25 Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470. Phone: 203-426-5937.
The Irish have been a presence in Newtown for over 200 years, and make up a sizeable proportion of the town’s population. On March 14, just before the St Patrick’s Day celebration, the Newtown Historical Society will explore the history of the Irish in Newtown, at 7.30 PM, in the community room of the Booth Library, 25 Main Street (route 25), in a presentation by Harlan Jessup entitled The Irish Come To Newtown. The first Irish to arrive in Newtown, as in many places, were single farm workers. This limited influx began before the end of the 18th century. By the 1840s, Irish families began to arrive, purchasing and working on their own small farms. Following the potato famines of mid-century, Irish migration ballooned, and large numbers came to work both on farms and in the rubber factory, while the women and girls took jobs as domestics, and in the button and comb shops that had fueled Newtown’s industrial revolution. Irish names in various town records appeared in increasing numbers throughout the century, and by 1900 the group represented about 45% of Newtown’s population, with increasing political sway. In spite of this near dominance of population and increasing political and economic clout, or perhaps because of these trends, the No Irish Need Apply mentality was also present in the town. As past research has shown, this split showed itself strongly in the town schools. As the newer Irish immigrants tended to settle in Sandy Hook near their places of work, the acrimony took on geographic as well as ethnic tones. Some schools even suffered lockouts as the separation grew before we all learned to get along as the twentieth century progressed. Jessup will tell the story of those immigrants and their integration into the life of the Newtown community. Harlan Jessup is a resident of Newtown, a member of the Historical Society, and is a professional genealogist. He is in residence at the Booth Library as a genealogy volunteer and guide, usually on Monday afternoons, and has written on his family’s history, and has spoken before a number of local civic clubs and other groups. Jessup is a member of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council and is editor of Connecticut Ancestry, the journal of the Connecticut Ancestry Society. The presentation will be accompanied by a medley of Irish songs. All Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the presentation. For further information, please call the Historical Society at 203-426-5937.