As early as 1719 immigration from Ireland to New Hampshire has been recorded, when five ships arrived in Boston with 200 emigrants from Ulster, Ireland. Sixteen of those immigrant families went on to found the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire. After that it was rare for a year to pass without additional Irish families arriving. Their New Hampshire homes were named after their old ones–such as Dublin, Derryfield, Kilkenny.
I grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire (that had been earlier called Derryfield). I attended a Catholic school composed of children that were mainly of Irish origin, and taught by the Sisters of Mercy (whose founder was Irish). As children we were reminded that as far back as (and before) the American Revolution, many of the local patriots were of Irish origin.
.General John Stark.
Irish settlers in New Hampshire were recruited to form (John) Stark's Rangers, who fought the battle of Bennington, and took part in the campaign ultimately leading to the surrender of General Burgoyne. [Ramsay says, in his “History of the American Revolution, II, 311: “the Irish in America, with a few exceptions, were attached to independence.”]
Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire, two out of three were Irish, namely Matthew Thornton, and William Whipple–the third signer, Josiah Bartlett, being English.
And not to leave the women out of this equation–behind every single one of these strong Irish men was often a strong Irish mother, a wife or sister. Without their help these men would not have first, inherited their inexhaustible spirit; but also they would not have been able to participate. For these women cared for and protected their homes and families while they were away.
Nor was the American Revolution the only time that the Irish banded as brothers and went to battle. From my mother I had heard the stories of her grandfather, Patrick John Ryan, who had fought on the Union side, with the rank of corporal during the Civil War.
And so early on I realized that the contributions of the Irish in America were integral to history, to the world in which I live, and whose freedoms I enjoy. I'm glad that I grew up in a place where my Irish heritage was always celebrated.
This article was written as my submission to the 6th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, that asks “What does the Emerald Isle and its heritage and culture mean to you?” (an Irish pedigree is not required to participate). You still have time to write your own. Posts for this edition are due Saturday, May 31st 2008.