Irish roots deep in Bismarck-Mandan

2014-03-17T02:00:00Z Irish roots deep in Bismarck-MandanTribune editorial Bismarck Tribune
March 17, 2014 2:00 am  • 

Neither Bismarck nor Mandan have a St. Patrick's Day parade. Fargo has one. Dickinson used to celebrate the holiday with a parade.

Maybe Bismarck-Mandan should host a parade on the holiday. The truth is that the Irish have deep roots here.

The Irish and Northern Pacific Railroad (now the BNSF Railway) were synonymous. The Irish and other immigrants laid the track and drove the spikes that connected the nation across its middle. And a fair number of those Irish roustabouts ended up making homes in communities along the main line.

For a long time, the old NP, which employed many of Irish origin, made Mandan a division point. That meant good-paying jobs manning passenger and freight trains as conductors, engineers and firemen. Those workers built homes in the city and filled the school with "wee ones."

The immigrants were driven out of Ireland by famine, not so different in some ways than the Germans from Russia, the Scots or even modern refugees. Immigrants and refugees are usually driven from their homes by poverty and political differences. These new Americans also came for land, which many could not own in their native countries.

When the Irish landed in America — again, like many of the Germans from Russia — they were looked down upon for their poverty. They took the meanest jobs and worked to build homes here. They have worked their way up from the bottom of the order. It’s something that might be considered in present discussions of immigration reform.

In earlier times in Bismarck, you could hear the Irish in many shop names: Finney Drug, Murphy's Insurance, O'Brien's Cafe, Dingle Body and Paint Shop and Harrington's Barber Shop. It was the same in Mandan: Kennelly Furniture, Cary Lyman real estate, Connolly Motor Co., The Cummins Co., O'Rourke & Fitzsimmons grocers and Sullivan, Hanley and Sullivan lawyers. The melting pot in those days hadn't yet blended.

The Kerry Patch, on the west of Main, was where most of the Irish lived in Bismarck.

Wearing the green, therefore, can be justified in Bismarck-Mandan, although it's said that on St. Patrick's Day, anyone can be Irish.

St. Patrick's Day is for celebrating. Behind the good cheer have been some terrible hard times. That’s past, but not forgotten. In the meanwhile, "Slainte!"

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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