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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Choctaw Nation Raises Money for Irish Famine Relief

On March 23, 1847, the Native Americans of the Choctaw Nation take up an amazing collection. They raise $170 for Irish Famine relief, an incredible sum at the time worth in the tens of thousands of dollars today.

The Choctaw have an incredible history of deprivation themselves, forced off their lands in 1831, they embark on a 500-mile trek to Oklahoma called the “Trail of Tears.” Ironically the man who forces them off their lands is Andrew Jackson, the son of Irish immigrants.

On September 27, 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek is signed. It represents one of the largest transfers of land that is signed between the United States Government and Native Americans without being instigated by warfare. By the treaty, the Choctaws sign away their remaining traditional homelands, opening them up for European American settlement. The tribes are then sent on a forced march.

As historian Edward O’Donnell writes “Of the 21,000 Choctaws who started the journey, more than half perished from exposure, malnutrition, and disease. This despite the fact that during the War of 1812 the Choctaws had been allies of then-General Jackson in his campaign against the British in New Orleans.”

Sixteen years later the Choctaws meet in their new tribal land and send money to a U.S. famine relief organization for Ireland. It is the most extraordinary gift of all to famine relief in Ireland. The Choctaws send the money at the height of the Famine, “Black 47,” when close to a million Irish are starving to death.

Thanks to the work of Irish activists such as Don Mullan and Choctaw leader Gary White Deer, the Choctaw gift has been recognized in Ireland. In 1990, a number of Choctaw leaders take part in the first annual Famine walk at Doolough in County Mayo recreating a desperate walk by locals to a local landlord in 1848.

In 1992 Irish commemoration leaders take part in the 500-mile trek from Oklahoma to Mississippi. The Choctaw make Ireland’s president Mary Robinson an honorary chief. They do the same for Don Mullan. Even better, both groups become determined to help famine sufferers, mostly in Africa and the Third World, and have done so ever since.

The gift is remembered in Ireland. A plaque on Dublin‘s Mansion House that honors the Choctaw contribution reads: “Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty.”

(From: “How Choctaw Indians raised money for Irish Great Hunger relief” by IrishCentral Staff, http://www.irishcentral.com, November 27, 2020 | Pictured: Kindred Spirits monument, a tribute to the Choctaw Nation, in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland)


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Birth of Edward Hand, Soldier, Physician & Politician

Edward Hand, Irish soldier, physician, and politician who serves in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, is born in Clyduff, King’s County (now County Offaly) on December 31, 1744. He rises to the rank of general and later is a member of several Pennsylvania governmental bodies.

Hand, the son of John Hand, is baptised in Shinrone. Among his immediate neighbours are the Kearney family, ancestors of United States President Barack Obama. He is a descendant of either the families of Mag Fhlaithimh (of south Ulaidh and Mide) or Ó Flaithimhín (of the Síol Muireadaigh) who, through mistranslation became Lavin or Hand.

Hand earns a medical certificate from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1767, he enlists as a Surgeon’s Mate in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot. On May 20, 1767, he sails with the regiment from Cobh, County Cork, arriving at Philadelphia on July 11, 1767. In 1772, he is commissioned an ensign. He marches with the regiment to Fort Pitt, on the forks of the Ohio River, returning to Philadelphia in 1774, where he resigns his commission.

In 1774, Hand moves to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he practices medicine. On March 13, 1775, he marries Catherine Ewing. Lancaster is the region of some of the earliest Irish and Scotch-Irish settlements in Pennsylvania. As a people, they are well known for their anti-English and revolutionary convictions. He is active in forming the Lancaster County Associators, a colonial militia. He is a 32nd degree Freemason, belonging to the Montgomery Military Lodge number 14.

Hand enters the Continental Army in 1775 as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment under Colonel William Thompson. He is promoted to colonel in 1776 and placed in command of the 1st Continental, then designated the 1st Pennsylvania. Promoted to brigadier general in March 1777, he serves as the commander of Fort Pitt, fighting British loyalists and their Indian allies. He is recalled, after over two years at Fort Pitt, to serve as a brigade commander in Major General La Fayette‘s division.

In 1778, Hand attacks the Lenape, killing Captain Pipe‘s mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign. Failing to distinguish among the Native American groups, he had attacked the neutral Lenape while trying to reduce the Indian threat to settlers in the Ohio Country, because other tribes, such as the Shawnee, had allied with the British.

After a few months, he is appointed Adjutant General of the Continental Army and serves during the Siege of Yorktown in that capacity. In recognition of his long and distinguished service, he is promoted by brevet to major general in September 1783. He resigns from the Army in November 1783.

Hand returns to Lancaster and resumes the practice of medicine. A Federalist, he is also active in civil affairs. Beginning in 1785, he owns and operates Rock Ford plantation, a 177-acre farm on the banks of the Conestoga River, one mile south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Georgian brick mansion remains today and the farm is a historic site open to the public.

Hand dies from typhoid fever, dysentery or pneumonia at Rock Ford on September 3, 1802, although medical records are unclear with some sources stating he died of cholera. There is no evidence Lancaster County suffered from a cholera epidemic in 1802. He is buried in St. James’s Episcopal Cemetery in Lancaster, the same church where he had served as a deacon.


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Death of John Bourke, U.S. Army Captain

File source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Bourke.jpgJohn Gregory Bourke, a captain in the United States Army and a prolific diarist and postbellum author, dies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 8, 1896. He writes several books about the American Old West, including ethnologies of its indigenous peoplesindigenous peoples.

