THE LOS ANGELES HIBERNIAN STORY…1875
The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered by James Wilson Marshall at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California. News of the discovery soon spread, resulting in some 300,000 men, women, and children coming to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately 150,000 arrived by sea while the remaining 150,000 arrived by land.
These early gold-seekers, called "forty-niners," (as a reference to 1849) traveled to California by sailing boat and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Irish, Australia, and Asia. At first, the prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. Many of the Irish 49er’s came from Boston and New York and others directly from Ireland. They traveled overland through hostile country and others sailing around the tip of South America and up to San Francisco. All in search of gold.
The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement to a boomtown, and roads, churches, schools and other towns with Irish names (i.e., Dublin) were built throughout Northern California.
The first AOH Division was chartered in 1850 as Sacramento Division One and others where chartered throughout the area by those early 49er’s who settled in the Golden State.
It was a typically warm September day when Michael Ward, Esq. arrived in Los Angeles from San Francisco. No doubt but that Ward was tired and strained by his lengthy journey. Yet the heat did not matter for the year was 1875, and the slow and easy was the life pulse of Los Angeles, a town barely removed from its "pueblo" origins with its center still focused on the "old plaza", the Mission Church and the Pico House Hotel. Unlike the bustling cities to the north, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose, Los Angeles had not yet become the emigrants' destiny.
The wearing strain of Ward's travel quickly vanished as the San Franciscan found a large reception committee of local citizenry to wait upon him on his arrival. As Ward was later to remember, he took but one look and the eager eyes of the crowd foretold the accomplishment of his mission.
LOS ANGELES DIVISION ONE ORGANIZED 1875.That evening, in the chambers of Judge Gray, not too far from the present location of Union Station, the Honorable Michael Ward, Esq., A.O.H. State Delegate (President) from San Francisco, organized and chartered the Los Angeles Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The date - September 17th, 1875. Daniel Doherty was installed as the first County Delegate and M.J. Golden as President. The chartered members consisted mostly of native sons of Ireland, and the organizational meeting was so successful that two evenings later (September 19, 1875) at its first general meeting, the Division was able to reimburse Ward the sum of $120.00 for his travel expenses. The chartered membership also included Daniel Desmond whose "Desmond Band" was the first Irish musical group in southern California, Daniel Cunningham who was co-founder of Cunningham and O'Connor Mortuary, and Walter Desmond whose general store was to become the Southland’s leading chain of Men’s' clothing stores.
The vast majority of members were under thirty years of age, native Irish emigrants searching for an organization which was Catholic and Irish. They found it in the A.O.H.
The arrival of the Hibernian Order in Los Angeles was a fete proudly heralded by both the Express and the Herald, the leading local newspapers of the day. However, this delight was not shared by all, and the evening Herald of September 18th, 1875, carried a letter to the Editor written by an R. Gorman. After proclaiming himself to be a native son of Erin, Gorman then proceeded to attack the A.O.H. as a subversive conspiracy of "papist" waiting the moment to turn America over to the priests in Rome. He claimed to have attended the organizational meeting of the previous evening which was the source of his comments. The Editor attached a bold footnote to Gorman's letter which not only disclaimed Gorman's attacks, but added that a discussion with community leaders present at the September 17th meeting revealed Gorman's version of events to be without foundation.
WEEKLY MEETINGS IN JUDGE GRAY’S CHAMBERS
The weekly A.O.H. meetings, each Sunday at 2:30 p.m., continued to be held in Judge Gray's chambers, but in November, 1875, the site was changed to Arcadia Hall on the corner of Arcadia and Main Streets, in the approximate location of our present City Hall. Dues were collected on a weekly basis, and generally netted about $20.00 at each of the initial meetings. By March, 1876, dues collected netted a weekly sum of $100.00 to $125.00. Members were also entitled to sick benefits of eight dollars a week, the services of a professional nurse during serious illness, and a death-funeral expense of $75.00.
By March, 1876, the A.O.H. organized the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in Los Angeles, and indeed Friday, March 17th, 1876 was a grand day. It started with a 9:00 p.m. Mass at the Old Mission Church. A sermon on the life of St. Patrick was delivered to a full congregation including the Hibernians, who, according to newspaper accounts, commanded several front pews and were most impressive in their dress regalia.
Afterwards, the A.O.H. sponsored the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in Los Angeles. The parade route moved from the center of town to St. Vincent's College where the clergy received the Hibernians, and Father Flannagan served as oratory for the occasion.
