The Irish in St. Louis

Starting during 1848 and continuing through the potato famine in Ireland, large numbers of the Irish working class came to America and found their way to St. Louis. They settled originally in a heavily wooded area that was a part of the farmland owned by one of their countryman, John Mullanphy. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, Bryan Mullanphy was so moved by plight of the poor Irish that he went to a saloon and wrote his famous will establishing the Traveler's Aid Fund. This fund is still active today as the Traveler's Aid Society. The area where they settled became known as "Kerry Patch" because most of the early residents came from County Kerry. The housing occupied by most were one-room, thatch-roof shanties, giving rise to the names "Shanty Irish" and "Lace Curtain Irish" Many of the aggressive and good-natured Irishmen became politicians, manned the city's police and fire departments and produced many newspapermen. However many were never able to overcome their lack of money and education, subsisting as laborers in the brick factories, streets, railroads and other industries. The Irish in the Patch were the second largest ethnic element in St. Louis in the 1800s, the Germans being the largest. During the Civil War most Irishmen were at least sympathetic to the Confederacy. This was thought to be the result of their championing of underdog causes. The actual boundaries of Kerry Patch were never clearly defined however Jack Sheehan (the last "King" of Kerry patch who died in the 1930's) said the original territory was bounded by 16th Street on the east, 19th Street on the west, O'Fallon Street on the south and Cass Avenue on the north. For almost a century the Patch area held almost sacred memories for the Irish immigrants and their descendants until the entire area was eventually raised for the construction of high-rise public housing.