The Year Was 1822

The year was 1822 and after a poor harvest in Ireland in 1821, famine and disease were widespread, particularly in the south and west of Ireland. The Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) of 24 July 1822 reported that,

“A letter from T.S. Lindlay, Esq. High Sheriff of Mayo, says, the distresses arise from ‘A failure in the potatoe [sic] crop of the last year, and the inability of the lower classes to purchase either this root or any other provision at present. The small plot usually attached to the cabins of the poor, in many cases, remain unsown from the impossibility of procuring seed. Nothing can be more wretched than the situation of the peasantry generally in Mayo. I have seen hundreds of wretched people greedily seeking for water cresses, wild mustard, nettletops, dwarf thistles, or dandelion all the spring, and this unnatural food has been the only meal within their reach.’”

The Edinburgh Advertiser (Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland) of 31 May 1822 gave similar descriptions of conditions in County Mayo, as well as reports from other counties. Typhus fever was reported in County Kerry and a report from Galway stated that, “the population of the town and vicinage of Galway, under-rated at 30,000 souls, to which are to be added thousands of wretched beings whom famine has driven hither from the remote parts of Connemara, exhibit at this moment a spectacle of extended and complicated misery which baffles description…”

From Limerick,

“The scene at the Catherine-street Street Dispensing Station yesterday, was truly awful–the poor meagre, half-starved women with cans and piggins [small wooden pails], many of them with an infant or two clinging to their backs, appeared in a continued crowd of great and almost impenetrable density, to obtain their pint of porridge (the quantum allowable on each ticket). A vast number of these were furnished with two, four, six, or eight tickets, according to the number of the family–but strange to tell, only one pint was given to many with a family. We are truly concerned to find that Dysentery Patients will not be received in the Fever Hospital as usual, in consequence of the increase of Fever in this city.”

The winter of 1822 in New York was remembered as a cold one by one resident in a New York Times article of 5 January 1879.

“There was no coal used in the City then except the soft coal which blacksmiths used. Wood was the only fuel, and it was piled as high as the housetops in yards in many parts of the City. [Stephen Sweet’s] father was in the wood business and his supply, which was large, was exhausted in February on account of the cold weather…Mr. Sweet remembers that the North River was frozen over for a number of days so that teams crossed on the ice where the ferry-boats now run, and that he rode on a load of wood from the foot of Cortlandt-street to Jersey City. He also recalls the fact that two young men named Harrison and Houghton built a shanty on the ice in the middle of the Hudson River and at the “Half-way House,” as it was called, sold rum to passengers for 14 days.”

In St. Louis, advertisements were appearing seeking “One Hundred enterprising young men … to ascent the Missouri River to its source, and there to be employed for one, two, or three years.” These men would form the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, organized by William Henry Ashley and Major Andrew Henry. Known as “Ashley’s Hundred,” these trappers would work independently and then gather in the summer to exchange pelts for pay. The company employed such notables as Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, Joseph Meek, and Jim Beckwourth.

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3 thoughts on “The Year Was 1822

  1. Thank you. This article offers some additional clues as to why John Higgins and his wife Catherine Kirby (my great-great grandparents) might have left Ireland in 1822 to settle in St. Anicet, Quebec. Since I’ve no record of the county in Ireland that they came from, these Irish excerpts might prove helpful there too.
    These little seeds of history are so valuable. You toss them out to be discovered, sorted, examined and developed by those of us seeking even a hint of a clue to our family history.

  2. Love the column but this time you had too much on Ireland….. I want to see more on the US happenings.

  3. Thank You. I love reading these articles and was intrigued from the start. I’m like Peggy, this article gave me additional clues on why my ancestors left Ireland. But they didn’t leave until 1827. BUT my ancestor was born in 1822 and I can just envision him as an infant on his mom’s back going for food. I also have no record of the county in Ireland that he came from AND I also have no record of his parents. But something made them ALSO go into Canada from Ireland. Interesting to say the least.

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