Irish Railroad Workers Museum: An essay from Tom Ward

 

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ward has 1,600-acre cattle and timber

farm to keep him busy, as well as his daily Baltimore walks, which take him

from his Bolton Hill home to Pennsylvania Station.  He was instrumental in

saving the properties that house the restored Irish Immigrant Worker's Home

(an 1848 house on tiny Lemmon Street) which is now The Irish Railroad

workers museum. Ward owns a 1922 B&O wooden caboose with a coal-burning

stove. He keeps it on his farm. I talked to Tom about his bid to save what is now the Irish Railroad Workers Museum.  He wrote the following:

 

The arise from the historic ashes (wreckage) of the Irish 
Railroad Workers Museum came about in 1997 (Spring) of the City of Baltimore’s 
desire to tear down 5 alley houses on Lemmon Street across the one half 
block separating it from the birthplace of the world’s first commerce and 
passenger railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (1828). 
 
            These five alley houses, 912 thru 920 Lemmon Street, were empty, 
in terrible shape, dangerous, and -- historic. The people in the immediate 
neighborhood did not want another vacant lot. They wanted to fix them up. 
They called me for help. 
 
            I called Mayor Kurt Schmoke’s (Baltimore City) Housing Chief, 
Daniel Henson one early morning (1997), and told him our desire. We asked 
for no money, said there would be immediate action, and had an effective 
group to accomplish it. He refused. (To this date his decision made no 
sense; we suspected the worst.) 
 
            The fight was on. We took the City to Court and eight hearings 
later, we finally won in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, which 
court-ordered the houses protected, and quickly made safe and later 
furnished. 
 
            And, so it came about that despite all the dirty tricks of the 
City harassing us through its bureaucracy, opening day ribbon cutting 
greeted an enormous crowd filling the Lemmon Street alley listening to Mayor 
Martin O’Malley and former Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer, and a 
representative of the Irish Embassy heap praise on the dedication of America’s 
first museum to Irish immigrant railroad workers. 
 
            918 Lemmon Street is fully restored to the early home of the 
Feeley family (Sara and James and six children and a dog). 920 Lemmon Street 
is a museum heralding the Irish neighborhood Church (St. Peter the Apostle), 
the B&O Railroad Shops, a 17 minute film describing the Irish arrival there 
in the 1840’s and much else. 
 
            Active tours were set up, beginning at the B&O Railroad’s first 
yard, station and shop to the Lemmon Street houses, to the neighborhood’s 
first Catholic Church, St. Peter the Apostle (3rd oldest Catholic Church in 
Baltimore – 1844), and ending at the Hollins Street Market (1836 – rebuilt 
in 1862). 
 
            The tours are successful and attended by Irish decedents and 
Irish from all over the world. 
 
            The neighborhood today contains mostly structures built before 
the Civil War. 
 
            History is everywhere. 
 
            For example: 
 
1.      Charles Carroll of Carrollton, American great Revolutionary War 
patriot, signer of 
 
the Declaration of Independence, and organizer and dedicator of the world’s 
first commerce and passenger railroad, is intimately connected with not only 
the railroad, but with St. Peter the Apostle Church. His granddaughter 
Evelyn Carroll Caton McTavish gave the money for the girls’ schools at St. 
Peter. Evelyn also purchased the nearby Donnell estate home, and converted 
it into the House of Good Shepherd for Catholic girls. 
 
2.      Father Edwin McColgan, an  Irish born Catholic priest in Baltimore, 
organized the 
 
new St. Peter parish, built St. Peter by hand with the help of the thousands 
of Irish who lived in the neighborhood, and served with St. Peter from 1844, 
until he died in 1898. Father McColgan was instrumental in bringing the 
Sisters of Mercy to their second United States location in 1855 at St. Peter 
to educate the girls. They remained there until 2010. 
 
Father McColgan also founded St. Mary’s Industrial School, a home for 
Catholic Boys needing discipline. St. Mary’s is now more famous as the home 
of Babe Ruth, the world’s most renown baseball player. The Babe was baptized 
at St. Peter, and lived in the neighborhood, where his father had a bar. 
 
3.      The 1848 houses which contain the Irish Railroad workers Museum, 
were built on 
 
land owned by John Eager Howard, a Commander of the Maryland Line during the 
Revolutionary War. 
 
The alley houses are architecturally significant as they represent an 
attempt to reach a third floor to provide more room for working class 
populations (almost 98% Irish) with their large families). 
 
4.      The early organizers of the B&O Railroad in addition to Charles 
Carroll of 
 
Carrollton, included William Patterson, a Baltimore Irish businessman. 
 
His daughter, Betsy Patterson, is famous for her marriage to Napoleon 
Bonaparte’s 
 
brother, Jerome, in Baltimore. The grandson of this marriage was Secretary 
of Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. 
 
      Marianne Carroll Caton, Charles Carroll’s granddaughter, married 
William Patterson’s son, Robert. He died early, and Marianne then married 
the Earl of Wellesly, the brother of the Grand Chancellor of Ireland. 
 
      Marianne was reportedly the most beautiful woman in America. 
 
      Keep in mind, her sister, Evelyn, was the Carroll granddaughter who 
financed the  girls’ schools at St. Peter. 
 
            There is much much more for those who are interested, but 
perhaps this will wet your appetite. 
 
            A cemetery, St. Peter, known as Parrish’s Fear in its day, was 
established in 1861. Our tours go there upon request. 
 
            Admission is free, but donations are requested for the full 
tours. 
 
            The Museum and the Feeley home are open every Saturday from 11 
AM to 2 PM, and talented docents are there as guides. 
 
 
 
                                                                        
Sincerely, 
 
Tom Ward 

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Tags: Irish Railroad Workers, Museum, Tom Ward

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