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The Irish of Georgia

From the mid to late 1800's, there was considerable Irish Catholic settlement in the Georgia/Milton area. Some of the early immigrants from Ireland who lived in the Georgia area were Thomas Eustace, John King, Pat Duffy, Pat McGrath, Pat Ryan, John Mahoney, James Cavanaugh, Peter Johnson and others.

What attracted these people to the Georgia area? As is common with all immigrants it was a fresh start, a better life. Since most Irish coming to America chose to settle in urban areas, one has to assume that those coming to Vermont were seeking opportunity in agriculture, i.e., owning their own land. This was almost impossible in Ireland in the 1800's.

Since the Irish were very clannish by nature, and the church was the heart of their social structure, it was important that they have close access to an established religious community. French-Canadian immigrants had established a Catholic community in Milton in the early 1800's. Rev. Jeremiah O' Callaghen celebrated Mass at the home of Etienne Perrault as early as 1844.

Construction of St. Ann's Church was completed in 1859 and they received their first resident pastor, the Rev. Francis Picart. Thus the Georgia Irish were bonded to their Milton brethren.

The Vermont Central R.R. also served to draw immigrants to the area. During construction they had advertised in Ireland for employment opportunities. Many of the Georgia Irish worked at some point for the R.R. which was headquartered in East Georgia. Francis Eustace, Peter King, John King (Jr.), Michael McGrath and others were all employed by the Vermont Central.

John King and Michael McGrath both made a career of railroading. Peter King and others used it as a stepping-stone to establish themselves as farmers.

Thomas Eustace, who was born in West Meath County, Ireland in 1798, came to Georgia as early as 1828. He may have been the first Irish immigrant to settle himself in Georgia. He married Catherine O'Neill in 1831, and they had one child (also Catherine) born in 1832. Thomas' wife died the same year. He married Sarah Birney of Swanton and they had six children: James, Helen, Mary, Francis, Esther and Edward. Sarah died in 1858. The Eustace farm was on the Oakland Station Road. Thomas died in Westford in 1886 on the farm of Peter and Esther (Eustace) King.

Another of the early Irish immigrants was Pat McGrath who was born in County Clare in 1822. His son, Michael McGrath, married Mary McMullen. Her father, Francis, was one of the first Irish settlers in Milton. He died there at the age of 97 years. Michael and Mary's son, the late Sen. John McGrath, became a prominent farmer-businessman in the area.

The "John McGrath farm," on Route. 7, stands as a testimony to an impoverished and landless people who came to the area, destitute, and were able to accumulate land and possessions.

About 1847 Pat Duffy and John and Mary (Duffy) King came from Corballis, County Louth, Ireland to the Georgia/Milton area. They probably landed in Canada and traveled from there to Vermont as this was the usual procedure.

Pat Duffy married Mary Ann Mahoney, the daughter of John and Mary Mahoney. Pat had a blacksmith shop in West Georgia and he died there in 1901. At the time of his death he was 82, having been born in County Louth to Patrick and Kate (Gartland) Duffy in 1818. Many of his descendants still live in Milton.

These Kings were known in the early years as the "Irish Kings" to distinguish them from the Anglo-Kings and more particularly from the French-Kings. French families in St. Ann's Church with the surname "LeRoy" or "Roi" changed their name to the more Anglicized "King." In the early years the two ethnic groups segregated themselves to a certain extent. St. Ann's Cemetery reflects this as the Irish are predominately buried on the one side and the French on the other.

John King, who was a tailor by trade, married Mary Duffy in the Tallanstown Church, County Louth, Ireland in 1837. Peter, Catherine, Mary, Alice and John were born and baptized in Ireland. Bridget, the first born in America, was born in Milton in November, 1847.

Two of John King's sons served in the Civil War. John (Jr.) was a Sgt. in the 9th Vt. Inf. Regt. and Peer served in the First Vermont Cavalry with fellow Irishmen Francis Eustace and James Cavanaugh, both of whom were from Georgia [although Peter is credited to St. Albans].

During his three-year enlistment Peter was able to save enough from his meager army pay to procure a down payment on two small parcels of land. He purchased these holdings from Peter and Margarette Johnson who were communicants of St. Ann's Church and almost certainly Irish immigrants themselves. This land and small house was located on the west side of Route 7 near where it is joined by 104A.

In 1867 Peter married Esther Eustace and their first two children, Mary and Agnes were born in Georgia. Peter was at this time employed as a section hand on the R.R. at East Georgia.

Peter subsequently sold the Johnson property to his sisters Kate (King) Conlin, Bridgett, Rose-Agnes and Fanny. His parents, John and Mary, lived out their years there. John died in 1881 and Mary in 1889. Peter then purchased a property just east of the Georgia Highbridge near the Ransom Smith holdings. He sold this to Zeb Wagner in 1874 and purchased his farm in Westford in 1877. That area is now known as "King's Hill."

