1866, Letter from D.D Wead to his son Jacob "Jakey" that about 300-400 Irish Fenians arriving in Fairfield, en route to attack Canada. Click Here to Read
Somewhat unrelated, Jacob Wead was also a recipient of some interesting letters from William White while serving in the Civil War. Click Here to Read
Many Irish came to the United States via Canada. They’re called two boaters, and they inspired the first presidential birther controversy.
Britain had imposed tariffs to the United States, but not to Canada, to encourage immigrants to populate the commonwealth. So empty boats that brought lumber to Britain from Canada offered cheap fares on the return trip. But Canada had few jobs and business boomed in America.
The Irish came from St. Jeans by steamboat to the Vermont communities of Burlington, Plattsburg and Whitehall. Some then moved on to Fairfield, Underhill, Moretown, Middlebury and Castleton.
Nathaniel Hawthorne described the Irish in Burlington in a travel sketch in 1835. He found them everywhere lounging around the wharves, he wrote, “swarming in huts and mean dwellings near the lake,’ and ‘elbowing the native citizens’ out of work.
Fairfield had an unusually large Irish population.
After the War of 1812, Fairfield lost its Yankee farmers to Genesee or Ohio ‘fever.’ They gave up their rocky, hilly farms for the flat, rich land of western New York and the upper Midwest. They left behind cheap land, which the Irish had craved since the English had made it nearly impossible for Catholics to own land in Ireland. Fairfield was also near Catholic churches in southern Quebec, only two towns away.
By 1840, Fairfield’s population rose to 11.5 percent Irish. Chester Arthur's Irish father came to Fairfield. The future president was then born in Fairfield in 1829. That aroused the suspicion of his political enemies. Opponents accused him of being secretly born Canadian.
Pre-Famine Irish Article
1. Link to Vince Feeney's lecture on French Canadian and Irish relations, with the example of the history of Saint Patrick's Church. Click Here for the video.
2. The following is an excerpt from "The History of The Catholic Church in New England States".
FAIRFIELD, in Franklin county, is one of the oldest Catholic settlements and parishes in Vermont. Its history carries the mind back to the early years of this century and to the time of the second war between England and the United States. The first Catholic settler in this place was Thomas Ryan, who came here from Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1812. He located on a farm about a mile and a half south of the village. Soon afterwards he married Catherine Belford, of Missisquoi Bay.
At this time an Irishman, and a Catholic, was looked upon with amazement, aversion and almost horror. The even tenor of his ways and the respectability of his life soon changed their feelings into toleration and esteem. Thomas Ryan died highly respected in 1872. , About the year 1 8 1 5 other Catholics arrived in Fairfield; among them Patrick Deniver, Peter and Lawrence Kirk, and the McEnany brothers. About the year 1820 Patrick King, James Carroll, Terence Miles, and Peter Michael Connelly settled in the place.
Subsequent years brought more Catholics from Ireland. The first priest who ever set his foot on the soil of Fairfield was the ven erable Father Migneault, of Chambly, who came here on sick calls — a distance of fifty miles. Tradition tells of one sick call particularly. Patrick Deniver's sister was dangerously ill, and a man was sent on foot to Chambly. For some reason, Father Migneault was delayed. The sick woman was expected to die every day. At last, at the end of three weeks, the priest, Father Migneault, arrived, and gave her the last sacraments. She died within twenty-four hours. About this time Mrs. Patrick Deniver gave birth to twins. Some time after their birth she and her sister took the babes in their arms, and, in spite of the distance, walked to Chambly to have them baptized. This speaks eloquently for their faith . The first Mass in Fairfield was said in 1830 by Father O'Callaghan in the house of Thomas Ryan. He was the only Catholic who owned a farm then. From that time Father O'Callaghan came once every three months, and had "stations" in Fairfield. Announcement of the day and place of the station was made several days previous to the priest's arrival. Thus all the Catholics were enabled to be present at Mass, receive the sacraments and hear the word of God. The people were wont to come to Mass on foot or in ox teams. The number of people present at the first Mass was 15.
