But One Mormon

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XIII (5) start of chapter

There was in the year 1847 a migration of a peculiar character, in which the Irish had a very small share indeed. The ship 'Brooklyn' arrived at San Francisco in the summer of that year, with 150 Mormons, composed principally of English, Scotch, and Welsh, with a few Americans. Of the whole number one was an Irishman—a young fellow named Fergusson, said to be from Waterford. The party pushed on to the Salt Lake, the single Irishman going with them. 'What his end in this life was, or may be, is uncertain,' says the friend who mentions the arrival of the ship and its godly freight. From this arrival California gained nothing; but the same year came Stevenson's regiment of New York Volunteers, who held possession of the country until it was ceded by treaty to the United States; and of this regiment not a few of the Irish officers and privates remained in California, and in time became distinguished citizens of the new State.

Shortly after was the headlong rush to the recently discovered gold-fields, causing an immediate and immense accession to the population. In this headlong rush came Irishmen, not only from Ireland, but from every part of the States; from Mexico as well as the British provinces, from Australia equally as from England and Scotland. Animated by the same passion, impelled by the same thirst for gain, all nationalities were merged in one great confusion of races and tongues; while in the universal scramble for gold, every social distinction was trampled under foot, individual superiority depending, not on good breeding or intellectual cultivation, but on the greater capacity for labour, or the tougher power of endurance. For a time, at least, simple manhood carried the day against all artificial gradations in the social hierarchy; the hodman and the doctor, the labourer and the lawyer, standing upon exactly the same level, provided that the doctor and the lawyer happened to be endowed with thews and sinews as strong and as serviceable as those of his brother gold-seekers, the hodman and the labourer. In such a competition there was a glorious chance for the humblest or most recently-arrived of the Irish new-comers. With the pick and the shovel they were a match for any workers under the sun, and their luck was on the average as fortunate as that of others. It was a fair start, and no favour—just what best suits the true Irishman: and the result at this moment is, that one-half, or nearly one-half, of the entire mining property of the country is in the hands of Irishmen or the sons of Irishmen. The mine known as the Allison Ranch, which is considered to be one of the richest in the world, and which last year employed between 500 and 600 workers, is owned by five Irishmen and an American.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America