It is said that when [Arch-] Bishop John Ireland died at St. Paul (1918) his funeral was attended by eight archbishops, 30 bishops, 12 monsignors, 700 priests and 200 seminarians.
Wow! [Archbishop Ireland, the "Consecrated Blizzard of the Northwest", was an extremely powerful person in the U.S. Catholic Church and it had been expected that he would have been made a Cardinal. But, among other things he got tangled up in the Americanism movement and never got the red hat].
We have been talking about Norwegians, Germans and Dutch in southwest Minnesota. Bishop John Ireland is largely responsible for the Irish in southwest Minnesota, and for the fact that there are not many more Irish.
Bishop Ireland, born in Ireland, was a founder of the Irish Catholic Colonization Association. Working with the Western railroads and the state of Minnesota, beginning in 1876, Bishop Ireland brought 4,000 Catholic families out of the slums of New York, Philadelphia and Boston and began efforts to settle his substantial flock on 400,000 acres of land in southwest Minnesota. Catholic settlement focused (among several prairie towns) on Adrian in Nobles County and on Avoca, Iona and Fulda in Murray County.
Southwest Minnesota might have been known to this day as Little Ireland. Trouble was, the Irish didn’t like it here. They wouldn’t stay.
Many Irish people, many Irish city dwellers, came to America in the time of the great potato famine. They and their children had limited training, and they faced great prejudice when they sought work:
NINA: No Irish Need Apply.
That prejudice is remembered to this day.
(As a current story goes, Murphy, O’Shea and Mullligan went for a construction job. They were told the foreman dislikes Irish. Murphy suggests they give English-sounding names. O’Shea enters the foreman’s office. The foreman asks his name. O’Shea looks out window, sees a JC Penney store and says his name is JC Penney. “Get out!” shouts the foreman. Mulligan looks out the same window, sees a billboard and says his name is B.F. Goodrich. “Get out!” shouts the foreman. Murphy is last. The red-faced foreman asks his name. Murphy takes a long look out the window and replies Ken. “Thank heaven,” says the foreman. “ Ken who?” “Tuckeyfriedchicken,” says Murphy.)
The early Irish immigrants, mostly jobless, lived in squalor in the shadowy slums of America’s eastern cities.
“Well,” said Bishop Ireland, “Let’s bring them to Adrian, or Avoca. Give them land and let them farm and may they live happily ever after.” Four hundred thousand acres of Irish farmers.
Trouble was — well, there were a lot of troubles. The Irish had no money, and even in the days of settlement it took money to begin farming. Most of the Irish had no kind of experience with farming; they didn’t know what to do. Life in a crude shack in a Minnesota winter seemed worse than life in a Boston slum. What is more, through all their days these people had lived with friends and kin, almost cheek-to-jowl. Now they lived alone, separated from other humans sometimes by miles.
The general reaction: “Let’s get out of here!”
The Great Irish Settlement was followed by the Great Irish Get-away.
Oh, not all of them fled. In his “History of Nobles County,” A.P. Rose has short stories of the lives of 737 Nobles County pioneers. Twenty-one are from Ireland.
Some stories told of the Irish settlers are memorable. Patrick Glynn was born in Ireland in 1845, the first year of the great famine. He was grown and living in Cleveland when he came upon an advertising folder prepared by Bishop Ireland which told, especially, of the colonization effort in Nobles County. On May 20, 1879, at the age of 34, Patrick purchased a quarter-section of land in Westside Township for $7 an acre.
The Glynn family lived on the farm near Adrian for 13 years. Patrick and his wife, Mary Kinsella Glynn, came to have nine children. Mary was a native of County Carlow, Ireland.
The children were Patrick’s special focus and concern. In his far corner of the prairie he judged school facilities were poor. He wanted the kids to have the best of educations.
In 1892, Patrick sold the $7-an-acre land and bought a $16-an-acre farm southwest of Adrian. The price was more than twice what he paid for the land on which the Glynn family had made their home, but there were better schools available. This was issue on which Patrick Glynn made his decision. Worthington Daily Globe
See this excerpt of James P. Shannon's book, "Catholic Colonization on the Western Frontier."