Bourke is born in Philadelphia on June 23, 1846 to Irish immigrant parents, Edward Joseph and Anna (Morton) Bourke. His early education is extensive and includes Latin, Greek, and Gaelic. When the American Civil War begins, Bourke is fourteen. At sixteen he runs away from home. Claiming to be nineteen, he enlists in the 15th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, in which he serves until July 1865. He receives a Medal of Honor for “gallantry in action” at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee, in December 1862. He later sees action at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Based on his service during the war, Bourke’s commander, Major General George Henry Thomas, nominates him for the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He is appointed cadet in the Academy on October 17, 1865. He graduates on June 15, 1869, and is assigned as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. He serves with his regiment at Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory, from September 29, 1869 to February 19, 1870.

Bourke serves as an aide to General George Crook in the Apache Wars from 1872 to 1883. As Crook’s aide, he has the opportunity to witness every facet of life in the Old West — the battles, wildlife, the internal squabbling among the military, the Indian Agency, settlers, and Native Americans.

During his time as aide to General Crook during the Apache Wars, Bourke keeps journals of his observations that are later published as On the Border with Crook. This book is considered one of the best firsthand accounts of frontier army life, as Bourke gives equal time to both the soldier and the Native American. Within it, he describes the landscape, Army life on long campaigns, and his observations of the Native Americans. His passages recount General Crook’s meetings with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Geronimo as the General attempts to sign peace treaties and relocate tribes to reservations. He provides considerable detail of towns and their citizens in the Southwest, specifically the Arizona Territory.

In 1881 Bourke is a guest of the Zuni tribe, where he is allowed to attend the ceremony of a Newekwe priest. His report of this experience is published in 1888 as The use of human odure and human urine in rites of a religious or semi religious character among various nations.

Bourke marries Mary F. Horbach of Omaha, Nebraska, on July 25, 1883. They have three daughters together.

John Bourke dies in the Polyclinic Hospital in Philadelphia on June 8, 1896, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His wife is buried beside him after her death.


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Adoption of the Articles of Confederation

articles-of-confederationThe Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the first written constitution of the United States is adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. A number of the members of the Congress hail from Ireland including Secretary of the Congress Charles Thomson who is born in Maghera, County Derry in 1729. Thomson is the permanent Secretary of the Continental Congress for more than fifteen years. At least three signatories to the Declaration of Independence are Irish – James Smith, George Taylor, and Matthew Thornton.

The Articles of Confederation is approved, after much debate between July 1776 and November 1777, by the Second Continental Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The Articles come into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all thirteen states. A guiding principle of the Articles is to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The weak central government established by the Articles receives only those powers which the former colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament.

The document provides clearly written rules for how the states’ “league of friendship” are to be organized. During the ratification process, the Congress looks to the Articles for guidance as it conducts business, directs the war effort, conducts diplomacy with foreign nations, addresses territorial issues and deals with Native American relations. Little changes politically once the Articles of Confederation go into effect, as ratification does little more than legalize what the Continental Congress had already been doing. That body is renamed the Congress of the Confederation however most Americans continue to call it the Continental Congress, since its organization remains the same.

As the Confederation Congress attempts to govern the continually growing American states, delegates discover that the limitations placed upon the central government render it ineffective at doing so. As the government’s weaknesses become apparent, especially after Shays’ Rebellion, some prominent political thinkers in the fledgling nation begin asking for changes to the Articles. Their hope is to create a stronger national government.

Initially, some states meet to deal with their trade and economic problems. However, as more states become interested in meeting to change the Articles, a meeting is set in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This becomes the Constitutional Convention. It is quickly agreed that changes will not work, and instead the entire Articles needs to be replaced. On March 4, 1789, the government under the Articles is replaced with the federal government under the Constitution of the United States. The new Constitution provides for a much stronger federal government by establishing a chief executive (the President), courts, and taxing powers.


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Founding of the Irish Emigrant Society

An illustration from The Weekly Herald, 1845.The Irish Emigrant Society is founded in New York City on March 22, 1841.

The Irish and other emigrants face numerous abuses such as “illusive advertisements,” “crooked contractors,” “dishonest prospectuses” and “remittent sharpers” when they arrive in the United States. The Irish Emigrant Society is founded in 1841 by a group of New York Irish to combat issues such as these.

In December 1848 the Emigrant Society advises emigrants that as soon as their ship comes into harbour she will be boarded by an agent of the Society who will offer them sound and honest advice. In addition they warn that the ship will also be boarded by a large number of “runners” – conmen who will make it their business to attract them to the boarding houses that employ them. Emigrants are instructed be careful not to accept help from them as their ploy is to promise good quality board at low prices, but when they come to leave the house an exorbitant fee will be demanded. They will threaten not to hand over luggage unless this fee is paid and violent scenes might often ensue.

The Society warns that many persons, some of Irish birth, have set up offices in the city where they claim to be agents for railroad and steamboat enterprises. These crooks sell tickets which appear to entitle the holder to travel to specific destinations but which are worthless. To protect emigrants from such frauds, various measures are introduced in New York in 1848 including the construction of reception centres and the licensing of steam boats to take emigrants from the quarantine to the landing piers. Boarding houses are also required to display their prices in English, Dutch, German, Welsh and French.

Emigrants who survive the ordeal of the crossing are faced with the decision of where to settle in America. Newspapers carry advertisements singing the praises of the land and climate of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan but never mention the backbreaking work of clearing the land for farming. California also proves to be a very popular destination when news of the California Gold Rush breaks in 1849. It also provides opportunities on the lands that the Native Americans have deserted in search of gold.

(From: “1841 – The Irish Emigrant Society Is Founded In New York,” Stair na hÉireann, https://stairnaheireann.net