Most of the early Irish settlers in Kings County were Catholic. This partially explains why the A. F. Church Kings County map (dated 1864, published 1872) has so many Irish surnames listed in outlying districts. The Irish, many of them latecomers, were in one sense treated as outcasts due to religion and weren’t welcome in the closely knit settlements established by the Planters.
Generally speaking, the Irish of Kings County are a forgotten people. In his Kings County history, for example, Arthur W. H. Eaton ignores the Irish. In effect, this history glorifies the Planters. Which perhaps it should since Kings County undoubtedly is in the state it is today due to the influx of Planters.
Yet it is puzzling that while Eaton touches on the Mi’kmaq and the Acadians, he never mentions the Irish. Now, this is understandable since so many of our Irish ancestors came here as common laborers on the railroad or were disbanded soldiers who received land grants for military service. A few Irish came and established farms but they did it own their own and weren’t coddled like the Planters who were given vast grants and were subsidized for at least a year after they arrived. Also, hardly any of the early Irish settlers in Kings County rose to prominence, as did many of the sons and daughters of the Planters, so it was easy for Eaton to ignore them.
While we correctly salute Eaton’s Kings County history as an enduring, important, valuable work, his ignoring of the Irish suggests to me it is incorrectly titled. Eaton should have called his work The Planter History of Kings County, maybe with a subtitle: With A Few Words on the Other People Who Came after the Planters (Including the Irish and the Scots).
I’m only partially serious here folks, so please, hold off on letters to the editor and the phone calls. What could Eaton have written about the Kings County Irish anyway? That they instigated railway riots when tracks were being laid in Kings County? That Irishmen were prominent in the establishment of taverns? That Irishmen were ostracized and their religion banned by the government? That one of the few Irishmen who became prominent in Kings County as a businessman got his start because he sided with the hated British against his country?
Anyway, Eaton to the contrary, here’s a salute to the Irish who arrived early in Kings County and persevered. The Murphys, Magees and McGees, the McGarrys, Tyrells, O’Neils, Doyles and Brennans, the Donnels, O’Reilys and Bradys, and all those people of similar name and origin who made their way solely on initiative, endurance and perhaps a bit of Irish stubbornness. Once there were pockets of Irish people scattered around the county, mini-settlements of a sort, but now they are dispersed and are recognized only by their surnames. They probably deserve their own history.