It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and to celebrate, here’s an update of my CHH post from March 17, 2021. Slàinte!
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, originally the religious observance of the feast day of the principal patron saint of Eire.1 In honor of the day, let’s take a look at a few aspects of Irish life in early southeast Wisconsin and the involvement of Mary (Turck) Clark’s father Peter Turck in a civic effort to relieve Irish suffering during the Great Famine.
Irish immigrants in early Wisconsin
The first white visitors to Wisconsin were seventeenth-century French-Canadian explorers, priests and fur trappers, at home along Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. They were followed by a smattering of British and French settlers in the mid- and later-eighteenth century. Cornish lead miners arrived in the southwest corner of the territory around the turn of the nineteenth-century. And in the mid-1830s, when the federal government officially “opened” the southeast corner of Wisconsin for settlement, there was a large influx of New Englanders and New Yorkers.
There were also a substantial number immigrants from across the sea among the Wisconsin pioneers of the 1830s and ’40s, including settlers from Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, the German-speaking lands, and Ireland. By the time of the 1850 federal decennial census, Irish men, women, and children comprised the second-largest group of foreign-born immigrants in the state, surpassed in number only by immigrants from the German-speaking lands.Continue reading