Among the distinguished Vice-Presidents of the United States were George Clinton and John C. Calhoun, sons of immigrants from Longford and Donegal respectively, and Calhoun’s successor as chairman of the committee on foreign relations was John Smilie, a native of Newtownards, Co. Down.
Among American governors since 1800, we find such names as Barry, Brady, Butler, Carroll, Clinton, Conway, Carney, Connolly, Curtin, Collins, Donaghey, Downey, Early, Fitzpatrick, Flannegan, Geary, Gorman, Hannegan, Kavanagh, Kearney, Logan, Lynch, Murphy, Moore, McKinley, McGill, Meagher, McGrath, Mahone, McCormick, O’Neal, O’Ferrall, Orr, Roane, Filey, Sullivan, Sharkey, Smith, Talbot, and Welsh, all of Irish descent. Today we have as governors of States, Glynn in New York, Dunne in Illinois, Walsh in Massachusetts, O’Neal in Alabama, Burke in North Carolina, Carey in Wyoming, McGovern in Wisconsin, McCreary in Kentucky, and Tener in Pennsylvania, and not alone is the governor of the last-mentioned State a native of Ireland, but so also are its junior United States Senator, the secretary of the Commonwealth, and its adjutant-general.
In the political life of America, many of the sons of Ireland have risen to eminence, and in the legislative halls at the National Capital, the names of Kelly, Fitzpatrick, Broderick, Casserly, Farley, Logan, Harlan, Hannegan, Adair, Barry, Rowan, Gorman, Kennedy, Lyon, Fitzgerald, Fair, Sewall, Kernan, Butler, Moore, Regan, Mahone, Walsh, and Flannegan, are still spoken of with respect among the lawmakers of the nation. William Darrah Kelly served in Congress for fifty years, and it remained for James Shields to hold the unique distinction of representing three different States, at different times, in the Senate of the United States. Senator Shields was a native of Co. Tyrone.
In the judiciary have been many shining lights of Irish origin. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is Edward D. White, grandson of a ’98 rebel, and one of his ablest associates is Joseph McKenna. No more erudite or profound lawyer than Charles O’Conor has adorned his profession and it can be said with truth that his career has remained unrivalled in American history. James T. Brady, Daniel Dougherty, Thomas Addis Emmet, and Charles O’Neill were among the most eminent lawyers America has known, while the names of Dennis O’Brien, Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals, John D. O’Neill, who occupied a like elevated place on the bench of South Carolina, John D. Phelan of the Alabama Supreme Court, Richard O’Gorman, Charles P. Daly, Hugh Rutledge, Morgan J. O’Brien, and others of like origin, are household words in the legal annals of America. There is no State in the Union where an Irish-American lawyer has not distinguished himself.
The history of medicine in the United States is adorned with the names of many physicians of Irish birth or blood. Several Irish surgeons rendered valuable services in the army of the Revolution, among whom are found Drs. McDonough, McHenry, McCloskey, McCalla, Burke, Irvine, and Williamson. Dr. John Cochran was appointed by Washington surgeon-general of the army. Dr. James Lynah of Charleston, a native of Ireland, became surgeon-general of South Carolina in recognition of his valuable services to the patriot army. Dr. John McKinley, a native of Ireland, who was a famous physician in his day, became the first governor of Delaware. Dr. Ephraim McDowell is known in the profession as the “Father of Ovariotomy”, as is Dr. William J. McNevin the “Father of American Chemistry”. Dr. John Byrne of New York had a world-wide fame, and his papers on gynecology have been pronounced by the medical press as “the best printed in any language”. One of the most conspicuous figures in medicine in the United States was Dr. Jerome Cochran of Alabama. Drs. Junius F. Lynch of Florida; Charles McCreery of Kentucky; Hugh McGuire and Hunter McGuire of Virginia; Matthew C. McGannon of Tennessee; and James Lynch, Charles J. O’Hagan, and James McBride of South Carolina are mentioned prominently in the histories of their respective localities as the foremost medical men of their times, while in Wisconsin the pioneer physician was Dr. William H. Fox, and in Oregon, Dr. John McLoughlin. Among New York physicians who achieved high reputations in their profession were Drs. Thomas Addis Emmet, Frank A. McGuire, Daniel E. O’Neill, Charles McBurney, Isaac H. Reiley, Alfred L. Carroll, Howard A. Kelly, Joseph O’Dwyer, and James J. Walsh. These and many others of Irish descent have been honored by medical societies as leaders and specialists, while it can be said that no surgeon of the present day has achieved such a world-wide reputation as Dr. John B. Murphy of Chicago. Among experts in medico-legal science, the names of Drs. Benjamin W. McCreedy and William J. O’Sullivan of New York stand out prominently, and among the most noted contributors to medical journals in the United States, and recognized as men of great professional skill and authorities in their respective specialties, have been Drs. F.D. Mooney of St. Louis; Thomas Fitzgibbon of Milwaukee; John D. Hanrahan of Rutland; James McCann and James H. McClelland of Pittsburgh; John A. Murphy and John McCurdy of Cincinnati; John Keating of Philadelphia; John H. Murphy of St. Paul; John W.C. O’Neal of Gettysburg; and Arthur O’Neill of Meadville, Pa. Indeed, it can be said that American medical science owes an incalculable debt to Irish genius.