FIRST ST. PATRICKS DAY BALL
The First Annual St. Patrick's Day Hibernian Ball took place in the evening at Turnvenien Hall. Newspaper stories of the following day reveal that the Ball was a great success, "doing much pride to the sons of Erin and Ireland's Patron Saint." The clergy, Mayor, County Judges and Marshall were present with the Hibernians as Desmond’s "Irish" Band engaged all with Irish songs and jigs. It was a fine display of the Irish. Desmond opened up a men’s store for upscale men’s clothes that existed in Los Angeles well into the 1970’s.
Cost of the Ball was $775.25, which included the amount of $438.35 for the regalia, $100.00 (and supper) for the musicians, hall rental of $40.00, $51.00 for printing and advertising, a beer and liquor cost of $15.00, and a charge of $17.75 so that "all gentlemen present may have cigars." Each A.O.H. member was assessed $5.50 to defray expenses of the ball, and admission to the ball was $1.00.
From these beginnings the Hibernians grew and flourished in Los Angeles. Reading through the Hibernian Minutes of the past century fully indicates that the A.O.H. Brothers always maintained a faithful devotion to the Catholic faith and the clergy, an abounding and loving loyalty to their Irish heritage, and were even willing to aid and relieve with charitable assistance. With the A.O.H. around, no brother or Irishman was to suffer from discrimination or misfortune. Many times the A.O.H. undertook the care of orphan children until a permanent home could be found.
In the Christmas edition of the Tidings in 1898 (Vol. 4-5), an article rendered these remarks on the A.O.H.: "From a division small in numbers this branch has grown until it has today the largest membership and the strongest financial standing of any Catholic organization in Southern California. Much of this success is due to the reverend clergy and particularly in these latter days, to Rev. Joseph Doyle."
In 1910, the Tidings in another Christmas edition (Vol. 16-51-105) devoted almost three full pages to an article on A.O.H. history written by Rev. Paul J. Dillon, Los Angeles Chaplain and State Historian. The article, in moving prose, traces Hibernian history back to its founding in 1520 AD in County Kildare, Ireland.
After the horrible tragedy of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Los Angeles A.O.H. raised more funds to aid the victims than any other organization in the world.
JUSTICE STEPHEN M. WHITE
Among the early pioneers of Los Angeles and AOH Los Angeles Division One was Justice Stephen M. White of the California Supreme Court. His history is amazing. Justice White also served as Los Angeles County District Attorney, President Pro Temp of the California State Senate and as United States Senator from California. A plaque honoring his contribution to the civic well being (and bearing his likeness) is found in the Lobby of the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts Building in the Los Angeles Civic Center. he always considered his leadership in Los Angeles Division One to be among the foremost of his life.
A bronze statue of Stephen M. White was created by Tilden Douglas in 1908. White was a Los Angeles District Attorney, State Senator, and U.S. Senator. He is best remembered as the "Father of the Los Angeles Harbor" for winning the fight for a free harbor against powerful railroad interests. The statue originally stood in front of the Old County Courthouse and Los Angeles City Hall, was moved to the new courthouse in 1958.
And attention was drawn to White’s Irish ancestry on St. Patrick’s Day in 1960.
A report in the Van Nuys newspaper on March 20 says: “Old-timers of Los Angeles beamed in delight when they learned the statue of Stephen M White (1853-1901), Los Angeles district attorney and then Democratic Senator from California, had been draped with green muslin in its eloquent position before the new courthouse, First and Hill Sts.“Four pieces of the green cloth formed a toga, a sash and two scarfs.“ ‘Begorra,’ said an old-timer as he sipped a bit of Irish cheer near Civic Center, ‘’twas white of the elfs and the leprechauns to think of White in the wearing’ o’ the green.”
The statue was moved to its present location, at the entrance to Cabrillo Beach off Stephen M. White Drive, on Feb 23, 1989 to honor his contribution to the establishment of the Port of Los Angeles.
AOH AT THE HELM
Then came the great years of the A.O.H. flowering in Los Angeles. These were the years of Joe Scott, Peter Murray, C.F. Horan, and so many others. This period began after World War I.
Always on the meeting agenda was the issue of Irish freedom. Throughout the early years of the A.O.H. in Los Angeles, fund raising campaigns were spearheaded to relieve the poverty in Ireland and provide a constant source of funds to Sinn Fein. The record is replete with many instances of the A.O.H. sponsoring speakers from Ireland and the East who would arouse sympathy and support for Irish liberty and an end to English oppression.
