Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The "Kerry Patch" And St. Louis Irish History

The "Kerry Patch" And St. Louis Irish History
By John B. McGinnis H&L 4C

By 1842, a group of Irish immigrants from County Kerry Ireland named and settled in the area known as the "Kerry Patch" Commonly referred to as "The Patch", North of downtown St. Louis. The Irish had began describing their homes as a “Patch” of land and since most Irish of the area came from County Kerry Ireland, they set in place, calling the area they lived “The Kerry Patch”. The neighborhood includes the streets in current firehouse’s 5 and 9 still districts and fifth police district station. The boundaries are Biddle St. from the South, Mullanphy St. from the North. N.9th St. from the East. And finally, N. 20th St. from the West, possibly reaching as far West as Jefferson. Names given to the slum and ghetto areas within The Patch, including the surrounding area, and thus ruled by individuals, groups or Irish gangs include "Clabber Alley", "Poverty Pocket", "Wild Cat Chute", “Castle Thunder", and “Battle Row". Native St. Louisians would enter Irish neighborhoods to start battles and riots with the inhabitants and leave before the authorities arrived, just in time for the arrest of the “troublemakers”. The average lifespan was fourteen years old in the Ghettos. A quote taken from an internet source describes how they evolved into an organized group:
“The Irish had learned to survive in Ireland by forming secret societies much like "gangs" of today. Some of the early gangs that formed in the Patch to enforce the will of St. Louis political machines were called "Eagan's Rats" and the "Hogan Gang". There were many who, despite the squalor, and desperation, climbed the employment ladder and worked in one of the approximately seventy breweries in St. Louis at the turn of the century. When Prohibition (1920-1933) closed the breweries, the Irish, already skilled in making beer, began home breweries and gangs formed to sell home brew throughout the city. Gangs with names like: the Ashley Gang, the Red Hots, The Purple Gang and the Cukoos had hundreds of members from the Kerry Patch. Some of the more notorious gang members were Dinty Colbeck, Tom and Willie Eagan, Ray Renard and Willie Heeney. Gang wars were fought in the streets of the Patch between the Eagan and the Hogan gangs.”
The wide-ranging population of immigrant Irish believed in hard work, a good work ethic, moreover, believed in laboring for their survival without protests, complaints or demands. They took care of each other, honored family and ruthlessly defended one another.
The Irish immigrants who lived in the area were mocked, and discriminated against by society in connection to housing, deprived of education and jobs, forced to read the inescapable signs “No Irish need apply“. Considered by native citizens of St. Louis as having low character, filthy, unclean, “given to drink” , they were spit upon and were told “You all look alike“. The Irish shared neighborhood outhouses, bath houses and water sources. They were lacking in choices of employment and compelled to take jobs that were dangerous, dirty and socially frowned upon. Examples: firemen that stoked engines, servants, bricklayers, unskilled laborers, etc. Some joined the priesthood and became nuns. Many were able to get hired on the City’s police and fire departments. They were often paid less than a dollar a week. Furthermore, the city residents were mainly Protestant in faith and despised the Irish for their Catholic heritage and bringing their demomination to St. Louis.
In 1849, a Flood, the following Cholera epidemic and “The Great Fire” destroyed much of the City. Ten percent of the population died from the combination of disasters. Current population was approximately 65,000. During the 1849 era, German and Irish immigrants were beginning to enter the city. And, entering at a particularly convenient time for rebuilding. The Germans were given the skilled jobs, the Irish given manual, unskilled, unwanted and dangerous jobs. The immigrant Germans and Irish were the two groups that salvaged our city and rebuilt St. Louis from the ground up and from near total destruction. After “The Great Fire”, the city passed ordinances against frame houses, thus only brick structures were acceptable, and to this reason, for our city , the older brick homes of today were built on the backs of the Irish. Twenty seven clay mines opened in the area to create the much needed new commodity, brick, for home and business construction, creating a job only the Irish would perform.
However, there were a few socially accepted Irish families who rose to power in business and government: The Mullanphys, perhaps the most notable for their contributions to the Irish population and community in general , became the first Irish millionaires in St. Louis. John Mullanphy became rich in business and real estate investments. The Mullanphy’s helped fund immigration from Ireland to the USA, as well as, many other numerous charities. They furthermore, established a house; called "The Mullanphy House" on the corner of Howard and N.14th in the "Kerry Patch" to help newly arriving Irish immigrants get the help needed to establish a place in society. I couldn’t find the year the building was built, but I've been by the corner, the building still stands today. The construction resembles a two story boarding house, currently converted into a church. John Mullanphy, One of his fifteen children, (eight of which survived the Cholera epidemic) Bryan, became the second Mayor of the City of St. Louis.The Mullanphys had a school, a hospital and a street named after them, the school and street name survive to this today. The family furthermore, built schools and hospitals. And, built homes for the orphans.
A quote from http://www.waymarking.com/ on a famous firefighter from St. Louis
Who lived in the Kerry Patch.