In 1852 the Clintons and Conlins came from Mansfieldtown, County Louth, Ireland to Milton. Apparently these two families had known the Kings and Duffy's in Ireland and they had probably encouraged them to come to Vermont.

Given the clannish nature of these Irish immigrants, within a short time nearly everyone was related. Michael Conlin married Kate King in 1861. Jane Clinton married Owen Conlin, Elizabeth Clinton married James Ryan. Some of the siblings were John Clinton, John Conlin, Clinton Ryan and Clinton Conlin (son of Henry Conlin). Katherine Conlin married Michael McGee and their daughter married a Mahoney which would tie them in with the Duffys!

Peter and Esther (Eustace) King's two oldest daughters married the brothers George and Michael Gillin of Fairfax. Their mother, Margarette Nolan, had immigrated from County Louth as well. The Eustaces were related to the O'Kanes through Charles O'Kane whose wife, Elizabeth, was a Birney. This was Mrs. James Ryan's grandmother.

Pat Ryan, who was married to Ellen Kennedy, had a farm on Goodrich Hill. They were related to the Georgia Laughlins as Marcus Laughlin's mother was Ellen's sister, Elizabeth Kennedy. Following Pat on the farm was his son, Tom Ryan. This parcel of land on the Georgia/Fairfax line was subsequently owned by the late Paul King of Fairfax, whose mother was a Laughlin and whose grandmother was Elizabeth Kennedy Laughlin. Paul was the grandson of Peter and Esther (Eustace) King and therefore a descendant of "Irish" John King as well.

Francis B. Eustace

Francis B. Eustace
Georgia
First Vermont Infantry, Co. C
First Vermont Cavalry, Co. B

Peter King

Peter King
St. Albans
Company B
First Vermont Cavalry

Memorial Card

Memorial Card
Peter King
(Click on graphic for larger view)

John King, Milton

John King
Milton
Company F
Ninth Vermont Infantry<

The complete story of the Irish of Georgia (Vermont) can be found in the multiple volumes of the Georgia Historical Society's history of the town. The following tidbits were also provided by Mike, a native of Georgia.

The following are things Mike remembers being told by different relatives. He believes them to be fairly accurate.

James Cavanaugh and Frank Eustace, credited to Georgia, and George Currier, credited to Franklin, served together in the First Vermont Infantry, Company C. They re-enlisted and joined Peter King, Francis Kinney and Marshall St. Germaine in Company B, First Vermont Cavalry Regiment.

During Farnsworth's charge at Gettysburg, Peter King's horse, a dark bay, about 14 1/2 hands, named "Black Dan," was disabled and later died. Peter was rescued by his comrade and tent-mate, Francis Kinney. Peter was said to have a way with sick and injured horses. During the winter of 1863-1864, he was assigned special duty looking after the sick animals. By the fall of 1864, he had had enough of the Cavalry and the Civil War. Neither he nor any of his friends re-enlisted; evidently they all felt the same way.

Peter King used his muster-out pay and some money he had saved to purchase a small parcel of land in Georgia. This was just a short distance from his employment as a section hand on the Vermont Central Railroad. He sold that parcel and purchased a farm in Westford in 1877, and stayed there the remainder of his life. He and his wife Ester (Eustace) King raised nine children. They were active in St. Ann's Catholic in Milton, where both had attended as youngsters. Peter was also a member of the Reynolds Post G.A.R., Milton. He served as Commander in 1899. He passed away May 8, 1900.

John King was born in County Lauth, Ireland June 24, 18642. He immigrated with his parents, brother and sisters to West Milton in 1847. They sailed from Ireland to Quebec and then walked to Vermont. He enlisted in Co. F, Ninth Vermont Infantry, June 23, 1862 against the advice of his brother Peter then serving with the First Vermont Cavalry. It was also against the wishes of his mother already worrying about her other son.

He was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant. However, he was subsequently reduced in rank to Private for trouble he got into while at Fort Richmond Hospital in New York City. John was described as "red headed and tough." He was a good boxer and was said to be "scrappy." John's working life was spent in railroading in Georgia, Richford, Keene New Hampshire, and Berkshire. He was a machinist and later a foreman. He died at his home in Berkshire August 9th, 1926.

I also heard a story one time that a bunch of them got into the apple-jack coming towards Pennsylvania on the way to Gettysburg. They were falling off their horses, etc., and had terrific hang-overs the next day!.

Captain Thomas B. Kennedy, Company K, Sixth Vermont Infantry, was my great-granduncle.

Sources: Photographs and material generously contributed by Mike King, Rose Prairie, British Columbia. Unfortunately, Mike does not have ready access to the Internet.