Early Irish Settlers

This was submitted to us by Denny Cope of California,
It is called "Early Irish Settlers, Some of Those who came to Boonville".
It is from the Boonville Herald 10 June 1897,
written by Robert Wilson 31 May 1897.

Among the very early settlers of the town of Boonville were emigrants from the "romantic retreats of far-famed Erin."  The butt of every other man's jokes, and a target for the shafts of his ridicule; but still the fact remains that with the exception of the Hebrews the Irish are the most wonderful people the world has produced.  The annals of the race reach back into the mythological ages of history.  Rivals of the Greeks in scholarship, skilled in the arts, and learned in the erudition of the east, and had commercial relations with Phenice and Tyre four centuries before Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and Britain.  Naturally a religious people, they accepted the Christian faith as early as the fifth century.  Though peacefully inclined; the love of adventure, plunder and conquest which characterized other and more war-like races, compelled them to engage in defensive warfare.  Between the eighth and eleventh centuries their country was ravaged by the Danes, Norwegians, Swedes and Normans.  Their churches and institutions of learning were pillaged and destroyed; and the arts of peace were succeeded by those of war.  About the middle of the twelfth century, their more powerful neighbors across the British channel commenced the work of their subjugation, which was not consummated until the dawn of the nineteenth century.  During this period Irish history is a chronicle of ever recurring horrors.  The country desolated by invading armies, contending factions warring against each other.  The fires of religious persecution fanned to their  intense heat.  "Confiscation vultures" poised on high ready to swoop down upon any victim tainted with treason to the British crown; while war's great adjuncts pestilence and famine, stalked in the darkness, and wasted at noonday; and her noblest leaders executed or expatriated.  Like the Jewish race, no burden of oppression was weighty enough to crush their spirit, nor forces strong enough to sweep them away in the struggle for existence.  A thousand years of almost unremitting warfare and civil strife could not fail to develop the strong, stern and combative qualities of the race, as better suited to their condition than the milder and more humane.  It was part of British policy to malign and ridicule the Irish people, representing them as ignorant and incompetent for self-government; and their facial contour has been so persistently caricatured by British artists, that the face of the typical Irishman as it appears on canvas bears no resemblance to any that can be found on the emerald isle.

Under the conditions that were forced upon them, resistance to the wrongs they suffered was the first law of nature.  The wars in which they participated stimulated the martial spirit; and the interminable civil conflict which was waged with the government of England developed intellectual power, rendering them familiar with the salient points of the great controversies that shook Christendom from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century.  In the darkest period of Irish history, men of learning and talent rose above their surroundings and bright in the constellation of brilliant minds that rose during the ages in which they lived, shone the names of Molyneaux, Swift and Grottan.

During the closing years of the eighteenth century new elements entered into the complication of the American struggle for independence revived their hopes and prompted them to demand reforms, which were promised by the British ministry; the insolence of the soldiery quartered in the towns and the outrages they perpetrated upon the surrounding peasantry was ill brooked by the people, the spirit of religious persecution was renewed with all its intensity.  Theobald Wolf Tone, a skillful organizer and in many respects their ablest leader, having imbibed the doctrines and spirit of the Jacobins of France, organized a large force gathered from the worst elements of society, regardless of religious faith and excited in them the worst passions of the human heart, and the ministry failing to grant the promised reforms the popular indignation culminated in the rebellion of 1793, fitly named a 'nightmare of death" and a "nameless tragedy" from which history has but in part raised the veil.

The conditions which existed in Ireland during the last half of the eighteenth century rallied into action the highest powers of the race, and it was the legitimate result of those conditions when an array of great men appeared upon the stage of action who would have shed fadeless luster upon nations and ages more peaceful and cultured.  In a warlike and revolutionary age, men of great military genius, and the great leaders of the people, merit and receive the highest honors.  With a love for freedom and humanity reaching far beyond the boundary lines of his native land, RICHARD MONTGOMERY came and gave his splendid military ability and his life to aid our forefathers in securing their national independence; and while patriotism has a place in the American heart, his name will be remembered with gratitude and honor.