Theodore Vail, the presiding genius of the greatest telephone system in the world, is Irish, and so is Carty, its chief engineer. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was the grandson of an Irishman; Henry O’Reilly built the first telegraph line in the United States; and John W. Mackey was the president of the Commercial Cable Company. John P. Holland, the inventor of the submarine torpedo boat, was a native of Co. Clare; and McCormick, the inventor of the reaping and mowing machine, was an Irishman’s grandson.
Sons of Irishmen have stood in the front rank of American statesmen and diplomats who represented their country abroad. To mention but a few: Richard O’Brien, appointed by Jefferson American representative at Algiers; James Kavanagh, Minister to Portugal; and Louis McLane, Minister to England in 1829 and afterwards Secretary of State in 1832. In recent years, an O’Brien has represented American interests in Italy and Japan; a Kerens in Austria; an Egan in Chili and another of the same name in Denmark; an O’Shaughnessy in Mexico; a Sullivan in Santo Domingo; and an O’Rear in Bolivia.
Among historians were John Gilmary Shea, author of numerous historical works; Dr. Robert Walsh, a learned historian and journalist of the last century, whose literary labors were extensive; McMahon and McSherry, historians of Maryland; Burk, of Virginia; O’Callaghan, Hastings, and Murphy of New York; Ramsay of South Carolina; and Williamson of North Carolina, all native Irishmen or sons of Irish immigrants.
In the field of American journalism have been many able and forcible writers of Irish birth or descent. Hugh Gaine, a Belfast man, founded the New York Mercury in 1775. John Dunlap founded the first daily paper in Philadelphia, John Daly Burk published the first daily paper in Boston, and William Duane edited the Aurora of Philadelphia in 1795. All these were born in Ireland. William Coleman, founder of the New York Evening Post in 1801, was the son of an Irish rebel of 1798; Thomas Fitzgerald founded the Philadelphia Item; Thomas Gill, the New York Evening Star; Patrick Walsh, the Augusta Chronicle; Joseph Medill, the Chicago Tribune. Henry W. Grady edited the Atlanta Constitution; Michael Dee edited the Detroit Evening News for nearly fifty years; Richard Smith, the Cincinnati Gazette; Edward L. Godkin, the New York Evening Post; William Laffan, the New York Sun; and Horace Greeley, the New York Tribune. All of these were either natives of Ireland or sprung from immigrant Irishmen, as were Oliver of the Pittsburgh Gazette, O’Neill of the Pittsburgh Despatch, John Keating of Memphis, William D. O’Connor, and many other shining lights of American journalism during the last century. Fitz James O’Brien was “a bright, particular star” in the journalistic firmament; John MacGahan achieved fame as a war correspondent; Patrick Barry of Rochester, an extensive writer on horticultural and kindred subjects, was the recognized leader of his craft in the United States; and William Darby, son of Patrick and Mary Darby, and Michael Twomey were the ablest American geographers and writers on abstruse scientific subjects.
