Irish Americans of Cleveland

History of the Cleveland Irish

Service Occupations and Some Community Problems

from The Irish Americans & Their Communities of Cleveland
by Nelson J. Callihan &
William F. Hickey

One plus factor that resulted from the on-going Irish "criminality" was that the Yankee community decided that there was something in the adage about fighting fire with fire. Irishmen were invited to be official upholders of the law -- to become policemen. A goodly number of them, weary of the work on the docks or some other less than commodious place, responded to the call and most of them did a creditable job. In fact, within a few decades, especially around the turn of the century, it seemed to America that every policeman in every large city in this country spoke with a brogue.

An almost equal number of Irishmen joined the fire-fighting brigades when they came to be formed, work every bit as hazardous as the policeman's. In a city still largely consisting of wooden frame buildings, fire was a constant threat…

The city fathers thought that the Flats would make an ideal location for a burning shed for the garbage that was collected daily. The refuse from the surrounding hotels, groceries and better homes was deposited in great piles on the river bank for observation by the Irish.

Though it was burned daily, the garbage did little to enhance the beauty of the neighborhood or improve the health of the people who lived nearby. The Irish took umbrage at this display of Yankee high-handedness and created such a furor that the city fathers finally discontinued the practice, opting to hire independent haulers to cart the unwanted decaying matter to less populous places on the outskirts of the city.