History of Greeley Irish Settlement
The history of the Irish in Greeley
links back to events of the mid-1800’s as Irish men and women were
attempting to flee the famine, domineering English landlords, oppression
and general disorder in Ireland by coming to the U.S.
This movement accelerated in the late 1870’s and
early 1880’s. Many of the folks existed in poor economic conditions when
they arrived on the east coast. The Irish immigrants immediately located
in the cities of the eastern seaboard.
The jobs they found were of low pay with very bad
working conditions, such as tanneries, factories and coal mines.
Word started to spread that there were large
amounts of land being offered for homesteads west of the
Missouri River. Patrick Hynes and Michael McCarthy were two
of the first pioneers to trek to this part of the U.S. in 1877 looking over the
possibilities of finding farm ground for Irish families. After looking
at property in the eastern and central parts of
Nebraska, they decided that this was too far inland and
proceeded to head back home via Grand Island,
Nebraska. In Grand Island
they met a government surveyor who had just completed surveying land in
the land that would be Greeley County. They proceeded to this area and
found it to be very acceptable, although it was far from any existing
railway. They located desirable homesteads and the history of the Irish
in Greeley County began.
Several others with the same intentions of Hynes
and McCarthy began to arrive. With development contact with
General John O’Neill who was instrumental in the Irish settlement in
County and his contact with Bishop
O’Connor of Omaha, the land in Greeley County
was eyed as a prime spot for relocation for the Irish families wishing
to homestead. Bishop O’Connor, along with Bishop
of Minnesota and Bishop Spalding of Illinois, established the
Irish Catholic Colonization Society. The Society raised money to
purchase land for Irish immigrants to settle the rural areas that were
A colony was established in Greeley County
in 1879 with the land that was purchased from the Burlington and Missouri Railroad.
The founding of Greeley,
Nebraska was not directly related to the Irish
Catholic Colonization effort, but played a big part in the Irish history
of Greeley County. Greeley was founded by Thomas Fox. The town
began to form with a few businesses and homes in 1885. With the arrival
of the Burlington Missouri Railroad, numerous nationalities, including
Irish, Swedish and German arrived looking for the chance of prosperity
and Greeley flourished. In contrast, due to land
disputes, the railroad routed around the town of
O’Connor, which is located southeast of
Greeley. Several of the O’Connor businesses and
residents eventually re-located to Greeley and joined numerous other Irish immigrants that had
arrived in Greeley
from its inception as a town.
Evidence of the Irish roots of
is the fact that the majority of the town’s original street names, that
are still proudly displayed today, are based on counties in Ireland. Two of
the exceptions being the main street which was named for General John
O’Neill and O’Connor Avenue
related to Bishop O’Connor and the town that was named after him.
has continued to hold a large percentage of its population with Irish
ties. Even today the 2000 U.S. Census shows that the town of Greeley has
well over 40% of its population still claiming an Irish ancestry making
it one of, if not, the most Irish town in the United States.