This series of historical articles was begun to bring the Museum to our community during the days of Covid-19, when they could not visit the Museum…temporarily closed in March, 2020. Many Museum friends contributed photographs and stories. These were developed carefully and are presented for thousands to view and enjoy.
Patrick Connolly was born in County Offaly, Ireland in 1843. The potato famine (The Great Hunger) raged between 1845-1848. Patrick would have been 2-5 years old during that time. Family lore says that he was the youngest of 17 children. He emigrated to America in 1865 after the American Civil War had ended, at the age of 22. Patrick likely arrived in Manhattan and came through the Castle Garden immigration center.
Perhaps you have spent years enjoying and participating in Baltimore’s Irish dance community, whether through the step dance form commonly seen among the many Irish dance groups of the region, or as part of a set dance group such as the Emerald Isle Club. That’s not the case with this writer, but there has been much to discover as I have interacted with dancers and musicians on the subject.
Today's story focuses on the homes of the modest Irish, both in Ireland and in America. We thank University College Cork for this image of a recreated mud hut home they displayed for a recent Great Hunger Remembrance.
Baltimore's early wave of Irish immigration was predominantly Protestant, and usually Presbyterian. This denomination, and others were referred to as "dissenters", and had their own trouble with the Church of England.
St. Peter’s Church was the first Catholic church in West Baltimore, and is called the Mother Church of that side of town; rightly so. Thirteen churches resulted from the outreach of the congregation, with St. Martin of Tours being the first.
The visionaries who launched our Museum in 2002 had tremendous insight into the elements of Irish immigrant life within the neighborhood, and included workplaces, social settings, schools, marketing and religious life among the displays. These provide us modern-day researchers a solid foundation from which to find new discoveries.
A recent conversation told us how people want to know how a little Museum like ours made so many remarkable discoveries about the modest family that lived at 918 Lemmon Street. Wasn't Sarah an illiterate wife, mother and washerwoman?
Today's presentation is an off- campus one, as we have a solid friendship with the folks who are redoing St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery in Baltimore's Clifton Park. Stephanie and Les Town have ancestors buried there, and it seems that I did too.
More than one million Irish had become landless and starving, and saw no option but to flee. They began decidedly urban lives, rather than the rural village life that their people had known for millenia.
Timothy Michael Hurley was born in County Cork, Ireland on May 2, 1878. His parents were Michael Hurley and Bridget Minehane, who married in 1876.
Connor Healy (pictured, in white suspenders) was born in County Sligo, Ireland in 1853, during the years of the Great Hunger. He immigrated to Baltimore in 1872, and began a long career with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, where he began as a laborer, as many illiterate Irish did.
John (right) was born in County Mayo, circa 1885 and immigrated in 1898. He began as a shop boy for the B & O Railroad a year later, beginning a 53-year career. John was a laborer, and later a boilermaker.
Churches of Baltimore's ethnic communities were a reflection on the land they left, and the culture they built in their new home. Immigrants sought a measure of familiarity in their churches, with many seeking to hear their own native language spoken during their worship experience.
Baltimore's early Irish parishes were often led by native sons of the Emerald Isle, and West Baltimore's St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church was no exception. Their first pastor was Edward McColgan, born on May 5, 1812, in County Donegal, Ireland.
The Irish Railroad Workers Museum is different from any other. We develop relationships with many of our visitors, and build up our understanding of an immigrant Irish community that began dynamic lives among their own.
The tumultuous days of the Great Hunger brought Ireland's most desperate to the city of Baltimore. These might have been single young adults and siblings, or entire families who had been removed from their ancestral home by landlords who wanted to rid their acreage of poor Irish once and for all.
An Irish hearth is often thought as the center of the home, where light and warmth brought about nourishment and comfort. The kitchen was (and is) the gathering place for family and guests, in whatever form it took over the years. Those who arrived in the years of the Great Hunger, and settled in homes like our 918 Lemmon Street must have marveled at the place.
Our exploration of Irish history in Baltimore and beyond has taken this writer pretty far afield during these last ten months of Covid-19 seclusion, but perhaps the most dramatic learning experience has been within my own preconceptions of what it means to be Irish, and how to define the Irish community at large.
Difficult times call for creative methods and approaches, as we all have seen in these challenging days. Irish Catholic families that sought to educate their children had the laws of the land to contend with, as the Penal Laws imposed by British authorities made it a capital offense to educate children in the way a family thought best.
Today we remember two generations that endured hardship, sacrifice and loss, and yet they persevered. Generations that followed did not quite know about their sacrifices, and many saw no need to bring up the tough times.
Waves of immigrants have gained a sense of belonging by seeing their own folks on the sports fields of America, and young boys have copied their heroes with their own teams, in different sorts of organizations and settings.
Today's issue was inspired by several comments from those who enjoyed knowing about the role "Horse-and-Cart" men played in the care and feeding of our immigrant ancestors. Catholic Irish knew a few things about horses, or lack thereof.
This series continues to present the realities of life for desparate emigrants aboard ship, new arrivals in America and the dramatic ways they cared for families as they settled in Baltimore. Food, of course, is central to any people's story...as it is to our own experiences today as we make our own best decisions about meals during the present crisis.
The Lyons family have quite a story to tell about their ancestor. They tell the tale of a boy from County Limerick, and all he was able to accomplish.Yes, there's hope for all of us...even when we are in the midst of turmoil.
So many of us have a casual knowledge of the realities of Irish immigration, and that far off. New York's story, with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the forefront, is something we point at, and contemplate.
We’d like to dedicate this fiftieth issue of “The Big Pivot” to the man who inspired our Museum itself. His name was Seamus “James” Feeley (pictured above with his family, as they enjoyed a Chesapeake Bay Excursion, circa 1871).
A major goal of our Museum this Spring was to present the remarkable stories behind the stained glass windows of St. Peter's Church, the parish for many thousands of Famine Irish. Our present situation has precluded that, but we plan on having the event when possible. Sister Anne O'Donnell, a descendant of the family that purchased one of the windows in memory of her Great grandmother, will be with us.
Today's presentation from our "Remembrance Room” reminds us how the people of Ireland were brought to loneliness as their loved ones were scattered to the corners of the earth.
Today's presentation from our "Remembrance Room” shows the Irish in their depths of despair during "An Gorta Mor", or Great Hunger. Many came to Baltimore, and other destinations just to survive.
Greetings and salutations from the Irish Railroad Workers Museum. We’re continuing our ongoing series as we do "The Big Pivot"...bringing the Museum to you, rather than you coming to us during these difficult days.