One Cause of Success

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER III (11) start of chapter

To one cause may be attributed some of the success which has crowned the labours of these Irish settlers, and the wishes of their Bishop and his zealous co-operator, the Rev. Mr. Connolly, the good priest of Woodstock,—the absence of intoxicating drink, or the prevention of its sale in the settlement. What village in England or Ireland with a population of 600 souls—that of Johnville in the autumn of 1866—is without its 'publick?' Scarcely one; while the probability is that many villages of an equal population in the old country possess two of such establishments. Against the sale of spirits in the settlement the Bishop has resolutely set his face, and in this salutary policy he has the hearty co-operation of the pastor of Woodstock, to whom much of the merit of the organisation and fortunate progress of the colony belongs. Rarely is spirituous liquor of any kind brought into the house of a settler, and, save in some special instance, after a hard day's work, in which many persons are necessarily joined, it is as rarely tasted by this simple and sinless people. I must, however, admit that, on our return through the entrance avenue, we did meet with an elderly gentleman, who must have been enjoying himself while visiting a friend beyond the limits of the settlement; for not only were his powers as a charioteer considerably impaired, but his damaged articulation imparted a still more bewildering intricacy to 'the explanation of his discreditable conduct,' with which, on demand, he favoured the Bishop.

The material progress of this Irish settlement may be illustrated by a significant fact—that fat cattle to the value of 200l. were sold to buyers from the States the day of my visit. What were the feelings of Jimmy M'Allister, as he heard of this tremendous sacrifice of live stock, and which included the cow of Mrs. Crehan, that excited his special interest, it would be difficult to depict; but the fact of this remarkable sale of the surplus stock of a young colony was mentioned with pride by one of the most intelligent and energetic of the settlers, Mr. Boyd.

Boyd was one of the few who brought a little capital with them into the settlement. But by far his best and most useful capital consisted of four well-grown, healthy, active sons, and an intelligent and hard-working daughter, who adds the functions of post-mistress to the more laborious and profitable duties of housekeeper. Each of the young Boyds has 100 acres of land in his own right, though they all wisely keep together as one family, and probably will continue to do so until circumstances, over which young people generally have 'no control,' compel them to prepare for events by no means unlikely in an Irish colony. One of the 'boys' was finishing a splendid barn, another barn being filled to bursting with grain of all kinds. The father admitted that the property then possessed by the family—himself and his four sons—was fairly worth 1,000l.

According to the census, taken at the instance of the Bishop, the estimated value of the land cleared, with the stock, the produce, and the buildings, up to the fall of 1865, was 14,500l.—an immense sum, when it is remembered that up to May 1862 there had been but one family (Hugh M'Cann and his wife) in the settlement, and it was not until 1863 that the greater number of the residents had ventured into the forest. It was supposed that the estimate for 1866 would have reached 20,000l. And if such be the result of a few years—three or four at the very utmost—of patient industry, stimulated by the certainty of reward and the security of its possession, what may not be looked for ten years hence, when science and matured experience are brought to the aid of human toil and manly energy?

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

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