Chapter 12


       The penchant of the Irish to form and develop various esoteric and often secret societies, rooted in the experience of the Irish in Ireland struggling with the English, appears to have been carried to this country by the Irish immigrants of the last century. These societies were generally oath-bound to secrecy,, mostly to guard against the age-old Irish fear of the informer. Usually they were harmless enough, but not always was this so, as we shall see. These societies usually fell into two classes. The first were the radical militants, such as those who formed The Ancient Order of Hibernians, The A.O.H. dates back to the 1830's in Ireland and was organized to fight against landlords. It had as its purpose the ultimate freedom of Ireland from Great Britain. It failed in Ireland to achieve its purposes. During the 19th Century in this country its headquarters was in Pittsburgh, where it purported to be a social and insurance benevolent organization. It had, however, a political arm which also had its origin in Ireland called the Molly Maguires. The Molly Maguires nearly destroyed the reputation of the Irish in the United States by their murderous doings in the coal fields in Pennsylvania in the early 1870's. For them the issue was justice .....




for the miners, most of whom were Irish. The enemy was the Reading Railroad which owned the mines. The railroad refused to acknowledge a union of miners; it shut down the mines when the miners, seeking to unionize for higher wages, went on strike. The Reading Railroad infiltrated the Molly Maguires with a Pinkerton Detective posing as a member of the oath-bound secret society who revealed the whole internal structure of the striking miners to a court of law. Executions followed; the force of the striking miners was completely destroyed and the Irish in the coal fields sunk to a level of existence bordering on despair.

       This lesson was not lost on the Cleveland Irish who were, in most cases, working under somewhat similar conditions in the steel mills and on the ore docks of the city. It was often alleged, but never proved, that the Molly Maguires were a revolutionary arm of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Membership in the A.O.H. involved large numbers of Cleveland Irish. The organization functioned in Cleveland, viewed with great suspicion but never proscribed by Bishop Richard Gilmour through the last quarter of the last century. By the turn of the century, the A.O.H. was no longer headquartered in Pittsburgh; the social and benevolent aspects of the organization came to be regarded as quaint but respectable, and today one finds its membership loyal but relatively inactive in the nation and in Cleveland. Often they are the best-dressed contingent in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Their possible connection with the Molly Maguires or .....




or the subsequent labor efforts of Samuel Gompers and the origins of the American Federation of Labor have been forgotten, save for the research of Dr. Harry Browne done in the late 1940's.

       A second organization is The West Side Irish American Club. This group, to which reference has already been made, is a purely local organization. It flourishes at its headquarters at West 93rd and Madison Avenue where social events seem to go on nearly every night of the year. By its very title one can guess that its membership is drawn almost exclusively from the Irish of the West Side, although recently the young people of Irish origin who live on the East Side and in its suburbs may frequently be seen at the dances the Club sponsors. One wonders if their presence at such events is not a sign of their desire to rediscover their ethnic roots forgotten by their parents. In any case, the West Side I.A., as it is called by its habituees, flourishes at many different levels and recently has purchased a large tract of land in Middleburg Heights for a new clubhouse, picnic grounds, museum, and a lake for swimming. The Club had little difficulty raising over one million dollars to finance the enterprise.

       There are innumerable other smaller Irish societies meeting in Cleveland today. Most have their roots in rather recent times and thier functions range from a once-a-year participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the ceremonies that occur that day, to meetings organized on a regular basis for the study of Irish and Anglo-Irish literature. It would be a mistake to take .....(continued next page