This week’s #MarkerMonday highlights the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church historical marker in Bibb County and the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Georgia. The Irish community in Macon, Georgia, was established in the early 1800s, when Irish immigrants came seeking jobs in the expanding state. Irish Catholics in the area began meeting together in 1841, though they did not have a permanent place of worship until the 20th century.
The first Irish migrants in the state of Georgia arrived during the colonial period. The establishment of new Irish Catholic communities continued through the 19th century. During the first few decades of the 1800s, many Irish immigrants worked in trades that were in high demand for the growing state of Georgia, such as the construction of canals and railroads. The laborers who helped build these systems of transportation played a crucial role in the state’s expansion. Irish Catholics established congregations like St. Joseph’s as they settled into their new homes. Georgia saw a new wave of Irish immigration in the 1840s, during the Great Famine of Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday, often referred to as the Feast of St. Patrick, that originated in Ireland to celebrate the arrival and spread of Christianity in the country, which was ushered in by Saint Patrick. Historically, the Irish did not celebrate the holiday in same way that Americans do today. Instead, it was celebrated as a solemn, reflective holiday with religious services and a feast. St. Patrick’s Day became a festive event during the American revolutionary period because new Irish immigrants wanted to celebrate their heritage despite the anti-Catholic sentiments held by some Americans. Many modern St. Patrick’s Day traditions are distinctly American, including the use of green, parades, and eating corned-beef and cabbage.
According to the U.S Census Bureau, over 450,000 modern Georgians report having Irish heritage, but many thousands more partake in the festivities every year.
Explore the links below to learn more:
GHS houses several collections related to Irish immigration and communities in Georgia: