Flashback Friday: Irish in Lincoln, 1890

“There was an enthusiastic and well-attended meeting of the Lincoln branch of the Irish National league yesterday afternoon at Fitzgerald hall, Charles McGlave presiding,” reported the Lincoln Daily Call of February 10, 1890. The first order of business, said the Call, was the election of officers, with John P. Sutton chosen as president; Michael Grace, first vice president; William McLaughlin, second vice president; James J. Condon, recording secretary; Peter M. Rayden, financial secretary; and Charles McGlave, treasurer.

Well before 1890, Lincoln was a center for Irish Home Rule activity in the United States. The city had been the home of a chapter of the Irish Land League of America, led by John Fitzgerald, a prominent railroad builder living in Lincoln. In 1883 at Philadelphia the Land League merged with the Irish National League of America. Patrick Egan, soon after his arrival in Lincoln, was elected head of the Irish National League and transferred its headquarters here in 1884. During Egan’s two-year term as head of the League, $350,000 was collected in a nationwide financial campaign and forwarded to the Sinn Fein revolutionaries in Ireland. In 1888 the Lincoln chapter contributed $600 to homesteaders hardest hit by the famous blizzard of that year. Egan, who entered the real estate and grain milling businesses in Lincoln, later served as minister to Chile from 1889 to 1893.

John P. Sutton, elected president of the Lincoln branch of the Irish National League in 1890, according to the Call, was also a well-known promoter of Irish nationalist causes. Born in Ireland, he came to the United States in 1865. After service in the army, he went to Canada, where he served as Canadian organizer for the Irish National League of America and as editor of pro-Irish newspapers in New York City and Chicago.

In 1886 Sutton moved to Lincoln, where he worked for the construction company of John Fitzgerald. When Fitzgerald was elected president of the Irish National League that year, Sutton became secretary. In later years, Sutton did both editorial and free-lance writing for Lincoln and outstate newspapers. He died in Lincoln in 1934.

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