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Irishtown Bend

            When the Irish first came to Cleveland in the early 1800's they worked on the canals.  Cleveland became a haven for those emigrating from County Mayo (the majority from the Province of Connaught).  They came to Cleveland because of the famine, they had relatives in Ohio, and they were unable to find work in the East because of the glut there of immigrants from Europe.

                Since most of the Clevelanders were Protestant, they feared the Catholic influx.  The natives of Cleveland were afraid of these foreigners and allotted to them an area that was of no value to them-- mosquito ridden and swampy--an area that was to receive the name Whiskey Island.   At one time the area became an open sewer for human and industrial waste.  Here, there were plagues included malaria, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and infantum diarrhea.    As this section became crowded and would hold no more people, additional properties were sold to the Irish on the bluffs of the west side of Cuyahoga River.   Included in this was the area called the  "ANGLE" that Pat McCafferty claimed.  The name comes from the area's resemblance to a pie-shaped wedge.  The corners of Turnpike Street (W. 25th) and Washington Avenue were bisected by Main Street rising up from the River's edge.  The street to the parish converged at an angle on top of the hill at the St. Malachi property.   Another area that had the McCafferty presence was Cheyenne--the nickname given to the area from West 65th to West 67th Street.  The people formed a closely knit neighborhood. The Irish were looked on as obnoxious, unmannered and hard drinking; in reality most of them were hard working, trying to save monies to send to their relatives in the East who were jobless so they could come west.              

                The early Canal (building) people lived in tarpaper shacks.  As the Canal was completed many of these original settlers moved to other areas of canal building.  Cleveland, however, now needed raw labor for its ports and for the steel industry.  More Irish from Mayo continued to arrive and settle in the lands and homes of the canal people.  From Whiskey Island and the surrounding neighborhoods they could walk to work (usually the railroads and shipyards) without having to pay for transportation.  Wages were about $8.00 per week.   A Catholic Church was built for them in 1832, St. Mary's of the Flats.

                Gradually the tarpaper shacks were replaced by wooden structures and people had more of a vested interest in their property. In 1857 St. Malachi opened a school (boys and girls up to 16) and many Irish saw the need of an education as a stepping stone to wealth and connections to better themselves.  Public schools were considered God-less.   55% of the household heads in this area were laborers.  They were overcrowded, underpaid, and worked in sub-hazardous conditions.

                In the 1880's when the McCafferty, Gill, Loftus, Stanton, Garvey, and Ward families arrived in Cleveland, life was a little better.  There was a migration beginning out of Irishtown Bend, individuals were moving to other states and also out along Detroit and Lorain Avenues as their jobs permitted them to do so.  40% of households were illiterate and 85.87% of the heads of households had been born in Ireland.. Few wives worked (only 1 out of seven); the women were expected to have children and keep the family together --especially if their husbands were working out of town. Some girls were allowed to be educated, because this insured for their parents a home not only from their sons, but also their daughters: thus  double insurance for financial and personal care in their old age.  Parents had a choice of sending their children to school or having them work in some capacity to earn monies so that the family could amass enough for a house.

                Loading and unloading ore was a job many of our relatives had for a period of time.  They worked 7 days a week in 12-hour shifts.  It took 100 men at a time to shovel and load up the baskets..    They were called iron ore terriers because the ore turned their beards red (thus the canine nickname). There was no ventilation in the hulls of the ships, they breathed the dust, coughed a lot, and gradually developed silicosis.  72% of the heads of households were sick at one census taking--but no women were.   51% of the labor force missed at least 3 months or more of work due to sickness.  They still felt, though, that they were a step up from their lives in Ireland and considered their present condition better than the starvation they experienced in Ireland.   Remember, though, they had no pay checks coming in when they were sick.    Many Irish lost their jobs around 1910 with the invention of the Brownhoist, a technological advantage for ship owners.  The machine could unload the ore, using only 2 men at a time (vs. 100); these machines handled 75% of the Great Lakes Ore.  Also, newly arrived European non-Irish immigrants were hired forless pay and little chance to organize into unions, since most of these people were not English speaking.  Many Irish men then turned to construction and service oriented jobs. More and more of the Irish inhabitants moved out as they reached social mobility and better paying jobs.  The area was also subject to floods and fire; there were several of these and many lost everything they owned.   The mortality rate was high.  There were numerous saloons and prostitutes in the area.  By 1900 the Bend was one of the most undesirable sections of Cleveland.  At that time it was 50% Irish and 50% Hungarian.  Over time it was referred to as Hungariantown Bend.   In the later years homes were abandoned or the properties were sold to investors; by 1930 it was a warehouse area and in 1950 the remaining homes were torn down.  Today Whiskey Island has been returned to its former swampy marshlands in the Cuyahoga Valley.

                If you look for the Gill house on W. 25th Street you will find instead a small apartment complex in the area.  You will find the Garvey home on W. 67th Street (formerly Algers Avenue).  It is easier to find if you use Detroit to W. 67th the head north towards the lake.  If you would like to visit the McCafferty former warehouse located on W. 110th Street, you'll have a better chance of reaching it from Detroit Avenue.

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