200 years since the founding of the first Irish organization in Utica
UTICA — “They came and needed help, and once they got up they helped others. And it’s been that way for 200 years. These words from Al Sisti, an Irish-American and board member of the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley (ICCMV), sum up a proud occasion for the local Irish community. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the formation of the first Irish organization in Utica.
According to the ICCMV, John C. Devereux – himself an Irish immigrant who had only settled in Utica 25 years earlier – witnessed the massive influx of Irish laborers arriving daily to work on the construction of the Erie Canal and started giving them the structural support they never had. Along with a few other successful Irish rulers, he formed the Utica Hibernian Benevolent Society. Its objective was to provide collegial and financial support to its members in the event of illness, legal defence, hospitalization, infirmity or death.
Although the Utica Hibernian Benevolent Society was deactivated around 1877, its legacy was already picked up and continued by others.
Since its inception, dozens of other Irish organizations have followed suit, covering a range of aims from benevolence to social camaraderie. These organizations sought to provide unified support and a strong voice on all issues of concern to their growing community, including religion, cultural preservation, human rights and freedoms, fair working conditions and support. political and social causes, both at the local level. and in their beloved Ireland.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the largest and oldest Irish Catholic organization in America, eventually established a local division named after Devereux. It currently consists of over 100 members and the women’s division has about 40 members.
The importance of the Irish community in the Mohawk Valley was largely the result of major historical events, such as the construction of the Erie Canal (in the early 19th century) and the Flight of the Great Irish Hunger (in the middle of the 19th century), explained Sisti. Regardless of the circumstances of their immigration, the visual similarities between central New York and Ireland made the area easily feel like home, he said.
Utica’s first elected mayor was Irish, as was the founder of Rome (formerly Lynchville).
Today, there is a community that encourages Irish music, history and togetherness, largely centered around the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley – located at 623 Columbia St., Utica – which opened in 2017 with resources provided by the Great American Irish Festival, an annual celebration and fundraiser that began in 2004 through a bold plan by HAE.
On November 5, ICCMV and its HARP (History, Ancestry, Research and Programs) Museum are hosting a Bicentenary Gala to commemorate 200 years since the founding of the first Irish organization in Utica and its lasting impact.
At $50 per ticket, semi-formal dress will be required and the evening will consist of a 6 p.m. cocktail reception at the Five Points Public House, a 7 p.m. buffet dinner served at the event center and a special program to end the evening . At 20 o ‘clock. The evening will conclude with an after-party at the Five Points Public House and live performances by Rick Bedrosian. Tickets are available for purchase at the Five Points Public House at the Irish Cultural Center. All ticket proceeds benefit the HARP Museum, located on the top floor of the Irish Cultural Centre.
Sisti said ICCMV received “just a lot of support and congratulations from around the world. Local, state, nation and Irish dignitaries sent their congratulations, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer It’s a pretty auspicious event, few places can say they’ve had 200 years of continuous support for each other and for their community and the country they left.