Patrick Egan and Nebraska’s Center For Irish Home Rule

Patrick Egan’s political career spanned both sides of the Atlantic and included a stint in Lincoln, during which time he helped make the capital a center for Irish Home Rule activity in the US.

One of the last of Lincoln’s downtown business district residences, a box-like two-story frame structure facing north at 1447 Q Street, was razed in 1969. In the 1880s it had been the home of Irish patriot Patrick Egan and his family. Egan (1841-1919), an Irish native, had a background of anti-British revolutionary activity long before he emigrated to Nebraska. Soon after his arrival in Lincoln he was elected president of the Irish National League at its national convention on the basis of his political experience, and in 1884 he transferred its headquarters to Lincoln. In 1886 John Fitzgerald, another Irishman and prominent railway builder living in Lincoln, became its head.

Even before Egan’s arrival in Lincoln, the city was a center of Irish Home Rule activity in the United States. The first indication of it was the founding of a chapter of the Irish Land League of America, the president of which had also been Fitzgerald. It found strong support among Irish settlers in Nebraska. In 1883 at Philadelphia the Land League merged with Egan’s new organization, the Irish National League of America.

In Lincoln Egan entered the real estate and grain milling fields, the latter having been his business in Dublin. He operated grain elevators at Fairmont, Saronville, and Harvard, Nebraska. Unlike most Irishmen, who were Democrats, he joined the Republicans because he regarded American “free-trade theories as certain to produce the same calamities as British free-trade has brought to Ireland.” In 1888 he was a delegate to the national GOP convention, which nominated Benjamin Harrison for president. After Harrison was inaugurated Egan was appointed minister to Chile and served in Santiago between 1889 and 1893.

For one year after Egan had moved to Chile, his family remained in Lincoln. After returning to the United States, Egan established himself in the East and cut his ties with Nebraska. He died in 1919 in New York, where he lived with a daughter. In his last years he was called “General,” probably because of his early association with Irish insurgents.

Above image: Patrick Egan, C1902. From the Library of Congress.

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