St. Patrick’s Day is a good time to remember the role the Irish played in the history of Nebraska, particularly in the history of Lincoln. Well before 1890 the city was a center for Irish Home Rule activity in the United States. It had been the home of a chapter of the Irish Land League of America, led by John Fitzgerald, a prominent Lincoln railroad builder and entrepreneur. 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 new organization, 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.
Learn more about the Irish in Lincoln in a Timeline column on the Nebraska State Historical Society website and in chapter twenty of A. B. Hayes and Sam D. Cox, History of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska (Lincoln, 1889).– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications