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Ireland, John (1838–1918)

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Minnesota Historical Society Press
John Ireland, St. Paul

John Ireland, St. Paul, 1908. Photographer: Golling Studio.

Born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1838, John Ireland came to St. Paul with his parents in 1852. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1861, served briefly as chaplain for the Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, and was appointed bishop in 1875. By the time he was appointed archbishop of St. Paul in 1888, he was one of the city's most prominent citizens, and he was responsible for recruiting Irish immigrants to settle in communities throughout Minnesota, including Clontarf, Adrian, Graceville, and Ghent.

Kevin Duchschere of St. Paul, who nominated Ireland for the Minnesota 150 exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society, picks up the story from here: "John Ireland was a builder, a politician, a colonizer, an orator, a writer, a diplomat, and a friend to presidents, an Irishman who loved America and a true believer in the promise of Minnesota—and that's before you get to his accomplishments as arguably the state's outstanding religious leader.

"From the 1870s until his death, Ireland led the Catholic church in Minnesota and won national fame for his work in the temperance movement and in settling southwestern Minnesota with Irish immigrants like himself. He was a highly intelligent, voluble, and hyperactive man who fought the widespread prejudice that Catholics couldn't be good Americans. He was an outspoken Republican and intimate of McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft at a time when the political sympathies of American Catholics rested largely with the Democratic Party.

"Ireland's leadership was not without its flaws—he was famously impatient with immigrants being unwilling to trade in their old traditions for the American way, and at least once he needed James J. Hill to bail out his personal finances—but his legacy is still evident today. He founded the state's largest private college, the University of St. Thomas, in 1885. And he built two massive cathedrals in the Twin Cities, the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, among Minnesota's most remarkable architectural and religious monuments, which still move and inspire visitors and have long since become indelible parts of the Twin Cities' skyline.

"It's not too farfetched to suggest that Minnesota became familiar to many Americans at the turn of the last century because of Archbishop Ireland. 'I thought he had a fine name,' Ernest Hemingway wrote of the archbishop in A Farewell to Arms, 'and he came from Minnesota which made it a lovely name: Ireland of Minnesota.' "

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

O'Connell, Marvin R. John Ireland and the American Catholic Church. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988.

Regan, Ann. Irish in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.

Related Audio

MN90: Kiss Me, I'm Minnesotan | Details

Related Images

John Ireland, St. Paul
John Ireland, St. Paul
Archbishop John Ireland
Archbishop John Ireland
Archbishop John Ireland speaking at the dedication of the Exposition Building
Archbishop John Ireland speaking at the dedication of the Exposition Building
John Ireland residence
John Ireland residence
Group of clergymen
Group of clergymen
Archbishop Ireland at the ground breaking ceremony for the Basilica
Archbishop Ireland at the ground breaking ceremony for the Basilica
Archbishop John Ireland
Archbishop John Ireland
Basilica of St. Mary, Sixteenth and Hennepin, Minneapolis
Basilica of St. Mary, Sixteenth and Hennepin, Minneapolis
Cathedral of St. Paul
Cathedral of St. Paul
John Ireland Boulevard, St. Paul
John Ireland Boulevard, St. Paul

Turning Point

In 1852, John Ireland arrives in St. Paul with his parents and goes on to help shape the city and bring attention to the state as an archbishop of the Catholic church.

Chronology

1838
John Ireland is born in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
1852
He arrives in St. Paul with his parents.
1861
He is ordained a Catholic priest.
1875
He is appointed bishop.
1885
He founds Minnesota's largest private college, the University of St. Thomas.
1888
He is appointed archbishop of St. Paul and is one of the city's most prominent citizens.








  

Comments

Wonderful article, Ms. Roberts!

Nice version of Archbishop Ireland's story and legacy. See also Forgetting Ireland (Borealis Books, Minnesota Historical Society 2003).