BUTTE — St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in Butte, America, on Thursday, March 17 - featuring the first parade since 2019, due to Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
The Mining City has long been famous for its Irish roots and proud history of celebrating all things Ireland, and thousands of people lined the streets of Butte to celebrate on Thursday.
Montana and Irish-American history are closely woven together, with the state seeing a large influx of Irish immigrants during the last four decades of the 19th century. The travel website AFAR noted: "According to the most recent U.S. Census, Butte is the most Irish city in the union per capita; almost a full quarter of its residents are of Irish descent."
"We know that a lot of the Irish that came to Montana came from the Western Seaboard of Ireland, and we know that for the most part were Irish speakers, so they were post-famine immigrants that left Ireland, so when they came here to Montana, they came steeped into Irish Tradition," said Ciara Ryan with the Montana History Foundation.
During the late 1800s, Irish and Catholics sometimes faced discrimination in the eastern parts of the United States. Montana - Butte and Anaconda in particular - was lauded as a place Irish could go to be free from persecution and make an honest wage for a day’s work. "They did face significant discrimination in the 1850s and again in the 1890s," said Emmons.
"Signs were sometimes posted outside of businesses back east that read 'Irish need not apply.'" Emmons believes that could have enticed many Irish Americans to head west to Montana.
Irish businessmen gained control of the hard rock mining industry and controlled a large portion of the state’s wealth. Another way Irish Americans showed their strength against the discrimination was by planning and celebrating the Saint Patrick's Day Parade. "It started in New York in 1852, because the Irish were saying we are here," Emmons said.
The website Irish Central noted: "By 1900, half of Butte’s 30,000 population were Irish; Butte’s, suburbs were named Hungry Hill, Dublin Gulch, and Cork Town. Irish societies flourished too, with the Clann na Gaels, the Gaelic League, the Parnell Guard, the Emmet Guard, Daughters of Erin, the Robert Emmet Literary Association, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians."