When most people reflect on Mequon’s ethnic heritage, they likely think of the area’s strong German roots – but Germans were not the only group of immigrant settlers to impact the area. An exhibit during the Jonathan Clark House’s open house held March 6 highlighted the presence of Irish immigrant settlers in 19th-century Mequon and Cedarburg. Plat maps of both towns from 1873 were on display, and the location of each homestead owned by an Irish immigrant was marked by a green shamrock sticker. The idea for the exhibit had its genesis two years ago, when the Jonathan Clark House’s assistant director, Anne Bridges, began to notice how many Irish names appeared on the 1873 plat maps of Mequon and Cedarburg, making it apparent that 19th century Ozaukee County had a sizable Irish population. The Jonathan Clark House has its own direct connection to Mequon’s Irish history. Mary Turck, Jonathan Clark’s widow, sold the house in 1872 to an Irish immigrant farmer named John Doyle.

Sources suggest that by 1870, there were about 400 Irish immigrants living in Ozaukee County. This made the Irish the second-largest immigrant population in the county, next to Germans. It is not clear when the first Irish

immigrants arrived in the area, but some arrived when Wisconsin was still a territory. One of these early Irish settlers was Cornelius Kenney, who emigrated from County Limerick in 1840. Cornelius, his wife, Nora, and their budding family originally landed in New York but purchased land and built near the site of present-day Pioneer Road, an area that was later dubbed “Newland” by Irish settlers. Many Irish people who arrived in Wisconsin from the middle of the 1840s on were fleeing the decade-long Irish

Potato Famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1855. Estimates range that somewhere between 1.3 million to 2 million Irish emigrated from Ireland to escape the horrors of the famine, most of them settling in the United States. One of these famine-era immigrants who settled in Ozaukee County was Jeremiah McCarthy, who left Ireland around

1851 and initially settled in Maine. After failing as a potato farmer in that state, McCarthy moved to Ozaukee County and bought a farm in 1855.

Irish Immigrants like Kenney and McCarthy were often drawn to Wisconsin from the east due in part to the promotional efforts of Wisconsin territorial, and later state, government. Advertisements, letters and articles published in East Coast newspapers publicized the cheap land and available employment in Wisconsin to newly

arrived immigrants struggling to find work in urban New York or Boston. Typical of these commentaries was one that ran in New York’s Irish-American in 1856, promoting Prairie du Chien. The correspondent wrote: “Our farmers are very busy now cutting down their golden grain. They are paying very high wages to laborers for their services ... (to) cut down the harvest. A laborer who knows anything of farming work can earn from 12 shillings

to two dollars per day and board the next month.” Another promotional piece boasted: “Fifty years labor in New England or 20 years’ toil in Ohio are not equal in their result to five industrious years in Wisconsin.”

 

Most of the Irish who settled in Mequon were farmers, but they left far more of an impact on the land than the furrows in their fields. The Irish inhabitants founded the first Catholic church in the region to serve the area then

called Newland. St. Francis Borgia’s church’s first iteration was a log cabin chapel built in 1844 on a 3-acre plot owned by Thomas O’Brien.

Irish settlers began to cluster near the church and became a closely knit community.

The small log cabin served the Catholic congregation for seven years until a larger structure was built on the site in the 1850s. When even this proved too small, a new Catholic church was constructed in Cedarburg in 1870. As the Catholic church moved from Newland, it

seems that many of the Irish followed, and the number of Irish declined in the county after the mid-1870s. Their legacy remains, however, in the current St. Francis Borgia congregation, St. Francis Borgia School and many of the stone houses in the county.

Irish Settlements in Ozaukee County.

