Cleveland Irish: Bluestone Hibernians


A decade ago, when a fellow in Cuyahoga Co. joined the AOH, via the Ohio AOH website, he was directed to the Boland-Berry Division. It was the only AOH division in Cuyahoga Co. and they met at PJ McIntyre’s.

Yet, there was a division that met at the IACES. It was the Western Reserve Division of Lake Co., and they met in the Pub. Joe Schindly, Hibernian of the Year in 2016, was division president at the time.

The division held a chili cook-off, offered a trip to the Notre Dame spring game and had a table at Irish Night at the Lake Co. Captains. Please forgive my recollection if it is incomplete.

We first met with Joe Casey, the AOH state president at the time, on 1/26/12 at PJ McIntyre’s. Joe had started divisions before and his Hibernian spirit was apparent. After discussions it was determined to contact Roger Weist, former state president and Boland-Berry president. Roger was emailed on 1/30/2012 with our intent to start a new division.

After that, we continued to meet with Joe Casey and grow a new membership base. First, we did some demographic due diligence.

Irish Census

According to the general 2010 Census data, the Heights area had over 14,000 individuals who self-identified their first ethnicity as Irish. That would not include those who self-identified Irish as second, etc.

Cleveland Heights at the time was around 45,000 residents, 60% Catholic, 48% male and over 10% identifying as Irish. That data provided numbers that would support an AOH Division. There were also ten parishes in the general Heights area that had no AOH presence.

We shared that information with our Hibernian brothers across the state and across the river. The Heights data was combined with membership data from the IACES, and it was clear a division could be supported. Data does not make a division.

We held some break-out sessions with the assistance of Stix and Otis at Juice’s on Mayfield Road, Juice and Kano’s bar. It was there that we were able to talk to Mr. Kane and Mr. Murphy.

It was at Juice’s that we discussed the AOH with musician and Hibernian Donal O’Shaughnessy. There was a plan: we were motivated, we were informed, and we had never undertook such an endeavor.

Joe Casey was invaluable, as were our Boland-Berry Brothers. We cannot forget members of the state board and their support: Mike McKenzie, Denny Parks, Pete Chrystal, Kevin Hickey, Danny O, Ron Hagen, Bob Harper and Ed Brannan, to name a few.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s seminal work, Silencing the Past, teaches us to connect to the past, or “pastness,” and to make known our connection to history. It was decided to name the division Bluestone. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone.

In Northeast Ohio, it is also known as Euclid Bluestone; fine-grained, harder and less friable than Berea sandstone. It is the native substrate of Eastern Cuyahoga Co. and first quarried by an Irishman.

Duncan McFarland was born in Co. Tyrone in 1818. He immigrated to America in 1837 and worked along the Ohio & Erie Canal. In 1845, he went with his brother, Robert, to work the copper mines near Lake Superior.

Bluestone Village

In 1867, he opened a quarry on the east bank of Euclid Creek. His sons opened a second quarry on the west bank in 1871. In 1890, there were five quarries and immigrant laborers from Ireland, Canada, Sweden and Italy who mainly resided in Bluestone Village. The village was home to 400 residents at its peak and had a general store, a post office, two saloons, a temperance hall, a church and boarding house.

One of the first railroads in Cleveland was the Quarry Railroad, which transported bluestone from top of Cedar Hill to East 101st and then to downtown Cleveland. Bluestone was used for exterior steps, foundations, tombstones, capstones and even billiard tables. It was occasionally used for exterior walls of buildings, including the old city halls in Cleveland Heights and Euclid.

In 1847, Duncan, Robert and their father James purchased 105 acres in what is today the South Chagrin Reservation. He married Margaret Whigham, also from Ireland, in 1848. Duncan McFarland passed away on September 17th, 1886.

Bluestone Village was incorporated into South Euclid in 1917. Juice’s was in South Euclid, just down Mayfield from South Euclid’s oldest bar, Black Forest. Founding member Father Albert Beltz painted the first rendition of our division logo, “A shovel and a pick,” to venerate those Irish laborers who came before us, from the saying “A shovel and a pick, a wheelbarrow and a Mick, that’s how you build a canal.”

The shovel and pick are surrounded by three shamrocks: Bluestone is Cuyahoga division #3. It is the third station of the Cross where Jesus falls the first time, and on the third day he rose again. It was our goal to mobilize the Irish Catholic population on the Eastside. A division of the pews, named after none of us but named after all of us.

Joe Casey joined us at Skinny’s for dinner before the Western Reserve’s August meeting in 2013. Mickey McNally made the motion to have its members transfer to the new Bluestone Division. On the anniversary of Duncan McFarland’s death, the Bluestone Division officers were sworn in at our first meeting, September 17th, 2013: Francis McGarry, President, John Kane, Vice President, Tom Davis, Recording Secretary, Adam Dishong, Financial Secretary and Chuck Arth, Treasurer (and Black Forest regular).

Bluestone had the youngest division officers in the State of Ohio, even with Chuck. That is a title the division still holds to this day.

Our first brunch was September 22 that year, with the assistance of our division members and Koumbaros Catering. Those were a lot of work but good events. February 23, 2014 was our first division Mass at Immaculate Conception. Father Godic shared how the Fenians stashed their rifles in the basement of The Mac before invading Canada.

Mr. Fitzgerald, Hibernian of the Year 2020, introduced the division to Father Latcovich and Phil Guban at Borromeo Seminary and our relationship has grown.

The Bluestone Division today has 100 members. We are a division of the pews and it is our membership that allows us to contribute and live the motto. We thank Presidents Ben Neylon, Kevin McCluskey and our current President Bob Mullin for their guidance and leadership.

It is truly impressive to be surrounded by a group that knows what we do and how we do it. Our division co-sponsors four Hibernian Masses with the Eastside’s new LAOH Deirfiúr of Charity Division. Deirfiúr will be at 100 members soon. Both divisions also support the Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center at St. Philomena. Bluestone holds the Robert M. Fitzgerald Golf Outing and supports Catholic education and seminarians with scholarship donations.

The Irish in Cleveland at one time had an annual picnic at Euclid Beach. The first picnic was in 1867, same as Duncan’s quarry. Bluestone hosts an annual picnic – please feel free to join us in celebrating Bluestone’s 10th Anniversary, on September 16th at the Rear Quarry Picnic Area in Euclid Creek.

Find this column and others from the September 2023 issue here!

Picture of Francis McGarry

Francis McGarry

*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is the Executive Director of Bluestone Hibernian Charities and proprietor of McGarry Consulting. He is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side and the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

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