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Utica’s Irish History- Celebrating A Festival Of Nations At Culture Fest

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Join us for a trip around the world all in one place right here in Oneida County.  Culture Fest- A Festival Of Nations is coming up on April 13th at Utica’s beautiful Stanley Theatre.  Just ten bucks to sample food, drinks and entertainment from the many cultures here in Central New York.  The Celtic Harp will be there, representing Utica’s Irish history. 

The history of the Irish in Central New York and specifically in the Utica area is quite unique.  Most Americans remember the story of the Irish immigrating to America in the wake of the potato famine in the 1840’s.  However, Utica and the Mohawk Valley saw an earlier wave of Irish settlement which greatly helped our region develop.  This early surge was brought about by the construction of the Erie Canal between 1817 and 1825.  Thousands of Irish worked on the Canal.

The Canal and later railroad systems were a magnet for immigrants.  The subsequent boom in cloth manufacturing drew even more immigrants, and the Irish were well represented in all these industries.  The Irish were established in the Utica area a generation before the potato famine.  Along with the Irish people came Ireland’s main religion, Roman Catholicism.  Utica’s St. John’s Church became the first Roman Catholic parish in New York State west of Albany in 1819.  The Devereux family became prominent Uticans of Irish extraction and founded the Savings Bank of Utica.

The prejudice and discrimination famous to the Irish experience in the later 19th and 20th centuries in America was largely absent in our region, thanks to the earlier wave of Irish who helped build the canal, railways, factories, churches and banks that helped Utica rise to greatness.  You can always find out more about Utica’s heritage by visiting the Oneida County Historical Society on Genesee Street in Utica.

(Oneida County Historical Society)

Read: More About Culture Fest- A Festival Of Nations


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