My great grandmother, Catherine Cavanaugh, was born in 1872. She came from Ireland to the U.S,. with her parents when she was a little girl. They went through Ellis Island and somehow chose to live in the foothills of New Jersey’s Hook Mountain, in a place that was then known as Beavertown.
My great grandmother, an Irish Catholic woman, married an English Protestant man by the name of David Wesley Storms. My great grandfather never really knew his father, William Storms. David Storms was born in 1859 and was just a baby in a cradle when his father left hearth and home to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. Sadly, William Storms was killed in action during the Battle of the Wilderness.
The Storms family lived along Route 202 in the town that was then known as Beavertown. Their home stood upon a hilltop, it still stands today.
My grandmother, Bertha Storms-Mabey was born in 1898 in the old Storms Homestead. Although my grandmother was raised as Protestant, her mother passed onto her many of the cultures of the Irish people, and part of that was holding onto a bit of the religious perspective of being Irish Catholic.
I’ve always tried to show Beavertown, which was later named Lincoln Park, in the most positive light. But history is based upon truth. And, the journey to truth requires us to take a hard look at our sins and faults, as well as our positive attributes.
As a child, I remember my dear grandmother telling me that when she was a little girl, even though she had the English surname of Storms and was Protestant; enough people in the village knew that her mother was Irish and had been Catholic prior to marrying David Storms. This is painfully hard to admit, but in the village of Beavertown there existed a dark prejudice against the Irish.
I was a sensitive and shy child, so it was very difficult for me to realize that my dear grandmother had been called very unkind names as a child simply because she was half Irish. I remember, as a child, thinking that it just didn’t make sense for people to dislike my grandmother, simply because her mother had come from Ireland.
As painful as it is to admit, prejudice still does exist. We’d like to think that it’s all behind us in these modern times. But, when we are painfully honest with ourselves, we know that as a society, we still have a long way to go.
So, to all of us who hail from Irish heritage, please know that it wasn’t an easy path that our forefathers and foremothers walked, in facing the harsh prejudice that existed against the Irish here in America.
O’ cherish the green shamrock, hold dear the legacy of the leprechaun, embrace the pride of the dear ancestors who crossed the Atlantic to escape the potato famine. For all of us who have had a parent, grandparent or great grandparent, who endured the unkind words of prejudice that were spoken against the Irish, here in America; walk proud and hold your head up high to be of the heritage of the green valleys, the homes made of large stone, the cobblestone lanes, and the legend of the leprechaun!
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Richard