THE IRISH IN IOWA

NEWSPAPER ITEMS ON BEING  IRISH

I found this article stuck in a book that belonged to my uncle. Actually,
Joe and Josie were second cousins once removed. Josie Brennan was my second
cousin once removed and Joe Walsh was my second cousin twice removed.

The Messenger
Fort Dodge, Webster, Iowa
1988

Random Thoughts

The Irish Always Make You Feel At Home

By Mary Feldman
Emmetsburg

     I recently spent the afternoon in the home of "a full-fledged
Irishman." Actually, a pair of them.
     Meet Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Walsh- Joe and Josie to their friends.
     Their farmstead is on the north edge of Emmetsburg. On the front door
hangs a green wreath bearing the words, "Luck O' the Irish."
     I rang the bell and was greeted by a lovely, petite Josephine who
ushered me into the dining room where her husband Joe was sitting at the
table, a smile on his face and an Irish twinkle in his eye.
     The couple will have been married 66 years come June...to each other,
which must be some kind of record in this day and age.
     Both grew up in the Emmetsburg area. Joe Walsh met Josie Brennan when
he was working on a farm near the Brennan home place. They courted, fell in
love, married and raised their family.
     "We used to go to the dances at the Armory or the K.C. hall. In those
days, we danced with everybody. Lots of changing partners, then ending up
with your own again. They don't do that anymore."
     Walsh has been a farmer all his life. "Still at it," he said.
     Josie taught country school until they married. "Then I had to quit. In
those days, married women weren't allowed to teach school."
     As far as I know, the Walshes are the oldest Irish couple in
Emmetsburg. Josie says they are both 92, but her husband contradicts her,
stating he is the younger-only 91.
     I went to see them looking for something to write about for St.
Patrick's Day. It isn't as if we were strangers. Our families go back a long
time in Palo Alto County. Walsh was a friend of my father, and he knew my
grandfather, too.
     It was my intention to spend 15 or 20 minutes finding out what it is
like to be Irish for so long, then take my leave. Instead, I stayed an hour
and a half, and wouldn't have minded at all staying a wee bit longer since I
was having a wonderful time. Two more interesting people would be hard to
find.
     Walsh was the grand marshal of the March parade in Dublin's sister city
[Emmetsburg] last year.
     "It was an honor to be asked and a grand experience. We enjoyed every
minute of it, but the old celebrations were the best," Walsh remembered.
     He told of the Hibernians marching down main street on the morning of
the 17th, all the way to Assumption church for mass, regardless of the
weather. Then there'd be a dinner at the Armory over Hughes Drug Store.
     "We girls used to dress up in our finest spring outfits," Josie added.
"Even though the wind was blowing cold and often there was snow."
     "Oh, yes," Walsh said. " I remember one St. Pat's Day. I think it was
1924. We came out of the theater to see a lot of the white stuff, it was so
bad we decided to stay in town for the night. Then we got a phone call from
Josie's folks. They ran out of fuel so we loaded the back seat of the
Studebaker with coal and took it out to them.
     "Always after dinner in the Armory there were plays put on in the Iowa
Theater, the old one that burned down," Walsh continued. "We had lots of
local talent. There was Tom Coonan, Buster Meade, Clem McNally, and Mike
Miller, an uncle of Jim Thompson.
     "March 17 came between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but we never thought
of St. Patrick's Day as Lent. It was a day to celebrate. However, there was
no green beer."
     "We had great times in the preparation, too," Walsh said. "Your dad,
Roy Ryan and a couple of others I can't recall, used to climb in the Model T
and drive up to the neighboring towns putting up posters advertising the St.
Patrick's events. We had some wild times, we did."
     Both Joe and Josie trace their roots to Ireland.
     "My ancestors came from Kilkenny and Ballyragget," Josie said. "Joe's
relatives are from somewhere in Roscommon."
     I asked what characteristics they considered common among the Irish.
     "They are a friendly people, always making you feel at home," Josie
offered.
     "Maybe a little hot headed," Walsh added. "Never yet saw an Irishman
run from a fight."
     In his free time, Walsh enjoys basketball and is a Twins fan.
     Josie's hobby seems to be taking care of Joe.
     What is it like to be married to the same person for 66 years?
     "We've had our ups and downs, but the years have been good. Getting
along with each other gets easier as we grow older. These days, when I get
upset, I'm likely to forget about it before I say anything, and even if I DO
say something, he can't hear me anyway," Josie said.
     By now it was getting on toward suppertime and I figured it was time to
leave. I thanked the Walshes for talking with me and aksed if they planned
to attend the parade this year.
     "You betcha!" exclaimed Walsh. "We wouldn't miss it!"
     I got in my car and drove away from the Walsh residence feeling much
richer than when I arrived.

