St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Idaho since people first settled here — perhaps not surprising since so many of them were Irish.
In 1865 the Idaho World reported that in Placerville, “St. Patrick’s Day in the morning passed off in our city admirably, and to the entire satisfaction of all — no black eyes or pug noses in consequence. The 17th — the day of St. Patrick of blessed memory — was quietly and agreeably commemorated Friday by the numerous children of the ‘Green Isle’ in this Basin, and by many others, not to the manor born. The ball at Okanogan Hall, Pioneer City, was attended by many from Centerville and Idaho City, and proved a very cheerful gathering — Barney & Hartwell presiding. On the succeeding evening, Magnolia Hall, at Centerville took in from the rain another happy assembly.”
St. Patrick’s Day in 1866 led the World to wax poetic on the subject of Irish nationalism: “The struggle for Ireland’s independence can’t be put down. Habeas Corpus can be suspended but not the longings for freedom which animates the heart of every Son of the Old Sod, wherever the sun shines upon him. Today, in every portion of the world, they will pledge themselves anew to the work of redeeming their native land from foreign misrule, and their hearts will go back in loving remembrance of the familiar hills and green valleys of their forefathers.”
In Boise in 1871 the Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman reported that, “A procession will be formed of all who desire to participate, at the Overland Hotel at 12½ o’clock. They will then march, to the music of the Boise City brass band, to the garrison, where they will witness the following amusements: foot races, sack races, and a wheelbarrow race. Calico party at Good Templar Hall. All Irishmen and friends of Ireland are invited. Signed, John Early, Marshal of the Day.” Father Mesplie conducted divine services at the Catholic Church that day, and at the mountain mining town of Atlanta they danced until 3 a.m.
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In 1882 the Statesman observed, “The 17th of March, which is honored the world over by the Catholic Irish as St. Patrick’s day, passed off yesterday without much observance on the part of our people. The proportion of Irish in our city would scarcely admit of a demonstration without the joining of other classes. In such a matter the trouble and expense would fall upon a very few, but we do not doubt that our Irish fellow-citizens are as devoted followers of that great Patron Saint as you will find where their numbers predominate in society. They love to hear recounted the popular legends that have been ascribed to St. Patrick and his good deeds, and his Christian character retold. It is now over 1,400 years since this eventful man passed from earth, still his memory is as green in the hearts of his countrymen as it ever was, and they love to commemorate the 17th of March as much as they did fourteen hundred years ago.”
In 1908 the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Boise featured a musical program and a ball. The Statesman noted, “The green was seen on many coat lapels during the day.” The musical program at Christensen’s Hall was made up of these numbers: A selection of Irish music played by Christensen’s Orchestra; “Come Back to Erin,” sung by St. Teresa’s Glee Club; remarks by Jesse B. Hawley; address on St. Patrick by H.J. Jones; solo: “Irish Love Song” by Mrs. W.N. Donaldson; recitation: “St. Patrick’s Dream” by Miss Angela Curran; harp selections by Miss Eve Church; Irish solo sung by M.A. McGurran; and “Killarney,” a solo sung by Miss Emily Torrance. The annual St. Patrick’s Ball was then enjoyed by several hundred people.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.