The Republic of Staten Ireland

Irish Fair June 8-9, 2013 to benefit St.Columcille Irish Cultural Center

Irish Fair June 8-9, 2013 to benefit St.Columcille Irish Cultural Center

Special dispensation – nay, a societal obligation — to consume large quantities of green beer every March 17 comes to everyone with Irish heritage.

Thanks to my third great-grandfather Michael Wheeler (1808 – 1899), who immigrated to Staten Island and peddled dry goods, I gleefully escape the more sober obligations of my mostly Dutch family tree. One does what one can to preserve history.

I like to believe that Michael tipped a pint or two with this chum, who would have been his contemporary, and maybe a friend:


New York Tribune, Apr 16, 1900

“Richard Monahan, of Oak Street, Rosebank, Staten Island, who celebrated his one hundredth birthday anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day, died on Saturday night at his home.  Monahan was born in County Cork, Ireland, and came
to America when a boy. He was married in New York on St. Patrick’s Day, seventy-five years ago, and shortly after moved to Staten Island with his bride. He occupied the house where he died during all those years…In his earlier days, Mr. Monahan joined the army, and was with General Jackson in the Indian War in Florida. He was an inveterate smoker, and insisted upon having a new clay pipe every day. He was an ardent Democrat. He often expressed a desire to live until Ireland should be free. Monahan had two daughters, eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Imagine: a childhood transatlantic crossing to a foreign land was not enough excitement; so he went off to fight the Indians.

I shall have to rethink my slothful ways, and my loathing of I-95, I suppose.

The first Irishman to make his mark on Staten Island was probably Thomas Dongan. He was made the first governor of the province of New York under the English (about whom I shall complain loudly, but that’s another post). Dongan was born in 1634 in Castletown Kildrought, County Kildare, Ireland. He received a land patent on Staten Island, where his estate became known as Manor of Cassiltowne – which became the Town of Castleton.

The greatest number of Irish immigrants came to the Island during the Great Famine of 1845 – 1852. There was no Ellis Island, no Castle Garden then. Ships arriving at the port of New York were inspected by medical officers from the Marine Hospital on Staten Island, and passengers who were unwell were detained in quarantine on Staten Island.  Many of them died there and were buried in unmarked graves.

Having lost so many of its own during The Great Hunger,  the government of Ireland is now reaching out to those of Irish descent and recognizing the Irish diaspora (I had to look up that word). This year, Ireland is making a special family history effort with  The Gathering – Ireland 2013.

The Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage. – Constitution of Ireland, Article 2

So once you solve your ancestral mysteries, be sure to apply to the Ireland Ministry of Foreign Affairs to receive your official, totally sanctioned and completely legitimate Certificate of Irish Heritage. They are 20% off until March 24.

Excuse me please. Off to buy green food coloring.