HISTORY OF THE AOH IN OHIO
The first recorded instance of the appearance of a division of Hibernians was an 1873 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Akron. The first division formed in Dayton was chartered in 1878. The Recording Secretary of this Division was John M. Sweetman who later became one of the prime movers in the Minnesota Irish farming community.
Perhaps the first official appearance of Hibernians in Ohio came with the participation of Hibernians in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cincinnati in 1869. Archbishop Purcell blessed their banners on the occasion.
Prior to the first chartered division, however, there was Hibernian activity in Dayton as early as 1868. A City Directory from that time lists the Hibernian Society of Dayton, which met each month at a hall on the southeast corner of 2nd and Jefferson.
Hibernians gathered in Louisville, Kentucky in 1880 for their National Convention.
Ohio sent: (None of the men from the Hibernian Rifles were mentioned.)
In 1884 the Thirty-fourth annual National Convention was held in Cleveland, Ohio.
Hibernians arriving in the city were expected to number around 350. Headquarters for the
Convention were at Kennard House. At 0900 on May 12, 1884, the Cleveland Divisions
escorted the delegates to the Cathedral of St. John, the line of march being St. Clair,
Water and Superior Streets. The order of procession was:
|Co. A, Hibernian Rifles, 28 men||Capt. Michael McCaffery, 74 Old River St.;
Patrick Wier, First Lt., Jones Ave.;
Jerry Shay, 2nd Lt., Newburg St.;
|Co. B, 30 men||Capt. W.R. Ryan, Chambers St., corner Brecksville;
Thomas O’Malley, 1st Lt., Jones Ave.;
Jerry Shay, 2nd Lt., Newburg St., Cleveland;
|Divisions:||Division #1, Capt. John Keenan, 42 men;
Division #2, Capt. John Corrigan, 45 men;
Division #3, Capt. W.P. Reilly, 35 men;
Division #4, Capt. Ed Corrigan, 45 men;
Division #5, Capt. M.J. McIntyre, 34 men;
Division #6, Capt. D.C. Poland, 38 men;
Division #7, Capt. Frank Quinn, 35 men;
Division #8, Capt. M.J. Quirk, 52 men;
Division #9, Capt Ed Conley, 40 men.
|Clergy|| Fr. Cheveraux was celebrant assisted by
Fathers J. O’Connor
Fr. O. Jennings.
Valpraiso, was in the sanctuary,
Fr. T.P. Thorpe Spiritual Director of the Order, read and explained the first eleven chapters of the Gospel of St. John.
Afterwards the Honorable Jeremiah Crowley of Massachusetts, National President, called
the convention to order in Cathedral Hall. At 3:30 pm delegates took carriages to
Lakeview Cemetery to visit the tomb of President and Civil War veteran James Garfield.
That evening local members gave a banquet for the visitors. Mayor Farley delivered an
The National Director of the AOH, 1884, lists nine (9) Divisions in Cleveland. As of this writing we only have from 3 to 9. Officers were:
|Division #3||P.W. O’Reilly, President, 36 Ledyard St., Cleveland;
Thomas Brassel, VP, Broadway, Cleveland;
John Mulloy, Recording Sec., 194 Market St., Cleveland;
John Barry, Treasurer, Marble St., Cleveland.
|Division #4||E.J. Corrigan, President, 1977 Covington St., Cleveland;
Robert Boesher, VP, Way St., Cleveland;
John Gallagher, Recording Sec., Way St., Cleveland;
Theodore Keegan, Fin. Sec., Woodland Hills, Cleveland;
Thomas Connoboy, Treasurer, Cleveland.
|Division #5||M.J. McIntyre President, 18 McCart St, Cleveland;
Peter Casey, 40 Tracey St., Cleveland;
John Burns, Recording Sec., 29 Division St., Cleveland;
D.J. Dugan, Fin. Sec., 86 Pearl St., Cleveland.
|Division #6||Joseph Kennedy, President, 34 Minnesota St., Cleveland;
James Doyle, Vice-President, 18 Danfort St., Cleveland;
J.J. Reilly, Recording Sec., 111 Watson St., Cleveland;
J.J. Kennedy Fin Sec., 21 Minnesota St., Cleveland;
P.J. McKenney, Treasurer, 17 Buckeye St., Cleveland.
|Division #9||Ed Crowley, President, 190 Twenty-Third Ave., Cleveland;
James Murphy, VP, Lawn St., Cleveland;
James Garvey, Fin. Sec., 330 Waverty St., Cleveland;
Joseph Keenan, Treasurer, 868 Lawn St., Cleveland.