Des Moines Sunday Register
Date Unknown
Clipping found in book I inherited that belonged to my uncle, Leo Joynt, of
Emmetsburg, Iowa
Article by James P. Gannon


     Robert Emmet was one of that seemingly endless line of Irish
revolutionary martyrs who wound up on the end of a rope supplied by the King
of England. The English had precious little to give to the Irish over the
centuries, but there was always rope when the situation called for
dispatching another Irishman with foolish ideas of freedom.
     Emmet reached the end of his particular rope in 1803, following another
of those rebellions against English rule that occurred with monotonous
regularity and futility over four centuries. He is long gone and mostly
forgotten, but there are four places in the world where Emmet is memoralized
in statue. His likeness stands in three great cities-Dublin, Washington D.C.
and San Francisco-and in a small town in Iowa called Emmetsburg.
     The good people of Emmetsburg, founded by a band of Irish immigrants,
take their Irish roots seriously. When St. Patrick's day rolls around they
import good will ambassadors from Ireland, dress the town in shamrock green,
call out Iowa politicians and send in the clowns for a big parade, dance and
banquet. For three days, Emmetsburgers put aside the bleakness of mid-March
and the pressures of the farm crisis to escape in an ethnic revelry.
     Such rituals are food for the soul, particularly in nourishing times of
trouble and in places of merciless winter, and it is in such a time and
place that the people of northwest Iowa find themselves. The luck of the
Irish, as it is normally conceived, lately had not been with the rural folk
of this hard- pressed region; but the truth is, if you cast a long glance
over history, that the luck of the Irish is mostly bad, and that's the kind
of luck that small-town Iowa struggles against today.
     I suppose it is because of my Irish heritage that the festival planners
this year have invited me to participate in Emmetsburg's annual celebration.
Assuming that I survive the St. Pat's banquet and dance, you will read this
as the morning after is unfolding, undoubtedly with regrets.
     The festival planners, who throw caution to the wind for this weekend,
suggested that I might prepare a few remarks for public consumption at the
banquet, and so I retreated to my shelf of Irish literature for inspiration.
Irish literature being what it is, I came away mostly depressed and newly
angry at the English, but that seemed inappropriate for the occasion.
     However, in pondering the grim record of the Irish as peasant farmers,
a thought occurred that may be worth sharing-not only with Emmetsburgers,
but with people of the land everywhere.
     This may be shamelessly sentimental, a mood that seems to overcome me
around St. Patrick's Day, but the thought is that what distinguishes the
whole of Irish history is the fierceness with which the Irish fought for
their land. It was, for the most part, rocky, boggy, unforgiving land on
which to eke out a living-but it was theirs, until the English tried to take
it.
     Irish novelist Sean O'Faolain wrote that Irish peasant farmers "did not
prosper. But they held on with a tenacity that is the most moving and
astonishing spectacle in the whole Irish story. For these centuries, through
generation after generation, starving not by thousands but by millions,
falling into the earth like the dung of the cattle, weeping and cursing as
they slaved, patient alike under the indifference of God and their masters,
they clung to their wretched pieces of land with a savage fierceness, clung
as it were by their bleeding fingernails."
     Across Iowa and rural America, farm families ponder the seeming
indifference of God and their masters as they try to cling to their
threatened land. Their tenacity is to be admired and encouraged. We urban
folk who have lost our ancestral attachment to the land sometimes
misunderstand that tenacity of the farmer. We forget how much is invested in
the soil, not to be measured in ledger books, but to be accounted for in
memory, heart, faith and a sense of self-worth.
     It is best not to forget, but to cheer those in rural America who cling
to what we lost. For our seeming indifference, we ask forgiveness; for their
passionate tenacity, we give thanks.

The Democrat
Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Iowa
Thursday, March 17, 1988
By Dorothy J. Place


