considered out of town, east of East 9th (or Erie) street and north of Superior Avenue. In 1845 the area was generally considered unhealthy. It too was mostly swamp.

       These areas of Irish settlement became so densely populated that they had to be noticed by the native Americans of Cleveland, and indeed they were noticed, the newspapers of the day gave a graphic picture of the scene, condemning the squalor, crime and general lack of good citizenship displayed by the Irish. There was, however, no effort to help the new immigrants and no sympathy evidenced for their plight: there were no organized programs of public health, sanitation, adequate housing, job opportunity or even any hope on the part of the native Americans of Cleveland that the immigrant Irish might ever become useful citizens of their new land and city. Quite the contrary was true. Political forces already in motion in other cities of the country, in the form of the Nativist American Movement, came alive in Cleveland, and all sorts of laws which have been well described by Carleton Beals in his book The Brass Knuckle Crusade became part of the legal and punitive system in Cleveland. The immigrant Irish responded with more violence and with a deep interior hopelessness.

Development of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

       Then a vastly significant, and for the immigrant Irish, a providential event took place which was, this writer believes, to ultimately shape their whole destiny in Cleveland.




       Far away in Rome on April 9, 1847, Pope Pius IX, at the request of John Purcell, Bishop of the Diocese of Cincinnati, which up to that time embraced all of the State of Ohio, divided the Cincinnati Diocese and created the new Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. To be bishop of this new diocese, the Pope named Father Amadeus Rappe, a French-born missionary priest who had come to work on the Ohio Mission in 1840 at the request of Bishop Purcell, and who had been laboring among the struggling Irish workers in the Toledo area. They were engaged in digging the new canal connecting the Wabash River in Indiana with the Maumee River near Toledo, and among them, because of his special concern for the problems of the Irish, Rappe had developed a good reputation.

       The new Diocese of Cleveland extended from Indiana to Pennsylvania and from Lake Erie south to the fortieth parallel of North Latitude. Perhaps in retrospect, Rome might have chosen a man of greater administrative ability, but Rappe was a good man, a simple priest of the people, and was remarkably aware of the needs of his people. When he came to Cleveland to take possession of his See he found seventeen churches in the whole diocese, only one of which was in Cleveland, Saint Mary's of the Flats on Columbus Road at Girard Street (demolished in 1886); he found only one priest in Cleveland, and less than twenty-five priests in the whole diocese. There were no Catholic institutions, not even schools which could be called parochial.




St. Mary's of the Flats

Bishop Amadeus Rappe



       As soon as he got to Cleveland, however, the new bishop began a remarkable building program which was, at first, designed to aid the most urgent needs of his Irish people. In Cleveland alone during his first ten years as bishop, Rappe, with the help of money he collected in France:

  1. Built a new Cathedral to replace Saint Mary's. It was located at East 9th and Superior, occupying the ground where the remodeled Saint John Cathedral stands today. It was begun in 1848 and was completed amid great rejoicing by the Irish people of the East Side in 1852.

  2. Established Saint Patrick's on Bridge Avenue in 1853 for the Irish on the West Side.

  3. Began a convent school for girls in 1850 under the direction of the Ursuline Sisters in an old mansion on the south side of Euclid Avenue near East 6th Street. He had persuaded these nuns to come from France to take this missionary charge.

  4. Established an orphanage in 1851 on the West Side at Fulton and Monroe Streets and staffed it with a community of sisters he founded as an offspring of the French Ursulines. It was to care for the Irish children who survived the immigration voyage but whose parents did not. Connected with the orphanage the bishop began a hospital under the care of these same sisters. The hospital failed for a time, but was opened for good with the aid .....




    of money Publicly subscribed by the whole Population of Cleveland in 1864. Bishop Rappe called it Saint Vincent Charity Hospital, and he staffed it with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine who had begun the orphanage. This was the first public hospital in the city; it was opened originally to care for wounded Union Army soldiers who were generally discharged when wounded in the Civil War and sent home to find medical care as best they could. There was none in Cleveland until Charity Hospital was opened. The hospital marked a radical departure from the Catholic policy in the new Diocese of Cleveland which up to this time cared only for its own people. This was the first sign of a developing diocesan maturity, albeit thrust upon the diocese by the Civil War.

       Bishop Rappe lived a block from his new cathedral on East 9th Street and was, in fact, pastor of this cathedral parish. This parish was in his time the largest parish in the diocese, and was a territorial, which is to say, an English speaking parish. This meant that all the Irish immigrants on the East Side belonged to the parish, and for them the bishop developed a specific policy. The Irish immigrants in the cathedral parish were to acculturate with their American neighbors as best they could. They were to seek as soon as possible such things as steady jobs, frugality, home ownership and what we might call upward mobility. Only in the matter of temperance did the bishop Permit the cathedral Irish to form their own ethnic society. .....




That rather popular society took the name of Father Matthew, the Irish-born temperance crusader who had preached a mission at the Cathedral in 1851, at which thousands, including the bishop himself, took the temperance pledge. It would seem that these people kept this pledge; crime among the Irish suddenly decreased. They began to become home owners and to develop a sense of frugality urged to deposit or invest their money by the existence of the bishop's bank (which lasted no more than a decade). It took no more than a generation for the Irish on the East Side to see themselves as upwardly mobile and capable of competing for jobs, not with one another, but with the native-born Yankee Clevelanders. They accepted the urging of Bishop Rappe that they should no longer see themselves as Irish or even Irish American, but simply as American.

       Any priest stationed at the Cathedral during Bishop Rappe's time who saw himself as an Irish leader in an Irish parish was quickly transferred to the most rural parish which could be found where he was told to practice his nationalism among farmers. A case in point was that of Father T.P. Thorpe who, while at the Cathedral in 1864-65, became active in the Fenian movement. His efforts got him transferred in 1866 to Norwalk, Ohio. The Cathedral and two new parishes which were founded in the decade between 1855 and 1865, Saint Bridget's on East 22nd Street near Charity Hospital and the Immaculate Conception at East 41st and Superior, each comprised totally of Irish immigrants, were to be American at once.




St. Colman's Church--(The Old Church)


The Holy Rosary Church, the first church of the Holy Nname Parish.