Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Long before they started dyeing the Chicago River green, the Irish in Chicago were celebrating the patron saint of their homeland. Below is a transcript of an article published in the Chicago Democrat on March 31, 1843.

Friday last was celebrated in a very becoming manner by the friends of Ireland as the anniversary of the birth of its patron saint, the great and good St. Patrick. The Montgomery Guards, under Capt. Kelly, with the Chicago Band, came out in full uniform, making a splendid appearance. The Catholic Temperance Society also came out with its banner and badges. As also did the Repeal association. These joined in one procession under the very appropriate direction of John Davlin, Esq. paraded through our streets from the Saloon to the Catholic Church, where a very able and interesting sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. St. Pallais in explanation of the history and virtues of St. Patrick. Mass was then celebrated in the most solemn and affecting manner and with the best sacred music we have ever heard in our city. In speaking of the music of the Catholic Church heretofore, we wrongfully attributed it to the Chicago Band, when it should have been to the Catholic Choir alone, under the direction of Rev. Mr. Fisher with Mrs. Strangman upon the organ. After the services were closed, the procession again formed and proceeded to the Saloon, where a very learned and eloquent address was delivered by Dr. W. B. Egan the President of the Chicago Repeal Association and founder of that institution, upon Ireland and her wrongs, eliciting loud, frequent and protracted applause from an overflowing house. The company then dispersed and the remainder of the day passed off in quiet, as if there had been no display and no gathering of the people. The whole celebration, from beginning to end, was admirably conducted, and the most fastidious could find no fault with the order preserved throughout the day; and, whilst it reflected honor upon all concerned in it, and upon all Irishmen as a class, it had a tendency to awaken a spirit of enquiry into the history of Ireland in the minds of hundreds and in very many the deepest sympathies for her home population now peacibly struggling for freedom from oppression the most cruel.

If there are any native Americans in our city, whose minds are prejudiced against old country men, let them reflect that the only uniformed company in our city is solely composed of Irishmen; and, furthermore, that this same St. Patrick, worshipped as the patron Saint of Ireland, was not himself an Irishman but a Frenchman carried to Ireland as a slave. We hope the custom of celebrating this day will be kept up hereafter and that much good will result therefrom in wakening American sympathies for the suffering countrymen of Emmet, O’Connell and Mathew.