Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ceiliúradh! For the Howes of Carrollton, Kentucky, Celebrating St. Patrick's Day Meant Honoring Their Irish Ancestors

John Howe, the Immigrant, c1880
The scrapbooks of Sarah Eva Howe Salyers are full of reminders about her Irish heritage. Her grandparents John and Sarah Brown Howe were born in Ireland and, with their firstborn child, left there for America in 1847. A beautiful portrait of John has been handed down from one generation to the next. I know of no photograph of Sarah.

All things Irish were of interest to Sarah, and that interest remains alive and well in generations living today. Throughout Sarah's scrapbooks are bits and pieces of Ireland-themed items and St. Patrick's Day mementos. The greeting card below is one of my favorites. The term "mavourneen" comes from the Irish Gaelic expression meaning "my darling." On the card, someone has written "Shant." Sarah's children, famous in the family for the nicknames they gave each other, often called their mother "Shant." While they meant it as an endearment, it was in fact a reference to "shanty Irish," a relatively derisive term used to classify Irish people of lower economic and social classes. Continue reading to find out why Americans could have used this term to describe the pre-emigrant Howe clan. The term originated in this country and was not used in Ireland.

Also below are links to a diary kept by two of John's sons when they visited relatives in Ireland in 1876. Reading it is almost like being there.
Irish-themed greeting card, c1925
The next image poses a mystery. I can find no reference to the poem online, but I also cannot say that Sarah Eva Howe, who wrote many stories and verses, wrote it herself. Even though I have proven dates for births and deaths of Sarah's ancestors who lived in the 1800s, I see no ancestor who was born (or died, for that matter) in either 1826 or 1896. March 17, of course, is St. Patrick's day, but I don't know how that fact fits with the years or the poem. I welcome ideas about that.

Both Sarah and her daughter Mary Alice played bridge and Rook and saved many tally cards in the scrapbooks. These three from the late 1920s and early 1930s have distinctively Irish themes. The transcription under the first image takes a stab at reading Sarah's hard-to-decipher handwriting.
Transcription: "A tally at one of the Bridge Club parties (Banker Bob Feamster, Faye Mary Anderson, Harold Ashley, etc.)
This tally card, identified as "St. Patrick's Rook party at Virginia Bond's [19]27," is homemade.
This undated newspaper clipping, possibly from the University of Kentucky student newspaper or one of the Lexington newspapers of the 1930s, describes a bridge party hosted by Kappa Delta sorority. I can imagine Sarah's daughter Mary Alice, a UK student and member of Kappa Delta, arranging this party based on a St. Patrick's Day theme.
Some of John and Sarah Brown Howe's descendants traveled to Ireland to walk where their ancestors walked. Two of their sons, John Irvin Howe and his younger brother Robert James Howe (who would become Sarah's father), traveled from their home in Carrollton, Kentucky, to Ireland in 1876. The travelers  kept a detailed diary of days spent with their Irish grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Their diary entries paint word pictures that take us to Ireland to meet the Howe and Brown clans of that place and time. Had the same people been living a similar lifestyle in America, they would have been known as "shanty Irish," and that's how Sarah's children came up with her nickname "Shant." Of course, immigrant John Howe established himself in America as a successful tailor, woolen mill owner, and retailer, so he and his family would have left the ranks of the "shanty Irish" to become "lace curtain" Irish.

A transcription of the Howe brothers' travel diary is posted in three parts:
Part 1: Robert and John Howe Arrive in Ireland
Part 2: Roast Duck With All the Trimmings
Part 3: Robert and John Say Goodbye to the Howes, the Browns, and Ireland

In 2007, one of Sarah's grandsons, Al Hays, with his wife and their two sons, visited Ireland and the Howe ancestral places. One stop was St. John's Parish Church in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone. In this church Al's great-great grandfather was christened. Al's research indicates that the building today is the same building where the christening took place circa 1823, although he can't be sure.
Two of the immigrant John Howe's third great-grandsons, Mark Hays and Michael Hays, in front of St. John's Parish Church in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, Ireland
Al wrote to me about St. John's and his Howe ancestors: "John Howe may not have actually been a member of that church, because Protestants were required to make births and marriages 'official' at the local Church of Ireland (England) even if they weren't members. This is one thing that our largely Presbyterian Scots/Irish ancestors resented and that acted as a stimulus to migration to America."

Another stop was Cavanaleck Presbyterian Church in Fivemiletown. On this site (but not in the same building) on June 2, 1845, Al's second great-grandparents John Howe and Sarah Brown were married. Read more about the Hays family's visit to Ireland in the post dated April 2, 2017.
Howe descendants Al Hays (right), Michael Hays (left), and Mark Hays (center) at the wedding site of their Irish ancestors John Howe and Sarah Brown

In the Howe family, sentiment remains strong for the Ireland homeland. My husband is the Howe descendant at our house, but I have my own Fitzsimmons and Arnold ancestors from the Emerald Isle. I share the sentiment for all things Irish, and so I bid you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

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