No brighter intellect or braver soul ever defied a tyrant's power than ROBERT EMMET arrayed against the oppressors of his country, and as noble blood flowed from his veins as was ever poured out on the altar of patriotism; and on the civic field men across whose intellectual superiority rendered them not less conspicuous, and whose fame will be equally enduring.  In legal learning and ability, and as a defender of his country's causes, and a pleader for the rights of man, the name of CURRAN will live while the story of his country's sorrows has power to touch the sympathies of the human heart.  EDMUND BURK was the peer of England's greatest contemporary states-men, and when in parliament associated with Pitt and Fox, they were called "The wondrous three, whose words were sparks of immortality."

THOMAS ADDIS EMMET, an elder brother of Robert Emmet, and also implicated in the rebellion, fortunately eluded his pursuers and found an asylum in the United States, and for many years followed the legal profession in the city of New York, and for a time held the office of attorney general of the state.  In reference to his character and abilities, Hammond's Political History of New York pays the following tribute to his memory:  "The purity of character, and exalted virtue, he evinced, and the splendid triumph he deserved and obtained in his adopted country are well known; but his wonderful powers of mind, his transcendent talents and unrivalled eloquence as an advocate will not be known to posterity.  Those who heard him and felt the powers of his mighty intellect, and none but such, can form an adequate idea of his merits and superiority over all other men."  As a prudent leader of the Irish people, an eloquent advocate of their rights, a power in the British parliament, and in massive greatness, the nineteenth century has not produced the equal of Daniel O'Connell.

In the church rose Adam Clark, D.D. LL.D., the great commentator and one of the most profound Biblical scholars of his time; and Gideon Ousley, the great Irish missionary.  A scholar, a theologian, an acute controvertist and a pulpit orator that has been rarely surpassed.

In the literary field had Thomas Moore stood alone on the darkly shaded background, sole representative of his country's intellectual greatness, he would have immortalized the age in which he lived.  His relations to the Irish muse is best told in his own admirable lines:
"Dear harp of my country! in darkness
     I found thee;
The cold chain of silence has hung o'er
     thee long;
When proudly my own island harp! I
     unbound thee,
And gave all thy chords to light, freedom
     and song."

Such was the country and conditions from whence came the Irish emigrants who settled in Boonville during the early years of the present century.  They were born and reared in eventful times.  They had passed under the cloud and through the sea of the great rebellion.  They all knew something of its horrors and felt the weight of its misfortunes; and some of them had participated in its conflicts.  They were involved in evils from which emigration was the only way of escape.  The advantages which the new world offered gave promise an improvement in their condition, and the liberty enjoyed by its citizens was more congenial to their taste and that occult force, variously named "blind chance" "fixed fate" or an all directing ?? turned their course to the ??clad hills of the newly organized town of Boonville; and well and wisely they met and discharged the duties and responsibilities of their new conditions.  The little neighborhood beyond Potato Hill, known sixty years ago as the Irish Settlement, has contributed its share to the intelligence and business enterprise of the town, while many young men who sent out from the old neighborhood and settled in other localities reflect back honor upon the place of their birth and tutelage.  The BAMBERS, the McCLUSKEYs and the MAHAFFEYS are familiar names at the present day; and the older people well remember JOHN WATSON, the HANEYS
was killed with a falling tree, leaving two sons; the elder brother, Robert spent the greater part of his live in the village of Boonville; he was a man of good abilities and was highly respected in business and social circles, The younger son, William, was high tempered and impetuous in disposition, talented and self-reliant.  Dependent upon his own resources, with inherent power to rise above the condition in which he was placed by adverse fortune.  After attending the district school, he attended the high school of H.P. Willard in Boonville and also the school at Holland Patent; studied for the legal profession in the office of John Van Buren, was an assistant in the attorney general's office at Albany, under Levi S.Chatfield, and was admitted to practice by Chancellor Walworth.  After practicing a short time in Boonville he settled in the city of Albany.  Graceful in manner and possessing a voice of rare beauty and compass, he excelled as an elocutionist.  In legal ability and eloquence as a pleader he took a prominent position among the younger members of the Albany bar.  No young man ever went out from Boonville who gave higher promise of entering upon a highly successful, if not brilliant career, but in an unlooked for moment the light of life, with its joys, ambitions and hopes was extinguished, leaving to his friends the saddest of all reflections, what might have been.

