The Irish in America


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The Irish in America (and at the Tazewell)

The Tazewell in Saint Paul’s Cathedral Hill

I am polishing up an article for Ramsey County History Magazine on 100 years of history at The Tazewell. The short story…The Tazewell Apartments were built in 1918 in a bustling neighborhood of St. Paul. The building suffered from mid-century neglect and urban fight and fell into disrepair. In 1979 the building was condemned. A developer rescued the property and in 1981 The Tazewell Condominiums emerged from the cockroaches, squirrels, and blown out windows.

As a current resident of The Tazewell, I find myself wondering about what the building was originally like and who used to live here. Since, apparently, the original building plans don’t exist, the former plays out in my imagination (aided by the very occasional architectural clue). The latter curiosity can be more concretely satisfied. In preparation for the article, I spent a great deal of time looking at the old St. Paul City Directories to learn about earlier residents of the building. Because so much of the research I do revolves around Irish immigrants, my eye was instinctively drawn to the Irish surnames in these directories. It’s no surprise, but there were a good number of Irish Americans living at The Tazewell over the years.

I mention several of the residents in the article,, but there are many more stories behind the names on the pages of those directories. Small stories, maybe fragments of stories, hidden but waiting to be told. I will explore some of these stories over the next few months. The Irish in America and at The Tazewell is not terribly catchy, but it will have to do for now.

Although construction was completed in 1918, 1919 was the first year a full slate of residents appeared in the directory. Of the fifty residents, there were 21 women and 29 men living in a total of 36 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments. Irish surnames like Hughes, Connolly, Howe, Kelly, Egan, and Neely were scattered among Thorson, Steuer, Albrecht, Van Sylke, and others. Of course, I understand that Felix Hoffman could have as much Irish ancestry as say, Nora Egan, and we’ll look at that as well. That’s kind of the point of America, after all, isn’t it?

For the purposes of exploring the lives of the Irish in America, I will begin next time by looking at the first resident to catch my attention – Florence Connolly, a teacher and original resident of The Tazewell who stayed for nine years. Check back on Monday for Florence’s story.

 

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Well, He Finally Did It!

My dad, Jim McCormack, finished his book: The Ballyedmond McCormacks in Ireland and America. I am proud of him and in awe of the achievement.

The Jimmys having a laugh outside the old house

The author and his cousin sharing a laugh outside McCormack cottage in Ballyedmond

What I am most impressed with is how Dad went the extra mile to tell the stories of ALL the McCormacks who came from Ballyedmond, near Rathdowney in County Laois, Ireland. He could have told the story of his grandfather and great uncles who came to America in the 1870s through the 1880s. That would have been enough for most family historians and genealogists.

But Dad included the stories of the McCormacks who came to America the generation before his grandfather. This is such a well-researched book. It seemed as though every few months Dad would say he had just met a new cousin. He got to know so many cousins, learning their stories, identifying photographs, and filling in the gaps. The book explores the strong links between the American and Irish branches of the McCormack family – links I have talked about on this blog.

What Jim has to say about the book…

This labor of love was almost 20 years in the making. I drew on resources in America and in Ireland, including family oral tradition and memoirs, verified wherever possible, church and civil records, newspaper accounts and a few secondary sources. The result was a 240 page volume including about 300 photos and charts.

Click here to view the flyer.

If you would like to order a copy, send me an email and I will put you in touch with Jim.

Nice job, Dad!

 

 


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Reminder: St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Just a friendly reminder to enter our St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway by 11:59pm EDT tomorrow, March 17th. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 19th. Simply answer the Listowel trivia question below, fill in your contact information, and hit the submit button.

But first, take a look at what people have to say about the prize, a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950:

“A beautifully designed and executed book, wherein the discards of history are put on parade to become a treasure throve of insight into the life of an Irish Market town. Listowel is transfigured; If space allows movement; place is pause at every turn of a page.”     Dr. Patrick J. O’ Connor

“That Vincent Carmody’s Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market town is evocative and beautiful is not surprising, but it is also an artful history. Concisely and lucidly told, it is a mosaic of faces and the telling artifacts of everyday life.”    Richard White, Professor of American History, Stanford University

“This book is about more than the shops and the pubs. It is a reminder of the transience of life, of the way that humans move on but a streetscape remains. Beautifully presented, it will appeal to anyone from North Kerry and should give other towns reason to wish they had someone who would do the same for them.”    Frank O’Shea, Irish Echo 

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Good Luck!


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Listowel Letters

After Vincent Carmody contacted me and told me a bit about Listowel, County Kerry, I became intrigued by the town, its history, and its place in the story of the Irish in America.  I wanted to learn more, so naturally I took to the internet.

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

I was thrilled to stumble upon The Gleasure Letters blog. There is little I enjoy more than a nice collection of emigrant letters, and what better way to get to know the history of a town than through first-hand accounts? I admit, I am rather jealous of Ben Naylor, who publishes the blog with his wife, Kathleen. Ben’s family had no idea these letters existed until an uncle passed away, leaving a trunk containing the letters behind. I don’t think I am the only person engaged in family history research for whom such a discovery is a dream come true!

A description of the collection, taken from The Gleasure Letters blog:

Full transcriptions of hundreds of letters from 1897-1955. Letters are from the Gleasures of Listowel, Ireland to Frank Gleasure in Massachusetts and from Frank’s son George Gleasure (killed in D-Day) to his father during World War II.

I urge you to browse around The Gleasure Letters – you will look up at the clock and wonder how two hours could have passed. Ben and Kathleen have done all the hard work for us in transcribing the letters. You get to sit back, read, and enjoy, without getting hung up on words because of the fancy (or illegible) script. Thanks to Ben for his generosity in allowing us a glimpse into the history of the Irish in America, through his family’s experiences.

Mary Cogan is the author of the Listowel Connections blog, “…a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home.” Mary’s most recent post is a remarkable series of photographs she took while on her morning walk through Listowel.

In October of last year, Ben and Kathleen Naylor paid a visit to Listowel and saw many of the places mentioned in The Gleasure Letters. Mary documented their visit in a post on her blog – click here. Ben and Kathleen were treated to a tour of Listowel from Vincent Carmody, author of Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950. You could be treated to a copy of the book when you enter our St. Patrick’s Day giveaway – details announced next week.

  • Click here for more on Gleasure letters and photographs.
  • Click here to get to know Listowel native Kathy Buckley, twentieth-century culinary sensation.
  • Click here to learn about a Chicago man with Listowel roots who made his mark in politics, Elmer Walsh.


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Irish Savannah in Pictures

Irish Savannah (1)

Just in time for the Savannah Irish Festival this weekend, Arcadia Publishing released it’s newest pictorial history, Irish Savannah, by Sheila Counihan Winders earlier this week. Irish Savannah is for sale online at arcadiapublishing.com and folks in Savannah can pick it up at local retailers.

Take a look at what the publisher has to say about this exciting new book and its author…

CLICK HERE to open the pdf of the press release.

Irish Savannah joins more than twenty volumes in Arcadia’s series highlighting the contribution and impact of the Irish on communities throughout the United States. And you know what’s really great about these books? The pictures! If you are like me and you can’t get enough of old photographs and the history of Irish America, then you have hit the jackpot with Arcadia’s Irish series. Click here to get started building your collection. (Psst…it looks like you can get 20% off when you sign up for their newsletter.)

Congratulations to Sheila Counihan Winders and the lovely city of Savannah!


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ETHOS: Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath

I love what’s happening in Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath. I recently received an email from Eugene Dunbar who told me about ETHOS (Everything Terrellspass Has On Show) which is a community based initiative planning an exciting series of  events this year. They are taking a seasonal approach in Tyrrellspass, featuring a new event Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter,  that will explore the local environment in a unique way.

This is a fantastic idea. Today there is so much emphasis on using local products and patronizing local businesses, but it is also important to stop and consider your local environment. There are amazing things hidden in plain sight, just waiting to be explored.

Events kick off this weekend with woodland walks Saturday and Sunday. See below for all the details. Visit the ETHOS blog (click here) to read more about what’s going on in Tyrrellspass. Events are open to local residents and visitors, anyone interested in the history and natural surroundings of Tyrrellspass.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eugene and his lovely family last autumn in Rathdowney, County Laois at our mutual cousin’s wife’s surprise birthday party. He was the party photographer, snapping pictures all night long. Wishing ETHOS and Eugene every success!

Click on image to visit blog


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A Little Bit of Ireland in Lake Michigan

James Earl Jones (from http://www.achievement.org)

I have Michigan on my mind. It all started the other day when I came across a great blog post from St. Patrick’s Day: James Earl Jones is a Michigan Irishman and Other Stories About Michigan’s Irish Heritage. Louis Blouin of FoundMichigan.org explores Michigan’s Irish heritage. Here’s the introduction – very funny:

St. Patrick’s Day is all about getting your fake Irish on, whether it be decorating yourself in various cheap green crap that was no doubt made in China, not Ireland; busting out the one Pogues song you have on your iPod; or choking down a breakfast of green eggs and ham at your local Irish(ish) pub. It’s about that, and having an excuse to drink before 10 a.m. But Michigan has plenty of authentic Irish heritage to hang your hat on (even the oversized Leprechaun headgear you got at Meijer last night). Here’s a roundup of some of Michigan’s real-deal Irish heritage you might not have known about—and a nod to some of the fake stuff, too.

Blouin’s entire article is interesting, but the section titled, Beaver Island: Mormon turned Irish Kingdom, definitely caught my eye. I had never heard of Beaver Island. What a fascinating history…click here for Blouin’s full article. Read what he has to say about Beaver Island, then come back for more on the research taking place.

The University of Notre Dame’s Historical Archaeology of Irish America project investigates the nineteenth century Irish settlement of Beaver Island, Michigan. The head of the investigation is Deb Rotman, Ph.D., RPA of Notre Dame. On the project blog Professor Rotman explains:

This archaeological and historical project allows scholars and students to investigate an aspect of the Irish Diaspora that is currently virtually unknown – that is, the lived experiences of Irish immigrants who settled away from the large urban centers on the East Coast…

Since 2006, my students and I have been investigating Irish immigrant experiences in South Bend, Indiana, including archaeological excavation in the city as well as archival research and oral history collection in both Ireland and the United States. Beginning in 2010, this project expanded to include Beaver Island, Michigan, which was inhabited in the late nineteenth century by immigrants from Árainn Mhór off the coast of Co. Donegal.

Beaver Island, Michigan (from http://www.beaverisland.net)

What I like best about this project is that it is taking a serious look at the lives of Irish settlers in America’s rural Midwest. Professor Rotman points out that little research exists on any Irish immigrant settlements other than the urban centers of New York City and Boston. The Irish were pioneer settlers in much of the Western United States, and it is about time attention be paid to their lives and the contributions they made to their communities and adopted country.

The project website includes a number of papers completed by students involved with the Beaver Island project. The papers explore the history and sociology of the island using the archaeological evidence they have unearthed. Check out the blog here.

Professor Rotman, perhaps when you finish up with Beaver Island, you might want to take a look at Clontarf, Minnesota and nearby Tara Township? I have always wanted to do a dig by my grandfather’s birthplace  in this rural American Irish settlement…just think about it!

Click here for more information about the history of Beaver Island – from its days as a “Mormon Kingdom” to a land full of names like GallagherBoyle, and O’Donnell, where Irish was the language of choice. I wonder what the folks in Donegal have planned for next year’s Gathering Ireland 2013…will the people of Beaver Island be welcomed “home” to Ireland?

Corktown, Detroit, Michigan (from corktownhistoric.org)

Links to more on the Irish in Michigan: