No Irish Need Apply A History of The Irish in America, Circa 1850
The Pot of Gold
You simply can't get anymore Irish than Patrick Murphy.
One of the great mysteries in my past will be that of my second great grandfather, Patrick Murphy. Lost, among the many Irish souls that came before me, he has remained. I think that he has become somewhat of an illusion or maybe even a dream of my own making.
Speaking frankly, I have imagined him to even be the one and only patron saint, Saint Patrick, guardian of all the gold at the end of the rainbow. Even though the search has been diligent to catch this Irish imp he seems to have vanished in his elfin way leaving no further trail to follow.
Genealogy has always been a hobby for my Aunt.
All of the known information I have been able to find out about this ruddy chap was carefully gathered by my Aunt, who painstaking proved her sources before accepting anything as fact. She has trudged forward one small step at a time making progress slowly but surely, piecing the puzzle together bit by bit until the picture of a man came into focus for us to view.
With the internet availibility of today, we have been able to piece more and more information together, furthering the knowledge we have of the personal history of this man and his family. The progress is slow but it is steady.
The Roots of this Tree are deep in Limerick, Ireland.
Patrick was born in Croom, Limerick, Ireland, to Edmund Murphy and Judith Gavin. Here marks the end of the trail. The records that were kept in Ireland at this period in time are very difficult to produce due to many different circumstances. The Irish government, religious issues, economic situations, and environmental conditions all played an important role in the lack of preservation of the historical records. Needless to say it's like trying to find the proverbial "Pot of Gold".
Edmund and Judith had more children, Thomas,Stephen, Margaret, and Winifred, of these we know very little so their story must be saved for another day. However, this story will tell of Dennis and Patrick, Dennis being the eldest brother of the two.
The Great Potato Famine brought them to America.
Potatoes were probably the main staple grown on the 4 acre parcel of land that the Edmund Murphy Family leased from Mrs. Cudmore, in the townland of Anhid West, in the green hills of Ireland. Because of the moist climate and low temperatures little else besides grass, would prove to grow successfully. Crop failure and famine were no strangers to the farmers who struggled to just barely provide for their families, but in the late 1840s an infection hit the crops unlike any that had been seen before. A fungal disease struck the potato and spread throughout Ireland like a rampage. Disease and starvation were at a peak. Escape for survival was evident.
History of Ireland
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Irish In America
First to Canada then on to America they came.
It was December 1850 when Patrick and Dennis, two young Irishmen, arrived in Canada, and promptly made their way across the border to America for the first time. Patrick was just twenty years old and Dennis two years his elder. They then traveled to the top North West corner of the state of Illinois which bordered Iowa, to the Jo Davies County. The vast plains must have been extremely tempting for the two Irish brothers to pass up, for it was here in Galena that they stopped their travel and decided to stay.
First Steel Plow
The Mechanical Reaper
Illinois started changing and becoming a desirable place to locate.
Illinois was in a vast stage of change at this point in time. Up until now it had been mostly prairie lands dotted with an occasional log cabin or frame shack. The climate extremes, along with the inaccessibility in location, made it undesirable for farming and slowed the process of settlement.
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 made an all-water route between the Midwest prairies and New England and New York City. This made the state much more accessible to the outside world and proved to increase migration. With the introduction of the steam engine, now amazing everyone with the speed in which transportation could be accomplished, and with two other new amazing inventions now being introduced, everything started changing drastically.
In 1837, a Vermont born blacksmith named John Deere began manufacturing the first steel plow that broke the prairie sod efficiently, and Cyrus McCormick had finally perfected his mechanical reaper, a machine which would do the harvest work of a dozen hand- swung scythes. Suddenly, Illinois looked very desirable and people began coming by the droves.
Working for the railroad was the common lot for the Irishman.
With the influx of people the railway became a booming industry. Not only was it necessary for the movement of people but it was a major transporter of goods and raw materials. Chicago quickly was becoming the world's largest inland port and one of the nation's largest transportation centers. Patrick soon found himself employed in this industry as a Baggage and Yardmaster at the depot in Freeport, Illinois. His job mainly consisted of taking care of the loading and unloading of the baggage on the trains.
It was here in Illinois that Patrick and Dennis parted. Dennis who was interested in the farming industry, moved to a parcel of land in the Minnesota territory. In 1854 the Treaty of LaPointe was instituted in which the Ojibwe Indians gave up the northeastern section of land in Minnesota to the United States. The United States then granted purchase rights to the first claimant on unsurveyed land and Dennis became a landowner and farmer.
In contrast, after marrying his sweetheart Mary Brown in Illinois, Patrick moved to the city of Northfield, Minnesota and became more invested as a worker on the railroad. It was here that he spent his life and raised his family.
The Catholic Irish were separated because of discrimination and prejudice.
Patrick was the typical "Catholic Irish" immigrant of the times. In the 1860s nearly one half of all immigrants to the United States were Irish, and two thirds of those were Catholic. He was devout in his faith, and attended church regularly with his family. Discrimination and prejudice against the Irish was common during this time period, especially if they were Catholic. Intermarriage between different faiths was discouraged by both the Protestant ministers and Catholic priests alike, this resulted in separation. The Catholic parochial school system was a result of this separation issue.
Religious Issues In Politics, Imagine That!
The development of the "Know Nothing" movement also started during this time period. This movement was a political movement that regarded the influx of the Catholic Irish immigrants as a strategically planned conspiracy in which the Pope was accused of plotting to subjugate the United States. (Religious issues in politics, some things never change!) This party eventually became know as the American Party, which eventually became a divided party with the advancement of the Civil War, as they were divided on the issue of slavery.
Popular Irish Song, No Irish Need Apply
The Negro and The Irish were discrimminated against in the same fashion.
There was a great degree of discrimination against the Irish during that time period also. There were signs posted everywhere referred to as "the NINA signs." These were advertisement for employment opportunities, but the signs read, "Help wanted-No Irish Need Apply." A popular Irish song with that title was written to memorialize this time of persecution.
Stereotypes of the Irish Catholics were common. They were depicted as boss-controlled, violent, voting illegally, prone to alcoholism, and dependent upon street gangs that were often criminal and violent. A period newspaper article I found describing a barroom brawl attributed the scene to a "Negro and a drunk Irishman", both being about the same elevation of social status.
Patricks contribution to my family is priceless.
It was in this atmosphere that Patrick attempted to improve his lot in life. In the stereotypical Catholic fashion he fathered twelve children, all reaching the age of adulthood, which was unbelievable in itself. He worked on the railroad all the days of his life and left little by way of financial contribution to anything excepting the little he donated to the church. I visited his graveside in Northfield a few years back, and as I pondered on that vintage headstone, I wondered if he really understood the type of contribution he really had made.
Mulherin Brothers: Traditional Irish Step Dancing
Call me a "Plastic Paddy" but I am proud of my Irish heritage.
I am thankful for my pioneer heritage, for the courage that my Irish grandfathers displayed as they ventured to a new land; for the dedication to family they must have had to provide the means of support and love to their children in the midst of adverse conditions; for the commitment of faith that they had in their worship of the Lord, as they dedicated themselves to what they viewed as the truth. I am proud to be a "Plastic Paddy" and to remember my ancestors now and always.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon, I know that families are forever. I love and honor my ancestors that have come before me. I pay tribute to them this day and always. Perhaps now my Patrick really is a "Saint" Patrick!
My Murphy Family Ancestors
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