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.”
Thank you for this very moving family history. At a time when most of us only write on social media, it underscores the importance of preserving memories for future generations, lest we lose track of who we are.
I look forward to all of your posts, Kay, and this was a particularly fine one.
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Thank you. When I first saw it shared by Jody I immediately wanted to share it with my audience on the blog. Thanks to her for sending & proofing the transcription.
This was such a beautiful story and is so valuable to the generations that followed. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for this. Very interesting. Gives one an idea of how tough things were for our Irish ancestors coming over to the U.S. Much hardship. I’m descended from O’Sheas from Eyeries, and my research so far suggests that Harrington is a family name as well.
Chris if you Eyeries connections you should really try & get to read the Annals of Beara. Vols 1 & 2 are reproduced on AmericanAncestors.org.
Great story! Would that more could and would have written like that. Interesting that he moved straight to being a foreman in the mines. Possibly because he had mining experience at Eyeries/Allihies ?
Bob, he did indeed have mining experience from working in the Allihies mines, and lived in Ballydonegan before emigrating. Riobard O’Dwyer’s version of the story in the Annals leaves out a couple of sentences about the man that my great grandfather wrote: “My grandfather was a large man, and as I learned, a man of considerable more ability than one would expect to find among the peasant class in Ireland at the time. He was interested in copper mining in the environs of his home town, which has always been known as center for this mineral, and for that purpose he set sail for America.”
Thanks to every person involved in this story, it gave me hope in this pandemic that one day others will read our stories . The connections are many and people like myself will always go looking for ancestors of IRELAND. Never stop writing it down to leave behind ,those to come after us will enjoy the reading of it as much as we do. Im a relation of the Hogans of Tralee and i will always need the connections …..finding them and reading about them is a joy.Now and always Kay thanx .
mary josephine payne (fox/Hogan)
Thank you, Jo Anne – I guessed he had gained his experience at Allihies. As I type I’m looking out from the opposite side of Kenmare Bay – Ballydonegan is hidden around the corner by Cod’s Head, but for the first time in a few weeks it’s a beautiful day and I can see out to Dursey Island and the Bull & Cow Rocks.
A fine account of family social history. The ability to read and write was so important for such recordings. This is but another example for the need for a National museum of Social History in Ireland. Governments tend to shy away from this important aspect of national development. The tragic mishaps or destruction of Census and land records or the 100 year moratorium on our first census record of 1926, tend to bear out this opinion. The colonial courthouse in Tralee is perhaps no longer fit for purpose and maybe court business would be better conducted in a less prominent location. The way would then be cleared to pursue EU and other government bodies for preservation and development of this courthouse as a National Museum of Social History. This is where real history lies and the public are becoming increasingly interested in their ancestry and all that it entails.
Michael, what a great idea. The Courthouse in Tralee would be an ideal place to locate such a Museum of Social History. I will circulate your email (with your permission?) to local T.D.’s & Councillors.
I agree with you on the need for a Centre for Social history and love the idea of re-purposing the Courthouse. Too many politicians are blind to ‘Family History Tourism’. However, the 100 year rule on the Census/Births is a legal one, a law that needs to be repealed. The next Census, due April 2021 has been deferred to April 2022. So we should strongly lobby to have the law changed to 75 or even 50 years before it takes place. Has work even begun on digitising the first ‘Irish’ Census? There are many land records available, e.g. Registry of deeds, which currently are being indexed by volunteers. However, they tend towards the wealthier families. What would be fascinating are the Land Commission records, mouldering away under lock and key in a warehouse in Port Laoise, to which access is forbidden for all, including academic researchers. Those records detail the transfer of land ownership (fields & farms) to the previous tenant occupiers and would be a goldmine of information on everything from genealogy to agrarian agitation and economics.
Hello – my name is Patrick, 26 years of age, born and raised in South East England but my maternal grandmother is a Harrington from Bere Island. I don’t have a lot of knowledge of her part of our family but I feel that there is a lot to find out – I would be very grateful to find out any knowledge of Harrington family trees in Bere Island. My grandmother, Maire Mullally (Nee Harrington) moved from Castletown Bere in (I think) with her mother in the 1950s to London where my father was born and raised. Her uncle was know as Jack “the slasher” Harrington (slasher was term that he was he known for for being able to quickly deplete mines) who emigrated and passed in Arizona, US. Her father or grandfather (apologies I’m really not sure which) served in the Canadian army, unfortunately I’m not sure of his name.