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Kansas Memory Blog

Irish Immigration

Posted by Michael Church (Director of State Archives) on Mar 19, 2010

Posted by museum curator Laurel Fritzsch:

In 1870 the majority of immigrants to Kansas came from the British Isles, and particularly Ireland.  In 1871 Thomas Butler, an Irish priest in Leavenworth, wrote this pamphlet encouraging Irish people to move to Kansas.  Read the entire pamphlet on Kansas Memory.

The Irish have always immigrated to the U.S. to escape extreme poverty and a lack of opportunity. Irish immigration exponentially increased, however, as a result of the Great Potato Famine between 1845 and 1849.  The impact of the famine on Kansas’ Irish population is documented by Father Butler in his discussion of the history of Catholicism in Kansas.  He says that Catholic churches in the state increased from three in 1854 to forty-five in 1871.

 In his pamphlet Butler appeals largely to the practical reasons to move to Kansas.  Butler writes a favorable description of Kansas and emphasizes its economic, health, and cultural opportunities.  He details how immigrants can acquire land and describes life on the prairie.  He also describes the health benefits of Kansas’ climate, and comforts prospective immigrants with descriptions of well-established Irish communities in Kansas- particularly those in Leavenworth. Although Father Butler’s pamphlet focuses on the Irish in Kansas, it also provides a snapshot of the state in 1871.

Between 1873 and 1896 an economic depression in Britain and Ireland would have given Butler’s pamphlet particular relevance for Irish immigrants.   Ironically, the depression resulted in part from cheaper and better grain being imported from the U.S. that was likely grown by Irish Americans. 

If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable way to learn more about Irish history from this time period check out my top three books about Irish history below.

- “Trinity” by Leon Uris tells the story of Ireland from the potato famine of the 1840s to the Easter Rising of 1916 through the lives of three fictional families: native Irish, Unionist, and English. 

- If you want to follow the history of Ireland beyond 1916 you can try the Irish Century Series by Morgan Llewelyn.  The series covers the history of Ireland from 1916 to the end of the 20thcentury though the fictional friends and family of Ned Halloran. 

- “Brendan’s Voyage” by Tim Severin tells the real life story of Irishman Tim Severin’s attempt to verify rumors that a medieval Irish monk (Brendan) sailed across the Atlantic a thousand years before Columbus by building and sailing a boat identical to Brendan’s.  It’s part history part adventure travelogue. 

If you have any book suggestions on Irish History we’d love to hear them.  So leave a comment here or on our facebook page. 

Comments on "Irish Immigration"

Comment written by: BATMom on Apr 11, 2010 -- Permalink | Suggest Removal

The best book on Irish history I've ever read is "Paddy's Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred" by Thomas Gallagher. It tells the story of the Irish potato famine from the viewpoint of the Irish Catholic. Unforgettable.

Comment written by: Skquehoverboard on Jul 5, 2016 -- Permalink | Suggest Removal

Thanks for sharing it. Would love to read more on this. Skque Hoverboard Affiliate Program

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