At Case Hall that evening another Irish group was in town. A Reception Committee, composed of Cleveland’s representative
Irishmen, listened to Fay’s Orchestra, followed by introductory remarks by Captain William J. Gleason, President of the
Cleveland branch of the Irish National League in America, who introduced Major Daniel O’Driscoll. From Weddell House to
Case Hall, the Hibernian Rifles escorted Mr. Alexander Sullivan, a Chicago resident and President of the Irish National
League in America. After being introduced he was given a “hearty and cordial welcome” before his speech at Case Hall.
A second Dayton Division was chartered in 1886. Then, on May 15, 1889, 56 years and 11 days after the original American charter had been granted, the present Division #1 received its charter. Its officers were: E.P. Burns, President; Thomas W. Shelley, Vice-President; John W. Sweetman, Recording Secretary; J.T. Maloney, Treasurer. What became of the original Division #1 is not know, but at this writing the John F. Kennedy Division #1 has become the oldest continuous division in Ohio.
Dayton would eventually have three divisions and there would be 101 divisions in the State of Ohio In one year, 1884, Ohio ranked fourth in the number of divisions nationally. Locally there were besides the three divisions in Dayton, divisions in Xenia, Bellefontaine, Urbana, Hamilton, Springfield (4), South Charleston, Oxford and London. Cincinnati had 8 divisions and Cleveland, at its height, had 15.
In 1894 the 39th National Convention was held in Omaha, Nebraska. The Omaha Daily Bee reported on the account of the Convention. Mentioned as a possible candidate for office was a Patrick Sweeney, Ohio. The Ohio Delegation was lead by National Treasurer Thomas J. Dundon, with about twenty delegates. Elected official stenographer of the convention was Manus O’Donnell of Columbus, Ohio, who was the Official Stenographer of Franklin County. Delegate from Ohio, C.P. Sweetman, was mentioned as being in the printing business. He was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Hibernian Rifles, Dayton, Ohio, and had filled all positions in the order from State Secretary down” Detroit, Michigan was selected as the site of the next National Convention.
Other Ohioans named in the Omaha Daily Bee as delegates were:
|Rev. M.I, Murphy,
John A. Ryan,
Thomas E. Toughan,
It was also reported M.O. Burns, City Attorney of Cincinnati, was with the Ohio delegation and visited the Bee Building each
At the turn of the century there were six divisions in Youngstown, Ohio. They were:
- Division 1 – In the first parish in Youngstown, St. Columba. This was in the downtown area and parts of what was called “Smokey Hollow.”
- Division 2 – Members lived in the lower North side and down. Both divisions held monthly meetings at the AOH Hall, 145 W. Federal St. Division 1 held meetings on the 3rd Sunday and Division 2 on the 1st Sunday.
- Division 3 – in the Hazelton area, including Struthers, Lowellville and the East Side. Meetings were held on the last Sunday of the month at Blunt’s Hall, 1668 Wilson Ave. It is thought that Sacred Heart Parish might have been the parish for this division.
- Division 4 – was begun on the West Side and Brier Hill, in association with St. Mary’s. On the 2nd Sunday they met at the home of P. Timlin, a grocer at 1267 W. Federal St.
- Division 5 – Held meetings on the 1st Sunday. Their long time home was at Immaculate Conception Church, Oak St., on the East side of downtown.
- Divison 6 – Members were from the South side. They met on the 3rd Tuesday in the Diamond Block.