When the Irish Free State was formed, the Los Angeles A.O.H. was one of the first to demonstrate confidence in the Irish Republican effort by purchasing a $500.00 bond certificate sold by the Republic of Ireland. These were also the years of the Irish Civil War, and this tragic event found its way into the minutes. Much debate was had, sometimes lively and quite argumentative, other times sad and touching.
In 1922, under the able treasurer ship of Edward Tynan, the A.O.H. had accumulated $12,881.03 in assets. $1,500.00 was in Liberty Bonds, and $2,000.00 in "Bishop's note."
THE GREAT JOE SCOTT During the 1920's, 30’s and 40’s, the A.O.H., with Joe Scott (July 16, 1867 - March 24, 1958) at the helm, spearheaded the first major Archdiocesan program to raise funds for the building of parochial schools. The campaign was a success, and Catholic education at every level became a reality in Los Angeles. Joe Scott was a magnificent power in Los Angeles. While he never held office, many did under his beneficence and all of his sons went onto to become either Judges or Bishops. Scott lost some of his sway after giving the reanimation speech for Herbert Hoover for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1932. Hoover was running against Democrat Franklin Roosevelt – who won a massive election victory in the midst of the Great Depression. Weakened or not, Scott remained for many years the power of the AOH in Los Angeles. Joining him in his many efforts was the founding partner of O’Melveny and Meyers Law Firm – the most prestigious law firm in Los Angeles. O’Melveny was one of the AOH powers during the first 3 decades of the 20th century.
In subsequent years, the Los Angeles A.O.H. was cited with highest compliments by the National Catholic Welfare Conference for their campaign against taxation of Catholic schools, as well as their rigid surveys of public schools to root out anti-Catholic and anti-Irish textbooks and propaganda.
EAMON DE VALERA’S VISITS TO LOS ANGELES
On both occasions that Eamon de Valera visited Los Angeles, it was the A.O.H. Los Angeles Division One which feted him – His first visit was around 1919 when he visited the west coast in an effort to raise funds to free Ireland – California raised over $1.5 Million Dollars for de Valera efforts to free Ireland from the British and Los Angeles Hibernian Joe Scott was the Co-Chair of this fundraising effort. De Valera addressed the AOH National Convention in San Francisco during his 1919 visit. AOH Los Angeles Division One hosted his visit to Los Angeles and spearheaded the fundraising efforts in Southern California.
De Valera’s last visit to the West Coast was in the very late 1040’s; de Valera was hosted by AOH Los Angeles Division One with a lavish Grand Ball and Dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel and a massive welcome in the Los Angeles City Hall.
HIBERNIANS TAKE HOLLYWOOD ON
The Los Angeles Hibernians took on Hollywood's film industry when on July 20, 1927; the A.O.H. forced a showdown over derogatory references to the Irish in the popular movie "The Callahans versus the Murphys." Though not all the requested changes were made, the producers at M.G.M. did modify the most objected to portions of the film.
A.O.H. HALL DREAM
In March of 1927, C.F. Horan initiated a fund raising campaign for an A.O.H. Hall. This was to be the unrealized dream of his life. The St. Patrick's Day Hibernian Ball that year was held in the E1 Patio Ballroom with over 3,000 persons in attendance. Earlier that day, the A.O.H. sponsored the mass with Rev. Joseph Sullivan, President of Loyola University, delivering the sermon and Bishop Cantwell presiding.
Lore has it the the Doheny family, whose involvement in the “Teapot Dome Oil Scandal” toppled the administration of President Warren Harding. Doheny was Secretary of the Interior and the party who granted all of the leases on Federal Oil land. For his part in the scandal, he later served time in Federal prison. Doheny offered the AOH a huge downtown City block for the AOH Hall. Well, C.F. Horan very decidedly rejected the offer. The AOH would have no dealings with the criminal gangs…so he said. Later the Federal government purchased the land from the Dohenys and built the first Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles. The Courthouse remains and still is the primary Federal Courthouse for Los Angeles. The Dohenys continued to remain the foremost Catholic family in Los Angeles with the family being appointed Papal hereditary Counts. Count and Countess Doheny later donated an original Guttenberg Catholic Bible to the Archdiocese and over the years their donations of land and money to the Archdiocese were countless. Fortunately for the Archdiocese, the Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals did not share C. F.Horan’s scruples Fund raising progress for an A.O.H. Hall went rather well until the depression hit in 1929! Then the funds were much more needed to aid and relieve more basic needs than a hall.
