Poster recruiting workers for the Central Canal, via the Indiana Historical Society
As a few HI readers pointed out last week, it’s hard to talk about early Indianapolis immigrants without mentioning the Irish. So today will focus on these early settlers and their descendants.
Irish immigrants were some of the first non-native peoples to settle in the area, and as time passed they became the second largest immigrant population in Indianapolis (after the Germans). Most came via eastern states, following promises of ample work and affordable land. Some were recruited directly from Ireland by Kingan and Company, a meat packing plant that originated in Belfast and built a large plant on the White River in Indianapolis. (You can read more about Kingan and Company in this informative post.)
Though most were poor and of low social standing, the Irish played an integral part in the growth of the city. They helped build the canal, the National Road, and the railroads. They established the first Catholic parish, Holy Cross, which later became Saint John the Evangelist.
They first settled along the White River, near to Kingan’s. But the advent of the rail system allowed them to venture into other areas and still maintain employment. Most settled in Irish Hill, a small near-eastside neighborhood north of Fountain Square (they later migrated into the latter neighborhood as well).
If you are descended from these early settlers, you may find records of your ancestors in the census, Catholic church records, or in Civil War records. The Irish in Indianapolis started their own regiment during the Civil War and recruited from Saint John’s school. You’ll find them in the 35th regiment, also known as the 1st Irish regiment, which was later consolidated with the 65th, or 2nd Irish regiment.