     It is 30 years since the Robert Emmet statue returned to Emmetsburg,
after a long and varied history. This year he will  stand guard over the
27th St. Patrick's Celebration.
     The statue was ordered cast from an original statue in Washington,
D.C., at the request of the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
in 1914. A fund drive raised $3,000 for the new statue which was shipped to
Emmetsburg in 1917.
     An argument arose about the location of the statue and since these
Irishmen could not agree on a site on the Courthouse Square, Soper Park or
anywhere else, it was stored in the basement of Mr. O'Briens's grocery
store. The fuss about the statue died down and was forgotten-and so was
Robert Emmet. He lay in the basement until Mr. O'Brien got tired of having
him there.
     In 1938, O'Brien sold the statue to Robert Emmet O'Donnell of Mound,
Minn., an admirer of the Irish martyr for whom he was named. The cost of
moving was $75 and Robert Emmet became a Minnesotan. Following O'Donnell's
death, his sons moved the statue to Minneapolis.
     Emmetsburg celebrated its Centennial in 1958 and some of the local
businessmen decided the statue should return to Emmetsburg for the occasion.
A local paper reported, "Early in July, seven local men, without so much as
a 'by your leave,' simply removed the statue, placed it in a pick-up truck
and carted it back to Emmetsburg." [Note: these men have never truly been
identified as far as I know.]
     The "kidnapping" was carried out in the dead of night and the owners of
the statue were very upset, to say the least. But negotiations were held,
payment was made and the Minnesotans agreed that Robert Emmet should remain
in the town that was named for him.
     There are only four such statues in existence: one in Washington, D.C.,
one in Dublin, Ireland, on in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and
Emmetsburg's own Robert Emmet.

Who Was Robert Emmet?

     Who was Robert Emmet anyway? He was a romantic figure in Ireland in the
1800s. he was deeply admired by the original Irish settlers of Emmetsburg
and, since Emmet County had claimed that name, they decided to honor their
hero by naming their town Emmetsburg.
     Robert Emmet was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1778, son of a prominent
Protestant physician. "There were only a small number of Protestants in
Ireland at that time, but they were thoroughly loyal to their country,"
according to Father Clarence Farrelly's account of Emmet's life in a July,
1958, Democrat.
     Robert and his older brother, Thomas Addis Emmet, were members of the
United Irishmen. In 1802, France and Britain signed a peace treaty, but the
next year they were back at war. Thomas defied the Insurrection Act by
taking the United Irishman's oath in public and was imprisoned, but later
escaped to Brussels. He went to Paris to try to persuade Napoleon to attack
England through Ireland.
     Robert became interested in the Irish revolt against Britain while he
was still an undergraduate at Trinity College in Dublin. Evading arrest for
his activities, he escaped to France but later smuggled himself back into
Ireland and began collecting arms in Dublin. One of the coaches of arms was
discovered, so the date of the revolution was set for July 23, 1803, sooner
than originally planned.
     The rebels were poorly organized but Robert and 80 men attacked Dublin
Castle, while others were to attack various strong points throughout the
city. The revolt failed and Robert went into hiding at Wicklow Mountain. He
would have escaped the country except that he wanted to visit his sweetheart
before leaving. He was captured, tried and convicted of treason. He was
hanged Sept. 30, 1803.

The Final Speech

In a final speech before the court that condemned him, Emmet closed with:
" I am going to my silent grave; my lamp of life is nearly extinguished; my
race is run; the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom. I
have but one request to ask at my departure from this world- it is the
charity of silence...When my country shall take her place among the nations
of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have
done."
     The statue shows Emmet as he appeared for that final speech. In
preparing the mold for the statue, Jerome Connor, an Irish sculptor,
consulted with relatives of Robert Emmet and his family and collected the
date for such details as his height, weight, size of shoes, hat, etc. His
watch fob was obtained and the mold was made from the original fob worn by
Emmet at the time of his arrest.
     It is interesting to note that in 1704, Catholics owned only
one-seventh of the land in Ireland. People of the Catholic faith were
forbidden by the English to inherit, purchase or even rent land. They were
excluded, by the British, from the Irish Parliament and from serving in the
Army. They were also restricted in their rights to practice Catholicism. By
1782, the English Parliament had restored the right of Catholics to hold
land, but still refused them political rights. The United Irishmen were
formed to free Ireland from the domination of the English. But Ireland
didn't become a free nation until 1937.
     Emmet lost his life in the revolution in which he believed. His last
speech, called Emmet's Vindication, endeared him to the people of Ireland.
     One historian has written, "Rebellion under the circumstances could
only be a protest, for Ireland was still held down by a large army and by
the Insurrection Act. The young hero's death and the idealism of the whole
affair places it in the realm of poetry and romance rather than politics,
but as a solemn sacrifice, the execution of Emmet has had an effect on Irish
political sentiment far beyond that which any act of Parliament or political
event has had."
     This is the story of the Robert Emmet that stands on the Palo Alto
County Courthouse Square in Emmetsburg. May he watch over many more
celebrations.

My notes:

[A good historical fiction "tear-jerker" written on Robert Emmet by Gretta
Curran Browne is entitled "Tread Softly on My Dreams"-Wolfhound Press: 1998.
(Amazon has it) The author notes: "Although presented here as a novel, and
cloaked in the style of fiction, this story is a true one based on recorded
fact. Most of the characters are taken from history, and all the chief
episodes, as well as many minor ones, are based on documented evidence."]

 


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