The O'Donoghue Society

For all those interested in history and genealogy and whose names are derived from the Gaelic

August/September snippet: Irish Ghettos, where did the Irish settle in large numbers in your hometown? Response Six: Butte, Montana Irish


Contributed by Tim Donohue

Butte, Montana: Ireland's Fifth Province

My earliest memory as a child was watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade on my Father’s shoulders. My Dad was posted to Butte, Montana, USA with a busy post WW2 Army reserve unit. It was a hard scrabble rural mining town far away from the larger metropolises we associate with the Irish like Boston or San Francisco.
 
Years later when I became interested in my Irish family, I realized that Butte is regarded as one of the most Irish influenced small cities in America. It was town of many immigrants, but no other cultural group flocked to Butte quite like the Irish.
 
So, how did this heritage start? The story goes, in the late 1800s following the discovery of gold, silver, copper and other rich minerals in this area Butte became the center of high paying jobs and opportunities. Butte was known as the richest hill on earth.  Hundreds of Irish men and women emigrated here chasing this new prosperity. An oft-told story is of emigrants being told, “don’t stop in America, go straight to Butte!”
 
Marcus Daly, one of the three “Copper Kings,” was born in Cavan and spoke Gaelic. When he saw the potential for demand in copper, he surrounded himself with fellow Irishmen. The Irish culture prevailed and was assimilated throughout the community.
 
At the height of Butte’s prosperity in 1900 one-fourth of the Butte population was Irish, a bigger percentage than any city in the United States including Boston.  The Butte Irish, came from Cork, Mayo, Donegal, Kerry, Cavan and Wexford.
By the early twentieth century, there were 1200 Sullivan’s in the Butte City directory. (Irish Genealogical Society International).
 
The 2019 city of Butte is 30-odd thousand people, down from nearly 100,000 during WWI and is no longer the Richest Hill on Earth. Changes in technology and society, the depletion of immense orebodies, and the discovery of even more incredible deposits elsewhere have stolen that crown. What remains in Butte is a unique and storied city with a core group of people who still celebrate much of their Irish heritage. It is never more evident than on St. Patricks Day.
 

Contributed by Tim Donohue

Butte, Montana: Ireland's Fifth Province

My earliest memory as a child was watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade on my Father’s shoulders. My Dad was posted to Butte, Montana, USA with a busy post WW2 Army reserve unit. It was a hard scrabble rural mining town far away from the larger metropolises we associate with the Irish like Boston or San Francisco.
 
Years later when I became interested in my Irish family, I realized that Butte is regarded as one of the most Irish influenced small cities in America. It was town of many immigrants, but no other cultural group flocked to Butte quite like the Irish.
 
So, how did this heritage start? The story goes, in the late 1800s following the discovery of gold, silver, copper and other rich minerals in this area Butte became the center of high paying jobs and opportunities. Butte was known as the richest hill on earth.  Hundreds of Irish men and women emigrated here chasing this new prosperity. An oft-told story is of emigrants being told, “don’t stop in America, go straight to Butte!”
 
Marcus Daly, one of the three “Copper Kings,” was born in Cavan and spoke Gaelic. When he saw the potential for demand in copper, he surrounded himself with fellow Irishmen. The Irish culture prevailed and was assimilated throughout the community.
 
At the height of Butte’s prosperity in 1900 one-fourth of the Butte population was Irish, a bigger percentage than any city in the United States including Boston.  The Butte Irish, came from Cork, Mayo, Donegal, Kerry, Cavan and Wexford.
By the early twentieth century, there were 1200 Sullivan’s in the Butte City directory. (Irish Genealogical Society International).
 
The 2019 city of Butte is 30-odd thousand people, down from nearly 100,000 during WWI and is no longer the Richest Hill on Earth. Changes in technology and society, the depletion of immense orebodies, and the discovery of even more incredible deposits elsewhere have stolen that crown. What remains in Butte is a unique and storied city with a core group of people who still celebrate much of their Irish heritage. It is never more evident than on St. Patricks Day.
 
03.09.2019