Among the early immigrants who came to Boonville was the Widow Haney and her young family.  The fact that she reared her sons and daughters so that they were qualified to faithfully and honorably fill the various positions they were called to occupy, is ample proof how faithfully she met and discharged the double responsibilities that rested upon her as a widowed mother.  Her son, William, is still remembered by the older people as a highly respected resident of this town, who, about the year 1880 emigrated to the southern part of the state, where he was successful in business and widely became known as the most popular and gifted member of the Auburn Praying band.

In the years of my childhood I well remember John Magoffin, who emigrated to what was then called the far west and have often heard him spoken of, as a man held in high esteem by his associates.  He was a member of the Methodist church and a local preacher of marked ability.

Robert Wilson, sr. was born near Strebane, parish of Donoughmore, county of Donegal, Ireland, in May 1776.  His father was a native of Enniskillen, though of English descent.  Concerning that branch of the family nothing has been transmitted worth of note further than they were enthused with the military spirit of the times. The maiden name of his mother was Sally Law.  In her veins flowed the noble blood of the Scottish highlanders.  She was proud of the abilities he possessed of tracing her ancestral line back through the highland clansmen, who gave and received the hardest blows that were ever struck in the great conflicts for Scotland's rights and liberty.  She had a vigorous and cultured mind; was broad and comprehensive in her views and possessed all the love of liberty and patriotic ardor which is characteristic of the Highland Scot.  She reared four daughters and two sons; the elder, Robert, being the fifth child.  In youth he received a liberal education, and it was not strange that the son of such a mother should love books and seek after knowledge.  With studious habits, acute perceptive faculties and a tenacious memory, he gathered knowledge from many fields, and wherever he became acquainted was recognized as a scholar, a man of extensive information and rare abilities.  He was reared and cultured amid the controversies and tumults which ushered in the great rebellion and was familiar with much of its secret history.  At one time, he was a member of the Brotherhood of United Irishmen and subsequently for 12 years served in the Irish Yeomanry.

The genius of American institutions being more congenial to his taste, in August, 1818, he landed at St. Johns, New Brunswick, where he taught school for six months' from thence he went to Boston, MA, then to Middlebury, Vermont and from thence he went to Webster, MA where for ten years he was in the employ of Samuel Slater, who built and put in operation the first power looms in the United States.  In 1829 he came to Boonville, settled on lot No. 2, Adgate's western tract, and engaged in farming, where he remained until his death, which occurred Nov. 2, 1856.  At the age of 15 years he united with the M.E. Church and in the earlier years of his life was a local preacher, but never occupied that relation to the church after coming to Boonville.

A sister of his mother married a man by the name of McClintock; they came to this country and settled in Carlyle, state of Pennsylvania, and among their descendents was John B. McClintock, who, in his day, was a highly distinguished minister in the M.E. church.

John Tinsley was born in Ireland, near the city of Belfast, in the year 1804.  At the age of twenty-one, while residing in Belfast, he was converted and jointed the M.E. Church.  In his young manhood he was married to Hester Gill, who was born and raised in the same locality.  They came to this country in 1832 and soon after settled in the village of Boonville, where Mr.Tinsley engaged int he mercantile business, as was the custom of the times dealing in both dry goods and groceries.  He followed the business until old age made it necessary for him to retire.  His life closed at the age of eighty-one years.  Upright in his business transactions he had the respect and confidence of his community and was loyal to the church of his choice.  The M.E.church in Boonville owes to John Tinsley, a greater debt of gratitude than to any other man for the practical aid he rendered in promoting the interests of the church when the country was new and the society feeble in wealth and numbers.

They reared four sons and four daughters.  The sons are engaged in business and located at different points in the west.  A daughter died in young womanhood.
Mrs. Waldo now resides near Chicage and Mrs. Ephraim Kingsbury and Mrs. Matilda Wiggins in Boonville.

Robert Wilson
May 31, 1897