The following history of his family, written in the USA by Daniel E. Harrington over a three-year period from 1830 to 1933, gives an insight into the sad times and terrible hardships of emigrants in the 1800s.
This letter appears in the Annals of Beara Vol 2 (Chapter 7). I would like to thank Joanne Boyd, great-granddaughter of Daniel Harrington. Joanne and her mother transcribed the letter and made it available to all of us who have difficulty in getting sight of these three valuable volumes of genealogical histories of the people of Beara and surrounding parishes by the late Riobárd O’Dwyer N.T.,
EMIGRATION IN THE 1800’s
“My father, John Harrington (Causkie), was born in the parish of Eyeries on the 21st day of June, 1819. His father, John Harrington, as near as my information goes, was a native of Castletown [Bere] proper. My father’s mother was a Murphy (Maheesh) from Castletown. My great-great grandfather also bore the name of John. He had several brothers, two of them Daniel and Cornelius, who were pressed into military service in the wars between England and France in the last part of the 18th century,, both losing their lives in the conflict. Bere Island was the birthplace of my mother. Her name was Mary Harrington (Kebugh).
My grandfather’s wife died in Ireland about 1830, leaving three children, two boys and one
girl, my father then being the oldest and about eleven years. A second marriage took place in a few years, this time to Margaret Harrington from the adjoining county Kerry. She had two children, Mary and Daniel, who came to this country after my grandfather preceded her with my father and his brother Timothy.
My grandfather and his two sons, John (my father) and Timothy landed in Quebec, Canada in June 1837, having left their home on St. Patrick’s Day of that year. After they had secured a footing, they sent for the family left at home, consisting of my father’s own sister Hannah and my Grandfather’s second wife with her babies.
During my grandfather’s three-months voyage, the ship fever had spread through the hapless emigrants, so that half of them were sick, many dying before they reached the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It was an everyday occurrence to see from one to three corpses committed to the deep long before those unhappy voyagers sighted land.
Among those on the sick list was my father’s brother Timothy. My father knew the ‘yards’ and could ply the oars like a real sailor. This kept him about the deck a good deal, thus saving his health on the trip over. But by the time the ship made quarantine below Quebec, all hopes of saving Timothy’s life had been given up the doctors in charge.
Hundreds of Irish emigrants were being buried in the mud trenches on the shore of the St. Lawrence River. My grandfather was an eye-witness to this during the week that he waited for a final decision. When the word came to him that it was no use waiting longer, he asked for and received permission to dig a grave for Timothy high up and away from the water, so that at some future date he could return and give his son a more respectable resting place.
My grandfather now set out for the copper mines of Stratford, Vermont, about three hundred miles away. Fortunately, he had enough to pay for his passage via boat on the river to Montreal, then by stagecoach to the nearest point on Lake Champlain, boat again to Burlington, and then by foot and any way he could, to Stratford. His journey took about seven days.
He went to work at once in the mine as foreman. Every day he waited for his oldest boy John (my father) to turn up, as when my grandfather left Quebec, John was to wait there and later report to him about the burial of Timothy.
But instead of dying, as predicted, Timothy had taken a turn for the better, and after three weeks he was let ashore and stayed in a boarding-house kept by an Irishman Thomas McGrath.
My father John went into the country and got a job making potash. The Frenchmen he worked for had no English and my father spoke Irish. He lived on pea soup and pork which was more raw than cooked. He put in about three weeks at this work and made several trips into Quebec for news of his brother Timothy who was still at McGrath’s boarding house. One day he found that Timothy had begun his first business venture in America. The owner of the boarding house and some kind-hearted Irish labourers, boarders of his, had made up a purse (collection) and started Timothy in business selling candies and oranges around the docks, so that when my father arrived, Timothy had about seven dollars, while my father John had the sum of eight English shillings for his three weeks making potash.
Vermont became the home of the family for thirty-five years. Leaving the Green Mountain State in 1872, they settled in North Adams, Massachusetts for eight years and then, in April 1880, Springfield, Massachusetts became their home.
My father’s first wife was a native Vermonter, Sarah Lucina Potter. They were married in 1844. Of this union there were five children: Catherine, Honora, Mary, Ellen and Timothy. The mother of these children died on the 10th October 1853 (her baby Timothy was only thirteen months old at the time) and her grave-stone can be found in the old Dorset cemetery.
My father and mother (Mary Harrington of Bere Island) were united in marriage on March 8th at Chicopee, Massachusetts (then called Cabot Ville), by the Rev. William Blinkensop, as at this time there was no priest in Springfield. Right away they proceeded to Dorset, Vermont, where the children of the first marriage were living under the care of relatives. Nine children were born of the second union, five boys and four girls. Of the boys, the writer (Daniel E. Harrington) is the only one [still]living in 1930. The girls (in early 1930) are still alive, making their home in Springfield, Mass.
Arriving in Boston from Bere Island in the early summer of 1848, my mother first went to Lowell to a cousin for a few days before moving on to Springfield. From there she walked the rest of the way to her mother’s sister, a Mrs. Murphy, at Cabot Ville (Chicopee) where she spent the next five years of her life working in a cotton mill until her marriage to my father.
Mar. 6th 1933. It is now three years since I started this history of the Harrington family. Since then many sad events have happened. The greatest grief came to me was the passing so suddenly on the forenoon of January 28th, 1932 of my darling life partner. This loss to the family does not grow less as time passes. For many days it seemed as though her footsteps were about the home, and every time I went into her room it seemed she should be either there or busy, as was her usual custom, about her housework. Two of my sisters have passed on. First, Sarah (wife of W.J Quilty of Springfield, Mass.) died on Feb. 21st, 1930, and Julia within a year after.
My wife was Margaret Fitzgerald, born at No. 100, State Street, Saratoga Springs, from which home she became united in marriage with me on the 3rd September, 1884. We lived there, and our two oldest children, John and Margaret, were born there. On April 1st, 1887, we took up our residence at 15 Van Dorn Street, Saratoga Springs, and have lived there continuously since.
This home has seen many hours of gladness, and some also of sadness. Two of our children died here: Charles at the age of one year and two days, and Catherine at the age of four months. My other children, except Margaret, have married. And now I am nearing the time when I must cease work. It is but a few days ago that I made my first will which I intend to be my last. I am filing these leaves away with the will, and some day they may be read by my children.”