The small agricultural State of Vermont has been largely known as Yankee in culture, but
great contributions were also made by Irish men and women. The Irish
were influential in the development of Vermont and its workforce.
In 1823, the building of the Champlain canal created jobs for the Irish and the
French living in Canada. Since the dominant French Canadian culture was so foreign
to them, the Irish quickly moved from Canada, south along Lake Champlain. Many
Irish stopped at Burlington in search of menial jobs. By 1830, 11% of the 3526
people in Burlington were Irish. In fact there were so many Irish coming
Burlington (all of whom were Catholics), that the Bishop of Boston was forced to
appoint a priest there. The Bishop appointed Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan from County
Cork, Ireland. He was the first English-speaking priest in the Green Mountain State.
At the age of fifty, he took on the position. In 1833, Father O'Callaghan
had St. Mary's church built in St. Albans, north of Burlington.
In the late 1840s there were many Irish men and women who migrated
to Vermont in search of work, as well as relief from the Irish Potato Famine. Most
of the Irish settlers who came to Winooski during this period, arrived from the ports of
Canada. Some analysts believe that this was due to the highly expensive tariffs that
the United states had put on immigration. So, the Irish were forced financially to
enter Vermont by way of Canada.
The Irish Famine(1845- 47) affected
Vermont no less than the rest of New England. The Irish poured in from all
directions to the north as well as Boston and New York to the south. Work is what
attracted them; strong backs were needed to build railroads connecting Burlington to
Boston. Muscle was needed to work in the granite quarries of Barre, the slate works
in Fair Haven, and the marble quarries in West Rutland and Proctor. In addition,
there were plenty of positions available for eager workers in the hundreds of cotton and
woolen mills which had opened in New England since the 1830s. The Irish population
continued to grow. The mills provided thousands of jobs and allowed hundreds of
families the opportunity to acquire land. The Irish have contributed greatly to
Vermont with their sweat and tears, and they were an active force behind the wonderful
culture as well. The Irishmen of yesterday helped pave the way to a better life, for