Irish Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles About the Old Neighborhood

Irish Trek to Cleveland Began in Earnest in 1820's

100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland, 30th of a Series
by Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, December 18, 1950

Although Irish immigration to this country started immediately after the Mayflower landed in 1620, the entry upon the Cleveland scene of the men of Erin, in appreciable number, began only in the 1820's.

To be sure, there were a few stragglers from Ireland who appeared here before 1820, but their stay was temporary and they left no record of their settlement.

For instance, George Coghan was a celebrated trader and frontiersman at the mouth of the Cuyahoga between 1745 and 1748. He was born in Ireland and came, with his parents, to Pennsylvania, then to the Western Reserve.

Then again, there is a record that the schooner "American Eagle" arrived in Cleveland from Buffalo on June 22, 1818, bringing six families of Irish, 47 passengers, who were three months away from Ireland.

They arrived here when Cleveland was just emerging from the log cabin state and Public Square was still dominated by stumps. Euclid Ave. was just a narrow thoroughfare and land in the flats sold for $7 an acre.

Indians on the Hill

About 100 friendly Indians lived on the hill on the west side of the Cuyahoga River and the total population of Cleveland was around 600. What exactly happened to the six Irish families who came here in 1818 is unknown.

The advent in Cleveland of the Irish, in larger numbers, dates back to 1825 when many of them were induced to come from the eastern seaboard and Pennsylvania to work on the construction of the Ohio Canal. Ground for this huge enterprise was broken in July 4, 1825 in Cleveland.

By 1826 there were enough Irish in Cleveland to warrant the sending to this city, from Perry County, a Catholic priest, in the person of the Rev. Fr. Thomas Martin.

Mass was said in private homes, since there was as yet no Catholic church in the little town. Later, in the early 1930's, mass was celebrated in the Masonic Hall, the only place large enough to accommodate the indlux of Irish, Germans and French canal workers.

Entered Politics

Since the Ohio Canal construction days, the Irish continued to come to Cleveland in increasing numbers and they left an indelible mark on every field of activity.

First, they dug cellars and built railroads and canals, paved streets and erected buildings. They worked along docks, started rolling mills and factories.

Still later, they were among the first immigrants to engage extensively in politics and eventually a large number of Irish became prominent in every phase of city and state administrations.

By 1830 Cleveland's Irish were firmly settled on the West Side, near the river mouth. This was that period of the city's history when wages were low, about $8 for 26 "dry" working days.

Farasey a Pioneer

Among the earliest Irish pioneers was James Farasey, native of Queenstorn, County Cork, who came here in 1827 and eventually drifted into and was among the first to engage in the business of loading and unloading vessels in the port of Cleveland.. His strength was prodigious and "he often employed it to chastise the vilifiers of his nationality," as a contemporary historian remarked.

A celebrated and well known pioneer Irish woman was Mrs. Ann Toole, native of County Wicklow, who came here as a widow, bringing her nine children: Charles, John, Thomas, Lawrence, Bridget, Ann, Julia, Mary and Margaret.

Early Families

The late Maj. W. J. Gleason, in a speech before the Early Settlers' Assn. In 1903 said:

"Among the first Irish to come here was William Murphy in 1830; the Evans family, Arthur Quinn and John Smith in 1833; Dr. Bailey, Dr. Johnson, the Sanders and Joseph Turney in 1834; Hugh Buckley Sr., David Pollock in 1835."

"Hugh Blee, Patrick Smith, Rev. Fr. Dillon and Rev. Fr. O'Dwyer in 1836; Capt. Michael, C. Frawley, D. McFarland, the Cahill, Conlan and Whelan families in 1837; the Rev. Fr. Peter McLoughlin, Michael Feely, Nicholas Gallagher and Phillip Olwill in 1838."

"The Farnan and Gibbons families and Charles C. Rogers in 1839; Patrick Farley in 1840; John and William Given in 1841; Rev. Fr. F. A. McReynolds and William Milford in 1842; the (West Side) McMahon family, John, Matthew, Thomas and Patrick McCart in 1845."

Mr. And Mrs. Patrick M. Smith, natives of County Meath, Ireland, came to Cleveland in 1849. Smith was in charge of erecting the first oil "still" building in Cleveland for John D. Rockefeller.