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    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 Holt 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 Ireland 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 opening up.

    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 Greeley 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.

     Greeley 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.

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