“Phelim O'Toole was born in 1848 in County Wicklow near Dublin, Ireland. He arrived in St Louis in 1866 and took residence in Kerry Patch a rough Irish neighborhood on the near north side of St Louis and he became a firefighter. He became known as a hero the night of April 11, 1877, the night of the tragic Southern Hotel fire. The Southern Hotel was located at Fourth and Elm and was a 6 story luxury hotel.”
O’Toole tragically lost his life July 6, 1880 when responded to put out a fire and the fire extinguisher he was using exploded on his chest. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
When it was an Irish region, The "Patch", had a "King“. I'm not sure whether the individual was selected by the people of the neighborhood or if he assumed the position by his character and strength. Either way, he ruled the "The Kerry Patch". And, the people looked up to him and trusted his advice.The first "King of the Patch" was named Sheehan. The City of St. Louis had a City Alderman Sheehan in the 1990's; The name is not very common, assuming his family was from St. Louis he might have kinship to the first "King of the Patch".
Irish Catholic churches from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's serving the Kerry Patch residents include:
1. St. Patrick's Church located at N.6th and O'fallon. The Church no longer exists, yet a St. Patrick's Center is operating as a center for the homeless. On the Church location.
2. St. Lawrence O'Toole was located at N. 14th and O'Fallon built in 1855.
3. St. Leo was located at N. 23rd and Mullanphy.
4. St. Michael was located at N. 11th and Clinton.
5. St. Bridgett's located at Jefferson and Carr
One story from the book "The Streets of St. Louis", Ann Mullanphy, daughter of John Mullanphy, married Thomas Biddle(he had a street named for him in the Patch) , a paymaster at Jefferson Barracks. A representive from Missouri named Spencer Darwin Pettis wrote an article about Biddle's brother which angered Tom Biddle. Biddle went to the hotel where Pettis was staying and "horsewhipped" him, implying he was inferior, while he was in bed. Pettis became enraged. The rules of St. Louis society at that time allowed men to fight duels. Pettis was humiliated and challenged Biddle to a duel. Since Biddle was nearsighted, he set the "rule of pistols" at five paces. On August 27, 1831 they met on "Bloody Island" a sand island peninsula on the Mississippi River. Countless citizens gathered to watch, furthermore, both men were killed in the duel. After Thomas' death, Ann Mullanphy donated money to fund St. Patrick's Church to be built ,and contributed to many other charities.
The Kerry Patch was one of the poorest, one of the most perilous neighborhoods in St. Louis and the non-Irish dared not enter this area at risk of life and limb but for creating unrest, if not harm.The residents of “The Kerry Patch” were thick-skined and known as a fighting crowd to the end.
Around 1880, The German immigrants were on track to become the predominate inhabitants of the Kerry Patch, but many Irish lived there until around World War I. The end of the Irish era gradually ended, but the “Kerry Patch” was long remembered and written with reference to, even after the former Irish residents passed away. Today, only a handful of people know of the “Patches” life, mostly its Irish descendants. It has a place, rich in St. Louis history and ethnic traditions.

