THE IRISH IN IOWA
Dunn, Joseph and P.J. Lennox, eds. The Glories of Ireland. Washington, D.C.: Phoenix Limited, 1914
"The Irish in the United States"
Michael J. O'Brien,
Histriographer, 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 any 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 6,000, 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 nearly 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 nad located in 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 reference 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 reference 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 the South was exclusively and "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 "troubled times" to lay the foundation 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 plantation. After Lord 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) Pedly 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 "person of British or Irish descent" The religious liberty established in Maryland was the magnet which attracted 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 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 the 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 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 places 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 as 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 the 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 the 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 Ronan from
Carrick-fergus 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 a 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 emigrants 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 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 the crowds of Irish papists and convicts who are yearly powr'd upon us" - (the "convicts" being the political refugees who fled from the prosecutions of the English Government!). But the operations of this statute were wholly mullified 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 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 that 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 person that 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 a 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 he 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 name 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 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 Atlantic storms, and there is no record of a renewed 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. In 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 MacGuiness 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 redempitoners who attained eminence in America were George Taylor, a native of Dublin, one of Pennsylvania's signers of the Delcaration 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 person 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 the county of 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 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 mcuh 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 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 of 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 to 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, Kittery, 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 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, gazetteers, 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 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, school master 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 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 a 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, Magenis, 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 in 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 to transport 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.
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© 2003 Cathy Joynt Labath