"The hardships of this new life tested the mettle, physical and spiritual
of these pioneers, and in this test the virtue of the blend of the heavy-bodied,
sandy-haired, pugnacious Scot and the lithe, handsome, volitile, music-loving,
gay-spirited Irish was demonstrated....
"Their women blossomed into a race of physical beauty and mental charm,
and in the generations which followed, flourished as never women have
before, until they drew from their men a homage which lifted them to a
position of superiority and deference in American life, never before
attained by womanhood.
Their language had developed into a tongue which was a mixture of
English cockney, Irish brogue, and Scottish burr. Into their everyday
speech had crept many terse allegorical phrases used daily and succintly
to protray the new experiences of frontier life. ....Every man became
a jack-of-all-trades. From the virgin wilderness
they built and equipped, without nail or saw, cabin and farm implements....
"They were rude, uncouth, violent men....The youths were handsome,magnetic,
and had the captivating ways of the Irish. They were ready of wit and
ready for adventure, arrogant, but very susceptible to feminine charm."
The Coming of the Irish
"Another ingredient that entered into the melting pot of people, in
the Buffalo county came from Ireland outside of Ulster. They were the
descendents of the Irish Catholics who warred upon the Ulsterman for
nearly two hundred years. The sons and daughters of the Ulstermen in
Pennsylvania were now generations removed from the old feud, and,
while the immigrants carried fresh from their old soil the animosity
of a score of generations, they found it dulled in these who now knew
themselves only as Americans.
"A few of the Irish had emigrated to America at the opening of the
century, and some had settled near the headwaters of the Big Buffalo.
They named their district for their native Donegal. They were devout
Catholics and had come from direst poverty and took up life in the
wilderness on a plane but little above that they had endured at home.
They did not mingle with the Germans. These Donegal Irish endured
all the hardships of the first pioneers. They were of a better class
than those who came in the 30's, having been mostly small farmers
in old Erin, but the religious scruples of the pioneers, both
Protestants and Catholics, kept them apart and they developed a
separate social and communial life. Others came to join them
and their families increased surprisingly, so that by 1830 they
formed a substantial part of the population."
Building of the Canals and the "New Irish"
"About the end of the first quarter of the century, there arose
a crying need for labor to build the state canals, and Ireland,
in turmoil and poverty-stricken, poured forth a fresh horde of
her sons to fill this need. They came as laborers, solicited by
contractors who often paid their transportation. They .. were
brought without their families and the restraining influence
of their women. Some one, some day, may write a fitting appraisal
of the Irish woman. What man has not thrilled to the siren grace
and voice and smile of the daughters of this race? She may come
from a hovel or from a palatial drawing-room, yet hovel and
poverty detract little from, and riches glorify but slightly,
the native charm of personality she bears. Like a ruby lifted
from the muck of centuries, one has but to wash her
and she shines. Passionate and violent she may be, yet she
has always ruled her Irish man. When they came into this land,
unrestrained by her influences, they brought the Irish
temperament, which led them into violence, indulgences, and
excesses, and aroused intense antagonism among the now sedate
citizens. They built the canals and in later years, replaced
them with the railroads. They came to the Allegheny valley
for the building of the canal, and on St.
Patrick's Day in 1829 two large camps were situated at
Freeport, the Garry Owens and the Mulligans. They staged a
great celebration unpleasant to the natives and paraded
through the town bedecked with pine and laurel boughs,
as substitutes for green shamrock and then wound up the day
at Neil Gillespie's tavern in real Irish fashion. They brought
in the Irish names found in every community and, while the
great majority drifted to the centers of population,
some few remained to settle in the valley and dilute its somber
tones of life with the sparkle of Irish wit and their lighter
moods and ways of living.
"..Congenial, likeable, magnetic, and adaptable, they were
good mixers and with fluent tongues, they soon established
themselves in political life. Easy of conscience, they found
themselves free from established codes of social life. They
first became policemen ...and they graduated into ..
politicians, then extending their sway and widening their scope,
they ruled metropolises and smaller towns and villages and
stamped upon much of our public service the code of the Merry
Boys and the Molly McGuires of their native land. " pp 97-98
Racist --and humorous-- as Massy's story sounds to our ears,
she tells the story of her people so that they will be remembered.
Once we had the stories of ancestors in the lands of Spain,
Greece, and Asia, but we have forgotten them. Now we can only
remember as far back as Amergin and Taliesin and Merlin and
Massy and of our coming to Ireland and America, new homelands
of the Celts.
from Linda, descendent of John Anderson, arrived from Donegal circa
1765 and Henry Kelly, born in America in 1828 and his wife
Mary Sheehan, born in Ireland in 1829. And of the Blacks, who
had seven sons at the time of the French and Indian Wars, but
the Indians killed all but the seventh, which is why there
aren't hardly any Blacks any more and we're the only
ones who remember them at all.
Still passionate and violent --regretting missing that
St. Pat's day in 1829 with the laurel! And murky, as no one's had the
courage to wash me in years.......