1."The streets of St. Louis" by Wm. B. and Marcella C. Magnan
2."Gateway Heritage" reference 1988-90 Vol. 9-10
3. Internet address‘: http://stlouis.missouri.org/neighborhoods/history/north/text22.htm

Poem by Dr. R. Emmet Kane
Written about St. Louis residents living within and in the vicinity of the Kerry Patch.
(Published in the St. Louis Register)
Left! - Right! - Left! - Right!
I'm Mathew Kiely,
Obey me or fight!
I'm your grand marshal! Now all understand
No wan but me will give any command!
Lannigan, Brannigan, Walsh, and McBride,
Being my aides you may ride by me side.
Bandmaster Daniel O'Connell O'Shea,
Passing St. Bridget's play "St. Patrick's day."
This, Herman Schmaltz, will be your order too.
Have your Dutch band play "O'Donnell Aboo."
Mickey Mullarkey, keep step with the tune,
Yet double left-footed Kilkenny gossoon!
Officer Casey, when walking your beat,
Didn't ye learn how to lift up your feet?
Ev'ry Raypublican black A.P.A.
Envies us Irish on St. Patrick's day.
Proud 'tis I am of ye!
Ev'ry last man of ye!
Irish the whole of ye!
God bless the soul of ye!
Slaionte to all of ye!
Erin Go Bragh!
Left!- Right! - Left! - Right!
Glory to Patrick,
Now, ain't ye a sight!
You, Shamus Cleary, with legs like a bow,
Right out in front! Why you vain so and so!
You should be marching behind Fatty Burke,
Where no wan could see ye, ye misshapen Turk!
Rafferty, watch were ye're putting your feet,
Get off the sidewalk, get down in the street!
Eyes to the fron there, O'Brien of Clare,
Never mind watching the colleens out there!
Alderman Cahill, sure how are your twins?
Make both of them priests, it won't balance your sins!
Michael McLaughlin, do ye and Shan Quinn
March on each side, lads, of Peg-Legged Flynn,
Father O'Shaughnessy, my, ye look grand!
Your Em'rald cadets are the best in the land!
Proud 'tis I am of ye!
Ev'ry last man of ye!
Irish the whole of ye!
God bless the soul of ye!
Slainte to all of ye!
Erin Go Bragh!
Left!- Right! - Left! - Right!
Feet may be heavy,
But hearts are all light!
Stick in your stomach and hold up your chin,
Aisy to see you're from Mayo, McGinn!
What are ye puffing for, Larry Molloy?
Sure, tho' you're 80, you're only a boy!
Duffy, I'm sorry the wife's feeling poor,
Play a soft tune, boys, when passing her door.
Fighting again, were ye, Danny, my b'y?
Who was it gave ye the lovely black eye?
Thanks be to God for the brave Clan na Gael,
Johnny Bull trembles when you're out of jail!
At the Cathedral we'll pass in review,
Green flags a waving with Red, White, and Blue;
Straighten your line now and strike up the band,
Archbishop Glennon's out there on the stand. Proud sure, I am of ye!
Ev'ry last man of ye!
Irish the whole of ye!
God bless the soul of ye!
Slainte to all of ye!
Erin Go Bragh!
Left!- Right! - Left! - Right!
Gaze up to heaven!
Sure, what a grand sight!
There's Father Lonergan, good old John Finn,
Judge O'Neill Ryan and Daniel McGlynn,
I see James Cullinane, King of the Patch,
Michael E. Smith with his snowy white thatch;
John J. O'Connor and there's Father Tim,
Father Mike Ryan, with all of his kin;
Dr. O'Reilly and old Dr. Kane,
Bishop Gilfillan-how he loved Sinn Fein!
Sheehan, the Moynihans, Pete Madden, too--
Fenians the lot of them, fearless and true!
Denny O'Callaghan, Sheriff Pat Clarke,
Father O'Rourke of the Church of St. Mark!
Home to St. Bridget her wild geese have flown,
Shamrocks alone today carpet God's throne.
Proud sure, I am of them!
Ev'ry last man of them!
Irish the whole of them!
God rest the soul of them!
Mercy God Show to them!
Erin Go Bragh!

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