Niagara Gazette


March 17, 2013

GLYNN: Irish had a vital role in Erie Canal

Niagara Gazette — St. Patricks’ Day is the time to celebrate — perhaps even for those who limit their festivities to parades, green beer and recycled jokes — but it’s also appropriate to reflect for a moment on the story of the Irish in America.

As we know, the state Legislature approved the charter for Niagara Falls on March 16, 1892. T.V. Welch, the assemblyman representing the Cataract City in Albany, insisted though that Gov. Roswell P. Flower not sign the document until the next day, so that the City of Niagara Falls could be born on St. Patrick’s Day.

Obviously, industrious immigrants from several European nations, pursuing their dreams in America, settled in the Buffalo-Niagara area and contributed to its impressive growth (e.g. Irish, Polish, Italian and German, to name a few). But, as historians generally agree, the Erie Canal would never have been built without the Irish ditch-diggers. It was said at that time: “To dig a canal, at least four things are necessary, a shovel, a pick, a wheelbarrow, and an Irishman.” One of the most difficult tasks in building the 363-mile waterway between Albany and Buffalo, linking the Great Lakes with the Port of New York, was blasting through two miles of solid rock at Lockport, where a canal section is now a tourist attraction. For the record, those ditch-diggers earned some $9 per month in the 1820s. Most days they worked from dawn until dusk.

Like any other ethnic group, the Irish have customs not always understood or appreciated by others. Take “the wake” for example with its origin in western Ireland.  

Jay P. Dolan, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame, notes that initially it was a somber affair with no dancing or singing. The reason: It was not for a dead person but a living one who the following day would be sailing for the promised land (America). In later years, of course, things changed.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • NIA Smith, Doug and Polly LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Home alone on the Island Yeah, you know who I mean. Hard to start this project without you but deadline looms and you're still bein' Nana, the role you were born to play. I know, I know, if you'd known grandchildren were this much fun, you'd have had them first.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Hamilton, Ken mug HAMILTON: The Bills stadium and the proverbs We are what we are because of the way that we think, and we got the nothingness that have as a result of it.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA DeLuca, Michele mug DELUCA: Say it ain't so, Joe I had just parked my car in front of the Gazette offices on Niagara Street last week Thursday when a man approached me and stood by my door.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Tom T mug TOM'S CORNER: Bringing your own parts to repair shop is a bad idea The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom's Corner will appear in Thursday's editions.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug GLYNN: Tourism operators ready for new season Niagara area hospitality industry people will mark National Tourism Week, May 3 to May 11, with special events focusing on the assets that shape the Cataract City as a major destination.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Bradberry, Bill mug BRADBERRY: Neither long ago, nor far away ... If you did not catch documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' latest masterpiece, "The Address" on PBS last night, it will be well worth your time to look for the re-run, or to find it online as soon as possible.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Confer, Bob Mug CONFER: Don't go soft on teenage criminals New York is one of two states â€" North Carolina being the other â€" that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in misdemeanor and felony cases. Other states do so only on a conditional basis at the whim of the presiding judge.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Higgs, Norma mug HIGGS: Gothic architecture -- a fitting structure for church services Before we get involved in the new church building, we need to know what happened to the former structure on First Street which was utilized for St. Peter's Church services for 30 years until 1880 when the present stone church was ready for use.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • GLYNN: Local interest mounts in India's big election A number of people whose families have emigrated from India to the U.S. -- a solid sector of the hotel and restaurant business in the Niagara area -- are expected to hear a message today directly from the homeland.

    April 13, 2014

  • SINGER: Locating the next Shaq or Bird? With hallowed college hoops programs thriving around here, plus March NCAA games held in Buffalo (featuring champ-to-be UConn, upstart Dayton and a winnowed 'Cuse), will some new Shaq or Bird be located?

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page