Our immigrant ancestors included mighty men known as blacksmiths, wheelwrights and horseshoers. Their work was essential to everyone’s life…back before plumbers and electricians were needed by every home in America. Many held them in awe, as these were men of importance.
America’s early immigrant men often left a country that thought little of their role in greater society. This was certainly true of those who lived in the West of Ireland. A huge number were subjected to restrictions of advancement by the ruling classes, but a better way of life awaited them in America, where a man could rise to fulfill his potential and mark his place among his peers. Such was railroading life for those who headed westward in an expanding young nation.
Let’s consider John J. Kernan and Family, on the occasion of his son Edward's 1st Communion. Edward was John and Sarah's 13th child. Dad was a railroad man, and the family lived in the shadows of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Mount Clare Shops.
Railroaders were the heroes of many a young boy, but were also honored by their peers. Daniel Willard was President of the B & O Railroad, and knew all about the working man. He had started at the bottom and worked his way to the top...and admired the men who worked under him.
It would be difficult to overstate the role and contributions of Irish women both in their native land and in America. Friends from the Gorham Historical Society joined us as we wrote this story of mothers, wives and heroes.
Early immigrants who came to America were attracted by the abundant work available, with no taxes or tithes taken from their pay by the powers-that-be. Catholic Irish from the Western Connaught region were entirely unfamiliar with industrial work, but it was waiting in abundance in America’s shipyards, coal mines, canals and railroads that were desperate for the unskilled labor that strong Irish backs could provide. They came alongside men like Frederick Douglas, ship caulker.
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?
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.
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.
The world was changing, and Baltimore didn't want to lose its place as a major shipping center. Other cities were building canals westward to bring people and products to developing communities well off the Atlantic Coast. What did Baltimore's leadership come up with to compete with them, and how did they celebrate a new beginning?
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.
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). Some might have said that he wasn't "all that much", and yet here we are, basking in the glory of a man from County Tipperary.
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. A tearful "goodbye" at the ship dock, or perhaps even at their cottages' front door, just might have been a forever goodbye.
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.
The horrors of the Great Hunger did not end as they boarded ships bound for America, but often were magnified by terrible conditions on board, and at sea.
Greetings and salutations from the Irish Railroad Workers Museum. We’re a place for both head and heart, researching and presenting compelling stories that inform us about our heritage, and yours. Among those stories we consider is how much our ancestors sacrificed just to emigrate to new lands.