In the field of poetry, we have had Theodore O’Hara, the author of that immortal poem, “The Bivouac of the Dead”; John Boyle O’Reilly; Thomas Dunn English, author of “Ben Bolt”; Father Abram Ryan, “the poet priest of the South”; James Whitcomb Riley; Eleanor Donnelly; M.F. Egan; T.A. Daly; and Joseph I.C. Clarke, president of the American Irish Historical Society.
To recount the successful men of affairs of Irish origin it would be necessary to mention every branch of business and every profession. Recalling but a few, Daniel O’Day, Patrick Farrelly, John and William O’Brien, Alexander T. Stewart, John Castree, Joseph J. O’Donohue, William R. Grace, John McConville, Hugh O’Neill, Alexander E. Orr, William Constable, Daniel McCormick, and Dominick Lynch, all of New York, were dominant figures in the world of business. Thomas Mellon of Pittsburgh; John R. Walsh and the Cudahy brothers of Chicago; James Phelan, Peter Donahue, Joseph A. Donohoe, and John Sullivan of San Francisco; William A. Clark and Marcus Daly of Montana; George Meade, the Meases and the Nesbits, Thomas FitzSimmons and Thomas Dolan of Philadelphia; Columbus O’Donnell and Luke Tiernan of Baltimore, all these have been leading merchants in their day. Few American financiers occupy a more conspicuous place than Thomas F. Ryan, and no great industrial leader has reached the pinnacle of success upon which stands the commanding figure of James J. Hill, both sons of Irishmen. The names of Anthony N. Brady, Eugene Kelly, James S. Stranahan, and James A. Farrell, president of the United States Steel Corporation, are household words in business and financial circles.
John Keating, the first paper manufacturer in New York (1775); Thomas Faye, the first to manufacture wall-paper by machinery, who won for this distinction the first gold medal of the American Institute; John and Edward McLoughlin of New York, for many years the leading publishers of illustrated books; and John Banigan of Providence, one of the largest manufacturers of rubber goods in America, were natives of Ireland. John O’Fallon and Bryan Mullanphy of St. Louis, and John McDonough of Baltimore, who amassed great wealth as merchants, were large contributors to charitable and educational institutions; William W. Corcoran, whose name is enshrined in the famous Art Gallery at Washington, contributed during his lifetime over five million dollars to various philanthropic institutions; and one of the most noted philanthropists in American history, and the first woman in America to whom a public monument was erected, was an Irishwoman, Margaret Haughery of New Orleans.
Irishmen have shown a remarkable aptitude for the handling of large contracts, and in this field have been prominent John H. O’Rourke, James D. Leary, James Coleman, Oliver Byrne, and John D. Crimmins in New York; John B. McDonald, the builder of New York’s subways; George Law, projector and promoter of public works, steamship and railroad builder; and John Roach, the famous ship-builder of Chester, Pa. John Sullivan, a noted American engineer one hundred years ago, completed the Middlesex Canal; and John McL. Murphy, whose ability as a constructing engineer was universally recognized, rendered valuable service to the United States during the Civil War. Among pioneer ship-builders in America are noted Patrick Tracy fron Wexford and Simon Forrester from Cork, who were both at Salem, Mass., during the period of the Revolution and rendered most valuable service to the patriot cause; and the O’Briens, Kavanaghs, and Sewalls in Maine.
But it is not in the material things of life alone that the Irish have been in the van. Thousands of Americans have been charmed by the operas of Victor Herbert, a grandson of Samuel Lover, and with lovers of music the strains of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore’s band still linger as a pleasant memory. Edward A. MacDowell, America’s most famous composer, was of Irish descent. The colossal statute of “America” on the dome of the National Capitol was executed by Thomas Crawford, who was born in New York of Irish parents in 1814; Henry Inman, one of the very best of portrait painters, was also born in New York of Irish parents; John Singleton Copley, the distinguished artist, came to Boston from Co. Clare in 1736; Thompson, the sculptor, was born in Queen’s Co.; another noted sculptor was William D. O’Donovan of Virginia; and Augustus Saint Gaudens, one of the greatest sculptors of modern times, was born in Dublin. Other sculptors of Irish race have been elsewhere mentioned. Among America’s most talented artists and portrait painters may be mentioned George P. Healy, William J. Hennessy, Thomas Moran, Henry Pelham, Henry Murray, John Neagle, and William Magrath, all of Irish birth or descent.
