Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Irish on the Portland waterfront

The schooner Viking unloads southern pine on Brown's Wharf c1885 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
  In the earlier times labor was kind of hard to get for demanding hard work.  It seems that each time that happened there was a new wave of immigrant labor; Chinese for the railroad building or Irish for the stevedore.
  There were already a small group of black people who had followed the molasses, from the West Indies, who worked the waterfront - but not enough of them.  Enter the Irish.  Of course being Roman Catholic and uneducated they were treated as a "necessary nuisance".  The local KKK grew even more with this arrival, for them the Irish weren't welcome.
  When the Grand Trunk Railroad opened Portland as an ice-free port the main commodity, in addition to lumber, was Canadian grain.  The largest import appeared to be molasses and Portland was a major refiner of sugar.  To move all of these goods the Irish were needed.
  The St. Dominic Church at the foot of Munjoy Hill was booming, it was the "Irish Church" and it still may be, if it's open.  The Catholic population grew to sufficient number that a Bishop was appointed for Maine in 1855.  From that day until the present every Bishop of the Diocese of Maine has had an Irish surname, no surprise.
The Hoist Wheel at Union Wharf, installed in 1762, the photo is from 1962.
Union Wharf was destroyed by fire in 1969. - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
Sledging timbers on Long Wharf in this undated photo. - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via

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