We marvel at the hard work, family devotion and associations that were an essential part of life for our immigrant ancestors. Yet, surprises abound when we discover their commitment to leisure time, spent along the abundant waterfront surrounding Baltimore: a major industrial city tucked into the land bordering the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.
What is a modern man to think when he rolls past the abandoned and decaying houses found in major cities? Perhaps our thoughts turn to disgust and a bit of anger, but many of these were places of transformation for our immigrant ancestors…and for several generations. Baltimore was such a place: where rural immigrant families were transformed into American urbanites, in neighborhoods not so different from Washington Blvd. and Bayard Street (pictured).
Many young men being raised in the shadows of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad didn’t quite finish grammar school, as railroad work placed a calling on them that could not be resisted. Other students of both sexes became railroaders once more considerable studies had been completed. Among these was a young woman who grew up in the shadows of the Mount Clare shops of the B & O Railroad. Her name was Elizabeth Agnes Herbig.
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... and participated in their ceilis. 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.
You would think that the position of Lamplighter would be fairly straightforward, but even this modest work had a few political twists and turns. Let's talk about working for a simple public utility involved knowing the right people.
Accomplished brick masons had something beautiful to look at after their working days, and left remarkable structures and pieces for future generations. They often established villages, neighborhoods and families that continued this important trade, much to the benefit of our historic city and region.
We thank Museum friend Steven G. W. Walk for sharing this remembrance of a young woman who had a heart for the struggling Irish and others who knew hunger intimately. She gave of herself in remarkable ways.
Once a rural setting, Baltimore's northeast region transformed over the years into Baltimore's most vibrant Irish parish. All facets of life were attended to among its streets and institutions, including care for the least of these. Let's reflect on the remarkable care given to many thousands in what became Baltimore's Old 10th Ward.
Baltimore's early Irish Catholics gathered in parishes close to the waterfronts and factories where jobs could be found, and they could be part of a supportive Irish church. A swelling population pushed the faithful outward, and an answer needed to be found on the edges of town...once the shadowlands of city life.
We are the most fortunate museum, as our visitors and friends each walk into the Museum with a story, and a reason to be there. They and we are enriched by our time together, and we emerge with a deeper understanding about the flow of time that led to our meeting. Here's some recent discoveries; how about sharing your stories with us?
New beginnings are nothing new in our neighborhood. We have undergone a remarkable period of learning and growing at the Museum, and even had time to reflect on a new era for the parish that James and Sarah Feeley called home for fifty years.
Family research can be a difficult experience for us in modern times. It seems like there was death everywhere, and young mothers and children left far too soon. Yet there was hope for those left behind in the form of caregivers within the extended family. Today we will learn about some who assumed vital roles, and gave of themselves so that future generations would be possible. Among those who cared for the motherless were Bettie Agnes Kenney Burgan and her daughter Annie Jane Burgan Bamburger, of northeast Baltimore (pictured).
The compassion shown by communities and parishes was especially valued in the days prior to social programs run by local, state and national government. Neighbors, extended family and women religious were the heroes of that day, and private institutions, such as pictured Bon Secours Hospital, played essential roles for the hurting.
Baltimore's rich history includes both a modern understanding of the role of drink within the greater culture and the considerable effort in earlier years to moderate the use of alcohol in Irish parishes. We hope you enjoy learning about another era, and the efforts to keep all things in moderation.
The men working at the Mount Clare Shops in West Baltimore didn't wear capes, or disappear into phone booths and save the day, like some other heroes. And yet they performed their own sort of miracles to preserve a nation.
Baltimore's population swelled in the years following the arrival of thousands of desperate Irish. They gathered in waterfront and downtown parishes in huge numbers, and something had to give.
Early railroaders are remembered in many ways by their families and associates. They lived fairly simple lives, but were part of bigger themes such as how nations were built. One such man had a locomotive named after him.
Even the simplest railroading work has a fascination for many of us, and some even name their place of business after them. Such is the charm of the Gandy Dancer.
Our Museum is particularly blessed by being part of an engaged community that shares information about their ancestors and their role in the development of a young nation. One compelling photograph led to significant research on our part, both in Baltimore and in a distant town where this photo was taken.
Irish families just might have been perplexed with what to do with daughters who had so many limitations set upon them during the days of the Penal Laws, and beyond. There were few options for those born into poor Catholic families in the West of Ireland. America was different, but not immediately so. It took Irish leaders to move these young women towards their full potential.
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.
This series continues to present the realities of life for desperate 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.
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. Few know of the dramatic arrival of thousands in Baltimore, where expatriates and a shining light welcomed them.
Truly special stories were discovered as we researched the stained glass windows of St. Peter the Apostle Church. Among these was a spinster who served faithfully in one of Baltimore's most fabulous estates, and used her rewards to honor others.