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Irish heritage in Ohio

Bagpiper in Historic Dublin

Irish heritage in Ohio

By Vince Guerrieri

Posted On: Mar 1, 2021

On the weekend of St. Patrick's Day, everyone can claim to be a little Irish heritage, even if it only involves eating corned beef and cabbage and drinking a pint of green beer.

But Ohio can claim no shortage of Irish heritage throughout the state. In fact, more than 14% of the state's population can claim Irish heritage.

Although the state was predominantly populated early on by German settlers, many of the first white settlers in the state were of Irish origin. German settlers founded a town in Central Ohio in 1810, seven years after Ohio became a state. It was surveyed by an Irishman, John Shields, who was allowed to name the town. He did so after the town where he was born, Dublin, Ireland. Dublin has embraced its Irish heritage and encourages people to visit and experience the culture, promoting the phrase "Irish is an attitude."

Every corner of Ohio can claim some Irish heritage, a consequence of a massive migration that lasted for almost half a century. Irish immigration started en masse after the potato famine in the 1840s. Many Irish immigrants dug canals throughout the state, laid railroad tracks and took other dangerous jobs like or firefighters. 

Irish immigrants encountered a lot of prejudice, as political parties sprung up against them, like the Know-Nothings and other anti-Catholic parties. But the Civil War allowed them to assimilate further into American society.

Many cities had vibrant Irish communities within them, with their own churches, restaurants and customs. When the Diocese of Youngstown was formed, the cathedral became St. Columba on Wood Street, the church named for a patron saint of Ireland. The Cleveland Cultural Gardens include an Irish Garden, laid out in the design of a Celtic cross and featuring pillars of famous Irish people like James Joyce, Brendan Behan and George Bernard Shaw.

In Ohio's largest cities, there are still remnants of Irish heritage. Columbus has the Shamrock Club and Cincinnati has its Irish Heritage Center.

So now, you really have no excuse to only be Irish one day a year.

For more Ohio history, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

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