By Adam Azzalino

When most people reflect on Mequon’s ethnic heritage, they likely think of the area’s strong German roots – but Germans were not the only group of immigrant settlers to impact the area. An exhibit during the Jonathan Clark House’s open house held March 6 highlighted the presence of Irish immigrant settlers in 19th-century Mequon and Cedarburg. Plat maps of both towns from 1873 were on display, and the location of each homestead owned by an Irish immigrant was marked by a green shamrock sticker. The idea for the exhibit had its genesis two years ago, when the Jonathan Clark House’s assistant director, Anne Bridges, began to notice how many Irish names appeared on the 1873 plat maps of Mequon and Cedarburg, making it apparent that 19th century Ozaukee County had a sizable Irish population. The Jonathan Clark House has its own direct connection to Mequon’s Irish history. Mary Turck, Jonathan Clark’s widow, sold the house in 1872 to an Irish immigrant farmer named John Doyle.

Sources suggest that by 1870, there were about 400 Irish immigrants living in Ozaukee County. This made the Irish the second-largest immigrant population in the county, next to Germans. It is not clear when the first Irish

immigrants arrived in the area, but some arrived when Wisconsin was still a territory. One of these early Irish settlers was Cornelius Kenney, who emigrated from County Limerick in 1840. Cornelius, his wife, Nora, and their budding family originally landed in New York but purchased land and built near the site of present-day Pioneer Road, an area that was later dubbed “Newland” by Irish settlers. Many Irish people who arrived in Wisconsin from the middle of the 1840s on were fleeing the decade-long Irish

Potato Famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1855. Estimates range that somewhere between 1.3 million to 2 million Irish emigrated from Ireland to escape the horrors of the famine, most of them settling in the United States. One of these famine-era immigrants who settled in Ozaukee County was Jeremiah McCarthy, who left Ireland around

1851 and initially settled in Maine. After failing as a potato farmer in that state, McCarthy moved to Ozaukee County and bought a farm in 1855.

Irish Immigrants like Kenney and McCarthy were often drawn to Wisconsin from the east due in part to the promotional efforts of Wisconsin territorial, and later state, government. Advertisements, letters and articles published in East Coast newspapers publicized the cheap land and available employment in Wisconsin to newly

arrived immigrants struggling to find work in urban New York or Boston. Typical of these commentaries was one that ran in New York’s Irish-American in 1856, promoting Prairie du Chien. The correspondent wrote: “Our farmers are very busy now cutting down their golden grain. They are paying very high wages to laborers for their services ... (to) cut down the harvest. A laborer who knows anything of farming work can earn from 12 shillings

to two dollars per day and board the next month.” Another promotional piece boasted: “Fifty years labor in New England or 20 years’ toil in Ohio are not equal in their result to five industrious years in Wisconsin.”

 

Most of the Irish who settled in Mequon were farmers, but they left far more of an impact on the land than the furrows in their fields. The Irish inhabitants founded the first Catholic church in the region to serve the area then

called Newland. St. Francis Borgia’s church’s first iteration was a log cabin chapel built in 1844 on a 3-acre plot owned by Thomas O’Brien.

Irish settlers began to cluster near the church and became a closely knit community.

The small log cabin served the Catholic congregation for seven years until a larger structure was built on the site in the 1850s. When even this proved too small, a new Catholic church was constructed in Cedarburg in 1870. As the Catholic church moved from Newland, it

seems that many of the Irish followed, and the number of Irish declined in the county after the mid-1870s. Their legacy remains, however, in the current St. Francis Borgia congregation, St. Francis Borgia School and many of the stone houses in the county.

Cedarburg Cultural Center / Arts Center

W62 N546 Washington Ave

Cedarburg, WI  53012  -  262-375-3676 / Email

Hours / Tuesday - Saturday   10am-5pm  

Sunday   12-4pm  / Closed Monday

Box Office - 262-375-3676 ext. 101

Cedarburg History Museum

       N58 W6194 Columbia Rd  

Cedarburg, WI   53012

262-375-3676 ext. 106 / Email

Hours / Monday - Saturday   10am-4pm

Sunday   12-4pm

 

Kuhefuss House Museum

 W63 N627 Washington Ave  Cedarburg, WI   53012

CEDARBURG

CULTURAL CENTER

Cedarburg History Museum

CEDARBURG CULTURAL CENTER