At the Ohio State Convention of 1900, held in Toledo, James T. Carroll was elected State Secretary. Through his leadership the Ohio State Board authorized the founding of a military division of the Order known as the Hibernian Rifles. On July 18, 1905, the 1st Regiment, Hibernians Rifles in Ohio was established at the Chittenden Hotel, Columbus, Ohio. Officers named were: Ryan, M.J., Colonel; Shovlin, P.J., Lt. Colonel, Springfield; Owens, Charles E., Major, First Battalion, Dayton; Burke, A.E., Major, Second Battalion, Cleveland; Burns, Dr. F.M., Surgeon Major, Cincinnati.
In the 1903 – 1904 National Hibernian Directory are listed two companies of Hibernian Knights. Ohioans listed on page 321 were:
Thomas Whien, First Lt., 28 LaFayette St., Toledo;
J.J. Kelly, 2nd Lt., 564 Avondale, Toledo;
Patrick O’Brien, Chaplain, Toledo.
Other Companies were:
- Company G, Zanesville,
John O’Brien, Captain, 437 Lee St.; W.J. Luby, First Lt., 752 Orchard St.; D.J. McCarthy, 2nd Lt., Grant St.
Drill at 7:30 o’clock in Hibernian Hall, Market St., every Thursday.
- Cincinnati: James P. Kelly, Captain, 337 E. Third St.; Timothy Malone, First Lt., 2438 W. Sixth St.; Michael P. Brennen, 2nd Lt., 434 W Eleventh St., Newport.
- Company B, Columbus – HLC. McAllister, Captain, So. Monroe Ave; James T. Carroll, 1st Lt.; J. O’Shaughnessy, Jr., 2nd Lt., 23 Dennison Ave., Drill at City Hall every Tuesday evening.
- Company H., Cuyahoga – John Burke, Captain, 12 Reservoir St.,; Maurice P. Cummings, 1st Lt., 160 Barber Ave.; Thomas Mulloy 2nd Lt., 408 Detroit St. Drill in St. Malachi’s Hall, Viaduct, on the 2nd Friday of each month.
- Company D., Springfield – P.J. Shouvlin, Captain, 287 Eastern Ave.; John Griffin, 1st Lt., 158 E. Euclid Ave.; M.J. Hannon, 2nd Lt., 283e eastern Ave.; Peter Garrity, First Sgt., corner Spring & Monroe; J. Coleman, Quartermaster, 522 W. Main.
- Company F, Martin’s Ferry – Thomas A. Dobbins, Captain; John J. Sheehan, 1st Lt.; Thomas J. Duffy, 2nd Lt.;
- Meetings held at 8 o’clock in Y.M.I. Hall on Monday and Friday of each week.
Akron, Ohio was the site of the 2th Biennial State Convention, August 21 – 23, 1906. James T. Carroll of Columbus was elected National Secretary by acclamation. J.P. Madigan, Cleveland, was entrusted with the work of preparing a major degree, which was to have been readied by the1st of July, 1907. It was hoped Ohio would have 10,000 members before the next National Convention in Indianapolis, 1908.
Ohio State Officers in 1906 were John F. Cantwell, Youngstown, President; John F. Nolan, VP, Toledo; Thos. F. Murphy, Sec’y, Cleveland; Edward F. Hannan, Treasurer, Ironton; Rev. John I. Moran, Youngstown, Chaplain.
During this period of time there were Division in the following counties: Ashtabula Athens, Belmont, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Lake, Lawrence, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Marion, Medina, Miami, Montgomery, Perry, Ross, Scioto, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Tuscarawas. We will list by name only those officers from counties chartered with Divisions at this writing.
In 1906 their officers were:
|Cuyahoga||P.F. Callaghan, President, 173 Sterling Ave., Cleveland;
D.J. Moran, Vice President, 68 Sandusky St., Cleveland;
W.P. Kelly, Secretary, 268 Jennings Ave., Cleveland;
M.F. O’Donnell, Financial Secretary, 3 Swiss Ct., Cleveland;
James F. Collins, Treasurer, 1119 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland.
|Franklin||Chas. J. Martin, President, 370 Denmead Ave., Columbus;
Michael McIneany, VP, 389 W. Rich St., Columbus;
Daniel J. Fallon, Secretary, 175 No. Twenty First St., Columbus;
James Mulligan, Treasurer, 220 No. Washington Ave., Columbus;
Rt. Rev. James J. Hartley, Chaplain, Bishop of Columbus;
|Hamilton County||James Hayes, President, 923 Gest, Cincinnati;
Thomas Murphy, Vice President, 813 Hathaway St., Cincinnati;
Luke J. Damsel, Secretary, 706 W. Third St., Cincinnati;
John P. O’Neil, County Treasurer, 159 East Eleventh St., Covington, KYH;
|Lake County||Thomas J. Degnan, President, 384 Illinois St., Toledo;
James J. Quirk, VP, 428 Jervis St., Toledo;
James Quirk, Recording Sec’y, 438 Jervis, Toledo;
Peter H. Hand Watters, Co. Secretary, 220 Nineteenth St., Toledo;
Robert T. Garvin, Treasurer, 217 Summer, Toledo;
Patrick O’Brien, Chaplain, Toledo.
|Montgomery County||John T. Dietz, President, 156 Best St., Dayton;
Henry McKenny, VP, 527 e. Third St., Dayton;
Frank J. Moran, Jr.,. Sec’y, 1223 E. Second St., Dayton;
Daniel H. Sullivan, Treasurer, 28 No. Meigs, Dayton;
William D. Hickey, Second and Madison, Dayton, Chaplain.
|Summit County||R.J. Whelan, President, 622 So Main, Akron;
James Meehan, VP, Barberton;
Andrew Martin, Recording Sec’y, 821 Cobur, Akron;
Dr. F.X. Adams, Financial Sec’y, 728So. Main, Akron;
Hugh Meehan, Treasurer, Barberton;
James J Farrell, 672 So. Main, Akron, Chaplain.
- Division #1 in Summit Co. was organized in South Akron in 1867 with 20 members. At this convention membership numbered 200.
- Division #2 in Summit Co., met in the parochial school hall in Barberton.
- Their officers were: James Meehan, President; John Burke, VP; Thomas Black, Recording Sec’y; John Cantion, Fin. Sec’y; H.A. Meehan, Treasurer and Rev. J.G. Sheffield, Spiritual Director.
In 1906 membership numbered about sixty men. Three of Summit County’s early
notable members were Michael McFarland, born in Drumkeerin, Ireland in 1828, Patrick Goodwin, born in Co. Clare in 1847
and Edward M. McShafrey. Each received mention in the AOH Souvenir Program Book of 1906.
At 1927’s National Convention in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland Martin L. Sweeney was elected National President. He served in this capacity through 1931. Cleveland Attorney James P. Mooney was named national chairman of Irish History Campaign. Sweeny had been National Vice President of the Order for four years.
Sweeney, with a distinctive public office elective record, was a Municipal Judge until 1931 when he won an overwhelming victory to fill a vacancy for Congress from the 20th District. He gained immediate national publicity when, in his maiden speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, told his colleagues they were “behaving like a lot of old women” on the prohibition question In 1936 he voted against a resolution of condolence upon the death of King George G, saying that he had nothing personal against the monarch but that under his reign the Black and Tans invaded Ireland and made many Sweeney relatives their victims.
The colorful Sweeney was in a fist fight on the House floor with Representative Beverly M. Vincent (D) of Kentucky after he muttered that Sweeney was a “traitor” over a Sweeney speech opposing conscription and accusation that President Roosevelt was trying to involve the United States in the war. A first-generation Irish American, Sweeney died on May 1, 1960.
By 1941 there were only 111 Hibernians remaining in five divisions in Ohio, a long way from 5,893 in 1901. Youngstown, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton Division #1 were all that remained in the state.
In 1946, the year after WWII ended, saw a renaissance for the Ohio AOH. 1946 was also the year that Martin Sweeney nominated another Clevelander to be National President. At Syracuse, New York’s National Convention then National Vice-President, Attorney Michael A. McGrath was elected, nominated by past National President Martin Sweeney, who left a sick bed “to make this, my final speech,” McGrath’s father, Sweeney noted, was an “old Fenian”, a contemporary of John Devoy of the Gaelic American, contemporary of Reverend Peter York.” York was an author who wrote of the days of the Fenian movement in the days of the Civil War. McGrath died on February 3, 1965. The son of Thomas McGrath, he was survived by a daughter, Mrs. Jay (Janice) F. Hurd, Jr., and a sister, Katherine Pace.
In the 1990s, this writer had a brief telephone conversation with Michael McGrath’s daughter, Jan Hurd. At the time she lived in Rocky River, Ohio. Her grandfather was Thomas McGrath, who published the two-volume history of the AOH. Mrs. Hurd said she gave everything she had of her fathers to Bob Sweeney. Thomas McGrath, she believes, was from Cork. He came to Cleveland via Pittsburgh and Youngstown. Her father Michael is buried in Cleveland’s Holy Cross Cemetery. He was a member of St. Colman’s Parish, married Annette Beogy. Mrs. Hurd thought her grandfather Thomas was buried in Calvary Cemetery.
In September of 1983 the AOH/LAOH hosted National President Joseph Roche. He attended the Commodore John Barry Day Dance held at the Beck Center, Lakewood. The following day he was the featured speaker at the 2nd annual Commodore Barry Observance held at the Irish Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park. This was the first visit to Cleveland by an AOH National President since the days of James Comerford.
During September, 1982, past-Division President James M. Reynolds announced the Cleveland Division would be named after two former members who passed away in 1979 – Bill Berry and Gus Boland.
Boland a native of County Sligo, was the youngest of nine children. Active in numerous Irish organizations, he served the AOH as President. On the State Board level he served as Chairman of Immigration Committee and Freedom for All-Ireland Committee. He was a charter member of Division #2, which was organized in November of 1966.
Bill Berry was a charter member of the division although he had been a member of one of the older Cleveland divisions since 1942. Born in Chicago, he spent most of his early years in Co. Mayo. He was a WWII veteran of the South Pacific who first came to Cleveland in 1925. Berry was a past Grand Knight of the Father Stuber Council of the Knights of Columbus and was active in the Holy Name Society. On a Division level he was a Historial (sic) and Recording Secretary. He was elected Ohio State Treasurer from 1973 - 1975.
Since that time the membership growth curve has been steady. On a national level, new Divisions have formed in towns where the AOH has been absent for 50 years.
- National Directory of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, 1884.
- Ibid, 1903-1904 Directory, p. 321,323.
- Ibid, Louisville Convention, 1880
- Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 13, 1884.
- Resolution of J. Michael Finn, Division Historian, Patrick Pearse Division #1, Columbus, Ohio, presented at the 70th Biennial State Convention in Toledo, July 13-15, 1995.
- 'Nalley's News', Newsletter, Nalley Division AOH, August, September, 1995.
- “AOH History by Dan Johnson”.
- Convention Souvenir, 12th Biennial State Convention, Akron, Ohio.
- Convention Souvenir, AOH in America, 12th Biennial State Convention, Akron, Ohio, August 21-23, 1906.
- We also recognize the contributions of Gerry Curran, 2000 AOH National Historian, Columbus, Ohio for the following sources:
- Michael J. Coogan, AOH Ohio State President, 1960-1962, ex memory, 1993.
- AOH Ohio State Secretary’s Voucher Ledger Books, 1916 – 1985.
- McGrath, Thomas F., History of the AOH from the earliest period to the joint National Convention at Trenton, New Jersey, June 27, 1898. (Cleveland: J.B. Savage), 1898.
- O’Dea, John, History of the AOH and LADIES’ Auxiliary, Vol. 3, (Philadelphia: Keystone Printing Co.), 1923.
- Primary Document National Hibernian, various issues, Jan 1905- Dec. 1914.