Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hibernphobia, Great Hunger, self improvement all drive Irish to Colorado mines



There is a strong tradition of anti-Irish sentiment, known as Hibernphobia, that predates the "an Gorta Mor" or "The Great Hunger." It has led to fighting and sectarianism and cultural discrimination of Irish emigrants and their descendants for about 1,000 years now.  The "Troubles," "Bloody Sunday," and "No Irish Need Apply," are some of its manifestations. 
But just because we are paranoid, doesn't mean they weren't out to get us.
"At the extremes of the debate, the famine has been described as an unavoidable tragedy caused by the destruction of the Irish Potato crop by a sudden infestation of late blight, a disease of potatoes that had spread from continental Europe, or, alternatively, as an attempt by the British government to use the crisis as means of destroying the Catholic culture of the west of Ireland in what amounts to a case of genocide," writes Bill Price in his popular book, "Fifty Foods that Changed the Course of History."
Irish immigrants arrived in Colorado with the discovery of gold in the late 1850’s. Many, fleeing the potato famine on the "old sod,"  they came to Colorado as miners or railroad workers calling themselves "terriers." They settled in the mining camps seeking a better life and freedom from the discrimination they experienced in eastern cities. 
By the early 1860s, the Irish comprised the one of the state’s largest and most visible immigrant groups. In the mining camp of Leadville, for example, they represented nearly 20 percent of the population.
"In the 1870 Census for Denver, 60 percent of Irish men are listed as common laborers, while 70 percent of the single Irish women are listed as domestic servants. Hibernians in early Colorado lifted, hauled, dug, fought, cleaned fed and scrubbed. They were the sweat, blood and muscle of an expanding American empire, extracting precious metals, laying new roads of iron and steel, and tending to the needs of the privileged," writes Dennis Gallagher, Tom Noel, and Jim Walsh in the introduction of their book "Irish Denver."
"Most of early Colorado's Irish miners migrated though other mining communities such as the copper mines of the Beara Peninsula in western County Cork, the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region, and copper country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Others mined regions in Scotland and England before moving to Colorado. Many of Colorado's Celts came via Canada," says Irish Denver.
"By 1880, Leadville boasted nearly 3,000 Irish-born residents and a sizable number of Irish Americans who had migrated from North American mining areas," wrote James Walsh in a recent History Colorado piece for Colorado Heritage magazine. 
"Leadville became the most Irish place in Colorado and one of the most Irish places in the United States," according to Walsh.
The miners' union, led by twenty-eight-year-old, Dublin-born Michael Mooney, quickly shut down Leadville's silver mining operations when they walked off the job in May 1880, to protest low pay, unsafe conditions and a new rule that banned miners from talking while they worked.
The backlash was severe and immediate.
"Nearly all of Colorado's newspapers declared the strikers were members of the legendary "Molly Maguires," a secret society of Irish tenant farmers that was said to have been responsible for the murders of several mining executives and other professionals in the Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region during the 1860s and 1870s," Walsh says.
The strike and the resultant hysteria led Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin to declare martial law less than two weeks later in Leadville, even though no violence preceded the declaration. More than 250 miners were arrested by Colorado National Guard troops and others. They were then forced at gunpoint to build roads on chain gangs. Similar tactics were used again in Leadville in 1896 and 1897 to break up another strike of the Western Federation of Miners. The incident ultimately led to resisting Irish miners being killed and buried in secret graves.
"Hibernian miners led two major Western Federation of Miners strikes in Cripple Creek. Irish American John C. Sullivan led the Denver-based Colorado Federation of Labor during the 1903-1904 Cripple Creek Strike. Mother Mary Jones was jailed in Trinidad, Colorado, when she became active in support of the striking coal miners and families during the time of the Ludlow Massacre," notes "Irish Denver."
In other example of anti Catholic, and anti-Irish sentiment, when a fire broke out in Cripple Creek on April 25, 1896; it had apparently started in a brothel in the Myers Avenue red light district during a dispute regarding customer service. That fire was extinguished, but another, more devastating fire broke out four days later and burned most of Cripple Creek.
A member of the American Protective Association took advantage of that second fire by attempting to dynamite St. Nicholas Hospital and rid Cripple Creek of its Roman Catholic institution. He did some damage to the hospital kitchen, but he also blew off his own leg.
Sister Mary Veronica Sinnott and the other Sisters of Mercy moved him and their other patients to Dr. Whiting's hospital, where they nursed the bomber back to health, for which he was reported to have been grateful.
Many Irish women were among the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of Loretto, who served the needy and built hospitals (many of them in mining camps) around the state.
"Like other major American cities, Denver had a strong Irish political presence. Families like the Carrigans, Currigans, and McNichols have served the state and the city in many capacities, as have renowned early politicians such as John A. Carroll, Edward Costigan, Edward Keating, Robert Morris, and Thomas Patterson. More recently, such figures as Joan Fitzgerald, Dennis Gallagher, Cary Kennedy, Mitch Morrissey, Mary Mullarkey, and Bill Owens have continued this long tradition of Irish political involvement.
More than three million people in Ireland were entirely dependent on the potato, and the failure of the crop left them destitute. About a million Irish perished in the famine, and another million emigrated during a five year period then. About 72 percent of the Irish population is Catholic.
May is generally the driest month of the year in Ireland. 




Photo Information: 


First photo: A large crowd watches the armed Colorado National Guard escort striking members of the Western Federation of Miners from the depot to the court house, Cripple Creek, Colorado. Sept. 6, 1903.




Second photo: Black members of Company K of the Deputy Army, sent to suppress the Cripple Creek Strike of 1894, pose outdoors and aim rifles at Camp Boynton, Beaver Park, Teller County, Colorado. The men stand in front of pitched tents. Two men hold U. S. flags. The men wear ammunition belts, hats, and metal canteens. Another group of men stands nearby and looks on. Photo by H.S. Poley

 
 
 
 
 
   

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