Ireland has given many eminent churchmen to the United States. The three American Cardinals, Gibbons, Farley, and O’Connell, stand out prominently, as do Archbishops Carroll, Hughes, McCloskey, Kenrick, Ryan, Ireland, Glennon, Corrigan, and Keane, all of whom have shed lustre on the Church. History has given to an Irishman, Francis Makemie of Donegal, the credit of founding Presbyterianism in America, while among noted Presbyterian divines of Irish birth were James Waddell, known as “the blind preacher of the wilderness,” Thomas Smyth, John Hall, Francis Allison, William Tennant, and James McGrady, all men of great ability and influence in their day. Samuel Finley, President of Princeton College in 1761, was a native of Armagh, and John Blair Smith, famous as a preacher throughout the Shenandoah Valley and the first president of Union College (1795), was of Irish descent. Among the pioneer preachers of the western wilderness were McMahon, Dougherty, Quinn, Burke, O’Cool, Delaney, McGee, and many others of Irish origin.
Irishmen and their sons have founded American towns and cities, and the capital of the State of Colorado takes its name from General James Denver, son of Patrick Denver, an emigrant from county Down in the year 1795. Sixty-five places in the United States are named after people bearing the Irish prefix “O” and upwards of 1000 after the “Macs”, and there are 253 counties of the United States and approximately 7000 places called by Irish family or place names. There are 24 Dublins, 21 Waterfords, 18 Belfasts, 16 Tyrones, 10 Limericks, 9 Antrims, 8 Sligos, 7 Derrys, 6 Corks, 5 Kildares, and so on.
Immigrant Irishmen have also been the founders of prominent American families. One of the most ancient of Irish patronymics, McCarthy, is found in the records of Virginia as early as 1635 and in Massachusetts in 1675, and all down through the successive generations descendants of this sept were among the leading families of the communities where they located. In Virginia, the McCormick, Meade, Lewis, Preston, and Lynch families; in the Carolinas, the Canteys, Nealls, Bryans, and Butlers; and in Maryland, the Carrolls and Dulanys are all descended from successful Irish colonizers.
Even from this very incomplete summary, we can see that Irish blood, brain, and brawn have been a valuable acquisition to the building of the fabric of American institutions, and that the sons of Ireland merit more prominent recognition than has been accorded them in the pages of American history. The pharisees of history may have withheld from Ireland the credit that is her due, but, thanks to the never-failing guidance of the records, we are able to show that at all times, whether they came as voluntary exiles or were driven from their homes by the persecutions of government, her sons have had an honorable part in every upward movement in American life. Testimony adduced from the sources from which this imperfect sketch is drawn cannot be called into question, and its perusal by those who so amusingly glorify the “Anglo-Saxon” as the founder of the American race and American institutions would have a chastening influence on their ignorance of early American history, and would reopen the long vista of the years, at the very beginning of which they would see Celt and Teuton, Saxon and Gaul, working side by side solidifying the fulcrum of the structure on which this great nation rests.
The archives, registers, records, reports, and other official documents mentioned in the text; the various Town, County, and State Histories; the collections and publications of the following societies: Massachusetts Historical Society, Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, New York Historical Society (34 vols.), New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (44 vols.), Maine Historical Society, Rhode Island Historical Society, Connecticut Historical Society, South Carolina Historical Society, and American Historical Society; New England Historical and Genealogical Register (67 vols., Boston, 1847-1913); New England Historical and Biographical Record; Hakluyt: Voyages, Navigations, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1607); Dobbs: The Trade and Improvement of Ireland (Dublin, 1729); Hutchinson: History of Massachusetts from the First Settlement in 1628 until 1750 (Salem, 1795); Proud: History of Pennsylvania, 1681-1770 (Philadelphia, 1797-1798); Savage: Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (Boston, 1860-1862); Morris (ed.): The Makers of New York (Philadelphia, 1895); Pope: The Pioneers of Massachusetts (Boston, 1900), The Pioneers of Maine and New Hampshire (Boston, 1908); Richardson: Side-lights on Maryland History (Baltimore, 1913); Spencer: History of the United States; Ramsay: History of the United States; Prendergast: Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland.