Irish Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles About the Old Neighborhood

Irish Organized Many Societies

100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland, 43rd of a Series
by Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, March 6, 1951

Like all immigrants did after their arrival here, the Irish took full advantage of their newly found liberty and organized numerous societies in Cleveland.

The first Irish organization of record in this city was the Catholic Total Abstinence Society, founded by the Rev. Fr. Peter McLaughlin, pastor of St. Mary's on the Flats, in 1840.

By 1841 this Irish temperance group was large enough to participate in the July 4th parade. At that time Cleveland had a population of 6071 and Ohio City (West Side) 1577.

The Cleveland Herald in its July 6, 1841, issue said:
"The harp of green Erin, borne at the lead of a long procession of the warm-hearted and noble-souled sons of the Emerald Isle, who have enlisted under the total abstinence banner, marched through Superior St. to the front of Temperance House where the procession was joined by other temperance societies."

Group Changed Name
Shortly after its founding, this pioneering Irish group changed its name to "Father Matthew Mutual Benefit and Total Abstinence Society." In honor of a well-known leader in temperance work in Ireland.

As early as 1852 the Father Matthew Society was a flourishing group. At that time it was headed by the Rev. Fr. James Conlan, president; Prof. J. R. Fitzgerald, vice president; and William Kinney, secretary. In 1859 the society was reorganized, with Bishop Amadeus Rappe as president. By 1862 the group numbered 1000 members.

As more Irish settled in Cleveland, the number of their organizations increased correspondingly. By 1874, for instance, we find the following groups functioning here:

Clan-Na-Gael, Parnell Branch of the Irish Land League, the Irish Literary and Benevolent Society, the Knights of St. Patrick, the United Irishmen, the Emmett Guards, St. Malachi's Cadets and three branches of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.

Had Two Armories
In addition to the above, in the 1890's we find the Royal Black Knights of Ireland; two branches of the Emerald Beneficial Assn., the Hibernian Rifles with "armories" at 2314 Broadway and 319 Superior St.

The Ancient Order of the Hibernians reached its peak in Cleveland in the early 1900's when it had 13 "divisions." Today the organization has four branches and a ladies' auxiliary.
The Hibernians are celebrating this year the 115th anniversary of their activities in the United States. Membership in the organization is limited to Roman Catholics of Irish ancestry.
The first branch of the order in Cleveland was founded in 1848 when the group's initial meeting and ball was held in the old American House, on lower Superior Ave. Later, Parnell Hall, on the east side of Superior viaduct, became the Hibernians' best know meeting place.

Some of the best known Cleveland Irishmen belonged to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Old records disclose the names of Patrick McKenney, one-time county treasurer; Judge Martin A. Foran, Judge Thomas P. Kennedy, Hugh Bambrick, P. J. Brogan, William Gaven, grocers; Patrick J. Callaghan, contractor; Mayor John Farley.

Others were former Postmaster Michael F. O'Donnell, Dr. Andrew Flower, Dr. A. P. Scully, Dr. Thomas A. Burke, Jerry Horrigan, M. P. Mooney, Daniel Conway, Thomas F. McGrath and the late John Walsh, who died several months ago at the age of 94 and who held membership in the Hibernians for 67 years.

Two Clevelanders became national presidents of the organization: Martin L. Sweeney, from 1927 to 1931, and Michael McGrath, who served from 1946 to 1950. James P. Mooney, member of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Relief Commission, served four years as national historian. Charles J. Rooney served two years as national director.

Assistant Law Director John Quinn is now state president and Assistant Law Director Robert E. Sweeney is county president.