Tipperary Men in the South

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XII (11) start of chapter

When in Augusta, Georgia, I fell in with perhaps one of the best persons to offer a practical opinion as to the suitability of the South for the settlement of the Irish. Names are not necessary to be mentioned in most instances, but in this instance the name of my authority for the following statement may be given. Mr. H. C. Bryson, from the north of Ireland, has been engaged for forty years in the cotton trade; and he holds that the temperate portions of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi, are well suited to the settlement and healthful labour of the Irish. He mentioned many cases in point, where the Irish had settled, gone on prosperously, and maintained the most robust health. One illustration, and that a very striking and comprehensive one, will, however, suffice. In the year 1850, about fifty Irish families, all from the county Tipperary,—Burkes, Keilings, Keatings, Hyneses, Hartys, Mahers, &c.,—made their way down from the North, and settled in Talliafero county, Georgia. They were hard-working, sober people, but amongst them all they did not possess a hundred dollars. One of the men had to bring one of his children on his back, while the other little ones trotted alongside him. In a very short time after, these hard-working, sober people, who would not 'hang about the cities,' were in comfortable circumstances, entirely the result of their labour and industry—that capital which money cannot always purchase. These Irishmen in the South raise corn, cotton, and stock; and in all they do, they are more careful and particular than many of the people around them. Mr. Bryson has often sold from five to ten bales of cotton for each of them, at $125 the bale. 'They are more particular,' says Mr. Bryson, 'and take more pains with their corn and their cotton, than most of their neighbours. They are all strong and hearty; in fact, I never heard of one of them being ill—and I know every man of them well. But this I attribute rather to their frugal life and temperate habits than to any other cause. They have a fine school of their own, and can go to their church as well as the best people in the country; they have good houses, abundance of everything they can desire—and I assure you they could entertain you as well as any men in the State. They are a credit to any country. But the Irishman, when he comes out here, is among the most industrious of all.'

'I think,' adds Mr. Bryson, 'that the cotton raised by men of this class—men who work at it themselves, and who have an interest in what they are doing—is the finest grown of any. It is better handled, and more carefully picked, None of these men owned a slave, and so much the better for them; for they have lost nothing by the change, while others lost the greater part of their capital.

I spoke of the health enjoyed by the Irish who are farming. In Locust Grove there are a good many of them, and for the last ten years I don't know of an adult among them dying, save one—for I don't count a poor fellow who came home from the Army of Virginia to die; and that one that I do count was Murdoch Griffin, but he was sixty-eight years old when he died, and he had hard work in his day. Griffin started, about thirty-five years since, without a dollar in his pocket; and when he died his property was worth $70,000 in gold. Any Irishman that goes into the country with his family can do well, and make a fortune.'

This was the testimony of a shrewd observant Northern Irishman,—as good an authority on the subject of which he spoke as could be found in the whole of the United States.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

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