A Bit of the Old Sod
The first Irish settlers in America were the Scotch-Irish. After the American Revolution, some 250,000 left Ireland for North America entering through New York or Philadelphia. They were Protestants whose families had originally lived in Scotland or northern England and been part of earlier plantations to Ireland. Most came for economic advancement.
Between 1850 and 1900 another 2.9 million poverty-stricken Irish Catholics left. Forced out by famine, starvation, eviction and disease the population of Ireland dropped by more than one-third. Immigration abroad exploded. People fled to stay alive. And where did these Irish go? The majority came to America, and in turn, Sheboygan County.
More than 600 families settled in a broad swath from the town of Lima in this county west to the town of Byron, just beyond Eden, in Fond du Lac County. Those 600 families added up to more than 6000 people of Irish descent. Peaking in the 1870s and 1880s the group’s settlement centered around the town of Mitchell in the western part of Sheboygan County.
We’ll take a tour through some of the counties Irish enclaves in this program.