Throughout the century, the Los Angeles Hibernians continued to demonstrate support for Irish culture. Funds were raised here to establish and support the Hibernian Chair of Celtic Studies at the Catholic University of America -- and this program still continues as the foremost center of Irish culture in the United States. The Los Angeles A.O.H. provided substantial funds and book donations at the California State Board when it created the Hibernian Library at the University of Santa Clara. This library remains as the finest library collection on Irish culture to be found in the western states. A.O.H. Divisions in California raised $3,000.00 to aid the establishing the Irish College in Rome, and the Hibernian Minutes reflect that Los Angeles Hibernians have provided generous support for Loyola University during the past century.
ANNUAL LOS ANGELES AOH FEIS AND FIELD DAY
The A.O.H. involvement in promoting local Irish events is also recorded.. Prior to the 1950's, hardly a Feis, field day, charity and benefit drive, or any other local event occurred without a major contribution of effort and funds from AOH Division One.
Los Angeles County Division One founded the Annual Los Angeles AO H Feis and Field Day held annually in the Fall at the grounds of the Los Angeles Breakfast Club on Riverside Drive in Griffith Park. This event was hosted for several decades and was the largest outdoor gathering of the Irish in Southern California. The Annual Los Angeles AOH Feis and Field Day always opened with a Mass – usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Los Angeles. Every Irish family came out for this wonderful event. Eventually the AOH County Board assumed control and sadly, AOH leadership in the mid 1960’s ended the event because of the work involved.
In these days, most AOH sponsored Masses were usually celebrated at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral or Immaculate Conception Church. The Annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass always was hosted at the Cathedral.
ST. PATRICKS DAY IN LOS ANGELES
The Hibernian St. Patrick's Day program generally started with a morning mass at St. Vibiana Cathedral with the Archbishop presiding. This was followed by the noontime local flag raising ceremony on City Hall steps. The Mayor and a host of local dignitaries considered it a "must" to be present and then on to a formal luncheon with a guest speaker. In later years the Los Angeles Hilton was the luncheon scene. The remainder of the afternoon would be spent in frolic with the Grand Hibernian Ball in the evening. The latter event, more often than not, was held at the Biltmore Hotel and usually drew a crowd of no less than 3,000 persons.
The Hibernian Minutes also reveal a true sense of cooperation which existed among all the Irish and Irish-American organizations. The A.O.H., G.A.A. and any number of other smaller clubs frequently ventured in jointly sponsored activities.
As time would have it, the A.O.H. in Los Angeles fell into a period of decline in the post World War II era. Organizations in general and ethnic groups in particular, found it difficult to attract new and younger members. The Irish community in Los Angeles moved away from the city center and upon finding easy assimilation into the non-ethnic way of life, interest was lost in maintaining the old ties. As. the A.O.H. declined, other clubs came, flourished, and then passed into oblivion -- while the Hibernians, perhaps smaller in scale, remained as a vital part of the local scene.
The A.O.H. remained because it was not comparable to other organizations. The Hibernian Order was not born yesterday, only to die tomorrow. It has a legacy and heritage which traces back 500 years into antiquity -- five centuries during which the
A.O.H. has endured alongside the Irish people in their lasting struggle to preserve their faith in God and the pursuit of basic human dignity. These are the founding rocks of the A.O.H.
FATHER PATRICK PAYTON…SAINTHOOD AWAITING
In recent years, the AOH Los Angeles Division One worked hard at reestablishing the Hibernian legacy in Los Angeles. In this vein, the AOH attracted individuals of the highest caliber to assist in bringing the AOH to the civic forefront of Los Angeles. Father Patrick Peyton, the County Mayo born priest who went on to lead the Rosary Crusade with his famous motto of “The Family That Prays Together – Stays Together” joined Los Angeles Division One and was the recipient of the AOH National Boards Order of the Pike.
Currently, Father Peyton is in line to be canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church. Along with Father Michael McGinley, these may be two Saints who belonged to the American AOH.The AOH would be so blessed.
HOLLYWOOD LEGENDARY ACTOR PAT O’BRIEN
Renown Hollywood film star Pat O’Brien, for whom Los Angeles Division One is named, made famous by his title role as Knute Rockne in the movie Knute Rockne, All American (1940), where he gave the speech to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team…to “win just one for the Gipper” (portrayed in the film by a young Ronald Reagan) and one of the legendary classic films for Irish America also joined Los Angeles Division One and was honored by the AOH at its National Convention in Killarney, Ireland in 1978.
