We enter the Settlement

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER III (4) start of chapter

Jolting and jumping over many an agreeable variety in the surface of the road, which the Bishop and I regarded with quite opposite feelings, we came to the end of our verdant avenue, and reached a little eminence crowned by a chapel of modest dimensions and unpretending architecture. From this vantage ground the first portion of the Irish settlement of Johnville opened out before us; and though, on that sharp October day, the sun but occasionally lit up the landscape with its cheerful beams, one could easily imagine how beautiful it must appear in summer, when the wide valley is filled with waving corn, varied with bright patches of potato, and the surrounding woods are clad in all the varied verdure of the living forest.

Bounded on all sides by a wall of trees, which in one direction cover a range of mountains as beautiful in their outline as those that are mirrored in the sweet waters of Killarney, an undulating plain of cleared land extends about two miles in length by a mile in breadth, dotted over with the most striking evidences of man's presence and the progress of civilisation,—comfortable dwellings, substantial and even spacious barns—horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry of all kinds, from the loud-crowing 'rooster' to the puddle-loving duck and the solemn goose. Even to the eye of an Irish farmer, the vast plain before us would have presented a rough and rather unpromising aspect, for not two acres of the many hundred already 'cleared' were yet free from the stumps of the great trees whose lofty branches had waved and moaned in the storms of ages. The road, bounded by rude log fences, and the limits of each holding marked out in the same primitive manner, and stumps a couple of feet high plentifully scattered over every field,—this at the first glance would not favourably impress the Irish farmer, to say nothing of the English Yeoman or the Scotch Lowlander; but were he to overcome his first impressions of the strangeness of all he saw, and enquire into its details, he would soon discover much to astonish and much to gratify him. The stumps, that impart so strange and rough an appearance to an early settlement, cannot be destroyed or eradicated for some years to come; yet, from the first year that the trees had been laid low by the settler's axe, abundant crops of grain and potatoes had been raised with comparatively little trouble; and large quantities of hay, priceless as winter food, had likewise borne witness to the fertility of the soil on which a constant succession of leaves had fallen and rotted through countless ages.

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