Cleveland Irish: Refreshment and Business

Cleveland Irish: Refreshment and Business
by Francis McGarry

The early Irish in Cleveland did not take long to make their presence felt in a variety of fields and endeavors.  Much is made in the myths of the Irish Diaspora about the Irish having nothing to give but their labor.  Shockingly these folks who supposedly only knew how to dig a ditch and drink managed to succeed in various businesses, and some did not even drink.  William Gleason shares their stories.

In the good old days before the civil strife the feeling of conviviality existed here to some extent. The compounding of drugs into spirituous liquors was then an unknown and unnecessary art; whisky was consequently pure, cheap – 25 cents a gallon for the best – and, therefore, fairly plentiful.

The Refreshment Business
Ale, too, was somewhat indulged in, but the festive lager was then a stranger to our community. There was no tax on liquor, no tax on saloons, hence the ‘refreshment business’ flourished. To counteract the evil influences of liquor, a Father Matthew temperance society was organized.

The sincere and earnest Father Edward Hannin, then pastor of the cathedral, now pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, Toledo, OH., was the leading factor in its organization. He was well known to every resident of the city as a tireless worker, and formed the best part of his people into Father Matthew societies.

In a brief time, he became an immense power in our midst. On the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, he proudly marched at the head of from 2000 to 2500 sober, industrious citizens. The saloonkeepers of those days all feared but respected him. After working hours “the boys” were in the habit of congregating in the “public houses” for a social glass.

The wiry and stalwart Father Hannin would appear upon the scene. Then there would be a scattering. The temperance advocate would proceed behind the bar, throw the bottles out of the doors and windows and roll the barrels of whisky outside. With his trusty ax, that was his constant companion on these raids, he would smash in the heads of the casks and permit the liquor to float into the streets and down the hillsides. After he performed his work he would return to the startled saloonkeeper and say, “Now, my good man, get down on your knees and say after me, the pledge of Father Matthew, and God will forgive you and bless you.”

As a rule, the saloonkeeper obeyed and next day he was engaged in a new and better occupation. The good priest was never personally molested in his earnest work, and his novel crusade against the liquor element had the sanction of the officials and the better class of society.

By his determination he closed scores of saloons and largely aided in making his people sober, happy and respected citizens. The name and excellent work of Father Edward Hannin is still remembered in Cleveland, and the Father Matthew temperance society founded by him has continued through all these years to flourish and bring prosperity to its membership.

Let us here take a slight personal glance, so far as memory serves, at the pioneers of old Erin who made this city their home.

Arthur Quinn established a large flour mill at the junction of Canal and Michigan streets, adjoining the packet landing. He received his supplies by wagon and fast-mule propelled boats over the raging canal. “Quinn’s white wheat and red wheat flour” was long recognized as the standard.

Hon. Joseph Turney, the village blacksmith, county and state treasurer, and an all ‘round clever gentleman, was one of the most popular and enterprising of our old citizens. The fire department and the south part of the city especially owe much to “Uncle Joe’s” persistent energy.

John Smith and his son, Patrick, were laborers, farmers and contractors. The latter turned his early attention to work about the river and procuring a small pile driver and horse began the building of docks. Later he went into pile driving on an extensive scale, with steam power, doing work for the railroads.

Next he went into dredging, the tug and vessel business and contracting for public works. He has been largely successful in his undertakings and is known favorably along the chain of lakes as a hardworking, square man, deserving of all the prosperity his honest industry has earned for him. He has served a number of terms in the city council, representing the old eighth ward. He has also been a county commissioner. His purse and his time have always been freely given for every object looking to the prosperity of his native and adopted countries.

Hugh Blee was a fine old Irish gentleman, kindly in his manner, stalwart in his proportions. He was a farmer and a grocer, and led a quiet, pleasant life. He had a tender spot for the land of his birth and generously assisted the cause of Ireland. He raised a family that are all respected.

Robert became a railroad brakeman, and by his industry and attention to business rose to the position of superintendent of the Big Four railroad. He recently made an honorable record as mayor of our city, and is now the president of the National Building & Loan Co. William is a leading businessman of Springfield, O., and has occupied various public positions, serving a number of terms as mayor. Barney has followed the railroad business. Hugh, Jr., has been a successful grocer and is now an ice dealer.

The Cop
Every old citizen knows Michael Gallagher. In our young days “Mike” constituted the entire police force of the city. As our population grew, he continued in the service and for a number of terms was elected city marshal.

Mike was a finely built man, a shrewd officer, and was feared by al lawbreakers. Every lover of law and order respected “honest Mike Gallagher.” He is still among us, fond of indulging in reminiscences of the early days.

These are just a few of the early Irish in Cleveland.  Some names are more familiar than others, but it is the variety of occupations that cause us to take note.  Many served publicly as elected officials in our fair city.  The Irish in Cleveland provide narratives that expand the story of the Irish in America. 

*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 an assistant principal and history teacher.  Francis is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side.  He is the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.   

Céilí Magic
by Sheila Ives

                                                                                    D A G  4/4 Triplets 8 count per line

O! Katie, let’s go to the céilí tonight. D

It’s for sure we’ll be having the time of our life. A

Bring your brothers and your sisters with you too. G

On a night like this no one should be home feeling blue.

        D                                                             A


Our favorite reels the fiddlers will play. D

We’ll forget all our worries we had for today. A

The music will be brisk and the melodies stirring, G

As across the wood floor we’ll be joyfully twirling.

                        D                                             A


We’ll clap our hands to the bodhrán’s steady beat. D

I won’t let you sit when we should be up on our feet. A

Look how the moon shines so glowingly white. G

Let happiness rule our hearts for tonight.

     D                                        A


We’ll slip outside for a moment or two.   D

Catch our breath, rest a bit, enjoy the evening view. A

I’ll see the beauty of the stars reflected in your eyes. G

The night is still young—it’s not time yet for goodbyes.

     D                                        A


Dancing with you seems to come so easily. D

With you by my side, I’ll feel so carefree. A

Who knows what our future may hold:  G

The joys and the sorrow, the stories yet untold.

        D                                     A


Just for tonight, let us dance so merrily. D

As I look across the room, it’s only you that I‘ll see. A

At this moment the music will begin to fade away. G

I know I’ll always treasure the magic of this day.

                        D                                 A


O! Katie, let’s go to the céilí tonight.  D

It’s for sure we’ll be having the time of our life. A

Bring your brothers and your sisters with you too. G

On a night like this no one should be home feeling blue.

                        D                                    A


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