The A.O.H. legacy transcends two continents and four nations. It is an integral part of Irish history dating back to the time when Hibernians stood guard for the priest as he said Mass upon the rock. It became a living part of American history when it sailed across the Atlantic and carved out equality and justice for the Irish emigrant in his new land. This same legacy came to Los Angeles and flourished as the pueblo grew into a world metropolis. It is a rich and dramatic history which has been inherited by the A.O.H. It is interesting to note the resurgence of ethnic interests taking place in America. Much of this has been caused by the Black and Chicano communities which have demonstrated that rather than being un-American, it is very much American to display appreciation of one's cultural identity with his ethnic heritage, as it is the combination and not blending of diverse ethnic cultures which have made America a great nation. This is particularly so with Irish-Americans. As noted by Irish American historian Patrick Dowling of San Francisco “…Allyn Anderson, as President of the AOH Los Angeles County Board, along with his brother Terry Anderson, played a critical role in the resurgence of the AOH in southern California. Allyn Anderson personally sponsored Hollywood Actor Pat O’Brien in joining AOH Los Angeles Division One and Terry Anderson sponsored the application of Father Patrick Peyton into AOH Los Angeles Division One. The purpose was to resurrect the glory days of the Hibernians in southern California.”
The A.O.H. intends to lead the Irish and Irish-American in this resurgence of ethnic interest. With its rich history, defined purposes, and tradition of devoted Catholicity and love of Irish heritage, past, present and future, the A.O.H. is well qualified to apply the ethnic heritage of Ireland to contemporary America.
CATHOLIC LEGACY OF AOH LOS ANGELES DIVISION ONE
Hundreds of priests, mostly Irish born, assigned to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been members of AOH Los Angeles Division One which annually sponsored the St. Patrick’s Day Mass in St. Vibiana’s Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day and the annual St. Bridget’s Day Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in early February. When the Archdiocese wanted contact with the Irish community, their leaders first went to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Archbishop Cantwell, James Francis Cardinal McIntyre and Timothy Cardinal Manning were proud members of AOH Los Angeles Division One. Bishop John J. Ward grew up in a Hibernian family and was more than a proud member but an active member of the Hibernians. Last but not least is the legacy of Msgr. John V. Sheridan, current AOH County Board and AOH Los Angeles Division One Chaplain, who is considered one of the Church’s most accomplished intellectuals as well as a devoted Pastor.
AOH LOS ANGELES ‘PAT O’BRIEN” DIVISION ONE
AND THE IRISH UNIVERSITY CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
In this effort AOH Los Angeles Division One, known for many years now as the AOH Los Angeles Pat O’Brien Division One remains the bedrock of the Hibernians in southern California. It is closely tied to the Irish University Club of Southern California which annually sponsors the Great American Irish Fair and Music Festival which attracts upwards of 40,000 people to the largest outdoor exhibition of Irish music, song, dance and sport west of the Mississippi River. This event was originally founded in 1976 by the AOH until its massive size required a different organizational structure. The Irish University Club also sponsors the Annual Irish Day Civic Ceremonies, held in the Council Chambers of the Los Angeles City Hall with the Mayor and City Council present. The Annual Irish Day Civic Ceremonies was originally established by the Hibernians in 1876, subsequently taken over by the United Irish Societies, and later came under the auspices of the Irish University Club and will be celebrating its 135th occasion in March 2010. Last but not least, the Irish University Club of Southern California also hosts the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Grand Ball and Rose of Tralee Presentation on the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day. The Brothers of AOH Los Angeles Pat O’Brien Division One are an integral part of the Irish University Club of Southern California.
On a warm, dusty day in 1875 the A.O.H. came to Los Angeles. The west was still very much uncivilized and the Indians yet were on the warpath. One hundred years later, with Los Angeles a world renowned metropolis, and in an era of spaceships, the A.O.H. is still here. During the century there have been great hours and weak moments, but the continuity has been maintained. Hopefully, this has served to enrich local history, which in turn has enhanced the Hibernian experience, which is very much a part of Irish history, a history which has crossed the globe and now belongs to the world. It is hoped that by this history, you also will have shared in the proud A.O.H. legacy which is ours.
The above historical article was written through the joint efforts of Msgr. John V. Sheridan and Mrs. Carma Botto with faithful updating. The primary source of factual information contained in the article is the Hibernian Minutes, a vast, nearly complete and well kept collection of the financial and recording secretary’s' minute books from 1875 to 1958. The Tidings Newspaper, particularly Mr. John Truxaw, the Los Angeles Public Library (Newspaper Room) and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and “Irish Californians, Historic, Benevolent, Romantic” (1998) by Hibernian Patrick J. Dowling of San Francisco.
Monsgr. John V. Sheridan and Carmen Botto
1975 and Updated