Know Ohio: Irish Heritage


Luck of the Irish to you? More like luck of Ohio to you. Did you realize that we are one of the top 50 states for Irish ancestry? 

This heritage dates back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Irish immigrants came here along Zane's Trace, a frontier road that had been built after the Revolutionary War to encourage settlement in the North West Territories. It was based on Native American walking paths. 

Later, Irish immigrants came to help construct Ohio's canals during the 1820s and 30s. Their hard work helped to boost our economy by making transportation much easier. Many of the Irish immigrants came here looking for a better life. 

See, in the 1840s, Ireland was hit by the Great Famine. Famine means a long period of hunger, when there's very little food to be had. The Great Famine was a result of years of potato crops being destroyed by a moldy disease. Because almost half of the country relied on potatoes as their main meal, the crop failure led to 1 million deaths. Ireland's population fell by about 20%-25%. 

Some of these people left to try to survive in another country. They came to the US, hoping to use their farming skills, but because they had no money to buy land, they had to take whatever jobs they could. Irish immigrants often worked the hardest and most underpaid jobs. 

Irish people faced discrimination here in Ohio, just like other immigrants. Native Ohioans who struggled to find jobs, blamed immigrants for taking jobs. Other Protestant Ohioans didn't like that the Irish practiced a Roman Catholic religion. 

They had their own clashes with other groups, especially with newer groups of immigrants and former slaves. 

The Irish created their own communities within many cities. It took many generations for the Irish to become accepted by native Ohioans and other European immigrants, but eventually their culture became a recognized part of Ohio's melting pot history, along with the many other immigrants who made the state what it is today. We can thank them for paving the way for our state to succeed.

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