Donegal Irish in Butler Co., PA
By Linda Merle
I briefly researched a group of Irish of mixed religions who migrated to the Butler County area of Western Pennsylvania quite early. My Andersons intermarried with several ladies that have VERY Irish names that do not appear in the Covenantor families, specifically - HAGERTY and KANE. Also McGARY, my direct ancestress, but I believe she did not come out of this group of Irish.
I found a book in the Butler Co. Library on the history of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese that had much about this group. Some information was also published by the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society in an article entitled: 100 YEARS of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese 1843 - 1943." WPGS Q 17 no. 1 (Summer 1990).
The community was named Sugar Creek or originally the 'Buffalo Mission.' It is the oldest Catholic community in western Pennsylvania.
It began with the emigration of a group of Catholics and Presbyterians from the banks of Loch Erne in County Donegal, Ireland, in 1790. Some first settled for a time in "the Neck" in the northwestern section of Fayette County. Later, they came in groups to the western part of Armstrong and the northern part of Butler County. The Donegal colony gave its name to Donegal Township in Butler County in 1795. It was the focal point of a Catholic settlement extending over 20 square miles numbering approx. 90 families.
For more information on this group see the History of Butler County.
In 1806, Rev. Father WHELAN, who had known some of the pioneers before their removal from former homes, arrived, and meeting his old friends, all joined in the purchase of land on Sugar creek, in Armstrong County, adjoining the line of Butler, and in building a church and residence thereon near the present building dedicated to St. Patrick.
Here are some surnames:
Black, Boyle, Callahan, Coyle, Craven, Croosicks, Cypher, Denny, Dougherty, Duffy, Dugan, Durneigh, Easly, Enepich, Ferry, Forquer, Gallagher, Gillespie, Hanlin, Hartman, Hunter, McCue, McElroy, McQueen, Meehan, Murray, O'Connell, Reed, Rodgers, Sheridan, Sweeny.
They were visited by a Fr. Helbron of Sportsman's Hall in 1803. He baptized some who had waited ten years for baptism. He made subsequent visits, but he did not speak English. (Father Helbron's baptisms in the area are available at LDS and possibly elsewhere)
The Donegal settlers sent a petition to Bishop Carroll asking for a priest they could under stand. This petition was signed by:
(The petition list was taken from Edmond J. Adams and Barbara Brady O'Keefe's Catholic Trails West Volume 2, Gateway Press 1989 )
All of these people above are not Catholic. A number of Protestants lent their support for the petition.
I believe the Blarney Kelly is a typo for Barney Kelly, because the latter name appears in various tax lists.
We are also told there was considerable intermarriage with the surrounding Protestant population as well as conversions in both directions. One other Hagerty converted to Catholicism from Methodism, for instance.
There is a graveyard or so, but the earliest graves are in the early 1800's.
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