It is very probable that a Father Ivers, a missionary priest whose head quarters were in St. Albans from 1840 to 1842, visited and ministered to the Catholics of Fairfield. In this latter year the place fell again under the care of Father O'Callaghan, who continued his good work until 1847. In this year Rev. George Hamilton became resident pastor of St. Albans, and began to attend Fairfield also. In this same year, the Catholics of Fairfield resolved to build a church. They cherished the fond hope that the presence of a church would induce a priest to reside among them. A generous Protestant, Hubbard Barlow, by deed of January 9, 1847, donated the laud for the church. The Catholics gave either money, material or labor. The contract for the building was given to a Frenchman named Fregeau. The Catholics (or the Catholic committee) of Fairfield had a legal title to land and church. When the church was completed Father Hamilton and the Catholic contributors to the church drew up an agreement with regard to the renting of the pews. It was stipulated that an individual or a family might purchase and own in perpetuity a pew on the condition of an annual payment of a sum of money to be deter mined by a majority of the pew-holders in a public meeting; and this sum not to be increased without their consent in the same manner. The sum fixed upon was very low, and as may be easily imagined after the arrival of a residing pastor the system led to unpleasant complications and misunderstandings. These continued to happen periodically until 1869, when the first church was taken down ; and a new site purchased and a new church built.
Father Hamilton attended Fairfield from St. Albans until 1850. He was assisted during some months by Rev. Henry Lennon. In 1850, Father Hamil ton left Vermont, and was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Shahan, who attended St. Albans and Fairfield during one year. Then Fairfield received the ministrations of Rev. Edward McGowan until 1855. Rev. Thomas Riordan succeeded him, and Fairfield continued to be a mission of St. Albans until 1858. In the spring of this year, Father Riordan became the first resident pastor of Fairfield. A house had been bought by the Catholics, repaired and made into a parochial residence quite near the church. Father Riordan died in Fairfield on October 4, 1861. He was buried there. This was the first death of a priest in Vermont. He was only thirty- one years of age. The bishop and all the priests of the diocese were present at his funeral. The parish was then attended by Father Cam from Svvanton until De cember, 1862, when Rev. Joseph Dugluewas appointed pastor. He remained until June, 1864, when he was transferred to Montpelier and Rev. George Napoleon Caissy took his place. The latter retained the pastorate until Octo ber, 1868, when Rev. Michael McCauley was named by the bishop pastor of Fairfield.
The church had for a long time betrayed signs of old age and decay. It was determined to give it a thorough renovation. When, however, it was partly dismantled, it was discovered to be in such a dilapidated condition that it was not worth repairs. Father McCauley announced his intention of put ting up a new church. This attempt was combated by many in the congregation, especially by those who had perpetual leases of pews. However, the bishop coincided with the views of the pastor. The old church was left standing in its dismantled condition. Mass was said amid the debris of the church. A strong opposition prevailed against the undertaking of the pastor. The bishop was fortunately present on that Sunday, and advised the congregation to patience and obedience. This was in the fall of the year. Mass was next said in the old Town House. Land was bought for a new church, and in the following summer the work of building a new church was begun.
In face of the opposition of many, Father McCauley succeeded in building a very handsome church which today is an ornament to the town and county. The church was blessed by Bishop de Goesbriand in September, 1872. The sermon was preached by Rev. M. J. Goodwin. Father McCauley left Vermont in 1879, and went to Upper Canada. The parish was attended for a time by Rev. J. S. Michaud from Burlington. In 1880, Rev. Dr. Glynn was appointed to the vacant rectorship. He re mained, however, only one year. In January, 1882, Rev. Francis Yvinec became pastor and retained the pastorate until 1884. In January of this year, Rev. Patrick McKenna came to Fairfield and discharged the duties of pastor most acceptably until 1891. His health failed and he was compelled to seek another climate. He was replaced by Rev. P. J. Long, who remained until December 26, 1893. Rev. Edward R. Moloney became rector, and retained office until March, 1895. During three months, Fairfield was supplied from the cathedral in Burlington. In June, 1895, Rev. N. J. Lachance was appointed pastor. Catholics at the formation of the parish was about 50 Irish families. in 1899 there were 150 families, three- fourths Irish and the balance Canadians.
The Catholics own a cemetery here. The land was donated by Hon. Bradley Barlow, by deed, February 23, 1844. The Catholics of Fairfield occupy a very honorable, social position. The first to enjoy this honor is John Ryan, son of Thomas Ryan, the first Catholic settler in Fairfield. Town offices have also been frequently occupied by Catholics. The people are nearly all farmers. They are industrious, orderly, intelligent, and very devoted to their religion.